Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Unlucky People

Walking inside his Hospital room, Pete's flat on the back he broke falling from his house.

His daughter Rene's tenderly caressing his brow while whispering as he intently listens.

Everything about Pete is intense.

After Vietnam, he and his wife tried taking care of mentally ill children in a group home but, he found it boring.

Moving to Tybee he found work at the Department of Public Works but got his rocks off shark fishing.

These were the glory days of the DPW when they mostly played cards under the supervision of Billy Pye and built crosswalks from scratch on private property only to move them after threat of lawsuit.

Pete ... Roger Doger ... Billy ... were the DPW ... running off anyone the City hired if they didn't like them.

But it was the shark fishing that kept Pete on the island.

It wasn't illegal just a few years ago.

"THIS IS THE GREATEST ADRENALIN RUSH SINCE VIETNAM!" he screams while cutting the head off a 9 foot shark halfway in the boat we're in ... tossing the fresh meat at my bare feet and dropping the chomping mouth into the Back River.

Sharks don't die easily.

The severed head continues to chomp disappearing in the brown green water and the gutted carcass flips around my feet ... scaring the Holy Daylights out of me ... as Pete erupts in laughter.

The man is as intense as any shark I've ever encountered.

Sliding into the quiet of the hotel room I hear his daughter softly say, "It's okay Dad. Remember we're the unlucky people. If it's gonna happen then it's going to happen to us. We'll be alright. I don't know how we'll be alright but we'll be alright."

And I can still feel ... the frog in my throat ... salt water in my eyes ... emptiness in my belly.

Pete's eyes cuts to mine and the slightest of thin smiles crosses his face.

"Hey Micheal," Rene says, hugging me.

"You look like shit," I say to Pete afterwards, leaning over the bed staring at him ... our noses almost touching.

"You fall off a roof and lets see what you look like," he snaps.

"Touche," I answer.

"They teach you that in Seminary?"

"My bedside manner?" I laugh. "Na I picked that up on my own."

"It's awful," he says looking at Rene.

"Yeah," I agree as his wife Trish enters the room and we embrace.

"Sooooo," I begin having no idea how to start because if they taught Introductory "Hospital Bedside Manners for Intense Men with Broken Backs" in Seminary, I apparently skipped that day.

"He broke his back," Trish explains matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, I heard."

"I may miss some work," Pete adds.

"Ya' think?" I ask.

"We need the money," he says.

"Don't we all?" I muse.

"No seriously, we're broke," he continues. "Living paycheck to paycheck."

These were the days when you could actually live on Tybee paycheck to paycheck ... WAIT A MINUTE!!! ... a lot of us still do!!!

But sometimes luck runs out ... money disappears ... moving becomes real ... friends grow scarce ... bill collectors grow like nests of Vultures waiting on prey to die ... hearts break like bones ... and you're left with nothing but questions for God ... who doesn't seem in the mood to talk.

So you lie there ... drink ... cuss ... cry ... repeatedly asking questions God's obviously not interested in answering.

The "How" questions are easy enough.

How did I end up here?

We can back track and figure that out.

In Pete's case, he didn't have the money to fix the roof but knew how ...  even though he also knows he's too old ... and it's far easier to climb ladders when you're young but gets harder the older  you grow ... and fooling himself to believe he's still young ... he makes his way to the roof ... reaches for something just out of reach and ... falls off his house.

It's the "Why" questions adding to the pain.

Don't get me wrong, Pete's crazy as a loon ... but damn the man's got a great heart ... does things for people other's don't give a shit about ... gives money he doesn't have because it's the right thing to do ... spends hours listening to them bitch about things gone wrong ... and taking them shark fishing on his dime when he can't figure out how else to ease their pain.

And he's rewarded with a broken back trying to save money he doesn't have.

Why?

Why is God so damn silent when the tough questions come?

The honest answer is, "I don't know."

I wish to God I did but I don't.

It pisses me off.

God doesn't seem to care.

And now ... I don't have an answer though there is an end to the story.

I was on the plane Pete and Trish took when they left the country ... Tybee ... the debt ... the house they left to to Rene ... the creditors ... the craziness ... the broken things.

Trish sat in First Class with a dog wearing a yellow "Service Dog" jacket though it's just the little Terrier she's carried with her forever.

Pete's on the last row seated directly in front of the bathrooms.

Both are wearing special badges proclaiming, "American Ambassador Special Needs."

Sitting in the middle of the plane, Trish sends me a Vonka Tonic.

Pete talks loudly from the rear drowning out the instructions on how to buckle a safety belt.

Disembarking in Atlanta, we huddle at the Gate, hugging as I ask, "Where are y'all going?"

