Earthquake Almost Converts Lady in My Apartment!

Earthquake Almost Converts Lady in My Apartment! July 29, 2008
When the quake hit, I was standing at the corner of the desk, and my guest was standing just to the right of the mirror

About a half hour ago I was standing in my apartment with a women I’d never met. She was there to assess whether or not she wanted to make my apartment her new apartment, since my wife Cat and I have to move from here.

Meaning we have to find someone to take over our lease. Meaning people are now coming to view our apartment. Meaning I had to clean the heck out of our place this morning. Meaning I had to work. And I think we all know how I feel about working. Enough said.

So this lady—dyed black hair, tight black jeans, General Hipster—had just asked me what kind of books I write.

Now, I know there are parts of the country where Christianity is very popular, but the California coastal enclave in which I live is not one of them. In general (and of course this is the grossest kind of generalization) people here think Christians are intolerant, uptight, self-righteous, misogynistic, right-wing homophobes who, like the lemmings they are, blindly support George Bush and all he does.

So I always cringe a bit inside when people here ask me what kind of books I write, because I know if I say “Christian books,” they’ll immediately peg me as someone whom they are honor-bound to loathe.

I hate  it when I’m someone perfectly decent people feel honor-bound to loathe.

Then again, whaddaya gonna do?

“Christian books,” I said. “I write books for the Christian market.”

And that’s when the earthquake hit! The ceiling fan just above me started swaying. The big water bottle next to us tipped and glugged. The mirror next to her started bouncing back and forth against the wall. The floor beneath us rolled like it was jealous no one ever surfed on it.

Wide-eyed and staring at me like I was a ghost, my guest whispered, “Whoa. It’s an earthquake.”

“It is,” I said. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m used to putting chocolate in my milk, and just waiting for the next quake to shake it up for me. So I wasn’t too worried. Meaning I had only a minor heart attack.

Then everything calmed down, and assumed its usual holding pattern.

“That was weird,” she said in an awestruck tone.

“It was a message from God,” I said ominously.

“I know!”  she said. “That’s what I was thinking!”

So we talked. I don’t know if a half hour later my new friend left here a Christian, but I know  she left here a lot more open to the possibility of becoming one.

As I waved good-bye to her, I called, “Convert by the time you get to your car! If you drive away as a heathen, God only knows what will happen to you! You’ve gotten your Big Hint! Don’t press your luck!”

That God. He sure does know how to rock people’s world in distinctly unsubtle ways.


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  • Hee hee hee. "Convert by the time you get to your car!"–I love it.

  • Well, I didn't want, like, her car to spontaneously combust, or a hurricane to swoop down and pick her up.

  • John,

    That was a great, timely story!

    Somehow I knew within minutes of hearing there was an earthquake to check your blog for an entry.

    You continue to deliver. Won't say the obvious – oh heck, you rock!


  • Thank you Sam, very much. That's very kind of you.

  • arlywn

    how dare you assume god would even think to let her to her car. you should'va told her before she leaves the house! lol…. I mean, c'mon… give him a little more credit on catching us heathens. *coughs* ahem… I mean… those heathens. lol

  • A message from god, certainly. God is obviously telling you to get out of the Christian book market John, and he'll shake up cities to do it. 😉

  • Morse: Yeah, that's just what I thought!

    I mean, No, it WASN'T!!

    A pox upon you tricky apostates!!

  • *Goes off and registers the "Suddenly Atheist" domain name…just in case*

  • Hilarious, john……have been watching it all on the news…..that gal will have lots to think about…

  • Morse: Okay, fine. Be that way. Fine. But oh, how you will rue the day you scoffed unto the face of God. And how I, from up in heaven, will delight in your pain and agony as you writhe in the eternal mortal agony you have brought on yourself as your just punishment for being too stupid and stubborn to give yourself over to the God of love.

  • Now all you need are a few more earthquakes. 😉

  • Hi, Greta! The earthquke made the NEWS?

    You poor Canadians. Clearly, nothing interesting ever happens there.

    Ark, ark.

    No, but good to hear from you. thanks.

  • total: Yes, you're right. Clearly, Morse needs to be in a few more earthquakes. I'm sure that's what you meant. I think that's what we all mean.

