All Creatures of Our God And King XXX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. As we see racism pop up its ugly head everyday in tweets from The Donald; I am reminded that it was eighty years ago today in 1936, that “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was first published. A romantic novel about lost causes, the book was transferred to film in loving detail for the unwashed masses to long for the “good old days”. It does make one wonder if certain topics weren’t romanticized, if the public would be more inclined to let go of bad ideas, like white supremacy. Of course I’m talking about the South and our issues. Germany had a whole other thing going on.

Speaking of romanticizing the past brings us back our retelling of the history of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday night prayer meeting had just finished and the three amigos were standing in the parking lot of the little church.

“I think he’s still too shaky”, said Elder Wiley. “We had to move the snake box to make room for the big floral arrangement at the pulpit, and Dale looked like he was going to start crying.” “And the box is empty, and he knows that.” Elder Wiley added.

“Yeah, I noticed that.” Elder Cheatum added. “I guess we’re going to have to give him another week to recover.” “Alvin why don’t you call the preacher referral people and see if we can get that tall drink of water back.” “I liked him”.

“Ok, sure, I agree, he wasn’t bad”, said Elder Wiley. “Pulling that coral snake out was a shocker.” “Of course he’s going to have to come up with something new, we’ve seen that trick.”

“Let’s don’t get somebody trying to work above their skill set,” said Elder Diggum. “This has been a lot more aggravation than any of us intended to be involved in, in our tender years.”

“Alvin why don’t you call tonight?” said Elder Cheatum, “I’m thinking the more advance notice, the better the selection.”

“Sounds good, I’ll go back in the office and make the call now.” said Elder Wiley as he headed back into the church. Elder Wiley returned a few minutes later with a look of confused concern on his face.

“Did you get Reverend Elpus?” Elder Cheatum asked.

“No, uh, it looks like the cupboard has already been picked bare.” Elder Wiley replied.

“You mean they didn’t have anybody for us? asked Elder Diggum.

“No, they had somebody, I just wasn’t sure how to answer.” Elder Wiley answered.

“Why?” asked Elder Cheatum, “were they too expensive?”

“No, in fact the price was very reasonable, it’s just that the person they are recommending is a woman.” Elder Wiley replied.

In the dim lights of the parking lot, two jaws dropped open as Elder Diggum and Elder Cheatum took in the news. After a pause of ten seconds or so, Elder Cheatum was able to respond. “How reasonable?”, he asked.

“Half”, responded Elder Wiley.


“Half!”, answered Elder Wiley.

“Book her”, said Elder Cheatum. “I don’t know what choice we’ve got.” “Maybe if Dale sees a woman up there doing his job he’ll get over his little bout of stage fright and get back on the job.” “Paying a visiting preacher while we’re taking care of the Bread brood is getting right expensive.”

“We need to get Dale back up there doing his job, that’s for sure,” chimed in Elder Diggum. “This woman preacher might be just the kick in the ‘nads Dale needs.” “What’s her name, by the way?”

“Helen Handbasket”, replied Elder Wiley, “I’ll go book her right now.”

The news of a female preacher spread through out the valley and surrounding hills in the coming days. By Sunday, the little church was more filled with worshipers than it had been before Reverend Bread’s incident. Admittedly, many were curiosity seekers. Also, there were far more women in the congregation than usual.

Reverend Helen Handbasket was truly something to behold. She was young, beautiful and seemed to glow with an inner radiance. She was dressed in long flowing robes, which gave the Elders pause when they remembered Summer Revival 2010. Ignoring Elder Wiley’s offer to frisk the female reverend for any electrical devices, Elder Cheatum counseled his partners to “let’s see what she can do.” Elder Cheatum sensed that Reverend Handbasket didn’t need trickery to get the job done. There was just something about her.

As Reverend Handbasket glided to the pulpit, her long red flowing hair seemed to give an otherworldly cast to her countenance as the lights from the stage struck her from behind. The congregation was truly moved. So moved that Hugh Morris came forward and gave his soul to Jesus. “Old man” Morris hadn’t moved from his pew since returning to church from his near fatal run-in with Reverend Bill Foldes. For the past five years, folks had speculated that Hugh had gone on to his final reward when they’d see him sitting so still during the service. Ever watchful, the congregation had watched for an ascension of Hugh’s soul, only to be denied. On the last note of the benediction, Hugh Morris always popped up and went about his business.

This Sunday, Hugh popped up early. “I hope it was the altar call and not a bladder call.”, Elder Diggum thought as he watched from his spot in the last row. To everyone’s surprise, Hugh was truly filled with the spirit. Hugh danced, he spoke in tongues, and generally behaved like a male peacock doing his mating dance. As Reverend Handbasket returned to the pulpit for the benediction, Hugh Morris returned to his pew and once again took on the appearance of one who has died in their sleep. Reverend Handbasket blessed the congregation and released them back into the wild.

As Elder Cheatum rose to take his post at the door of the church, he noticed Reverend Bread rushing forward to talk to Reverend Handbasket. “Good, he thought, maybe Dale will get off of his duff and get back to work.”


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXIX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Wow, just wow. The Supreme Court did the right thing. Even if Scarface Scalia had still been around, the forces of good had the votes to push back the case that infringed on women’s rights. In this instance, it was a Texas case that the Supreme Court said violated Federal law, but, there are several other states who had imposed similar laws. Those laws that were written to limit women’s rights to an abortion will be repealed as a result of the Supreme Court decision. Yeah!

Speaking of women’s rights brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday night prayer meeting on August 26th, 2015 went smoothly in terms of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread’s ability to talk before a small group without a microphone. His singing voice was still impaired by his inability to fully open his mouth due to the swelling in his face and neck. The swelling was not that noticeable from the outside, but apparently the internal swelling was constricting the Reverend’s voice. The Elders decided after the meeting that the services of a visiting preacher would be required again to give their pastor more opportunity to heal. After a placing a call to the Church of God referral service, the Elders found that Reverend Bill Foldes had already been booked. The Elders were referred to a new up and comer, Reverend Evan Elpus.

Reverend Elpus was fresh out of the seminary, but was highly recommended. He arrived on Saturday evening, and was given the lay of the land by Elder Cheatum. Tall enough to be a starting forward in the NBA, the young reverend moved with an athletic grace that caused the Elder to dig deeper than usual into his background. “Yes”, he had played basketball in college. “Yes”, he was hoping for a career in the NBA. All of those hopes had come crashing down when the young reverend went up for a rebound and his knee reversed direction when he returned to the ground. Having torn several ligaments in his knee, the young man was faced with months of rehab. While looking for activities to fill the time normal spent practicing, the young reverend found he had an interest in snakes and reptiles. The interest became an obsession, and the young reverend traveled with many of his “pets”.

Elder Cheatum was impressed. When the young reverend asked, “My snakes or yours?” Elder Cheatum responded, “Your call.”

In fact, Reverend Elpus’ sermon, “How Faith Grows”, appeared to be just a warm up to the Testament of Faith. There was no question that Reverend Elpus’ faith in his ability to handle serpents was peerless. When the Reverend pulled the coral snake from his sack, eyes popped open all over the congregation. All mountain children are taught from birth the rhyme: “Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack” Watching the reverend dance with the colorful carrier of death was quite the showstopper. Especially when compared to the otherwise uninspired service. When Reverend Evan Elpus placed the coral snake in his mouth, the congregation let out a collective “ahhhh”. At Reverend Elpus’ height, there was no one in the auditorium that missed the tempting of the fates.

