All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXVII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all.The news has brought us the sad tidings that over 250 people are confirmed dead in the Italy earthquakes. It is that horrible time when the mission goes from “rescue” to “recovery”. There is hope that more people will be rescued, but the clock is ticking against them. The body can only go a few days without water, and that time limit is rapidly approaching.

Speaking of things that one cannot live without brings us to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The church leadership committee met promptly after Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night. Mulva and Reverend Helena seemed to be speaking in conspiratorial tones when the Elders entered the office. They quickly hushed their conversation as the Elders entered.

“Okay, show of hands, who all knew that Reverend Dale was working at Walmart”, asked Elder Cheatum as he sat down. All committee members raised their hands.

“Okay”, the Elder said as he looked at Mulva, “why didn’t anybody think it was important enough to tell me?”

Mulva looked down at her paperwork as she responded, “because it didn’t seem like a big deal”. “It’s a short time thing until he can get caught up with his bills and get a little put back for the new baby.”

The secretary/ treasurer looked up to see that Elder Cheatum was fuming.

“We took away his health insurance when we fired him”, continued Mulva, “what’s he supposed to do?” “I asked Elder Wiley if we should start taking care of his coverage again, but he said to wait and see what happened.” “I guess Reverend Dale just got tired of waiting to see what would happen, and he went an got a job, just like a man’s supposed to do.”

The secretary/treasurer was emboldened by her own words, “It’s not like we don’t have five hundred dollars a month to make sure that those children have adequate medical care”. “If we can’t do for our own, who can we do for?”

The room was deadly silent. Finally Elder Cheatum spoke in a much less aggressive tone.

“I guess you’re right”, he said, “tell Reverend Dale that we are reinstating his family’s health care immediately and that the church will handle any expenses he has until he’s reinstated.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “Also tell him that he will receive ten percent of his collections each week if he quits his Walmart job immediately.” “That should take care of them adequately with the housing allowance we’ve been providing.”

Mulva looked Elder Cheatum square in the eye as she said, “I’ll tell him, I’m sure they will all be relieved.”

“Good”, replied Elder Cheatum, “and one more thing, there are to be no secrets in this group.” “If anyone knows anything that can reflect poorly on this ministry, the whole committee is to know about it immediately.” “Are we understood?”

Mulva met the Elder’s gaze again and said , “Yes”.

“Good”, responded Elder Cheatum as he rose from his chair. “Alvin”, he said as he looked at Elder Wiley, “I’ve got somewhere else to be, will you bring me a copy of the financials tomorrow?”

Before Elder Wiley could answer, Elder Cheatum was gone. The remaining members continued the meeting to its completion although their souls weren’t in it. The confrontation had cast an overall pall on the group. The “Goodnights” and “See you in church” were halfhearted as the group left for their homes.

Mulva decided to attend services at the Little Church in the Valley that Sunday. She hoped to restore her soul with the years of positive memories that she felt every time she took her place in the third row from the altar. It was as if the wood of the pew could transmit feelings directly to her cerebral cortex, assuring her that she was at the right place, doing the right thing.

Just as Mulva was feeling her faith being restored, pandemonium broke out in the center aisle of the sanctuary. The conflict arose when Ms. Anita Goodman was sliding into her pew behind Alva Bread and her brood. As Ms. Goodman slid into the pew, Alva Bread turned to acknowledge another believer, and then noticed that Ms. Goodman was wearing the exact same pin that Reverend Dale had gifted her the day before.

The two women noticed the similarity about the same time and flew into each other. In fairness, it was more Alva Bread flying into Anita Goodman, but, Anita Goodman did give a good accounting of herself. While Ms. Goodman did a fine job of defending herself,  she was outnumbered five or six to one. Before Mulva could get to the combatants, some of the Bread’s older children had joined in the fray. Devin, the eldest Bread, was doing the most damage with a hymnal he had picked up. Eventually both adversaries were retired to their respective corners, or pews, and the service got under way.

Mulva returned to her pew more confused about her role and mission than ever before. It was like no matter how she tried to set right the cart of Reverend Dale and his family, fate, or something seemed determined to turn it over again. As she pondered the meaning of the most recent events, she was astounded at the title of Reverend Dale’s sermon; “As You Reap, So Shall You Sow”.

The actual quote was from Galatians, 6:7, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” As a firm believer in signs, Mulva, was convinced that the great beyond was sending messages to the Little Church in the Valley, and that God was no longer using shorthand to deliver the message. The reality that the sermon had probably been set at least a week ago was not lost on Mulva. The fact that the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread was not prepared to change his sermon on a moment’s notice did not challenge Mulva’s belief that the “Lord was working in mysterious ways”.

As Mulva watched the Testament of Faith and the altar call, she wondered how a man who could be so close to the holy spirit be so unable to control his baser desires. It was a mystery that she knew she would never solve. As Mulva went to the office to do her count, she debated whether to give the Reverend Dale the good news about the stipend. Mulva realized today’s confrontation would likely resolve in Reverend Dale being fired again. She remembered her Daddy joking about giving a man a raise so that he could “fire him from a better job”. As she place the items in the bank deposit bag she determined to wait until later before talking to Reverend Dale. “To let sleeping dogs lie, you need to let them go to sleep first”, Mulva thought. She drove to TackyToo with a heavy heart.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXVI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. The pictures coming from Italy are heart wrenching. What would be a mild earthquake by California standards has leveled a city in central Italy. The city suffered a smaller earthquake a few years ago and was supposedly rebuilt to current earthquake proof standards. I am assuming there will be an investigation launched and criminal charges leveled at some point. Or maybe not. Anyway, I can now cross off another spot listed as a top ten spot to retire. Waking up with my penthouse apartment in the basement does not seem like a viable plan, even if the prices have never been better.

Speaking of viable plans brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Elders had just settled into their corner booth for their weekly unofficial meeting of the church leadership committee when they were joined by Bubba Hawker. As the Elders tried to think of a polite way to extricate themselves from the situation, they each reflected on Bubba’s history.

“Contrary to Evangelical belief, sparing the rod just might be the best parenting”, thought Elder Wiley, “Especially if the rod is going to be used against the child’s head”.

Bubba had his best chance for a normal life when DFCS came out to have a look at his living conditions. Bubba had been eight or so. In spite of all of the signs of physical abuse, it would have been very difficult for the DFCS agent to remove Bubba from his home. Bubba was the son of a well respected preacher in a small community where everyone knew everything about each other. More importantly, no one told anything about a member of the community to an outsider. No one was willing to collaborate any stories about Bubba’s living conditions. The grammar school teacher that had called DFCS to investigate the issue was gone the next year. Everyone learned a lesson from the experience, and everyone went on minding their own business.

Bubba had learned to endure his lot with a grin on his face, much like he was displaying to the Elders as he sat across the table from them at the IHOP.

“How he manages to keep his pancakes in his mouth while grinning in his toothless countenance is a mystery”, thought Elder Cheatum, “I guess his table manners were taught to him with as strict a dictum as his Bible verses”.

It is a pastor’s fate to break bread with as many members of his congregation as he can. Spewing food while asking the faithful to dig “just a little deeper” each Sunday would not have a positive result when the collection plate was passed. As a result, Bubba’s manners were sound. In fact, if it were not for the fact that “good sense had been beat out of him”, as Granny Waller used to say, Bubba had all of the tools to be a great pastor.

Enhancing his resume for taking the reins as pastor of the Little Church in the Valley was the fact that Bubba had been handling snakes as far back as anyone could remember.

