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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Amos Says, “Screw Your Sacrifices”



It was a time of peace and prosperity. It was a time of luxury, even, of affluence and delight. The statesmanship of King Jeroboam II had “made Israel great again,” had brought back the glory and opulence of the rule of Solomon. King Jeroboam II had waged aggressive military campaigns to “recover territory from the Pass of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah” (2 Kings 14:25). He’d forced Damascus and Hamath to return to their promises of allegiance to Judah and to Israel (2 Kings 14: 28). “By our own strength,” he boasted, “we captured Karnaim” (Amos 6:13).

And with the expanded borders and this peace secured through superior firepower came an economic boom. The people of Israel were buying both summer and winter houses, fine ivory houses and splendid mansions (Amos 3:15). They lived in comfortable confidence on the hills of Samaria (6:1). They slept on carved ivory beds and plush divans. They dined on stall-fattened veal, drank wine by the bowlful, oiled their skin with fine oils, and relaxed to soothing melodies played on the lyre (6: 4 – 5).

“We are rich,” they proclaimed, “and we are strong.” And they believed that this was of God. And why wouldn’t they have thought this was true? After all, “Blessings are on the head of the upright…” (Proverbs 10:6). Yes?  And “the wealth of the rich is their stronghold, while poverty is the undoing of the weak” (Proverbs 10: 15). Their wealth was a strong wall around them (Proverbs 18: 11). They remembered that “In the house of the upright there is no lack of treasure…” (Proverbs 15:6).

The people of Israel went to the city of Bethel - to the “house of God’ – to worship. They brought sacrifices and offerings each morning. They brought their tithes every third day (Amos 4:4). They made oblations and burnt offerings, they attended solemn assemblies and exuberant festivals (Amos 5: 21 – 22).  All was well in Israel, or so it seemed.

Amos came from nowhere, from obscurity – without pedigree or college degree – to challenge and condemn the houses and people of power in Israel. Amos was a migrant worker, moving between tending sheep (1:1) and cattle (7:14) in the high hill country of Tekoa where the shepherds eked out a subsistence existence on the stony slopes of the limestone hills, and tending the sycamore-fig trees of the low Jordan valley (7:14). He was not a trained prophet or a member of the brotherhood of prophets (7:14). He spoke by intuition and inspiration (and maybe those are the same thing). He saw visions of Israel and her impending doom.

It was true, of course, that King Jereboam II ruled in a time of peace and economic prosperity, just as it was true that the people of Israel made a show of their faith at the temple in Bethel. But this was all veneer. Beneath this beautiful and laudable exterior the Virgin Israel was a dead woman, a rotting corpse (Amos 5: 1 – 2).

Amos came up from Judah to Israel to make an announcement, for the prophets seldom engaged in debate or argument. They did not entreat or exhort; they announced; “Thus says the LORD” (Gowan 343). He began his announcement by listing the sins and offense of Israel’s neighbors, the war crimes of the surrounding countries. The Aramean city-state of Damascus had cruelly threshed the region of Gilead, completely suppressing it. Gaza, a Philistine city, had sold an entire population into slavery, as had Tyre, a wealthy Phoenician trade port, in spite of a covenant of brotherhood. Edom was condemned for pursuing his brother with a sword – a reference to the familial heritage between Israel and Edom going back to the book of Genesis (Genesis 25: 23, 3:1). Ammon had “disemboweled the pregnant women of Gilead” in order to expand their borders. And Moab had desecrated the grave and the bones of a king (Amos 1: 3 – 2: 3). Amos continued by condemning the southern, brother nation of Israel, Judah despising Yahweh’s law and for failing to keep his commandments (Amos 2: 4 – 5).

This rapid fire denunciation of Israel’s neighbors may have rallied the people in Bethel to excitement. “Yes. This Amos fellow really tells it like it is.” But before their schadenfreude glee could be fully realized Amos turned his gaze on Israel and launched into a most uncivil criticism.

Israel had sold the upright for silver,
                sold the poor for a pair of sandals,
                crushed the heads of the weak and powerless into the dust of the earth,
                thrust the rights of the poor aside (2: 6 -7)
                They had crammed their palaces full with violence (3:10)
                and exploited the weak and the poor (4:1)

They had despised the man teaching justice at the city gates just as they had loathed anyone speaking the truth (5:10). They’d trampled on the poor man and taxed his wheat in order to build their own storehouses and to plant their own pleasant vineyards (5:11).

Yes. They slept on carved ivory beds and plush divans, and dined on stall-fattened veal. Yes. They drank wine by the bowlful, and oiled their skin with fine oils – but for the ruin of Joseph, for the ruination of the poor and the low – they cared nothing (6:6). They were swindlers and cheats, generating their fortunes by force and by fraud, tampering with scales and exploiting loopholes in the law so that they could buy up the poor as slaves to further increase their gains (8: 5 – 6).

This is why Amos called them “fat cows of Bashan” (4:1) and Virgin corpses (5: 1 – 2): in their mistreatment of the poorest of the people they had forgotten Yahweh, God Sabaoth, the Lord of the Angel Armies.

“But,” they objected, “we bring our tithes and offerings to the temple. We make the ritual observances. We sing the hymns and recite the prayers.”

“Screw your sacrifices,” Amos answered speaking for God. “I hate, I abhor your festivals and assemblies. Your sacrifices do not please me, and spare me the execrable din of your incessant chanting. Your piety is worthless without justice” (5: 21 – 23).

“Let justice flow like water.
Let righteousness flow like a never failing stream! (5:24)
This is what I want.”

“Who can ascend to the mountain of Yahweh,” the psalmist asked. “Who shall stand in his holy place?  Only the clean of hand and the pure of heart. Only the one not set on vanities. Only the one who does not lie and deceive (Psalm 24).

“So go ahead and go to the sanctuary, to the temple in Bethel” Amos said, speaking for God. “Go ahead and go to Bethel and sin, sin all the more. Take your sacrifices, and your tithes, burn your offerings if it makes you happy. But I’ll have none of it” (Amos 4: 4 – 5).

Now this was all too much for the Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. It was uncivil. It was rude. It was treasonous. So he sent a message to King Jeroboam II: “the man Amos is conspiring against you in the heart of the House of Israel. The country cannot tolerate his speeches. He threatens you with a sword, and says that Israel will be taken away into captivity” (7: 10 -11).

And to Amos Amaziah said, “Get out of here you so-called seer. Go back to Judah where you belong. Prophesy there, if you like, but never come back to speak in Bethel. This is a sanctuary, a national temple” (7: 12 – 13).