Elder Cheatum observed the trick from his place in the last pew. While the Elder was impressed, he also knew that the coral snake didn’t have the fang length or striking power of the timber rattler. Not that he was anxious for another snake bite story to hit the news, he was just giving credit to the young reverend’s judgement in which snake to use for his final act. The altar call was performed and the Elders took their place at the doors to wish the congregation good tidings as they left.

After the last worshiper had departed, Elder Cheatum sought out Reverend Elpus to settle up. Reverend Elpus was placing his snakes back in their respective aquariums in his Ford Econoline van. There appeared to be about a dozen aquariums secured to the floors and walls of the van. It was like a traveling pet shop. “Here’s your money”, Elder Cheatum said as he handed the Reverend an envelope containing five one hundred dollar bills. “Does the DOT require you to put some sort of signage on this thing in case you have an accident?”

“You know, I don’t know about the DOT, but that’s probably not a bad idea.”, The Reverend said as he placed a small pygmy rattler in its aquarium and secured the lid. “I’ll have to look into it.”

“You’ve got a mighty fine little church here, I’d be glad to come back anytime.” The Reverend closed the back doors to the van and climbed into the driver’s seat.

“We like it”, said Elder Cheatum, “Travel safe, you’re carrying precious cargo.” 

The Wednesday edition of the North Georgia Gazette contained no mention of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. That didn’t mean that the young religion reporter, Howard Doohan was done with the Pentecostal movement. In his column he took one of the more popular ministers of all time to task.

“This week I’d like to talk about one of the most successful pastors of all time, Oral Roberts. Speaking of waxing eloquently, Oral lived up to his name. He could spin a tale with the best of them. He’d have you “walking down the garden path”, as they say in the sales business, and be so convinced everything was true you’d be picking daisies along the way.

My Daddy, Angus Doohan, was one of the great salesmen of all time. Daddy could “sell refrigerators to Eskimos”, as the saying goes. Daddy use to pay particular attention to preachers, particularly televangelists, and would hoot out loud when one of them would spin a particularly convincing yarn.

Daddy use to call preachers “air salesman”. He’d say, “look at what they’re selling, is there a product you get to take home with you”?, “Is there even a piece of paper that signifies you own something like land or stocks”? “No, there’s nothing!”, “For ten percent of your life’s earnings you’re given a promise that when you die you’ll be given a place in this magical land that no one has ever seen!” Daddy would finish up with, “Now that’s salesmanship I tell you!” After I got older I’d finish up Daddy’s rant for him with, “And no one’s ever come back and asked for a refund!”

How all of this telling of family history, and revealing my Agnostic roots relates to Oral Roberts is this; one Sunday morning when I was just a little fellow I was watching what turned out to be a rebroadcast of Oral Robert’s Hour of Healing on the TV. Out of the blue, Oral Roberts started going on about a 900 foot Jesus he’d seen while driving around Tulsa, Oklahoma. Oral related that Jesus was at least 900 feet tall because Jesus was taller than some other local landmark that Oral named that I can’t remember. It seems that the Lord can not be intimidated by any man made structure and so he appeared to Oral as something larger.

Well, my mind was racing and I start yelling for everyone to wake up and gather round because the man on TV had actually seen Jesus in person and is revealing the sighting to the world. Oral continued with his dissertation and related that Jesus spoke to Oral through his car radio. I was already thinking that a 900 foot Jesus would talk really, really loud, so any message He uttered would not be a secret. Oral went on to relate to the TV audience that Jesus told him to build a gigantic, humongous, super-sized medical center there in Tulsa. Jesus added the provision that the Doctors would all have to believe in faith based healing.

I’ve done the research, and Oral needed millions and millions for this endeavor. Oral’s followers did not disappoint the preacher, and ponied up with a boatload of money. At a later date, Oral told the faithful that God had given him an ultimatum. If Oral couldn’t come up with the millions more by the end of the year, then Oral would be “called home”. The faithful dug deep and came up with 9 million reasons to keep Oral on this mortal plane.

Not long after that fund raising effort, the “City of Faith” closed its doors. Something about doctors and the AMA not wanting to give all of the credit for a successful operation to the Lord. Go figure.

After assorted lawsuits for misappropriation of funds, Oral’s income declined from an estimated high of $88 million in 1980 to $55 million in 1986. Not bad for an “air salesman” as Daddy would say.

Elder Diggum put down his copy of the paper and looked at his friends over the table in the BlueBell Cafeteria in Nunsuch. “Better Oral, than us”, he said as he reached for more syrup. “Besides, Oral’s already dead, ain’t he?” the Elder said as he poured a cup of syrup on his hotcakes. “Where’s this kid going with this?”

“Probably some old piece he had handy, who knows.”Elder Cheatum said.

“Like you said, at least it ain’t us.” said Elder Wiley as he stirred cream in his coffee.

The friends parted company after breakfast for their daily routines. They would meet up again for prayer meeting that night. Hopefully, Reverend Bread would be deemed ready to return to service. Paying Reverend Bread and his substitutes was getting expensive.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXVII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. It’s really good that we’ve got all of the Brexit news to take our minds off of our own problems. I guess if the loss of liberties and the financial ruin being enacted on the British people serve as a caution to the American people about what happens when we vote our worst fears, then the non-stop coverage is warranted. It would be refreshing to see the same type of in depth analysis applied to any of America’s issues. How great would it be to have reporters in the face of Mitch McConnell 24X7 like they are now with the British leaders? Great fun, in my opinion.

Speaking of opinions brings us back to our retelling of the history of the church formally known as the Little Church in the Valley. It is Thursday morning, August 20th, and the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread has been released to the care of his wife, and by extension, the Ladies Auxillary of the church. Reverend Dale was up on his feet, more or less, and was able to eat “smooth foods” without the effort cracking the skin on his face. The swelling in the Reverend’s face was still hideous. It was clear to the Elders that the Reverend would not be able to perform services on the upcoming Sunday.

There was some concern how long the rehabilitation period would take. There was an even greater concern for how the young Reverend looked, even when he healed. The Elders reasoned there was no point in turning people off to coming to church because they couldn’t bear the sight of their pastor. Weighing their options, the Elders decided to take the Church of God’s recommendation for replacement pastor. The Elders contracted with Reverend Bill Foldes to fill in while Reverend Bread was convalescing. Elder Wiley had voiced his concerns to the pastor referral service, but was assured that Reverend Foldes had matured greatly in the last five years.

Figuring “what the hey”, the Elders set the booking for Reverend Foldes for the coming Sunday, and updated the billboard in front of the church. They had left open their options to commit to more dates. The memory of nearly losing their dear friend Hugh Morris to the Reverend Foldes’ ministrations was still  fresh in their minds. Elder Wiley promised to frisk the reverend before the service and to put “the fear of God” into the visitor. There was just so much liability a self insured entity could bear, and the little church was skating close to the edge.

As it turned out, the Elders fears were unfounded. Reverend Foldes had indeed matured in the past five years. Matured, or he was heavily medicated. Either way, Reverend Foldes was able to lead the church through the Testament of Faith and the altar call without incident. Reverend Bread was in attendance for the service, but sat peacefully out of sight with his family. The Elders encouraged Reverend Bread to not head to the door after the benediction, as was customary. The Elders handled the goodbyes, and gave the faithful their blessings as the congregation headed for home. “Out of sight, out of mind”, thought Revered Diggum.

The Elders waited with great interest for the next issue of the North Georgia Gazette. Apparently the young intern, Howard Doohan, had been given the dubious distinction of being the religion reporter. Fortunately, the reporter was painting in much larger strokes in this week’s column: 

Today, I’d like to take last week’s events and explore a religious precept that will create a deep philosophical discussion with any religious scholar you might encounter, either in a church or a bar. The precept is predestination. Predestination, loosely translated, means that everything is foreordained. To further define the concept, an omniscient God knows in advance everything that will happen, throughout time. The much ballyhooed “free will” we hear so much about does not come into play.

