A Local Sighting, Part Two

 

Part One: Local Sighting

Part Two

 

You’ve just left the pool of Siloam. Your face is washed. Your eyes sparkle. And this time you are leading you mother. You find your way back to your neighborhood with familiar sounds and smells and now with fresh sights connecting the dots through firing synapses. You are almost there and you detect hubbub at the corner of Market St. And Way St.

Your neighbors, gathered, buzzing, are waiting for you. They want to see if you can see. But, they can’t believe their own eyes when you approach leading your mother and you are not hesitating with each step.

There’s a shout. “Isn’t this the man who used to sit here and beg? This is the corner Market St. and Way St., isn’t it?”

“Yes, and yes, it’s sure looks like him,” someone shouts.

“No, it isn’t!” another man shouts back. It’s got to be somebody else. These kinds of things don’t happen, not where I’m from anyway.”

As you approach the crowd you motion with your hand and say, “Yes, it’s me. Here’s my cup.”

“Well, then,” the one from out of town asks you, “how did your eyes get opened?”

“Those around me told me it was the man called Jesus! He made some mud. Then he spread it on my eyes. Then he sent me off to the pool of Siloam to wash. So, I went, and washed, and now I can see! I can see you.”

“And, we see you, but where is Jesus?” several ask you.

“I don’t know. I don’t know where to look. I’m new at this.”

Some men, eyewitnesses in fact, who were scandalized by the fact that Jesus may have broken some particular law on the sabbath, took you to the Pharisees for some jot and tittle questioning. The Pharisees had you start again:

“He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I can see!” You looked at them and saw their disbelief. Under your breath you said, “Ignoring reality will not go well for you.”

But they did and it did not go well.

Some of the Pharisees could no longer keep silent. “This man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the sabbath!”

Others said, “Yes, but, how can a sinner do signs like these?”

And so, the fact that you could now see had partys of Pharisees seeing things differently.

So, they questioned you again. This time they questioned the genesis of your sight.

“What have you got to say about him? they asked. He opened your eyes after all.”

“He’s a prophet,” you replied. You say Jesus is a prophet because unquestionable good is sent from God.

Doubting Judeans in the kangaroo court didn’t believe that you really had been blind from birth and now could see. So, they called your parents and grilled them.

“Is this man really your son,” they asked, “the one you say was born blind? How is it that he now sees?”

“Well, “replied your parents, who were very concerned about their synagogue status, “we know this he is indeed our son, and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can now see, and we don’t know who it was who opened his eyes. Ask him! He’s a grown up. He can speak for himself.”

You knew that your parents knew how you came to see. You knew why they were holding back. They were afraid of what the leaders of the community would think of this yet inexplicable event. You also knew that you were blind from birth and that you were no longer sightless and that someone sent from God applied mud to your utter darkness. Reality would have to be dealt with at some point.

So, perhaps hoping to trip you up, you were called in for a second time of questioning. Some said the sabbath had been broken by Jesus-he did the unthinkable!

“Give God the glory!” they said. “We know that this man is a sinner.”

“I don’t know whether he’s a sinner or not,” you replied. (You never claimed to be able to see into a man’s motives.) “All I know is this: I used to be blind, and now I can see.”

Incredulous, they prodded you again, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

(At this point you recalled the story of Elisha’s servant: Elisha had prayed, “Open my servant’s eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” The LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and the servant looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha told his servant. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”)

Unafraid, you respond, “I told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” With a new-found gleam in your eye you decide to throw a hot coal into the inquiry. “You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

“You’re his disciple,” they scoffed, “but we are Moses’s disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man comes from.”

“Well, here’s a fine thing!” you replied. “You don’t know where he’s from, and he opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone is devout, and does his will, he listens to them. It’s never, ever been heard of before that someone should open the eyes of a person born blind. If this man isn’t sent from God, he couldn’t do anything.”

Rattled to the core, the Pharisees denounced you: “You were born in sin from top to toe. You are going to start teaching us?” They threw you out so as to not to be defiled in the sight of God or man. Jesus did the opposite.

Jesus heard that you had been thrown out. He found you at the corner of Market and Way streets talking to your neighbors. He walked up to you and asked,” Do you believe in the son of man?”

Scanning the face of Jesus, you reply, “Who is he, sir, so that I can believe in him?”

 

“You have seen him. In fact, it is the person who is talking to you.”

Now it seemed that all of your brain synapses were firing at once. And this came out of your mouth, “Yes, sir, I do believe.”

You fall to your knees and give God the glory. No one demanded it from you, you wanted to worship the son of man, the one sent from God, the giver of light.

Jesus looked down at you and then around at your neighbors and spectators and said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who can’t see would see, and that those who can see would become blind.”

Some of the spectators were Pharisees, the self-styled purveyors of “a light to the Gentiles”. They heard what Jesus said to the crowd. Indignant, they retorted, “So! We’re blind too, are we?” They weren’t expecting a Kingdom of God inversion, one that would turn their world upside down.

“If you were blind,” replied Jesus, “you wouldn’t be guilty of sin. But now, because you say, ‘We can see,’ your sin remains.

The Pharisees walked off in a huff. The crowd, in wonder, remained around you until sunset.

 

The next morning your father wakes you up. “C’mon. Get up. Now that Jesus has put things right for you there is work to be done. But first, come and see the sunrise.”

