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The Joel Osteen I knew (back in the day when I became the accidental barber.)


There are a lot of haters out there; trolls who are looking for the next person, place, thing, entity, organization, theory, political maneuver/stance or policy to target with a vengeance.

One of the more recent strings of comments trending on some social media platforms are aimed at Joel Osteen and his church—yes, a mega-church—Lakewood, located in Houston.

The anger seems to be directed at Joel and the roughly $4 million SBA PPP loan awarded the church, money that will be repaid.

Not a grant. Not "free" money.

I don't know any of the details of this type of loan and if it is interest-bearing or the terms in which it must be repaid, or exactly how this money will be used; but that's not what this is about.

I want to tell you a story about the Joel Osteen I once knew way-way back in 1981.

I was a sophomore at ORU (Oral Roberts University). The previous year, my freshman year, Joel’s sister Tamara Osteen lived on my wing in the women’s dormitory, Claudius Priscilla Roberts Hall.

She was a kind and gentle soul with a soft Texas drawl, so humble and gracious that she never mentioned the mega-church her father had founded in Houston.

In fact, our dorm was the lower cost option more in line with what poorer people, like myself at that time, could afford. She was not spoiled. Not entitled. I considered her a friend.

The opening week of the fall 1981 semester, Tamara’s younger brother Joel showed up, a shiny new freshman, and like Tamara, lived in the mid-priced option that was the brother dorm to Claudius, Ellis Melvin Roberts (EMR) Hall—nice but not as fancy as the Quad Towers—housing mainly middle to lower income kids.

Lisa Owens

I met him that first week at a brother-sister wing introductory gathering and then spied him around campus from time to time. He was a shy quiet boy, easy to spot with that crazy head of hair. Hair he still sports today. Evangelist-hair.

One day out of the blue, my boyfriend at the time (my first true love) asked me to cut his hair. I thought about it for a minute then laughingly said, "I will do it but you must sign a waiver. I will not be responsible for missing earlobes or the stigma attached to a person wandering around with a bowl-like haircut, a strong possibility since I have no idea how to cut hair!"

He was fearless (or crazy) and agreed to the terms.

We decided to set up shop in his dorm in the large downstairs entry of EMR Hall, a popular social gathering area.

We found a forgotten, creaky, metal folding-chair shoved off to one side and my arms were laden with what I imagined might be the tools of the trade for a barber: a broom and dust pan, a clean but raggedy towel, a comb, my only pair of scissors, and just in case…earlobe-sized bandages.

I am sure my scissors were fabric shears (I was a seamstress of sorts), not meant for hair at all; but that was all I had.

My boyfriend gulped as he sat down and I stood back observing then running my fingers through his head of thick blonde hair.

It was lovely, hair any woman would envy, and I was scared I'd ruin it; but putting on my most confident face, I dove in.

I combed and cut and stood back to think, then combed and cut some more. It was looking pretty good—not very bowl-like—and he remained still, trusting me to not ruin his hair or cut him. His trust in me gave me confidence and those scissors began to fly (picture Edward Scissorhands).

I noticed a line forming. Other boys wanting or needing haircuts. I gave them the spiel, "I have no idea what I'm doing...yada, yada, yada."

I cut hair and each boy paid me $5. It was money I gravely needed and appreciated, so this became a thing. Me setting up the metal folding-chair every so often and giving $5 haircuts. I became an accidental barber. Every haircut was identical, as I obviously had no game, but it didn't matter. The boys still lined up.

One day, a young man sat in my chair and after working on his curly mane for a while, his hair conformed and looked just like all the other boys' haircuts, the ones brave enough to risk their earlobes—not great but passable.

At the end of this silent boy's time in my chair, he handed me his $5 and quietly thanked me.

That was the Joel Osteen I knew and something I will always remember. Kind, unassuming, and already a man of God, people were drawn to him—despite his questionable haircut.

By Lisa Owens. Mother. Dog Rescuer. Writer. Turning lemons into Tipsy Mermaid Lemonade.

She can be reached at

Tipsy Mermaid Lemonade


1 handful of ice

½ cup lemonade

1 ½ ounces white rum

Splash blue curacao

Fresh lemon slices for garnish


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