"Mexico" they smile.

"How long?" I wonder.

"We're never coming back," Pete says ... "We'd be arrested."

Without knowing ... somehow I know that.

So we hug again ... and kiss ... and when Pete loudly kisses me in the middle of a crowded Atlanta Airport .... it isn't pretty .. and that's the last time I've seen them.

Though it isn't the last time we've talked ... keeping up with each other on Face Book.

I have no idea how they're financing it but ... damn there they are ... in a land with no Winter!

Trish paints.

Pete takes long walks up a mountain to visit a Shaman.

Rene visits often.

They've never returned to the United States.

I've known lots of unlucky people in my life.

Most are dead.

I'm glad I'm not one of them.

I've experienced ... no I am experiencing way too much ... unlucky stuff in my life ... but here I am ... for another day anyway ... telling you a true story about some people I love ... who've gotten through it somehow ... though I'm certain it's not as easy as it seems for them ... it's certainly not for Sarah and me.

I'm sure a fair number of you are feeling pretty unlucky about something or another ... wondering how you're managing to be here ... when reason says there's no way in Hell you can continue.

But you have.

And you do.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding," the Proverbs counsel (3:5).

Leaning not upon my own understanding is easy enough because I don't understand any of this.

Trusting in the Lord with all my heart would be a lot easier if God wasn't so Goddamned quiet ... but She is ... so it's all about the trusting.

So I trust.

I don't know why I do ... but I do.

And I'm banking on the day when Sarah and I stand there holding our tickets ... and she's in First Class as she should be ... and I'm in the back in front of the rest rooms cause I gotta go all the time anyway ... and the Announcers voice sounds strangely like what we believe God sounds like says, "Boarding Now."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dancing In Church

BAR CHURCH CONFESSIONS # 17
True Stories from Tybee Church

When Jeanmarie worshiped, she danced.

There was no stopping her.

Occasionally we'd stick her behind drums but they never held her back for very long.

First a smile breaks out ... then she screams, "YES!" ... tiny feet jump and in an instant Jeanmarie is leaping crazily around the Bar!

Were it not for the perpetual smile on her face, the police may have been called.

There was a song ... "Dance Like David Danced" and were it played, she surely exceeded anything the great King of Israel may have done bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Jeanmarie also hugged ... A LOT!

Before the service she'd walk up and hug you but once worship began, she danced over, gave a hug and kept dancing ... and smiling.

It was impossible to not love her as she transformed herself into the very embodiment of worship in the highest degree.

Perhaps she weighed 90 pounds, which makes sense given all the dancing she did.

In the end she danced her way straight through cancer and into the arms of Jesus who happily took her arms smiling and the two of them haven't stopped yet!
_____________

Tybee Church is raising $10,000 necessary to continue offering open worship in a Bar! The money is to cover the costs of fees, insurance, ministries and supplies. Currently 38% of what's needed has been given. Please help if you can by clicking https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch 
or through mail to Tybee Church P. O. Box 1511, Tybee Island, GA 31328
___________

A SPECIAL BAR CHURCH MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE & COOK OUT WITH LIVE MUSIC will be on May 27th in the covered Pavilion in Memorial Park beginning at 10nish on Tybee Island. There's a Potluck, a little story telling and lots of fun. It's free so come on and experience Bar Church without a Bar! NON-SMOKERS WANTED.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Moms R Us

Three old ladies are sitting in the court yard of the Oceanside Nursing Home as Che and I breeze through looking for Jim.

We hear one say, “My son is so devoted to me, for my birthday he gave me an all-expenses-paid cruise around the world.” 

The second pipes in, “That’s nothing. Mine threw a huge catered affair for me, and he flew in all my friends from the East.” 

The third woman smirks at them both. “Without a doubt, my son is the most devoted. Three times a week he goes to his therapist. A hundred and thirty dollars a session he pays. And what does he talk about the whole time? Me!”

No doubt, huh?

When I worked with homeless families I saw first hand how awful lots of mothers really are.

Pam is a large, rotund, roly poly mother of three ... though her 14 year old daughter Nicki is tall, thin, straight, pretty and obviously in charge of the family. 

Entering their room for the first time Nicki exclaims, "Wow this is nice Mom?"

 That's sad itself isn't it? ... a homeless shelter is nice?

Pam doesn't respond. She's too overwhelmed by losing the boyfriend they lived with ... her addiction to crack cocaine ... the tremendous debt she's amassed trying to be a good mother ... and the understanding somehow that deep in her clouded mind ... Nicki is the one running the family because she's totally incapable.

They go on to become a success ... sort of anyway.

Pam kicks her habit for a while, gets a job, finds housing and moves her family to a decent place with a new man.