There’s little arc in this brief narrative nestled in among the words and visions of Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa. There’s no introduction and no conclusion; it’s all second act and no denouement. We do not know what happened to Amos. Did he return home to tend the sheep and pluck the figs having proclaimed his message of imminent doom? Was he arrested and put to death by the religious and political forces he’d offended in Samaria and Bethel? We do not know.

But the words and visions of Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa, were recorded and preserved as the earliest part of the prophetic tradition (though he himself declined that title.) Maybe he isn’t quoted as often as the prophet Isaiah. Maybe he isn’t as famous as the anti-prophet Jonah. But his indictments and challenges stand: religious ritual is not enough and displays of worship are grotesque parodies of faith without a commitment to justice and righteousness. His warning that a people held enthralled by military might and economic prosperity while exploiting and abusing the poor and powerless are despised by God should cause us to tremble – even if his announcements and threats were not addressed specifically to us. His instruction to “seek good and not evil so that you may survive” (5:14) is just as relevant to the USA in the 21st century AD as it was to Israel in the 8th century BC. 

“Hate evil, love good,
and let justice reign at the city gates” (5:15).

This is, and not our nationalistic displays of empty worship is what God wants. How we treat the poor, the immigrant, the widow, the orphan, the minority, and the powerless is a better signifier of our faith than our grand churches and worship services. We may claim to be a Christian nation, founded in the values of the word of God, but if we do not protect and serve the poor, it is a lie. Our wealth and power are not indicators of God’s unequivocal blessing.

“Hate evil, love good,
and let Justice reign at the city gates.”
This is what God wants.


Gowan, Donald E. “The Book of Amos: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume VII. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Pres. 1996.  




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Proverbial Trump



"Like a madman hurling firebrands,
arrows and death,
so is anyone who lies to a companion
and then says, 'aren't I amusing?'"
Proverbs 26: 18 - 19 (New Jerusalem Bible)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

If America Was Ever Righteous



“The United States of America was great once,” she said, “and righteous too. We’re going to make it great again.”

“Righteous,” I repeated back to her to be sure I understood.

“Oh yes. Righteous.” She grinned beneath her red MAGA cap.

“Righteous? Just like the prophet Isaiah said, right?” I pushed.

“Oh yes, brother. Amen. Just like the prophet said.”

“Well,” I said carefully. “If America was ever righteous… as Isaiah said… I’m not sure you’d want to put those bloody rags back on.”

She frowned beneath that red cap of hers. Ever hearing, never understanding. Seeing, but not perceiving. Let the wind blow it all away.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ezekiel Goes to Washington



The hairless man was mute – and both of these were by choice. But only because he had no other choice but to obey the Voice of Heaven. When the clouds break and thunder shatters the earth, the Son of Man is quick to respond.

He carried under one arm a cinder block – certainly a strange sight in the nation’s capital, strange enough that secret service agents guarding the White House noticed him long before he set it down on the sidewalk outside the gate and began to draw upon it with a stick of charcoal he carried in his pocket.

The depilated man quickly and silently sketched the D.C. skyline on the block. Then, from another pocket, he withdrew a handful of green plastic soldiers. These he arranged in a semicircle in front of the cinder block panorama. With the charcoal he wrote one the sidewalk in large, bold letters: DAY ONE and lay down on his left side next to his display.

These antics were filmed by passersby with their cell phones – at least until the secret service vultures swooped down to arrest and haul the silent man away. “Was he mentally ill,” you ask, “or prophetic?” Who can say?  And don’t even ask about the lunch he carried with him...

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Jesus, Be Civil




Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – closing the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven so that no one can enter!

“Jesus, be civil.”

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – travelling the globe to make converts who are twice as fit for hell as yourselves!

“Jesus! Be civil.”

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – blind guides! Blind fools!

“Jesus!”

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! –scrupulous in your tithes, but stingy in justice and mercy, straining out gnats, but swallowing camels whole!

“Jesus, Jesus!”

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – You’re clean on the outside of the cup, but inside it’s full of the wine of corruption, the wine of extortion and intemperance.

“Jesus, be civil.”

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – You are white washed tombs and marble sepulchers, handsome on the exterior but full of death.

“Jesus, for the last time…

Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees – hypocrites! – honoring your tradition of faith and building monuments to your founding fathers. You say, “Make the nation great again,” while murdering the prophets! You are children of those who have always killed the prophets, and you are continuing their work.

“Jesus! Jesus!”

Serpents! Brood of Vipers! How can you escape condemnation?

“Goddammit, Jesus!”

Friday, June 29, 2018

What Are You Looking At?



What Are You Looking At by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

What Are You Looking At by Jeff Carter on 500px.com




Photos taken at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, MN.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Plant a Radish


"Plant a radish, get a radish,
never any doubt..."

Plant a Radish by Jeff Carter on 500px.com



Saturday, June 16, 2018

In Which Both “He” and “You” Mean “I”



He wiped the condensation from the mirror and inspected his reflection, the blue of his eyes, and the lines at the corners of his eyes. He lathered his face with shaving soap.

“I look old,” he said.  He sighed.

“Yeah, you do,” said his reflection.

He unfolded the razor, raised it to his cheek, then stopped. “What?”

“You do look old.”

He began, hesitantly, to shave the whiskers from his face. “Oh, come on. I just worked nine hours in a hot, sweaty factory. I don’t look old. I look…tired. I look tired”

“You look old.”

He put the razor down. “That’s not…”

“You said it first,” said the reflection. “You said it. I can only repeat. Reflect.”

You’re nine. You’re nineteen. You’re forty-three. You’re getting up at five in the morning to go to work and there’s hair growing on the back of your ears. It’s all there in the reflection for you to see.

Clean shaven now, he wipes his face. He didn’t nick himself with the razor, not even once. The mirror is silent. The mirror has nothing to say.  The mirror is unresponsive. He wonders if he should grin.

Cruciferous



Cruciferous by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

Preflight Checklist



Verify weather conditions: check.
Verify airspace: check.
Inspect wings for damage: check.
Remove gimbal cover and lock: check.
Power up controller: check.
Check antenna position: check.
Calibrate compass: check.
Check for overhead obstructions: check.
Take off and hover: check.

Preflight Checklist by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

He Thinks He's Wild


Our cat, Tang, is a house cat, mostly. He stays indoors except for a few hours,  a few days a week. He doesn't hunt. He doesn't climb. But, still he thinks he's wild.

