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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

One Void Is as Good as Another – A Holiday Nightmare

The holiday season falls hard upon this far-west suburb of hell. Snow and fog mingle in the hissing air. But the denizens of this gloaming community – buzzards or wizards all – decorate their homes and gardens with garish displays, each one more gaudy than the last. There are robot elves with flashing lighted eyes and pickled reindeer, frost frozen snow men and flaming torches in every yard.

Meanwhile, an exploded diesel locomotive rumbles through his Christmas nostalgia, and whispering voices taunt him from behind the curtain. “There will be heartburn and hemorrhoids,” they say. “There will be fruitcake.” But even this, he thinks, is better than the silence that crushes him in his sleep.

She changes the subject – from across the room – she changes the subject, but not the setting, not the void. The void is vast. The void is forever. Awkward pauses and dead air stretched into infinity.

The disconnect makes everything everything. It’s all one, and all is one snake biting its tail singularity. He is disgusted with himself. The fuse blows. The basement fills with smoke and the stars in the sky are all crooked. He will eat alone. Yes. He knows this. He will eat alone. Hunger cares nothing for the silence. One void is as good as another.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Latimer Coulter Loved His Work

Latimer Coulter loved his work. It pleased him to do something he enjoyed, something he and his family could be proud of. He was serving his country, protecting the people and places that he loved. And he got to work outdoors with good friends. He liked it so much, he even liked Mondays, God bless him. 

He frequently found himself singing during his shift – quietly, to himself. It filled the silences. He was happy, why not sing?  Sometimes the other guys asked him about it. “What’s that you’re singing, Latimer, another hymn from church?”

He’d grin and nod. Today, again, he sang a song he’d heard in church the day before. 

“I’m just a poor wayfarin’ stranger,
travelin’ through this world of woe.” 

He hummed the melody inside his gas mask and fired another canister of tear gas into the screaming mob of immigrants on the other side of the wall. 

“I’m just goin’ over Jordan.
I’m just goin’ over home.”

God, but Latimer loved hiswork.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Don’t Give Him Cash – a Dream

I am walking in a city at night, maybe it’s Indianapolis, maybe it’s Peoria or Des Moines. The orange glow of sodium street lights give everything a strange, sickly pallor. But it’s is a sickly pallor that we’re all accustomed to, so no one pays it any mind anymore. The people around me walk in and out of bars and restaurants, they get in and out of Uber vehicles, they text, they talk, they laugh, they move on. The jaundiced tinge to the world doesn’t disturb them.

I am carrying an oversized drawing pad and a pouch of pencils. Its large white sheets of heavy paper now appear a dull orange under the street lights.  Without regard for the other pedestrians around me, I sit down on the sidewalk, cross-legged, with the sketch pad in my lap. I flip open the cover and find a fresh page to begin drawing.

I am interested in the buildings, the skyline, and various architectural details. The people around me disappear as my hand moves across the page. I see only the graphite lines I am creating nothing else until

A slurred, mush-mouthed voice says, “Heaaay there, buddy. Do you need shome money?”

I look up from the drawing pad. An inebriated man is standing there in front of me, fumbling with a bottle of beer in one hand and his open wallet in the other. His female companion stands next to him with her hands jammed resolutely into the pockets of her coat. “Don’t give him cash, Larry,” she warns him. “He’ll probably just use it to buy books…”

Friday, October 26, 2018

Work Instruction 45-410T

No repairs will be made because no repairs are necessary. Put some paint over the hole and ship the unit. We have a schedule to maintain. Even if we are, as it is claimed, out of spec, even if it is shown that we have not followed procedure, we do not care. Irrelevant details. Get out of the way; your complaints only delay.

Inspection will be defunded. Investigation will be cancelled. The results are predetermined and external prime readings will validate our findings. You don’t need to check.  Do not pursue. We already have a story to clear the suspect and muddy the waters.

Do not pursue the obvious direct course – the evidence is fake, planted by false flag Demoncrats as part of their systematic mythology. They will kill us. They will burn our churches to the ground. They will storm the White House. So bomb them first. Bomb them now.

Keep vandals out of direct sunlight. Allow them to work in secret. Our agents, when they work, work best in darkness.

Finish the blast. Ship as many units as possible.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Valle Lacrimum

No one lives in the Valle Lacrimum
though many settle there.
No one lives in in the Valley of Weeping, 
yet many die therein.