 

~~~

The above account is found in the Gospel of John chapter nine. My retelling of the account has been embellished. The scripture passages are referenced from, “The Kingdom New Testament, A Contemporary Translation”, N.T. Wright (I highly recommend this NT translation over the NIV or any other translation.)

Try to Remember

 

The bumper sticker in front of Tom read, “Try to remember what you wanted to be.” Tom thought for a moment and then the light changed. He remembered that he didn’t want to be late for his date with Sherry. Pulling up to the next light Tom remembered that he wanted to be a missionary and a band conductor and a secret agent and a shortstop and an army guy and someone other-worldly, like a saint or an astrophysicist. At the next light he coughed as he said, “I never thought I’d end up as a welder.” 

Tom knocked and Sherry came to the door. “Dinner’s almost ready. C’mon in.”

“Wow what a day. How about that heat? I had to keep lifting my helmet to wipe the sweat off my face. I came home drenched.”

“You did take a shower, didn’t you?” Sherry joked.

“Yes, my dear. I see you did, too.”

“Yeah. I had the same problem you did. Welding that half-inch plate, I couldn’t see for all the sweat burning my eyes.”

“Maybe we should be welders in Alaska.”

“Yeah, and then could eat fresh wild-caught salmon and caribou.”

“You know the way to a man’s heart, don’t you kiddo?”

“As long as we are on the same path, I’ll know the way to your heart.” Sherry smiled.

Tom and Sherry sat down, gave thanks, and started eating the chicken tacos Sherry had prepared.

“I saw a bumper sticker on my way over here.”

“What did it say?”

“‘Try to remember what you wanted to be.’”

“I remember wanting to be Weather Woman on TV. I wanted to tell everyone what the weather would be while wearing nice clothes. I was ready. All my clothes were solids and not patterns.”

“You can tell me the weather forecast anytime you want Weather Woman. I hope I’m on your radar screen.”

“Yeah, you’re a blip.”

“Ahem. I remember wanting to be more than a blip. I wanted to save the world from the bad guys and run fast like Flash and play baseball like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Look at us now. We are both welders. You know, I read in Welder’s Weekly that…”

“Welder’s Weekly?” Sherry looked puzzled.

“Yeah, I am the only subscriber. Anyway, the Bead Column said that welders should date welders. “

“And why is that?”

“They’ll carry a torch for you.”

“I see why you are the only subscriber.”

“And there were bumper stickers for sale, too: “Be the Bead” and “If the Weld Smells Like Pork You’re on Fire.”

Sherry choked on her food. “That last one is hilarious.”

Sherry cleared her throat and said. “Well, you had me at first arc. C’mon. Help clean up. We have work to do.”

After putting the dishes in the sink, Tom and Sherry went to the garage. They set up the gas welders and the welding rods. They worked together creating a sculpture for a nearby church garden.

After a couple of hours, they came in for dessert – Key Lime pie. It was then that Tom gave Sherry the ring and said, “many are called, one is chosen.”

 

Later that night, while sitting together on the front porch, Sherry asked Tom a question.

“Tom, have you ever wondered why you and I were born in this time and place?

“I usually ask that in the middle of laying a bead and the temperature is ninety-degrees. But, what are you thinking?

“When I think of the millennia of time which has passed and the millions of people who have gone on before, I think we were born here and now to be a who we are-man and wife-to continue what God has begun, to continue creation.”

“Well, when you put it like that, welding makes sense in the cosmos. Joining two metals to become one creates something greater than the individual pieces.”

“You’re a philosopher now, Tom?”

“A stitch-er of thoughts, more likely. When I was on the road in New York and Indiana and Louisiana MIG welding together these towering static mixers I told you about I had time to think. There inside a hollow eighteen-foot diameter shell of twelve-gauge steel I realized that I am here for a purpose greater than me and greater than me welding together something that will benefit somebody today but will fall out of use some day. I saw that I am. Why that happened right then, I don’t know. But after what you just said, we make sense together. I better get home. I am exhausted.” 

Sherry looked at the ring on her finger and then looked over at Tom. Tom reached over and gave Sherry a kiss and asked, “Do you know how diamonds are created?”

“No, Tell me.”

Diamonds are made from the residual carbon of the earth’s first land plants. The carbon is exposed to extremely high temperature and pressure in the earth’s mantle. They are pushed up to the earth’s surface by volcanic activity.”

“Did you read this in Welder’s Weekly?”

“No. I read it in A Brief History of Welding.” Tom grinned like Alice’s Cheshire cat.

“So, to reach our Diamond Wedding Anniversary we will be subjected to high temperature and high pressure?”

“There’s only one way to find out and we’re going to go through it together.”

Tom gave Sherry another kiss and said, “See you in the morning. Don’t forget to wear cotton. It’ll be another hot day. Oh, I just thought of another bumper sticker: “Welders keep you in stitches.”

“You are exhausted. Good night.”

 

A year later, Tom and Sherry began marriage counseling with pastor Dave. The wedding date had been set.

During the first session with Pastor Dave, he asked them, “How did you two meet each other?”

Tom responded. “We met at Marsh Technology Center. We were both in a welding class. She flipped my lid.

Dave laughed. Now you have my interest. Explain.

“Yep. It was the first time I put on a welding helmet and I was trying to adjust the tension. Sherry flipped my helmet up and showed me how to adjust it. The tension has to be just right. When you are ready to weld you need to flip the helmet down to cover your eyes. Your hands are full so you flip the helmet down with a jerk of your head.” Tom showed Dave “the flip.”

During that first session pastor Dave asked about their family back grounds. As the session was wrapping up, Dave said, “Everyone who gets married comes to marriage with a lot of baggage. Each of you can share the load of the other but don’t think that the other will somehow resolves whatever issues you brought to the marriage. You own those issues like you own your credit report. It is yours to correct. Your spouse is there to support you but is not there to fix you.”

The second session was about finances. “You each come to your marriage with a certain way of dealing with money. Marriages break apart over how finances are handled. Marriage is a coming together-an intimacy-of finances where you must hold each other accountable. Set up a budget spreadsheet. Set up an accounting of debits and credits using available software. Set up financial goals for a home, for children, for retirement and most importantly-for giving. Remember. You cannot give what you do not have.

Look at each other’s credit report now before you get married. Look and see what each of you has done with their money. Love covers a multitude of sins, but a pile debt sticks out on credit reports. Stay away from consumer debt. It will eat you alive. Become financially savvy.”

During the third session Pastor Dave talked about in-laws–keeping one’s marriage separate, away from meddlesome in-laws. He said that becoming one takes focus. What Tom remembered was “Location, location, location.” What Sherry remembered was the ache in the pit of her stomach.

The fourth session: “long live intimacy.”

“Intimacy is the every-aspect-relationship that you have with your spouse. You have to work this out together day by day, minute by minute. And, don’t compare. Don’t ever read a couple or watch a TV show and say to your spouse, I wish we were like that couple.

Your marriage will face a test of wills. Your goal is to become one. That doesn’t mean the one is dissolved into the other. It means that the understanding, forgiveness and love you each bring to the other is forged-welded, is the better word for you two-to become one stronger whole.

Intimacy is broken when there is no forgiveness. Do not got to bed angry. A root of bitterness likes to grow in that kind of harsh unyielding soil. Do not apologize and say, “I’m sorry. I said it because of what you said.” You might get slapped. Holding grudges will quickly destroy your marriage. If you are angry, take some time to cool off and think about why you are angry. Are you angry because of what happened reminded you of something that happened earlier in your life that your spouse doesn’t know about and had no hand in? Beware. Unresolved anger is self-justifying as means of protection. Unresolved anger places others into exile. True forgiveness removes people from exile and embraces them. You may feel strongly about some wrong done to you. If so, tell your spouse that you are angry and why you are angry. Tell your spouse that you need some time to process your anger and that you do not want to reman angry with him or her. See what happens next. And, deal with your past baggage now so that the present and future are given to your spouse.

Intimacy is not sitting in front of a TV with your spouse. As it says, “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Find a church community which supports this truth. I recommend staying away from TV. Don’t make TV a third person in your marriage”

Tom interjected. “Neither of us own a TV and we don’t plan on having one after we are married. I think of the irony that so many people will go buy organic foods or be vegetarian or try to eat healthy and workout and yet they fill their minds with all kinds of trash from the TV. There is too much in this world to explore and to wonder about for us to sit in front of a box.”

“Good.” Pastor Dave replied. “Now let’s talk about sex.”

Both Tom and Sherry looked at each other and then rolled their eyes up to look at the ceiling.

“My wife Karen will talk to you, Sherry, and I will talk to you, Tom, alone. Let’s go.

