All Creatures of Our God And King LXXVII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all.  I’m sure that everyone who has turned a blind eye to the excess and evil that is the insurance industry in America was surprised by Aetna’s announcement that they were going to pull out of Obamacare because extending coverage to sick people was screwing with their bottom line. In truth, Aetna is just following through with their threat to pull out of healthcare if they weren’t allowed to merge with Humana. So I guess Aetna does keep some of their promises.

Speaking of truth brings us back around to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Reverend Dale had just called Mulva Lite to receive the news from the new location in Blairsville.

“Tell me everything”, said Reverend Dale, “don’t leave out a thing.”

“Well”, Mulva began, “When we got here Channel 99 had a camera on top of their truck that was just filming the outside of the Crystal Palace.” “After a bit that camera just settled on the crowd of people that was watching the inside of the church on the big screen mounted outside of the broadcast truck.”

Mulva continued, “I’d guess that there must have been a hundred or more souls crowded in around the truck.” “There was no more room inside and the people were just trying to capture as much of the live experience as they could, I guess.” “I suspect that the people outside were hopeful that some of Reverend Helena’s powers might rub off on them, even though they were two hundred feet or so from the altar.”

“Are you telling me there were a hundred people standing outside in the cold watching the services on TV”, asked Reverend Dale.

“Yes”, answered Mulva.

“My God, what was it like inside”, questioned Reverend Dale

“Well, when the TV camera switched to inside the auditorium, the camera that is hanging on the guy wire moved back and forth across the auditorium”, Mulva continued, “It was kind of spooky, you couldn’t hear it or anything.” “It just showed pictures from all over and you didn’t see any camera men running around.”

“What was the crowd like”, Reverend Dale asked.

“Well from the overhead shot you could see it was standing room only”, Mulva said. “I can only imagine what the Blairsville Fire Department might think of the scene.” “People were packed cheek to jowl, and I suspect there would not have been room for even Granny Waller if she had decided to attend, and you know how skinny she is.” ” It was really, really crowded in the sanctuary.”

“Wow”, said Reverend Dale, “I can’t imagine that kind of crowd. ” “Tell me about the service.”

Mulva’s voice dropped a little lower, like the narrator of a story as she said, “The house lights dimmed, and then ‘poof’, there she was.” “They had this one lonely spotlight on her, and  Reverend Helena was standing in the middle of the stage with her arms reaching out towards Heaven”.

Mulva’s voice took on a more excited tone as she said, “Reverend Helena was dressed in purple robes that looked shiny like they were made of satin.” “Her sash was white, trimmed in gold, with gold tassels on the end.”

Mulva continued excitedly with her fashion report, “That gorgeous red hair of hers looked especially nice.” “You could just see the sparkles of light reflecting from the spotlight on her hair as she walked to the pulpit.” “When she got to the pulpit, all of the lights in the church came on and the choir began to sing ‘Are You Washed In The Blood'”. “It was magic.”

“What did the congregation think”, asked Reverend Dale, “was it too much show?”

“I’d have to say”, began Mulva,” that if there was ever an audience that was totally engaged from the get-go, this one was.” “I swear it was as if Reverend Helena had somehow reached out with her mind to send a message into the soul of each and every member of the congregation.” “It was magic.”

“How was the sermon”, asked Reverend Dale, “was it the same old Easter message?”

“You know, when Reverend Helena retold the story of the life of Jesus”, said Mulva, “you could see that the whole crowd was following with all of their attention.” “If Reverend Helena looked to the right to see where the stone from Jesus’s crypt had been rolled back, the crowd looked right.” “When Reverend Helena raised her arms to Heaven beseeching the Lord, the crowd raised their arms.”  “It was like watching the crowd drawing all of their energy from Reverend Helena.”

“Wow”, said Reverend Dale, “how was the altar call?”

“When Reverend Helena gave the audience a ‘promise of cleansing all of their misdeeds, a rebirth’, the audience absolutely heard her call.” Mulva continued,  “As the choir began to sing “Just As I Am”,  I swear the whole crowd rose up at the same time and rushed into the space in front of the altar.” ” There must have been a hundred souls crowded into a two hundred square foot area, and more people trying to force their way in.”

“I imagine she handled the testament of faith okay”, asked Reverend Dale.

“You wouldn’t have believed it.” “There were so many folks filled with the spirit of the Lord, dancing to beat the band, wherever they could find space”, answered Mulva, “people were rolling about on the floor just oblivious to the rest of the world.” “Truth is, the crowd was packed so tight trying to get close to receive Reverend Helena’s blessing, that the testament of faith was cancelled.”

“What”, asked Reverend Dale incredulously.

“Well, I can’t say that cancelled is the right word”, Mulva replied, “The two guys that are supposed to deliver the box of snakes to the Reverend could not get through to her.” “The crowd was packed in that tight.”

“Well how do you think the TV people are going to feel about that”, asked Reverend Dale, “that’s the most important part of the service.” “Believe me, I know.”

“Honestly, I can’t say that anyone should feel cheated by the change in the program”, Mulva answered, “Maybe Channel 99 will complain, we’ll just have to see what they say.” “I can probably watch the comments on the Channel 99 website and see what viewers think.”

“I’m pretty sure that the testament of faith plays better to a TV audience”, replied Reverend Dale, “Although, I’ve never had the experience myself”. “I’m sure that Channel 99 has got an audience watching the Testament of Faith that would never consider darkening the doors of an Evangelical church.”

Reverend Dale continued to wax on, “I bet some of those viewers might feel cheated by the loss of witnessing a woman wrangling poisonous vipers.” 

“Maybe, I know I don’t”, replied Mulva, “I just don’t know how you could top what I witnessed today.” “This was a Hall of Fame service, it there is such a thing for Evangelical preachers.”

“Well, thanks for the report”, said Reverend Dale, “I guess I’ve got the afternoon off now that the new church is open.” “Maybe I’ll see you later”.

“Of course you will”, answered Mulva, “Bud’s grilling two chickens today, and one of them is for you all.”

“Well thanks again, and we’ll see you later, bye for now”, said Reverend Dale.

“Bye”, answered Mulva as she went back to counting the collection. At the rate she was going, she might be eating her chicken for supper.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXVI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. So Ford announced today that they are going to be selling self-driving cars  in five years. Hmmmmm. So when Tesla and BMW actually are testing self-driving cars right now, they are getting a load of grief. Ford on the other, gets treated like, “oh sure, Ford’s going to be doing it, no problem”. Well, as one who remembers the Pinto and a lot of other epic Ford failures, I am at a loss as to explain while the press is not asking more questions. Maybe Ford let the press know they were going to use the Tesla system once it was perfected. It does give Tesla five years to work the kinks out.

Speaking of working the kinks out brings us back around to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The members, past and present, that received the Ladies Auxillary’s invitations to come to church had to read the invitations carefully to realize that it was going to be this Easter Sunday that the Crystal Palace was going to hold its first service. The parishioners that inadvertently showed up at the church of their parents and grandparents were greeted by the ongoing experiment of the Little Church in the Valley.

