Thursday, December 30, 2010

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The fireworks stand was set up in the church parking lot. It came loaded with sparklers, firecrackers, rockets, and an assortment of smoking, fizzing, chasing, popping, screaming weapons of mass destruction. At least that’s how things ended up.

It was Friday night. Grady and Goober were in the stand. The crowd had been light but steady. The Catholic church across the street was humming along with their Friday night Mass service. Since it was New Year’s Eve, more than the usual crowd of participants crammed into the small chapel.

Father Hannigan had begun the service with a hymn arrangement by the children’s choir and they were now finding their way to sit with their parents. The altar boys were taking their places to assist in the dispensing of the wafers and wine.

Gertrude Peters and her three boys drove up to the stand and began to gather together a large cache of fireworks. “Get me some of those Roman Candles, bottle rockets and a box of Cherry Bombs.,” Gertrude said. The boys’ eyes bugged as Goober laid each request on the counter.

“What’s that over there?” she asked.

Grady got down the display box labeled Shock and Awe. “What’s that do?” she asked.

“Pretty much about everything that all you got over there does, except all at the same time,” Grady said. “It’s got these rockets with bombs stuck on the sides, then these chasers jump off and sparklers go off and firecrackers start popping. It’s quite a ruckus. It’ll light up the whole sky.”

“I can’t imagine anything doing all that,” Gertrude said.

“Want to see one?” Goober asked.

“Goober, we ain’t supposed to let off any fireworks in town,” Grady answered. “You know that. Anyway, remember what happened last time, when the bell tower got burned down?”

“Yeah, but that was an accident,” Goober said. “This is on purpose.”

The fuse burned quickly and the rocket exploded into the air. It rose in a whoosh and as it did it dropped sparks everywhere as it went up. The fuses of the other rockets still in the box grabbed what sparks they could and ignited.  Not being aimed in any particular fashion, they shot off in every direction.

When the bombs on the first one went off, the earth shook. The sky lit up with each successive explosion…so did the Catholic church. Seems three of the other rockets shot over to the church and crashed through the stained glass windows and did their mischief inside the chapel. People were evacuating from every opening they could find.

When the assault died down, Father Hannigan rushed outside, his robe in flames from sparks burning holes all the way through the fabric to his skin. His hair was singed down to his scalp. He looked over at the fireworks stand. It was closed and deserted. Down the street he could see the quickly disappearing tail lights of Goober’s truck and Mrs. Peters’ car.

Weapons of Mass destruction, indeed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Wish for You

I wish for you my special friend that all you need, you’ll find
Is here within these chosen words I’ve written and I’ve rhymed.
I hope the peace your heart desires compels you now to rest,
For the Lord of lords is there with you and offers you His best.

May the burdens bending so low give way to His release,
The stirrings troubling your soul be forced, at last, to cease.
May promises you’ve tried to claim be given one more chance,
For the King of kings extends His hand and calls you now to dance.

So dance with Him with all your heart, reject the urge to stop,
His pleasure makes the music play, enjoy His Holy Hop.
He waits for you to hear His voice and step beyond the crowd,
And in His power, right now, this hour, to dance with Him out loud.

Yes, dance with Him with all your heart, dance with all your might.
For God Himself delights in you, He wants no silent night
But radiant hearts who make their praise an offering of noise,
Who twist and shout, and spin and twirl, who dance with open joy.

And if I might cut in and help you whirl across the floor,
I’d love the chance to show you all the more God has in store.
And when we’re done, fulfilled and full, and quietly we stand,
We’ll turn and clap and show our thanks to that rocking, Heavenly Band.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jack and the Nativity Scene

It was colder than usual. Grady, Goober and Jack stood looking at the nativity display in front of the church and felt the wind whipping around the corner of the building. All the characters were in place. Plywood shepherds, sheep and wise men filled most of the set. Some knelt before the manger, others stood around as if talking. Mary and Joseph were on either side of the manger and on the bed of straw was baby Jesus.

Because of the wind the little blanket covering the baby had blown off. “That just ain’t right,” Goober said. “That little baby would catch his death in weather like this. All those people standing around, somebody ought to do something about this.”

“Goober, they’re made out of plywood,” Grady said.

“Don’t care. It just ain’t right.”

“Well, get over there and cover him up,” Grady said.

“Uh, uh. Don’t you remember what Pastor Jerguson said? We ain’t supposed to touch a thing. We can look all we want but we can’t get off the sidewalk.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t expect the wind to blow the blanket off the baby Jesus.”

Sitting down at their feet, Jack was intensely studying the scene. He, too, saw the baby doll uncovered and obviously shivering in the cold. He left the sidewalk and walked into the stable. “Jack, get back here!” Goober yelled. Jack kept moving toward the manger. “Jack! Get over here!”

He placed his nose on the baby’s plastic face and felt the chill. He whimpered, then gently lifted the baby by the arm and took off.

“Jack!” both Goober and Grady yelled. They charged off after the dog stealing away the baby Jesus.  Jack far outdistanced them. Holding the baby securely in his mouth, he ran through the bushes and up on the porch to the front door of the church. He scratched at the base of the door until an usher opened, then he trotted inside.

“Jack,” the usher whispered loudly. But Jack was heading to the front. Pastor Jerguson was finishing up his Christmas Eve message about making room in your heart for Jesus. Down the aisle came the yellow lab with Baby Jesus dangling from his mouth.  He went underneath the altar and lay down. He placed the baby next to his belly and slipped his arm around the doll.  He set his chin over the baby’s head and dared anyone to take him away.