That vale of tears is dry;
it is lonesome and cold, 
a valley of jagged, unweathered, 
sharp grief stones. 

But there are some,
a blessed few,
who have found the hidden paths,
a  few who know in their hearts
of the highway through,
the long road home. 

They make that desert valley
a fresh water spring,
and go on from strength to strength, 
hand in hand, foot over foot, 
until everyone has found relief. 

(Psalm 84: 5-7)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Apostle Paul Writes to American Evangelicals

But now I’m writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a swindler… I’m saying, don’t associate with Donald Trump. He may not be a drunkard, but, seriously, don’t associate with him. Don’t even eat with him.

1 Corinthians 5: 11 - 13

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hymnical Limericks: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

I thought the limericks were done, but apparently I was wrong.
I'm so sorry.

All hail the pow’r of his name in song;
take note of heaven’s angelic throng -
they respond to the call
and angels’ prostates fall.
No, wait. I’m sure I’ve gotten that wrong...

with apologies to Edward Perronet 

Sekwi, The Rooster that Sees

Blessed art Thou, o Lord, our God, King of the World, who gives the cock intelligence to distinguish between day and night. – Jewish Prayer

A thunderous reverberation breaks the sky. Vainglorious and ignorant philosophers – tedious men with tedious advice – scatter. They abandon their discourse; they desert their still incomplete theodicy (for all theodicies are incomplete), leaving only a man with his grief and his questions. Rain falls from the cracked ceiling of heaven. Lightning scurries across the sky, “Here I am. Here I go. I am gone.”

Then Sekwi, the Rooster that Sees, lifts his eye, his comb, his beak and speaks, while far away, in the remote place, the sacred Ibis, Thoth, announces the flooding of the Nile. There is wisdom here, I suppose. Wisdom and understanding. But not for me.

(Job 38:36)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I Am a Medieval Monkey

What shall I do with the heavenly forces at my command? What shall I do? Shall I call up the 33,000* angels – who wait only for my voice – to unleash their power upon my political opponents? Shall I shut them out of the Senate, cut them from the House? Shall I change their laws? Shall I change their times and sacred seasons?

I am a medieval monkey, a mid-level primate driving a bus without supervision. I am the Prince of Assassinations. I am Torture and Dismemberment. Extraordinary rendition is not enough.

Shall I create a hurricane for them – serrated wind and slashing rain? Shall I bring down weather revenge upon them? I am the parasitic wasp, the zombie cockroach. There is a red line direct from me to the missing tooth. I am the ransom note left in the copy machine. How are we not destroyed? 

*Approximate number only. The census cannot be trusted. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

There Is Always more Flame.

“These are the prayers of the saints,” Pastor Lincoln says as he stands in front of the congregation lighting a candle for each of the shared joys and concerns.

-For Andrea who fell and broke her hip.
-For Pat who is retiring later this month.
-For Becki whose daughter is about to give birth to twins.

“These are the prayers of the saints, each one marked with a candle and a flame. Are there others?”

-For people living in the path of the storm.
-For Linda who is walking better.
-For Micah and his father.

So many prayers - prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of supplication - so many prayers that Pastor Lincoln runs out of candles. “These are the prayers of the saints,” he chuckles. “We may have run out of candles,” he says, “but there is always more flame.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Light that Remains

J. finally went to the optometrist after many, many days of intense, burning pain in his left eye, a neurological nuclear explosion, sharp-nailed fingers digging into his brain - an angry steel needle jabbed into soft optic tissue.

“You didn’t come in with this right away, did you?” clucked the doctor as he pushed away the magnifying scope. “You thought it would just dissipate on its own, right?”

“Yes,” said J.  “How could you tell?”

The optometrist sat down upon a three-legged stool in front of J.  “What you’re feeling - that fire in your eye - is a discrete piece of sunlight caught in your retina. And we haven’t had sunlight for… well several months now.” He clucked again. “It’s really quite extraordinary. You should have come in sooner.”

Light is, of course, like everything in a quantum universe, both energy and particle, wave and mass moving, burning through the cold expanse of space.

“You have a single photon in there. Very small, but in this great darkness it is brilliant. “

“Is there anything we can do?” J. asked. “Can it be removed?”

“Good God in lux perpetua boy!  Why in hell would you want to do that? As dark as the days are now, all gloam and gloom?  And you ask if it can be removed. Do you want to extinguish the little light that remains?”

“But it hurts; it burns.”