For example, while Reverend Bread, pastor of  The Full Gospel Original Church of God, thought he chose to pick up Old Ben, and thought his actions were his own thoughts, the outcome was predetermined. God knew Old Ben was going to take a hunk of the Reverend’s nose whether Reverend Bread picked up the snake with his right hand or his left hand.

Taking my point of view, if God is all-knowing, then knowing the future has to be part of the package. How can one place limits on all-knowing? The contrarian viewpoint is expressed by the “free-willers”. The free-willers say that while God knows everything, the individual still has a choice, that the individual can change their mind, and, therefore, change their destiny. So the ambiguity is, does God know you’re going to change your mind?

To me, the concept of free will plays to the strength of revivalists and the born agains. If one presumes that God knows you from birth to death, and the course of your life is as a road traversing the cosmos, then calls to the altar will not change your final destination. Calls to the altar will increase the membership of a preacher’s congregation, though. Arguing that the initiate can change the course of their life through the use of their “free will”, allows pastors the opportunity to establish a pattern of behavior for the initiate. That pattern of behavior can be molded to the specific needs of the denomination.

All other issues aside, free will allows the clergy to slip free from the question, ”if God knows that the newborn will die from some horrible disease, why does He allow it to happen?” If God is not omniscient and man’s free will is the actual determiner of our lives on this planet, then God didn’t know the baby was going to die. The concept of free will also creates a need for a counselor to keep all of us pilgrims on the straight and narrow. Free will certainly reduces the power and culpability of God for life here on this mortal plane, doesn’t it?

Admittedly, there are a lot of minor league doctrines that can produce discussion. For example whether baptism requires full immersion, or whether women can lead a congregation. Both are good topics, but if you want to bang brains with a Biblical scholar for hours on end, try predestination.

Elder Cheatum chuckled out loud after reading the article. “Well, thank goodness he’s gone on to frying bigger fish.” Elder Cheatum said to Elder Diggum. “I was afraid he was going to do a full expose, come out for more pictures.” “If he starts dragging folks into the theoretical, they’ll get bored with his column pretty quick.”

“Yeah, and nothing will turn off a believer like questioning free will.” said Elder Diggum. “Could you imagine the chaos if teenagers used predestination as the reason they snuck the car out?” “It would be like giving a machine gun to a six year old.” “I can’t wait to read the letters to the editor next week about this column.” “It should draw all of the interest away from us.”

“I agree, we may have weathered the storm on this one.” Elder Cheatum said as he continued to tidy up the auditorium for that evening’s prayer meeting. “We’ll see how Dale handles the service tonight and then make the decision to whether he’s ready to come back or not.” “His looks have improved, and I’m encouraged that he’ll be eighty to ninety percent by Sunday.” “Psychologically is another issue.” The Elder said as he placed the last hymnal, in the last row, face up. “We’ll just have to see how tonight goes.”

“Amen, brother” said Elder Diggum as the two friends turned to leave for a quick dinner before returning for the evening service.

“Denny’s?” asked Elder Diggum.

“Denny’s.” answered Elder Cheatum.

The Elders scratched out of the church parking lot headed to Blairsville for a predictable meal at a popular price.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXVI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Turns out the “poncey” class in Great Britain didn’t realize that a third of their wealth was going to be washed away by their xenophobic vote to leave the European Union. It’s a shame that the English people have been led astray by their nobility for so long. It seems like after a few hundred years you’d get past the idea that the monarchy has your best interests at heart. They certainly did in Ireland, or at least most of it. Looks like Scotland has finally got a clue. I’m in favor of England, like the cheese, standing alone. We’ll see how it goes.

Speaking of best interests bring us back to our retelling of the history of the church once know as the Little Church in the Valley. It would have been in the best interest of the church if the Elders had been able to squash the story about the church in the North Georgia Gazette. The Elders just didn’t have the clout to dissuade the paper from running an article that was clearly going to up the papers’ readership. Even if it was sensationalism, the picture was worth a million words. The picture accompanying the article was of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread being bitten squarely in the face by a large timber rattlesnake. The article was penned by a young journalism major, Howard Doohan who was working as an intern for the paper. The article was as follows:


“What you see before you is the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread practicing his faith at the Full Gospel Original Church of God in Nunsuch, Georgia. Sunday, August 16th was the annual Summer fish fry for the little church nestled in the mountains. Reverend Bread had taken his snakes outside to continue his ministry while the picnic was being prepared. From the looks of things, “Old Ben”, the rattlesnake in the picture, had checked his contract and there was nothing in it about two shows a day. Serpentologists also speculate that Old Ben probably didn’t appreciate being taken from the air conditioned church into the 98 degree heat without being given a few minutes to acclimatize. 

An eye witness account relates that the Reverend Bread reached into the snake box, grabbed Old Ben by the tail, and had begun a dance routine that looks a lot like a fellow trying to stomp out a fire that is burning up his legs. Just as the eye witness was taking a picture for the church newspaper, Old Ben doubled back and popped Reverend Bread on the bridge of the nose. Evidently the only one who was not stunned into stupefaction was Old Ben, who used the confusion to slither off into the weeds.

The eye witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, further details that the Reverend Bread proceeded to “speak in tongues” at such a loud and rapid voice that some of the words sounded like words banned by the church and most polite societies. The Reverend Bread was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Blairsville. Old Ben, who we are told was named for a former member of the church, was last seen beating a path to the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Many readers will make a judgement based on this scene, probably along the lines of, “if you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned”. This reporter’s personal opinion is not far from that assessment, but, I will say there are other religions that also have peculiarities that could result in harmful physical results. Fasting, flagellation, pilgrimages, circumcision are all practices based in a religious belief that could go badly. Where snake handling varies from the other practices is that it can quickly and instantly result in death for the practitioner.

Appalachia has been poor since the dawn of creation. The little local churches scattered throughout the mountains don’t have the financial means to build monolithic structures with elaborate audio-visual to keep the parishioners attending. It is a fact of life, ten percent of poor will always be poor. Churches trying to compete for the meager tithe available in their communities have been forced to come up with nuances that set them apart from the other congregations. Thus, snake handling was born. When the church throws in “speaking in tongues” and the “laying of hands”, you’ve got a pretty compelling attraction for people who are not interested in the more traditional houses of worship.

At the time of this writing, Reverend Bread is undergoing anti-venom treatment and is expected to recover. It is believed that Old Ben will be just fine.” 

An emergency meeting of the Elders was called for that night to discuss the church’s options. It was determined that Elder Wiley would handle damage control as far as the details of the story went. Elder Cheatum would take care of whatever Reverend Dale needed in the way of medical treatment. Elder Diggum would contact the Church of God home office and see if there were any ministers available, “by the hour”. The Elders knew from past experience that recovery from a snake bite was a touch and go situation, particularly from a timber rattler, the most venomous snake in North America. Reverend Dale had taken the shot square to the face. A very unfortunate turn of events.

Elder Cheatum felt the old familiar dread as he pulled into the hospital parking lot on Monday, August 17th. He located Reverend Dale’s semi-private room and forced himself to enter the room. Reverend Dale was propped up in the bed connected to all sorts of machines using assorted widths of tubing. The young reverend’s head was swollen up about twice its normal size. His appearance was that of a Jack O’Lantern. The Elder reached for the Reverend’s hand, but there was not one free of tubing. Stepping back the Elder smiled and said,

“A man is talking to God. ‘God, how long is a million years?’