Grady and Goober burst through the door but the usher stopped them in the foyer. They all looked down front at the dog warming the baby that had been left shivering in the cold.  Everyone had walked past the display to get into the church. They all saw the baby, exposed to the cold. But only Jack cared enough to bring him inside. Pastor Jerguson stood speechless, tears streaming down his face.  For here on Christmas Eve an old dog had a more welcoming heart for Jesus than a church full of folks he was trying to inspire.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

‘Twas the day before Christmas and Jack’s scratching fleas,
Grady was coughing and Goober just sneezed.
Their socks were all hanging outside on the line
The boys were both barefoot and starting to whine.

“This flu is so stinking.” “I’m ready to die.”
“My body is aching.” “My fever’s too high.”
“I’ve been sick forever.” “My feet are so cold.”
“Stuff in the fridge is all covered with mold.”

And then on the rooftop there rose such a clatter,
Pastor Jerguson fell. He’d been up on the ladder.
He tried to adjust their antenna with care.
But now he was hanging head down in air.

Goober rushed out with his PJs a flapping,
His feet nearly frozen, his heart palpitating.
He set up the ladder; the pastor was reached.
Now that he’s rescued, he’ll still get to preach.

But not without suffering the plague of the flu.
It seems Goober’s germs infested him, too.
He started to cough then switched to a sneeze,
He looked at his arm and flicked off a flea.

As he drove off from Grady’s and Goober’s he yelled,
“Merry Christmas you two; I’d better get well.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Can’t Blame Stupid on the Possum

Finding random animal parts on their front porch was fairly predictable for Grady and Goober. Their old cat, Cat, was quite the nighttime hunter. She’d catch anything that would venture out into the yard or nearby woods, then bring it to the front door and eat it.
Typically she’d go after critters smaller than herself, but this one night she found a possum violating her space. She pounced and so startled the possum that he went dead. She had never had her prey give up so quickly. She slapped him around but he just lay there. Though he was twice the size of Cat she dragged him through the yard, up the steps and positioned him right in front of the door.
Exhausted, she figured she’d rest a while before she enjoyed her dinner. About that time, Goober came to the door. Seems that when Cat put him in front of the door she banged against it, which woke Goober, making him think someone was knocking.
As he opened the door the possum came back to life and darted into the house. Goober screamed. Grady grabbed his twelve gauge and came to the rescue. All he could see in the dark was a black furry ball rolling across the floor. He opened fire.
With only one shell left, Goober turned on the light. Shattered to the ends of the earth were the TV, the fireplace screen, a lamp, a picture of Grady’s and Goober’s parents, and the microwave. Trembling in the corner was the uninjured possum. “There he is!” Goober yelled.
Grady pumped the shotgun, took direct aim at the possum, closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger. He missed the possum but blew a hole clean through the wall to the outside. The possum looked at the wall then back at Grady and shook his head. He shuffled through the hole and disappeared into the darkness.  
“That’ll learn him,” Grady said.
“Well, at least you didn’t splatter possum gut all over the wall,” Goober said.
Cat decided it best to stay out in the woods the rest of the night.

Now That Stinks

Jack never was much good as a hunting dog. He enjoyed romping through the woods but had a hard time staying still and quiet upon request. He was more interested in chasing and digging than catching. So no one would have expected him to go out on his own and bring back prey by himself.

He had been gone most of the evening when Goober heard him scratching at the front door. Without taking his eyes off the football game, Goober reached over, opened the door, pushed it back to let Jack in.

Jack trotted proudly through the house, then came over and stood in front of the TV. The black and white animal he held in his mouth looked at Grady and Goober, raised his tail and began spraying the living room. Grady dove for the skunk only to get sprayed in the face. He grabbed his eyes, rolled around on the floor screaming, then headed to the sink to wash the putrid odor off. Goober pushed so far back in his lazyboy that his feet flipped over his head. He threw the door open and yelled at Jack, “Jack! Get that skunk out of here!”

Jack grinned and shook the skunk which reloaded and let loose at random. The whole house began to stink. Goober pushed the door open again and ordered the dog outside. Jack dropped the skunk and sulked out the door.

“No, Jack, get back in here and get that skunk!”

Jack came back triumphantly and began barking at the skunk. The skunk took off down the hallway and into the bedroom, Jack slip-sliding along after him on the hardwoods.

“Jack! Get him and get him out of here!” Goober yelled. Grady’s head was submerged in the sink.

Jack was too large to fit underneath the bed so he just stuck under his snout and barked. Being so dark, he couldn’t see the skunk’s tail lifting. He caught the spray directly up the nose. He whimpered, shook his head and scratched his way back from under the bed. He flew past Goober howling and created a new opening in the screen door. Grady grabbed a towel, wrapped it around his whole head and stumbled out the door behind Jack. Goober followed Grady.

The skunk, with the whole house to himself, finished up Jack’s dog food and water. He stretched out on the couch then curled up to get some sleep. As he did he laid his nose against one of Goober’s socks stuck down between the cushions. He shook his head, blew out his nose, then scrambled out the hole Jack had made in the screen door and back into the woods.

As it seems, there was just too much odor in the house for man or beast.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grady, Goober and the Baptismal Service

Francine Peters was due to be baptized next Sunday but Pastor Jerguson came down with the flu. She had already invited her family to come watch her take the plunge and a party had been planned in the fellowship hall following the service. Joyce Kelly, the church secretary, called Grady and Goober to ask them if they could help out in Pastor Jerguson’s absence.

Grady felt a spiritual surge rush through his body and he humbly agreed to the divine task. Goober wasn’t so sure.

“Big people float, don’t you know that?” Goober said. The reference wasn’t being critical, just observant. At 325, Mrs. Peters was quite the large lady.

“Well, between the two of us, we ought to get her down,” Grady said.

Pastor Jerguson’s waders were hanging on a nail in his private dressing room beside the long white robe he wore to cover them. When Goober pulled them off the nail the waders snagged on the backside and tore a hole in the rubber.  He never noticed the rip and slipped them on and draped the robe around himself.

“You look mighty pastoral there, Goober,” Grady offered.