“His daddy probably put one in the crib with him”, thought Elder Diggum.

It was common knowledge that the snakes had always responded well to Bubba. Even Old Ben seemed to up his deportment a notch when Bubba was in charge.

Rounding out his qualifications, Bubba had a beautiful deep bass singing voice. It was the deep bass of a three pack a day smoker, without the occasional rasp and coughing. One could assume that Bubba’s deep voice would carry a sermon well into the rafters, even at the Crystal Palace. Additionally, Bubba’s knowledge of the hymnal was complete. His knowledge of the hymnal had allowed him to elevate his status to acting choir director when Ophelia Bottoms had been temporarily cast out. The Elders were aware that the temporary elevation in status by their moving Ms. Bottoms away from the clutches of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread had been one of the reasons that Bubba felt that he was once again on a career path to becoming a pastor.

I’m just guessing, but I bet that Bubba has a couple of dozen sermons memorized from his years of hearing them repeated in church”, thought Elder Cheatum, “I’m sure that in his mind, Bubba thinks that he is the ‘total package’”. “I bet Bubba thinks that he should be the one making the altar call each Sunday”.

Resigned to having breakfast with Bubba, the Elders channeled their thoughts and conversation towards non-controversial topics.

“What brings you to town”, asked Elder Diggum, “in fact, how did you get to town?”

“I hitched”, grinned Bubba, “it’s easy”. 

“Well, I guess everybody has to come to town sometime”, said Elder Diggum, “you didn’t just come to eat breakfast did you?”

“No, I came to see Reverend Dale”, replied Bubba as he wiped his mouth with his napkin, “He’s working at the Walmart and I’ve never seen a preacher work at a Walmart”. 

The Elders were barely able to hide the looks of shock on their faces, even if Bubba had been able to draw facial clues. How was it that the ‘least informed’ among them had the latest news.

“How do you know this”, asked Elder Wiley.

“I seen him”, answered Bubba, “first time, was last week when I came to town for new shoes.” Bubba promptly brought his new Skechers up to table level for the Elders to see.

“There he was at the front door, smiling, saying ‘Welcome to Walmart’, ‘Welcome to Walmart’, ‘Welcome to Walmart'”, Bubba seemed to be caught in a loop.

Elder Wiley broke the loop by asking, “Did he recognize you?”

“I reckon; he said ‘Welcome to Walmart Bubba”, replied Bubba, “he didn’t call anybody else by name.”

Bubba gave a wide toothless grin to express his celebrity at being recognized by a Walmart greeter. Bubba placed his knife, fork and napkin in his plate, signifying that he was done.

“You go on Bubba, we got this,” said Elder Cheatum as he picked up Bubba’s check.

“Thank you very much sirs”, said Bubba as he rose to leave, “Any of you all heading towards Nunsuch?”

“Not until Prayer Meeting tonight”, replied Elder Diggum, “we’ll see you then.”

“Okay, bye”, replied Bubba, and he was gone.

“Well, the question of the day is, what the heck is going on with Reverend Dale”, blurted out Elder Wiley, “Being a greeter at the Walmart ain’t going to pay the rent, and that’s what we all should be concerned about with this latest bit of news”. “Is he trying to shame us in to paying him more money, or has his congregation gotten too old for him?”

It took a second for the other two Elders to catch the implication, and Elder Cheatum was the first to speak.

“If we are all painfully honest with ourselves, Reverend Dale’s skill set seems to lend itself to being a gigolo”, chuckled Elder Cheatum, “I just don’t know how much work there is in our area for the trade”. “I’m equally unsure as to whether a hard working gigolo would make enough to support his brood”.

“Barry, why don’t you slide by Walmart and confirm the story if you can without being noticed”, asked Elder Cheatum.

“I’ll do it”, interjected Elder Wiley, “Barry is as inconspicuous as a trailer carrying a ‘Wide Load’ sign.”

“Well, thanks, I think”, said Elder Diggum, “I do have other things to do today.” 

With a heartfelt, “See you in church”, the three friends left the parking lot to attend their duties for the day.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. As President Obama tours the devastation of Louisiana he receives criticism from both sides. The Right want to know why he wasn’t there sooner, why he didn’t cut short his vacation so he could perform a photo-op like the Donald and Pence did. The Left want to know why the President didn’t mention the fact that all of this abnormal weather is being cause by climate change. I guess being President means you’re not going to please all of the people all of the time.

Speaking of not pleasing people, brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. After his dissertation on the intolerance of the Elders, Bud Lite was ready to view that day’s telecast from the Crystal Palace in Blairsville. Bud selected the telecast from the menu of his DVR and turned up the sound. He didn’t want to miss a note from Ted E. Baer and His Love Fellowship, or a syllable from the Reverend Helena Handbasket. As the telecast began, the camera panned from the outside of the church where fifty to seventy five followers milled about the big screen mounted on the broadcast truck, to the interior of the church. The Love Fellowship began the gathering hymn and Reverend Handbasket appeared magically on the stage.

The Reverend was once again resplendent in her accoutrement, decked out in a peach colored robe with white sash and gold trim. Bud surprised himself when he realized he was  thinking that the peach robe was a nice touch, Georgia being the Peach State and all. He further surprised himself when he realized he had an opinion about how the robe choice was also a good color to offset the Reverend’s fiery red hair. As the cameras panned the altar area they revealed that the colors from the flower arrangements also complemented the Reverend’s ensemble. The whole tableau came across beautifully in the high def broadcast. As hard as he searched for clues, Bud could still find no reveal as to how the Reverend was able to magically appear on the stage as if she materialized from thin air.

This week’s sermon from the Crystal Palace was based on Matthew:7 1-3, “Judge not, lest you be judged”.

“It’s a good thought for all of us to keep in mind each day as we go about our daily lives”, stated Reverend Handbasket, “Of course if you’re in management, or ever expect to get a desired result from a group of people, you’re going to need to judge a little”. The congregation laughed politely at Reverend Helena’s little joke.

“I truly believe the expectation of the scripture is that we not judge one another too harshly in our primary relationships”, said Reverend Helena, “Treat others as you want to be treated, and you’ll do just fine.”

The Reverend’s movements and body language seemed to be more pronounced this service than in previous telecasts. It was like she was trying to bring some of that “old time religion” into the sermon. Bud was surprised to see Reverend Helena actually thump her Bible once or twice to emphasis her points as she moved about the stage.

As Bud watched the telecast, he wondered if last week’s sermon had caused the Elders to try to rein in the Reverend Helena. The Elders may have felt that the Reverend was getting to “social” and losing sight of the core values of the congregation.

“I’d love to be a fly on the wall in those meetings were the Elders try to rein Reverend Helena in”, thought Bud. He resolved to ask Mulva if she had heard any of the chastisements. It was hard to know where the Reverend began and the Elders ended without overhearing the conversations.

I hope that the Elders don’t stifle the Reverend too much”, Bud thought, “if that’s whats going on”.

During the collection, Bud and Mulva discussed the meteoric success of the church. Mulva confirmed that the church’s success had come about because the Reverend was connecting to a much broader base than before. The Reverend’s charisma had brought in new initiates from as far away as Columbus and Charlotte and all points in between. Mulva had the evidence in the requests for Bible bookmarks and her deposit slips. 

Mulva looked Bud squarely in the eyes as she said, “It’s amazing to me to see a really big church filled to the brim for an Evangelical service”. “An Evangelical service that doesn’t promise a transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor like Ted Cruz’s dad delivers, but, a service that preaches the Golden Rule and admonishes us to not get ‘all judgey’.”

