Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Words of a Prophet 2019 A.D.

Prophet of God

I was called upon by God* today to visit a Christian church in Springfield, Missouri. I don't care if you don't believe me. It's True, capital T. I am a prophet of God. If you question my status as a prophet of God, that does not make you special.

This is not an attempt to convert you to a set of man-made riddles intended to make you feel better about yourself, though my hope is you will someday. That is to say, I don't give a shit if you turn away from Truth at this moment. Truth will eventually find you, whether you seek it or not.

My parents were ordained Pentecostal ministers, both of them. Of course, Dad got all the accolades because, well, he was intent on seeking them and was therefore more appreciative of praise. I'm assuming it was some such rationalization he utilized in subjecting his wife to a life of service.

Mom was without doubt the more devout of the two, and Dad freely admitted this. It was like an inside joke within the family. The fact that his youngest became a full-fledged prophet of God is another great inside joke.

Self-Proclaimed Men Of God

Self-proclaimed "men of God" like Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and their ilk espouse spiritual insights only to enhance their own temporal condition. That is, they're frauds. If you haven't figured that out yet, maybe you should stop reading. Going with the herd is the best course for many human beings, especially the irretrievably lost. No one blames you. God understands that there is nothing inherently wrong with regular church attendance.

God understands that the easily led are prone to follow blatant fraudsters more out of convenience than conviction. Or, put another way, Evangelical Christianity is to religion what professional wrestling is to sports. Both can be entertaining once you suspend your disbelief.

As a genuine prophet of God, I do not seek followers and don't really want your money. I do occasionally purchase items when God sends me on a prayer mission, but it's usually not that much. You could give your money to a homeless person. Any major intersection in Springfield is where you'll find them any day of the week. This is a relatively new phenomenon locally but certainly not in human history. Any thriving tyrannical empire will produce plenty of beggars. God knows it runs in cycles.

My aim in sharing prophesies is no different from the old timers back in the day. Consider it a warning, a wake up call. This is what prophets do. The rest is on you.

Venturing Forth on East Sunshine Street

Verily, I ventured forth to answer God's calling, passing many a humble consumer servant along east Sunshine Street. Dutiful bargain hunters were ever-so-carefully creating a traffic snarl at a Sam's Club entrance. This despite clear traffic signals intended to provide smooth passage. Many of the elders were driving Buicks, which God finds oddly amusing. That's not much of a divine revelation, I know, just passing it along.

As God's obedient servant, I traveled eastward and, in good faith, turned south on Blackman Road. Blackman Road is so named because a man of African descent was spotted there many years ago. He may have been walking down a nearby path carrying some fish. Perhaps he lived near the James River for a short time. I don't know if this is true, but having lived in the area for many years, it seems plausible.

In the blink of an eye, I came upon a large house of God nestled high atop a neatly mowed hill several hundred paces from the road. I beheld an angular arrangement of bricks with metal roofing. This, I felt reasonably sure, was the spot. I pulled into the huge parking lot. Nobody was there.

God & Architecture

At first glance, I mistook the church for a middle school or high school. It seems whomever God had blessed with the construction contract for this house of worship had thrice utilized the same pre-ordained template with larger school districts in surrounding counties.

God prefers His homes to be singular in their design, which may explain His sighing disdain for prayers emanating from cookie-cutter suburban landscapes. And I'm sorry to report that God no longer attends to the distorted pleadings emanating from prefabricated metal buildings. Sadly, most of these "full metal churches" are found in rural settings, frequently on highway outer roads.

For the record, the rare open air tent meeting remains the preferred assemblage from which God enjoys receiving worship and prayers.

I began examining the roof lines of this particular church. Walls, windows, and corner masonry slapped together in a lazy geometric. I've seen Lego structures with more character. I found myself visualizing, for a moment, God's Word bouncing off the angled roof lines like laser beams back into the atmosphere, piercing clouds and careening off orbiting satellites into the deepest reaches of space.