“Wonder if I could borrow these to go noodling,” Goober asked.

The service had gone along well, even without Pastor Jerguson. Willie Bob got the people into the spirit with some rousing songs about Jordon and gathering at the river. Then it was time for the baptismal.

The final song was over and Goober stepped down into the warm water. He never felt the stream rushing in from the tear. Francine came down the steps from the other side, her robe barely covering up her shorts and t-shirt. In fact, Maxine Baker who helped get the ladies robed up had decided to put two robes on Francine, one to cover the front the other the rear. When Francine reached the bottom, the water level had risen dramatically and her wake was running over the glass and onto the men on the back row of the choir loft. They quickly moved.

Goober positioned Francine and said as best he could the words Pastor Jerguson usually said and made his first attempt to get her under the water. As soon as he tilted her back her feet came up and she started floating. He stuck his elbow on her sternum and pushed down as hard as he could. She wouldn’t go. He let loose of her head and with both hands tried to get her under. She just bobbed on the surface, so he raised her back up.

“Let’s try that again,” he said. He repeated the baptismal words and tried to take her down faster, before her feet could come up. All that caused was a huge tidal wave that drenched the rest of the choir. They all left the loft.

“Grady,” he whispered. “Little help here.”

Grady slipped into the baptistery and swam under water behind Francine. When Goober took her down the third time Grady grabbed her and tried to pull her under. Unaware of what was going on she began to flail her arms and kick. She slipped and lunged backward, pushing Grady to the bottom. All his air remaining in his lungs squeezed out so he, too, began to kick. He wriggled free and shot out of the water like Shammu, then fell back and splashed water up into Goober’s face, Goober lost his grip on Francine and dropped her. She bottomed out in the tank. Grady fell back on her and forced her all the way under.

When Goober realized they had finally gotten her fully immersed, he lifted his hand into the air and calmly said, “Buried in Christ, now raised to walk in newness of life.”  

When they finally got her back on her feet, Goober realized his waders were totally full of water and too heavy for him to lift up the steps. He asked Willie Bob to close out with a prayer and while Willie Bob prayed Goober pulled off the robe and waders and left them in what little water remained in the baptistry. The last thing the folks peeking during the prayer saw were some red boxers with big white snowmen heading up the steps on one side and Grady shoving Francine up the steps on the other.

When he found out how things went, Pastor Jerguson asked Joyce to remind him to never again ask Grady and Goober to help with baptism.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When Angels Lose Their Wings and More

Miss Laurie had three strands of hair left when it was finally time for the Children’s Christmas Program.  The only thing remaining to be done was Grady and Goober rigging the rope and pulley to drop Gabriel down from the ceiling in the baptistry.  Not prone to limiting their creativity to what they had been asked to do, Goober thought it would be much more realistic if Gabriel could come out of the baptistry and make a few loops over the choir loft and around the stage, then drop down to make his announcement to the shepherds face to face.

Sunday night rolled around and everything was set to go. Miss Laurie was down to two strands but satisfied all her hard work was about to produce a memorable evening. The auditorium was full of parents and grandparents. Pastor Jerguson welcomed everyone and shared his delight that Miss Laurie had prepared the kids so well. He invited everyone to stay for the reception in the fellowship hall following the performance. The excitement was electrifying. Miss Laurie sat on the front row surrounded by little brothers and sisters of the cast.

Grady hooked Gabriel to the rig and Goober cranked him up to the ceiling in the baptistry. The extra rope Goober had run through an eyehook above the pulpit was tied around Gabriel’s chest, above his wings. As the plan should go, Goober would lower Gabriel with the first rope then grab the other to let him fly above the set. “Miss Laurie’s gonna really be surprised when she sees this,” was the last thing Goober said to Grady.

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared before them,” the narrator said. That was the que for Gabriel to make his entrance. Goober let him down right on time. Miss Laurie smiled approvingly. Then Grady, standing in the baptistry, grabbed Gabriel by the feet and launched him out over the choir loft.

Goober had miscalculated the time it would take him to switch ropes and the speed at which Gabriel would be flying. He jerked back on the first rope which was attached to the strap holding the wings in place and totally dislocated them. They slid down to Gabriel’s feet and the rope wrapped around his ankle. One of the shepherds squealed, jumped up and grabbed the first rope out of Goober’s hand and started Gabriel spinning.

Seems little Gabriel had an undisclosed issue with motion sickness that kicked in about that same time. He spewed out the remains of seven Christmas cookies, two cups of red punch and half a Dr. Pepper he had had on the way to church. It went all over the shepherds, their fake sheep and Miss Laurie who had gotten up from sitting on the front row, jumped onto the stage and was now trying to grab the hurling angel who remained just out of reach. The little brothers and sisters on the front row looked at the splatter on them and ran screaming to their parents.

Pastor Jerguson shot up the side steps and tried for Gabriel but stepped on a bit of cookie/punch residual and slipped. He landed back first on the manger, crushing little Sally’s Cabbage Patch Doll and breaking the trough into several splintered pieces. Little Sally screamed. Mary and Joseph just looked at him, shaking their heads. Two of the wise men dropped their gifts, began to cry and ran to their parents. The telling of the story of Jesus’ birth was over in record time.

Grady and Goober peeked out from behind the baptistry and saw the ruckus. Miss Laurie, now completely bald, pointed at them, her eyes threatening bodily harm. They thought it best to leave before the reception while Gabriel was still spinning and spewing above the fake sheep grazing in the meadow and Pastor Jerguson was away in the manger.