Bud watched the testament of faith with great anticipation. He was curious to see if  Reverend Helena was going to “up her game” by working with a timber rattler this week. Bud had witnessed Reverend Dale introduce a “big boy” into his service earlier that day. It was such an event that Bud had phoned Mulva with the news before he had left the parking lot of the little church. It was the first time since the incident that Reverend Dale had tempted fate again. It was a big step in Reverend Dale’s recovery.

To Bud’s utter amazement, the Reverend Handbasket lifted what looked like a six foot rattler out of the box, and treated the rattler, and the audience, to a rather fast paced version of the Watusi. As the Reverend placed the rattle snake back in the box, the choir launched into “Softly and Tenderly”. The aisles were filled with people who wanted to “come home”. Reverend Helena stood in front of the altar handing out blessings and welcoming the initiates to their new home until the telecast ended.

Bud turned the TV back to regular programming and sat quietly for a while.

“Well”, asked Mulva.

“Well, it looks to me like the Elders have found a gold mine’, replied Bud, “I could probably get involved in a church that was built around the golden rule.”

“I hope the Elders don’t ruin it for everybody”, said Bud as he changed topics, “I guess you want to give the rest of the pork to the Bread’s.”

“Yes, I do”, replied Mulva.

“Well, save me enough for a sandwich tomorrow and I’ll be ok”, Bud said as he tuned in to the American Ninjas.  


All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXIV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Condemned by his own words, the Donald continues to say just anything that pops into his peanut sized brain and expects his audience to accept it as if it were gospel. “Crime at levels that nobody’s seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we’re fighting, and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities. They’re run by the Democrats. To the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people, what the hell do you have to lose?” This was the Donald’s appeal to people of color to vote for him at a recent rally held before an all white audience. “What have you got to lose?” Let’s start with your freedom and work back to your self respect.

Speaking of self respect brings us back to our retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. After attending services at the Little Church In The Valley, Bud returned home to TackyToo. Bud interspersed his afternoon with watching the TV in the Rec room office and keeping his pork butt basted. As he watched the news items flashing along the bottom of the screen, he made a mental note to throw away the information he had gathered about retiring “in luxury” to Ecuador. Although the earthquake that ravaged the coast of Ecuador caused minimal damage to the capital, Bud didn’t plan on taking any chances in his dotage.

Mulva arrived back home about five. After changing out of her Sunday clothes, she joined Bud in the office for dinner. Bud had supplemented the pulled pork sandwiches with potato salad, cole slaw and potato chips. It was a meal they had enjoyed hundreds of times over the years. Before queueing up the DVR to watch this week’s telecast from the Crystal Palace the couple took the opportunity to discuss the “news” of the week.

Bud and Mulva had been visited that week by their daughter, Melody, who had brought big news to the Lite household. It was Melody’s intention to marry her longtime roommate, Alex, in June. Finding out that his daughter was gay, and getting married, in the same conversation was a bit of a shock for Bud. He handled the news with as much aplomb as he could muster, and no one was aware that he had never suspected his daughter was gay.

The couple had asked to hold the reception in the Rec room, and Bud was totally on board. Bud volunteered to decorate the Rec room in what ever theme the women chose. Bud reasoned there was no point in renting the American Legion hall or some other spot when the Rec room was right there at their disposal. Bud had casually mentioned to the wedding planners that the reception was not going to be the issue. The wedding might be problematic.

Melody wanted to get married at the old church, the Little Church in the Valley, even though the couple could probably fill the Crystal Palace.

“Getting a preacher to marry you guys is not going to be our issue, I think”, Bud had said to the wedding planners.

“Reverend Dale is very beholding to your mom and me”, Bud had related, “Even if Reverend Dale has any personal reservations, I think he’d forgo them in our case.” 

“And, from everything I’ve seen, the Reverend Helena would not offer any resistance to performing the ceremony”, Bud had told the group, “Reverend Helena seems to genuinely believe in ‘loving one another as oneself’”.

“Reverend Helena has spoken out against the stupidity of the discriminatory laws being passed by various state legislatures around the South, so I think she’d be on board”, Bud had continued, “In fact, she might enjoy the opportunity to practice what she preaches.”

“No, I think the attempts to roadblock a ‘gay wedding’ will come from the Elders”, Bud had told the wedding planners.

Now as Bud and Mulva sat quietly munching on pork and reflecting on the week’s events, Bud chose to open the topic in a passive aggressive manner.

“It’s a sad thing to say that folks you’ve known all of your lifetime would throw themselves in the path of your child’s happiness”, Bud said, “I think the Elders will try to prevent the wedding because they feel like the wedding is going to cause some irreparable harm to the fabric of the universe or something”.

Mulva continued to chew on her sandwich while she gathered her rebuttal thoughts.

“You know, even here in the mountains, we’ve come to the point that almost everyone will admit that every family has ‘one’”, Bud said, “Most folks will admit that they love dear cousin Michael, ‘even though he never married’.”

Mulva continued to chew while Bud continued to wind himself up. 

“I guess accepting gays as equals is just not possible for some folks”, Bud continued, “It’s like they think that anything other than shunning and condemnation is going to make ‘gay’ spread like the flu”.

Mulva continued to chew while not offering any rebuttal to Bud’s assertions. By remaining silent she allowed Bud to think that she agreed with him completely, and in this case, she did. She knew eventually Bud would wear himself out and when the time was right Mulva would get Bud back on task.

“Well, let me just say here and now, we’re going to work this out so that my daughter has the most special day of her lifetime”, Bud said, “Melody will get the wedding she has always dreamed of, if it harelips the Pope”.

Bud reached for the remote as Mulva cleared away their paper plates. She had hoped to offer some commentary to the telecast, but this might be a good night to practice the old adage, “silence is golden”. Bud was wound tighter than a two-dollar watch, any more stimulation might send his blood pressure through the roof. Mulva had no intention to be planning a funeral and a wedding at the same time.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. As the Donald makes his “pivot” on immigration, and begins to take a more Jeb Bush view of the world, we wonder if the diehard loonies are going to drop away from supporting the Donald. One can assume that the “nod and a wink” was delivered to the brown shirts by the Donald’s surrogates, but there may be some potential Trump voters that didn’t get the memo. In case the Donald’s new policy is unclear, let me assure you, he’s just kidding. Like asking Russia to hack America’s email accounts, the Donald is just being ‘sarcastic’. Don’t worry white supremacists, this leopard hasn’t changed his spots, or hair color.

Speaking of a leopard changing his spots brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting was fraught with polar extremes. The crushing disappointment of the weak altar call was tempered by the jubilation of the finances. In spite of the lack of participation at the services, the faithful were still tithing according to plan. The money from TV land was still climbing exponentially. Mulva felt extremely confident that the financial plan that she presented at the meeting to open two day care centers would be a no-brainer. She was extremely surprised to be met with resistance from the Elders. Elder Wiley voiced legal and liability concerns, Elder Diggum voiced infrastructure concerns and Elder Cheatum worried about the best and highest use of the money.

“I see the value as a service”, Elder Cheatum stated, “I’m just not sure that it is the best way to spread our mission.” “If we offer a ‘free daycare’, we’ll have people dropping kids off from all over the tri-state area”, he continued, “people that will never darken our doors on Sunday.” “We have to have whatever services we offer in the community tied to membership, not ‘open to the public'”.

Elder Cheatum finished with, “The money is better spent opening new market areas out of the state, even if we have to pay for the telecasts.”