God answers, ‘To me, it’s about a minute.’

‘God, how much is a million dollars?’

‘To me, it’s a penny.’

‘God, may I have a penny?’

‘Wait a minute.’”

If the Reverend smiled it was indiscernible because of the swelling.

“How are you doing, need anything?”, the Elder asked. The Reverend gagged a couple of attempts at words and finally just shook his head “no”. 

“Ok, well I just came by to let you know that we’ve got everything covered and all you have to do is get well.” The Elder continued, “Any idea how long you’re in for?” The Reverend just shook his head “no”.

“Ok, I’ll see what I can find out.” the Elder said as he backed out the door. “Be well”, and then he was gone. As Elder Cheatum drove out of the hospital parking lot, he remembered his last visit to the hospital had been to visit Hap Johnstone. “I sure hope this turns out better than the last time I was here”, he thought as he headed back to Nunsuch.

The newspaper hit on Wednesday, August 19th. The Elders had felt fortunate that the story didn’t make it to the Atlanta papers and TV networks. Fortunately for the church, the news of the death of civil rights icon Julian Bond was more important than a story about some preacher who got himself bit by a snake. Unfortunately for the church, the story of a man being bitten by a rattlesnake was going to be in the local paper. When it’s a preacher, and he’s bitten in the face, it’s going to make the front page. Elder Wiley had failed miserably at his mission. The Elders were going to need a lot of sugar to make lemonade out of these lemons.




All Creatures of Our God And King XXXV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. To all of us that don’t hear the tones of “Rule Britannia” playing background music in our brains, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union looks like financial suicide. To the casual observer, it looks like the xenophobes were able to stir up enough of the confused to vote in favor of leaving the EU because the immigrants weren’t white enough. Scotland and Ireland are threatening to stay with the EU, and who can blame them? They’ve certainly been treated more fairly by the EU than the British nobility.

Speaking of being treated fairly brings us back to the history of the Little Church in the Valley. Five years have passed, and the transition from Reverend Daniel Hawker to Reverend Dale E. Bread was not without its issues. Like any good marriage, there has to be give and take on both sides and an acceptance of the others’ peculiarities. So it was with the new reverend and his congregation. Elder Cheatum was ever mindful of the warning given to him by Ms. Leer. A man with more charm than scruples was to be watched carefully. The Elders tried to keep track of the young reverend’s coming and goings as close as they could without being too obvious.

Reverend Daniel attempted to mentor the young reverend as well as he could, right until his passing in 2013. Reverend Daniel’s funeral was attended by over two hundred mourners. Reverend Bread gave Reverend Hawker as fine a send off as one could wish for. The grief was palpable at the funeral, with some of the older members rending their clothes as a sign of their anguish. The tearing of clothes is an ancient custom observed by many religions that dates back to the Old Testament. The tradition signifying deep mourning was first mentioned in the Bible when Jacob was told that his son Joseph was dead. The congregation of the Little Church in the Valley quoted Genesis 37:34, Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days.“, as the basis for their tradition. Some of the older members chose to wear the torn clothes for a week or more, while not shaving or combing their hair.

After an appropriate time, Reverend Bread started moving the church more in the direction he was comfortable with. He petitioned, and received acceptance into the Church Of God organization based in Cleveland, Tennessee. In keeping with the concept of a “fresh start”, the new reverend had the name of the church formally changed to “The Full Gospel Original Church of God”. The name was proudly displayed on the billboard facing the highway running in front of the church. All print references to the “Little Church in the Valley”, from phone books to Google searches, were corrected to “The Full Gospel Original Church of God”. It was clear that Reverend Bread was interested in developing a new brand for his congregation.

The changes didn’t come without struggle. The Elders and some of the older members were not interested in any change at all. Reverend Bread himself was a big enough change. It was Reverend Bread in his most charismatic moments that convinced the Elders that the future lay in the joining with the larger organization. It was easy to point out the success of the Southern Baptist Convention, which numbered fifteen million members strong. The Southern Baptist Convention was a force to be dealt with, socially and politically. Reverend Bread reminded the Elders of the dark times when snake handling had been punishable by death in Georgia. It was the young reverend’s opinion that there was strength in numbers, and by aligning with the Church of God, they had numbers on their side. The Elders acquiesced.

In truth, the Elders liked where the church was going financially, and were hesitant to pull back on the reins of the young reverend. Reverend Daniel had said himself that the church needed new blood, and Reverend Bread was certainly providing that. In fact, using the colloquialism, “blood” to reference members of one’s family, Reverend Bread was single-handedly bringing new blood to the congregation. The Bread family had exploded to seven children. Joining Devin and Dahlia, were Daniel, David, Daisy, Darius and Daphne. At five children, the Elders had quipped that Reverend Bread had his own basketball team. Now the question was if the Reverend was trying for a baseball or football team.

The physical demands of seven children prevented Alva Bread from becoming as strong a member of the community as she, or the Ladies Auxillary, would have liked. The Ladies had been without an “official” leader since Sara Hawker had passed, and they were excited at the prospect of having a young woman throw her back into the many projects the Ladies Auxillary found themselves running. Alva tried to step into her role, but the logistics of managing seven children was more than she could handle. Fortunately, the family did most of their shopping at the Hawker General Store, but, when a trip to the Walmart in Blairsville was required, special arrangements had to be made. Usually, two baby sitters were required, and that was if Alva carried the baby with her.

The Elders had arranged for the family to have the use of a nine passenger van, in addition to the four wheel drive vehicle provided for in the original contract. The grocery stipend at the Hawker General Store was supplemented by various members of the congregation bringing fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and canned goods in the Winter. The Reverend’s salary had been renegotiated to include a percentage of the collections, and the extra money was used to keep the family clothed in a manner befitting their station in the community.

Any issue with the rectory was handled swiftly and promptly. When the old washing machine broke down, the Elders replaced it and the dryer with models of an industrial grade. As the older children grew, bunk beds were provided to give each child their own bed. Slowly the house was being upgraded, inside and out, to provide a modern environment for a young growing family. The next project scheduled was to enclose the back porch into a family room so that Alva could watch the children as she prepared meals in the kitchen.

All in all, things were going very well for the Bread family. They were well liked and well cared for. Alva had returned to her beloved mountains, and Reverend Dale had adapted to his new environment like a chameleon to a new color. There was the occasional rumor, the hint of the possibility of an impropriety, but nothing the Elders could ever pin down. All in all, things were going very well.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXIV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well as far as sit ins goes, Woolworths has nothing to worry about. It was a step in the right direction, though. Somebody in Congress has to do something besides throw their hands up in the air and say we’re powerless to make a change. My goodness, we overturned prohibition, which was a law close to the hearts and minds of all of the right wing religious nuts of the day. I guess it’s easier to give access than to take it away; particularly when there’s a huge industry behind the access movement.

Speaking of access brings us back to our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the Sunday following the Summer Revival 2010. Reverend Daniel is standing at the pulpit waiting for the choir to finish the Gathering Hymn. Reverend Daniel listened with pride to the sound of his son’s deep bass voice emphasizing the lyrics. Immediately after the choir sang the verse, “Love lifted me”, Bubba would chime in with, “But me”, giving the song a deeper meaning than the songwriters had envisioned.

“Love lifted me! (but me) Love lifted me! (but me)
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me. (but me)
Love lifted me! (but me) Love lifted me! (but me)
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me. (but me) 

The choir sat, and Reverend Daniel looked out over a two thirds filled auditorium. It was a very good turnout, with quite a few new faces. The Reverend cleared his throat, and in a voice that bespoke strongly of his cigarette habit, he addressed the congregation.