Sherry met with Karen. Karen talked about sexual intimacy with a man and how to prolong a man’s excitement.

Pastor Dave talked to Tom. He began by drawing a picture of a vagina and then asking Tom to draw in where the clitoris was. Tom had no idea so, Dave drew it in and circled it. Dave then talked about how women are in no hurry to achieve orgasm but men are. He said that the two becoming one must find a happy oneness.

During the fifth session Pastor Dave talked about having a faith community that will support your marriage. He said to find a church where truth and beauty are combined into the daily life of the church. A church which is all preaching and teaching is missing the inexplicable and the transcendent. Find a church, he said, that loves mystery and encourages adventures of discovery. Find a church where art, music and drama play major roles in worship and teaching and are not considered asides to some pulpit ministry.

Pastor Dave’s sixth session: “When children come, life is turned upside down. Be prepared. Your marriage will be put to the test because everything you are came about during childhood. Having children is like attending a therapy session: the past is brought up and you are forced to confront it as little Tommy Jr. decides he will not obey, no way and no how. Rearing children requires patience you don’t think you’ll ever have enough of. Rearing children requires discipline for yourself and for your children, so know what and how that looks like. Listen to other parents. Learn to set and enforce proper boundaries for your children. Children feel secure when they bump up against sure and solid.

Their wedding day was a month away when Tom and Sherry came to Pastor Dave’s seventh and final marriage counseling session. Tom wondered why he was sweating sitting in Pastor Dave’s air-conditioned office. Pastor Dave surprised the couple by showing them the Princess Bride wedding scene. Tom was no longer sweating. Instead, his Cheshire cat grin reappeared.

“Alright then. You’ll need a sense of humor for your marriage to survive all the stuff thrown at it. Now, I want you two to focus on what I am about to say: Marriage is a rose that enfolds the mystery of truth and goodness and being within itself and then opens for the world to behold its beauty. A Kingdom marriage means taking vows-a sincere and binding promise made with full understanding. Together you will help each other to flourish. You will witness and worship together. Together you promote the glory of God. Together you will discover and uncover the mysteries of the universe.

And you should know that God created the gender identities of male and female not just for procreation of the human race. I believe that God’s creation of two distinct gender identities, both rooted and fixed in sexed bodies, was also for the creation of mystery.  You see, men and women who come into a marriage relationship begin a journey of discovery. Men discover and grow into their maleness and women discover and grow into their femaleness. Within the give and take of a marriage relationship the mystery of your gender identity and the other’s gender identity is explained and affirmed. The same thing also happens for a single person in a healthy Christian community. God created mystery for us to discover Him and each other and His whole creation over a course of a lifetime. We should never be bored.

God, in His infinite-personal love, created mystery and romance. Look at how much we do not know about the universe. Our God is surrounded in mystery.  Clouds and thick darkness surround him. God does not do boring, to put it another way. Reason alone cannot tell you all you need to know. Emotions and your senses cannot tell you all you need to know. No, we discover what we do not know when we are in relationship with Him and with others. Your marriage, the dancing embrace of male and female, will venture off into God’s uncharted universe to go where no man or woman has gone before.

“Bead me up,” Tom replied.

Pastor Dave looked over at Sherry. “Do you really want to marry this corny guy.”

Sherry looked over at Tom who was grinning his cat grin, “Well, he does keep me in stitches. That’s his welding joke.”

“You two were made for each other. Now for the welding. I mean the wedding.” Pastor Dave prayed a blessing on the couple and then dismissed them after discussing the wedding details.

 

At the wedding Pastor Dave again prayed a blessing on the couple. As Tom and Sherry drove away from the church Tom noticed the same bumper sticker that he saw before: “Try to remember what you wanted to be.”

“I remember what I wanted to be. It is what I am with you.” Tom leaned over and kissed Sherry.

Their car’s bumper sticker read: “With This Ring, I Thee Weld.”

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

The Dreamer

 

Charles pulled open the door to the Gravity Pub and went in. The near campus bar was dark and full of conversation coming from TVs and crowded tables. Charles found Dimitri and sat down next to him at the bar. The bartender placed two beers and two shot glasses in front of Dmitri and Charles. The bartender returned to fill the shot glasses with vodka. Dimitri placed a twenty on the bar and the bartender made change. “To respect!” Charles toasted. The two drank down the shots.

“Congratulations Charles.” Dimitri gave Charles a slap on the back. “Now that you have a master’s degree in social justice, the world is your oyster, as they say.

“So far the world is my headache.  I have received no job offers since graduating.”

“Give it time.  Here, let’s have another shot”, Dimitri offered and threw a twenty-dollar bill on the bar.

After two beers and several shots of vodka, Charles stood up next to Dimitri and pointed a finger in the air above him.

“My friend, for too long the one perthent have exploited tax loopholes making them richer. The rich are taking their wealth and all of the income and moving their profits overseas making the poor pay the bills. Their gain is our sthruggle!”

Conversations in the room stopped.

“Sit down tiger”, Dimitri pulled on Charles jacket, “These jokers already heard all this stuff.”

“I’ll not sleep until income inequality is error…radicated.”

“Give it time.  Here, let’s have another shot”, Dimitri placed two twenty-dollar bills on the bar. He told the bartender that he was ready to settle their bill.

Charles sat down again. He looked despondent. After an hour he said goodnight to Dimitri.

Charles pushed open the door to the Gravity Pub and went out. The brisk night air in his lungs made him yawn. Looking up at a sodium streetlight he proclaimed, ” A mather’s dugree…now maybe I’ll get some re…thpect …Joe …he rethpects me… I gave him a two dollar thip!” Charles stood colorless under the yellow light proclaiming to passing cars his grand achievement.

After some time, Charles made his way home. He plunked down on the futon in the basement. He tried to remember how he got home. His thoughts were not working in any order. He lay down. His eyes, heavy with sleep, closed. The room settled down, became dark and then a large room opened before him. A room with chandeliers. A room with a large audience. The audience was looking at him. There were cries of “Speech! Speech!”

“Friends, today is a good day for the world. You have recognized my worth. I want to eradicate inequality…for too long the rich have stuffed their mattresses with wealth. The rich have the entire world’s money and their trickle down has never worked. When the rich get richer, the middle-class doesn’t benefit. No, the rich stash their cash. They buy trinkets. Their money was made on the backs of underpaid workers. Automation technology destroys the working class…Save the …”

In the next moment, a man in a tux looped a medal around Charles neck. It was the Nobel Prize. The audience stood to their feet applauding. And then a white figure with a halo came toward him. Inga was bringing him roses. As he reached for them he found himself in a ballroom dancing with Inga. She asked him, “What are you going to do with all that money?”

“I will buy a drum set. Yes, I will buy a drum set!”

“Charles, wake up.” Mick, Charles’ younger brother, thumped Charles on the head with his forefinger.

“Ow! Wh…what do you want?”

“You were talking in sleep. Hey, can I borrow a dollar?  I will pay you back with my allowance.

“Aw, go away. My head hurts. Bring me aspirin and some water.”

“Aw, go away.

 

A week later Charles met Dimitri at Gravity.

“We’ll have another beer, Joe.”

Joe the bartender set the beer in front of Charles and Dimitri. Charles looked at him and asked, “Joe, how much do you make?’

“I make enough to take care of my wife and two daughters.”

“I mean how much do you make?

“I make minimum wage plus tips. This is a second job.”

“See what I am saying Dmitri? The greedy one percent has drained this man of his humanity.”

Joe gave Charles a puzzled look and walked away.

“Those rich greedy bastards. Those fat cats hoard money in Swiss banks.  Wait till the world sees what I can do to make things right! I have no patience for the rich. Who are they to have so much when Joe has so little?

“See that framed dollar on the wall”. Leon pointed to a 4 x 6” frame above the liquor bottles, “I will frame the first dollar I take from a rich man.”

At that moment Charles phone rattled on the bar. He picked up the phone and saw that this mother had called. He pushed 1 and his mom’s number was dialed.

“Mom, what is it?”

“Several boxes arrived today for you. What are they?”

“It’s a drum set. I’m gonna play drums in a band.”

“You are also going to start paying rent to stay here.”

“Mom, not this again. I need to pay off my student loan. I have no job. The rich have made it almost impossible for people like me.  And why should I work for minimum wage when I have a Master’s Degree? Look how much I have invested in myself.”

“You have to start somewhere. Your dear departed father worked for fifty years so that you and I had a roof over our head. He wouldn’t want you to be a leech. Now, either you pay rent or you are out. Get home now and get these boxes out of the living room.”