The “backsliders” who had not attended church in the last year were rather amazed at the look of the old church. What once was  a quaint little shotgun style country church had been morphed into something different. Not necessarily good different, but very, very different. The two trailers added to either side of the existing church to expand the auditorium looked like a bad Legos experiment. The trailer that had been added first, on the left side, was white, the color of the church. The trailer added last, on the right side, was beige. With out the familiar front door and the ringing of the church bell to call them in, the Chreasters (Christmas and Easter attendees) would have been lost. First impressions are important, as they say, and their little church now had a face only a mother could love. For the many who had not gone through the church’s recent growing pains, it was dispiriting to see the old church tarted up this way.

All of the worshipers that had not been in attendance for a while were not surprised to see the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread at the helm. In spite of the fact that the majority of the crowd was at the other location, Reverend Dale planned on redeeming himself with the flock he had been given.  It had always been said that Reverend Dale’s Easter sermon was his number two service, with Christmas being his best effort. Reverend Dale planned on “bringing it” to the followers who had decided to stay in the old location. Some of the old fixtures were still in place. Granny Waller was front and center like the Rock of Gibraltar, or Ages. Hugh Morris was in his usual spot, just as if he didn’t go home from Sunday to Sunday. Constance Whiner was sitting off to the right side in one of the new trailer additions. Apparently Constance liked the image projected to her on the big screen TV rather than looking up at the live minister speaking to her from the pulpit.

Ophelia Bottoms was leading the choir with a strong assist from Evan “Bubba” Hawker . There was no doubt that his deep bass voice made an excellent background to the choir. While Bubba Hawker was not known to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, he did have the hymnal memorized backwards, forwards and sideways. Forty years of church services five times a week will help imprint those long term memories. It was also said that he could deliver fifty different sermons if the conditions were right and someone got him started with the first sentence or so. Bubba was always on standby if needed.

To the casual observer it was somewhat surprising to see one of the younger members of the church, Anita Goodman, sitting dead center in the auditorium. She was sitting about four rows back from where Alva Bread sat with her brood. Most of the under forty set had followed the Reverend Handbasket to the Crystal Palace and Ms. Goodman seemed somewhat out of place in a congregation that now resembled Bingo Night at the Senior Center. Even the C&E members who had been roused to attend services by the Ladies Auxilary were all well past fifty. Right Reverend Dale was ministering to a flock that had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. He would have never predicted his fate would be the one that was playing out before him.

Regardless of the octogenarian status of his followers, it was the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread’s task to cast the demons out and to let the spirit take over. In spite of not having the background singers and musicians and the overall persona of the Reverend Handbasket, the Right Reverend did put on a fine show. When he led the choir in “Up From The Grave He Arose” at the end of the service, everybody that could, stood. Most of the pepole in the audience were already stomping their feet when the Right Reverend went into his “tap dance for Jesus” at the testament of faith.

The Right Reverend was truly having a testament of faith of his own as he began wrangling the serpents. He did a fine job, and everyone in the little church was happy that there had been no altercations between the serpents and the Reverend. One of the “backsliders” did mention to an acquaintance after the service that there were no serpents over three feet long. “I’m not saying that they’re not just as deadly, I’m just saying that there were no ‘big boys’ out on the floor”, the skeptic was overhead saying.

Fortunately, the Right Reverend did not overhear the slight. With his wife and two paramours in attendance he felt like he had juggled the most deadly situation deftly. After he shook the last hand at the front door, Reverend Dale called Mulva to get an update on the service at the Crystal Palace. In spite of all of the hurt feelings and misunderstandings, Reverend Dale wished Reverend Helena well. He felt that his future success was tied to hers.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Wow, the one thing you don’t want to have happen while one of the presidential candidates is running on a “law and order” ticket are riots. It seems Milwaukee is boiling over from years and years of abusive treatment by the police and the latest shooting of a black man is turning into a state of martial law. The National Guard has been called in, and a curfew implemented. Unfortunately, now the Donald has something to scream about. “Coming to a city near you, riots, if I am not elected.” “Only I can create racial harmony.” “Witness my efforts with the Muslims and Mexicans”. Crazy, crazy.

Speaking of crazy brings us back to the retelling of the history of  The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Elders met in Gainesville that Sunday night for dinner and damage control. After they placed their orders, Elder Diggum was first to speak.

“I think the folks at Channel 99 are tickled pink”, he said, “their only suggestion was to give them a heads up next time and they’ll setup the cameras and stuff before Reverend Helena arrives.”

“If there is a ‘next time'”, replied Elder Cheatum, “the location will be pre approved by us.” “There will be no more spur of the moment raids on local businesses by Reverend Helena”.

“Did you convey that message to her”, asked Wiley.

“I did, but I did not go any deeper than the fact that the church was concerned with how we would be portrayed to the viewing audience”, answered Elder Cheatum, “and the liability issues, of course, if one of our congregation got themselves hurt.”

“Good, people relate more to the threat of a suit than anything you can say to them,” replied Elder Wiley, “you can explain stuff to people until you’re blue in the face and they won’t get it sometimes.” “You tell them they could get sued and they don’t need to understand anymore, they’re happy to back off.”

“Well, that might be where we are with Reverend Helena, she says it was strictly a ‘spur of the moment’ thing”, said Elder Cheatum.

“So she doesn’t know anything about ‘Tres Amigos'”, asked Elder Diggum.

“Not that I am aware”, replied Elder Cheatum, “I think it would take a very motivated, very knowledgeable person to track down the holdings of ‘Tres Amigos'”.

“That’s how I planned it”, said Elder Wiley as the steaks arrived. 

Confident that Reverend Handbasket would not go off script again, and the fact that their involvement in several less than sanctified businesses was secure from prying eyes, the Elders dug into their meal with great zeal, or ‘mucho gusto’ as Tres Amigos might say.

The board meeting after Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting was filled with tension. Reverend Handbasket was still feeling like she was in the doghouse after having encountered the wrong side of Elder Cheatum for two weeks in a row. While the Reverend was smiling politely, and trying to follow Mulva’s story of babysitting the Bread children, she wasn’t really that engaged. When Mulva delivered the punch line to her story about the Bread children watching ‘It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown’, she had to be prompted to respond.

“And then Bud said, ‘ I think that it ‘s better for children to think Easter is about a beagle and a bird named Woodstock than nailing somebody up to a cross.'”, said Mulva, “can you imagine?”

“Well, maybe the crucifixion is a little intense for young children, maybe that’s what Bud was trying to say”, replied Reverend Helena, “I’m sure he didn’t mean anything sacrilegious”.

“I guess”, replied Mulva, “it’s just lucky for Bud that Reverend Dale and Alva came back then because I was about to jerk a knot in his tail.”

“Ladies, ladies, if we could proceed”, said Elder Cheatum, “our time is short, let’s make the most of it.” “I guess the big question is, are we ready?”

Elder Diggum was first to reply.

“Channel 99 has got everything ready to roll, he said, “the guy wire across the auditorium works like a charm and has been heavily tested.” “Reverend Helena can move just about anywhere in the auditorium and still be able to be followed by the overhead camera.”

Elder Diggum continued, “She’ll be wearing a microphone in a pendant attached to her robes that will transmit her voice via her backpack to the sound system.” “The range is about fifty yards with no degradation in quality”.