“Friends, we have come to a fork in the road, and I will not be leading you on the next part of the journey.” “It has been my pleasure, my honor, to minister to the congregation here for nearly fifty years.” “Forty-six years to be exact, but only me and a couple of the Elders can verify my attendance.” “And, Granny Waller, of course.” The Reverend smiled at the church’s oldest member who sat front row center.

“We’ve seen a lot of beginnings, and sadly, a lot of endings.” “But we know that those endings are just temporary.” “We know that we will all be joined together in God’s glorious kingdom again, one day, bye and bye.” The Reverend paused for a sip of water before continuing.

“The beginnings have been much more joyous.” “A new baby, a new couple committing to each other in the bonds of matrimony, a sinner lost to the evils of this world dedicating their lives to Jesus”. “Yes, the beginnings have been joyous, and now we are about to embark on another new beginning.” “We are, I am, turning over the spiritual leadership of this church to a remarkable young man, who, I think, possesses the qualities that will enable this church to prosper for many years to come.” “Dale will you come up here a second?”

Reverend Daniel moves back from the pulpit to allow the new pastor to slide beside him. “Reverend Dale E. Bread comes to us by way of Homosassa Springs, Florida, where he’s been pastor for a few years.” “He is a graduate of my old alma mater, ‘The Pentecostal Theological Seminary’ over in Cleveland.” “Go fighting Seraphims!” The exertion of the cheer for his alma mater causes Reverend Daniel a catch in his throat. The old Reverend choked back a cough as he turned to the new minister. “Would you like to say a few words, Dale?”

Reverend Bread moved to the center of the pulpit and looked out over the congregation. “Just let me say, I feel truly blessed to be standing before you today.” “If I had my choices of all of the churches in America, I don’t know that I could have picked one better than ‘The Little Church in the Valley’.  “The tradition of the Hawker family, the closeness of the community, the beauty of the land and the people are beyond expression, so, I’ll quit trying.” “I would like to introduce my family though.” “Alva will you come on up here?”

From the front row, a young woman holding the hand of a toddler, while nestling a child of about one-year’s-old against her very pregnant stomach, waddled up the steps of the stage to stand beside her husband. 

“This is my wife Alva, my son Devin, my baby Dahlia, and ‘to be determined'”, Reverend Dale said as he grinned and patted his wife’s stomach.

“Alva is actually from Helen, Georgia, and she can’t wait to get back to the mountains again.”

Reverend Daniel cleared his throat to indicate to the new reverend that the introductions were over and that it was time to get back to the service. As the congregation watched the new minister assist his young family back to their pew, few people noticed Crystal Leer leaving the church.

Reverend Cheatum noticed, and he followed her out into the parking lot. “Ms. Leer, Ms. Leer”, the Elder called until the young woman turned to face him. Crystal Leer was biting back hard on her lower lip and the tears were welling up in her eyes. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Ms. Leer had done the calculation, and that four, or three and a half, didn’t add up to two. Reverend Cheatum stood for a second before saying, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Ain’t nothing to say”, Crystal said as she wiped at her eyes. “I’m foolish, and there ain’t nobody to blame but me.” “Most people learn from their mistakes, most people but me.”

“Is there anything I can do?” the Elder asked cautiously.

“Give me a good reference, if it every comes up.” Crystal replied. “I don’t know if it will, I’m thinking about getting out of this revival business.” “Too many false prophets.” She said as she allowed herself a smile. “Oh, and watch your new preacher”, she added, “He’s got more charm than scruples, and that’s a deadly combination, as you know, in a preacher.”

Ms. Lite stuck out her hand to the Elder and said, “This time it is goodbye, sir, thank you for your hospitality.” The Elder and the secretary/assistant shook hands there in the parking lot. Crystal Leer climbed into one of Hap Johnstone’s Cadillac Escalades, and drove away. Never to return to the Little Church in the Valley.

Elder Cheatum returned to his seat in the little church just in time to hear Reverend Daniel deliver the news to the faithful that this was a “collection free” Sunday. A murmur of agreement passed like a wave through the audience, and it was easy to see that Reverend Daniel was leaving with positive vibes.

At the Testament of Faith, everyone that could, came forward to pass the snakes back and forth with the two reverends. The Elders joined in, and Bubba came down from the choir. While Bubba was wildly demonstrative in his dance, Granny Waller used her walker to stabilize herself as she handled the water moccasin known as “Chloe”.

After about fifteen minutes of revelry, the snakes were placed back in their boxes and Reverend Daniel made the altar call. Thirteen souls, a baker’s dozen, came forward that day to devote their lives to Jesus Christ and the Little Church in the Valley. The numerologists in attendance didn’t offer any misgivings about the “unlucky” number. There were still a few of the Happy Dalers in the audience that believed in the mystical relationship between numbers and events. If the old hippies saw the number thirteen as a foreshadowing to problems, they held their peace. There was far too much joy to celebrate. Nobody wanted to end Reverend Daniel’s last sermon on a bummer.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Absolutely amazing that a seventy-four year old man is still leading the charge for doing what’s right in America. Of course, I’m talking about Georgia Congressman, John Lewis. Lewis had the courage to do the right thing for the innocent lives taken in the Orlando shooting. He called for a sit in, exposing the Republicans for the puppets of the gun industry that they are. Is the term “puppets” too harsh? I don’t think so, not when ninety percent of the American public wants stronger gun laws. Who do the Republicans they think they are serving by not doing the will of the people? Are they protecting us from ourselves? Good on John Lewis for calling bull scat on the Republican shenanigans.

Speaking of shenanigans, leads us back to our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is Sunday morning after the Summer Revival 2010. The parking lot looks much the same as the night before with the tents and concession stands still in place. Tear down would take place after Sunday worship service, and would require several hours of service by the volunteers. As the Elders gathered around the kitchen table in the rectory to hear the “almost complete” tally from the treasurer, the Ladies Auxillary placed a gigantic plate of sticky buns on the table.

“I tell you fellows, I’m going to miss this as much as anything.” “Us gathered around this table sharing tales and good food.” said Reverend Daniel as he pulled a hot bun off of the top of the stack. “It has to happen, it’s the right thing, I’m just going to miss some things a lot.”

“I don’t know what’s going to change other than location”, Elder Wiley said. “We’ll just be meeting in the office at the church.” “It’s a little tighter fit, but if we can get Barry to lose a few pounds, it won’t be so bad.”

Elder Diggum stopped mid-reach and looked at his friend and partner, “You know I’ve got a slow metabolism, and I’m big-boned.”

“You should pick on somebody else”, Elder Diggum said as he grabbed a sticky bun. “I can’t help being who I am.” With a flourish, Elder Diggum took a large bite out of the bun.

“Alright settle down, settle down, we’ve got just a few minutes before we need to get over to the church. I’d like to hear the treasurer’s report before we leave.” said reverend Daniel. “Have you got numbers for us sister Mulva?”

“Yes, sir, they’re not final, but they’re pretty close.” said the secretary/treasurer. Mulva looked up and smiled at the men seated around the table. As she placed the neatly stacked piles of cash and checks labeled with a deposit slip and wrapped with a rubber band into her bank deposit bag, she said, “ According to my records, and they’re awfully close, we’ve had a doozy of a revival.” “I can print out a P&L report and a spreadsheet for you now, if you like, or you all can wait for the ‘official’ tally.” Mulva looked about the table for a response.

“I believe we’d like both”, said Elder Cheatum.