Nicki graduates High School.

A couple of years later the whole sad episode happens again except, this time ... Nicki's the Mom.

Sometimes it's a shame what Hallmark has done to Mother's Day.

Buy a $7 card to honor your Mother ... and next month buy another one for your Dad.

It's gotten crazy.

Yesterday I posted a new Face Book profile picture of me holding Che.

Immediately someone quips, "This does not look like a Mother's Day picture."

"What's that got to do with anything?" I wonder. "Like any other man who's worth his salt I can get in touch with my feminine side and express Mother tendencies ... just as any woman can muster up her masculinity.

Beside, my mother loves the picture posting 5 hearts to prove it!

Like much in the world, it's all gotten so out of hand.

"Honor your Father and Mother! Then you may live a long full life in the land the Lord God has given you" (Exodus 20:12).

Why?

God knows we've sentimentalized the Hell out of it but honestly speaking it's not always the easiest of relationship ... Mom and child.

Jesus himself seems to have had a strange one with his Mom.

The first thing he does when he get old enough is run away from home.

After three days, they back track until they find him and Mother Mary tells him, "Behold, thy Father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke 2:48) ... or in today's vernacular ... "I thought it was my fault losing you but now I see it's yours and ..."

Well, lets be honest ... our mothers would have beaten the tar out of us ... but today's mother's would threaten taking away his phone from him ... but never actually do it.

The Bible doesn't say what Jesus' punishment was but he's not heard from again for 19 years so I imagine it was pretty extreme.

Then when he's 30, Jesus attends a wedding with his family and they run out of wine.

We all know there's nothing worse than being anywhere ... especially a wedding not involving an immediate member of your family ... and running out of wine.

Mary tells her son to do something about this and turn water into wine so nobody feels bad about this horrific happening.

"Woman what have you to do with me?" John 2:4), is how Jesus responds.

Not even calling her Mom, Jesus is obviously perturbed at his ol' lady wanting him to do things he doesn't want to do ... we've all been there.

"Go tell the Police it was you," my Mom demands after officers beat on our door demanding to know if I was involved in stealing 15 fire extinguishers from a local plant.

Apparently Mr. Gnann who lived across from the plant believes he saw me with my best friend Gene Prevatt and Robert Mixon carrying fire extinguishers to the fort we have built in the woods for a fight to end all fights.

Somehow the police investigative team found the empty cans with our fingerprints on them.

Just like Jesus I say to my Mom, "Woman what have you to do with me?"

Unlike Jesus, my Mom backhanded me across the room, told the police I did it and there went my summer vacation.

Jesus listened to his and turned the water into wine but it took me a long time to forgive mine. 

The next time Mary wants Jesus, things only get worse.

Jesus is flying high, everybody wants him, his popularity is through the roof and he's famous, adored, sought out and beloved by all.

Just when things couldn't have been going any better for Jesus, his mother shows up demanding to see him ... "Tell him his Momma needs to see him right now," Mary says so the message is conveyed to her boy.

"Who?" Jesus replies (Matthew 12:46). "Who is my mother?"

Hallmark still hasn't figured out how to use this on a card.

"Our mothers, like our fathers, are to be honored, the Good Book says. But if Jesus is to be our guide, honoring them doesn't mean either idealizing or idolizing them. It means seeing them both for who they are and for who they are not. It means speaking the truth to them. It means the best way of repaying them for their love is to love God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as at their best our parents have tried to love us. It means seeing they are taken care of to the end of their days" (Frederick Buechner).

Let me be straight, I've tried to be pretty good whenever I talk to my Mom but, Lord knows she gets upset with me to this day ... when I cuss in public though she herself has done so ... made bad choices when she's done that too ... or screwed up badly because she's done her fair amount of screwing up.

The reason we honor our mothers ... our fathers too for that matter ... is because they gave us our life.

We wouldn't be here without them and even if they were the worst parents ever born ... they still gave you YOU!

That's the real honor of it all.

Face it, there would be no Jesus without his mother ... regardless of who is Daddy is.

Same with you and me.

At the end of his life, Jesus has one last encounter with his Mom.

Hanging on the cross, bleary eyed in pain, he looks down at her standing in the crowd and says, "Woman, behold your son."

It's funny he still doesn't call her Mom but "Woman" instead but, I think what he's saying is, "This is what you've given the world ... just me ... right here ... doing what I'm doing."

When all was said and done, Jesus ended up honoring the ol' lady by changing the world and centuries later we're still talking about him ... and her.