“Do you think she was surprised?” asked Goober as they trotted off to the truck.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bees in the Attic

The drone of the million or so bees living in the attic of the church had become more than Pastor Jerguson could handle. Keeping his parishioners attention was hard enough without the incessant buzzing putting them to sleep. First thing on the docket Monday morning was getting Grady and Goober to remove the hive.
“Bees ain’t hard to get rid of if you find the queen,” Goober told Pastor Jerguson. Goober had his own, highly classified method of extracting the queen which involved a stethoscope, a pair of tweezers and a ziplock bag. He said the queen had a different pitch to her buzzer than the rest of the bees. Grady thought this was among the craziest things he’d ever heard Goober say but as long as he didn’t have to go up into the attic with a nest of agitated bees he didn’t care how Goober found the queen and got the hive out.
Every morning Goober would grab his equipment and a flashlight and crawl up into the church attic. A couple of hours later he’d come down empty.
“Can’t find her,” he told Grady.
“Better figure out how,” Grady said. “We gotta get rid of them critters by Sunday.”
The week ended and still no queen. Plan “B” fell into Goober’s head. “Alright, I know what we’ll do. We’ve got till church time tomorrow, right?”
“Meet me here in the morning and we’ll get them suckers out.”
“Don’t you mean stingers?” Grady corrected.
Sunday morning Grady met Goober in the parking lot. Something told him the two twelve gallon shop vacs and the three hundred feet of extension cords in the back of his truck were signs of impending disaster. They each took a vacuum and cord and crawled up the ladder into the attic.
From the north and the south they came at the hive with full suction capturing bees through the three inch hoses. Hundreds at a time were drawn into the canisters. Hundreds of angry and vicious bees. Others that refused to go quietly into the hoses were driving their stingers into the exposed arms, neck, face and hands of the two exterminators.
The organ began to rumble underneath them. Church had begun. They could hear the muffled voice of Willie Bob cranking up the worship. Most of the bees that were on the hive were now in the canisters. Grady began to wave the hose around in the air trying to scoop up some of the dive bombers still after him. Everything was working just fine until he dropped his flashlight. When he bent down to pick it up, one very angry bee nailed him in the bohunkus causing him to lose his balance. He lunged head first through the ceiling. Goober grabbed for him and caught hold of his ankle, then felt himself following Grady into the hole.
Down from the attic came a shop vac full of highly irritated bees followed by Grady, followed by Goober followed by another shop vac full of even more highly irritated bees. They crashed onto the floor right in front of the pulpit. The canisters broke open and bees swarmed around the room stinging everyone in sight. The beautiful stained glass windows were suddenly sacrificed to the need of an exit. Everyone scattered and emptied the auditorium in record time. Even Mr. Antonio, who usually crept along in slow motion on his walker, tossed it aside and pushed the row of widows out of his way as he dove through the nearest window. Gladys Stone, who was allergic to bee stings felt her face begin to swell up. She took off for the back door but before she got there here eyes had swollen shut. She missed the door and caught the door jamb squarely on the bridge of her nose then fell out cold in the foyer.
The bees gave chase and within minutes there were no bees left in the building or in the attic. Grady and Goober crawled out from under the front pew and congratulated themselves that they had finally done something right.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Room at the Inn but Plenty of Blood

The community Christmas parade was Saturday and Grady and Goober were in charge of the church float. They had decided to showcase the No Room in the Inn segment of the story. To make the scene more realistic, they had asked Irene Petty, one of the pregnant women in the church, to be Mary, standing with Joseph at the inn keeper’s door. They had built a building to represent the inn with a small stable out back where the couple would go for the birth.

Goober was driving the tractor pulling the trailer. Irene’s husband, Dwayne was dressed up as Joseph and Grady was the inn keeper.  Everything was going just fine until Goober missed a shift and the trailer lurched forward. Grady reached out to grab Irene at the same time Dwayne was leaning toward her.  Grady caught Dwayne across the nose with his elbow and blood gushed out both nostrils. Irene fell back and sat down hard on the trailer floor. When she did her water broke.

Not sure what he had done, Grady yelled out to Goober, “Get us to the hospital!”

When Goober looked back all he could see was Dwayne with blood running down his chin. He sped up the tractor and began to yell at the band to get out of his way.  The girls started screaming and band members began to scatter toward the curb as the John Deere rolled through.  The horses ridden by the 4-H kids heard the clatter and began to bounce around. One began to buck and took off down an alley. The rest darted forward down the street.

The clowns from the Shriners were doing their figure eight’s in the road in their little cars when the horses ran through. One big buff quarterhorse jumped a car and put a crease in the clown’s head with this back foot. Unconscious, the clown and his car roamed out of control and rammed into the back of the firetruck, which slammed on its brakes, throwing the Christmas Queen riding in the back down into the bed of the truck. She had been tethered to a lever that controlled the spray attachment extending over the cab. Water began shooting out in all directions, flooding the street and washing the little children sitting on the sidewalk down into the gutter. Moms frantically grabbed up any child that floated by.

Goober turned off the main street at the next light and scattered the folks standing in the road along the crosswalk. He roared down to the hospital and pulled the float into the emergency entrance. The attendants rushed out to see what was going on and Goober yelled, “There’s blood in the back!”

When they went back to the float, all they found was Irene clutching a bail of hay. “Grady and Dwayne fell off somewhere in town,” she said.

“Where’s the blood?” they asked.

“It’s gonna be all over Goober after I have this baby.”