“You’ll have complete freedom of movement”, Elder Diggum said as he looked at the Reverend.

The Reverend gave a listless, “good”, in response.

Elder Cheatum ignored the Reverend’s lack of excitement, if he noticed, and continued with his checklist. “I assume all local ordinances have been checked and there are no legal stumbling blocks to our holding church on Sunday?”, the Elder said as he looked at Elder Wiley.

Elder Wiley looked up from his doodles and replied, “We’re as sound as the pound.” “We’ll have to gauge the impact of the turnout to parking spaces available in our lot and on the streets.” “There may be some issues there, but we’ll deal with them as we need to.” “I say we’re a go.”

“Well, Mulva”, asked Elder Cheatum, “how are you and the Ladies Auxilary feeling?”

“I guess we’re as ready as we can be without knowing how many folks are going to show up”, Mulva answered. “We sent out roughly ten thousand ‘invitations to church'”, Mulva continued, “that’s all of our old membership rolls and all of the new folks requesting Bible bookmarks.”

“If they all show up, I don’t know what we’ll do”, Mulva said with a look on her face that indicated that she thought there was some possibility that it might actually happen.

“Well, don’t let that keep you awake at night”, said Elder Cheatum as he turned to Reverend Helena. “How about you, are you ready?”

“Sure”, replied the Reverend, “anything special you all want me to talk about, or am I free to go as the spirit moves me?”

“I think we’ll trust your feelings”, said Elder Cheatum, “unless you’re going to try to tell everyone that this the year that the Braves make it back to the World Series.”

The joke at the Braves expense lightened the mood somewhat, and the group finished their checklists in relatively quick fashion. As the Elders walked to their cars, Elder Wiley sidled along side of Elder Cheatum.

“Looks like our little girl has got hurt feelings”, Elder Wiley said as Elder Cheatum opened his car door.

“Well, if she does, she can get over them”, said Elder Cheatum climbing in behind the wheel of his car. “We’ve got way too much invested in this venture to let her be the single point of failure.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “She’ll either learn how to go along, or she’ll need to get along”.

Elder Cheatum closed the door of his car and drove off without even a “see you in church” as a farewell. Elder Wiley stood in the parking lot for a minute watching the Elder retreat before getting in his own car.

“It wouldn’t be church without some conflicts”, he thought to himself as he left the parking lot. “I just hope we get it right Sunday”.

Elder Wiley turned up his radio and let the sounds of “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival drown out his thoughts.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXXIV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Wow, is there anything sadder than seeing an elderly widow being placed in a boat to escape the rising flood waters that have surrounded her home? Louisiana is being absolutely battered right now by more than two feet of rain in the last couple of days. I don’t think that any area of the country could handle that kind of runoff, least of all an area that is largely under sea level. Our hearts, and hopefully soon, our tax dollars go out to the people affected by these disastrous floods. Disasters can occur, even when Congress is not in session.

Speaking of disasters brings us back to the retelling of history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday arrived on schedule, as did the buses chartered to carry the faithful to the new church in Blairsville. There were three large Greyhound style buses, each carrying about fifty-five passengers. The overflow traffic would be expected to follow caravan style behind the buses to the Crystal Palace.

As the plan unfolded, parishioners were met in the parking lot of the church and shepherded to the sign in desks setup next to the church. Each signup was given a colored ticket, red or blue, that had to be presented to enter the buses. Assignments for buses had been drawn up the day before and were a reflection of  the “importance” of the parishioner. The first one hundred numbers were given to people that the Elders felt were important to the church’s mission and were assigned to the first two buses. The red tickets, or “A listers”, were given the opportunity to ride in the lead bus with the Reverend Helena Handbasket. The blue tickets, the “B listers”, were in the second bus and given over to the care of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread. The Ladies Auxilary provided coffee, tea, and little snack cakes to each of the parishioners as they entered the bus assigned to them. The Elders were in hopes that the preference shown to certain members would salve their feelings about the move. It was an indication that while the location might change, the old relationships would remain the same.

There were three buses provided, but the church could have easily filled five. Despite the bus driver’s warnings, the third bus was filled with people who would stand in the aisle for the trip to Blairsville. The overflow crowd was encouraged to use their own transportation for the caravan bound for Blairsville. As Elder Cheatum walked back and forth monitoring the efficiency of the operation he noted that the last bus was filled with the same folks who are always clambering for the last seats in church as the service begins.

The Elder had originally planned on being the “tour guide” for the third bus. It would be an opportunity to get to know some of the new members better and get a feel for their expectations. As the driver of bus number three closed his door Elder Cheatum could see that the passengers had left the driver barely enough room to drive. There would be scant opportunity for the Elder to “work the crowd” based off of the current conditions.

Channel 99 had assigned a cameraman to the first bus and another cameraman was shooting from the Channel 99 van in the caravan. The camera was rolling in the first bus and recording the Reverend Helena Handbasket leading the “A listers” in a fiery version of “Onward Christian Soldiers”, when Reverend Helena broke her song with cries of, “stop, stop”. To everyone in the caravan’s surprise, the lead bus pulled from the road with a sudden swerve that sent gravel from the side of the road flying. The bus pulled into a parking lot and the faithful were completely clueless as to what the diversion was about. The followers were questioning one another as to the sudden deviation from their charted course when one member looked through the back window of the bus and spied the infamous sign of the “Boobie Bungalow“, one of Blairsville’s centers of exotic dance.

Like ants bringing food back to their queen, the congregation of The Full Gospel Original Church of God were out of the buses and their cars and drawing a circle around the Reverend Handbasket who was standing at the doors of the club. The shot that was later broadcast by Channel 99 van was legendary. The faithful were milling in a circle around the Reverend Helen Handbasket, standing in the parking lot of a strip club, with looks approaching rapture on their faces.

In the broadcast shown at the regularly scheduled time, it could be seen that many of the followers were confused as to whether or not this was the intended destination, or if it was just serendipity. Some of the male members of the congregation milled about with what appeared to be sheepish looks on their faces as they waited for the other shoe to drop. Every ear was attuned for the Reverend’s voice, but she had to wait to speak until the Channel 99 crew provided her with a microphone.

Once “miked up”, the Reverend Helen Handbasket unleashed a furious condemnation of women who sold their bodies for the lustful eyes of men, and the men who lusted after them. There were strong words describing the “blight” on the community that the establishment imposed, and the need for the righteous to cast out this “den of inequity”. After ten minutes of intense fire and brimstone, the faithful were loaded back onto the buses to complete their journey.

The walk around the “Crystal Palace” was anti-climatic to the guerilla like raid on the Boobie Bungalow“. The tour of the church more closely resembled an “Open House” with a realtor, than a congregation entering the Promised Land. Reverend Helena gathered the faithful around her after the tour was finished and pronounced a blessing on the new church and all of those who would worship there. While Channel 99 was denied another altar call, and a testament of faith, they were rewarded with being on the scene when the area’s most important news story of the day was being created.

The telecast ended with the faithful being loaded back onto their buses. As each member climbed onto the bus they were handed a box lunch and cold drink provided by the Ladies Auxilary. The closing scene was bus number three leaving the parking lot, headed back to Nunsuch. The telecast couldn’t have appeared more like a documentary if it had been directed by Michael Moore.

