Category Archives: Religion

Spirit Check

Still have turkey leftovers in my fridge, but, by God, my Christmas lights are already up.

I’m no Clark Griswald, and my cottage-style home is no castle. I’m talking one string (75 feet) of red and green bulbs along the eves on two sides of my house. And one short string of 6-inch penguins and another short string of 6-inch snowmen along the flower beds on each side of my front door.

I’m getting old and my wife doesn’t want me on the roof anymore, but that’s what daughter boyfriends are for, and mine (ours?) scaled the ladder and leaned over the peak to secure the lights in the area of highest risk. The kid is a foot taller than me and has the wingspan of a condor, so let’s just say that his skills are beyond my reach.

Penguin lightNot sure one string of lights is enough, however.

Wish I could afford to hire a guy to sit on my roof in a Santa suit and “Ho, Ho, Ho” everybody on cue, just to keep pace with the guy in the next block with the inflatable Santa on his roof. Of course, the other dude also has an inflatable sleigh and blow up reindeer on his roof, but I won’t have a live show that might leave reindeer poop in my rain gutters.

Wait! Wait! I could ground everything and rent some sheep, a donkey and maybe a cow or two and some actors for a live nativity scene in my front yard. Maybe find a nice homeless family to live in a makeshift stable. I could play the innkeeper. Maybe pay a woman to actually give birth right on my lawn!

Forget the house lights. I want moving spotlights that can be seen in space. And maybe a choir in white robes with wings singing Christmas carols.

Geez, am I feeling it here, or what? I’ll bet Walmart carries stable makings.

On second thought, maybe I’m getting carried away.

The Norwegian in me now has me thinking austerity and humility. May even pull back on the penguins.


Filed under Religion

Paradise Blown

Turns out there’s more to the story of Mankind’s fall than what’s found in the Bible or what Milton described in “Paradise Lost.”

The revelation came to light with the recent discovery of a stained scroll containing graphic sexual images with Aramaic commentary that relatives of a 17th Century London cleaning woman claim was found under Milton’s mattress.

According to the scroll, after God created Adam and Eve, he gave the couple dominion over all the Earth and free rein to procreate. But like a lot of parents,  the Father was a bit vague in His birds-and-bees speech, leaving vital bits of knowledge to experimentation.

One day Satan appeared in the form of a penis-like Serpent, and Adam and Eve’s unbridled passion soon spread to oral and anal sex as well as masturbation, which went well beyond procreation. But God refrained from punishing his prized creations, realizing that he had not set any sexual boundaries nor left clear enough instructions.

He then explained the forbidden fruit, where Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We know how that went, and the couple wound up booted from the Garden of Eden. But before the actual booting, God decided to give Adam and Even one last chance because, with the apple thing, neither understood the concept of sin before succumbing to temptation.

The scroll says God opened up a rainbow and showered the Garden with bits of candy in many colors, telling Adam and Eve that this was another gift because He loved them so much, and that they could eat all they wanted except for one stipulation: “Don’t eat the purple ones.”

Well, life in the Garden was a bowl of Skittles until one day, while Eve was smoking Adam’s sausage, the Serpent again appeared in penis form and said to Eve, “Hey, weren’t you forgiven for all this great sex that God never told you about?”

And Eve thought to herself, “That’s right.”

“And weren’t you given another chance after the misunderstanding about the apple?”


Then the Serpent added, “When you get right down to it, are you certain that all these purple candies lying about are really purple? Wouldn’t you say that some might actually be more violet or mauve than true purple?”

“Well, yes,” Eve thought, “now that you mention it.”

“You can’t really tell the purple ones just by looking at them,” the Serpent said. “There’s only one way to tell the difference, and that’s by taste. The purple ones taste like grapes and turn to wine in your mouth, which will free your mind even more. Might even open up new avenues to sexual gratification.”

“Geez, I don’t know,” Eve hesitated.

“Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” an ecstatic Adam cried out.

“OK,” Eve decided. “I’ll try one!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words on less, on the topic: Don’t Eat the Purple Ones.)


Filed under Prompts, Religion

A Life Well Played

When my friend and former high school football coach Keith Gilbertson Sr. died in February of 2011, I contacted the minister doing the funeral and gave him a copy of the classic Grantland Rice poem “Alumnus Football,” suggesting that he reflect on the verses and think of Gilby as the “wise old coach Experience” while preparing his homily.

Can’t say whether the reverend took my advice. He made no mention of Rice or the poem during the service, although he and others spoke in glowing terms of the great and modest man who coached at Snohomish High School for 61 years, including the last 30 as an unpaid volunteer.

Keith Gilbertson Sr. bust at Snohomish High School

“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against  your name, he writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

from “Alumnus Football” by Grantland Rice

Since Gilby’s death, I’ve written and/or edited some two dozen articles about him in conjunction with a fund-raising effort to permanently endow an annual SHS memorial scholarship in his name.  Sadly, the campaign has yet to generate the groundswell of grass-roots support that we expected among from the thousands of students, athletes and teaching/coaching colleagues that Gilby touched over the years.