They took Irene in and she delivered a healthy seven pound boy. Dwayne and Grady were brought in by ambulance, along with the groggy clown and the Christmas Queen who twisted her ankle when she fell, three band members pushed onto the pavement by a raging tuba player, one of the VFW’s color guard who passed out when the firetruck driver accidently hit the siren when he stepped out to check on the clown and the spectator Grady fell on when he was thrown off the trailer. Goober, however, could not be found.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Fleas

The Christmas music was all polished and ready, the set done, the parts assigned. Getting the animals delivered on time was left to Grady and Goober. They had volunteered because they had a cousin who had a petting zoo out east of town. Their cousin had told them they could borrow whatever nativity animals they wanted. They decided to run over late in the afternoon and load up the cattle trailer with what they wanted and haul them to the church.
Never prone to making contingency plans, they were unprepared for the news that the sheep all had some kind of hoof disease and wouldn’t be able to go. Goober said he understood but Grady had a different opinion.
“You can’t have a manger scene without sheep,” Grady said.
“You can’t?” Goober asked.
“No, the Bible specifically says there were sheep there.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yeah, probably, and besides there were shepherds so there had to be sheep.”
“Oh,” Goober said. The light bulb was dim but it still went off somewhere inside Goober’s head. “Wait. We don’t need no sheep. All we have to do is put some cotton on Jack and you got yourself a sheep dog.”
“That ain’t what a sheep dog is,” Grady replied.
Goober was much further down the road of planning than backing up to deal with names. They loaded up a donkey, some chickens, three goats and a cow and headed to the church. On the way they stopped off and picked up the yellow Lab and took some cotton out of an old quilt.
“How you expect to get that to stick on Jack?” Grady asked.
“Elmer’s.” It was a simple answer given whenever duct tape seemed inappropriate.
Everything was in place and the program began. Then Jack started to scratch. Seems the Elmer’s had begun to agitate the fleas. Being the social dog he was, Jack walked all around the nativity scene and checked on all the other characters. Every few seconds he’d stop and scratch. Soon the shepherds were itching, then the wise men. Finally Mary and Joseph felt the critters crawling all over them under their robes. A couple of the little girls dressed as angels began to cry when they saw little bugs crawling across their arms and hands.
It wasn’t long before the ladies on the front row of the choir began to itch. They tried not to scratch but the urge overpowered them. Soon everyone on stage was squirming and rubbing and scratching. But somehow they finished the program.
When Pastor Jerguson stood in the front thanking them for their wonderful performance, he, too, felt something tiny crawling on the back of his neck. He quickly prayed and at the same time headed for the side door. He yelled amen about the same time the door slammed and he was gone. When the people looked up, all the costumes and choir robes where on the floor, but nobody remained on the stage, except a donkey, some chickens, three goats, a cow and a sheep dog scratching by the manger that still held a baby doll pretending to be baby Jesus.
On the way back to the petting zoo, Goober called and left a voice mail on the church recorder saying he’d have the auditorium fumigated tomorrow. It was the last time Grady and Goober were ever asked to help out with the Christmas music program.

When the Moon Shined on Christmas

Pastor Jerguson wanted a candle light communion service on Christmas Eve. The church had invited the whole community. When the discussion of what to serve for the juice portion of the supper came up, one of the deacons said they ought to serve the regular grape juice for the Baptists and have the real stuff for the not so spiritually minded. Grady and Goober were given the job of securing the real stuff.
Since neither had ever tasted wine or even knew how to buy it they went over to Uncle Titus’ to get some advice. Uncle Titus had an apparatus of questionable character out back so they figured him to be somewhat of an expert. He said with this being a dry county, the best he could do was suggest they take some of the clear liquid dripping from the copper spicket and mix it in with the grape juice. “That ought to make ‘em some high octane Welch's,” he said.
“Ain’t that stuff a might strong?” Goober asked.
“Not if you mix it right,” Uncle Titus answered.
That being the best idea they could come up with, they took a large pickle jar full and snuck it into the kitchen at the church. They took a cooler and mixed in the grape juice with the moonshine. In a few minutes they had filled all the little cups and set everything aside for the service later that night.
It was somewhere around the moment Pastor Jerguson said, “Drink this in remembrance of Me,” that Grady and Goober remembered they were supposed to separate out the real stuff from the grape juice.
“Did you?”
“Naw, did you?”
“We’re dead,” Grady whispered. About that time the 200 proof Welch's was somewhere deep in the throats of the overflow congregation. The room filled with coughs and sputters. Sister Alma let loose with a “whoo” and some of the folks thought she might have gotten the Spirit. A group from the AA chapter the church sponsored rushed out to attend a quick, impromptu meeting down in the basement as members were quickly falling off the wagon. Others just stood there licking their cups down to the second layer of the plastic.
The next part on the program was lighting the candles and singing Silent Night. Everything was fine until Pastor Jerguson told everyone to blow out their candles. The fumes from their breaths ignited balls of flame. Rose Templeton yelled out that her hair was on fire. The room glowed in a blazing orange. Pastor Jerguson had everyone bow their heads and rushed over to throw the linen that covered the communion table over her head and smother out Mrs. Templeton’s smoldering hair, all the while praying the closing prayer. When he said amen, the lights came back on and Grady and Goober were gone. In fact they stayed gone for a couple of months. After they came back, no one ever asked them to set up the Lord’s Supper again. Which was fine with them.

