All Creatures of Our God And King XCVII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Sadly, I can imagine the horror of a Trump presidency. I can only surmise that all of the talking heads, the news analysts, can not. Maybe they feel that their limos will still pick them up and deliver them to their penthouses regardless of who is President. Maybe they don’t see the danger behind the racist, xenophobic, misogynist becoming the most important man in the world. I liken the media’s obliviousness to Marie Antoinette and her response to being told that the people didn’t have bread. “Let them eat cake”, she is quoted to having said. If the media don’t stop trying to make the election into a horse race for their ratings, then we will all reap the whirlwind for their lack of holding Trump and his minions to account. Walter Cronkite must be spinning in his grave, along with all of the other true reporters.

Speaking of holding others to account brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. At the insistence of his wife Mulva, Bud Lite headed in to Blairsville to attend the services at the Crystal Palace. It was Pentecostal Sunday and Mulva wanted Bud by her side this Sunday. As Bud circled the area looking for a parking spot he reflected on the legend of the Pentecost and how it held deep meaning for the Evangelical faith.

Pentecost refers to the occasion of the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and the other early Christians, after Jesus had ascended into Heaven. It was a very big deal to the attendees of the Little Church in the Valley. The followers knew that visitation by the Holy Spirit was not limited to just one day of the year. The Spirit could visit at any time or hour, and most members thought the Spirit was just waiting inside the church for the congregation to return from one time to the next. To some members, Pentecostal Sunday was like celebrating a wedding anniversary. The first anniversary was special, but thereafter you were just going through the motions. Fortunately for the Evangelical movement, the majority of the followers did not feel this way.

Bud found a spot about four blocks away from the church and had to do his version of a sprint to get to the church on time. Bud reached the steps of the church just as the bells pealed their call to the faithful. Bud’s heart was still racing when he slid in next to Mulva in the third row. Bud heard the overhead camera glide into place as the choir opened up with “Faith of Our Fathers”. The Reverend Helena Handbasket materialized on the stage and then wandered over to the corner of the stage. Reverend Helena was dressed in a blood red robe with her customary white sash with gold trim. Her fiery red hair looked more bouffant than usual. Bud assumed the Channel 99 techs had given her a personal microphone to use, because the sound filling the auditorium was just perfect, even though she wasn’t standing behind the pulpit. There was no evidence of a boom mike overhead, so Bud reckoned Reverend Helena was wired up like a rock star.

Reverend Handbasket started her sermon talking about the Pentecost, describing the early days of Christianity. She spoke in a rather matter of fact voice, like she was giving a Sunday School lesson to a group of grammar school children. She described how the Apostles were at a loss for what to do next after Jesus had ascended. The Apostles were reflecting on their next moves when the Spirit came upon then. Reverend Helena quoted Acts 2:1-6, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.” Obviously these were the core beliefs of an Evangelical congregation. The Reverend was “preaching to the choir”, as the saying goes.

Just in case the viewers were not convinced by her words, Reverend Helena had arranged a visual aid to help the faithful. There appeared to be a reflecting substance embedded in the Reverend’s hair that gave off the appearance of a flame when struck by whatever light the stage crew was using. The effect was overwhelming in person, Bud could only imagine how it looked on TV.

As Bud watched the Pentecostal flame burning over the Reverend’s head, he thought to himself, “I watch a lot of Sci-Fi and I don’t think I’ve seen that technique used before”. “I’ll have to Google magic tricks when I get a chance”.

Pentecost is one of the times communion is served at The Full Gospel Original Church of God. When Reverend Helena finished her sermon, she made the call to share communion and moved to her spot in front of the altar. The altar had been pre-staged by the Elders with the “wine” and the “flesh”. As the Elders moved the trays with shot glasses of grape juice to the congregation, the choir sang, “Are You Washed In The Blood”. After the “wine” had been circulated by the Elders throughout the congregation, the acolytes left their pews. They formed a line that went out the doors of both aisles with acolytes lining up to receive the “body of Christ”.