So the best thing you can do on this Mother's Day, whether your Mom is still living or not, is to say to her ... "Woman, behold your son" ... "Behold your daughter" ... this is what you've given the world ... ME! ... and the world wouldn't be complete without me ... meaning of course the world can't be complete at all if I weren't here ... but I am ... thanks to you.

Now Mom, it's time for me to LIVE This Mother's Day ... just like it is for me to truly live every day ... being your gift to the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Prayer For the Lost Credit Card

"Why me Lord?" What have I ever done? To deserve even one of the pleasures I've known?"

Eric Johnson sits, strumming an open string guitar and sings as Ricky Stokes plays a mean acoustic lead, Gordo moans on a mouth harp, David sadly thumbs bass strings, Davy taps the box while John's fingers softy make love to the skins of his Congas.

"HEY! WHERE'S THE BARTENDER?"

You ever been in a Church Service that's totally disrupted by something? ... a plane crash ... fire? ... women fainting? ... or the minister admitting to an affair with the lead Soprano in the Choir? ... and how everybody keeps on singing pretending if they don't notice what's happening it'll go away?

It was like that at Bar Church Sunday.

Eric's singing and the Band's killing it ... when this Dude storms inside Benny's wearing his bathing suit and nothing else ... looking like he slept on the Beach ... with sand falling out of dirty blond hair ... he seems desperate.

"Hey man," Kevin tells him. "It's Bar Church. There's no bartender. You're welcome to stay ... there's food on the  Pool Table."

"I NEED THE BARTENDER," the kid screams, "I LEFT SOMETHING HERE AND NEED IT BACK NOW!"

Sometimes you simply have to stop singing ... even in the middle of worship ... and this is one of those times.

As "Worship Leader" ... and I use that term loosely ... I hold my hand up, stop the music and call for prayer.

"Dear Lord of the Lost, please help this poor soul find that which he seeks ... the credit card which he left here last night ... forgive him for leaving without paying ... stumbling to where forth he was misled ... and may he remember to tip the bartender upon finding his treasure."

"What?" the kid asks realizing everyone in the Bar is praying for him.

"Come back at 12:30," Kevin explains.

Angrily, the Dude storms out.

The rag tag Congregation erupts in laughter in Holy fellowship as Eric resumes singing.

"Lord help me Jesus, I've wasted it so."

We know all about that at Bar Church.
~~~

Please Support Bar Church through https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Ever Changing Band

BAR CHURCH CONFESSIONS # 8
True Stories from Tybee Bar Church

Eric doesn't know what to expect on his first visit to Bar Church.

He'd been asked to bring his guitar and a song or two so he has both with him just in case.

Stumbling inside of Benny's Tybee Tavern on a sunny Spring day, it takes his eyes a moment to adjust but he hears Micheal's voice, "Hey Eric! Welcome! You met Davy?"

Davy is a Bar Church co-founder and the drummer ... meaning he's wacky as Hell but keeps a mean beat and everyone loves him dearly.

"I've heard of you," Eric says as they shake hands.

"Uh-oh," Davy moans.

Davy's life ambition is to lay low but life has this way of finding him anyway.

Thomas Oliver sleepily stumbles inside and we naturally think he's confused because he's never up this early.

Tom Cooler breezes in looking like he just his gig as a Lumberjack

Tommy Hall hauls in multiple instruments followed by Gordo and his lovely bride Mrs. Jaime.

Today's Bar Church Band is born!

Next to nothing is practiced, tried or planned at Bar Church. There is a bulletin but there's no order of worship because ... God only knows what's going to happen.

We tried practice once before the Easter Sunrise Service but it made people mad so there's uncertainty if it'll ever happen again.

The service begins and somehow ... we don't know how ... it all comes together.

Here's Eric soulfully singing a song perfect for the occasion but listen to Thomas, Gordo and Tommy perfectly complement it.

We think it's nothing short of what choirs of Angels consistently deliver.

Every Sunday the bands different because each week the players change.

It's one of the things making Bar Church such a special worship experience.

Thank you Eric for gracing us and, well you already know, you're always welcome to celebrate home with us.

Support a new worship experience at  https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch

https://www.facebook.com/TybeeBarChurch/

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Happy Heavingly Birthday

January 28th is the anniversary of the death of a young woman's mother and was unexpectedly celebrated in Bar Church.

A group of Georgia Southern students left Statesboro early in the morning for Tybee Island where Kris would honor her mother on the Beach. It was a cloudy and blustery morning so they sought warm coffee in the Sunrise Cafe. It was too cold they agreed to properly celebrate in the way they'd planned.

But as Kris explains, "As we were walking back to our car, we saw a Church sign on a Bar. We poke our heads in and ask, 'Is this a Church or a Bar?' and a man, humorously says, 'Yes.'"

The girls commandeer two high top tables as the band warms up, check out the bar and send lots of texts to whoever. 

Others wander inside, bringing food to lay on a Pool Table, guzzle cups of coffee and find spots to sit or stand. 

As the service ends with "Knocking On Heaven's Door" Kris raises her hand to ask if we could sing something her mother who was having her birthday in Heaven.

The band launches into "Happy Birthday" and Kris burst into tears of joy. The songs continue with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "I Saw the Light."

The tables of College Co-eds hug, dance, smile and cry.

"We ended our morning in a Church Bar," Kris writes on her Face Book page, "where they lovingly sand Happy Birthday to my Mom and sang beautiful Gospels in her honor. Thank you Jesus for letting me feel my Mom's presence so intensely. Mom, I know you are smiling and laughing. I love you. Happy 48th."