“Ok, I’ll just tell you the numbers while the printer does its thing.” Mulva said as she started sending the P&L report to the printer. 

“As always, I’ve double checked my numbers.” “I’ve calculated that the church’s share of the collection, after paying the ministers, was sixty-seven hundred dollars.” Mulva said. “Collections were down a bit from the night before, but, because we aren’t paying Reverend Johnstone, our profits are up.”

Mulva continued, “Concessions were over thirteen thousand dollars last night.” “I’m guessing that since we weren’t competing with Reverend Johnstone for concessions, that we sold a lot more of our T-shirts.” “I’m projecting our profit from the concessions to be about nine thousand and eight hundred dollars.” Mulva paused to take a breath, and perhaps for dramatic effect. 

“We’ve made over seventy thousand dollars of profit for the revival, unless there’s some big bills I don’t know about.” “I’m so proud of the Ladies Auxillary, I could just bust.” “I’m proud of everybody, really, it’s been a real team effort.” Mulva let out a big breath and got up to retrieve the P&L’s from the printer.

As Mulva passed the reports around the table, the men stared at the proof of their efforts in black and white.

“Dang, it’s one thing to hear it, another to see it in black and white”, said Reverend Daniel, “I’m looking at it, and I still don’t believe it.” “We’ve taken in seventy thousand dollars in profit in just one week.” “My stars and garters.” “Maybe we shouldn’t pass the plate today.” “We could have a collection free Sunday in thanks for all of the efforts of our members.” 

“Well Daniel, if that’s what you want to do, we could certainly let that be part of your legacy”, said Elder Cheatum, “Henceforth and forever more, any revival that brings in seventy thousand dollars in profit shall be followed by a collection free Sunday.”

“All those opposed?” No one raised their hands. “In favor?” All of the members raised their hands. “The motion is carried”, said Elder Cheatum.  “Daniel, that will be a fine message for you to deliver today, while you’re delivering your other fine message.” 

“Oh my stars, look at the time,” said Reverend Daniel as he jumped up. “I’ve still got to think about my introduction of Reverend Bread to the congregation.” “I can’t decide whether to do it at the start or last.” “I think at the start, what do you all think?”.

“I think at the start”, said Elder Wiley, “that way you can call him up for the Testament of Faith and kind of ‘pass the baton’ to him then.” “That would be a nice visual, we need to get lots of pictures today.” “Mulva did you bring your camera?”

“Yes sir I sure did, and my new phone takes movies if we want to.”, Mulva replied as she held up her cell phone.

“Good, good”, said Elder Wiley, “Well, boys, I guess it’s time to start calling them in.” He said as the group got up from the table. “Who’s turn is it to ring the bell?”

“I guess it’s mine,” replied Elder Diggum, “I wish I’d remembered that before eating that third sticky bun.” “That ladder going up into the steeple isn’t getting any easier to climb.” “Hey, maybe we can get one of those automatic bell ringers, since we’ve had such a good revival.”

“That would be a ‘NO’, Barry”, said Elder Wiley, “If you can’t cut the mustard any more, admit it, and one of us young fellers will jump in for you.”

“No, no, I was just kidding”, said Elder Diggum as he headed for the church and his climb up the ladder to the base of the steeple.

As the bell pealed out its call for the souls that were scattered throughout the valley and the surrounding mountains, the other Elders took up their positions as greeters at the front doors. It was nearly impossible to enter the little church without being acknowledged by a member of long standing. When time permitted, a few seconds of personal conversation were passed.

The Elders were in hopes of greeting a lot of new faces at the door this Sunday. They were not disappointed. Neither Elder kept an accurate count, but they felt like two dozen new faces was a good guess. What they could not have guessed, or imagined, was that one of those faces was that of Ms. Crystal Leer. Elder Cheatum said “Welcome,” as he shook Ms Leer’s hand on the threshold of the little church. As the choir began singing behind them there was no more time for conversation. Elder Cheatum took his seat in the last row, on the aisle, on the right side of the church. Ms. Leer wandered to a seat about dead center in the middle of the church.

Reverend Daniel Hawker’s last sermon had begun.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. While fires rage in the West, the mid west is being deluged by tornadoes, torrential rains and high winds. The polar caps continued to melt, and the snow is pink because an algae is growing in it. If you were a believer in such, it’s like Nostradamus has been reincarnated in the body of Al Gore. I mean, how else do you explain all of Gore’s predictions from “An Inconvenient Truth” coming true, unless he is somehow supernatural and connected to Vishnu? I mean there’s science, but science can’t be used to explain things, even when it does. There has to be an interpreter of events that is connected to the spiritual. Right?

Anyway, explaining things through spiritual interpretation brings us back to our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the last night of Summer Revival 2010 and Reverend Daniel Hawker is opening for the presumptive new pastor of the little church in Tent number one. As Reverend Daniel entered the tent from the back he could hear Elder Cheatum addressing the crowd.

“I’m sure all of you know, but if you don’t, one of the purposes of this specific revival was to help our little church find a new minister.” “We have been blessed for many, many years to have the Hawker family minister to us, but now it looks like it will be coming to an end.” “We have gathered together some mighty fine ministers for you to hear, to watch, and to feel the power within them as they blessed you with their healings.” “While we are sad to say that one of the ministers, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone has been struck down, and is unable to speak before you tonight, we feel that his loss was the Lord’s way of pointing us in the right direction.”

“Praise God!” is yelled from somewhere in the audience and echoed as a murmur throughout the crowd.

“Praise God!” said Elder Cheatum before continuing. “We feel very strongly that the minister selection committee was guided to the selection of Reverend Dale E. Bread as our new minister by the hand of  God.” “As a result, we’ve asked Reverend Bread to be the keynote speaker, here, tonight.” “Some of you may have already witnessed Reverend Bread’s gifts this week, and I think you’ll agree with me, he’s something special.” “We hope you will welcome him to our community and include him in your prayers.”

Elder Cheatum looked out at the crowd of five hundred souls, many whispering “amen” as the Elder returned to his speech. “But first, a man who needs no introduction, Reverend Daniel Hawker”.

As Reverend Daniel walked up to the pulpit, the Little Church in the Valley choir began to sing “Nearer My God to Thee”. There was a twinge of sadness as Reverend Daniel heard his son, Bubba, lead the choir with his perfect bass voice:

“Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;

Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee.”

Reverend Daniel joined in as best he could with his voice strained to the breaking point by his years of cigarette smoking. “Better save it for the sermon”, the Reverend thought when he gave up singing the hymn on the second verse. As he looked out over the crowd, recognizing old friends, and their children and their grandchildren, the Reverend was almost struck speechless by the gravity of the moment.

Reverend Daniel looked down at his 3×5 cards and began: “‘It’s Not an Easy Road’ that has led us here tonight, and it will not be an easy road as we continue our journey to the shores of the Jordan River, but, I’m here to tell you that if you continue on the straight and narrow, we will all meet again in the Promised Land.”

Cries of “Amen” and “Praise God” echoed through the crowd and Reverend Daniel was off and running. He spoke for forty minutes straight before calling for the choir to spell him for a bit by singing “The Old Rugged Cross.”  The Elders took the cue, and began passing the collection plate while Reverend Daniel drank hot tea with lemon to rejuvenate his voice. As he started into his last few minutes, Reverend Daniel seemed to lose the thread of his sermon a bit as he started recalling lyrics to a “Long and Winding Road”, to emphasize his points.

“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door.”