As Bud surveyed the lines he thought, “You’d think the church was giving away free double quarter-pounders with cheese, not an oyster cracker”.

The communion took the place of the usual altar call and testament of faith. Any evaluation of Reverend Helena “upping her game” based on the rumors of the serpent prodigy Devin, could not be conducted. Reverend Handbasket did seem to be spot on with the rest of the service, and she got through communion efficiently. At the end of the service the choir sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, and Reverend Helena pronounced the benediction. Rather than slipping out ahead of everyone else, Bud stayed behind.

“This is the week I’m finding out how she does it”, Bud said to himself as he walked backstage with Mulva. While Bud was interested in seeing where his wife spent so many hours of her week, he was more interested in seeing how Reverend Helena materialized on stage. When he saw the trap door outline in the stage, he understood. He immediately felt a calming effect.

Crazy, I felt like I was about to burst”, Bud thought after solving the puzzle, “I’m sure I wasn’t filled with the Spirit, but I sure was filled with something”. “Must have been curiosity”.

Bud followed Mulva back to the office and bounced from one foot to the other until being released by his wife. Bud did manage a “good sermon” to Reverend Helena who had already changed into her street clothes. Bud’s offer of all the pancakes she could eat was met with a polite refusal by the Reverend. Satisfied he had done all that was sociably required of him, Bud left the grounds at a good clip headed for IHOP.


All Creatures of Our God And King XCVI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. All that is good and right with the planet has now returned. Yes, I’m taking about the return of the college football season. Months of specious speculation, prognostication and wishful thinking will be overcome by the reality of what is. Even if the current temperatures belie our return to the fall season, our hearts spring forth with the joy that comes from the memories of falls past. Will this be the year our champions return once again to their rightful status as national champions? Stayed tuned, the results will come all too fast. My team is off to a good start.

Speaking of champions of the past brings us back to our retelling of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Elder Cheatum returned to the Little Church in the Valley that Sunday to be the eyes and ears for the leadership committee with regards to the goings on with young Devin Bread. The reports that had come back to the Elders were shocking on their surface. If true, the Elders would need to find a way to manage little Devin. Elder Cheatum was determined to see if the witnesses accounts were a one time fluke, or if something was going on that was straight out of the Old Testament. Elder Cheatum was recalling Isiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”

Based on all accounts, there was no doubt that a little child had tamed one of God’s more anti-social beasts.

“Was it a fluke, a miracle, or the work of a desperate Dad using his son to keep his job”, questioned Elder Cheatum to himself. “For my money, it is a combination of Reverend Dale and the Devil”, Elder Cheatum thought as he slid into the last row.

“I think the Reverend Dale has provided the opportunity for the child to perform a bit of devilment”, the Elder thought as he surveyed the congregation, “The devilment may have a lofty goal, keeping his daddy’s job, but, the subterfuge still runs counter to the high standards of the Evangelical movement”.

As the gathering hymn played, Elder Cheatum continued to build his argument in his mind that the Bread’s were up to no good.

Speaking in tongues and the laying of hands to heal might be easy to fake, and therefore easily used to take advantage of an unsuspecting congregation”, reasoned the Elder, “but the handling of snakes is not something one can fake, even if one is a fakir”.

“While the Devil has a long history of using snakes to do his bidding, I reject the notion that there is something more sinister here”, the Elder concluded, “Helping an eight year old to keep a few serpents under control would be ‘child’s play’ for the Prince of Darkness; I’m thinking that the only Devil at play here is Reverend Dale”.

The service was as normal as normal could be. The sermon was entitled, “The Importance of Pentecost”, and most of the followers had heard it many times before. The sermon was so well known that Elder Cheatum thought he heard Bubba Hawker’s bass voice mimicking the sermon from his place in the choir. Bubba Hawker’s attempt to rise to power was another problem that needed to be dealt with, but not today. Elder Cheatum was becoming convinced that his return to the Little Church was a waste of time when the sermon changed course.