He Thinks He’s Wild by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Totenkopf – Making America Great Again



There it was, the Totenkopf, not hiding, not disguised, or covert in anyway, but openly, brazenly, out for all the public to see. Unashamed, for why should the powerful be ashamed? Why should the strong be abashed? No. They wore their death’s head on patches on their shoulders, and painted them on their police cars, the official emblems of the forces of death.

Who is the victim trapped half in hellfire and half in brimstone smoke? Don’t bother to write this down – the victim is you. Eventually. Inevitably.

Nazi torture agents and U. S. Marine Reconnaissance Battalions baptized in the blood of the founding fathers – Christian freedom fighters fighting a war, an endless war to make America great again.

The School of Assassins is the School of the Americas teaching torture to would be dictators. A cast-iron corpse, a costumed cadaver, a strangled stiff put on display as a trophy and a warning, a boast and a threat to the world. See me and despair. Fear me and submit.

It would be untrue to say that they’d traded Spirit power for serpent Power – for, in truth, they’d never known that Spiritus Sanctus. But truth in advertising is just another Wall Street prevarication. That’s the patriotism we’ve come to expect from the cops and the corporations (they’re the same, anyway). Privatized prisons for profit – meeting the quota to satisfy the shareholders. Beating the prisoners to satisfy themselves. This is the serpent’s power. This is the death’s head. Isn’t it great?



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Earnest Hemingway – Nazi Hunter




Anne Hydrous (she of the driest of wit) sat with her older sister, Moly Bdenum, under the canopy of a breezy outdoor café in Rio de Janeiro. The city in 1938 was noisy and noisome, but the women found it endearing, charming even.

“So unlike New York,” said Anne.

“Quite unlike Chicago,” replied Moly. “What, with the Nazi occupation and all… Brown shirts and storm troopers on every corner. Nazi flags flying from all the buildings. I never did trust those Dulles brothers.” 

Anne nodded her agreement.

Moly continued, “I just knew they were collaborators, that they were in business with the Nazis.”

The women sipped their coffees and watched a ragged band of bedraggled children chasing a brilliantly plumaged chicken. They were waiting at that particular café on that specific day, at that precise moment, under the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain, to meet with the world renowned author and secret Nazi hunter, Earnest Hemingway.

Hemmingway was late.

Anne sipped at her coffee and said, “Not that I distrust the man, but…”

“Yes?” prompted her sister.

“Well, how do we know he’s actually him? The author? Hemingway.  How do we know?”

“Moly Bdenum sighed. “First thing: he was wearing an eyepatch, right?”

“Yes, he assuredly is,” said Anne. “But I’m not certain that the author of The Sun Also Rises is known for wearing an eyepatch.”

“Moly sighed again. “And he has that six-toed cat.”

“Yes,” agreed Anne. “That does go a long way to confirm his identity, but…”

“In any case, he told us that he’s him. When we met him, he said, ‘ladies, I’m Earnest Hemingway.’ Just like that.”

“Yes…”

“And he told us all about the time he snuck into the Nazi Zeppelin base in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and how he blew it up.”

“Yes, but…”

“But nothing. The man’s a legend, fighting bulls in Spain and blowing up Nazi airships in the Caribbean.  He’s a legend. A hero. Not at all like that weasel Alan Dulles.”

By this time their coffee had grown cold and the children had caught their bird. This sisters could hear its caterwaul echoing down the stone lined streets. Hemmngway never showed up. Eye patch or no, the famous author and covert Nazi killer had missed his appointment with the curious sisters. They put down their cups and picked up their handbags. They strolled along the boulevard towards their hotel.

“Maybe we could do something to impress him, attract his attention,” suggested Anne.

“How’s that? He’s blown up Nazi dirigibles. How are two old biddies like us going to impress him?”

“We kidnap the Lindbergh baby,” said Anne.

“What?” Moly was aghast.

“The Lindbergh baby.  He’s a Nazi collaborator after all…”

“The baby?”

“No. Charles Lindbergh. If we kidnap the Lindbergh baby, maybe Hemingway would meet with us.”

“Well,” said Moly with great sensitivity. “Dear-heart, it’s already been done.  And I think you’re mistaken. Lindbergh is pro-German and something of an anti-Semite, but he’s not a Nazi sympathizer. I think you mean the war profiteer, Henry Ford.”

“Right. Henry Ford.  And the Dulles brothers. They’re all in cahoots.”

The sisters had arrived at their hotel. “Forget about Hemingway,” said. Anne. “I don’t think that was him.”



Sunday, May 13, 2018

How Blessed, How Fortunate, How Happy…(Psalm 1)



There is a story told of the Reformer, Martin Luther – that when asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he responded that he would plant a tree. The story is apocryphal, a liturgical legend – and doesn’t go back any further than the middle of the 20th century. But still, there is something interesting in that story. Faced with the prospect of calamity and destruction, with ruin and despair, Martin Luther (or at least, this pious story version of Martin Luther) chose to plant a tree. That is, he took the long view, even when the future might seem bleak; he planned and planted something enduring, something that would grow.

A few years ago a friend of mine living in Michigan called me one afternoon with bad news. His life, his career, his hope, all of it was collapsing. His wife was leaving him. He was soon to lose his job. And there was little that he could do about it. And there was even less that I could do about it for him. I had no influence over anything. I couldn’t fix the broken things. I couldn’t restore the dying things. And he lived too far away for me to hop in the car and go over for a visit – and even if I had made the drive across the country to see him, the best that I could have done would have been to sit in stupid silence with and for him.

My schedule for that dark day included helping another friend of mine, one who lived here in town. He needed help transplanting a small magnolia tree. The tree was going to be cut down by developers who were clearing a lot in order to put up a new building, and my friend wanted to try to save the tree. I changed out of my Salvation Army uniform, and drove over to his place to meet him. Together we dug up the tree with its roots, loaded the tree, along with our shovels and gallons and gallons of water into the back of the pickup truck, and moved the tree to its new spot, right near his garden.

We dug a new hole for it, put it in place, poured water over the roots, replaced the dirt, poured more water into the soil around the tree, tamped down the dirt, and poured more water over it all. At the time we weren’t sure if the tree would survive. Neither of us had any experience in digging up and transplanting trees. But, we reasoned, if it didn’t survive, well at least we tried. And if it did survive, then we’d have done something good. Faced with destruction and ruination, despair and helplessness, I planted a tree.

