LOG’s Wide World Of Sports


(I did always get picked last for grade school teams. Men skipping rope? Definitely the sign of a Feminized Male in LOG.)

LOG was a haven for two types of men, namely jocks and alpha males, with the two often overlapping. Both tried to claw their way up the “pastoral” ladder so they might be considered for coordinator at some point. They weren’t hard to find; they were the louder, more assertive, and (obviously) more masculine types. Geeks and nerds were in short supply in LOG; salespeople and middle managers were much more common among the men.

They had to have a place to release their testosterone, so LOG obliged with sports. As with many other subjects I discuss in this blog, it wasn’t all bad. In one sense, it was nice just to get together and be Manly; that seems very much Frowned Upon these days.

The trouble was the hyper-competitiveness of it all, and I was just as much to blame for that as any other LOG member. I wanted to be accepted, and I had the mistaken idea that if I did well in competitive sports like softball, basketball, indoor soccer, or even an ill-advised game of tackle football, I would be accepted. For example, playing basketball with the other LOG men could be a grueling and argumentative experience, while playing with some of the inner-city kids from one of the members’ churches was much more enjoyable.

There was an annual summer softball league, and we took it quite seriously. One of my friends’ father broke his leg sliding into second; he had to be taken off in an ambulance. I was playing catcher one game and got so upset that a close play at the plate was called safe that a friend of mine took advantage of my tirade to try to stretch his single into a double. Fortunately, my anger fueled a perfect throw to second to get him. When I came up to bat, I was such an opposite-field hitter that my roommate had everyone on his team go into right field.

I was once playing catcher and made a sprawling catch of a foul ball. Another time when I was a high schooler, I was catching  while Dave Nodar was pitching. One of his pitches bounced up and got me in the groin, and no, I was not wearing a protective cup. I turned to my friend Ed Kurek and asked him to take over. A couple of the high school girls were watching and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t tell them.

Here, though, is an illustration of how weird things could get. We would effectively umpire our own teams. I was calling balls and strikes for one of my teammates when the opposing pitcher threw a perfect letter-high pitch across the plate. I called strike three. Nobody ever called a strikeout on their own players, especially looking. I did. Another time, I called a line drive down the right field line a fair ball, but I was overruled by everyone else there. So why even have an umpire?

A few women were upset that they weren’t allowed to play softball. As I mentioned, I was glad it was guys only, but it isn’t like these women didn’t have the ability to play. We had a co-ed softball game for a weekend retreat, and I moved in from the outfield when my wife Sandy came to bat; this was before we were an item. She responded by getting a hit right over my head. She’ll only let me forget about it for short spurts.

After the way the women got treated in other sports where they did play, I could understand if they were no longer interested. The Decker family owned a construction business, and they built themselves an enormous house in Catonsville that had a swimming pool [1], an AstroTurf tennis court, and a racquetball court, all of which they shared with LOG. Ed Leonard called the house the “Deckerdome.” In the racquetball court we would play “wallyball” [2], like volleyball except that it used the walls. All the Decker men were tall and athletic. Mike Decker stood 6’7″ and would run all over the wallyball court, shoving anyone who got in his way, man or woman, myself included. These were just pickup games!

The one and only time I played a tackle football game in LOG, I nearly got in a fight with Andy Parrish, a huge guy who would have pounded me into submission with one finger. Fortunately, Andy and I made amends and have been friends since.

The antithesis to all this was a Thanksgiving Day 2002 kickball game held in Baker Park in Frederick, MD. I covered it for my radio station and even played a bit. All ages, both sexes, and various races participated, and everyone had fun; no one took it overly seriously. We need more of that.

[1] One of my favorite memories of the Decker swimming pool was a singles night during which Fr. Joe O’Meara decreed we could not go in the pool because it would create too much noise for the neighbors. Although I believe he had no business making that decision, he had a point; bordering the Decker property was a set of rowhomes which only served to prove how out of place the Deckerdome was in the neighborhood. So we sat around the pool pouting…except for Ginny McKibbin, who slipped into the pool in her top and shorts and swam underwater for several minutes. Way to go, Ginny!

[2] I got hit below the belt again during a wallyball game, so even with women on the court, I started singing “We Are Men Of Jesus Christ” in a falsetto.


Widows and Orphans

widows orphans

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)

We had a guy in the Lamb of God Community named Steve. He was a merry prankster who would call your house and then thank you for calling. He also had some mental health issues and really needed to belong to a structured, supportive place like LOG. Steve, however, spoke a modicum of truth when he constantly brought up the need for LOG to take care of widows and orphans as referenced in the above Epistle and elsewhere in Sacred Scripture.

Steve’s lone voice on this issue reminded me of the drunken man in Henrik Ibsen’s play, An Enemy Of The People. When the townspeople are set to run Dr. Stockmann out of town on a rail for daring to tell the truth about the contamination of the town’s popular baths, only the drunken man asks for both colors of paper to vote on whether to condemn him.