With about ten minutes left in the sermon, Reverend Dale was struck dumb, in mid-sentence. The Reverend’s mouth was open but no sounds were coming out. The silence lasted for about twenty seconds when it was broken by the high piping voice of Devin Bread. Little Devin picked up the sermon at the exact spot that his Daddy had left off. Devin continued the sermon in his loudest voice as he made his way to the pulpit. Being too small to stand behind the pulpit, Devin stood next to his Dad and delivered the rest of the sermon, word for word, to the awestruck congregation.

The Evangelical congregation had been witness to some mighty strange and unusual events over the years, but Elder Cheatum could not recall ever having a circumstance like this before. When little Devin Bread picked up the sermon from his Dad, the entire congregation’s jaws fell slack, as if one. Elder Cheatum speculated that there must be others in the congregation, besides himself, that wondered if it was a staged event. The Elder was equally sure that there were those in attendance who believed they were watching the Second Coming. To their credit, the Breads, father and son, played the event as coolly and calmly as two seasoned Broadway performers.

At the end of the sermon, little Devin made the altar call and headed down to the floor of the auditorium in front of the pulpit. Bubba Hawker seemed to have regained his senses, or maybe it was just an involuntary response like breathing. Either way, his deep bass voice boomed out, “Love Lifted Me”, and the rafters of the church shook with the reverberations of his voice. Maybe Bubba hadn’t ciphered yet that there now appeared to be another Bread between him and his rightful inheritance, his legacy. Bubba’s call to preach where his father, grandfather and great grandfather had preached was now being blocked by an eight-year-old. Not to mention Devin’s daddy, if Reverend Dale ever regained his senses.

Little Devin did his dance of exultation with as much grace and style as one could ever imagine an eight-year-old to possess. The spirit filled dance included moves from early Michael Jackson and the character ReRun from the TV show “That’s My Momma”. The dance moves were a direct result of Bud Lite adding the Nickelodeon package to TackyToo‘s cable package. In a move designed to keep the children in the trailer park from monopolizing the big screen in the Rec room, Bud paid five dollars a month so the kids could watch wholesome shows in their own trailer. Now the congregation was watching the law of unintended consequences bust a move in front of the largely septugenarian audience.

While many in the audience felt compelled to move forward, Elder Cheatum held back. Standing with a good line of sight to the altar, the Elder could watch for any trickery. He found none. Little Devin reached into the box and went for the timber rattler first thing. Seemingly oblivious to the danger, Devin pulled out the six foot timber rattler. As Devin held the snake aloft, the audience could see that the serpent was a good bit taller than the child. No mind, Devin wrapped the snake around his neck, then he tied it in a knot around his waist like a belt. Next Devin grabbed the snake by the tail and whipped it around on the floor like he was stirring sugar into his ice tea.

At this point Elder Cheatum started thinking “ringer”. Elder Cheatum assumed that the Breads had substituted the real rattler with a very real looking rubber substitute. If it was not a substitute then the snake had been loaded up on sleeping pills. About the time that Elder Cheatum was ready to slip out and report to the other Elders that there was chicanery afoot at the “Little Church In the Valley”, one of the Elders in training reached for the snake. Waldo Inacrowd, lifelong church member and owner of the travel agency “On The Road Again”, should credit his lifetime of clean living with giving him the quick reactions that avoided a tragedy. The timber rattler took a lightning like snap at Elder Inacrowd’s face as Elder Inacrowd tried to relieve Little Devin from the serpent. The snake opened his mouth so wide Elder Cheatum could see his venom sacs from his spot in the last row.

“Well, we’ve certainly answered the question about whether the rattler is a ringer or not to my satisfaction”, thought Elder Cheatum, “There are a ton of other unanswered questions, but I know I’m not going to get to the bottom of them today”.

The Elder decided to slip away before the scene in front of the altar devolved into something out of the movie, “The Wicker Man”. He glanced back over his shoulder as he went out of the door and saw that the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread had not moved an inch from his spot behind the pulpit.