“Mom, I’ll talk to you later.”  Charles ended the call.

“Dmitri, can you buy me one more beer and shot?’

“Sure. Trouble at home?”

“Ah, my mother wants me to pay rent. As if I was made of money.”

The bartender placed two beers and two shot glasses in front of Dmitri and Charles. He returned to fill the shot glasses with vodka. Dimitri placed a twenty on the bar and the bartender made change.

The two raised their shot glasses. Charles toasted to the end of the oppression and they drank. When the beer was gone Charles stood up.

“I better get going before my mother has a conniption fit. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Charles walked out. Pushing open the door to the Gravity Pub he went into the night air yawing.

At home Charles moved the boxes down to the basement. He opened them and checked the contents. When he couldn’t stop yawning he lay down on the futon and closed his eyes.

In the descending blackness he came upon daylight. He saw himself outside his mother’s car in front of a store.  The car was running and the car keys were locked inside. His Nobel medal hung around the rear view mirror. Frantic, he looked around for help. His professor came by and said, “You shouldn’t have done that”. A politician walked by and said “Someone will come along to help, trust me”. A man in a Mercedes pulled up and said. ”Hey I’ve got just the thing you need.” The man opened his trunk and pulled out a Slim Jim. The man proceeded to unlock the door through the car window’s weather stripping. When the door opened the radio blurted out, ”Mama may have, papa may have, But God bless the child that’s got his own, That’s got his own.”

Charles opened his eyes, winced and held his head. “Damn”, he moaned, his mother was playing her music again.

As years went by, Charles went on to become a respected professor of Social Justice at his alma mater. After tenure Charles received a six-figure salary. He summers in Costa Rica where he gives lectures about the one percent and income inequality. He went on to write “Structural Marginalization, Social Justice and Solidarity Action for the Education Challenged”. The book was well-received by his peers but did not sell in the open market. Soon after the book release Charles became the owner of Gravity Pub. Dimitri went on to start a hedge fund that gave away fifty percent of its profits. Charles’ mother died in her home with an unused drum set.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

On the Brink

 

On the Brink

 

“Why?” the child asks.

“Who says?” the youth asks.

“When can I?” the teenager asks.

“Why not?” the twenty-year old asks.

“Who are you?” the thirty-year old asks.

“Where are you?” the forty-year old asks.

“Who am I?” the fifty-year old asks.

“When can I?” the sixty-year old asks.

“What did you say?” the seventy-year old asks.

“Whatever.” the eighty-year old says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

©Ann Johnson, Kingdom Venturers

Soul Woman and the Chosen Remnant

indiana storm

Saturday morning and the wet putty-looking sky appeared ready to ooze. The drive to Urbana from Chicago would take Daniel about three hours, three monotonous hours, he decided. Driving Fear and Trembling, his ’74 Toyota Corolla past the 200,000-mile odometer reading might provide an unwanted distraction. But then again, Daniel pushed himself and everything around him.

An automation engineer for a major utility, Daniel spent his week days programming relays and SCADA systems. Today’s trip would be a welcome break from the uncompromising detail of parameters and protocols. The Preacher would be speaking at three that afternoon. If all went well, Daniel would make Kankakee, the halfway point between Chicago and Urbana for a quick lunch and then head out to find the location of the tent meeting. He hoped there would be some signs along the way.

Heading south on I-57 the FM reception became intermittent and garbled after several miles. Daniel poked the AM button. The AM reception offered farm reports – corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock futures. He rolled up the window. The smell of hog farms was overpowering. “No wonder the prodigal son came to his senses,” Daniel chuckled trying not to gag.

Daniel recalled his early church years. They seemed no different from driving in this morning’s grey sanctuary. Every service was a font of recycled baptismal water. Sing a hymn. Listen to the choir or a soloist. Sing another hymn. Welcome and announcements. Then, pass the offering to the organ’s melodramatic droning. Sing another hymn and then settle in on a hardwood pew for evangelistic preaching. At the coda of the sermon there would be the invitation from the pulpit to come forward. You were told your options beforehand: one could receive Jesus; one could rededicate their life to Jesus or; one could choose missionary service in the name of Jesus. A trifecta of submission was sure to put smiles on the faces of those still sitting in the pews. Not unlike those folks Daniel had imagined who, at the end of a prescription commercial on TV, had received their medicine and were now brimming with wellness. It seemed to Daniel that placebos were being doled out by the Great Physician’s assistants.

Daniel cringed at the thought of the same words, the same preaching and the same altar calls week after week – a stagnant pond that never saw fresh water. Wash, rinse and repeat with the same water, the same people, Sunday after Sunday. Come thou Fount of Every Blessing!

But in the Bible Church the Lord’s Supper, a Remembrance only, was thrown in at monthly intervals. The hiatuses were necessary, as Daniel was admonished from the pulpit by Rev. W.E. Staputis, so as to not make the congregation too familiar with the Lord’s Body and Blood. But it must have been OK that the rest of the hidebound dog-eared script would be acted out week after week until “we all get to heaven.”

Later, when Daniel began to attend an Anglican church, the irony of attendance to ritual wasn’t lost on Daniel. But inside the liturgical tradition he found sacred beauty, a beauty that had been stripped from the Free Church. And he found at its center the Eucharistic Feast.

Multiple times each week the Eucharist was provided. The rector had told him that he could meet the Real Presence of the Lord in the Body and Blood. This resonated with Daniel like nothing else had. The search for the Real Presence was how Daniel had begun his pilgrimage to wholeness. The journey would end at the feet of Jesus.

When Daniel told his family about his new church, they wondered about his Christianity. “Just so long as they preach the gospel and sola scriptura,” Daniel’s father said.

Daniel told his father that there were Scripture readings. He told his mother that he benefitted greatly from The Book of Common Prayer. And he told everyone who would listen that The Great Feast was the pinnacle of the service and not the sermon. And he told them about the altar call – Christians who wanted to meet the Lord in the Body and Blood.

 

Rain splattered in waves onto the windshield. The wipers were squeaked into service with a twist of the steering column arm. Bored, Daniel turned the AM dial. He tuned in a commercial.

“Today, the Covenant Faithfulness of God Church will hold a tent meeting near the Urbana campus at 3:00. The Preacher will be speaking: “Many of you have been raised under a nuts-and-bolts systematic post-enlightenment dispensational theology or Classical Mechanics. And with those Mechanics your theologians have built a large palace surrounded by high walls. But they live in the guard house! They want you to live in the guard house, too! The church’s Classical Mechanics are ever vigilant against non-rational elements, against non-mechanical elements. But you, if all you are under the microscope is DNA, then you are of all men most pitiable!

Mystery and paradox have been turned away from the gates of your theologian’s Rational Mansions. Newtonian preaching does not allow for uncertainty and mystery in such a clockwork universe. Wonder and beauty have been scrapped. Instead, canned Post-Enlightenment theology feeds the church’s ennui and anti-intellectualism. And did God create the world in seven days? No! Was creation recorded in seven cartoon strip panels so as to satisfy idle Sunday minds? No!

Now many of you who are world-weary have made a leap toward Epicureanism. You avoid pain of thought and persecution of the sensate by seeking pleasure and positive reinforcement from mega-church preachers who demand nothing of you but your time and dollars. My work among you is to be a corrective to your loss of passion and the subjective, to help you discover something thought cannot think – a Quantum Theology, if you will. I will be making difficulties everywhere. I will not be talking theological niceties!”

Daniel tried to make sense of The Preacher’s words. Daniel tried to make sense of The Preacher – Mary Nard, formerly Mark Climacus. What was a woman like Mary doing in the same man space as Jesus?

By now, though, such absurdities were welcomed by Daniel. They posed a mystery outside of the color-inside-the-lines Bible Church. And, the radio sound bites of The Preacher had pinged his very soul. This presented another mystery that Daniel hadn’t made sense of: the fact that he felt like crying at odd times.

It wasn’t the aloneness. Daniel had lived alone for many years. He had come to see this peculiarity as a blessing. Why, even some of his best friends had once talked of living as ascetics and becoming monks. And, in the solitude Daniel’s imagination had come alive and with it a desire to seek revelation.

Daniel thought of his past church life as having been served within the cinder blocks of reason and the mortar of sentimentality. Beauty and extra-Biblical anything had been “Calvanized” for fear of idol worship, of worshipping the creature and not the Creator.  Worship of the Bible was considered OK, though, as were the Sunday School’s coloring pages of Jesus. And how could he forget the huge sign above the choir loft: “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Maybe that was why he felt like crying at odd times.