As Elder Cheatum texted the other Elders to meet him later for dinner, he reflected on the multi-faceted gem that was Reverend Helena. Clearly she had a mind of her own, and, maybe that was a good thing. The Elder just needed to caution her to never, ever go off script. Dumping the congregation with camera crews on the doorstep of a business that was owned by very influential members of their community was not wise. He was sure that he could convey the message to “curb her enthusiasm” in a positive way. If not, well, the church had been looking for a preacher when they found Reverend Helena.




All Creatures of Our God And King LXXIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. We have a saying that “third time’s the charm”. It generally refers to the number of times the uninitiated can attempt a task before getting it right. Hopefully, the old saying will apply to the third death of an innocent child on an amusement park ride this week and force various states’ legislators to better regulate the industry. Accidents happen, and we acknowledge the possibility for lightning striking or some other force majeure occurring. That said, every precaution should be taken to ensure the safety of the little ones who are just trying to have fun. Maybe a ratio of one dollar spent on safety to one dollar spent on advertising would be a good starting point.

Talking about lightning striking is a good place to begin the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Following the Altar Call that failed to materialize, Elder Cheatum drove off up Highway 60 into the mountains to clear his head. When he got to Morganton, he pulled into the Morganton Grill exactly thirty minutes after his departure from the church. The Elder had covered the winding, snaking twenty-six miles of mountain roads faster than he could remember. As he removed the lemon from his glass of ice tea, he reflected that he did not remember much of the drive to the little eatery. The Elder sorted over his feelings and questioned his decisions as he tore into a rack of ribs. By the time the blackberry cobbler arrived the Elder was almost back to himself.

The drive back to the little church took forty-five minutes, more in keeping with the speed limits and highway safety. The Elder knocked on the door of the rectory and was greeted by Reverend Helena in her customary jeans and sweatshirt. As he was led to a seat in the living room, the Elder noticed what a dramatic change the Reverend had made to the decor of the house. It was almost like generations of Hawker families had been erased through the tasteful use of paint and fabric. Refusing a glass of tea, the Elder plunged right in.

“I think I’ve made a big mistake”, he started, “I think I’ve greatly misjudged what our congregation wants, or expects, and, I’m not sure how to quantify those concepts.”

Immediately tears rose up in the eyes of Reverend Helena and she began to appeal for another chance, “I can change, just tell me what you want me to do, I’m young, I can learn”, she said while maintaining control of he voice.

The Elder realized he had led the Reverend to the wrong conclusion and was quick to quell her panic. “No, it’s not you, it’s how I have placed you in the role of the traditional preacher, and what we have here is anything but traditional.”

The Reverend’s face became calmer as she asked, “It’s not me?” “I thought sure you were coming back to fire me after the poor Altar Call.”

“No, it’s not you”, replied Elder Cheatum, “it’s how we make use of your talents, and that’s my job.” The Elder continued, “I thought that placing you at the front door after the benediction was the right thing to do; it’s the traditional thing to do.” “Like I said, you are anything but traditional.”

“What do you want me to do”, the Reverend asked.

“I want you to make the Altar Call and then stay in front of the Altar for maybe fifteen minutes, and then exit through the stage.” The Elder answered, “I don’t care if there’s a hundred people still standing at the altar, when fifteen minutes has passed, you bug out, got me?”

“Got you”, replied the Reverend, “anything else?”

“Yes, now that mentioned it”, replied the Elder, “no more sermons on temperance unless one of our young people is killed in an accident.”

A look of surprise came over the Reverend’s face, “Why?”

“Because something didn’t feel right during your sermon, the congregation just didn’t seem to be with you”, the Elder responded, “let’s just leave it alone for awhile, ok?”

The Elder stood up to leave. He looked at the Reverend and smiled, “It’s not like you’re going to run out of sins to talk about.”

“I guess that’s true”, said the Reverend, “so, fifteen minutes at the Altar and scoot, and we’re good?”

“Exactly”, said the Elder and he was out the door.

Wednesday morning’s unofficial board meeting at the IHOP found the Elders more out of sorts than usual. Elder Cheatum was still smarting over his mishandling of the Reverend’s talents. Elder Diggum was smarting from having to twist, wheedle and cajole the management at Channel 99 into going along with the documentary idea. Elder Diggum was also smarting that he had had to call Elder Wiley in to “get the deal done.” Elder Wiley was smarting because he’d been called in. Elder Diggum was unable to find the joy in the clown face drawn on  his pancakes in whipped cream and fresh fruit.

“Anything?”, asked Elder Wiley as he reached for the latest copy of the North Georgia Gazette from Elder Cheatum.

“Nope”, replied Elder Cheatum as he handed the paper to his friend. “It’s like this guy works as the spirit moves him”. “He must be independently wealthy or a relative of somebody.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s somebody’s relative”, replied Elder Wiley, “but I get your meaning.” “He’s like a baby copperhead”, Elder Wiley continued, “you can’t hardly see them, but you don’t dare not watch for them because if you do they’ll alter your day for you.”

Elder Wiley exposed the webbing between his thumb and first finger for his partners to see the darkened skin and scarred tissue. The partners nodded in agreement.

“Do we even know who this Doohan fellow is”, asked Elder Cheatum, “does he have family in the area.”

“The Gazette isn’t giving anything up,” replied Elder Diggum between mouthfuls, “I called them, even said I was interested in having the guy do an article on us, and they wouldn’t give me any information at all.” “I think it’s a nom de plume.”

“You just like saying ‘nom de plume’ you french fry eating son of a gun”, joked Elder Wiley.

“Well, I’m glad you guys got Channel 99 squared away”, said Elder Cheatum, “I’m sorry I let everyone down Sunday, but I think we’re back on track.”

“How did Reverend Helena take your suggestions”, asked Elder Wiley.

“Good, I think she thought we were going to fire her”, replied Elder Cheatum, “have you all seen how she’s fixed up the rectory?”

“Can’t say that I have”, answered Elder Wiley.

“Well that girl’s got decorator skills”, replied Elder Cheatum, “you’d never know a man had lived in the place to see it today.”

“Here Barry, why don’t you catch this one”, Elder Cheatum said as he slid the check to his friend, “I hate to break a  hundred”.

“You hate to use your own money”, replied Elder Diggum.

“That’s right, I do”, said Elder Cheatum as he passed through the door of the restaurant,

“See you in church”, the three friends called to each other as they began their day.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXXII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well if you can’t get excited about watching America’s swimmers at the Olympics, I don’t know what will get you out of your seat. Michael Phelps’ continued dominance of his sport at the ripe old age of thirty-one is mighty impressive. Thank God he’s winning, or people would be pointing out that maybe he should stop playing huggy buggy with that octopus before each match. The physical results of “cupping” are very distracting, and one could imagine what Phelps’ detractors would be saying if the practice was not producing such astounding results. That, and all of that training, of course.

Speaking of dominance brings us back around to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The board meeting after the Wednesday Night Prayer meeting was filled with the news that Bud Lite was relieved of his probation from the State of Georgia and would now be available to donate his skills to the furthering of the mission of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Mulva was most complimentary of Reverend Dale’s efforts as a character witness on Bud’s behalf.