“If he is truly catatonic, somebody will call the EMT’s, I guess”, Elder Cheatum thought, “Of course, at this point, I’d say all the Reverend Dale needs is for little Devin to lay hands on him.”


All Creatures of Our God And King XCV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I’m imagining an America with a taco stand on every corner. According to the Trump Latino specialist, Tio Tomas, that’s what we’ll have if we don’t build a thirty foot impenetrable wall guarding us good God-fearing white folks from our neighbors to the South. One can only speculate what the Canadians might do in response. The Donald’s dystopian future might include stands selling thick bacon and Molson beer right next to the Taco stands. On a related note, a taco stand on every corner in America is speculated to raise employment by nine and a half million people, so there is that. 

Speaking of employment brings us back again to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday following the “miracle in the valley”, the Elders met for their unofficial meeting of the board at the IHOP in Blairsville. Instead of being named Wiley, Diggum and Cheatum, the Elders could have substituted Confused, Concerned and Cautious. Elder Wiley broke the ice.

“What in the name of Sarah’s hatband is going on in Nunsuch”, Elder Wiley asked his two friends. “People are swearing that Reverend Dale’s eldest took over the testament of faith”.

“And then Bubba Hawker decided to go all Indian snake charmer and risk his life kissing a rattler”, added Elder Diggum as he reached for the butter.

“That sums up what I was told”, replied Elder Cheatum, “and I don’t know what to think.”

He waited for the waitress to leave before continuing, “I think one of us is going to have to monitor the situation in the valley until Reverend Dale is gone.”

Elder Cheatum waited a few seconds and then said, “Okay, I volunteer.”

“Look”, Elder Cheatum said as he placed a napkin between his cup and saucer, “we don’t know what conclusions, if any, we can draw from the events.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “Was the child Spirit Filled, put up to it by his Daddy, or just acting out, we just don’t know”.

“Was Bubba Spirit Filled, feeling the ghost of his Daddy, or just jealous on some level that he’s not the pastor”, added Elder Wiley, “we just don’t know”.

“Well, we do know we’ve got a gold mine in Reverend Helena”, answered Elder Cheatum, “and perhaps a little nugget in Reverend Dale’s kid.” “Who know where this might lead.”

“Well as long as all roads lead to the Tres Amigos Retirement Village in Belize”, said Elder Diggum, “I’m on board.”

The Elders spent the rest of their breakfast lost in their own imaginations of life on a beach in Belize. As they prepared to depart from the parking lot of the only eatery in Blairsville with International in its name, Elder Wiley looked at Elder Cheatum and said. “I guess we won’t see you in church”.

“You will tonight, but not Sunday”, Elder Cheatum, “So, see you later.”

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting was as normal as vanilla ice cream. Even though the followers continued to cast quick glances in his direction, little Devin Bread sat like a statue in his pew. When the service was concluded the board members, plus one, met in the office at the back of the church.

Elder Cheatum broke the silence, “I’ve questioned quite a few folks so far, and to my amazement, they all seem to agree on what they saw this past Sunday.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “Sometimes we hear two completely different things in what we’re being told.” “I like to be clear on what the message actually means before I use it to actually take action on the item.” “I hate to get a new course charted and then find out that I’m headed off completely in the wrong direction.”

The Elder paused for effect before continuing.

“To her credit, Reverend Helena is pretty straight forward with what she’s trying to get across.” “There’s not a lot of mumbo-jumbo involving the Protestant Reformation, or scripture that no one can decipher”, the Elder said as cleaned his nails with a pen knife.

“Let’s all be honest, there’s a lot of scripture that can be interpreted in a hundred different ways”, Elder Cheatum said looking around the table, “Preachers do it all of the time”.

The Elder smiled at the group and said, “I just don’t want to give up pork rinds thinking it’s going to lead to my salvation, and then find out that I had misinterpreted the intent of Leviticus 11:7-8 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”

The group emitted a light laugh acknowledging the Elder’s attempt at humor.