Or, was his sadness due to anticipating getting what he deserved or the dread of what he desired? He was convinced there was something to his inopportune melancholy. It had him dragging his feet but never to work.

Daniel embraced the complexity of automation engineering. He had coded SCADA systems which captured and controlled information. The system’s end process would conduct electricity from place to place. It was honest and rewarding work. Still, something had found his soul’s cyberspace address and was pinging.

Daniel pushed the radio buttons looking for another AM station. Finding a signal, he tuned the station and out came Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It had been years since he had played trumpet in the university orchestra. He pursed his lips and began to buzz them.  Then suddenly the steering felt light and loose. He tightened his grip on the wheel, eased off the gas and muttered, “God help me.” The car came under control but the pavement’s accumulated rain continued to slosh up under his car. The force created a loud “scrusssh” that every few seconds wheezed up through the passenger side floor board sounding like cardboard tearing.  He had been divorced because of his snoring.

And since the divorce it seemed to Daniel that his life had been remanded over to purgatory, his ex-wife signing the decree. His children had weathered the excommunication trial but held their judgment inside parsed sentiments to their father who was to remain in exile.

“Classical hour’s programming has been brought to by Illinois Generational Farming. See their website for more on centennial and sesquicentennial farms, agriculture and Illinois family farm history.”

“I screwed up, God. I know. You needed to remind me today?”

“Today, the Covenant Faithfulness of God Church will hold a tent meeting near the Urbana campus at 3:00. Here is The Preacher: “And if your right hand trips you up, cut it off and throw it away. Yes: it’s better for you to have one part of your body destroyed than your whole body to go into Gehenna. And there are some of us who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. If anyone can receive this, let them do so.”

“Hear The Preacher today at three. Now back to our program.”

“Well, that will be an interesting. Now back to the classics. Here for you now is Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture led by Dmitri Shostakovich.”

“Ah, something I played in high school. Daniel wiped off the fog from the windshield. The Toyota’s defogger wasn’t keeping up.

“Kankakee” the sign read. “Gas and Guzzlin’” the next sign read. Daniel pulled into the service station. While the gas tank was filling Daniel checked the dipstick. It was down a quart. He looked under the Toyota to see if there was any oil on the wet pavement. There was an oil and water mix that reflected a spectrum of colors. A promise?  Of what? Daniel walked into Gas and Guzzlin’, paid for gas and bought a quart of 30W. Outside he pulled some paper towels from the holder, removed the oil cap and poured the oil. Daniel figured that at 200,00 miles his old friend had a right to be incontinent. Rain began to pound the canopy over his car.

Inside the Guzzlin’ part of the service station Daniel pulled a bottle of water from the cooler and paid the cashier. He reckoned that he didn’t have time for a sit-down lunch. The rain wasn’t letting up. And now there was wind. The rain was slashing through the air sideways. Reports coming out of the TV above the counter warned of a hail storm in the next county. “Swell.” Daniel wasn’t worried about the Toyota other than more rusted parts detaching. But he was worried that he would miss the tent meeting.

He opened the station door and looked around. To his left folks were scurrying from their cars toward the door. To his right was a row of potted Petunia’s. The rain was pummeling the blossoms. At the end of the row and next to the door was a pot of defiant-looking cigarette butts. He ran under the pump canopy and then got into his car. Once inside he noticed a sharp smell that reminded him of the time he spent working near a paper mill.  He looked over to the passenger side floor.  The red placemat from Lom’s Garden restaurant had become stuck to the cardboard.  The cardboard covered the softball size hole in the floor where the floor board had rusted through. The placemat’s red ink had leached onto the cardboard creating a blood-red mishmash of running words and figures. The semi-pulp smelled like rotten eggs.

Daniel carefully lifted the cardboard. He took one last look at the placemat before tossing it. He read out loud: “1952. You are a Dragon: You are eccentric and your life complex. You have a very passionate nature and abundant health.  Marry a Monkey or a Rat late in life. Avoid the Dog.”

The torrential rain meant he had to drive slowly. He turned the headlights on and the AM station and began driving.

“Today, the Covenant Faithfulness of God Church will hold a tent meeting near the Urbana campus at three o’clock. The Preacher will be speaking. Here is a short clip of The Preacher from yesterday’s meeting: “Wonder and beauty have been sieved from the living waters of the church. Many of you have joined the Church of the Four Newtonian Spiritual Laws and the Church of the Distant Shore. Many of you have joined the Church of Cheap Grace. What of your lampstands?

There are those in the church today who are mirroring and abetting a deist, an agnostic and an atheistic culture. They offer nothing of the Kingdom of God and the New Creation. The Kingdom of God is here and now. This is the age to come.

The threadbare intellect of many Christian is alarming! And where are the Christian artists, the composers, the writers, the playwrights and poets? God’s recreation of his cosmos is taking place here and now.

Forget the “We’re-Gonna-leave-this-screwed-up-world-behind” Manichaeism of the paperback novels. The world must know that we are here as God’s recreated recreators. We are to bring God’s restorative justice to His cosmos here and now! As it says, “God has created us in King Jesus for the good works that he prepared, ahead of time, as the road we must travel.”

Now, someone once told me that I would never be beautiful. But it was God who looked at my heart. And it was God who created me in his image and is now recreating me to conform to the image of his Son, to fit into His vestments, since I have clothed myself in Christ. So, how could I not be beautiful? Or, accepted by God?

And it was in the law courts of God where I was declared righteous. This was not because I was assigned or imputed righteousness. Rather, I was declared righteous when I trusted in God’s covenant faithfulness! God keeping His word from ages past is all the predestination you need to know about. God’s covenant faithfulness has been recorded in Scripture for all to see. Yet many theologians today have systemically parsed Scripture imputing Post-Enlightenment meaning onto Scripture. The whole of Scripture must be read in its context to begin to see the whole plan of God for renewing his cosmos.

Now, we must learn to be Kingdom people who walk in synchronicity with the Spirit. The flesh must not have its way. That is how all of us used to behave, conditioned by physical desires. We used to do what our flesh and our minds were urging us to do. What was the result? We were subject to wrath in our natural state just like everyone else.

We are to put off the flesh and become whole. And the church – the body of Christ – is to be the composite of each individual’s wholeness in Christ. With our differences and backgrounds, we must come together to glorify God with one mind and one mouth and tell all creatures the good news.

The church is not for itself. It is for the mission of bringing God’s Kingdom restoration to His creation. The church is not a supper club or a country club or a club of positivism thinkers. It is for equipping the saints to do this mission. It is to send us unto all creation to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” That is the gospel.

“Today, The Preacher will be holding a churchyard tent meeting at the Covenant Faithfulness of God Church, Urbana, at three o’clock.” The AM station then returned to music.

The rain never let up until Daniel crossed Urbana’s city limits.

 

It was past 4 o’clock. Daniel asked for directions to the tent meeting. Within minutes he was on the church grounds looking for The Preacher. The meeting had ended. The assembly was dispersing, heading to their cars. A woman holding a young child noticed Daniel craning his neck outside the car window. “If you are looking for her, she’s over there,” pointing to The Preacher standing in the far corner of the church yard.

Before he had a chance to shut it off the car’s engine shuttered to a stop. Then the car produced what sounded like a gassy sigh.  Daniel bolted out of the car and had to leap over a large puddle outside the car door.  As he did there was a loud popping noise under the hood and then a hissing sound. Turning toward The Preacher he began taking long zigzagging strides over the slick ground.  He reached The Preacher.

““Hi, I’m Daniel. From Chicago.”

“You have been listening to me on your way down here, Daniel.”

“How did you know that?”

The Preacher laughed, “I paid for a ton of air time on the AM stations and you are late. What can I do for you?”

“Well, yeah, I missed the meeting so I just wanted to give you thanks and a hug. You seem so down to earth now that I see you in paradox. I mean… in person.”

“Come here.” The Preacher and Daniel hugged.

“Have you found what you were looking for? The Preacher asked.

“Well, I need to find another car.” Daniel pointed across the yard to a cloud of steam and the onlookers.

 

 

©Sally Paradise, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Housekeepers

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The five-day conference, “Alethea Lit Conference – Form without Substance? brought Irene to town. She was to lead the symposium O Still Voice of Calm on day three.