That was a few years ago – and the magnolia tree has survived. I went to check on it yesterday, and it has been growing; it’s taller now than it was. It was in bloom yesterday, with purple, pink blossoms reaching up towards the falling rain. And my friend from Michigan has survived too, though like the tree, he has been transplanted to a new home; he now lives in another state and has a new job. His marriage did fall apart, and his wife did leave taking their children with her. My friend misses his boys tremendously, but he has survived, and grown. Bloomed even.


Magnolia at the End of the World by Jeff Carter on 500px.com
Is he happy? Blessed, Fortunate? I don't know. These are difficult words to pin down, especially when the world around us is cluttered with chaos, when our lives are bombarded from without and inflamed from within by stress and anxiety and agitation. How can we be (even if we don’t feel) blessed, fortunate, and happy?

So this week we turn to the Psalmist for a bit of an Old Testament Beatitude for a little about what it might mean to be blessed, or fortunate, or lucky, or even happy.

How Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers (Psalm 1:1 NIV)

How blessed – that is, fortunate, lucky, happy – How blessed, how happy is the one who does not walk with the wicked, or stood in the assembly of sinners, or sat down in the session of scoffers.

There is an interesting bit of entropy in this verse, a steady decline in power and vigor. The psalmist's negative example decelerates from walking to standing and then from standing to sitting. Little by little he loses energy and vitality, he loses his strength. She associates with those who bring her down.

But blessed is the one who keeps moving. Blessed is the one who keeps on keeping on. Blessed is he or she who makes some progress every day, even just a little. Even just one step. Blessed, Fortunate, Happy is the one who never lets the counsel of the wicked slow them down. If we allow the world to encourage us to be angry, to hate our enemies, to turn our passion into resentment, to turn our fear into loathing, our energies will be sapped. We will lose our power, our motion. We will get bogged down by the ensnaring concerns, drained by fear and anger and we will give up. We will sit down with the scoffers, slowly dying.  

But blessed, fortunate, happy is the one who keeps moving. Blessed is the one who is not paralyzed by fear and doubt, or immobilized by resentment. Instead, the law of the LORD is her delight. The teaching and instruction of the LORD is his delight. And they meditate on it day and night. They recite it. They ponder it.

Now we should note that the Hebrew word translated “law” here is the word torah which is something more than a legal list of rules and obligations. The psalmist’s beatitude is not saying that happiness can be reduced to a mechanical process of following a set of rules and regulations. Instead it is a dynamic process that requires a constant meditation on the instruction of God in order to determine the will of God in every situation.  (McCann) It is the continual transformation and renewal of our minds so that we can discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2 NRSV).

Such a one is like a tree planted near streams;
it bears fruit in season
and its leaves never wither,
and every project succeeds. (Psalm 1:2 – New Jerusalem Bible)

Actually the verb here is more than “planted.” More accurately it would be “transplanted” (Dahood, 3). They have been dug up from the soil, pulled up from the roots and moved to a new location, put into new soil, near streams of water where they can grow anew – like my friend’s magnolia tree transplanted, but still blooming, and like my friend whose world came to an end but he kept on going. They bear fruit in season. Maybe not right away. Maybe not a lot at first. But they bear fruit. How blessed, how fortunate, how happy.

There’s also an interesting temporal dimension to these verses that’s not always picked up by the various translations of the bible. In Mitchel Dahood’s translation we read:

How blest is the man who has not entered
                the council of the wicked
nor in the assembly of sinners stood,
                nor in the session of scoffers sat.
But from the Law of Yahweh is his delight,
                and from his law he recites day and night.
So shall he be like a tree
                transplanted near streams of water;
which yields its fruit in its season,
                and whose leaves never wither.
Whatever it produces is good.

We in these verses we have the past (blessed is the one who has not entered, stood, sat…), we have the present (the law of the LORD is his delight, he recites day and night), and we have the future (so shall he be like a tree).  (Dahood, 3)

Yes, the past may have been difficult; we may have found ourselves surrounded by hostile forces, lured by temptations, excited by passions. We may have been tempted to give in, and give up. But we keep the law of the Lord in our minds, and on our tongues, reciting it day and night, constantly refreshing ourselves with it and renewing our minds by it, and we will be like a blossoming tree, bearing the fruit of success.  How blessed, how fortunate, how happy.

And now our psalmist changes tack: Not so, he says, the wicked. How different are the wicked, how very different. They are like chaff blown around by the wind” (Psalm 1: 4 New Jerusalem Bible). They are impermanent, ephemeral, without roots, useless, drifting, always changing their story, telling new lies. They are blown by the inconstant winds here and there, never amounting to anything. They are all desperation and no dreams. All vanity and vainglory. All dust in the wind.

The path of the wicked is doomed; it is a dead end. It is death and nothing more. The wicked are dust and detritus caught in a current of wind. They cannot stand in the face of judgment. They have no root, no depth. They will not endure. They will not prevail.

But the blessed one, the fortunate and happy one, is intimately known by God, is looked over and protected by God. The assembly of the just is kept safe by the LORD. Our lives, cluttered as they are with chaos, bombarded from without and inflamed within by anxiety and fear are known by God, and are protected. We are fortunate, and blessed, even happy. Thanks be to God.



Dahood, Mitchell, Psalms 1 – 50: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1966. Text.

McCann, J. Clinton. Commentary on Psalm 1. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2452


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Leviticus 19: 9 – 10 for the Libertarian Crowd




When you reap the harvest of your land, be sure to reap all the way to the edges of your fields – gather all your harvest. And the same with your vineyards; gather up even the fallen fruit. Leave nothing for the poor, or the immigrant. I am the LORD your God, and I say gleaning is theft.

Leviticus 19: 9 – 10 RMV (Radically Misunderstood Version)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What Did I Do Yesterday – A List




- Gave blood to benevolent vampires who will tell me something of my future.

- Ate strawberries and Vienna crème with a beauty queen.

- Hunted and gathered like my prehistoric ancestors, only in air-conditioning and accompanied by music.

- Gave the Earth a haircut and scalp massage.

-Chased and was chased by mankind’s ancient friend.

- Solved the problems of the world – or the country – or the state of Iowa, anyway, with a professor of history and ancient languages.

 - Laughed at Picasso, Einstein, and Elvis.

- Observed the birth of bees.

- Read and drank Dandelion Wine under the late afternoon sun, while envying Bradbury’s hyperbolic, but perfectly real childhood in Waukegan that was Greenville that was Byzantium.