Elder Diggum jumped in at this point to give the news that there were a couple of Christian cable networks that might support adding an hour from The Full Gospel Original Church of God once they saw the telecast’s popularity.

“Our viewership numbers are phenomenal”, Elder Diggum said, “they’d be foolish not to give us a spot.”

“And we don’t run the risk of being sued if some little urchin spreads Ebola to all of Union county,” replied Elder Wiley.

Mulva finished delivering the rest of the financial news and sat quietly with Reverend Helena while the Elders discussed how they would approach the cable networks.

Finally Elder Cheatum rose and asked, “Anything else?” There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. Reverend Helena retreated to the rectory before Mulva could tell her how much she had enjoyed her sermon, even though it was over the TV. Mulva guessed they could talk after Sunday’s service.

In spite of an all-over body ache brought on by hiking the trails around Tallulah Falls, Bud made good on his promise to Mulva to attend church on Sunday. In deference to his soreness, he begged off driving into Blairsville to catch the services at the Crystal Palace. It wasn’t the driving that was the issue, it was the four block walk to get to the church from wherever there was an available parking space.

I guess there’s a price to pay for popularity, and in this case, it’s the fact that some of us who are less spry might choose to attend other services”, thought Bud, “Or maybe no services at all”.

As Bud pulled into the parking lot of the Little Church In The Valley, he continued to muse to himself, ”I’m not saying that the parking situation at the Crystal Palace is creating heathens, because there’s always the telecasts as an alternative”. “I’m just saying that some of the less energetic worshipers might enjoy being inside and in their pew in less than a minute.” “It couldn’t be more convenient here at the little church if it was a Drive-thru.”

As Bud took his place in his traditional pew, his mind continued to wander. “I wonder if anybody ever thought about the concept of a Drive-thru for religion”, he thought, “If not, I’d like to patent/copyright/whatever the idea.”

Bud allowed his imagination to run free as he continued his plan.

“I can see for the Catholics it would work great”, he thought, “Obviously, it would be perfect for communion, right?” “You’d go to the box and order for the car, stop at the tithing window, and then proceed to pick up your order from the priest”. “The priest would give a blanket blessing for the car, a ‘go and sin no more’, and you’d be done for the week”.

Completely lost in the scene playing out in his head, Bud continued.

Confessions would be a little trickier if you didn’t want to share with the rest of the family.” I’ll have to work on that some. It might be something like the bank with pneumatic tubes. Each family member could put their sins in an envelope with their name on it that would then be sent in to the “confessional”. The hearer of confessions would then open the envelopes, read the confessions and then place a penance response back in the appropriate envelope. Little Johnny might send in “I kicked the dog” in his envelope, and receive a “say ten Hail Mary’s” as his penance. I can see a wall mounted rack of penance cards color coded and graded by severity from top to bottom. The venial sins would be handled by the penance cards closer to Heaven, the mortal sins would be handled by the cards at the bottom, closer to Hell.”

Bud was unaware that the gathering hymn was being sung as he mapped out his plan for world dominance of the “Divine Drive Thru” in his mind.

The confessional line could be a second drive-thru with just the one extra stop.” “That way the confessors wouldn’t hold up the folks receiving Communion.” “If tens of billions of hamburgers can be served quickly and efficiently using drive-thrus, can’t we expect “the Divine Drive Thru” to be just as successful,” Bud asked himself.

Oblivious to his surroundings, Bud continued on, “What’s really cool is that there is already a network of drive-thrus in almost every community already setup to handle the traffic.” “Chik fil A doesn’t open on Sundays.” “This would be a perfect marriage of functions.” “This could be more successful than the daiquiri drive-thrus in New Orleans.” 

The Right Reverend Dale E. Bread’s powerful voice finally broke through the fog of Bud’s brain. This week’s sermon was on God’s watchfulness. The title of the sermon was,“His Eye Is On The Sparrow”. Bud gathered from the message the implication that if God has the time to watch out for something as small as a sparrow, he’s certainly watching over us. Reverend Dale tried to blend in equal parts of “God is watching out for us”, and “God is watching us”. Bud had the feeling that the Reverend was emphasizing the “God is watching us” part a little heavier when Reverend Dale looked Bud in the eye.

Bud remembered one of his favorite scriptures at that moment, John, 8:7, “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Remembering a verse that not only relieved pressure on his feelings and was also on point to the situation was a double bonus for Bud. Bud figured God’s surveillance system had to be at least as good as the cameras that Bud had planted around TackyToo.

He’s got the Right Reverend dead to rights on a couple of issues”, thought Bud, “I think I’m remembering right that adultery still applies if only one of the parties is married.” “Of course, if both parties are not married, fornication applies.” “I do not see a Heavenly course for the Right Reverend, if the Lord is watching.”

Bud was surprised to see that Reverend Dale had worked a timber rattler back into the testament of faith. The rattler seemed amused by the Right Reverend’s dance of exaltation, but not so amused as to be offended. Bud was happy to see that the new team member played nice and went back into his box without incident.

“Sometimes your prayers are answered”, thought Bud as he got up to leave. “I’m sure Reverend Dale’s were with his new friend.” “I know mine were when the services ended at 12 noon on the dot.”

As Bud left the parking lot of the little church in the valley he thought of the pork butt he had left cooking on the Big Green Egg that needed basting. It would provide a fine supper for he and Mulva while they watched the DVR’d telecast from the Crystal Place later.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Is there anything that embodies the essence of the Olympics like the marathon? The fittest of the fit pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance. They battle the elements, each other, and themselves to compete in the ultimate race. While the gold medal is awarded to the fastest, it is still a great accomplishment to just finish. This Olympics featured an American, Galen Rupp, for the first time since Meb Keflezighi took the silver in 2004. The last American winner goes back to the 1972 Olympics with Frank Shorter taking the prize. Has the world gotten faster, or are we playing too many video games? I believe you know the answer to that question. 

Excellence in an endeavor brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God.

After completing her secretary/treasurer functions at the Crystal Palace, Mulva stopped by the Arby’s and picked up meatball subs with curly fries for supper. The smell of the freshly cooked curly fries tempted Mulva the entire way home, but she resisted their siren’s call. Watching the DVR’d telecast of the services from the Crystal Palace while eating dinner with Bud would be their “bonding” time for the day. Mulva didn’t want to cut the experience short by having eaten before she arrived.

Mulva parked at Number Two and headed straight to the Rec room office. Bud was already ensconced in the big Barcalounger, so Mulva drug a side chair from the corner along side of him. As Bud queued up the telecast Mulva distributed the food and provided soft drinks from the vending machine. While Bud sifted through the myriad of sports events and horror movies recorded on the DVR to locate the telecast, he began to speak.

“You know I want to maintain my support of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread for obvious reasons, I also don’t want to be left out of the goings on at the Crystal Palace”, Bud said.

“It’s like Reverend Dale is the old comfortable pair of slippers you put on at the end of the day.” “Reverend Helena is like your ‘high heeled sneakers’.” Bud waxed on, “What she brings to the stage is just amazing.” “It’s like a Las Vegas magic show, with a choir and snakes.” “It’s certainly the best show in our neck of the woods.”

For the millionth time in their marriage, Mulva bit her lip and did not respond to one of Bud’s outrageous observations.

“Only Bud could make comparisons of people to shoes and church services being like Las Vegas magic shows”, Mulva thought to herself. 