“So the question before us is, as I see it, is the child Devin truly touched by the Holy Spirit, or is this an attempt to keep Reverend Dale’s job?”

Elder Cheatum looked at the secretary/treasurer, “Mulva, what are your thoughts?” 

Mulva arranged the papers in her hands before answering, “I tend to think that the child was taken over by the Spirit.” “I talked to Alva about it, just mother to mother, and she seemed scared to death by what happened”. “Alva says Devin won’t talk about it, not even to Reverend Dale”.

“And what does Reverend Dale think”, asked Elder Cheatum.

“He’s as surprised as everybody”, Mulva replied, “He doesn’t know whether to discourage Devin or not, since it might all be divine inspired.”

Elder Cheatum glanced at his watch, “Okay, we’ve spent enough time on this topic”. “Let me just wrap up by saying I’ll be attending services here this Sunday.” “If there’s another ‘miracle’, I want to witness it.” “Now, let’s get on with regular business.”

Elder Diggum reported that the work establishing their own cable network show was progressing rapidly. If things fell into place, The Full Gospel Original Church of God might be able to broadcast Summer Revival 2016 on their own channel.

Mulva reported that the cash was still pouring in to the point that the church had had to open two new bank accounts to ensure coverage of their deposits by the FDIC.

At this point, Elder Wiley interrupted his doodling to point out that he was reviewing the prospectus of several startups that the church should consider investing in.

Mulva caught herself before speaking. From Elder Wiley’s words she could tell that her dream of Day Care centers for the working poor of the area would never materialize. Mulva glanced sideways at Reverend Helena to see if the Reverend had picked up on Elder Wiley’s  words. Reverend Helena glanced quickly at Mulva letting her know that she had received the message loud and clear.

Elder Cheatum rose from his chair signifying the end of the meeting. The group walked to the parking lot together, to return to their very separate lives.


All Creatures of Our God And King XCIV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. As storms rage off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, another storm is building in the state of California. California released a convicted rapist today after serving a whopping three months in jail. Now, to be fair, there were extenuating circumstances. The convicted rapist was white, highly educated and able to afford attending a prestigious university. The convicted rapist was also able to afford the best attorneys, and had at least one parent that could rationalize abhorrent behavior. Most importantly, the convicted rapist was adjudicated by a judge who apparently cared far less for the victim than the perpetrator. Maybe the judge identified more with the male than the female, who knows?

Speaking of of making judgements brings us back around to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Bud had just returned to TackyToo when he got a call on his cell phone. Bud saw the word “Hurricane” on the caller ID, and assumed it might be a severe weather report. Thinking that it was one of the many weather reporting agencies in Georgia, he answered the call.

Bud was very appreciative of the fact that his local weather service would call when a tornado was advancing on his house. In truth, the weather service made calls for all sorts of bad weather, not just tornadoes. Bud usually ignored them. This message was entitled “Hurricane”, so he was intrigued enough to answer. As it turned, out the call was from the “Hurricane Ministries”. It was Bud’s first ever “robo call for Jesus”. Bud speculated that the ministry recognized the power of the word “Hurricane” and that most people would pick up their calls because the word “Hurricane” took up most of the screen on caller ID.

“Well, I know for sure if I had seen the word ‘Ministry'”, Bud thought, “I would have never picked up”. “I’ve got all I can handle right now with our little band of Evangelicals without taking on a new drain of time, energy, and finances”.

In spite of the fact that the Hurricane Ministries promised to teach Bud the path to Salvation in under a minute and a half, and they promised not to ask for any money, Bud pressed “2” to be added to their “do not call list”. Bud was always interested in new marketing techniques and he resolved to keep an eye on the Ministry’s Facebook page to see how they fared.

“It certainly changes the dynamic if you can sell salvation over a phone line and not have any of the usual overhead to deal with”, Bud thought as he carried the last of last night’s bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken to the Rec room office.