- Shared a glass of cold water with a friend who shared knowledge and experience.

- Startled at the ferocious wheezing and sneezing of the creature next door.

- Made a list.

-Swapped memories for anecdotes.

- Watched a stalking lion on the Serengeti stare down an encroaching black panther, then stroked and nuzzled the lion when he came back to the patio.

- Pruned a bleeding heart.

- Put hard calloused feet to cool soft grass.

- Thanked the setting sun and blessed the rising moon.   

Friday, May 4, 2018

Defigured Disformed



Am I sitting in the waiting room of the health clinic or waiting in the sitting room? Either way, I suppose, it make no significant difference. I’m sitting / waiting patiently (to be a patient) as a toxin, injected yesterday into my arm, is tracing its way up my veins, like an inflamed red highway line on the roadmap of my skin.

Skin covered in dirt and steel dust. Skin scaly and scarred. I am not a man, but a creature. A beast. Defigured. Disformed. Tramping through the room on heavy clod hooves instead of feet.

Check the lights and cables. Count the lugs and ladders. I am misassembled.

The multiples will cross eventually - intersect, meet, collide – but, for now, I am out of tape. I am waiting / sitting for the unfamiliar doctor.

150 years ago I would have died. 50 years ago I might have died. But not today. Tap. Click Huzzah. We are nonchalant.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Distinguishing Between the Biblical Philips



There are, in the Bible, four different individuals named Philip, and keeping them distinct can be tricky. While the name Philip means “Horse-lover,” we never read of any of the four of them actually riding horses. But here is some simple advice for distinguishing between them.

Philip I and Philip II (mentioned in the gospels of Matthew and Luke) were the sons of Herod the Great – by two different wives. These Philips both died within a year of each other. Don’t worry about them though; no one is very good at keeping them straight. Even their father, Herod the Great, got them mixed up.

Then there are the important Philips – Philip the Disciple or the Apostle, and Philip the Evangelist. The easiest way to tell them apart is that Philip the Evangelist was bald. The angel of the Lord snatched him up from the road to Gaza by the hair of his head, and carried him away with the speed of the wind. This rapturous event left his pate permanently depilated. *





*This is the same way that the angel of the Lord carried the prophet Habakkuk to Babylon in order to deliver some stew to Daniel.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jesus Confronts the Gun Lobby



A certain lobbyist asked him, "Good teacher, what is the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun?"

Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.

"That's right.. a goo.." the lobbyist stammered.

"No one is good," Jesus said.

"But a good guy... a gun..." the lobbyist faltered, his argument crumbling.

"No one is good except God alone."

Around the Throne



Today I'm rereading my friend, Joel Watts' book Praying in God's Theater: Meditations on the Book of Revelation, and I am prompted to write. So I write:

Around the Throne

The faithful dead are dressed in white and gold
and like the sun, they circumscribe the throne;
in duty and in service manifold
these priests and kings their sacred praise intone.
From the throne comes a roar and lightning blast -
the elders there cast down their coronets;
the one who is, and was both first and last,
is hailed as Lord of all the elements.
And here on Earth, now and every hour,
we give to him glory, honor, power.

Revelation 4

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saint Jude


"... pray for me, I am so helpless and alone."

Saint Jude by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Was the Perturbation in the Reality Field (A Remembrance of Time Irreal)



It was 1971, four years before I would be born, and I was being pursued by the forces of darkness. They were big men in bad ties and cheap shoes, low men from high places with badges and budgets and guns.  They were, some of them, government agents – from various governments. They were FBI, and CIA, and KGB, and Mossad – operating outside and beyond the laws of their respective nations. They were also agents of the Washington Post and the L.A. Times, and, strangely, the Ancient Order of Oddfellows (Lodge # 237).  They were men with shotguns and dogs, and they were prepared to shotgun the dogs as soon as they’d shotgun me if things didn’t go their way. These were seriously bad men.

And they pursued me, all of them, for the same reason: they’d been led to believe that I had developed the ability to make time run backwards, that I’d progressed a step or two on the evolutionary track (even though that’s not how evolution works), that I’d been raised a little higher than the angels (even though the psalmist says clearly that even though I may be crowned with glory and honor, I’m still a little lower than the angels).

It was bunk, of course. A lie. Fake news. Unsubstantiated rumor. Baseless and useless speculation. I can’t make time run backwards. That’s science-fiction. Nevertheless, it was 1971, four years before I would be born, and I was being pursued by a grim, demonic chorus of shouting, dangerous men. It was 1971 and I had just burgled the house of science-fiction author, Philip K. Dick. I’d stepped through the pink light of a time slip, leaving behind Iowa in the year 2017 and found myself in California 1971. And there I’d stolen his files and used a homemade explosive device to destroy his safe.

But don’t call it time travel; that’s science-fiction and this is a true story of time irreal. Or maybe it’s not a true story, but only a remembrance of time irreal. I’d slipped through time and space (which are, in fact, two parts of the same thing) using a technique taught to me by Horselover Fat. I was the Tachyon Bombardment. I was the perturbation in the reality field. But this is not of myself; I have no cause to boast.

I ran. I ran through darkened alleys and ducked down narrow passages. I scaled buildings and dodged traffic. I ran and I ran and I ran until I was caught. An arm out of nowhere clotheslined me. I fell and hit my head. Blackness. Darkness. Void.

When I awoke I was shackled, feet and wrist, to a board. A heavy cloth lay over my face. A voice spoke to me. “You’re awake. So now there will be questions. And then there will be water.”

“Who are you?” I asked, my words dampened by the cloth that covered my mouth.

“Yes. That is a question. I am Thomas. That is all you need to know. But there is much I would know from you. Answer me. Why do you reject the powers of this world?”

And before I could answer, water was poured over the cloth over my face. I could not breathe; I could only gag. I could not scream; I could only die. And then the water stopped.

“Why do you resist? Why do you call our power injustice?” And the water came again. Breathless, I drowned, and drowning I died until the water stopped again.

“Who is the King of Tears?” 

“I don’t kno-” I shouted before the water could wash over me again, but I was cut off. I was cut down.

“Who is Diakanos?”

“I know…” I gasped. “I know who you are.” I waited for the water, but it was held back for a time. “I know who you are, Thomas, called Didymus, the evil twin. You are a murderer, part of a hellish crew, son of lust and pride. You are Pigspurt. You are pig iron, and I am being held in the Black Iron Prison, right? You are the suppressor of information, and the disseminator of disinformation. You are a thought control device.You lie.”