With her sandwich balanced on the left arm of the chair, and her Diet Dr. Pepper balanced on the right, Mulva was ready to once again to get filled with the spirit. The big screen popped to life, and there they were, looking down on the Reverend Helena Handbasket. Just like being in person, Reverend Handbasket had appeared on the stage as if out of thin air. Mulva knew about the trap door, but chose to keep it a mystery from Bud. She was hoping that the mystery would entice Bud into attending services in person.

As if he had been reading Mulva’s mind, Bud turned to Mulva and said, “I may have to join the choir to get close enough to solve the mystery of Reverend Helena’s sudden appearance on the stage.” “I can’t stand to not know how things work.”

Reverend Helena Handbasket was dressed in a yellow robe with her customary white sash trimmed in gold. Reverend Helena’s outfit caused an immediate reaction in Mulva.

“I am no fashion pate, but the yellow robe and the Reverend’s fiery red hair do not mix.”, she thought to herself.

When the TV displayed the shot from the floor cameras, Mulva felt like the Reverend looked like a yellow tulip with red stamens and pistils.

“A good look for a tulip, but not for an Evangelical preacher”, Mulva thought.

Suffering with the most uncharitable feeling that Mulva could recall having had in a long time, Mulva could feel herself  drawing a comparison to Ronald McDonald.

“Of course the Reverend’s makeup is much better”, Mulva thought as she tried to get her feelings under control.

“I know I’m being tacky in judging by appearance”, Mulva continued to muse,”I just think for propriety’s sake, the Reverend needs to dial it down a bit”. “Not Mother Superior, mind you, but not Ringling Brothers either”.

Mulva tried to bring herself back to center by remembering the tenets of Matthew 7:1-3, “Judge not lest ye be judged”.

While the Reverend’s appearance disappointed, her sermon did not. The message was on “rendering unto Caesar”. The specific passage was Matthew 22:20-22, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Mulva couldn’t decide it the sermon’s timing was in anticipation of tax time, or if  Reverend Helena was feeling the moral imperative to say something about all of the new “religious freedom” laws being enacted. It was probably a combination of topics.

Mulva was very sensitive to the fact that the people watching the Reverend’s sermon were not known for being in support of government intervention. That would go one hundred fold when it came time for paying taxes. The only time that the people that populated the mountains felt like the need for a strong government was when the government was being used to persecute a minority. Mulva knew that there were just some topics you didn’t discuss with your neighbors, like immigration reform, refusing service to gay people, or invading other countries.

Mulva could see that the young Reverend was trying to steer the congregation down the path that separated Jesus’s teachings from constitutional amendments. In Mulva’s opinion, Reverend Helena did a fine job of explaining how the collective that is called government is supposed to raise the standard of living for all citizens.

“It is the government’s job to champion for all of its citizens, just as it is the Christians imperative to love one another”, stated Reverend Helena.

The Reverend wound up her sermon by pointing out that when Christians force legislation that does not promote Jesus’s values, “they are not rendering unto God what is God’s”.

Mulva could sense the backs and necks stiffening of the congregation even over the airwaves. The coup de grace was delivered when the Reverend pointed out that withholding taxes or other support for the government was not following Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 22:20-22, And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

The testament of faith was performed flawlessly and all of the serpents were returned to their box, no less the wear. The altar call was disappointing, though. Mulva was convinced that the congregation was stunned by the news that Jesus didn’t support hating, and, Jesus wanted them to pay their taxes. The congregation sat in the pews after the altar call like they were glued to their seats. The followers seemed to be more interested in their own thoughts than they were in getting up and exulting the Lord with dance.

Mulva was sure there would be plenty of  feedback from the Elders at the board meeting after Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Mulva did not look forward to their assessment of the service. If she wanted more discord in her life she’d just disagree with Bud about something. Rather than testing her theory, she left Bud sleeping soundly in the Barcalounger. 



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXXI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. While Ryan Lochte is twittering the world with his apologies for his abhorrent behavior, the man that needs no apologies, Usain Bolt, is crushing the world with his speed. Bolt, like his name implies, flashed by everybody to become the fastest man in the world for three consecutive Olympics. It is an incredible feat, and the fact that Bolt can do it with such ease is remarkable. Bolt is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records at the same time, and appears to be just having fun doing it.

Speaking of having fun brings us back around the telling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Mulva decided to switch locations this week to catch the services at the Little Church In The Valley. The weather had turned bitterly cold again, threatening snow and ice, and Mulva didn’t want to risk the possibility of being trapped in town by an ice storm.

The Crystal Palace doesn’t need my support as much as the old location does”, thought Mulva as she drove into the parking lot, “Certainly Reverend Helena doesn’t need my patronage”. Mulva reflected on the fact that the Elders were afraid that due to her meteoric success the young Reverend might get called away by a bigger congregation. Mulva smiled inwardly. She was confident that Reverend Helena was going to stay for as long as their church would have her.

“Even if she has become the Elton John of the Evangelical set”, thought Mulva, “I don’t think there’s enough tea in China to pull her away from our church”. Mulva was aware that the move to the Crystal Palace had placed Reverend Helena in a rather unique situation. There were only two or three Evangelical churches in the country that were larger than the Crystal Palace. All of them had bigger TV markets, but Reverend Helena’s market was growing exponentially. The fact that local restrictions in big cities like Dallas, Houston and Charlotte didn’t allow for the handling of serpents was a big plus for Reverend Helena.

“True believers can see something in our telecasts that the folks in the big cities can’t see”, thought Mulva, “although the testament of faith as performed by Reverend Helena is not her strongest job qualification”. “What she lacks in her testament of faith is more than made up in her message though.” “She is saying things in her sermons that need to be said, I just don’t know that a man would ever say them.” “I love her for that”, Mulva thought.

Mulva walked into church to find Alva Bread and her brood already sitting square in the middle of the church. Rather than slipping into her usual spot in the third row, Mulva slid in the pew next to Alva and held out her arms for a baby. Alva had plenty to spare, and she handed Mulva the two year old who was drooling heavily.

“He’s teething”, explained Alva as she fussed with the one year old, “just let him gnaw on your finger, he’ll be fine.” Mulva extended the pointer finger of her right hand and the little one latched onto it like a dog with a soup bone. While the gnawing was uncomfortable, it was not painful, and Mulva bore the call to service with the quiet dignity that she always did. 

I felt like I needed to be counted in attendance at the ‘The Little Church In The Valley’ today”, Mulva said over the head of the child in her lap,”I feel I need to show my support for Reverend Dale.”

“We appreciate it,” Alva said as she reached over to untangle the two older children as they wrestled on the pew.

Mulva looked about the church and did a quick head count. The attendance was about half of what it used to be at the little church before Reverend Dale’s accident. The congregation consisted of the diehards who wouldn’t go into town, and the folks who were morbidly watching for a repeat of the Reverend Dale’s famous incident. There were also those who were romantically linked to the Right Reverend, and Mulva just put a guess on those by gender and age group. Mulva figured the age span for those females who were possibly linked to the Right Reverend was from 18 to 55.

  “I don’t want the Elders to close our little church”, thought Mulva, “I just hope Reverend Dale can contain his urges for the good of his family and our community.”

Between distractions by assorted members of the Bread brood, Mulva listened to their Daddy’s sermon. The Right Reverend did a fine job of delivering his message entitled, “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”. It was a good, well thought out theme. It was so good that it set Mulva’s mind to wondering.

“I don’t know that anybody ever needs to preach anything else”, she thought, “but I know they will”. “Churches sure enough would go broke if week after week they just taught the Golden Rule”. “It would be like the preacher standing up behind the pulpit saying, ‘that’s it, that’s all I’ve got’.” 