“Turns out, Reverend Dale knows the judge”, related the secretary/treasurer to the group seated around the table.

“Bud says they acted like old buddies”, Mulva continued, “Isn’t that providential?”

“It’s a true blessing”, replied Elder Cheatum, “I know you’re happy that Bud’s been released.”

“How’s he coming on our website”, asked the Elder hoping to divert the attention away from Reverend Dale’s friendship with yet another female.

“Ok, I guess”, replied Mulva, “He’s going to come out and take photos of everything for the webpage.” “I think he wants to get some testimonials too”.

“Well, he shouldn’t have any problem around here finding people who are willing to testify“, said Elder Wiley.

A light chuckle passed through the group and the board members continued on with their business. Repairs at the Crystal Palace were continuing unabated despite the snow and ice on the grounds. A tentative grand opening was scheduled for Sunday March 27, two weeks hence.

“I’m cogitating on an idea”, said Elder Cheatum, “and I’d like to have your thoughts.”

Eager to be a part of one of the few times that the Elder needed help making a decision, the group leaned forward in their chairs.

“I’d like to take the whole congregation to the new church the week before we open.”, said Elder Cheatum, “We could charter three or four buses, drive to the new church, and setup in the parking lot for Reverend Helena to deliver a blessing to the new church.”

The Elder drew a breath and continued, “After the benediction, we’d let everybody walk around and appreciate the work of our volunteers for a while, then load them up on the bus and give them a box lunch to eat on the way back.” “What do you think?”

“I love it”, responded Reverend Helena, “it might help make some of the older members of the church to feel more at home.”

“What about Channel 99”, asked Elder Diggum, “this endeavor is going to far exceed our hour of air time”.

“I thought about that”, responded Elder Cheatum, “I’m thinking we would leave here at 9AM.”

The Elder paused to look at the faces around the table, “We’d be basically cancelling church here for the day”. “The dudes from Channel 99 would be able to film whatever they want to film, edit it, and then present it at 11AM in documentary style.”

“I’m not sure that will fly”, responded Elder Diggum, “that’s not exactly our agreement”.

“If you need help with the ‘agreement’, we’ll get Alvin to help out”, replied Elder Cheatum, “that is if everyone agrees that it’s a good idea.”

“I think the Ladies Auxillary and all of the volunteers will be tickled pink that we’re showing off their good works on TV”, said Mulva, “I agree”.

“You know, we could do one of those scrolling things at the end of the broadcast that displays all of the businesses that have contributed to our efforts”, said Elder Wiley, “that will go a long way when we need to ask them for something the next time.”

“Then we’re all agreed”, asked Elder Cheatum.

The “ayes” carried the motion. The meeting adjourned with Mulva tasked with securing enough transportation at the “best price” to carry the acolytes to their Promised Land.

Spirits were high that Sunday. All of the pieces seemed to be fitting together. The message of the week was on temperance, and Reverend Helena lit right into the evils of hard drink and drugs. She was not giving a pass to “social drinkers” or folks who only used prescription medicines. The “highway to hell is paved with good intentions”, and folks who have a drink to be sociable are just “tempting the Devil”.

From his vantage point at the back of the church, Elder Cheatum calculated that Reverend Handbasket did a good half an hour on the perils of strong drink, leaving about fifteen minutes for the evils of drugs.

As the Elder passed the collection plate from row to row, years of performing the task led him to believe that the offerings were lighter than usual.

“I don’t know if a poll of the congregation would reveal a demographic that is supporting of the Reverend’s time allotments”, the Elder thought,”I suspect the drug problem is about two to one the drinking problem.” 

“I don’t have any hard numbers”, the Elder concluded to himself, “but I know my neighbors, and you just know these hipsters are messing with something illegal.”

For the first time since the Reverend Helena had taken over, there were no people coming up to the altar call at the end of the service. Elder Cheatum scanned the congregation and looked for a clue as to the cause of the anomaly. As surreptitiously as he could, Elder Cheatum slipped alongside of Elder Wiley.

“I don’t know what to make of it”, Elder Cheatum whispered in his friend’s ear, “She was certainly fiery in her delivery, and did a mighty fine job of wrangling the serpents.” “She just couldn’t get anyone to get out of their seat to ‘come on down’.” 

Elder Wiley whispered back at Elder Cheatum, “I know what it looks like in person, and I’m guessing out in TV land it looks God awful.”

Elder Wiley continued whispering animatedly,”I’m sure hoping the management at Channel 99 is not negatively effected by the paucity of souls saved this week.” “It could greatly effect our request for them to do us a favor by doing the road trip show to the Crystal Palace.”

“You work on that”, whispered Elder Cheatum, “and I’ll see what’s going on with our Reverend.”

“I’m taking off”, Elder Cheatum declared, “Can you follow up with Mulva and make sure she gets the deposit done?”

Elder Cheatum didn’t wait for a response and he was out of the church immediately. On his way down the steps he whispered into the Reverend’s ear, “We need to talk, will you be home later?” Reverend Helen nodded “yes” and Elder Cheatum left the parking lot headed for parts unknown.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXXI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. There is no “out of bounds” for crazy. Unlike all of our endeavors in life, where there is perceived to a defined area that society feels comfortable operating in, crazy does not have those restrictions. I’m referencing the Donald’s call to arms by the second amendment wingnuts to do harm to Hillary because the Donald is unable to compete intellectually. To paraphrase the words of that great American, Forest Gump, “Crazy is as crazy does.” I don’t recall there ever being a  political campaign in America that was predicated on the assassination of the opponent. Thanks for that, Donald.

Speaking of giving thanks bring us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Wednesday morning “breakfast club” members were gathered around their favorite table at the IHOP when Elder Cheatum dropped the bomb.

“I got a call from Bud Lite”, the Elder began, “and he has related some very disturbing news to me.”

“Is Mulva ok”, asked the other Elders in unison.

“She’s fine, for now”, Elder Cheatum replied, “but Bud is scared that the latest news might send her to Glory”.

“What is it”, asked Elder Wiley, “quit drawing it out.”

“Well, as Bud tells me, he had security cameras installed around the park at TackyToo so that he could get the goods on a suspected peeping Tom”, Elder Cheatum continued, “Seem’s Bud wanted to be able to confront the peeper with video evidence when he evicted him.” “Well, even though the peeper is long since gone, the security system lives on.” “The cameras just keep recording everything they see, 24×7, rain or shine.”

“And….”, asked Elder Diggum.

“And the cameras have revealed more goings on in the wee hours of the night than just the possums turning over the trash.” “Bud has tapes of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread sneaking into Ms. Anita Goodman’s trailer the last three nights at about 2AM.” “The camera’s datetime stamp shows Dale leaving at about 3AM.”

The Elders are all quite for nearly a minute.

Elder Wiley is first to speak, “I think we have established a new meaning for ‘The Sweet Hour of Prayer’.”

“Well, we can make light of it”, answered Elder Cheatum, “but Bud is afraid the news will send Mulva right off the deep end.” “In her way, she is as important to us as Reverend Helena.” “We need to come up with a plan for protecting Mulva from this information.”