Inside, a multitude of prayers from congregants would launch an internal bombardment of prayer lasers bouncing from ceiling to floor and back again until fading out entirely. Sunday worship at a metal roofed church would amount to nothing more than an indecipherable, discordant mix of mangled pleadings and missed directives from the pulpit. After all this they get in their cars and drive!

Figure It Out!

God sometimes reveals Himself through idle thought portals like this. That is, I've come to value moments of wandering, or what some people would call day dreaming, because the mental meanderings sometimes end with a flash of divine light. One person's daydream is another person's epiphany. Revelations from God don't happen that often, really, just often enough to effectively conditioned me to keep the playground open. You never know.

Was God revealing to me that the church roof served as an impenetrable deflector shield? Could this explain why so many Christian churches have lost their way? Metal roofs deflecting God's message? Could it possibly be that simple? Is this why Evangelicals are so susceptible to manipulation by unscrupulous charlatans? Seems plausible.

Come to think of it, the area's favorite mega church, James River Assembly of God, has a metal roof like this! By the way, it's now James River Church, as they've scrubbed their website of any references to the Assemblies of God denomination, which is headquartered in Springfield. Did we miss something?

God finds church squabbles to be delightful entertainment. It's His reality television, if you will, witnessing self-righteous men - and it's always men - puffing up and making fools of themselves in His name. The wives? Well, they are trained early to be submissive, so what would you expect?

Is it possible that a metal roof on James River Church explain why Pastor preaches that yoga is demonic and gay people aren't worth protecting? Could it be that messages from God just haven't been getting through? Is Pastor just winging it?
Having heard him speak on several occasions, I find this quite plausible.

Heaven, Hell & the Rapture

Thought Portal: I'm imagining Pastor's arrival at the Gates of Heaven and being asked about his misguided political meddling regarding yoga and gay rights.

Pastor: You see, it turns out our church had a metal roof that served to deflect the Lord's Word. I never actually received His messages, and should therefore be held harmless for any sins I may have committed.

Peter: Oh? Sorry, but the "Know Not What They Do" absolution is valid only when administered by God or His Designee. If you don't know what you're doing, you cannot possibly absolve yourself for not knowing what you're doing. Figure it out! Therefore, no entry for you, false prophet!

Pastor: (falling) Aiiyeeeeee!

Disclaimer: Pastor being flung into traditional Hell is my own self-directed vision. I'm human. Truth is, God has never outright told me that Heaven or Hell exist, nor has He confirmed there is a final day of judgement after death. He has implied many times that heaven and hell (lower case) do exist in real time right here on Earth, which I find both troubling and comforting depending on my situation.

Of course, as a prophet of God, the troubling question is, did I project a scenario from my own mind, or did God reveal it to me? Metal roof deflecting God's message? Really?

Wishful Thinking & Faith

It pains me to admit that I soon became overwhelmed with indecision about this day's calling. Why can't everything be easier? Being incapable of understanding God's message is the main reason man invented faith (with zero Guidance). God says that faith is nothing more than an advanced form of wishful thinking, but again, that doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing. So, if you consider yourself to be a man or woman of faith, rest assured there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

At this moment, my wishful thinking was being severely tested. I resisted the temptation to leave and instead chose to wait for Divine Affirmation of some kind. This could take a while.

I once parked for the better part of an evening outside a strip mall massage parlor in southwest Springfield. Once there, I could find no sign or clue.
I did happen to see a guy who looked very much like Josh Hawley furtively exiting the parlor door. He appeared to be wearing a cape, which I found curious. He glided to a car that was parked outside a Chinese restaurant down the row. I marveled at his quickness and agility. Maybe it was the cape. Whoa, am I here to catch Josh Hawley after receiving a happy ending? That would be so amazing! Self-righteous twit!

"He just had a massage," God interjected. "He's going to be limber."
This is when you know you're on the wrong track. It's never, "Hey, you're on the wrong track." Instead it's always a statement of fact followed by an unspoken "dumbass". Guidance from God is seldom direct and just forget about asking questions. Click. Among His most frequent directives is "Pay Attention". Easy for the omniscient to say.