Mulva continued to muse while the collection was being passed. From her own experience she knew how the little church competed with every distraction that a motivated mind could conjure up. Whether it was hunting, fishing, or just plain laziness, the church was always behind the eight ball when trying to attract male parishioners. When you throw in the just completed “March Madness” or the nine months that comprise the NFL season, it was a wonder that there were ever any male bodies in the pews. Mulva remembered the time back in the beginning of Reverend Dale’s tenure when the Elders threatened to fine the Reverend ten dollars for every minute he ran past noon.

The Elders had reasoned that most men could be corralled into attending a Sunday service if it didn’t go past noon. Their thinking was that the average man was willing to forego a few minutes of in depth analysis by NFL retirees for the potential salvage of their immortal souls. But, they cautioned, once the service started slipping towards kickoff, all bets were off.

Elder Wiley had made what he thought was a funny joke about folks that celebrate their Sabbath on Saturday.

“I don’t think there’s a male in these parts that would darken the doors of a church if he thought there was any chance he’d miss kickoff”, Elder Wiley waxed, “There’s religion, and there’s worship, it’s important to know the difference”.

Fortunately, Reverend Dale heeded the Elders advice today, and he slipped the last serpent back in the box by twelve noon. Mulva handed the sleeping baby back to its mother and headed back to the office to do her count. Once finished, she would head to Blairsville to perform the same function, weather permitting. With any luck, she’d be able to watch the DVR’d telecast of the services from the Crystal Palace while she ate dinner back at home at TackyToo.

As she drove to Blairsville, Mulva hoped Bud had remembered to set the DVR. He suffered from ‘selective memory’ sometimes.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. You know when you look at the sum of a person’s life you’re supposed to ignore the anomalies, the outliers, and concentrate on the overall sum and essence of the person. So, from the point of Ryan Lochte’s experience, I need to weigh the green hair and false condemnation of a country and it’s people against all of his good works, which I am unable to uncover. I guess the next thing we’ll see is Lochte at a Trump rally and then we’ll have the full measure of the man. Sad, so sad.

Speaking of sad brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. When we left the story, the Reverend Helena Handbasket had moved to the front of the altar in the church and was awaiting the serpents to begin her testament of faith. Normally the protocol calls for the pastor to do whatever maneuvers they’re going to do with the snakes before the lost souls approach the Reverend for a blessing. If the lost souls don’t feel like handling a serpent, the serpent is passed off to a wrangler or another “spirit filled” member of the church to be looked after while the Reverend blesses the repentant. The blessing generally takes the form of a few words said in some foreign language like Sanskrit, and then a sharp blow to the top of the head so that the sinner can feel the power of the Lord. The initiate is then free to join the testament of faith, lay prostrate where they fell, or return to their seat.

Reverend Handbasket had just started into her exultation dance when the first lost soul reached her. Reverend Helena had not had the opportunity to “warm up” the serpents prior to their introduction to the crowd scene that was gathering in front of the altar. The crush of people wanting to have the Reverend “lay hands” on them threw off the normally tightly controlled environment. The serpent wranglers and their charges were getting separated by the followers who just wanted to get a little closer to the aura being spread by the young  Reverend.

As Elder Cheatum looked at the mob scene unfolding before him his thoughts went to the enormous liability issues that were being exposed.

“I don’t know how she does it”, he thought to himself, “I guess I shouldn’t question whatever or wherever her power comes from.” As the Elder watched the crowd continue to crush forward he headed for his post at the front door.”If we get out of this without any trips to the hospital, it will be a miracle”, he thought.

Back at the altar, acolytes were dancing with all of their might, filled with the spirit of the Lord. The followers were passing serpents from one to another, and speaking in tongues like it was as normal as going roller skating. If Channel 99 had felt cheated by the previous week’s final act, they were more than compensated by the tableau playing out before them.

Eventually the energy died down and the wranglers collected all of the serpents and placed them safely back in their boxes. The choir raised its voice in, “We’ll Meet Again”, while the congregation closed their eyes in prayer. The benediction was delivered by Elder Diggum so that the Reverend could slip back up on the stage and disappear using the trap door designed to raise and lower the baptismal pool that was hidden under the stage. It was fortunate that the guy wire controlling Channel 99’s overhead camera did not run over the stage or the Reverend’s magical appearances and disappearances would have been revealed.

Reverend Helena arrived at the office of the Crystal Palace to find Mulva already counting the proceeds from the collection plates. “I don’t know how you do it”, said the Reverend throwing her robes over her head revealing jeans and a sweatshirt underneath, “I know you’re married and have children and grandchildren, but it seems like you’re always doing the church’s business.” The Reverend ran a brush through her hair a few times before pausing for Mulva’s answer.

“Well, I guess I was taught that we are all to give of the gifts we have and this seems to be the best way I can help”, replied Mulva, as she continued separating the cash from the checks.

“We can’t all be super-stars”, Mulva said grinning at the Reverend, “besides, I’m going to do something fun right after I leave here.” “You’re invited if you want to come along.”

“I’m going to beat a path back to Nunsuch before I do anything controversial”, said Reverend Helena. She opened the door to the office just as Elder Cheatum was entering from the other side, almost causing the Elder to fall into the room. 

“Too late”, the Reverend said as she exited, “See you all in church”.

“Anything I should know about”, Edler Cheatum asked the secretary/treasurer.

“No, we’re all good here”, answered Mulva, “I’m meeting Bud for lunch before I head back to Nunsuch, you’re welcome to join if you like.”

“Thanks, I’ve got other plans”, the Elder replied, “If you’ve got it all under control I’ll leave you to it”.

Mulva was pleased to find that most of the “church crowd” had already eaten and left the IHOP when she arrived. There were just a few couples lingering on. She found Bud sitting in a booth near a couple that struck her as familiar. Mulva watched the couple surreptitiously, but couldn’t place them. Mulva sneaked looks at the couple while she watched Bud devour two double dipped French Toasts with side orders of ham, bacon and hash browns. Mulva was happy with her patty-melt and fries.

The man was more familiar, and while he appeared to be in his early seventies, he looked in pretty good condition. The woman looked much older than the man, and was bent from old age. Finally Mulva was struck with the recollection of who the couple were. They were Seniors in high school when she had been a Freshman. They were the “couple” back then. Rusty and Diane Stover.

Randy was the Big Man On Campus back then. He was a football player and Diane was the head cheerleader. Randy looked good considering. He seemed to have most of his hair, though it was all grey now. Diane had not aged nearly as well. Her face was wrinkled and her body was very bent over.

“Probably osteoporosis”, Mulva thought.

The couple seemed to be having a spirited discussion with themselves and Mulva pointed out the couple to Bud, thinking that it was pretty cool that they were joking and jibing with each other after fifty plus years of marriage. The couple even included Levon, their server, in their repartee. Randy and Diane were very demonstrative about their order, and very specific. Diane wanted a stack of pancakes with just whip cream on top, not butter, and no syrup. Randy wanted the “Breakfast Sampler”, with no ham. Could Levon substitute the ham with pork sausage patties? Levon could.

Mulva thought that it was funny watching them order because it was like they were a couple of epicures in a restaurant in France, giving very specific instructions to the maitre d. Their enthusiasm for their order was cute because it was like they were taking an adventure together. Levon was leaving to get their drinks when Diane told “Thomas” that she just wanted water with no ice. Randy corrected Diane’s misuse of Levon’s name, and Levon laughed it off by saying Diane could call him Thomas if she wanted to. Levon went off to get their order placed and Randy and Diane continued on an undercurrent of conversation.