Next to Grantland Rice, I feel a bit like Edward Everett speaking for hours at Gettysburg before being upstaged by Lincoln’s brief and appropriate remarks deemed closer to the central idea of the occasion.

I’ve written that Coach Gilbertson lived what he always taught: Whatever you do, give it your best shot. But I don’t think I’ve conveyed the spiritual side of the wise old coach and mentor as well as Rice did nearly 100 years ago on Nov. 2, 1914, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Filed under Athletics, Memoirs, Religion

Taking Five

 “Jeez, I need a drink!”

“There, there, Annie, have some Kool-Aid,” June said cheerfully, as she filled a Dixie cup on the table in the bible school teachers’ break room.

“Jell-O shot would be more like it,” Annie shot back. “Where do these kids come from? Their parents must be zoo animals!”

“I hear you,” said Betty, holding a battery-powered fan near her neck with her eyes closed. “I got one boy who can’t keep his fingers out of his nose — unless they’re in his mouth. And he’s worn the same t-shirt for three days! Still has the grape juice stain from Monday, and here it is Wednesday! Who bathes this kid? Who dresses him?”

“Think you’ve got it bad? I’ve got pee stink,” chimed in Holly between puffs from a Marlboro, which she exhaled through a window. “Someone in my class wet themself, and it’s dried and I’m not sure who the culprit is. But in this heat, it’s like someone put a cat box under the table. Makes my eyes water!”

“Now, now, they’re just children. Everyone just relax and have a cookie,” June cooed.

“Children from hell!” Betty responded, with open eyes. “Snotty, noisy and stinky with the attention span of chickens. And I’ve got a whiner: ‘Everyone’s picking on me. Joey touched me! Trudy made a face!’  Little sniveler, I just want to tell her to shut up!”

“We’re just a free lunch and day care for most of these kids,” Annie added. “The parents don’t give a hoot about Christian education. Never see them in church. Just dump the kids off and don’t look back. Off to work – if they even have a job – or off to the salon, or the beach, or the couch or wherever there’s happy hour.”

“Ladies, please!” said the matronly April Strutt, June’s mother and the bible school coordinator, entering with a rush that threatened to turn all into pillars of salt. “We’re just three days into this, with two more to go, and we can’t lose anyone at this point.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and, believe me, I’ve just about seen it all. Cranky kids. Booger eaters. Pee’ers and snivelers. But you know what? They’re all God’s creations, and we owe it to them to try to bring a little bit of Jesus into their lives. The fact that all of you are here, grumpy or otherwise, testifies to His power to call us to service. Nobody says this is easy, at least no one who’s ever done this before. It takes a truckload of commitment.  But if you trust in God and pray for His assistance, you can reap the rewards of  . . .”

“Oh, please,” Betty interrupted, “don’t feed us that heaven stuff. I’m not in the mood.”

“No,” the older woman said. “I was going to say, mojitos at my place on Friday!”

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt on the topic Group of Five.)


Filed under Prompts, Religion

The Prodigal Shithead

(Note: This is a loose street rendition of a Bible parable for those who might be challenged by the King James version.)

OK, so there’s this Rich Dude that everybody knows and respects. Owns car washes in like five states where folks come in like once a once week and listen to good music while getting all shined up and feelin’ good about themselves.

And this Rich Dude, he’s got two sons workin’ in the family business, and he loves ‘em like crazy and says, “Boys, this is all gonna be yours one day.” But one of the boys  says, “I love you, too,  Daddy, but I ain’t into waitin’ around for you to get old or die. So how’s about you settle up with me right now and I’ll hug ya and say, ‘Thank you, Sir,’ and just take it on down my own road whilst I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”

So the Rich Dude says, “Son, you’re startin’ to sound like a shithead, but if that’s what you want, OK. ” And he hugs the Shithead’s neck and sends him off in a big ol’ car with a truck full of money.

Now the Shithead, he figures he don’t need to work no more, and he starts drinkin’ and smokin’ dope and partyin’ and buyin’ more cars and bettin’ on football and snortin’ lines off whore bellies, and before long, he finds himself all fucked up, out of money and basically circlin’ the drain. He’s desperate for work, but too proud to go back home to Daddy, who he ain’t even called since leavin’ with the money. So he takes a shit  job with an asphalt company, and they work his ass off, pavin’ roads in hot weather and kickin’ up dirt and dust and oily shit that raises hell with the paint on every man’s car that happens along whenever and where ever pavin’ is going down.

After awhile, the Shithead gets all the shine worked off and he’s low as he can go when he finally  comes to terms with the fact that he’s a shithead who’d be better off washin’ cars for Daddy than makin’ ’em dirty. So he decides to go back to the Rich Dude and beg him for a job holdin’ hose or wipin’ down cars or tyin’ to get puke and jizz stains off upholstery.

Well, the Rich Dude sees the Shithead coming when he’s still draggin’ ass up the street, but instead of being pissed, it’s like he’s just won the Super Bowl. He sends car wash folks to hose the Shithead down and get him a fine suit and some new shoes and some bling. Then he sends folks to the  best barbeque place in town to pick up  ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beans, potato salad,  corn, cold slaw and cornbread for a big ol’ party. And he buys kegs of microbrew to wash it all down, and hires a great dance band backed by a full orchestra to rock everyone’s socks clean off.