~~~

You can help such Holy Celebrations continue by supporting Tybee Bar Church at https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I love you and so does God

You know how hard it is to do good things in the world today.

Hell, it's hard enough to find good things anymore.

Everyone seems in it for themselves and to a large degree it's pretty true. We take care of ourselves and our own first ... and while maybe we'll get around to others ... we rarely do.

There's this woman who comes to Bar Church when she can make it, which isn't very often because she works Sundays in the produce section of a grocery store. It's not a full time job but she manages to pay the rent, eat and join her friends sometimes for drinks.

She's content until her daughter dies.

Then all Hell breaks loose as only Hell can do.

She broke ...is overwhelmed ... questions God relentlessly ... wonders how to get the money to attend the funeral in another state ... and find out who her friends are.

Riding her bicycle home from work, Bar Church arranges to meet her ... though she had no idea why ... but if consolation is what they're offering ... she's desperate need.

What happened next is ... boxes of food are unloaded inside her tiny one-room efficiency apartment ... lots of hugs are delivered ... dry shoulders grow wet as she sobs ... then she collects herself to sling wet words in gulps, "Why are you doing this? I didn't think anybody cares ... I can never pay you back."

The words sink into a deep Ocean of sadness and hurt.

"We love ya," is the reply, "and in spite of the shitness of it all, "God does too and's relying on us to let you know."

Like her Bar Church can use a little help right now to continue showing God loves people in spite of sometimes terrible circumstances.

You can made an investment in spreading God's love on an island at https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Re-Gifting God

If you peel shrimp for a living and it's not shrimp season what happens?

The restaurant you work for lays you off.

Sunday after Tybee Bar Church, a member of the rag-tag congregation embarrassingly explains she's out of work because there's no fresh shrimp.

She's got kids.

Bar Church doesn't pass offering plates ... we don't have any ... there is a bucket some folks throw cash in along with written prayer requests and notes to God or someone in the band. Some cash from it's re-gifted on the spot and ... she cries.

No forms to fill out to be reviewed by an allocations committee, deliberation for the Pastor's Benevolence Discretionary Fund or bureaucracy dispensing God's love ... just re-gifting on the spot in this case.

You can help too if you're led to by following the link https://www.gofundme.com/tybeebarchurch

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Working From Home

My wife hates me interrupting as she works.

The girls can interrupt her and it's not a problem because she's mastered motherhood ... the art of being nice to your children when you want to kill them in desperate hope of teaching them a life lesson ... but if I do it Satan himself doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell coming out unscathed.

But I can't help it.

She's hard at work as I stroll pass and ... "Damn!" I say to myself, "That is one beautiful woman there!"

I grab my phone and snap photos.

"What are you doing?" she asks without raising her eyes or fingers from the keyboard.

"Nothing," I answer.

"You're lying," she says continuing to type.

Of course I'm lying but I'm not about to admit it.

If I admit to lying I'd also have to confess to having impure thoughts and the whole thing would snowball ... straight to Hell.

She makes a face.

Now Sarah is the best face maker of anyone I've ever met.

Rembrandt, Picasso and Da Vinci would kill to have each expression the subject of their next painting.

I snap a photo.

"I'm working," she shoots "and this has to be done."

"I can't help it you're so beautiful I have to stop and take a few pictures."

"Umm-hmm," she skeptically moans continuing to type.

We've been married long enough so I know I best get the Hell out of there now.

"Love you honey," she says as I leave.

I fail to respond overwhelmed by impure thoughts.

Sarah says working from home is much more difficult than she ever thought.

Tell me about it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

God's Own Drunks

"Maybe you'll find a replacement. There's plenty like me to be found."

But there really isn't.

They believe with absolute conviction everyone's replaceable and tell me to my face.

"That's true," I recall saying "but it's gonna take five to replicate everything I do and you can't afford five."

An already angry face boils over into shades of red I've never seen before or since.