“Some things are just as good cold”, Bud thought as he settled himself into the Barcalounger to catch the DVR’d service from the Crystal Palace, “and fried chicken is one of them.” 

The big screen TV showed the intro to the telecast and then switched into the interior of the church. As the choir began to sing “Faith of Our Fathers”, Reverend Helena once again appeared like she was materializing on the stage. For the one thousandth time, Bud decided he needed to sneak into Blairsville one day next week and inspect the pulpit area of the church a little closer.

“There’s got to be a trap door there somewhere that allows the Reverend her magical entrance”, Bud thought as he scraped the bottom of the barrel for the crunchy tidbits of chicken left there, ” I’ll sleep better at night knowing I’ve solved the mystery of her manifestation”. “There’s already way too many logic traps being set up here in our little portion of the hills”.

As always, the Reverend was resplendent in her robe and fiery red hair. Her robe was a patch work of many colors that seemed to catch the TV lights and reflect them directly back into the camera. There appeared to be about six dominant colors in the robe, but there could have been more. The robe was very distinctive, and as it turned out, part of a theme.

Today’s sermon was entitled, “Sold Into Egypt”. The Reverend took the story of Daniel and his brothers as the main topic, and expanded it to give a more current feel. Reverend Helena likened the “99%, the poor and middle class”, to Daniel being sold into slavery by his brothers. The “1%, the greedy, jealous brothers”, were abusing their power and privilege to take advantage of their brothers. The Reverend questioned the 1%’s right to “stack their silver higher and higher” while their brothers were homeless.

In yet another break of religious decorum, Reverend Handbasket used a quote from somewhere other than the Bible to drive home her point. Reverend Helena quoted Andrew Carnegie, who said, The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” The Reverend set up the quote by telling the congregation that Carnegie was the richest man of his time. Carnegie had no problem with being prosperous and accumulating riches, he just felt that you shouldn’t try to “take it with you”. The Reverend pointed out that America has the finest public library system in the world because of Carnegie’s belief in helping out his fellow man.

Reverend Helena closed the sermon out with Matthew 19:24, Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The last quote from the scriptures was just in case someone had not gotten the point.

Bud paused the DVR for a few seconds for a bathroom break and to reflect on what he had just heard. “One of her better sermons”, Bud thought when he plopped himself back into his easy chair, “I wonder how it’s going to play to the 1%”.

The altar call and testament of faith were quite tame in comparison to what Bud had witnessed at the “Little Church in the Valley”. Bud wondered if Reverend Helena would feel any pressure to “up her game” based on the goings on at the Little Church. He was sure the pressure would be there, he just wasn’t sure how Reverend Helena could compete with a child, or a snake savant.

Bud decided to not discuss the events of the day with Mulva until after supper. He made himself scarce by watching NFL games he had no interest in until Mulva called him home. After a fine meal of crock pot slow cook chili and cornbread, Bud related the “miracle in the valley”. He could tell from the look of amazement on Mulva’s face that she was going to have to get independent confirmation of his report. While Mulva didn’t accuse Bud of a heresy as damning as backsliding, her eyebrows were raised to the point of almost leaving her face. Bud was convinced that Mulva was going to spend the evening making calls to see how much Bud had embellished the story. He looked forward to being vindicated.



All Creatures of Our God And King XCIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. So much controversy, in so many places, that it’s hard to focus on the fact that a certifiable sociopath is actually considered to be a viable candidate by about a third of the electorate. One of the controversies is football related, so I’ll “tackle” it first. Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the Forty-niners, refused to stand during the national anthem in protest to the police state we find ourselves in. Many, myself included, support the protest. Others are calling for his head; and at least, his job. Of course those with the guillotine are the same ones who support the parents of American children being deported, all Muslims being on a blacklist, and black people returning back to the days when they were “well fed and cared for”. Colin Kaepernick should continue standing up for his rights by sitting down, in my opinion. We need more like him.