Friday, December 10, 2010

When Jack Became a Reindeer

Though the sun had set long ago, Grady and Goober had been out doing some last minute deer hunting on Christmas Eve. As they turned into the driveway, Grady’s headlights caught a familiar shape standing in the yard. Goober grabbed his thirty ought six, hung himself out the window and took a shot. The deer bolted straight up then fell back to the ground. “Got him,” Goober said proudly.
A fat man in a red suit came rushing out the front door. He looked at the deer, lifeless on the ground, then at Goober. His eyes narrowed and Goober could feel his glare piercing through his heart. “Uh oh,” he said. “’Spect I done it now. Grady, get us out of here!” But the truck wouldn’t start.
“He’s done something to my truck,” Grady said. “We ain’t going no where.”
Goober slowly opened the door and headed for the porch. “Sure sorry ‘bout your deer, uh, Santa.”
“Yeah, that was one of my favorites,” Santa said.
“Well, maybe he ain’t as dead as he looks.”
“No, he’s gone.”
“What you gonna do?”
“I need something to fill that spot on my sleigh. The magic comes when all the slots are filled.”
“So them ain’t flying reindeers?” Grady asked.
“Only when they’re all harnessed together. It’s the sleigh that makes them fly.”
“We ain’t got no reindeers around here,” Goober said. “Maybe you could use something else?”
“What do you have in mind?”
Twrreet, Goober whistled. “Jack, come here, boy.” The old yellow lab trudged out from under the porch. “Thank he’ll do?”
“Worth a try,” Santa said.
They began fitting Jack with the reindeer’s harness. “This don’t fit that good,” Grady said. “He’s gonna slip right out.”
“Duct tape!” The idea hit both at the same time. Goober took a roll and began to wind it around the dog and the harness.
“There,” he said. “That ought to hold him in.”
“But what about the light?” Santa asked. “That was Rudolph, you know, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight.”
Grady ran back to the truck and got the magna light. Goober took the duct tape and wound it around Jack’s snout securing the flashlight to his nose. He pressed the button and the light shown out into the darkness.
“Them batteries ought to last you through the rest of the night if you turn it off every time you stop,” Grady offered. Santa nodded.
As the sleigh rose into the air, Santa waved to Grady and Goober. Jack looked down and whimpered. Then off into the night sky flew the sleigh with eight reindeer and a yellow lab.
“Hey,” Grady said. “How can it be raining? Ain’t a cloud in the sky.”
“Jack!” they both yelled.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Sumo

Einstein gave us the Theory of Relativity. Using his theory I have determined beauty is relative. Sumo wrestlers are not what we might consider beautiful. I don’t think they are intended to be. Attractiveness is not a necessary characteristic of their sport. But then that’s just an outward perspective. Angelina Jolie is considered beautiful. Probably is what helps her do what she does, but then again, that’s simply an outward perspective, too.
Here’s the problem: when we stop with the outside we never really know how beautiful the whole package really is. Once we stop there, we rarely go any further to examine the whole package. Unless they have a code they may discount the inside to emphasize the outside.
Sumo wrestlers are revered in Japan. They have a code that dictates both their outward and inward lives. Their appearance is part of that code—fat, nearly naked and long hair—but their life regiment reflects their inner commitment to being a Sumo. It takes both parts to make the whole.
Angelina’s code seems much different. She has banked her life on how she looks and so far so good. Interviews she has given indicate a much darker and less attractive person lives on the inside. How do those dissimilar parts make up her whole? Does she have a code?
Paul asked God to preserve our spirit, soul and body completely. That must indicate He has an interest in the whole. If Paul thought God was only interested in how we look on the outside linking our spirit and soul would seem out of place, inappropriate, and an unnecessary burden. Same if it were the spirit or soul only. It’s the whole that matters most.

So, you can judge a Sumo by his size because since he is a Sumo he is to be living by the code. Wearing the name makes it more than an accessory, it’s the life. For Sumos and for Christians, it shows up on the outside as much as it is present on the inside.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Can't Wrap My Brain Around That

Having a hand-held device that knows more about where I am than I do is frightening. I consider myself relatively bright but have to admit sometimes the fog rolls in. When it does I lose perspective. How on earth does this GPS thing know where I am and which way I need to go in order to get to where I want to go? I find that amazing as well as frightening.

I’m not a techie, just ask my boys. So I have to just accept things I can’t figure out. A GPS is smarter than I am and if I trust it, I’ll eventually get where I need to end up.

When I don’t trust it and go with my instincts, it corrects me. Often I’ve heard it say, “re-calculating…take next exit and make a u-turn.” To which I’ve replied many unkind and inconsiderate comments, yet complied. Result: it was right all along.

Peace in my life works the same way. Paul said if we’d give the focus of our anxiety to God He’d give us peace that would reach beyond our ability to even understand why we have it. Sort of like having peace and a problem at the same time and the peace winning the battle of supremacy in our hearts.

I don’t have to understand how it works. All I know is it does. God is smarter than I am and if I trust Him, I’ll eventually get where I need to be, fog and all.

Now what happens if I press this button? Oops…that can’t be good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My, What Sharp Teeth You Have

From where I was when I first saw him I thought the dog was waving at me. As I got closer I realized it was his back leg. Strange thing perspective. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, just being a dog. So I began to think about a dog’s life. There he was inside his chain link domain doing what? Well, beyond the obvious, he was watching over it. He may not have the title watch dog, but that’s what dog’s do. They watch over their space.
Dog’s have a strong sense of territory and a stronger sense of responsibility for all that’s within their territory. They get up every day with the same agenda: keep in what is supposed to be in and keep out what’s supposed to be out. If anything threatens to intrude into their yard, they’ll bark their heads off, growl and lunge at the intruder till he goes away.
I stopped to look at a Corvette for sale in a yard and hurried to get back in my car when a massive Rottweiler flew off the porch toward me. I had invaded his space. I uninvaded it much more quickly than I invaded it.
Protecting our space is highly important to well being. We keep our kids away from harmful sights and sounds. Who keeps us away? Used to be we would invite TV into our homes to entertain us. Now TV invites us into its lair to entrap us. Do we know the difference? While on the internet, pop-ups entice us to travel deeper into a cyber world of temptation. Where’s our watch dog? If he’s asleep on the porch he isn’t really on the job.
Peter said to keep on the alert, for our enemy is prowling around seeking a way to pounce on us. And his pounce isn’t to play, it’s to eat us for lunch.
Probably, there isn’t anyone on earth watching out for you anymore, so you need to become your own watch dog. It’s your territory. Keep the intruders out. Keep the squeaky toys in.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Snakes in the Water