On Sunday evening Irene checked into room 351 and got settled. Pulling back the drapes she could see a terrace and beyond that the wooded campus of Indiana U. The late evening August sun etched the campuses’ limestone buildings with long sepia shadows; the heat of the day was receding.

After unpacking Irene went down for dinner. She returned an hour later anxious to kick off her shoes and put her feet up. Before retiring Irene was in the habit of reading. She chose Paul’s letter to the Romans for this week. But soon the day’s travel caught up to Irene and she fell asleep in the armchair. She awoke later with a terrible kink in her neck. She moved to the bed for the rest of the night.

 

Irene woke at the sound of her alarm clock, at 5:30. She showered, dried her hair and put on a jersey tank, an A-line skirt and a pair of flats. She was to meet her publisher Mark for breakfast. She gathered her loose belongings into her suitcase, left her open Bible on the desk and headed downstairs.

Antonia knocked. When she heard no answer she entered 351 and began her routine. Hotel housekeeping began at 7:30 during the week with the previous day’s laundry to clean. When finished, Antonia would then clean rooms until 2:00.

As was her habit Antonia turned on the TV when she cleaned a room.  She switched the station to her favorite talk show.  “Today, two couples each recount the loss of their child,” announced the host. Antonia’s turned up the volume and headed into the bathroom to grab the wet towels.

While dusting, Antonia saw the open Bible and moved it to the bed to wipe the desk top. She then changed the bed sheets after replacing the Bible.

“My son was eighteen when his car flipped over and he was killed,” the mother of one of the couples related.  The police found nothing to cause the accident. There was no rain, no alcohol, no other car – nothing! It just happened!”

Antonia watched the husband put his arm around his wife as she began to wipe her eyes. Tears welled in Antonia’s eyes.

Antonia adjusted the sheers and then went in to finish the bathroom. Seeing the makeup kit on the sink reminded her of what had happened the other day.

After work last Tuesday Antonia headed to her car. She grabbed her car keys from her purse loaded her soiled uniforms into the back seat and then drove off, leaving her bag sitting on the pavement. When she got home she couldn’t find her glasses and suddenly realized what she had done. She raced back to the parking spot and found that the bag was gone. Now she was frantic. The bag contained her wallet. The wallet held her ID, 40 dollars in cash, her credit cards and her hotel pass card.

Not finding the bag in the parking lot, Antonia went to the front desk to see if her bag had been turned in. It had. With that she breathed a huge sigh of relief, but then made sure everything was still there. It was. Antonia shuddered at the memory. Finished, she grabbed her cart, turned off the room lights and headed to room 353.

 

Tuesday morning Irene woke with her alarm at 5:30. She washed her face and then slipped on a pale blue dress and a pair of flats. After making a cup of coffee she sat with her Bible. This morning she would meet author Janice Fillmore for breakfast. Seeing it was 6:30 Irene placed her open Bible on the desk, gathered her loose belongings into her suitcase and headed down to breakfast.

Antonia knocked. When she heard no answer she entered 351 and began her routine. She turned on the TV and found she didn’t have to change the channel. After turning up the volume she proceeded to vacuum the floor.

“Today we have Chance Parlance, Senior Pastor of Broadway Church here to talk to us about his new book, “The Power of You.  Before we talk about your book, our viewers would like to know…You are asking each of your 200,000 followers to donate $300.00 so that you can purchase a luxury jet?”

“Yes. We want to safely and swiftly share the Good news of the Gospel worldwide…I declared it and God will do it!”

Antonia moved the Bible from the desk to the bed and began to dust.  As she gathered the garbage she noticed a brochure in the desk trash bin. She lifted it out and read the title out loud. “Alethea Lit Conference – Form without Substance?  Monday – Birthing The New Creation in Christian Lit.”

Looking at the time, Antonia put the leaflet into her apron and finished her cleaning. She had been given several more rooms to clean today. She turned out the lights and headed to the next room.

 

Wednesday morning Irene awoke before her alarm.  She showered, dried her hair and carefully applied her makeup. This morning she would lead a symposium before three hundred people. She put on a gray suit while coffee streamed into a cup.

Irene sat down with the coffee, her Bible and her notes. She had chosen her topic, O Still Voice of Calm, after spending several years practicing listening prayer. It had become her habit to sit in silence and to let God speak to her. She expected God to speak to her; God was constantly streaming His words to her. And Irene had come to realize that her creativity, her art, was born out of such times. Today she would introduce authors and publishers to listening prayer. At 6:30 she gathered her things and headed down to breakfast.

Antonia knocked. When she heard no answer she entered 351 and began her routine. She turned on the TV and found she didn’t have to change the channel. The volume was the same so she turned it down.  But she didn’t feel much like listening today. Monday’s program had left her unsettled, like she had lost something she couldn’t afford to lose. She even discussed the show with her best friend Lily, a biology major at IU, the day before.

Lily’s dogmatic reply came out of nowhere: “Now, how could any god permit the death of any child? You saw the pain those families had to deal with! And there is so much injustice in the world. My god, it’s like the gods are off somewhere uninvolved and angry and just waiting to jump all over us with patriarchal oppression. The god nonsense is a placebo for the weak.  These things happen, you know.  Just live, laugh and party on if you can before you leave.  Make the most of your time. And who knows, maybe when you die you will be reincarnated as a god and you can do some good in the world.  And don’t forget about me, your best friend.”

That conversation had left Antonia more unsettled.

Antonia moved the open Bible from the desk to the bed and began to dust.  As she gathered the garbage from the bins she noticed another brochure in the desk trash bin. She read the title out loud. “Alethea Lit Conference – Form without Substance? Tuesday– Uncommon Grace: The Life of Flannery O’Connor, a documentary film and discussion

Looking at the time, Antonia put the leaflet into her apron and finished her cleaning. She then turned out the lights and headed to the next room. Her work for this week ended at 2:00.  She would start work again on Sunday morning.

 

Bonita knocked. When she heard no one answer she entered 351 and called out “Housekeeping!” No answer. She began her routine. Bonita would clean the hotel rooms until 2:00. Then, her kids would need to be picked up from her mother’s house. Little Alphonso and his older sister Lupe would be anxiously awaiting mom.

Bonita had worked for six years as a hotel housekeeper. The housekeeping hours allowed her to work while her kids were in school and then be home for them in the afternoon. During the spring and summer months Bonita’s husband, Alonzo, a landscaper, was gone from six in the morning until eight at night. During those times Bonita would bring her two kids to her mother’s house.

While dusting, Bonita saw the open Bible. She carefully lifted the Bible and read out loud, “In the same way, too, the spirit comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but that same spirit pleads on our behalf, with groaning too deep for words.”

Bonita set the Bible down on the bed. She wiped the desk top. She then changed the bed sheets after replacing the Bible. She turned her attention to the bathroom.

On the bathroom ledge was a makeup kit. Bonita cringed. It was twelve years ago, in Sonora Mexico, that Bonita lost her first child Esperanza. The child died from pneumonia six months after her baptism.  For the funeral the mortuary had applied rouge to the Esperanza’ cheeks. Bonita’s eyes welled with tears as she cleaned the sink.

After Esperanza’s death, Bonita grieved for many months. After coming to live in Indiana she decided to remember Esperanza in a painting. Bonita had become a watercolorist after leaving Mexico.  She had seen many art fairs in her new home town. It was the water color portraits that had so moved her.

Bonita painted Esperanza in a white Easter dress, purchased in Mexico. Bonita applied a faint Cadmium red to Esperanza’s cheeks.

Bonita dried her eyes with a towel, gathered the towels, tossed them into her cart and sighed.

Being at home with two kids every day, Bonita appreciated the room’s silence. It felt like she was in the presence of something much more than herself.

Bonita turned out the lights and headed to the next room.

 

Friday morning Irene awoke before her alarm.  She showered, dried her hair and carefully applied her makeup. She would participate in a final symposium this morning and then head out. While coffee streamed into a cup Irene put on a jersey tank, an A-line skirt and a pair of flats. She gathered her belongings into her suitcase. When she reached for her Bible she noticed what looked to be a watermark on one of the pages. She closed the Bible, placed it into her suitcase, took one last look around, shut off the lights and went down to breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

© Sally Paradise, 2016, All Rights Reserved

Good to the Last Drop?

 

That Terry thought he was a vampire didn’t seem to faze Teresa.  It did faze his parents and friends.