Elder Diggum took the opportunity of the moment of contemplation to order another order of French toast and a side of bacon. When he finished ordering, he looked at his two friends and said,

“You know the old phrase that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” “Is there anyway in this world we can teach this ‘old dog’ how to forget this particular trick?”

“Neuter him, I reckon”, replied Elder Wiley, “I don’t see any other way.”

Elder Cheatum looked at Elder Wiley and grinned, “Always the practical one, aren’t you?” 

“Well, I’m just saying that it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle”, replied Elder Wiley, “if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, yes, we know what you mean”, answered Elder Cheatum. “Look, I’m going to tell Bud to keep it quiet”. “If it blows up in our face, we’ll deal with it then, but as of now we are like those three monkeys.” “We haven’t seen anything, we haven’t heard anything, and we’ve certainly got nothing to talk about.” “Agreed?”, he asked as he looked at Elder Diggum.

Elder Diggum answered by clapping his hand over his rather full mouth.

“Ok fine, now let’s get out of here and remember, we don’t know a thing.” said Elder Cheatum as he started to slide out of the booth. 

“That’s not that much of a stretch for Barry”, said Elder Wiley as he handed Elder Diggum the bill, “Here, Barry, this one is on you.” 

The three friends rejoined eight hours later for the “official” weekly board meeting after Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. All of the news was good. Work was progressing at the Crystal Palace at a pace consistent with a motivated volunteer workforce. Mulva announced that she had ordered another twelve thousand Bible bookmarks in response to the request coming in from the new market areas. Mulva also announced with equal pride that Reverend Dale had made a payment on his outstanding debt to TackyToo. The news was met with smiles and words of approval from the Elders. The meeting ended on a high note.

Sunday’s services were packed to the rafters in spite of the snow on the ground. Elder Cheatum couldn’t help but notice that the Channel 99 truck in the parking lot was a very large step van. Previous telecasts were handled by a converted Ford Econoline. Now the telecasts were being funneled through a van the size of those food trucks you see in Atlanta.

“Well, I guess we’ve all stepped up a bit”, Elder Cheatum thought as he headed inside for the service.

This week’s sermon was on “Envy”, and would complete the ‘seven deadly sins’ series. From his vantage point at the back of the church, Elder Cheatum thought that Reverend Helena gave a good one.

“Not as good as ‘Gluttony’, or ‘Lust’, but still right up there”, the Elder thought.

While waiting for his cue to begin the collection, the Elder wondered about his tenuous relationship with Reverend Dale. The Elder wondered if any of his feelings towards the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread were envious in nature. Clearly the words of Reverend Helena’s sermon were creeping into the Elder’s psyche.

“I mean, he truly is the poster child for an ‘old dog'”, Elder Cheatum thought as he headed to the altar to collect his collection plate.

“He makes his living selling something that can never be returned, and apparently only puts in about eight hours a week doing it.” “The balance of his week is spent ‘ministering’ to the congregation.”

“If truth be told, I’ve always known that Reverend Dale prefers to minister to the more fetching female members of our community”, thought Elder Cheatum as he avoided looking at Anita Goodman while passing the plate down her row.

“I suspect I could be envious of the Right Reverend”, Elder Cheatum thought as he returned his full collection plate back to the altar, “it just seems like the risk-reward is too disproportional for my liking”.”Once you’ve been caught cheating on your spouse, nobody will trust you in anything else.” “The loss of confidence might be something you’d never recover from”.

“Who can afford that”, the Elder asked himself as he watched the Reverend Handbasket put the snakes quietly back in their box.

At the end of the benediction hymn, the Elder and the Reverend crossed paths in the aisle as the Reverend was going to take her first turn at the exit. The Elder was headed to the office to get the preliminary numbers on the collection, and to check Mulva’s attitude. It was hard to judge which was higher, the collection or Mulva’s mood.

The Elder left the church confident that everything was under control.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well it is a momentous day indeed. The Donald has released his tax plan, and wonder of wonders, it provides for a massive tax break for the rich. Somehow, the Republicans are thinking that the Reagan “trickle down” economics will still play well with the voters. Ironically, the term “trickle down” didn’t begin with the Republicans, but with my favorite Democrat, Will Rogers. Rogers said during the Great Depression that, “money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” It’s kind of like hoping that so much money will get stuffed into the fat cat’s pockets that some of it will fall out of their pockets for the poor to pick up. I prefer higher taxes for the rich. It certainly worked during our last good Republican president’s day. During the Eisenhower administration, the rich paid up to ninety four percent.

Speaking of taxing situations brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Elder Cheatum walked into the Wednesday night board meeting to hear Mulva Lite telling the collected group of her most recent baby-sitting adventures with the Bread Brood. “You know Valentine’s day is on Sunday, so I thought it would be nice if Bud and I kept the kids for a little while so Dale and Alva could go out”, Mulva continued,”I guess I wanted to be sure they celebrated”.

“Anyway”, Mulva said, “We rented this movie, ‘March of the Penguins’ to show to the kids, and it was just perfect, if you all haven’t seen it, you should.”

Mulva looked about the room to see if the audience was still following her, and everyone was.

“The ‘March of the Penguins’ is this French documentary about the Emperor penguins of Antarctica”, Mulva continued, “It’s a fascinating story, even with Bud constantly pointing out to the children how a good daddy takes care of his children, even when they’re just eggs.” “Anyway, Reverend Dale and Alva get back just as their eldest Devin is making a hangman’s noose out of the Venetian blind cord.”

“I just don’t know what to think about that one”, Mulva concluded, “he kindly sends chills down my back.” “Anyway, watch the movie if you get a chance”.

“Will do”, said Elder Cheatum, “how are we doing this week?”

“Well, our collections from attendance are around seven thousand this week”, replied Mulva, “the additional services are bringing about eleven hundred per week so far, so that’s good.”

“Where we are going ‘off the hook’ as the kids say, is the money coming from TV land” “The donations from the Bible Bookmarks are now averaging fifty dollars a piece, so we’ve collected nearly four hundred thousand dollars from the bookmark campaign.”

Mulva looked around the table at the other board members who appeared to be afraid to breathe or swallow or do anything that might change their good fortune.

“Regular donations from TV land are now about fifty thousand per week.” “I’m calculating that with an average check of thirty five dollars, and that’s if we’re getting one donation per twenty viewers, we’ve got between twenty-five and thirty thousand viewers watching each week.” “Of course we expect that number to rise as the market areas of the new telecasts expand.”

If Mulva had any anxious feelings about wasting the time of the board with the banality of her story about the penguins, she need not worry. The preponderance of the financial data had left the board speechless.

Finally, Reverend Helena broke the silence, “How many people are watching me”, she asked.

“Well, my numbers are inexact”, replied the secretary/treasurer, “but I’m guesstimating close to thirty thousand”. “It might be lower, but that would mean that the percentage of ‘givers’ in the audience is higher than we expect.” “One giver for every twenty viewers felt like a good estimate based on the area reached by Channel 99 when we started.” “I guess at some point Channel 99 will tell us what they know”.