There was only silence. I spoke again, my voice stronger now. “Christ is risen! Get you gone!” My voice echoed in the silence of the void. Then, a clang and clatter as my shackles fell loose, I was free. I sat up and removed the wet cloth from my face. I had only moments to register the dungeon where I’d been tortured before the room filled with an intense pink light.

And I was home again, Iowa 2017.










Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

A New Dragon


The Empire never ended; it drove the faithful, those who knew the truth, deep underground and enslaved the remaining population - trapping them in the illusory promise of an ever bounteous materialism. Richard Nixon ruled. His enemies were imprisoned in Black Iron Prisons in secret, distant locations. Richard Nixon ruled until a new dragon could arise.

A New Dragon by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Sunday, April 1, 2018

500



500.jpg by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

When I Am Lifted Up, or How a Modern Appliance Fulfills the Ancient Text


The pastor stands to break the sacred bread;
he offers too the Eucharistic wine,
and in this way our lord and king, our head
is thanked and praised in action and in sign.
But e’en as he tears, piece by piece,
and holds aloft the bread that is our lord
who brings us renewed life, and health, and peace,
crumbs of the bread fall down upon the floor.
Now these, when all the congregants have supped,
will be, at last, by vacuum lifted up.


John 12: 32

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Invasion of the Mantis Men


“The Mantis Men, they’re older than the black iron prisons of ancient Rome!”

That was Jeff on another lunchtime rant.  These midday tirades were coming with increasing frequency and intensity in the last month or so. At first it was just an occasional odd statement, but there were more and more outbursts about the Mantis Men and their plan to subvert our culture and our American values. We tried to be understanding, of course, and sympathetic. We all saw the accident.

Jeff was working on the factory floor, in the assembly area, putting copper DLO cable into conduits, when a forklift driver – driving too fast, and not watching – knocked over a storage rack that fell on top of Jeff. He fell backwards and smacked the back of his head on the concrete floor; his hardhat took most of the blow, but still he hit the floor hard.

An ambulance took Jeff to the ER where the doctors performed tests, but the scans and x-rays showed no damage, and Jeff was back to work the next day with a bottle of prescription pain killers to take as necessary. The Mantis Men came soon after that.

“Of course we can’t see them; it’s a secret invasion. They’ve come from somewhere outside our plane of existence. They are hollow vessels, empty pipes, speaking with the voice of their unseen, unknown lord.”

I guess I started to worry about him, though I can’t say I did anything about it. Maybe I should have. His personality didn’t seem to change, and he seemed no less happy than before. His work didn’t suffer. But conversations with him became impossible. Before the accident we’d talk at break and at lunch about the normal stuff, you know – the weather, how bad Greg’s drinking had become, who’d win the Super Bowl, who’d been fired from the plant in the last week, the futility of our military’s recent invasion of Syria, and so on… But after the accident, Jeff twisted every conversation back to his insectoid invaders.

“They’ve come to conquer and they have the fury of the flames. You can’t cut them. You can’t kill them. They can’t be tortured. You can stab them with swords or saw them in half, but it doesn’t matter. And if you do kill one, another takes its place before you’re even aware of it. They disguise themselves in sheepskins, and goatskins, and humanskins. They come from the deserts, and the mountains, from the caves and out of holes in the ground.”


I should have done something earlier. I know that now. But now it’s too late. Too late for Jeff, and I worry that maybe it’s too late for us all. I worry that maybe he was right.

I saw Jeff for the last time as I was leaving the grocery store one evening. He was in the parking lot screaming hordes of Mantis Men. I’d heard him rant at the lunch table countless times, but I’d never heard him shouting, never seen him angry before. Now, he was out of control. In one hand he held the bunched up collar and neck tie of a man I was later told was Pastor Gary of the local Methodist church. With his other hand, Jeff was pummeling him about the face. A woman screamed for someone to call the police. A pair of teenagers took out their smart phones and began filming the incident.

“Jeff,” I called to him. He heard me and looked up, but didn’t seem to recognize me. Then he dropped the bloodied man and ran across the parking lot and into the street where he was hit by a pickup truck.

The man Jeff had been pummeling stood to his feet, and wiped blood from his mouth and nose with the back of his hand. He gave me a weary nod, and said, “You should go check on him. Quick. He might be seriously hurt.”

And in that moment there was a flash, not of recognition, but of bewilderment. In those hose simple words, kindly spoken, softly, gently, I heard something new. And his blood streaked face appeared, I don’t know, strange. Beatific. Mantis-like. Was this man a prophet of a strange, silent force? An emissary of an invisible king? Was Jeff right about the Mantis Men? Have they been here all along?




Sunday, March 25, 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fire Is not Water


I suppose it should be obvious, right? But fire is not water. The converse is probably true as well.

Fire Is not Water by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

There Once Was a Prophet from Judah... Has Arrived


The book you all have been waiting for - There Once Was a Prophet from Judah: Biblical Limericks for Fun and Prophet - has arrived, at least at my house. And you can see just how excited my wife is about it.

Order your copy (or your seven or eight copies) now:

You can order it from the Wipf and Stock Customer Service line at 541-344-1528. 

or from the Wipf and Stock web site: There Once Was a Prophet from Judah

And if you are one of those who reads books on a Kindle, it will be available in 3 – 4 months.

My mother is proud of me for having published this, my second book. But she’s not going to like it as much as my first – Muted Hosannas - which is still available from Frontier Press.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Dream of Hannibal



A Dream of Hannibal by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

There Once Was a Prophet from Judah Is Available Now

Hurray and Huzzah! It is time to shout. My book – There Once Was a Prophet from Judah: Biblical Limericks for Fun and Prophet – is now ready for you to purchase. Yes. Yes. After what seems like months and months of waiting (seems like months and months because it has been months and months) the book is really, and truly in print.

And you can order your very own copy. Or you can order your very own seven or eight copies. I won’t stop you. Retail price is $23.00. For that price you are getting a collection of limericks spanning both the Old and New Testaments, as well as that mostly unread stuff in the Apocrypha, and a number of slightly not-so-biblical limericks. That’s several hundred limericks. But Wait! There’s more! You’ll also get the preface, written by my good friend, Joel Watts – who also has a couple of books available from Wipf and Stock. (And his book, Praying in God’s Theater, has an afterword written by me. Just sayin’…)

I should warn you, though, the limericks in There Once Was a Prophet from Judah are limericks and that means they tend to be … somewhat uncouth. Rough around the edges. They deal with unmentionable things. And in this, they are very much like the Bible, from which they have been drawn. Prepare to be stung, provoked, and irritated. Fair warning.