  • Candace

    Oooooooh, good one. I'm picturing all of us ignorant Christians, googling plate tectonics so we can be as smart as you!

    Thank the Lord you're here, Mike. Without your brain to lead us, I just don't know how we'd cope.

  • Plate tectonics–we didn't cover those in Christian school. Are they like the dinnerware they used on the moon missions?

    Fine, fine–I'll stop. For now. 😀

  • DFOR319992@CHARTER.N

    in memory of JOE: awesome story my husband converted in the 1994 nothridge earthquake. He was loyal to his faith and passed 1n 2006 at the age of 45yrs. His faith in Jesus carried him to the end.

    We ask for your prayers. He suffered and died from a work related injury. THANKS DIANE

  • Candace

    I was about to write (after writing “Hey, John, glad everything is ok!”) that I’m glad to live in the unshakable Midwest, but then … well … I remembered the whole tornado dealy …

    Anyway, happy to hear you’re still in one piece.

  • There you go again John. Give press to the hits and no mention to the misses. If you keep it up, I am going to start believing that you really think Inky-Dinky and this earthquake really were a deliberate act of a supernatural actor.

    Don’t make me open up a can of plate tectonics on you!!

  • David Barach

    People, ceiling fans, water jugs, mirrors, conversions – none of that matters. We all need to thank god that nothing happened to your iMac. No iMac, no blog. No blog, no sniping comments. No sniping comments, no god. It's as simple as that.

  • Now Candace…I called no one 'ignorant' and I was just trying to be funny (I do like the "can of plate tectonics" line)

    As long as you challenged me on it though, please consider this:

    At the time the quake hit, there were millions and millions of people that felt it at exactly the same moment. A good many of those people were saying things and doing things and thinking things at the same time John was talking about his line of work. Being Southern California, someone, at that same moment may have decided to commit to Scientology (or some other thing that might have raised the hackles of Yahweh). What line of reasoning allows us to dismiss every other SoCal thought and action and attribute the quake to Mr. Shore discussing his vocation? And as Morse pointed out; how can we know that if God WAS reacting to John's conversation, that he wasn't DISpleased?

    …Now if it was only John's apartment that rumbled and rippled to the exclusion of his upstairs, downstairs, and next-door neighbors (I assume a typical apartment building), that might be a different story. If God shakes such a large region to communicate with two of his subjects in an apartment…then I would call that rather ham-handed. I find it hard to imagine that such a ham-handed creator could have the fine motor skills to create an orchid.

  • My father and my grandmother became Christians in the Long Beach quake in '33. No ~ I'm not a really old lady; Dad was just spunky and he was older when I arrived. 🙂

  • God sometimes does use ham-handed communication methods to reach people….sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to reach us.

    Ahhh yes! The old 'strange and mysterious ways' trick! (spoken in the whiny drone of Don Adam's Maxwell Smart) 🙂

  • You Californians / fault-line dwellers have it so easy on the evangelizing front.

  • arlywn

    *sighs* what if john, and this is just a theory, but what if it wasnt god who did the shaking? What if it was satan and his followers having so much fun in hell that the earth shook because of it?

  • I did a little math that I am sure you will all be interested in…

    The epicenter of the earthquake was in Chino Hills. The approximate rate of propagation of the seismic wave through the earth's crust is about 3.7 miles/second. I don't know where John lives presently, but I expect that it would be in some sort of proximity to his new townhouse in San Marcos. On that assumption, this would put John and his hoped-for sublettee roughly 82 miles from the origin of the earthquake. That would mean that the earthquake actually occurred something like 22 seconds before John felt it under his feet.

    So John…what were you talking about 22 seconds before you felt the quake? Maybe the condition of the carpeting? Maybe the remarkably clean bathroom?

  • Celeste

    WOW…that's the power of God. Bless you!

  • FreetoBe

    AAhahahahahahaha! Thanks John, that was great!

    “Convert by the time you get to your car!…Don’t press your luck!”

    I find that a lot of non-Christians THINK that is what you’re saying to them when, in fact, you’re supplying information about God.