LOG had no use for widows or orphans. Widows couldn’t create the necessary children for the Kingdom (read: CovCom’s self-perpetuation), and orphans just got in the way. LOG did have a Works of Mercy outreach that did some work with the poor, most notably rounding up homeless people on New Year’s Day and bringing them to the cluster area for a good meal and some pro bono medical and dental examination. I’m not sure what LOG coordinators really thought of the few women in LOG who were single or divorced moms with children, but they were certainly not part of the plan for parenting in the community.

One of the reasons I am here out West is to help take care of my mother-in-law, a widow since 2011. I consider that far more important than being in LOG or any other CovCom.

Don’t Mention Catholicism

don't mentionThe Lamb of God Community was roughly two-thirds Catholics, with the rest being a mix of free church and mainline Protestants and Messianic Jews. Yet if there was any rule Dave Nodar and the Coordinators (including Fr. Joseph O’Meara) held onto at any cost at General Community Gatherings and community courses, it was to never mention Catholicism, including Mary (except through interpretive dance at Christmas), the Sacraments, the Pope, or the saints. Why? They had no guilty conscience at all about pushing these non-Catholics on us:

  • Larry Lea, televangelist. We spent a weekend going through his “Could You Not Tarry One Hour?” course on how to “pray properly,” which included praying against the Princes of the North, South, East, and West. See pages 16, 17, 43, and 44 of this document.
  • John Wimber. Most of the worship songs we sang were from Wimber’s Vineyard Christian Fellowship, also the source of the pretentious “Touching The Father’s Heart” praise and worship series. Most songs written by Wimber were geared toward 2nd and 3rd graders both lyrically and musically: “Isn’t He, beautiful? Beautiful, isn’t He?” For a while, I seriously wondered whether LOG would become a Vineyard church. Wimber was bad enough, but he was later in league with:
  • Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, and Bob Jones (not as in the university). These “Kansas City Prophets” came to Baltimore proclaiming miracles and healings. We sat in wait for them as if we were about to witness a David Copperfield show, and perform they did with “words of knowledge” about various ailments. These “prophets” had plenty of skeletons to hide: read here, here, here, and in pages 16, 17, 42, and 43 of this document.
  • Ed Piorek. Doctrinally, Piorek’s “Fatherhood of God” (now called “The Father Loves You”) ministry that came out of the above-mentioned Vineyard was the least objectionable. Still, it relied on lots of emotional manipulation regarding members’ relationships with their fathers and mothers.

I wonder if this is one of the reasons why Nodar now heads up ChristLife under the aegis of the Catholic Church.

The “Dusty Traveler” Passes On

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Christensen on December 16, 2014 at the mere age of 60. Bill was an avid musician who wrote a number of his own pieces, the most famous of which was probably the one he wrote about Jesus’ ministry called “Dusty Traveler” [1]. It’s the third song on this album that Bill and other LOG members released in 1979 called “Song of the Lamb.”

While Bill was a longtime member of LOG, I remember him as a man who refused to sacrifice his identity or personality. He was always an avid outdoorsman who loved hiking and camping and made time to do so. He was also a dedicated husband to his widow Dee and a good father to their children.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

[1] In Bill’s song, Jesus is the “Dusty Traveler.” I like to think the description could fit Bill as well.

Commitments and Covenants

on the fritz

Steve Taylor’s “On The Fritz” album, which contains the song “I Manipulate” quoted below.

At this link is a copy of my Initial Commitment to the Lamb of God Community. I regret that I cannot find a copy of my Covenant Commitment, although it’s probably not dissimilar to the ones found here.

I got to thinking: Just what is a covenant, anyway? And what did LOG mean by a covenant? We members pledged our lives to the community, but what did the community (especially the Coordinators) pledge to us? Even with a homeowners’ association covenant, not all the responsibilities are on the homeowner.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen,” began “Psalm 89” by Karen Barrie which we sang frequently, although it’s hard to know from the lyrics which words are God’s and which are ours. The Douay-Rhiems Bible lists this as Psalm 88. The point of the psalm is that God keeps His covenant with us even when we do not keep it with Him.

What is the benefit to the one making the covenant to a covenant community? We hear of the responsibilities, but none of the blessings. Let’s run through the Initial Commitment:

“…a people of one mind and heart.” Translation: Don’t rock the boat, do what you’re told, don’t think with a Critical Spirit, and everything will be fine.

“…each of us agrees to make the following initial commitment with the Lord Jesus and with our brothers and sisters until the time we enter into underway commitment.” This is one of many examples of where the covenant community (and, by extension, the coordinators) makes itself out to be greater than the Church, if not on equal footing with God Himself. In other words, “If you question what I’m teaching you / You rebel against the Father too.” In case you think I’m just pulling that out of thin air, check out II. B. 1 here.

“To attend faithfully the community teaching courses.” Never mind if they’re completely anti-Catholic or run counter to Church teaching on marriage, men’s and women’s roles, relationships with children, etc.

“To support the pattern and order of the life of the community.” Again, no rocking the boat or thinking for yourself.