A mother tugged a small boy through the outside door.  A teenage girl came out the inner door, crossed the room and left behind the mother and son.  A therapist stuck his head out of the inner door and looked around the room and saw his next client, a thirteen year-old boy.  “Hi, come on in.”  The boy dutifully followed the therapist.  A fiftyish woman came in the outside door and proceeded over to the glass window to check in with the clinic’s receptionist. Terry no longer paid attention to the ebb and flow of people in the clinic’s lobby.  Waiting for psychologist Teresa to claim him, Terry sat in the lobby as he had ninety-nine times before and always dressed in black.

“Hi, Terry, come on in.”

Carrying his dog-eared Virtual Gamer magazine Terry shuffled through the held door.

At the beginning Teresa was made aware of his parent’s concerns, their disbelief. When Terry had started to cut his arms and stomach to collect and consume his own fluids, they called N.B. Clinic.  They hoped for some reparative therapy that would bring back their child from the “grave.”  So, Terry’s parents sat down with Teresa.

They wanted to know what triggered Terry’s transformation:  “Was it us?  And what makes Terry sleep walk every night?  And why did he only want play outside at night?”

Terry’s parents related how they would wake in the middle of the night, every night now, to find that Terry had left the house.  He would roam the neighborhood in his black pajamas hissing.  It had to be more than simple parasomnia.

When they did find Terry his face would be covered in blood and the remains of dead cats and dogs were scattered about. The sight and smell of blood gagged them. Terrified by Terry’s manifestation, Terry’ parents wanted to do anything to bring their son back to from this state. He used to play so gently with his stuffed animals.

But after ninety-nine sessions, Terry’s parents were now told to accept their son’s “vampirism”.  As Teresa had explained it on the phone, vampirism was becoming an accepted behavior and that Terry’s self-image and his dignity depended on his being a vampire.  “It is something that he cannot control and it makes him feel human.  Besides,” she said, “it’s likely genetic – Terry’s need for plasma.  He believes that has the ability to extract some kind of energy from living things to strengthen him. I see this kind of thing all the time at N.B. Clinic.”

 

“I wish my parents would accept me the way I am.”

“They are trying, Terry. I met with them recently.  Give them time.”

“I wish everyone would accept me the way I am.  I was born this way, you know, and it’s not what they think.  I know who I am now.  You can see that.   Why can’t others?”

“Well, Terry, the world is not always friendly to minorities.  But there are social justice warriors who are advocating for you right now.  They are making a difference.  Still, there are so many fundamentalists who reject the notion of nocturnal plasma-sucking activities that it is an uphill fight.  Give it time.”

Teresa continued, “But you need to be secure in yourself, Terry.  Last week I gave you information about a local Vampire Community support meeting.  Did you go?”

“Yeah, it was alright.  I got to be myself without having to hide my feelings.  A lot of the kids said they came out of their coffins to their parents.  I just wish my parents and friends… I just wish the whole world was a safe place for me and my friends.”

“You and I both wish that Terry.”

 

 

 

© Sally Paradise, 2016, All Rights Reserved

“And what we must not do, what we must never do, is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans for something that they cannot control and deny what makes them human,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch

“This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them, indeed, to protect all of us,” Lynch said

Five Day Notice

 

When Janet first saw Dashawna, Dashawna was walking up the front sidewalk to the apartment building gripping a baby carrier in her left hand, a diaper bag in her right hand and over her right shoulder was slung a large bulging sack which seemed to stabilize her mid-step.

The apartment building complex where Janet and now Dashawna lived housed a “mix” of those with and without identity clauses.  The “mix” included Hispanics, whites and African-Americans.

Apart from working singles like Janet and Sally, who lived across the hall from Janet and down the hall from Dashawna, most of these residents were low income working class families with a mother and father.  And from all appearances, the apartment families had two parents who each worked. The mother and father could be seen coming and going at different times.

One assumed that the families were saving for a down payment on a house.  And after a few years, as their families and savings grew, they would move on. Janet saw them load up and go.

 

With her boyfriend’s help, Dashawna moved into the single bedroom apartment six years ago.

In such close proximity, Janet had tried to make the acquaintance of Dashawna but Dashawna did not open up much beyond “Hi.” Janet, though, was able talk to her son Kurtis when he passed by in the hall.

One night about two years ago, around 8 PM, the hallway fire alarm sounded. The three single women, Janet, Sally and Dashawna with her son Kurtis, who was now three-years old, bolted out to the hallway to see what was going on.  There was no smoke and no fire was reported by any of the residents.

The alarm had tripped falsely and nobody could shut it off.  Management and maintenance were called.  Finally, the men of the fire department came.  They had to break into whatever they break into to silence the pulsing alarm.

As they waited in the hallway the three women and the boy sat together at the bottom of the stair well, away from the deafening alarm.  Speculation about what set off the alarm created most of the conversation. Janet and Sally learned that Dashawna had called 911 when she heard it. After that Dashawna said little to Janet or Sally.  She huddled with her son. After the first six months, the boyfriend hadn’t been around.

 

A year and a half ago, Janet again saw Dashawna. Dashawna was walking up the rear sidewalk to the apartment building gripping a baby carrier in her left hand, a diaper bag in her right hand and over her right shoulder was slung a large bulging sack.  The sack seemed to stabilize her mid-step. Kurtis skipping, followed his mom.

Twenty-three-year-old Dashawna had no boyfriend to carry a baby mama’s belongings up to the second story apartment. In fact, no boyfriend ever appeared at Dashawna’s door. It occurred to Janet that a boyfriend hadn’t been around since the first year.  But in Dashawna’s twenty-third year a baby came around. The new baby girls’ name:  Nevaeh.

 

A month ago, Janet again saw Dashawna. Dashawna was being carried down the apartment building stairs by men to a stretcher on the front sidewalk.   Dashawna was gripping her face. Anguish and the word “overdose” were what Janet could hear through her blocked door. The paramedics had to balance their steps as they carried the wheel chair down the steps.

Dashawna’s mother arrived hours later to gather her grandchildren from the policemen who had waited. The next day DCFS left their card on Dashawna’s door.

 

Two days later, Janet saw Dashawna’s mother in the parking lot.  “How is your daughter?”

“She’s alright.  She’s down the road at Central DuPage Hospital.  She’ll be coming home on Sunday.  She was just overwhelmed.”

Janet offered to be of help to her daughter, “Dashawna can knock on my door any time.  Two small kids can be overwhelming.” Dashawna’s mother then wrote down her name and cell phone number for Janet to keep “in case.”  Janet has that card today.

Now Janet was aware that Dashawna’s mother, always alone, picked up Dashawna and her kids every Friday night, bringing them to her Chicago home. And every Monday night she, alone, would bring them back to their apartment.  Each journey required the loading and unloading of plastic bags filled with clothes, diapers, toys…a weekend’s needs. The racket of the return home usually awakened Janet from a sound sleep.

 

A week ago Friday, Janet saw Dashawna walking on the front sidewalk to the apartment building gripping a baby carrier in her left hand, a diaper bag in her right hand and over her right shoulder was slung a large bulging sack which seemed to stabilize her mid-step. She was moving out.

A U-Haul was parked on the grass. The man in the front seat smoking a cigarette got out when he saw Dashawna. He followed her up the stairs.  Soon others appeared and began carrying loads to the truck and to their cars.

 

The next day, Janet saw Dashawna’s mother in the parking lot.   Five-year old Kurtis and the year-and-a-half year-old Nevaeh were in the back seat of her car. Janet got out her car and went over to say “Hi” to the kids and their grandma.

“Hi, Kurtis.”  “Hi Nevaeh.”  “Why those baby tears?” Janet turned to grandma.

“How are you?”  “Fine.  We’re moving to a three-bedroom apartment just around the block.”

“It’ll be nice to have more room.”

 

Dashawna’s old apartment was cleared out over the next few days.  Two days ago a notice was placed on the door by the landlord. Yesterday Dashawna and her mother and a thirtyish male helped her complete the move. When done Dashawna tore the notice off the door.  Before she did, Janet came out to say goodbye.

 

Janet had a shelf unit that was perfect for her kids “stuff”.  She brought it out to the hallway, knocked on the half-opened door and called to Dashawna. Dashawna finally came out and looked at Janet and said “Oh, Hi.”. It was now apparent to Janet that beneath the zipped hoodie that Dashawna was wearing that she carried another baby. Janet offered Dashawna the shelf unit and her phone number and then wished her well.

Janet saw Dashawna for the last time. Dashawna was walking down the rear sidewalk, away from the apartment building, gripping plastic bags.  The bags seemed to stabilize her mid-step…until further notice.

 

 

 

© Sally Paradise, 2016, All Rights Reserved

This is a true story; I am “Janet”.

Green with Egalitarianism