But now, the Shithead’s brother sees all this and wonders, “What the fuck?” and refuses to join the party cuz the Shithead ain’t been put in his proper place.

And the Rich Dude  sees this and comes outside the party and says, “What the fuck’s with you. Get your ass into the party.”

But the brother says, “Fuck, no, I ain’t  goin’ cuz the Shithead fucked all of us by just thinkin’ of himself and walkin’ out on the family business. And it’s all been in the papers, and now we all look like dummies for takin’ him back, no questions asked, just like he never left.”

And the Rich Man says, “Whoa there, boy, this ain’t about the Shithead. This is about you and me, and you feelin’ sorry for yourself for takin’ care of business and doin’ just what you shudda been doin’ all this time.

“Don’t be tellin’ me how a daddy should feel when one of his boys comes home after walkin’ off. I love all my family just the same. I love you and your brother and your mama and your sisters and every one of the folks that works for me and tends to business, and there’s plenty for everybody. I’m just glad the Shithead came back before he died snortin’ lines off some whore’s belly. And you should be glad, too, cuz he’s your brother, and me taking him back don’t mean I love you any less.

“Look at it like this: Any shithead or sorry motherfucker pissin’ and moanin’ about workin’ in our car wash or the service we give, he can be a pain in the ass, and sometimes it’s best for business if he just leaves for awhile. But we don’t bust his balls for comin’ back. We say, ‘Motherfucker, welcome back!’ And we wash his fuckin’ car and try to help him get his shine back.

“Now get your ass inside and have some ribs and cornbread, before Mama gets pissed and starts throwin’ shit.”



Filed under Religion

Wad was that?

Woke up in church the other day when I heard the phrase “shot my wad” uttered from the pulpit.

Got to hand it to the pastor for grabbing my attention with that one.   I believe he used it in the context of simply feeling finished or spent, rather than losing at the casino or forgetting to put a ball in his musket load. But he opened the door to male ejaculation.  Slipped it right into the sermon and moved on without even pausing for a cigarette.

Offended? Not me, but I couldn’t help looking for reaction from other parishioners.  Nothing but blanks.  No one wiping their forehead. Perhaps they were sleeping, too, with eyes open.  Good trick to master for the early service following a late-night Saturday adventure.

Then again, I was sitting near the back.  Maybe it was “taught by rod” or “fought my god” or something like that.

No, the man does not mumble. It was clearly “shot my wad.”  Could’ve sought clarification afterward, but didn’t want to come off like Pee Wee Herman or some sophomore in phys-ed.  Might have suggested objection to the pastor’s  earthiness.

I like a bit of earthiness with my godliness. Talk to me in language that I understand. On my own level.  Even if I’m only half-listening.

Had been sensing wax buildup in one ear. Pulpit squirt cleared that right up.

Closing hymn in my head as a I drove home: “Wad a friend we have in . . . “


Filed under Religion


An old doll holding a crucifix in hazy green light forms a ghost-like image that calls me back to a time before my birth, but strangely familiar in a déjà vu sense. The doll in her long dress and bonnet sits at a desk, perhaps like the ones that filled the old North Dakota school house where my dear Aunt Esther taught in the 1920s and early ‘30s in the village of Fort Ransom, which sprang up when the old army post closed its gates in the 1870s. Esther was my mom’s eldest sister, and her salary paid the grocery bill to help the Highness family meet ends every

This image served as the prompt for Hand-Me-Downs in a Writers Kickstart exercise.

six months or so. Esther never had any children of her own, but she had nine siblings, seven of which during her time as a teacher still lived at home, where my Grandma Emma kept house and my Grandpa Butch did whatever he could to clothe the bunch and put food on the table. Butch never finished school but the old Norwegian was a prolific hunter and fisherman who could read well enough to educate himself in the ways of animal husbandry and serve local farmers as an uncertified country veterinarian, for which he generally received bartered goods in lieu of money because most of the local farmers in those days were as cash-poor as he was. Emma, the eldest daughter from a big Swedish family as large as her own, was an avid worshiper at Stiklestad Lutheran Church and kept her own brood bonded together with unconditional love and a soap-and-water attitude that cleansed hearts as well as bodies, and inspired the work ethic that made Esther a godsend for those lean and dry years on the prairie that made up the Dirty Thirties.  Mom said her family never had a Christmas tree until Esther was finally able to bring one home from the schoolhouse after classes were let out for the holidays. If my mom ever had a doll, it was probably a hand-me-down from Esther or from second big sister Helen, another woman who would never have a child of her own but would later take in nieces and nephews for whole summers at a time and would also care for her bedridden father in the last years of his life. Yes, the crucifix in the doll’s hand says much to me in another sense of hand-me-downs. A handful of love and right-minded spirit held out for all to see and grasp, even in the hardest of times. I cherish the homespun love and faith that my mother inherited and in turn passed down from the black-and-white world that she kept alive in her photo albums – where only good memories survived.

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Filed under Memoirs, Prompts, Religion