It turned out the massage parlor outing was all about a woman who worked there, rather than a cape-wearing Josh Hawley. I never learned her name. She may have been ill, because I eventually was directed to a nearby Asian Market where I purchased specific items and returned to drop them off. That was it, but it took more than four hours for me to figure it out.

So here I was again, sitting in my car on Blackman Road waiting for something to happen. And lo, it came to pass that I fell into a troubled sleep behind the wheel of my Toyota.

(Okay, I'm stopping with the King James language unless it appears of its own volition. God told me it was annoying, and as always, His will be done.)

Children Are Dying!

I awoke from a horrific nightmare, still in car, my heart racing in full panic mode. The dream was so
real! My mind filled with haunting echos and shadowy darkness. I was stranded on a narrow ledge high atop an underground water park. People dutifully lined up their children to be randomly killed on a water slide lined surrounded by jagged man-made boulders. The slide was too swift for children, and I watched in horror as their flailing little bodies were launched into the air and dashed against the rocks, screams muffled by roaring water.

"Children are dying!" I screamed at the families below. "Can't you see? No! Don't do this!"

But people continued moving patiently along in neat lines that doubled back on themselves. They clutched their brightly colored rafts and kept moving forward, afraid to look up at me. A few children were obviously petrified, but parents urged them along toward the top of the slide, where smiling park attendants helped them lie down on their rafts.

The park had a distinctly Branson feel to it. Like happy vacationers boarding a doomed Duck Boat, these people had somehow convinced themselves this was a must experience. True to Branson, all of the parents were too heavy to be thrown off the slide, but the younger kids were flying high into the air, one after the other. Oh, God!

"What's wrong with you people?" I woke up screaming. "Jesus!"

God laughed at me about the dream. Why would anybody listen to you? They don't listen to Me!

Sometimes I think God has a sense of humor. I'm pretty sure He does, but most of it is way over my head. Like thinking old people driving Buicks is funny. I don't get it. But, here's one you may have missed. God placed a giant prophylactic atop the Missouri Capitol as the ruling patriarchy passed restrictive laws to more effectively suppress women. It appears to be ribbed with no obvious lubrication. God works a lot with metaphors, I've found.

With my dream, I believe He was trying to show me how tough it is to be God's prophet in 21st Century America. People don't listen, even when their lives are at stake, and they are struck dumb when confronted with Truth.
Truth often comes in blows, He once told me.

And then, still reeling from my dream, the sign from God came to me. I mean, literally, it was a sign right in front of my face. It said, "ATM".

At this moment, God reminded me how comfortable I had become with the superficiality of consumer life, that it would take over an hour to notice a big, bold bank ATM sign sitting squarely on Church grounds. Is this not His house? Did anybody bother to confer with Him about this? Obviously not!

A Den of Thieves

You may recall the only time we see violent Jesus is when he unloads his righteous rage on the money changers in the Temple, beating their asses, overturning tables, spilling cash boxes, freeing the sacrificial livestock into the streets and calling out the priests for turning the Temple into a "den of thieves". Oh, man! Wish I'd seen it. This was the real reason they killed him, of course.

Such a public display of disrespect to the wealthy elite, who had effectively established a lucrative pay day loan scenario inside the Temple of God, was not to be tolerated. So, they had him executed in a most gruesome manner for all to see. You know the story. Sometime later, a bunny with colored eggs became involved. I have no idea. But the wealthy elite's message to the peasant class - virtually everybody else - was crystal clear:
"Don't get any ideas."

Historical Note: From this point, the story of Jesus becomes quite convoluted. But 66 years later a violent rebellion did erupt, forcing Roman Emperor, Nero, to send multiple reinforcements. The great Jewish Rebellion lasted seven years before it was finally defeated, leaving much of what we now call the Holy Land in ruins.

My point here is that most modern day "Christians" think that Jesus died for their sins. In truth, Jesus died for upsetting an established order that had allowed exploitative money changers to establish a foothold in the Temple of God.

Fast forward two thousand years, and we see money changers once again persuading themselves that it's okay to set up banking services in God's house, and the church has become so thoroughly secularized that it's blind to the obvious desecration of God's house.