Mulva was mulling over the question of whether to introduce herself now or wait until after everyone had finished eating. Rather than disturb Bud’s passion with his plate, she decided to wait. While waiting for Levon to return with their orders, Randy and Diane kept up a fairly brisk conversation. Occasionally, Diane would say a word louder than the rest of the conversation, but it seemed like it just might be part of a jibing, teasing routine that couples get into sometimes. Mulva imagined it was like her conversations with Bud, “you never pick up your dirty socks” with a response of, “I leave them in the floor where they’re easy to find”.

Finally, Levon returned with everyone’s meals, and Diane was effusive in her praise of her pancakes. She couldn’t thank “Manny” enough for his excellent service. Mulva picked up on the second misnaming of the waiter.

“Diane’s attempt to use the waiter’s name is socially commendable, but it’s getting awkward since she keeps using the wrong name”, Mulva thought to herself.

Randy’s attempts to correct Diane were visibly upsetting Diane. Diane was getting louder and louder and her conversation had veered to talks of “leaving me” and being “done with me”. Randy appeared to be trying to calm Diane in a moderate tone while Diane’s voice rose above his with random city’s names throw out loud enough to be heard throughout the restaurant. “Thank God there’s nobody else here to hear this”, Mulva thought as she looked around the nearly empty restaurant.

Mulva was overcome by a wave of sadness. Diane was suffering from dementia. Mulva’s brain transposed pictures of the head cheerleader at the top of the pyramid, with the woman who was now accusing her husband of “wanting to leave her in Pittsburgh so he could spend the rest of her money”. Randy implored Diane to calm down, “she was creating a scene”. Eventually, Diane was able to talk in a quieter tone, but one laced with anger and acrimony.

As Bud and Mulva paid their bill, Mulva overheard one of the other customers make a crack about having “dinner and a floor show”. It took all of Mulva’s Christian values to resist the urge to blast the wise-cracker. She also resisted her previous urge to reminisce with Randy and Diane.

“That ship has sailed”, Mulva thought as she and Bud headed back to Nunsuch.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXIX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. One of the downsides to having a socially media savvy guy like the Donald is that he can create so many diversions to take the public away from digging deeper into the essence of what it is to be a Trump. While we learn that his former campaign manager is now being investigated by the FBI for his Russian ties, we learn more about his new guy, Steve Bannon. Bannon is head of Breitbart News, which runs headlines like, “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Trannies Whine about Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard.” Just a regular guy like The Donald. Meantime Ivanka is vacationing in Croatia with Putin ex-girlfriend Wendy Deng. I guess Ivanka will use Wendy to be the bearer of the news that Putin won’t be spending the night in the Lincoln bedroom. Never a dull moment.

Speaking of dull moments brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The week following Easter flew by without consequence. The unofficial meeting of the board at the IHOP in Blairsville was more about breakfast than about church business. It was a welcome relief for the three friends. The official meeting of the board after Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting was equally uneventful. Reverend Helena sat quietly through the meeting and did not comment on any of the issues. In fact, the only new issue was a request by the Blairsville Police Department to encourage the worshipers to respect the property rights of the homeowners in the area of the church. Elder Wiley had determined that by hiring two off-duty officers for parking control that the city would feel that the church had done their best to appease the homeowners.

“What’s the cost”, asked Elder Cheatum.

“A hundred dollars an hour, fifty dollars each”, replied Elder Wiley, “I think three hours should cover it, 10AM to 1PM”.

“Well, if it keeps us legal, and the city off of our back, it’s money well spent”, replied Elder Cheatum.

“Mulva, how are we doing”, asked Elder Cheatum as he looked at the secretary/treasurer.

“Well you can see from the P&L and Balance Sheet that we’re building up a nice little cash reserve”, Mulva said as she handed the documents to the Elders.

“It looks to me like we’re in a position to fund one of our projects, like the daycare center, maybe”, the secretary said while looking tentatively at the the Elders.

“It might be, it might be”, said Elder Cheatum looking at the bottom line, “but where do we put it, in Nunsuch, or Blairsville?” “We definitely need to do more research before committing funds to the project.”

“Why not both”, asked Mulva, “we’ve certainly got the space both places.”

“True, true”, replied Elder Cheatum, “why don’t you draw up your plans in a formal proposal that we can all take home and study on?”

“Once you get that proposal done I’ll start searching out the legal side of things”, replied Elder Wiley, “Even in Georgia they can get picky about how you take care of other people’s kids.”

“I will, right away”, replied Mulva.

“Well good”, answered Elder Cheatum.

“If there’s no further business”, Elder Cheatum said as he looked at Reverend Helena. There was not further business and the meeting was adjourned.

The newly proposed “Religious Freedom Law” was one of the many things Elder Cheatum was cogitating on as he entered Blairsville and negotiated the city streets to the new location of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. He was relieved to find that the parking lot was not filled with the overflow crowd that had been the case at last week’s Easter service. The two off-duty police officers were in evidence in their orange vests and reflective gloves. They seemed to have developed a master plan for crowd control and were rather strident in enforcing their plan. Even at this early hour, parking was still an issue, and Elder Cheatum had to park about four blocks away from the church. The Elder grew concerned that the pollen filled walk back to the church would set off his coughing again.

“Reverend Helena could have serious competition for the crowd’s attention if I get started”, the Elder thought to himself as he checked his coat pocket to make sure that the two rolls of Hall’s mentho-lyptus cough drops were where thought they should be. As the Elder arrived at the church grounds he could see there were a few people milling about the broadcast truck. The hangers on seemed to be more interested in watching the crew than the feed of Channel 99’s broadcast on the big screen TV mounted on the side of the truck.

Promptly at 10:30, The Elder took his position at the right side of the double doors leading into the church and began greeting followers as they entered the church. The Elder maintained his position until the gathering hymn brought him inside for the service. From his observation post in the last row, Elder Cheatum could see that the auditorium was packed, but everyone appeared to have a seat.

Elder Cheatum leaned over to whisper into the ear of his friend Elder Wiley who had slid in beside him for a moment.

“Last week’s attendance must have been due to the ‘Easter bump'”, the Elder said, “this week’s crowd is probably more our new ‘normal'”.

Elder Wiley looked about while Elder Cheatum continued, “I don’t think the smaller crowd is a reflection of the service last week.” “I think that folks that came for a ‘spirit filled’ experience got their money’s worth last week, even if the testament of faith had to be foregone.”

Elder Wiley whispered back, “I think you’re right, I’m excited to see how Reverend Helena plans on topping last week’s service.”

As the house lights dimmed, Elder Wiley returned to his normal spot towards the front of the church and the choir launched into “Nearer My God To Thee”. There was no puff of smoke, but there was a “poof” moment, when the Reverend Helena Handbasket magically appeared before the congregation.

Reverend Helena was wearing a Kelly green robe with a white sash trimmed in gold. While green was Elder Cheatum’s favorite color, in money, he despised it in clothing.

“I wonder if the green signifies Spring, rebirth, renewal, or if it was just the only robe that was clean”, wondered the Elder, “Considering all of our other issues, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t ask Reverend Helena about her choice in clothing.”

The Elder had built a successful career in believing that people did the things they do for a reason. “The way to get to the heart of things, and to get know how people think is to ask what their reasoning is”, concluded the Elder.

“I will let sleeping dogs lie on this one”, the Elder thought as he paid heed to the sermon.