The congregation didn’t seem to notice, or attributed the possessive pronoun, “your”, as referencing Jesus’s door. Either way, the Testament of Faith was preformed with many long standing church members passing the serpents back and forth with the Reverend while they tap danced about the space in front of the stage. There were many people in the aisles, but they were more well wishers than seeking healing. The crowds thinned quickly and Reverend Daniel headed back to the pulpit. “Now folks, before I bring out Reverend Bread, I just wanted to remind you all there’s services tomorrow, same as always, and I expect to see all of you there. Reverend Daniel turned to walk away as Reverend Bread bounded onto the stage like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. 

The choir started singing “Amazing Grace”, and Reverend Bread hit the “how sweet the sound”, slightly behind the choir to further emphasize the phrase. He did that with each verse, and, while it stole a little thunder from the choir, it placed emphasis on the verses that were central to Reverend Bread’s message. “A wretch like me”, “but now am found”, “but now I see” were themes in the Reverend’s message. Reverend Bread took a common everyday hymn, known the world over, and XXX the verses to deliver a powerful message

“A wretch like me” – we are all born sinners undeserving of  God’s love.

“But now am found” – like lost lambs, we can be brought into the fold through Christ’s love.

“But now I see” – the blindfold that society’s many trappings placed over our eyes has been removed and now we can see the path to righteousness.

From Elder Cheatum’s vantage point he couldn’t tell if Reverend Bread had prepared the sermon, or if it was extemporaneous. If the Reverend had pulled this oratory out of his hat, it was a corker. A preacher that could take a hymn, an “old standard” even, and turn it into a meaningful sermon, was quite a find. Not too mention that there were hundreds of hymns that could be borrowed as themes. If true, it was like the height of brilliance coupled with extreme laziness.

Reverend Bread interspersed his sermon with glossolalia, and the occasional tap dance, while calling to the crowd, “Can I get an amen?”. To which he could, from the many followers immersed in the Reverend’s performance. It was a stellar presentation, and the break set aside for the collection came quickly. As the Elders passed through the crowd overseeing the collection plates moving from member to member, Reverend Bread  beseeched the faithful with every fiber of his being to dig deep, and not be “stingy with the Lord”. The Testament of Faith was carried off with great precision, and Elder Cheatum was surprised to see a few of the old timers put their trust, and their lives, in the hands of the new pastor.

The aisles were filled with pilgrims seeking relief from their ailments. Elder Cheatum suspected that the attendees of Tent number two and Tent number three were filing into Tent number one to get their issues addressed. “That’s fine”, the Elder thought, “if they get something out of it, maybe we’ll see them in church on Sunday.” The Elder calculated the new reverend had at least two hours of healing ahead of him if he tried to help everybody. “I believe I’ll leave him to it”, the Elder thought.

As he reminded himself that there was one more workday in this week, the Elder headed back to the rectory. The selection committee was sitting on the front porch, all enjoying lemonades.

“Well, what’s the plan?” Elder Cheatum asked as he poured himself a lemonade from the pitcher.

“I’m thinking we let the Ladies Auxillary do their cleanup and turn out the lights,” said Reverend Daniel. “They can just put everything that doesn’t sell back here in the rectory like they’ve been doing, and lock it all up.” “We’ll strike the tents tomorrow after church.” “I’ll stick around and wait for our new preacher to finish up.” “I’m right impressed with our choice, gentlemen.” “I think we’ve outdone ourselves.”

“Well, we’re glad you’re glad”, Elder Wiley said. “Change is not easy, particularly for an old coot.” The group let the challenge go unmet. They were just too darn tired to call each other old coots. They had another big day facing them, but at least, they thought, “We can stick a fork in Summer Revival 2010.” It was done.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXXI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Hot as the dickens here, but at least we’re not on fire like they are out West. The mind just boggles when you see the amount of acreage being consumed by fire. Fire seems to be pretty indiscriminate, too. Rich folks houses are being burned along with the trailer parks. Watching the crews going through doing cleanup, and only finding smoldering wood, is pretty sobering. I guess nothing bands humanity together like a disaster.

Speaking of disasters, that brings us back to the retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the sixth day of Summer Revival 2010, and the Elders are anticipating the end of the festivities. In fact, one of them, Elder Cheatum, was actually dreaming about ringing the church bell in the steeple of the little church signifying the end of the revival. The Elder had fallen into a deeper sleep than usual in his rocking chair on the front porch of the rectory. In his dream, the Elder was pulling long on the cord leading to the church bell, from shoulder height down to his knees. Up and down, back and forth, until his subconscious clued him that he was being rocked harder back and forth in his rocking chair. As he awoke he spun around to see Elder Diggum behind him about to give a push that would have dumped Elder Cheatum into the yard.

“You son of a biscuit eater, don’t you know it ain’t good to scare someone awake?” said Elder Cheatum as he arose from the chair.

“Well, I wasn’t sure if you were still with us or not.” “I’ve been calling your name for about five minutes.” “You must be more tuckered than usual.” said Elder Diggum as he started into the rectory. “Come on, you’re late for our 4 o’clock.”

The search committee sat about the kitchen table as the Ladies Auxillary worked behind them getting ready for the final night of revival.

“You ready?”, Elder Cheatum asked looking at Reverend Daniel.

“Well, if I ain’t, I ain’t ever going to be.” The Reverend said. “I do feel a bit of the spirit within me already.” “I’m going to be cautiously optimistic and say that maybe all of this has happened for the good.” “Who knows what the Lord has planned for us?” “Maybe it takes a crooked path to get there, filled with pitfalls and perils, but in the end, we wind up where we were supposed to be.”

“Sounds like the start of a good sermon.” said Elder Wiley, “you trying out tonight’s message on us?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time”, chuckled the Reverend Daniel. “Is there any last minute business, any crises that haven’t already been dealt with?” The Reverend said as he surveyed the table.

“Nope, now that I’ve brought Buster back from the dead I feel like we can get at least one more night out of him.” said Elder Diggum. “I’ll be in Tent number two and Alvin will be in Tent number three.” “I don’t think there will be any issues.” “I’ll be sure to frisk Reverend Foldes before he goes on.” “I’m not too sure he’s learned his lesson.” “Preacher’s kids are the worst, you know.” Elder Diggum laughed as he looked at Reverend Daniel.

“Well, I don’t know that I’ve seen any conclusive study done on the topic,” replied Reverend Daniel, “But I suspect there’s some truth to that.” “I suspect Saint Peter has compiled quite a list for me to answer to.” “Hopefully, I won’t have to face ‘the judge of us all’ for a while.” “I’d like to build up my good works a good bit before displaying the final tally.”

“Don’t we all”, said Elder Cheatum, “Are we ready to get to it?”, he said as he stood from the table. “I’d tell you to ‘break a leg'”, the Elder said while looking at Reverend Daniel, “but our top healer in this area is over in the hospital in Blairsville.”

Reverend Daniel looked at Elder Cheatum with mocked shock and said, “Here we are talking about getting more Heavenly and you lead off with that blasphemy.” “If you weren’t one of my best friends, I’d have you excommunicated, you old coot.”

“Who are you calling an old coot, you old coot?”, was the chorus of the old friends as they broke the meeting and headed out the door for their respective responsibilities.

Reverend Daniel went back to preparing his sermon. He would be opening for Reverend Bread in Tent number one, and he wanted to have the audience pumped up for the young reverend. Reverend Daniel had followed preachers that had left the congregation looking like someone had just drug a dead skunk up and down the aisles. Reverend Daniel knew he didn’t burn with the fire that he had in his twenties and thirties, but he felt like he still had a few strong messages left him. Hopefully tonight would be one of them. “It’s Not an Easy Road” was written in big block letters on the first 3×5 card. The Reverend continued to flip through the cards until he felt like he had his bullet points down.