Thrusting his index finger into my chest, the anger erupts from his mouth, "EVERYBODY."

"Whatev's," I shrug using a favorite word at that time, stolen from a Canadian family I spent a lot of time with in those days.

It may have been the word choice ... perhaps the shrug of my shoulders ... but probably because I know far more about how things work than he though he believes otherwise.

When the dust finally settles, we're both right.

I'm replaced ... in fact they're still replacing me unable to find the right person or combination of people to do everything I did.

There's a sad satisfaction in knowing this but the grandeur of what we accomplished is long gone, fueled by the liquidation of assets, replacement of key personnel and radical change in mission.

What I'd spent 30 years devoting my life to is ripped from my hands and I'm left holding nothing.

It's hard to go from almost everything to nearly nothing in a short period of time.

Especially when it's unexpected.

It can be a marriage, job, belief, faith or hope.

It doesn't matter ... we've all been there.

I didn't do well at all.

Change is hard enough when you're not the one facilitating it and I went from being the key decision maker to reacting to each choice made.

So I did what a lot of people do ... I got drunk ... for a long time.

Drunk's great when you're in it ... and if you can figure out a way to make it last ... well, it's even better.

I see a lot of you know what I'm talking about.

We feel sorry for those of you who don't.

But nothing last forever ... marriages ... beliefs ... hopes ... dreams ... and even drunkenness.

Let me be positively clear, alcohol is not required to enter and remain in a drunken state ... though it was certainly the lubrication in my case ... it can be depression, anxiety, cynicism, narcissism ... bagism, shagism, dragism, madism, this-ism, that'ism ... ism, ism ism.

Honestly you can drunk your way through a marriage as easily as get sloshed at a Bar ... not fully engaged in the relationship ... and self medicating yourself through it.

You can cling to drunken dreams long passed any semblance of reality ... winning the lottery to cover your debts is a big one.

Dreams never die, forever laying dormant until the opportunity arises to grab hold of one and then you're a staggering, crazed person reaching for one only to knock it over ... spilling over the counter or the floor ... again missing out on something you've always wanted ... and looking foolish to whoever sees you try.

Nothing lasts forever ... including drunkenness ... regardless of how long you fight it ... sooner or later you wake up to ... reality.

If you're prepared for it ... reality's great!

If you're unprepared ... then reality sucks.

Again, we're not just talking about drinking ... but lots of other things too ... relationships ... self worth ... wishes ... cherished ambitions ... we're either ready for them or we're not.

If we are ... GREAT! ... expectation meets reality!

If we're not ... then it's simply best to follow Jimmy Buffet's advice and get yourself "drunk and jump right back in."

It brings me to one of my favorite Bible stories.

It's after Noah builds the Ark because the world's gone to Hell and God thinks it best to start over because the first time didn't work out all that well.

Noah builds a boat, lets a few people in ... utterly outnumbered by animals ... it starts to rain ... Noah and friends survive along with horses, ducks, geese, dragonflies and elephants ... everybody else drowns ... then, according to God's plan ... they start the world over.

"And Noah becomes the first farmer. The first thing he plants is a Vineyard. He drinks the wine, gets drunk, naked, and passes out" (Genesis 9:20).

The Bible doesn't say if Noah invented the first "Toast" or not but I think he probably did.

Here's to us!
There's no one else
So ... let's drink!

After being called crazy for believing in a God telling him to build a boat, fill it with animals and a few people because the world's gone to Hell, survive the greatest flood in history and then start the world over from scratch.

Noah pulls it off and if anyone deserves a toast ... it's him ... but they don't exist yet ... neither does drinking to excess ... so Noah plants some grapes ... waits for them to ripen ... harvest them ... makes wine ... drinks it ... toasts himself for surviving everything he's been through ... get shitfaced drunk ... takes off his clothes ... and passes out.

If you've ever done this ... or some of it ... it's pretty Biblical stuff you've done.

Here's where the story gets crazy!

"So Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his Dad naked, told his brothers ... Shem and Japhet ... who grab a blanket and cover their old man, but back in so they don't have to look and see ..." (Genesis 9: 22-23).

Well ... you know what they don't want to look at. 

"When Noah comes to, he knows his youngest kid told the rest of the family ... and figures it's them who covered him with the blanket ... so he curses Ham's son Canaan ... blesses the boys with the blanket ... and goes on to live to be 950" (Genesis 9: 24-29).

Now I can relate to lots of this story.

I've gotten drunk before and woke up naked ... and I cursed anybody who said I'd done something wrong.

I see some of you can relate to Noah's story too.

We can only assume Noah kept the Vineyard ... harvesting grapes ... making wine ... getting drunk ... taking off his clothes ... and passing out.