If, after all that, you’re still eager to purchase a copy (or seven or eight) the following will be helpful:

Immediately, starting today (02/20/2018), you can order it from the Wipf and Stock Customer Service line at 541-344-1528. 

It will be available from the Wipf and stock website in 2 weeks. 
It will be available from Amazon in 2 – 4 weeks. (Though, I think you can already pre-order it from Amazon…)
It will be available from Ingram in 4 weeks.

And if you are one of those who reads books on a Kindle, it will be available in 3 – 4 months.
My mother is proud of me for having published this, my second book. But she’s not going to like it as much as my first – Muted Hosannas - which is still available from Frontier Press.

ISBN 13: 978-1-5326-3818-3




Monday, February 19, 2018

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Alien Shores Revisited


Alien shores revisited


Alien Shores by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Pontius Pilate Waits


Pontius Pilate, prefect and governor of Judaea, dressed in his full equestrian regalia, found himself alone in a room of pale stone. And though the room had no windows or visible sources of illumination, the room was radiant with light, as if the pale, sand-colored stones were themselves glowing.  He stood, silently, patiently waiting, but for what he did not know. How long had he waited? Hours? Days? He couldn’t say. He waited with stern nobility. He would not allow himself to be irritated. He would not allow his reputed furious disposition to flare up. He would wait.  And those responsible for his prolonged detention would have to answer to the sovereign authority of Caesar and the power of Rome.

As he waited, he could hear a murmuring crowd, a chanting mass of voices from somewhere nearby, but not visible to him. He could not make out what they were saying, but it seemed to him that they said his name at regular intervals in their repeated litany.

After an indeterminate time a thin man came into the room carrying a small sheaf of cream-colored note cards. “Mr. Pilate,” he said, extending his right hand, palm turned flat sideways.

Pilate stared at him, at his hand with disdain. He crossed his arms against his chest and said. “What am I doing here? Where is here? Who is responsible for this?”

“Oh, Mr. Pilate…” said the thin man. “Yes, I can understand your confusion. This must seem odd. And, indeed, it is odd. There has been an unfortunate mix up in some of the necessary paperwork. But, do not worry too much; the man in the office at the end of the hall is working, even now, to clear up the confusion. He will have it all sorted out quickly, I assure you.”

Distracted for a moment by the chanting which again seemed to include his name, Pilate said, “What is that damned noise? Why are they mentioning me in their murmuring?”

“Yes, the Brothers and Sisters do speak of you, it’s true. And an honor. Yes. You, my lord, are one of only three individuals that they mention by name. Imagine that! Out of the whole of human history, out of all the billions of souls that have lived, out of all those that will ever exist, you are singled out in their declarations.”

“Tell them to stop,” Pilate demanded. “They must stop. I won’t have my name bandied about by strangers like that.”

The thin man quivered. “I’m sorry, my lord. I don’t think that’s possible. They are part of a divine convocatio. They have been summoned, called out for this. You understand, yes?”

Pilate glared at the thin man in inflexible silence. The thin man trembled. He fumbled the cards in his hand and they drifted to the floor. He knelt down to scoop them up. He stood again, shuffling the cards, trying to put them back into their proper order.

“What am I doing here?” Pilate demanded.

“My lord,” the thin man said nervously. “You must understand the need to reward the wicked and punish the good.” He hesitated and re-read the card in his hand. “You see.” He tore the card in half. “There has been a terrible mix up here. Things are out of sorts, as I said. But it will all be cleared up soon. We’re sorting it all out.”

And he held up two of the cards for Pilate to examine. One read: EXINANITIO. The other: EXALTATIO. 


“You understand, yes?”

Pilate snorted, and made a half turn away from the quivering little man. “I must be released. You cannot keep me here. Send me back to Rome, I insist.”

“My lord,” the little man answered. “You cannot return to Rome, not at this time. The Tiber is still reeling with a storm of demons. You are not welcome there.” He shuffled the cards again and then said, “You could go to Switzerland, I suppose. There is a mountain there for you.” He read from the card again. “Though, there may be a dragon there. I’m not sure how you’d feel abou…”

“Away with you!” Pilate said. “Leave and find someone who can speak as an equal to me, someone with rank. I will not quibble any longer with a lowborn slave such as you.”

The thin man nodded. “Yes, my lord.”  He nodded again and left the room.

After a moment alone, Pilate shouted after him, “I am pure from the blood of the Son of God!” There was no response. He shouted again, “I am pure from the blood of the Son of God, damn it!”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

We Have a Cover - There Once Was a Prophet from Judah



The wait has been long, but it’s almost here- my new book: There Once Was a Prophet from Judah: Biblical Limericks for Fun and Prophet, has a cover- a great cover, and will be going to press by the end of the week.  Huzzah and whatnot!

I’m sure that you’ll want to buy a copy or seven. Buy one for your neighbor, your pastor, your librarian... Buy a copy for your family, your friends - buy one for your enemies, even.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sphere



Sphere by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

A Message from the Man in the Office at the End of the Hall


The man in the office at the end of the hall is a small quiet man, thin and bespectacled. He arrives at the office promptly and precisely at seven every morning. He is never late. The office at the end of the hall is as clean and uncluttered as its sole occupant. The walls are lined with deep, wooden filing cabinets like those formerly used in libraries around the world. On the desk is an Underwood typewriter and a stack of cream colored message cards.

There is a knock at the door. He stands, straightens his grey, felt suit, and steps to the door. He opens the red mahogany door to find a sheaf of documents in the wooden organizer. He retrieves them, gives them a cursory glance, and then closes the door. At his desk, he sets down the documents, uses his thumb to carefully align their edges. After reading the top paper in the stack, the man in the office at the end of the hall places one of the cream colored message cards into the Underwood typewriter, and begins a message:


Mr. Carter,

You have made the fundamental mistake
of confusing sputum and sputnik.
She did not kiss you.
There may be water on Mars,
but it is not for you.
You are sick, infectious even.

The message completed, he rolls the card from the typewriter and stands. He takes the card to the appropriate filing drawer: Ca - Cl. He pulls the drawer out, thumbs through the cards, arranged alphabetically. He files the message and closes the drawer. The man in the office at the end of the hall returns to his desk to continue his work.