God's position is this: People can go ahead and worship money like crazy. I mean, we have free will, right? This isn't new. Just don't expect it to end well. Churches, however, cannot also be banks, okay? God considers this spiritual bankruptcy, if you will. And here we have Exhibit A in the spiritual bankruptcy filing from Glendale Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri.

Also, please note that Springfield City Council unanimously approved this bank/church arrangement. The mayor, who strenuously opposes strengthening the local regulation of pay day loans, quipped that the church might find it easier to collect tithes with an ATM. So, it's a cozy co-mingling of church, state and the money changers and nobody seems to understand the cataclysmic undertones. Admit it, you don't think it's that big a deal, do you? Verily, I say to you. This is a big deal.

God Did Not Create Corporations

Oh, and let me just pass this along, since we're discussing church/state things. God condemns the notion that corporations are people. Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A will not be rising up during the Rapture. Neither will you, for that matter. There's isn't going to be a Rapture. A full scale Apocalypse maybe, but no Rapture.
He wants you to know this. Stop deluding yourself.

For God's sake, I'm telling you all this now so that appropriate actions may be taken, though I'm not exactly sure whether it would be better to repent or join a rebellion. Both have dubious outcomes historically. If pushed to choose, based on my interpretations of God's message, I'd probably go with rebellion at this point.

I will report more Insights as they are provided to me. It is my calling. Meanwhile, I would advise anyone reading this to offer prayers to God only while outdoors for best results. Also, just to be safe, if you attend a church with a metal roof, please listen very carefully to the message. Does it sound like it could come from God, or are they just making shit up?

You have free will. Pay attention. Figure it out.

*God has no gender and doesn't care about pronouns. I thought about mixing pronouns, but that would have made this piece even harder to read than it already is.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. So did yours. It happens a lot, but this time it made me jump. Authorities are alerting concerned citizens to be on the lookout for a silver SUV.

It's heartwarming to know Americans care so much about the safety of children. We revere the unborn fetus, of course. After that, well, it's every toddler for himself. We've cut spending for education, nutrition and social services that would have helped the 15 million children who currently live in poverty. But if one of them gets kidnapped, our phones blow up.

SUV, by the way, stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, a marketing concept thought up by an ad agency representing the auto industry. Everybody knows what an SUV is. 
Be on the lookout. We're all in this together.

Wait, a Silver SUV just drove by. I'll be right back. Could never forgive myself if . . . 

No worries, just neighbors returning from the grocery store. I think they wondered why I was watching them, so I waved.
"Amber Alert," I said. "Silver SUV. Just checking."
"This is a Cross-Over," they said.

Egregious General Anxiety Disorder

I used to tease an office colleague that they suffered from Egregious General Anxiety Disorder (EGAD), which caused them to experience some form of stress and agitation during almost every waking moment. Even their dreams were fraught with harrowing images. 
Luckily, EGAD can be treated with drug therapy. Ask your doctor about Egadizol.
*May increase chances of stroke. Side effects may include depression and thoughts of suicide.

So, why does it feel like we're in a constant state of emergency, even here in the American Midwest, one of the safest places on Earth? You may disagree, but just wait. There have been two mass shootings and a tornado since I started writing this a couple of days ago. Or, here's a simple test: Have you ever seen a flag at half mast but couldn't remember which tragedy was being commemorated? Or . . . 

"Daddy, why is the flag way up high today?" 
"Oh, honey. That's how they're suppose to be."

People are randomly gunned down at schools, restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, stores and churches, most often by angry white men carrying military assault rifles. Mainstream media hesitates to call them domestic terrorists, which sounds almost chummy, as though they wiped down counter tops and straightened the living room before heading out. Let's just call them terrorists. Most of the killers seem like regular Americans. The guy down the street could be kidnapping children and shooting up synagogues next week. 

"I can't believe it happened here," someone will say. 
"He was quiet. Kept to himself."
"No, he didn't. He had crazy right-wing stickers plastered all over his van!"
"Oh, you're right. I was thinking of the other guy last week."