The Bible doesn't say one way or the other.

Here's what we know though.

Noah was never the same after the flood as he was before it happened.

I don't think he ever got over it which is why he invented drinking.

And I'm fairly certain he did it for the rest of his life.

Doesn't matter because ... Noah survives!

So back to my story.

After my drunken period ... like Noah I survive ... and also like Noah I'm not the same as I was before.

There were good things in my life back then ... just like in Noah's ... some great things happened ... on occasionally stupendous things ... but it's a new world now ... a much better one.

Like Noah who survived the old, selfish, arrogant, ways that led to the destruction of the world he lived in ... the world I once lived in is no more either.

It's been destroyed, regulated to the past, now little more than distant memories and occasional stories to tell if it strikes me.

Also like Noah, as my old life came crumbling to an end ... crashing down around me putting me in danger of drowning ... I got through it somehow and celebrated by getting drunk ... for way too long.

It's funny there's no condemnation of Noah drinking, getting drunk or losing his laundry.

The one who was embarrassed by it is cursed.

The boys who took care of their passed out old man are blessed.

Crazy huh!

The story though is really about surviving ... and sometimes the things we've gotten through in life have been so horribly rotten the only thing we want to do is get drunk and forget.

Or ... we can toast surviving ... drink to what we have now rather than we had then ... celebrate everything God's given us, including the lessons we learned from back then ... be fruitful and multiple because we're still here and capable of doing so ... and than can mean kids ... love ... ideas ... making the world a better place than what it was before.

So the next time you raise a glass, ask yourself which you're doing?



Micheal Elliott


Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Home Made Ticker Tape Parade

Easter starts today ... Palm Sunday .

Jesus and his followers ... Disciples and otherwise ... make their way into the Capitol City for the first time.

On the way they lose their collective minds, taking off clothes throwing garments in the road as Jesus rides pass on a donkey. They rip branches out of trees, throwing them down too ... making ... sort of ... a home made Ticker tape parade.

It's the funniest way to kick off the Highest Holy Day of Christendom. 

As they get close to Jerusalem, near Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he tells two Disciples, “Go to the village. As you enter you'll find a colt tied up ... no one's ever ridden the donkey ... untie it ... and bring it to me ... and if any one asks, ‘What are you doing?’ tell 'em, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back as soon as he's done.’” 
So they went, find a coat in front of a house ... untie it ... and are immediately confronted, “What are you doing ... are you stealing our colt?” 
"God needs it. We'll bring it back when he's done." 
They bring the colt, throw their clothes on it as a saddle and Jesus rides into the City. 
His followers take off their clothes, spreading them on the road while others threw leafy branches they cut from the fields. 
And those in front and those in back cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!”
They enter Jerusalem ... go inside the temple ... look round at everything ... it was already late ... so Jesus and the Disciples leave the others and return to Bethany.
We make it sound so different these days.
We think it's a Hollywood movie ... a gazillion screaming worshipers ... Jesus with perfect hair calmly riding an unbroken Donkey ... keeping their clothes on but cutting Palm branches ... while singing in four part harmony ... "Hosanna!"
The Government and religious leaders are scared to death of the huge crowd of followers Jesus has amassed screaming for them to "BE QUIET!"
The witty response of Jesus is, "If they shut up, the stones themselves will start to sing" ... meaning the Glory of the moment is bigger than the sum of it's parts.
Unfortunately this exchange was added later and probably never actually happened ... but's used to illustrate the point that ... in this case ... Jesus entering Jerusalem is bigger than the sum of it's parts.
If we boil it down it what it really was ... Jesus and perhaps 30 or so of his closest followers ... make their way into Jerusalem ... and not during a peak traffic period.
They appear to onlookers as a gang.
They steal a donkey under the premise "If you act like you're supposed to be doing something people will believe you're supposed to be doing it."
"HEY! YOU STEALING OUR DONKEY?"
"No ... not at all ... we're borrowing it ... God says he needs it for a couple of hours. We'll return it right afterwards."
"Oh! Of course God can borrow our Donkey. Why didn't you say so?"
The donkey's at a Beth'plague or Fig Farm ... a huge agricultural commodity in Israel ... though Figs aren't in season ... so Jesus probably figures they don't need the donkey at the moment ... and he takes her for a spin.

Jesus rides "the ass upon which no man hath ever sat" into Jerusalem surrounded by screaming people, taking off their clothes to throw in the donkey's path, or tree branches with leaves and everything goes fine.

Jesus isn't thrown off ... which, in and of itself, is as much a miracle as turning water into wine.

You ever tried to ride an unbroken donkey?