“Of course it burns, you dim-witted fool. But it brightens as it burns, and enlivens as it lightens. The light of the body is the light of the world. Do you want to blind the whole world? The darkness that is descending on us is the deep outer darkness.”

“But, doctor…”

“No buts, boy. Let the light shine. Let it burn.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Water is Wide

A few weeks ago, while I was at work inspecting one of the tower sections in our storage lot, I had the idea to make a quick recording for my wife. I used my phone to record myself singing the folk-song, The Water is Wide" for her. It was raining, and there was a brief outburst from my radio.  Still. Not bad for a two minute diversion.

There are several more verses to the song. The third verse here is one that I wrote.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jesus for President

The powerful ones were there that afternoon in the lakeside home of the Missouri millionaire - a couple of bankers, a senator, a rancher from Wyoming. Powerful men. Wealthy men. They declined, however, to think of themselves as “movers and shakers” of society. They preferred Stability and Status Quo to progress and change, unless it was happing in one of those socialist countries in South America or someplace in the Middle East. Shaking there could be turned to profit. No, these men (all men, of course) were assembled to plan for the future. They’d come to discuss their candidate for the next presidential election.

A silver haired and silver tongued Senator welcomed their specially invited guest: “Jesus, we want to thank you for sharing your time with us this afternoon. We know that you’re busy, and we appreciate you willingness to be here as we plan how we can return our country to its Christian heritage. Before we begin, can we offer you something to drink? Some water, perhaps, if you’d like a glass of wine…”

There was polite laughter around the table. Jesus smiled. “No thank you. But I’m glad to be here among you,” he said and made the sign of blessing over them.
“Well, let’s get right down to it, shall we?  We’d like to put your name forward to the nominating committee of God’s Own Party as the presidential candidate with our backing and support, but first we’d like to discuss your platform, your stance on a number of important issues.”

“Wonderful,” Jesus said.

“Let’s start with domestic policy.” The men around the table nodded for Jesus to describe his plans.

“Excellent. One of my first steps would be to announce the cancellation of debts…”

The nodding ceased; a low grumbling ensued. “Excuse me for interrupting, Jesus, what are you talking about?”

“Well, you know. The obvious - student loans, mortgages…”

“Jesus, Jesus!” the silver tongued Senator exclaimed. “You can’t be serious! Why, several of the men in this room own banks that hold those loans, Jesus. Why would you want to do something like that?”

“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.” Jesus explained. “This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to their fellow countryman. There need be no poor people among you…”

“I’m sorry to interrupt again, Jesus,” said the Senator, who did not look at all sorry to be interrupting, “but where are you getting this policy?”

“The scriptures; that’s in the Law of Moses. Deuteronomy 15.”

“I see. I see. Obviously that’s where the confusion is, Jesus. Deuteronomy? That’s in the Old Testament, right? We thought you’d be guided by the more relevant portions of the New Testament. The gospels perhaps…”

“Sure. Sure,” said Jesus. “How about “…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…?”

The murmuring around the table became a low grumbling. “Alright. Alright. Let’s change topics for a while; we can revisit this issue later. Let’s discuss military spending.”

“Excellent,” Jesus said.

“And Jesus,” said the rancher from Wyoming at the back of the room, “don’t be bringing up that whole ‘turn the other cheek’ thing. We ain’t pacifist peaceniks here. This is serious business.”

“Right,” said Jesus. “Serious business.”

“Okay then, Jesus.  We think we can get you another 10 to 12 percent, but we need to hear your plans. How much do you plan to increase military spending?”

“Actually, I’d like to reduce our spending to one-sixth of its current level.”

The grumbling exploded into vexed vocalizations. “For the love of God, Jesus!”

“Exactly" Jesus said. "I’d prefer to reduce it further, but this seemed like a decent compromise for the first term. We can discuss further cuts in my second term.”

“And just where did you pull this one-sixth figure?” the exasperated Senator inquired.

“It’s an arbitrary number, yes. But it is grounded in the same kind of policy I gave to my disciples.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Jesus?”

“After the last supper, the disciples said to me, “Lord, here are two swords,” and I said to them, “That is enough…”

The silver haired Senator threw up his hands in frustration. “I told you this would be a bad idea,” he said to the men around the table in a low, curt voice. Then he turned to Jesus and said, “I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Jesus. Security will be here shortly to escort you from the premises.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Make the Kingdom of David Great Again

 In the weeks and months following the death of Uriah the Hittite, the court of King David was in a restless ferment. The sordid details of his involvement in Uriah’s death, and the pregnancy of Bathsheba were not secret. Those who were shocked by the king’s behavior whispered to each other in isolated corners, their hands covering their mouths to mute their conversation, while more cynical individuals spoke about it brazenly.  But whether whispered discretely or vulgarly discussed in the open, no one dared to challenge or condemn the king.