“To submit with a positive mind and heart to the coordinators, other pastoral leaders, and service leaders in their respective roles.” The term “pastoral” was tossed around routinely with no regard for what it really meant. Virtually no one in covenant communities like LOG had any pastoral care training whatsoever. What it ultimately meant was getting into a position of authority and working one’s way up the pyramid toward the coveted Coodinator slot, where one could hear all the dirt on community members below who only thought they were sharing parts of their lives in confidence. Don’t forget, as referenced in the highlighted document in this paragraph: “It is never acceptable to directly disobey our pastor.” If your pastor(-al leader) is ever wrong…

“To support the life of the community with our financial contributions.” Since LOG illegally and deceptively registered itself as a church with the IRS, financial disclosures were not required. I and others gave thousands of dollars of our incomes to LOG, often in lieu of supporting our parishes. In return, we gave Dave Nodar, Fred Lessans, and others a rather comfortable life.

No, I was not coerced to make this commitment or the covenant that ultimately followed. Should I have been more aware of what I was doing? Yes, but I also feared the ramifications of not going through with these; after all, the only alternative was the Evil World Outside. Besides, I wanted acceptance, and I found it in LOG without really having to do anything but conform.

Rotating Leadership?


“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –Mt 18: 4

A hallmark of covenant communities was (and still is) the presence of one solitary leader at the top of the heap. His word was somewhere between law and God; after all, he knew God better than we did. We could only hope to be somewhat as devoted to God as he was.

In Lamb of God, Dave Nodar was that one leader right from the start. His actions were unquestionable. His perception of what God was telling us to do was always right. While there were other “coordinators” in LOG such as Fr. Joseph O’Meara, Fred Lessans, and Phil Buck, Nodar was the top dog. Community contributions or “tithes” paid for his and Lessans’ houses [1].

By 1995, LOG lay in tatters, at best a shell of its former self with many disillusioned members like me having left. So Nodar decided to start a new incarnation of LOG called “ChristLife” with him as the head once again, this time claiming the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Nearly 20 years later, he is still the only leader this group has ever had, as the organization’s website shows.

A shared critique by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, Archbishop Peter Gerety of Newark, and Bishop Albert Ottenweller of Steubenville, OH about the covenant communities in their areas was the lack of rotating leadership practiced by true Catholic lay organizations like the Knights of Columbus [2], secular Franciscans, secular Carmelites, etc. When is Nodar going to step down and let someone else take over? Probably no time soon; I suppose he wouldn’t know what to do if he weren’t in charge.

Likewise, Neal Lozano headed up the House of God’s Light community in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore from its founding. Now he’s in charge of Heart Of The Father Ministries, whose staff is dominated by his family members. Does anyone have a problem with this? I do.

Finally, I’m not expecting any apology or restitution from Nodar or any other LOG coordinator anytime soon. It’s been nearly 23 years and counting.

[1] See p. 20 ff.

[2] Except that Carl Anderson has been Supreme Knight since 2000.

The Aftermath: Now What?

now whatIt was Sunday, January 5, 1992. Only a few days before, I had sent Dave Nodar a letter renouncing my membership in the Lamb of God Community and retracting my praise of him following his “Don’t Question Us” “Let The Leaders Lead” talk of a few months earlier. I had just moved in with a former LOG roommate who had also left the community. 

I went to Mass as usual at St. William of York Parish. After that, I had no idea what to do with myself. I had no commitments to LOG to fulfill. I simply did not know what to do with all that time on my hands, and there was a feeling of emptiness inside me. I had just decided to walk away from an organization that controlled–or, more accurately, I allowed to control–so much of my life. What would my relationships with my LOG friends be like? Did I still have any such friends? Would I be “shunned?”

It would take a number of weeks to start developing activities that I could do for myself. Sandy had introduced me to volksmarching, so I did that on weekends fairly often; many of my co-workers also liked doing so. Still, I can remember a Sunday or two in which I spent the whole Sunday on the couch watching TV. I even once devoured a whole large bag of Doritos out of boredom, once I had walked up to the neighborhood store to buy it.

Ultimately, I did not have to worry about the friendship part. Almost all those who had been my friends before remained so after I left; most of them ended up leaving LOG also for one reason or another. Even my parents did not remain in the community much longer after me. 

I had one last fling with LOG as I went on their University Christian Outreach retreat at Blue Ridge Summit, PA, where I had gone for LOG retreats in high school and one in Loyola College. I met a nice girl there whom I thought I could date, but I lost her phone number, so it never happened. A couple weeks later, I met another girl at a Super Bowl party held at Ed Leonard’s house and dated her off and on over the next several months. She was from a similar background to many LOG members, especially that she had gone to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, but she was not part of LOG.

So my departure from LOG might have been gradual, but it made me grow in ways I had not before. Perhaps the biggest area of growth was moving into my own apartment in May 1992; that could never have happened a year earlier. I would live on my own for the next three years until Sandy and I were married.