After addressing an envelope this morning, I pulled a recently purchased book of postage stamps out of my wallet.  The first thing I noticed was the words “Equality Forever” on the stamp I used.  The stamp booklet included a series of U.S. postage stamps:  “Liberty Forever,” “Freedom Forever,” Justice Forever,” and “Equality Forever.”

 four flagsU.S. Four Flags (Forever) Stamps:

 “The U.S. flag flies high with stars and stripes! Each stamp represents an important theme in America’s development as a nation: Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and Justice.”

 Be aware.  The word “Equality” is taking on a new meaning, a meaning proscribed by Obama and the Progressive Left. Equality is now to be understood as “equal outcomes” and not simply as “all men are created equal.” 

 Since the foundations of this country were laid with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution we have agreed as a nation that “All men are created equal.” This includes and is limited to the God given natural rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” afforded to men and women of every race. Beyond that there are no guarantees in life.  Life is not fair.

 Now when you consider egalitarianism or equal outcomes as “equality” as Progressives do you must by necessity look at what your neighbor has to see if your social-economic status is equal or unequal to that of your neighbor.  You will by necessity be looking to see if you are keeping up with the Joneses.  You will by necessity be looking to see if grass is greener beyond your own yard. Right? We do this right now without the prompting of government.

 But with Obama and the Progressive Left’s ever increasing demands for “fair share” redistribution you are provoked to look with dissatisfaction, with greed and envy, upon your neighbor.  You are not encouraged to view your personal situation with contentment.  Instead, you are encouraged to look upon your neighbor as a certain class of people above or below you.  Obama is in effect telling you to be discontent and to seek “equality” or “equal outcomes” through redistribution of incomes. That is the spiel of Obama and the Progressive Left. 

 If the spiel is accepted and acted on it will affect every aspect of your life. Consider this scenario:

 Two men work as drafters in an engineering company.  They were both hired at the same time.  Drafter Number One comes to work early, does his work as drafter and back checks his work to ensure its quality. 

 Drafter number Two comes to work a few minutes before 8:00.  He does the work required of him and some of his work requires redrafting.  He spends a lot of time talking to his cube mates and on the internet.  He also goes outside to have a ten minute smoke break every half hour.

 Would it be fair to pay these men the same wage?  Egalitarian wages ignore work ethics ~  empirical reality ~ in favor of being…equal.  But would paying both men the same exact wages be fair?

 I’ll give another example of the folly of equal outcomes from one of my most visited posts:  Where Do You Start?

 And from the Thomas Sowell Reader, his article Meaningless “Equality”: 

 “Anyone who questions or opposes equality is almost certain to be regarded as someone who believes in inequality ~ in “inferiority” and “superiority.”  But all of these concepts suffer from the same problem:  For equality, inferiority, or superiority to have any meaning, what is being compared must first be commensurable.  A symphony is not equal to an automobile.  Nor is it inferior or superior. They are simply not commensurable…

With many groups as well, the fundamental difference between equal treatment and equal performance is repeatedly confused.  In performance terms, virtually no one is equal to anyone.  The same individual is not equal to himself on different days.”

For more information about the foolishness of the current use of the word “equality” read Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice.

 Should government be the arbiter of what is fair?  Does government share your values? As we speak Obama is seeking to redistribute monies ~ “spreading the wealth” ~ from the suburbs to the cities to effect egalitarianism.

 You work hard to have a suburban home where your kids can go to school.  The suburbs provide space for your family to grow.  You feel safer out in the suburbs.  Your tax money pays for the fire and police, for parks and clean streets and many other benefits.  Many black Americans move to the suburbs to be free of the city and its onerous taxes and its crime.  Obama is right now taking your tax money and redistributing it to the cities. In other words some of your tax money is not being spent on your home district but it is given to someone else. Is this fair?

 The reality of recent redistribution is much grimmer.  The truth is that the money taken from you the taxpayer under the guise of “fair share” egalitarian purposes is given to special interest groups that support a certain political party – cronyism.

 And in the recent fiscal cliff deal who are the big winners?  Not you the taxpayer.

Who are getting tax breaks? 

 Among others rum distillers, Hollywood film producers and NASCAR!  Is this egalitarian?

 Finally, should we be looking at our neighbor’s property and demanding that we have the same things, the same wages, and the same health care, the same…? What does Jesus want us to do instead of being green with egalitarianism?

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15

And from the writer of the letter to the Hebrews:

 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

 And from the apostle Paul:

 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  I Timothy 6: 6-8

Is Jesus being dismissive of our needs? Or, is He realigning our view of our worldly needs in accordance with True values found only in a personal relationship with him.  Right now Obama’s Progressive message is directly opposed to God’s message of contentment.  Right now Obama wants you to have a personal relationship with government. He wants government to be the theocratic Benefactor much like how most of Europe has chosen government over God.  Does the godlessness and socialism of Europe make you green with envy?  Green with egalitarianism?  I wonder?  If so, you are at odds with the God Who is Just and will give to every man as he deserves.

WYSINATI:  What you see is NOT all there is.

Our Father in Heaven “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Quoth the Paradise: Nevermore!

Quoth the Paradise:  Nevermore!

 Please!  No more tattoos.  Cover up your butterfly, your Mayan symbol of fertility, your undulating butt cheeks covered with spider webs.  Cover up your magic marker body.  I do not want to see it.

 Please! No more women talking endlessly on cell phones while driving an SUV or a mini-van.  They are multi-tasking my patience. 

 Please, no more skinny jeans.  If I wanted to look at a blue toothpick then I will go puncture a Smurf. 

 Please, no more make-your-skin-crawl women: Rachel Maddcow, Ellen, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. 

 Please, no more city mayors telling us we can’t drink a biggie size drink or carry a gun or have a Chic-fil-A restaurant in our district.

 And please.  No more government!

When you voted for Obama you voted to make your life harder. I know I know. You thought life would be better but you were deceived by the “social justice” propaganda.

 Voting for tax and spend Democrats (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi) means that you spend less time with your family and more time working to pay your bills.  Sure Barrack and Michelle will continue to get Hawaiian vacations and Barrack will continue to play hundreds of hours of golf but your family will have to put off vacations because of … 1) rising Federal and State taxes, 2) because of government regulations affecting your workplace which affects your pay and 3) because of rising consumer prices due to corporation taxes. And, tax rate increases for the wealthy do not occur in a vacuum.  Increasing the tax rates for the wealthy affects everyone negatively.

 With Democrats you are placed in what I call a Moronic Squeeze:  government through taxation (including the newly tax-mandated Obamacare) demands more of your money.  So now you will have to work more hours in order to take care of your family.  Then because you are both working so much you can’t spend time with your kids, time the kids desperately need.  Instead,  a public school takes over your children.  Then the public school system demands more money to teach your children and then government will come back for more tax money from you.  Phew! You and your children are put in an ever tightening vise by government.

 More devastating, government creates fiscal and moral poverty; “social justice” is the scam that is used to take money from your pocket and put it where it best serves a politician and his reelection needs.

 When both parents are working who’s with the kids?  Are you letting the public school inculcate its “diversity” values into your children because you don’t have the time to spend with them, because you work so many hours to pay government for the first five months of the year?

 Social justice, better simply, “justice”,  is learned at home.  Invest your money there and not in government:  spend time with your children, teach them what is good.  The returns will be great.  Government gives you pennies on the dollar return on your tax payments.

 When you keep more of your own money you have more options and more time to spend with family.  Voting for more government – more Democrats – does not give you more time with your precious family.  Instead you must work all the harder to meet government’s demands.  Obamacare is only one of the huge financial demands now placed on the middle class.

 2014 & 2016:  Think about your family before you vote for more government (and less take home pay) in the form of a Democrat candidate.

Added Dec 31st, 2012:  The Best Bumper Stickers of 2012 – the Legal Insurrection edition. Here’s one example:

Bumper-Sticker-Gypsum-CO-Forward

I have to ask:atlanta-Freedom