Emergencies bring us together, if you're a glass half full type, which may partially explain our perverse dependence on calamity as part of our national identity. Shared suffering and fear are effective agents of unity even in a politically divided country. But wouldn't you think we'd be pretty damn unified by now? Unity via disaster and mass murder seems to have an abbreviated shelf life.

"Yes, a lot of people died and it is a terrible tragedy, but the community really came together after the tornado/flood/hurricane/mass killing."
"The first responders were amazing, cordoning off the building and caring for the wounded."
"Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to families of victims."
The implication is that more shallow thoughts and prayers are offered for lesser tragedies.
"Lord, thank you for sparing us from the tornado that killed our neighbors," could be considered a shallow prayer.

If calamitous events revive our sense of community, am I wrong to think the world could really benefit from a fucking asteroid about now? A small one? One that allows most of us to survive and perhaps get our priorities straightened out?

In case you've been too distracted by everything, you should be aware that tornadoes, fires, hurricanes and floods have become more severe than in any living person's memory. No, it's not god punishing us for the existence of Pat Robertson. It's global warming, stupid!
An invasive species has pushed earth's environment to the tipping point. 
We would do more, but it's us, and we're incredibly flawed as a species, apparently. 

Maybe we should do Mother Earth a big favor and go run off a cliff en masse like a colony of lemmings. Maybe that's what we're doing in slow motion and haven't realized it yet.

A Confession About the Troops

At this time, I'd like to make a confession. I'm pretty sure that I'm not thankful enough for the troops, not by community standards anyway. I mostly feel sorry for them. We go overboard saluting the troops because we feel guilty for not really caring more about what they do. Hell, we don't know what they're doing most of the time. Neither do they, I strongly suspect.
I will resist standing at Hammons Field to salute the kid who enlisted as his last best option after being fired from his job at the Dollar General in Ava, Missouri. But everybody must rise during the singing of "God Bless America". Every. Single. Game. 
Since when is the National Anthem not enough? As God is my witness, I will refuse.

The honored veteran, wearing a ball cap and an oddly menacing heavy metal t-shirt with camo cargo shorts, reluctantly waves to the crowd and sits down in the Hero's Chair (Courtesy of Factory Outlet. It's a furniture promotion, silly!).

Then, I look around and realize it's Christian Night. Dear God, help me. Of course it is. If it were Muslim Night, the crowd would be sparse with only a few foreign students from the university. I'm also imagining a Buddhist Night where no score is kept. But in Springfield, Missouri, it's Christian Night at the old ballpark, and the faithful are all about saluting the troops (and Jesus) regardless of context.

Many in the crowd are wearing red promotional t-shirts.  Instead of "Cardinals" in cursive across the front, it's "Christian". Here's a picture. Their faces have been cropped to protect them from possible persecution.

In Springfield, being surrounded by evangelicals is part of life, and I learned long ago to just let it go. My parents brought me into the world as an evangelical. I was saved at age eight at Calvary Temple Assembly of God church on East Grand. It was torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. Honest to God.

Evangelical Christians in Southwest Missouri are among the most judgmental and politically conservative in the country. Evangelical Christians are also the most ardent Trump supporters on the planet. They would send their kids to his university in a heartbeat. They'd buy his steaks. They eagerly swallow all the lies and fear-mongering spewing forth from the Orange Oracle of Angst. They consider him God's chosen leader. Kind of like a secular and profane Ayatollah, who could only rise to power in 21st century America.

Tonight, the Christians at the ballpark don't seem fearful at all, which is strangely heartwarming. This is how it should be. There's really no reason to fear anything, especially while surrounded by people who look just like you. There isn't a Muslim or MS13 member in sight, though there are several silver SUVs in the parking lot. If the Rapture were to happen mid-game, a few of them would be sad to miss the post game fireworks, I suspect, but for the most part, they're having a great time.

As one, they rise to salute Travis from Ava in the Hero's Chair, and I quickly break for a corn dog. Behind me, a church soloist is singing God Bless America. She's backed by a ukelele choir.