We were much shorter back then. The water coming up to our wastes may not have been all that deep, but at twelve or thirteen, wading up the tributary dumping into the San Jacinto was slow going.
The river was our playground. We shot guns there, floated on inner tubes, lay out on the sand barges and chased each other up and down the bank. On this day the idea of exploring one of the inlets won out over all other possibilities. Everything was going fine until the water moccasin dropped down from a branch and into the water beside us.
I’ve never worried much about snakes, but I really don’t like water moccasins. They’re just plain mean. Most snakes will only attack if provoked; water moccasins will come after you.
Well, someone yelled snake and we all took off and high-stepped it back to the river and up the bank on the other side. We collapsed onto the sand and looked back for any signs the serpent had followed. Fortunately, he hadn’t.
That was a very important day for me, a life-lesson learning day. No, it was not how to walk (or more specifically run) on water. The lesson was: you can’t stop the snakes from dropping into the water but you don’t have to hang around to see what’s going to happen next.
Paul said whenever a snake drops into the river God will point out the bank. (Well, sort of.) Actually, he said when we’re tempted God will provide a way of escape. Potifer’s wife was Joseph’s snake in the water. Had he stayed in the room the fangs of her temptation quite possibly would have pierced his flesh, so he ran—his way of escape.
Snakes in the river scare us. It’s bad enough when we easily spot one on the ground but in the murky water we don’t know where they are. The best solution: if they’re in the water, you get out.
I don’t wade in the river anymore. I’m just not comfortable not being able to see what’s sneaking up on me. But wherever I am, if I see a water moccasin dropping down from a tree, you can bet on it, I’m out of there.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Whom the Axe Falls

Carl and Pete prepared themselves for Thanksgiving. They knew what to expect, how it would happen, even who would do it. Clifford had explained everything to them and answered most of their questions as thoroughly as he could. Of all things, Clifford was honest. It was late in the day, the last day, and they were the only two left. They huddled in the back of the pen and gave thanks—for a good life, for good friends, and for the opportunity to provide celebration at the table of some loving family.
Clifford reached in and took Pete. Pete gave the obligatory squawk. He flapped his wings hard in a useless, though expected expression of struggle. But Pete wasn’t really struggling. It was all for show. He had settled it days before and with strong resolve he was going willingly.
Carl was now alone. Something hot suddenly filled his throat making it hard to swallow. He was next. He wanted to cry but fought hard against the urge. The trembling within his heart spread quickly until he shook uncontrollably. He kept telling himself this was okay and would be over soon. But Clifford never returned. The minutes that were clicking off much too quickly suddenly slowed to a stop. Darkness came.
What does this mean? Why was he still here? Clifford came back in. He looked at Carl and shrugged, the quota had been met. Carl knew this had not been his day. He was alone. Everyone else who had been there the night before was gone. Only he was left. Why him? He’d never know. What could he do? Obviously nothing. He didn’t know what to think. Should he be happy or sad? Regretful or glad?
He chose thankful. It covered everything. Thankful didn’t require understanding or explanation. It just required a heart willing to be grateful for all things.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Good, the Better and the Very Good

Ever fail a personality test? I took this test in Seminary that was supposed to show us our leadership strengths, pointing us to a particular area of ministry we would be best suited for. Each direction was supported by a collection of questions randomly inserted into the questionnaire. When the scores were tabulated, those numbers were transferred to a graph. The graph had quadrants with lines going off toward each corner. Once your numbers were written in, you drew lines connecting all the points. That then showed you your strength. Guess what: mine was a circle. I had no strengths. Neither did I have any weaknesses but it was embarrassing. Everyone else in the class had these egg-shaped ovals on their paper and smiled approvingly at what it proved. Me, I slipped mine back in my notebook and tried to look happy. I went up to the prof afterwards and showed him. He said he’d never seen that happen before.
Great! I’m a zero—the only person in the world to ever take this test and end up as clueless when it was over as he was before it began.
We want to be unique. We want to stand out in some way. Zeroes don’t. That can mess you up until you realize God doesn’t make any junk. After everything He created He said it was good. Then after he created people he said, “Very good.” That’s a pretty broad declaration, but that declaration included me. Oh, I’m not wonderful, the best. I’m not even great. But I’m very good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The little deer that pants for the water brook in Psalm 42, does so because he knows what’s there waiting for him. Parched by the dry air, he runs to the cool, refreshing creek. It’s there, right where it’s always been, available, accessible and free. He jumps fallen trees, darts around bushes and strains up steep hills. He staggers over rocks, dodges low limbs and outruns persistent predators. All because he wants a drink from the river of life. At the bank he bends toward the stream, giving himself to all it provides, bowing to its rule in his life. As each sip travels down his throat, the more deeply he feels it soothing his cravings. He is satisfied. It has revived him and restored him and eased his weariness. He now looks up through bright eyes and declares his thanks. His needs have been met, his life restored. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.
Drink well, my friends.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Giving Thanks

The difference between gratitude and thankfulness is direction. Both have to do with appreciating, but one is a feeling while the other is an expression. I’m grateful for the good things in my life. That is an attitude that reflects my pleasure with what I have and am experiencing. Being thankful is a confession and requires a person to connect, to that for which I am thankful. In other words there is someone on the other side of my expression of thanks.

Being grateful for my wife is an attitude. Being thankful is an expression of that attitude. I may be grateful for something she has done, but I am not thankful until I express my gratitude to her.

The same goes for God. I am grateful for the blessings of my life, but I am not thankful until I express my gratitude to Him.

“Oh, He knows how much I appreciate Him.” Yeah, but the Bible never said to appreciate God but to be thankful. And any gratitude we have must be expressed to be thanks.

Praise is an outer expression of our inward devotion. Thanks works in the same way. Gratitude is the inward feeling. Thankfulness is the outward expression.