“They’re called ‘Nielsen Ratings'”, chimed Elder Diggum, “they’re real hard to get for areas like ours.” “It’s much easier in the city where the station has a strong financial interest in knowing who is watching.”

“Well, I would like to invoke a little country wisdom here,” said Elder Wiley, “it ain’t broke, let’s don’t try to fix it.” “I’m amazed that Mulva’s ‘free’ bookmark idea has born so much fruit, and I think it has given us a great insight into our audience.” “I’d say let’s just keep on collecting data and once we get moved to the Crystal Palace we can hit the audience with a direct mail campaign.”

“I agree”, said Elder Cheatum, “the audience will see the telecasts coming from the Crystal Palace and have a real sense of  ownership.” “Twice a year capital drives for improvements should be no problem for the first three or four years.”

“I’m curious”, said Reverend Helena as all eyes turned on her, “where’s all of this money going?” “I know it costs a lot to fix up the new church, and to keep this one open, but I get the sense we’ve collected over a million dollars since I started, and, well, I’m just curious.”

“Well, some time we’ll sit down and tell you about all of the missions that our church is involved in”, said Elder Cheatum as he stood to leave, ” but not tonight.” “Anybody have anything else?” he said as he backed towards the door.

No one raised an objection and the meeting was over.

As Elder Cheatum stood on the porch of the little church in the valley that Sunday counting the cars vying for parking spaces, he was glad that the faithful had failed to heed the warnings of the weather service. “Black ice” was predicted for the area, and it was clear from the cloudless blue skies that the weather people didn’t know what they were talking about. An old Bible verse popped into Elder Cheatum’s head as he shook hands and patted the backs of people crowding into the church. Proverbs 17:28 stated, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding”.

So even back in Biblical times, they knew that it was better to, ‘remain silent and be thought a fool, rather than speaking and removing all doubt’”, thought Elder Cheatum as he headed inside to the beginning notes of the gathering hymn.

As the Reverend Helen Handbasket began her service, Elder Cheatum looked to see if his dear friend Barry Diggum’s ears were turning red. This week’s sermon topic was Gluttony. As the Reverend Helena warmed to her task, Elder Cheatum looked out at the congregation whose average BMI was higher than Hank Aaron’s lifetime batting average.

“I know she’s working her way through the seven ‘deadly’ sins, but the Reverend Helena is going after gluttony with a real relish”, thought Elder Cheatum, “real relish, I’ll have to remember that one”.

Reverend Helena must have dug deep into her research this week to be able to quote Thomas Aquinas on gluttony, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.”

“Well, I guess it’s interesting to learn that Thomas Aquinas took the position of gluttony not only applying to personal consumption”, thought Elder Cheatum, “but we may be getting too far a field for this audience.”

After an appropriate amount of time dedicated to the overweight, Reverend Handbasket’s admonitions turned from the portly to the wealthy. Reverend Helena dove right in to the defense of the poor and disadvantaged, against folks who already had “more than their share”. What started as an attack on all of the “big boned”, ended up as a diatribe against the wealthy. Reverend Handbasket talked the talk of economic injustice as well as anyone with a degree of economics.

Reverend Handbasket didn’t limit her arguments to the precepts of Keynesian economics but also interspersed the old saws, like Luke 18:25, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The hair on the back of Elder Cheatum’s neck raised up when Reverend Helena drew a fine line of distinction between the owners of Chevrolets and Lexuses.

“Geez”, thought Elder Cheatum, “that’s inviting some serious disaster when your congregation can go out into the parking lot after the service and see who’s going to Hell.” “We’re definitely going to discuss this sermon later”, he thought, “The only heat I want our wealthy parishioners feeling on their drive home is from their electric seat warmers”.



All Creatures of Our God And King LXIX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. If you have fun filling your head with minutia, and I know I surely do, then you’ll be happy to know that today is National Dollar Day. August 8, 1786 is the day that our beloved Congress established the U.S. monetary system. So, that kind of makes it National Dollar Day! It is speculated that the political campaigns will spend 4.4 billion dollars this year on TV advertising trying to get their respective candidate ensconced in the White House. Makes you wonder how a job that pays $450,000 a year is worth it, doesn’t it? There must be some other perks there somewhere.

Speaking of collecting mountains of cash to further an agenda brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Reverend Dale continued his rehabilitation that week by wielding a paint brush at the Crystal Palace. There could be an argument made for the value of his work as it also carried with it babysitting duties for the Ladies Auxillary for his brood. Alva Bread was no longer allowing her husband out of her sight, and where Alva went, generally speaking, the brood went.

Work on rehabilitating the former Mormon sanctuary was coming along as well as the weather and the volunteer’s schedules would permit. There was an assortment of little jobs that suited themselves to a well directed volunteer coordinating everyone’s efforts. Mulva Lite coordinated as well as she could in between her secretary/treasures duties back in Nunsuch and her constant mission of leading the Ladies Auxillary. The Ladies Auxillary was stretched to the max caring for the infirmed, stuffing and opening envelopes for the Bible bookmarks campaign and keeping all of the church properties in spotless order.

Accounting for all of the church’s money was keeping Mulva awake at night. She had never been exposed to the amounts of cash that were being generated. Many was the time when she would wake up from a nightmare that involved her putting the night deposit bag in the book return deposit at the Nunsuch library, or some other nonsensical place. It didn’t help her anxiety that her husband Bud was continually complaining about the back rent owed to him by the Bread family. Mulva had never used the monthly stipend of a thousand dollars allocated by the church board for the Bread’s upkeep to help alleviate the Bread’s indebtedness. Her commitment to “Christian charity” was steadfast.

Mulva had used Matthew 6:19-21, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”, so many times to explain her position that when Bud heard the words “Do not store”, he would immediately leave the room. Bud knew when an argument was already lost.

Elder Cheatum decided to put his Sunday School perfect attendance award at risk by attending the 9AM service at the little church that Sunday. The Elder was curious as too how much spin had been taken off of Reverend Dale’s fastball, using baseball terminology. The Elder was happy that the Reverend was not a blubbering hot mess, but Reverend Dale was not up to his previous stature. Reverend Dale’s sermon had punch, and his singing and his glossolalia were first rate, but his serpent skills were embarrassing.

As Elder Cheatum looked at the congregation from his “old” spot in the last row, he didn’t notice any restlessness among the crowd. The sanctuary was half-filled with a mix of the old and new members. Elder Cheatum speculated that as the Superbowl neared, the “early show” might draw higher numbers. At the Altar call Elder Cheatum rushed to his Sunday School class, keeping his perfect attendance record intact. 

After Sunday School, Elder Cheatum walked outside and was pleasantly surprised to find the weather warming up a bit. The Elder stood at the door and greeted as many people as he could as the parking lot and the road in front of the church filled with cars. At the gathering hymn, the Elder moved five feet backwards to stand inside along the back wall of the church. The Reverend Helena Handbasket came to the pulpit looking flushed. If she was flustered about something it did not come across in her delivery.

On this Sunday, the Reverend Helen Handbasket was fanning the flames of Hell so high that even some of the old-timers were surprised by the Reverend’s  “old timey religion” tone.