Meantime, the Elders were walking about the parking lot; checking on concessions, checking on sound systems, checking on the appearance of the tents themselves. They paused to give an ear to any of the volunteer’s concerns, and offer solutions when possible. Most of the volunteers were up in the double digits of times they had worked the revivals, so they were well versed. This was the biggest revival by far, but the crew was well seasoned.

At 6PM, the Ladies Auxillary rang the big triangle signifying that supper was ready for the volunteers and the visiting ministers. The crowd descended on the picnic tables setup behind Tent number one for their evening meal. Tonight’s meal was a departure from the Southern fried theme. The Ladies were serving spaghetti and meatballs. It was fast and easy, and the leftovers could be easily taken home to feed their families. The loss of Hap Johnstone’s entourage had taken a lot of pressure off of the Ladies to prepare Southern delights. Besides, with spaghetti and meatballs, there were just two big pots to clean up after.

Reverend Daniel led the crowd in the blessing and the crowd wolfed down their meals. After eating, Reverend Bread walked by the Elders table to express his thanks again. As Reverend Bread turned to go, he looked back at Reverend Daniel. “Knock ’em dead”, the young reverend said with a wry grin, “but not really, you know.” Before anyone could question his meaning, Reverend Bread was gone.

The Elders went to their stations, and Reverend Daniel went back to the rectory to put on his coat and tie. He was rushing across the parking lot towards Tent number one when the lights began to flicker. It was time.


All Creatures of Our God And King XXX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Further news from Orlando indicates that the Orlando shooter had issues with his own sexuality, possibly. So far no sexual partners have come forward other than his wives. After listening to the confusing, bizarre interviews with the shooter’s father, it’s not that much of a leap to presume that the son would prefer for his dad to remember him as a jihadist than a homosexual. It also looks like there’s going to be a chronology of times when someone should have intervened and gotten the shooter help, but didn’t.

Speaking of chronology brings us back to the telling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is day six of Summer Revival 2010, and Elder Cheatum is rocking on the front porch of the rectory. His peaceful revelry is broken by the front door opening and the committee pushing through on their way to the lunch setup at the picnic tables next to Tent number one. Today’s menu included pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, German potato salad and Brunswick stew. All of Hap’s crew was in attendance, and they looked none the worse for the wear. Elder Cheatum noticed that once again, Ms.Lite was sitting with Reverend Bread.

As Reverend Daniel said the blessing for the meal, Elder Cheatum noticed Reverend Bread place his hand over Ms. Lite’s. A subtle gesture, and then it was gone. The Elder wondered if the young people really did think that everyone closed their eyes for prayer when told to do so by the minister. No matter, everything associated with the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone would be leaving soon, and this week would be just a memory of mixed blessings.

It appeared that Hap’s crew didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, or were at least trying to eat ahead as much as possible. The whole crew had seconds, and the security guards looked like they were waiting for the Ladies Auxillary to ask the guards if they wanted  them to lick the bowls. The Ladies didn’t ask, and finally Hap’s crew wandered back to the tour bus. Ms. Leer went with them.

As she walked away, Reverend Bread walked over to the table commandeered by the selection committee. He was wearing a red and black T-shirt with “Go Dawgs” printed in bold letters on the front. “Ya’ll ain’t changed your mind have you?” He asked the committee shining his toothiest grin.

“No, but we can see that you have.” Elder Wiley said, “My compliments to your haberdasher.” “You like very stylish, and in keeping with the social norms of the area.”

“Uh, yeah, it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.” The young Reverend grinned again. “I kind of need to know the game plan.” “My wife’s coming up today with my children.” “She’s so happy to be coming back to the mountains she can’t stand it.” “We’ll need to know all of the particulars.” Reverend Bread looked around at the members of the committee and smiled his biggest grin. “I guess I’m jumping ahead, we’re both just so excited about the opportunity.” “It is just a Godsend, or a Mitzvah as our Jewish brothers would say.” 

Elder Wiley had decided his role with the new preacher would be that of “bad cop”. He looked at the young Reverend and said,”We don’t need any omnism here young man.” “We are a Pentecostal church that has endured the threat of capital punishment to be able to practice what we know is the true word of God.” “If you see any grey area there, or have any ideas that the Jews, or the Catholics, Muslims or whatever have got a better path to the pearly gates, then I think you better climb aboard their bus.” “What we require here in our little community is a man firm in his belief that the teachings of the Hawker family will be carried on in this church as long as there is one of us still on this mortal plane.” “Are we understanding one another?” Elder Wiley looked at the young Reverend with a look of cold rolled steel. 

Rather than being flustered, as any young man would be when set upon by the blistering attack of the Elder, the young Reverend just shined his bright grin on the group again and answered. “Oh no sir,  I’ll be the conduit for delivering the Hawker message for as long as you’ll have me.” “I do recognize the historical significance of this church and your teachings, and I’m honored to be a part of it.” The young Reverend caught his breath and continued, “And that’s the last Jewish word out of me, I won’t even preach about Passover, if you don’t want me to.”

The group eyed the young Reverend coldly before Reverend Daniel chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you can preach about Passover as long as it gets the Jews back into Israel in time for Jesus to be born.” At this point he gave a hearty laugh and the group invited Reverend Bread to join them at the table. After a few minutes, Elder Cheatum excused himself and headed across the parking lot to Hap Johnstone’s tour bus. Hap’s crew was busy repacking the brick-a-brack and T-shirts back into their original boxes. The awning was folded and placed with the unsold merchandise in the little trailer towed by the tour bus.The crew appeared to be minutes from departure.

Elder Cheatum knocked on the bus door and was greeted by Crystal Leer.

“I just wanted to say goodbye and wish you luck.” the Elder said, “You’ve handled yourself admirably under very trying circumstances.” The Elder stuck out his hand the secretary/assistant shook it warmly.

“Let’s don’t say goodbye, Elder, you just never know when our paths might cross again.”, Ms Leer smiled demurely. “Like I said, a person could find a lot worse places to live than Nunsuch.”

“Oh, do you plan on staying in our area?”, the Elder asked.

“Well, at least until I see what’s happening with Hap.” Crystal replied, “I don’t feel like I can leave him until either his family shows up, or somebody is appointed to handle his finances.” “It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.” “If his hospital stay is a long one like the Doctors are predicting, it’s going to take a lot of money.”

Crystal pressed on. “Hap doesn’t have health insurance, which I guess you figured.” “It’d look pretty funny for a faith healer to have major medical, wouldn’t it?” Crystal’s voice lowers to a conspiratorial level as she reveals, “Hap’s got money in local banks all over the country.” “He doesn’t trust the big banks, so whenever he’d play a place he’d find a local savings and loan or credit union and join.” “I’m not sure even I could give an accurate accounting, and I’ve got the list.” “We’re going to need to figure all of that out before I head on to my next adventure.” “Did I say ‘we’, I guess I meant ‘I’, I need to figure all of that out.”

Ms. Leer held out her hand again and said, “So let’s just say, ‘see you later’ and ‘later’ can be left open.” “I do appreciate your kindness.”

They shook hands again and the Elder walked back to the front porch of the rectory. When he arrived, two of the three rocking chairs were already filled with sleeping Elders, so Elder Cheatum took his place in the third. I reckon Reverend Daniel’s taking his nap in his bedroom the Elder thought. His old bedroom, I should say. As the Elder was slipping into twilight sleep the roar of the tour bus and the accompanying caravan roared out of the parking lot headed for Blairsville. Elder Cheatum stirred just enough to record the event in his brain, and then slipped off to sleep. It was a deep peaceful sleep.