Give thanks with a grateful heart to the God who does all things well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kissing the Hurts

Paramedics have my respect. With a combination of training and instinct they respond to a situation, perform a quick triage to determine who needs what treatment and begin working the problem from the greatest to the least. I watched a team in action following a two-truck wreck I witnessed out of my rear-view mirror yesterday. A lady pulled out in front of a man who had two preschoolers and a teenager in the seat with him. He t-boned her going 55 to 60, and drove them both into a ditch. It was a brutal collision.
When I jumped across the ditch he was struggling to climb out his window. Once out, he reached back in and got the first preschooler, brought her out and set her on the ground. She was crying. When he brought out the second, I took her from him, reached down and pulled the first to me and just held them both as they cried. He was too shaken to tend to them and too much in shock to know what else to do. The teenager was bleeding and offered no help.
Though I lacked medical skills to tend to the bloody knee and the hurting tummy, I gave them what seemed best—comfort, like an old grandpa kissing a booboo and somehow making it better. The paramedics fixed the physical hurts. I went for the emotional ones.
There are times fixing the obvious shouldn’t always be first on the list. The Great Physician, who is also the God of all Comfort, sometimes heals the obvious hurt, sometimes the less obvious. Only He knows which is greater.  Blood scares us. It panics us into thinking it’s the immediate concern. We cry to God and then become distressed when He moves past the blood to deal with something else.
I’m glad the paramedics got there quickly—the blood was getting all over my pants—but I’m also glad I had a few minutes to hold two very scared little girls.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting the Crud Out

In high school, I worked for a mechanic during the summer. I loved the work but had one recurring issue: grime. I was a magnet for it. I’d open a hood and grime would launch from the engine and attach to my hands. At first I’d just wipe my hands on my jeans, then the owner told me to put a shop rag in my back pocket and wipe my hands on the rag. My mom was most grateful for that suggestion. But, what I found was, after several wipes, the rag would become saturated with oil and grease. Once saturated it became useless. You can’t clean your hands with a dirty rag. At that point I’d throw it into the box and get a clean rag.
Refineries have a similar problem: how to get rid of residual gases. In the process of transforming crude into usable products there are unnecessary elements released that have no useful purpose. Solution: burn them. That’s why in almost every refinery, somewhere on property, there is a tall stack with an ever-present flame coming out of the top. The size of that flame reflects the amount of residual gases being burned off. I often wonder what’s being released in the process.
My dad was a printer. In his shop he had a linotype machine. Back in the day that was the ultimate word processor for printing. It cast a whole line of words into one slender slug (a line of type). That made typesetting faster and more uniform. Newspapers once used these extensively. The slug was made from molten lead. A fire pot on the side of the linotype kept the solution liquid. A plunger drove the liquid into a form where it would set instantly. Within seconds liquid lead became a usable slug of words. When lead melts, impurities rise to the top. With a quick swipe by a strainer the sludge would be removed and the lead left ready for use. You couldn’t make a usable slug with cruddy lead.
How do we get rid of the crud in our lives? Sometimes wiping it off results in just smearing it around. Sometimes burning it releases toxins into the air. Sometimes melting it down produces excessive sludge. I suggest letting God have it. I don’t know what He does with it, but when He takes it away it’s gone.  No residuals. In fact, He can make us so clean it’s like we never were dirty in the first place. Now that’s really clean.

Monday, November 15, 2010

But Officer…

I have been stopped three times for speeding. Each time I was guilty. Only one of those times did I get a ticket, the other two were warnings. A speeding ticket is a limited measurement of activity. It only captures the moment at which the radar beamed onto my car and measured my speed. In that slice of time I was guilty. It doesn’t go back five minutes or ahead three when my speed may have been closer to what was posted. It snaps a picture of that instant.

The harsh reality of instants is: we either are or we are not. Instants don’t care about was or will be.

Nobody wants their lives measured by the instants. We want an average. Yesterday I was better than I am today and tomorrow I’ll be better than yesterday. So for three days, I’ll average out pretty good. Today—not so hot. Is that acceptable…two out of three? Well if every day is equal in value, probably. But what if today is a really important day and I give in when the spiritual battle rages? Does the snapshot of today ruin everything? I am guilty, you know.

Which makes me wonder: does each day have its own requirements? Micah said walking humbly with the Lord is what God expects. Walking humbly requires me to take responsibility for what happens in the instants of my life, not justifying them by wanting them overlooked or averaged into the bigger picture. If I am caught speeding, I recognize the mistake and admit it. Walking humbly also allows me to accept the forgiveness necessary to get back on the road and keep going—albeit measurably slower than before.

If I have expectations for myself that include some sort of unrealistic perfection, I have deluded myself. I cannot reach those expectations, not every day, every moment. So I’d better choose humility and be real. After all, God’s got a thing for authenticity.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holy Cow You Silly Goose

They say if the cattle are lying huddled in the pasture, prepare for bad weather. Okay, what if the cattle are lying huddled in the pasture and a goose is sitting in the middle of them? Thus, my observation on the way to Plum Grove this morning.
As you might expect, several scenarios ran through my mind.  If the cows expect the river to overflow its banks and flood the farm, then they probably hired the goose to swim off and tell the farmer where they are. Or, maybe he’s there to honk or something when he starts floating. That way they’d have enough time to head to higher ground before things got too deep. Or, he probably has no clue why he’s there.
All my life I’ve heard the expression “silly as a goose.” I’m assuming that “silly” means something akin to unable to realize the importance of the moment, or clueless to what’s really going on, or flat out ignorant. But how is a goose silly? Does he tell amusing stories? Is he good for a laugh? Or is he just loony? And can you trust a silly goose? If the cows are counting on him for some legitimate concern, they may be terribly disappointed. I’m not sure you can ever trust in the faithfulness of a goose.
Then the scene in my mind changed dramatically. It wasn’t a goose in a pasture, sitting around with a bunch of huddled cows, it was me going about my normal routine and having my own faithfulness questioned.
Jesus wondered this about His return, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith?” He’ll find plenty of us but will he find us faithful to His cause? And if I’m the goose among the cows and they’re counting on me to be faithful, will I be? Or will I just be silly?
God, may what You’ve invested in me show up for others as I live faithfully in my pasture.