“I’m sure that some of the congregation is going to need to put Aloe vera on their backsides after services today”, thought Elder Cheatum.

Reverend Helena’s sermon was on “Lust”, and it was a topic the Reverend seemed to be highly opinionated on. Not content to let the seventh commandment stand on its own, “That Shalt Not Commit Adultery” , the  Reverend invoked  1 John 2:16 to flesh out her argument, For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Elder Cheatum was surprised to find his mind speculating as to whether the Reverend’s opinions were formulated from personal exploration, or if the Reverend was just well read on the topic. Either way, the fire was coming from one direction and the brimstone from the other.

The Reverend Helen Handbasket delivered the entire message balancing on the edge of the stage. The cameras from Channel 99 caught the light just right behind her, giving her that other worldly glow that has drawn so many to the church. Her voice took on a husky tone as she delivered the sermon, and towards the end, her speech pattern was in a sing song rhythm more usually identified with black pastors.

“I wonder if the more old school gospel tone is to reach out to our new audiences in South Georgia”, wondered Elder Cheatum.

Toward the end of the sermon, Reverend Helena seemed on the verge of breaking out into tongues, or actually being possessed, her performance was that transformative. When the TV crew panned the audience, there was not one eye that was not locked on the stage. Most were slack jawed, many with their mouths open. Even the Right Reverend Bread and his collective brood were transfixed on the pastor, and they are known for disrespecting the services. If there was a meter for measuring services, and the top end was an eleven, this would have been a thirteen.

Ironically, the altar call and testament of faith were anti-climatic. It was as if most of the congregation did not have the energy to make it to the altar, even if they felt the call. The Reverend Helen Handbasket had absorbed all of the energy in the room and spun it into a premonition of the hereafter that was so vivid that it rivaled Imax. All of the faithful could see clearly what their afterlife would be, if they continued in their lustful ways.

“Well, if scaring the devil out of folks is our mission, Reverend Helena sure earned her pay today”, thought Elder Cheatum as he headed for the office after the services, “Now let’s see if she scared folks enough to want to make an investment in their salvation”.

From the stacks of checks and cash piling up on the table in front of the secretary/treasurer, it appeared that most members of the congregation had felt need to make a healthy down payment on the mortgage of their soul. Elder Cheatum saw all of the donations that had been made, and it was very good.


All Creatures of Our God And King LXVIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Such a flip between the saneness of having all of the world’s countries coming together and presenting their fittest athletes for healthy competition, and the insanity of political competition. While the best among us strive to win the ultimate prize, an Olympic Gold Medal, the Donald wallows in the glow of being given a Purple Heart by a follower. “I always wanted one”, the Donald said. Gee, had the doctor that wrote the Donald the medical exemption for bone spurs only known, the Donald could have had his chance to earn one on his own in VietNam. There were 351,794 Purple Hearts awarded in VietNam, so there’s a good chance the Donald could have earned one. An even better chance that it would have come from friendly fire.

Speaking of earning things brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday January 31st marked the return of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread to the pulpit of the little church in the valley. The move was not without controversy. Reverend Dale was not “out of the doghouse” with many of the church’s members, and it was a risky move on the part of the church board to give Reverend Dale a second chance. The Elders could use “Christian charity” to describe their move, but in reality, the move was a shrewd, calculated financial decision. The board was using every resource available to them to bridge the gap between today and the eventual move to the Crystal Palace. As the church couldn’t afford, or would not pay, to have Ted E. Bayer and his Love Fellowship play an additional two times per week, the choral director duties for the new services were given to Ophelia Bottoms.

If the congregation had any concerns about Ms. Bottoms sincerity in serving the Lord and putting all of the business with the Right Reverend behind her, they were dispelled by her heartfelt delivery of the gathering hymn that Sunday. The embarrassed choir director chose the 23rd Psalm to begin her new incarnation at the little church. It was the most beautiful rendition of the 23rd Psalm that many of the followers had ever heard, leaving many of the followers in tears. 

It was clear to one and all that the two participants of the most famous coupling since Space X hooked up to the International Space Station, were busily redeeming themselves with the congregation. The Right Reverend Dale E. Bread was conducting services at 9AM and 3PM to help alleviate the overflowing crowds at the church.

Choral director, Ophelia Bottoms, was working the new services to provide the congregation with the most enlightening musical experience she could using whatever resources she could muster. Fortunately, she could always count on the deep Bass voice of  Bubba Hoakum to be available any time the doors of the church were open. Adding a tinge of soap opera drama to the proceedings was the fact that all of the new services were being conducted under the watchful eye of Alva Bread and her brood.

The morning service contained some new members and some old. There were between forty five and fifty in the crowd, and it was hoped that those people would not return fro the 11AM service.

“Freeing up an additional fifty seats for the main service is a bargain”, thought Elder Cheatum as he walked through the congregation on his way to Sunday school. It was assumed that Reverend Dale would pay for himself from the collections received from both services. Collections that exceeded Reverend Dale’s pay were “a gift” in Elder Cheatum’s eyes.

The “Elders in training” had been assigned the collection duties for the new services. Elder Cheatum was happy to be training the next generation and he felt good about the men they had chosen. The weeks of close scrutiny of their collections had revealed no improprieties.

“If any of the ‘Elders in training’ are stealing, it isn’t much”, reasoned Elder Cheatum.

Promptly at the end of Reverend Dale’s redemption service, Channel 99 moved in to get ready for the 11AM service. The broadcast that day would reach out to the newly added markets of Savannah and Macon, joining Columbus and North Georgia. The Channel 99 crew worked feverishly to check and double check every wire, cable and camera. Having statewide distribution of a telecast was the “big leagues” for the little station, and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by making a rookie mistake. Producer Jebediah Dye saw himself doing much bigger things someday, and he hoped to use the phenenom of the Reverend Helena Handbasket to spring board to bigger things.

In spite of the morning service, and the biting cold, the church was still standing room only. While the upbeat selections of the Love Fellowship tended to motivate the congregation to movement, being packed cheek to jowl also contributed to the rhythmic swaying in unison of the followers.

“I don’t think you could pull a sheet of paper between them”, Elder Cheatum thought as he looked at how closely packed the auditorium was. Children under the age of twelve were, by necessity, lap children.

“I bet the airlines would love to figure out how to do this”, the Elder chuckled to himself as he leaned his back against the wall at his post at the back of the church.

“She looks positively radiant”, thought Elder Cheatum as Reverend Helena strode to the pulpit. Reverend Helena’s hair seemed to have an extra sparkle this week. Her cheeks had just a touch of red, as if she had just run up a flight of steps, but her voice did not indicate that she was out of breath.

Reverend Helena Handbasket’s sermon this week was on Greed. The Reverend invoked the vision of the fiery lake for those in the congregation who had planned on taking their riches with them. The most simple follower, either in church or TV land understood by the end of the sermon that the opposite of “greed” is “give”. If one wanted to avoid eternal discomfort in the afterlife all you had to do was to give in this life. 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.”

Elder Cheatum could barely contain his excitement during the Altar Call and the Testament of Faith. His collection plate had felt heavier this week than ever before, and unless the people were putting coins in their donation envelopes, today’s final tally was going to be a humdinger.