    Mike–God sometimes does use ham-handed communication methods to reach people….sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to reach us.

  • “Mike–God sometimes does use ham-handed communication methods to reach people….sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to reach us.”

    I dunno. A talking burning bush would be nice sometimes.

    Assuming those California wildfires aren’t talking to people.

  • Hey John,

    My next entry on my blog will be related to what some consider evidence of The Almighty with specific reference to this thread. (I presume that you don't mind being linked). Just for clarification, do YOU consider the earthquake to be a sign from God specifically in response to your relating your vocation? Really….no satire…I don't know whether your think that or not. Clearly some here do, but I want to be fair in how I represent you.

  • first time here…found your page via the wordpress homepage. great story!

  • Mike: You're looking at the whole dynamic in a fashion entirely too … binary. It's not a yes or no thing. I look for God everywhere, and so see him/her everywhere. But I also understand that that's an act of imagination, of will, on my part. Belief in God is a CHOICE I make, not an irrational compulsion. It's fun and even instructive to think of everything that happens to and around me as being from and of God. That's my SUBJECTIVE way of looking at it–and I accept it as such. The question of whether it's OBJECTIVELY true or not just bores me to tears. I could give a crap how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I choose to experience God in the concrete now, and let others sweat answers for which there never have been, and never will be, definitive yes or no answers.

  • strictly free thinke

    John: @comment #31 – Nice answer my friend. 🙂

  • Candace

    Ummmmm, so that whole conversion in the closet thing … a choice??

    Seeing Him acting in your life as pretty much an entertaining mental exercise?

    Ah, well. Last two sentences, I'm totally with ya, at least.

  • Candace

    Oooops. Amend that. Only the second to last sentence, actually.

  • Hmm…I like you.. almost as much as I like me…or say Anne Lamott. Consider yourself subscribed to, well done.

    Since you are a writer, can you give me any clues on how to not end sentences with prepositions?

    I can't seem to pull it off.

  • Candace: Well, this is the problem with the cripplingly short form of Le' Blog: you can only get so subtle, before you've run out of space/time to explore/explicate a thing any further. But yeah: subjective vs. objective truth or experience is … One Big Topic, as you know. I personally happen to think it's THE big topic in life.

    Is GOD'S truth, to God, subjective or objective? There's a lifetime of thought, right there.


    Linz: Thank you very much! I appreciate your kindness here. As for ending sentences with prepositions, all I can say is that, to avoid doing so, I keep working any sentence I'm on until I have found a way to conclude it without a preposition, no matter into what sort of corner I have up to that point managed to paint myself.

  • Candace

    John: I hear ya. So … there are at least three more blog posts! 😉

  • "Since you are a writer, can you give me any clues on how to not end sentences with prepositions? "

    Unless I'm sorely mistaken, I believe 'not ending a sentence with a preposition' is actually a grammatical rule from Latin, and that doing so in English is perfectly correct.

    If I remember, I'll give you a link to where that information is at.


  • Morse: You're exactly right about prepositions. These days pundits and Grammar Types genereally hold that it's perfectly fine to end a sentence with one. I personally avoid it, simply because I don't like the way they usually end up timing out a sentence. I just don't like ending sentences with prepositions. So I'm old school like that.

  • Candace: No blog posts about that; perhaps, later, a book or 10 on it. Christians generally lose their minds if you even suggest that it's just possible that someone might find reasonable the idea that, say, religious conviction is STILL a subjective phenomenon. Look how sort of … instinctively reactive you were relative to my proposition that belief is a choice (meaning it's subjective). You immediately challenged either the quality of my conversion experience, or the veracity of my telling of it. And you're a sane, thoughtful, intelligent, rational person–who LIKES me.

    I wrote a post on this stuff, and I'd immediately have more trouble than I even care to think about. No thanks.

  • …no matter into what sort of corner I have up to that point manged to paint myself.

    I love dry humor. I am "into" it.

  • Well John,

    I guess I feel morally obligated to relate actual empirical knowledge about matters. If I see someone being wooed to belief system based on incomplete knowledge, I can't help myself. If people can absorb what we REALLY know about things (like earthquakes) and they still dismiss that in favor of the supernatural, then that is their choice. At least they know more about the situation.