Speaking of standing up for our rights brings back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Over the years, Bud had seen some pretty wild things go on at the altar call and testament of faith. He’d seen people so dispossessed of themselves that they ripped off all of their clothes. He’d seen people so “spirit filled” that they went into a catatonic state for hours and lay stiff as a board on the church floor.

Bud had seen people speak in “Tongues” and even seen people “heal” one another by the laying of hands. In all of his years and the hundreds of services, Bud had never seen an eight year old swing a six foot timber rattler by his tail like he was trying to throw a lasso. Not until this Sunday. The fact that Devin, son of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread, was able to place the rattler back into the box without incident should go down as one of the miracles of our time.

Bud’s skin felt like it was on fire. “It’s a miracle”, he thought, “and I don’t use the word miracle lightly”. In fact Bud was probably more judicious of his use of the word “miracle” than the Catholic church was when they were proposing someone for sainthood. Bud had just happened to witness something that seemed physically impossible to what he considered was a very logical mind.

“If they didn’t pump that rattler full of sedatives before the testament of faith”, Bud thought, “then that is one very wrought up rattler in the box right now”.

Bud couldn’t imagine anyone being foolish enough to tempt fate by bringing out the rattler for a second performance. To Bud’s amazement, there was one person in the congregation that was immune to logic and common sense. Bubba Hawker’s immediate reaction to the display by little Devin shocked one and all. In retrospect, Bud could only imagine that Bubba felt compelled to act as he did because of the recognition that little Devin’s performance had stunned the congregation. Bud surmised that on some level, Bubba felt that the congregation had been given another reason for not jettisoning the Reverend Dale.

To the surprise of all, Bubba flew from his perch in the choir to the box housing the timber rattler in front of the altar. Without giving it a second thought, or perhaps the first thought, Bubba reached in and pulled the rattler out of his hideaway. Holding the snake behind its head in his right hand, Bubba carried the snake aloft while Bubba did his version of the “Tap Dance for Jesus”. As Bud watched in complete fascination, he had to admit, Bubba had moves.

If there was any cognitive thought involved, Bubba must have recognized that this was no ordinary dance off. After a couple of minutes of spinning and stomping, Bubba stomped loudly several times to get the congregation’s full attention. It was an unnecessary move as there was no doubt about who held the floor. In a move only witnessed in documentaries and the pages of National Geographic, Bubba channeled the spirit of one of those demented snake handlers in India. Bubba brought the snake around in front of him, and then kissed the snake full on the lips.

When Bud returned to reality, he joked to himself to relieve the tension. “It might be sacrilegious to ask if there was any tongue”, Bud thought, “but if so, I think it was just the rattler”.

After the display, Bubba was shaking like a dog trying to pass a peach pit. The sweat was pouring off of him like a ditch digger in the Amazon. He passed the snake up around his head one more time as if to say, “see, look what I can do”, and then put the snake back in his box. From his years of exposure to the ophidian species, Bud was convinced he didn’t want to be the next guy to open that box.

Apparently, Reverend Dale had also figured that discretion was the better part of valor. The Right Reverend did a cute little trick with a copperhead in one hand and a water moccasin in the other, but didn’t go near the rattler box. Bud reflected that Reverend Dale must have figured the “Little Church in the Valley” had run through its allotment of miracles for the day.

As Bud watched the followers flood the area in front of the Altar, he tried to project what the implications of today’s “miracle service” might have on the Elder’s decision to fire Reverend Dale. As Bud looked around, he realized that he was the only one left in the pews, even arthritic Hugh Morris had made his way to the front.

“Will the Elders be able to support the decision to release someone that clearly has the faith of the congregation?”, Bud thought, “and what do they do about the ‘miracle in the valley’?”

As exploitative as the Elders had been with Reverend Helena, Bud couldn’t wait to see their reaction regarding little Devin. If somebody hadn’t dosed the rattlesnake with gasoline to make him drunk, then Bud had been present for an event that would be told for generations.

“The fact that no one had to go to the emergency room bolsters the convictions of the faithful”, Bud thought as he headed out the door, “And it sure plants a seed of doubt in us infidels”.