When I was a kid my Uncle Larry and my Uncle Jerry told my cousin Ricky and I to my Grand Daddy's Farm. They decide give us a donkey ride ... to use Biblical words ... let us sit upon an ass which no man hath ever sat.

When we were done ... it was still an ass upon which no man hath ever sat ... cause the donkey threw us skyward as soon as we sat on it.

I've often wondered how Jesus pulled it off ... especially with crazy people yelling, taking off their clothes and throwing at him ... Palm branches and such.

It's no wonder the Law looked on.

Little wonder the religious leaders were in an uproar with naked people dancing and singing in the streets.

Lord knows the environmentalists were pissed at the ripping of branches off Palm trees.

But Jesus' gang peacefully enters the city ... head straight to the Temple to look around ... hardly anyone's there because it's late ... Church is over ... so they head back to Bethany ... and we assume to return the donkey though the Bible doesn't say. 

Of course, it makes you wonder why they went to case out the Temple at night? 

The answer comes the next day when they return, run out the people making money off religion ... turning over tables ... causing a riot.

"It is written My House shall be a prayerful place for everyone and you've turned it into a robbers paradise," is how Jesus justified things.

Easter starts with an orchestrated riot ... by a good size gang of religious zealots taking off their clothes and ripping Palm fronds off trees to throw at a "borrowed" donkey ... screaming religious slogans "Hey-sanna, Hosanna, sanna, sanna Hosanna!"

It's crazy right?

It's not the Easter we've been taught.

But according to the oldest Gospel ... Mark ... that's what happens ... other things were later added to the story.

Like most stories ... over time they grow ... substantially ... and this one's no different.

But here's what hasn't changed.

A tiny home made ticker-tape parade, late in the day, after most had left the Temple so they could "case the place out" ... cause they had plans ... starts off a chain of events that virtually the entire world knows thousands of years later.

The next day they return and Jesus loses it ... attacking people selling all manner of religious artifacts, paraphernalia, books, candles and jewelry ... turning over their tables, screaming bloody murder, chasing them out of what he says is, "My Dad's house."

Of course the religious leaders are horrified because they think things are going just fine ... so they do what anyone does when confronted by a crazy looking man surrounded by crazy acting followers ... call the Law ... but Jesus and his gang left before they arrive.

This sets off a chain of events that changes the course of history ... topples a religious institution ... crumbles the largest Government the world has ever known ... unleashes a movement demanding the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven ...  leading to a new religious institution ... bigger buildings ... stained glass ... Seminaries ... a bigger bureaucracy ... and tables full of  religious artifacts, paraphernalia, books, candles and jewelry for sale.

If you strip away the myth from the man all too soon" ... you too ... can see where we all soon will be.

And where we are is caught in a religious prison far worse than the one Jesus and his followers toppled kicking off Easter.

In Seminary I took a class called "Exit to Ministry" ... required for all during the very last semester we're enrolled ... taught by an old retied guest Preacher from an established stained glass Church.

The idea was for him to impart his practical knowledge of life in the Church ... and he taught us crazy, stupid things ... "when you sit in the chair on the Pulpit and cross your legs, keep your socks pulled up lest you cause a woman in the congregation to lust after your flesh" ... stuff like that.

On the last day, he asks if anyone has anything to say before we're unleashed into world to save it ... by making the religious institution, bureaucracy and image ... bigger, brighter and more refined?

Michael Ethridge, a friend who made a "A" in his Marriage Enrichment class the same time he got divorced, raises his hand.

"Mr. Ethridge," Dr. Graves says.

"Yeah," Mike says, rising from his desk, throwing his backpack over his shoulder and taking moment to look at the rest of us ... "I think we've all made a mistake," he says. "This isn't what Jesus meant ... he was against all of this pretentiousness ... the constant judgment ... the wasted money ..."

"What are you saying Mr. Ethridge," Dr. Graves impatiently demands.

"I think," Mike calmly replies taking a first step towards the door, "the first thing Jesus would do today is rent a Bulldozer and level every single one of these Goddamned buildings with stained glass ... books and suits and ..." his voice wanders off as he ponders and his voice cracks when he speaks again ... "and gold crosses.

Wiping his eyes, pulling himself together he stares at Dr. Graves, "and sanctimonious bullshit ... and tell us to start all over again."

Mike walked out the room and took all the air with him.

No one spoke as his words hung in the air.

It's what's Easter's all about you know.

Tearing down the bad so we can build the good.

Getting back to basics after we've found ourselves so far from the things we believe.

Even taking on crucifixion ... killing off who we are now to become something far better ... that's what Palm Sunday's all about.

Jesus led the way.

It's entirely up to us if we follow or not.