Oh, how I've come to loath the proliferation of patriotism checks at every community gathering. I long for the days when troops and police officers stoically performed their duties without forced public deification. Can we not just have a general understanding that we support them? No, we can't, not even at the annual chili cook-off.

"Let's all recognize that we wouldn't be able to celebrate this occasion if it weren't for the brave men and women who so, uh, bravely protect our freedom," says the master of ceremonies.
Really? I think we could. I think we could hold a fucking chili cook-off!

President Trump, who is himself a frequent declarer of emergencies real and imagined, now wants to send direct text messages to the entire US population when disasters strike. AT&T and Verizon are fine with this, by the way, and I read somewhere that the system was set up like Amber Alerts, so we won't be able to block him.

A test of the Presidential Text system was suppose to have happened a few months ago but was somehow sidelined, probably by somebody who has since been fired. If it ever starts, you know our phones will be buzzing at least once a month about some goddam thing: Fake News, Saturday Night Live, Hillary, god knows what. Maybe after re-election he'll get the green light to mass text to all of us. Twitter would be obsolete from that point. We could even get a Presidential Alert on election night.

"I'm still here! Four more years!"

So, if you've had this strange sense of foreboding that something really awful is about to happen, there's good reason. It's pervasive. It's happening. American life, as we know it, is in emergency mode. Level Orange. Be vigilant. 

Also, a kid was kidnapped in St. Charles and may be in a silver SUV. 
Never heard what happened, can only imagine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Letter to Editor: Public School Accountability

There was an excellent letter to the editor published in the News-Leader last week. Two A+ students from Hillcrest High School, who tutor at Fremont Elementary School, penned the piece as part of a journalism class assignment. They may not have expected it to be published, and they almost assuredly couldn't have expected the kind of reaction it sparked.

The letter was well-written and thought provoking, especially on the heels of the district's big bond win last week. In that context, the letter was also cautionary. You see, Fremont Elementary is the one pilot school that reflects the superintendent's unwavering desire to innovate - tech integration, large classes, flexible seating, co-teaching, the works. Yet these young A+ tutors expressed criticism of the school's design, actually saying what many teachers at Fremont have been thinking for quite a while. The manner in which this school was designed actually detracts from student learning. Or, as they put it in the letter:

"This classroom is one long room and is packed with 40 students. This is a challenge in and of itself. Combining two classes for lack of room is hurting the students’ learning."

Based on my experience with this administration (and school board) as a teacher union rep, I can tell you that it won't sit well to interrupt the bond victory lap. Rather than praise the students for writing a civic-minded opinion piece, it's more likely they'll be ignored or worse. Their high school principal may face a formal reprimand, perhaps the journalism teacher, too. The principal at Fremont will be questioned.
(Possibly by coincidence, HHS principal, Gary Moore, was non-renewed at the next board of education meeting. Moore had been principal at Hillcrest since 2012.)

This is the SPS culture I came to know. Now in it's fourth year, the current SPS administration is like a fine wine. Bold yet incredibly sensitive with subtle hints of compliance.

If there is school board discussion about whether building design, along with multiple simultaneous integrations, could have possibly caused Fremont to finish last among 37 SPS elementary schools in Math/English scores, it won't be public.

The fact that Fremont was redesigned to exactly fit the superintendent's vision - a vision that was unilaterally pushed with zero input from community or teachers - seems like a valid point to discuss with huge district wide implications.

The fact that a teaching staff and building leadership have worked their tails off for three years to make this grand experiment work will not be recognized. In fact, they may face benign penalties in the form of denied transfers or promotions. 

The one decision maker responsible for this sparkling educational disaster will not be held accountable. Accountability will be dished out, make no mistake. It just won't touch the responsible party.

The letter to the editor from the A+ tutors expressed real concerns from real young people who were legitimately expressing their opinion about working in an educational environment that doesn't work very well. The community of people who have daily interactions with students should be listened to, preferably before unworkable designs and initiatives become a forced reality. And we should certainly listen to the students. 

It's all about them, right?

The Words of a Prophet 2019 A.D.

Prophet of God I was called upon by God* today to visit a Christian church in Springfield, Missouri. I don't care if you don'...