    I hold knowledge if very high esteem. I can't help but disseminate it. I would be less of a person if I did not.

  • Um. Okay. Don't know how that relates to my answer to your question, but ….

  • You say I look at at things too 'binary-ly'. The discussion is not "earthquake by God" vs. "earthquake NOT by God". I merely say, "consider all this other empirical knowledge before you attribute it to the supernatural". I am compelled to forward real knowledge when and where I see it missing. If feel it to be a moral obligation.

  • But you made the discussion about whether or not I thought the earthquake was "by" God. You asked, " Just for clarification, do YOU consider the earthquake to be a sign from God specifically in response to your relating your vocation? Really….no satire…I don’t know whether your think that or not. "

    Anyway. Never mind.

  • Hilarious.

  • Candace

    John, re #40:

    I soooo did not mean to come across as questioning your conversion experience, in any way! BUMMER. I should have taken more time. Please forgive me.

    All I meant to say was that the way you described it (and the way my own conversion happened), it seemed as if it was, at least initially, not a matter of choice. Not like, "oh, sitting here at my desk (or in my car) I think I'll choose to follow Christ." The response to the invitation, and the way each of us walks the talk, I can see as being *mostly* choice — though not entirely.

    There are times now when I – my selfish, arrogant, greedy, sinning self – would really rather behave badly in some way, but I can *feel* that it just ain't gonna happen. It's out of the question, in a way my own conscience never, ever had the will or strength to enforce in the pre-conversion years. Something a bit not-choice is going on in such instances, at least for me.

    So that's partly where my initial questioning came from. But then your first comment (#36) clarified for me what you were getting at. That was what the wink was about, after my "at least three more blog posts" comment. 🙂

    You are totally correct about this: I DO like you. And I am very grateful to you for your books and this blog. They've been a real blessing for me. They've encouraged me to think more deeply, and to become more aware of what I actually DO think. Brought lots of stuff from the sub-awareness level up to where I can get my hands on it.

    Thanks for the grace and kindness with which you manage this online community. It's something I don't think I could do. Not nearly as well, that's for certain.

  • Candace: Thanks very much for these kind and affirming words. And no worries: What I said about choice DOES run contrary to my converstion story: if there's one thing I PERSONALLY don't have a choice about, it's believing in the historical reality of the Christian story. So it's all … dense like that.

    Anyway, thanks again for the love. (Oh, and for saying how well I "run" my little corner of cyberspace. I think I do lag there; too often, I let wondeful, and wonderfully kind, statements go by without at least thanking the person who left them. That's obnoxious. One thing's for sure: I can't BELIEVE how much work it is to buy a house. But, you know: talk about your First World problems….)

  • Candace

    I've so used that!! The FWP thing 🙂 Broadly applicable.

    There's an awesome Larry Norman song, can't recall the title, but it talks about all the identities people ascribe to Jesus, and the last verse is (I think; from memory):

    Some say He was the son of God, a man above all men.

    That he came to be a savior and to set us free from sin.

    And that's who I believe he was, 'cuz that's who I believe.

    I think we should get ready, 'cuz it's almost time to leave.

    Love that third line, especially.

    Anyway, rock on. And try not to worry too much about not being able to affirm every commentator on the blog. Just the content in general shows folks you care, and the instances in which you do specifically affirm will also have a lateral effect.

  • Candace,

    "The Outlaw" – Larry Norman from the album "Only Visiting this Planet."

    Part of a Larry Norman collection I have on vinyl.

    And John,

    yeah – what Candace said.


  • Candace

    Hi, Sam —

    up, that's it! I have become a HUGE Larry Norman fan. My friend Jon, who was instrumental in my coming to Christ and my growth since, gave me Visiting This Planet as a gift about a year ago. All I knew of him before then was the image of the upward-pointing index finger.

    I was crushed when he died (was it in February?). Had hoped to get to see him live one day.

    Easily among the top lyricists ever to walk the planet. What a richness, musically, to have discovered so late in my life! A huge boon 🙂

  • Penlee

    I ahve heard of “Bible Bashing” but this is the first time I have heard of “Bible Shaking” you are original John!