Monday, February 5, 2018

President Trump Labels Dissent Treason


The poor snowflake, president Donald Trump, has his feelings hurt by those who wouldn’t applaud his every utterance during the State of the Union address. He was put off by their “bad energy.” He called them “death,” and “unAmerican,” and even “treasonous.”  

The sad, little man doesn’t seem to understand what democracy means, how a democratic republic works, or the history of American political disagreement. 

It’s a sad state of affairs when our opponents cannot be said to be reasonable participants, and that they must hate our country because they have a different understanding of what it means to make America great. Instead we veer towards a fascist dictatorship, where opposition isn’t tolerated and dissent is labeled treason. He’s not just a sad, little snowflake; he’s a dangerous threat. 


Friday, February 2, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Perfect Stranger



I came home from a long day of work; I had been busy all day, moving materials, finding equipment, unloading, loading – but I felt as if I had accomplished very little. I left work with too many things unfinished. But it was good to be home. Home again, home again, fly away home. Once I stepped through that door I could relax in the comfortable and the familiar.

But as soon as I opened the door and stepped through into my apartment I was greeted by her voice. “Good. You’re home,” she said. “I’ve got something wonderful to show you.”

She led me back to the bedroom past the couch, which seemed longer than I remembered it being, and it was covered with several new throw pillows that I didn’t recognize. “Oh.” I said in the bedroom, “A new comforter. Nice.”

“No,” she pouted. “Not the comforter. The cat.”  And sure enough, my cat, Camus, was curled up in an orange furry ball in the center of the bed. She leaned over and whispered something to Camus and he woke up. He stretched a long cat-stretch, then flicked his tail twice before beginning to sing:

Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.

The rain and thunder
The wind and haze
I'm bound for better days.


Once finished, Camus, flicked his tail again, curled back up into a ball and began purring as he drifted off to sleep.

“That’s amazing,” I said turning to the face the woman in my bedroom, “but who the hell are you, and how did you get into my apartment?”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Distracting Myself for a Better Attitude



I had to work today - an extra overtime, Saturday shift.  It wasn't exactly how I wanted to spend my weekend, especially as it came after a long and exhausting week. But I suppose the overtime pay sorta' makes up for it. I suppose..

Anyway, as I was working - driving the forklift, emptying dumpsters, loading the factory assembly area with parts, and what not, I found myself absentmindedly going over a series of workplace grievances and irritations, nursing them, rehearsing them. And I was starting to get a little cranky.

Until my conscious, thinking self interrupted. "Stop," I said to myself. "Think about something else." This was the first thing that came to mind. It successfully distracted me for long enough to get a better attitude.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Shall We Gather at the River?




Shall we gather at the river? John the Baptizer is there, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river? Where crystal tides are forever flowing, where bright angels tread, along with the saints and all the population of Judea and Jerusalem?

Shall we gather at the river? And wear camel-hair and leather? Shall we confess our sins in the face of axes and fire? Shall we actually give away our possessions, and work for honest wages? Shall we give up the power of position? Shall we gather at the river, in the wilderness – underneath a sky that threatens to rip open at any moment and pour down on us the floodgates of heaven?

The river is beautiful, beautiful – but those banks are stormy.  Too idealistic. Not realistic. It’s dangerous out there, and that John is a radical. Shall we gather at the river? No. Perhaps not.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Drinking Absinthe of Malice



“Say, J., what is this we’re drinking?”

“Something Malice.”

“What?”

“It’s imported.  Swiss. Or Persian… Greek. Or Egyptian.  I dunno...”

“But what is it?”

“Absinthe of Malice.”

“Seems about right, given the times as they are…”

Reports from the Off-White House of Homeland Insecurities. An impractical and unnecessary autopsy – performed three months or twenty years early. Petty officials with nothing but the ridiculous virtue of indignity. John Locke was right: Wormwood and sugarplums are not the same thing.

The hallucinogenic properties of la fée verte, absinthe, are largely and greatly exaggerated, but I did not hallucinate the events that occurred this afternoon.

The public library, downtown a block north of the courthouse, a block west of the Congregational Church, was guarded by a dragoon of black armored militarized police, each wearing an obscuring balaclava and carrying a semi-automatic riot cannon. The blue-red-blue-red flashing lights of their armored cars reflected in the glass doors of the People’s athenaeum as I approached carrying an armload of books.

“Your ID,” demanded one of the police officers as I stepped to the door.

“Excuse me?”

“Your ID,” he demanded again. His eyes narrowed beneath his face mask.

“Since when do we have to present ID to use the public library?” I asked. And before he could answer, I asked another: “How do I know you’re a law enforcement officer, anyway? With those masks you guys could be any number of lunatics with guns and a uniform fetish…”

One of the masked guards spoke into his shoulder mounted radio. “Commander Hoover. We’ve got another one here at the door.”

Commander Hoover, wasn’t long in responding to the call. “Let’s see those books you’re carrying.” He snatched them from me. “Karl Marx: Prophet of Revolution. Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution. The War Resisters League Organizer’s Manual.” He snorted. “Looks like we’ve got a leftist traitor. Or a spy.”

He shoved the books back into my hands. “First among the disloyal are always the Socialist,” Commander Hoover said. Then, “Sergeant Jones, send this terrorist on his way.”

Officer Jones sprung upon me; belting me in the face, dumping my books, and kicking me. “Go home.” He shouted. “You are the enemy.  Go home! Devil worshipper! Filth! Backstabbing your own country. Go home, scum!”

Jones struck me vigorously and repeatedly. His curses devolved into snorting and grunting noises which I drowned out by singing the Internationale.

Pour me another glass of that Absinthe of Malice, if you please. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Good News from My Publisher



Maybe you’d forgotten. Or perhaps you’d begun to think that I might have been fibbing when, way back in July of last year I announced that the good folks at Wipf and Stock had agreed to publish my collection of Biblical Limericks.

Well, I didn’t forget. And I wasn’t fibbing. Not even a little. Though it has taken a few months, I am pleased to say that I received an email informing me that my book is with the typesetter, and that I should have a pdf copy sometime next week to review. Once any corrections have been made (and, honestly, how many could there be…?) the work will be forwarded to Production. Then, providing that the cover is also completed, the book will be ready to print.    


So, please (please, please, please) be ready to order seven or eight copies of There Once Was a Prophet from Judah… Biblical Limericks for Fun and Prophet in the very near future. And encourage your friends, and family, and neighbors, and your enemies even, to order a copy.  Thanks.


Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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