Until Nathan. The prophet maintained an adversarial relationship with the king, even as he held the king’s good opinion. This was something of an oddity; everyone else who opposed the king, even in the slightest, usually ended up dead. But the prophet entered the throne room without so much as a quiver and, with a pointed (and not so subtle) parable, condemned the king.

Immediately King David’s supporters in the room stood up and raised their consternation exclaiming, “King David is our king, not our high priest. His moral qualities have no bearing on the effectiveness of his rule.” 

“And besides,” they added in a loud voice, “what about her e-mails!?”

(2 Samuel 11 – 12)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Even the Sparrow

The little country church of Alula, Iowa (population 543) looked like any other country church in Iowa, and, indeed, like those scattered across the heartland of America.  Pastor Chad stood on the concrete steps, hand on the black iron railing, noting its familiar rectangular shape, its neat spire rising from the roof above the front door, and the tidy graveyard adjacent with headstones dating back to the early 1800s. The chapel exterior, like all other chapels of its type, was painted white with black shutters for the windows.  'And the paint's not flaking away', he noticed; the congregation of this chapel in Alula, Iowa had not let the building fall into disrepair. Which is why Pastor Chad was so shocked when he opened the front door and stepped into the building.

Pastor Chad admired chapels such as this, and he liked to stop and visit them when he travelled. He carried his camera with him and photographed their pews and pulpits, their simple stained glass windows and solid wooden doors. He photographed them both for nostalgia and delight, for historical documentation and aesthetic appreciation. On this trip, Pastor Chad had arranged to be met by one of the local deacons, who would tell him something of the history and charm of this unique, but wholly familiar country church.

The clean and unremarkable exterior of the building however held a surprise. Inside, along the ceiling and tucked into the corners, in the windows and joists were bird nests – wattled walls with twigs and branches and bits of string and straw.  Sparrows and swallows and other birds he could not immediately identify – finches, perhaps, and was that a raven cawing above the altar? – flittered and flew about the room. It was more rookery than sanctuary.

Clutching his chest, Pastor Chad turned to retreat. 

Back outside again, with the fluttering of wings contained discretely behind the doors, Pastor Chad was greeted by the local deacon, dressed in jeans and blue work shirt. He wore a tattered John Deere cap on his head. “Sorry I’m late,” he apologized. “We had some difficulties with one of our cows this morning, but all’s right now. You’ve seen the chapel, I take it?”

“Yes. It’s… It’s…” Pastor Chad stammered.

“It’s really something,” the deacon beamed.

“It’s full of birds!” Pastor Chad exclaimed.

“Just like the good book says.” The deacon’s grin widened.

“Just like the good book…? Whatever do you mean?”

The deacon’s grin faltered a bit; his eyes narrowed. “Like the psalmist says…”

“The psalmist!?” Pastor Chad interrupted.

“Psalm 84,” the deacon explained. “O God, living God, even the sparrow finds her home in your house, and the  swallow a nest for herself where she may put her young, O LORD of hosts, my God and my King.”

Sunday, July 22, 2018

My Mother Is the Stone that Gave Birth to the World

Stones, as you know and I know, are silent; stones keep their peace. Restrained and taciturn. The Rock is ever quiet, age upon age in perpetual silence, until the time comes for her to give birth. Then she will scream; she will gasp and pant in pain. Restrained no longer, the stone screams out and gives birth to the world.

Rain, and dew, and ice – oceans spring forth from her womb. A world of light and life. And what is more, she gave birth to me and to you. Yes. In her womb we have our life, we move, we have our being. We are her offspring. Or have you forgotten?

My mother is the stone that gave birth to the world. What is born of flesh is flesh. What is born of spirit is spirit. I am flesh and spirit and stone – like my mother.

Deuteronomy 32:18, Job 38:8, 28 – 29, Isaiah 42: 14, Acts 17:26 - 28

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!


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

What Are You Looking At by Jeff Carter on

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

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 by Jeff Carter on

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

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

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.”


“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
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.

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

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

Sunday, April 1, 2018


500.jpg by Jeff Carter on

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

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

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

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.33)

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