Reverend Handbasket was in fine form. Apparently the brush with stupidity by the Georgia legislature regarding the “Religious Freedom Act”, had rankled the Reverend. She was not about to let her congregation escape the walls of the church without letting them know how she felt about intolerant Christians. The sermon went from Mary Magdalene to lepers in the blinking an eye. The segue between the two made perfect sense if you believe in the Golden Rule.

“Good Christians are all supposed to be united in their love of the Lord, despite their Earthly trappings”, Reverend Helena said, “So even if you are a person of ill repute, or unclean skin, you are deserving of God’s love”. The Reverend wrapped up with Romans 9:12, Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

With that, the choir went into “Love Lifted Me”, and the Reverend moved to the floor in front of the altar to await the lost souls and the serpents. This time they arrived out of order.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXXVIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I guess we’ve got some birds of a feather flock together news as the Donald announces his most recent campaign shakeup. The pro-Russia Paul Manafort appears to be headed for the sidelines as the pro-misogyny Roger Ailes moves in. I guess as long as he surrounds himself with haters, it’s all the same to the Donald. Although I suspect the Donald will feel more comfortable with an abuser of women and someone who never let the truth get in the way of his narrative. May they go down in flames together.

Speaking of going down in flames brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The three friends walked into the office of the Little Church in the Valley after Wednesday Night’s Prayer meeting to a spirited argument about women’s rights.

Reverend Helena was talking and seemed to be full of vinegar, “One of the things that should be in everyone’s control is parenthood.” “Whether or not to have a child should totally be up to the parents.” “I guess in a perfect world we would want two happy well adjusted people who really loved children and would do right by them to be parents.” “Failing that, at least one of the parents should meet that criteria.”

The Reverend drew a breath and continued, “In my mind, you have to have the mother’s total 100 percent buy in, or it’s a nonstarter.” “I don’t think I’m being sexist, or old school, I think I’m being pragmatic.” “If the mother can’t commit to 100 percent love and devotion to a child, she should have an out.”

The Reverend turned her head slightly towards the male members of the group as she said,  “No, I’m not talking about adoption or orphanages.” “The horror of state run orphanages and places like the Sisters of Magdalene are well documented.” “The potential mother should have a choice about when to exercise her lifetime commitment to raising a child, if ever.”

Elder Cheatum was first to speak, “I don’t know exactly what you’re advocating here, but we, and the people of our community, represent very conservative, Christian values.” 

“Well, to your first point, conservative values”, replied Reverend Helena, “you must not mean fiscal conservative.” “As far back as 1972, the Rockefeller Commission determined that a liberalized abortion policy superseded a reduction in crime eighteen years in the future.”      “Those statistics were further confirmed in a study done by Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and John Donohue of Yale University in 2001.” “Their study concludes that the states with a high abortion rate have also experienced the greater reduction in crime.” “So, you can’t argue with those facts if you’re a ‘fiscal conservative’.”

Reverend Helena used the stunned silence to continue, “The study conclusively points out that unwanted children become society’s burden in the future.” “It would seem that true conservatives should be in favor of molding a society where the ‘unwanted’ children would not be disrupting classrooms, creating crimes of varying degrees of sophistication and violence before finally being moved into the prison system.” “The average cost to house a criminal in prison is $32,000 a year.” “It would seem that true conservatives would prefer these children to be taxpayers, not taxtakers, that is unless it’s not about ‘fiscal’ values.”

Elder Cheatum stammered, “How on Earth did we get on this topic, I find this totally inappropriate for our meeting.”

Reverend Helena drew her breath and continued, “And that brings us back to the second part of your statement, ‘Christian values’.” “I am alarmed at the “holier than thou” elements that our faith has attracted over the years.” “These folks would like for us to turn back the clock to the “Scarlet Letter” days.” “Rather than a letter sown onto their dress to signify their sin of fornication, the ‘modern’ Christians would prefer the woman have a child to carry as a constant reminder of her sin.”

Reverend Helena continued to drive it home when she said,  “I think all of the concern about ‘fetal pain’ and the ‘beginning of life’ are just red herrings designed to draw us away from these so-called Christians true motivation.” “These people want the woman to pay for her sin, and they are not content to wait for Judgement Day.” “They want her to pay now, and in the hereafter.” “They want a woman to wear her sin.”

The Elders were completely speechless, they didn’t know whether to attempt to argue, pretend to agree, or adjourn the meeting.  Before they could decide, Reverend Helena made the decision for them.

Reverend Helena stood to leave and said, “I’ll just finish this up by saying I’m for free, on demand birth control, whatever shape it takes.” “There should be a Planned Parenthood office every hundred feet if necessary to keep unwanted children born.” “Bob Barker used to end each show by reminding everyone to have their pet spayed or neutered.” “Are we more concerned about unwanted pets than we are children?” “As a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ, I hope not.”

And then Reverend Helena left the room with the members of the committee looking at one another with dazed confusion. It was a full minute before anyone spoke.

“What got that started”, Elder Cheatum asked as he looked at Mulva.

“I don’t rightly know”, Mulva replied, “I was telling her that I thought Alva Bread might be pregnant again, and what a blessing it was, and then you all kind of walked into the middle of it.” “She obviously has some very strong feelings on the subject.”

“Another bun in the oven”, replied Elder Diggum attempting to make a pun with the Bread name, “or should I say a biscuit?”

“You should say as little as possible”, said Elder Wiley, “Remember it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

Turning to Mulva, Elder Wiley said, “I would have thought Reverend Helena would have been as happy as a clam after Sunday.” “Is there anything else going on?”

“Not that I’m aware of”, replied Mulva, “she seemed okay until I told her about Ava, and then it was like she’d been struck by a bolt of lightning.” “I don’t think I’ve actually seen or heard her express her personal beliefs so strongly before.”

“Well, since that outburst was confined to our group I guess we’ll let it go,” determined Elder Cheatum, “but if any of that heresy gets to anyone outside of our group, Reverend Helena will have to be dealt with.” “Now, to more important things, how’d we do?”

“Well, money is still coming in from TV land, but the collection plate at the Crystal Place was over twelve thousand dollars”, replied Mulva, “I think we’ll get at least that much from TV land and then you can add in about twelve hundred dollars from the Little Church”. 

“So we’ll be over twenty-five thousand for the week”, asked Elder Wiley.

“Absolutely, I’m being conservative on the TV land money, cause, you know you can’t count it until it’s in your hand”, answered Mulva.

“Well that’s where our growth has to come from”, replied Elder Cheatum, “I don’t see us packing any more bodies in the Crystal Place.”

“Shame we couldn’t pass the plate to the people standing around the broadcast truck”, said Elder Diggum.

“We could put donation envelopes and a collection box out there”, replied the secretary/ treasurer.

“Let’s hold off on that”, replied Elder Cheatum, “that crowd probably has more advertising value than they would contribute.” “Let’s not scare them off by charging admission.”

“Okay, I’m going to call it a night if there’s nothing else”, Elder Cheatum said as he rose to leave, “if anything turns up….”

“Just turn it back over”, answered Elders Wiley and Diggum.

“Is he okay”, asked Mulva after Elder Cheatum left.

“I think the young reverend is proving to be quite the challenge, not that Reverend Dale isn’t a challenge still”, answered Elder Wiley.

“But we’ll leave him for another time”, Elder Wiley said as he stood to leave.

“See you in church”, the duo of Elders said to the secretary/ treasurer as they left her with her paperwork.

“A man’s work is from Sun to Sun, but a woman’s work is never done”, thought Mulva as she watched the Elders leave.