Monday, August 27, 2012

Mission Miracles and Revelations

Recently the whole Mission chapel hour was given over to guest testimonies about Jesus and the ways he saves lives and souls.  As always, guests were admonished to stay within 5 minutes, not to ramble, and to include the most important part--miracles performed by the Son of God.  As each eager testifier bounded up and regaled us with tales of divine intervention in their lives, I struggled with a dream I'd had the night before and fantasized about going up to the podium and asking for advice on interpretation.  Maybe someone in the congregation was the equivalent of Joseph, sold into Egypt, advising the king on his visions, or those dream handbooks on the discount table at Barnes and Noble (anything with crecent moons and pointy stars is a bad sign).  My dreams are almost always embarrassingly mundane, like being chased by a wolf, or taunted with a pot of gold by a tricky leprechaun.  However, this dream was so specific and pregnant with meaning, I wondered if I too had become a conduit of divine will.  I'll get to the dream after a couple of miracles and messages from above:

Raymond, a huge, muscular black Texan in his late 60s and sporting a shower cap, began by begging our forgiveness for using an old cliche'-- 'Don't mess with Texas.'   "Brothers, I spent 46 months on the chain gang swinging a hoe--prisoners do all the farm work in that state no mistake about it--we can beat any machine, put 100 men with a hoe and an hymn and we'll have the whole state plowed and fertile while they changing the spark plugs.  Haven't been in trouble with the law for nigh on twenty-three years and aim to keep it that way, had to do another stretch in FDC Houston broke my mamma's heart for my heinous crimes but I been wiped clean, by the state or feds or by the Higher Up Man?  You decide.  It's MY BUSINESS.

"Let me tell you about Heaven, the streets of glory we're all headed for, contrasted with the Fresno schools where some of my grandchildren go.   In Fresno the girls--and I partly mean 12th grade bitches walking around in spiderwebs and butt-thongs--they always right and the teacher always wrong.  Upside down, just like this world after Eve ate the fruit.  In Texas, a child come back 5 minutes late from the bathroom--they gotta swipe an identity card just to pee and it times them and if they half second late a police officer--not no renta-cop pansy-ass uniform boy--an OFFICER OF THE LAW! grabs them!  The principal tells that kid next time we gonna stick a MOST DEADLY VENOMOUS NEEDLE in your arm.  AND THEY MEAN IT!  It's Texas!  

"Whole place is organized like a bunch  of Temperance Society women who meet each week to knit and hit drunks over the head with churning paddles--people behave, and if they don't they get slammed so goddamn hard--sorry--they don't ever do it again.  Which is like Heaven on Earth, so Heaven is gonna be better than all that by a billion to a billion powers!  AMEN! Brothers! AMEN! [Amen! echoes the crowd] 

"And one last thing I want to share with you.  If you gonna live a life of crime don't be robbing no 7-11 or  Circle K.  Express yourself!  Get some big money if you gonna take that kind of risk!  They don't keep what you need in a cash register!"

Next up . . .

Colin, a man who channels Old World souls of indeterminate origin and accents.  "Brothers, many times I've stood before you to reflect on the train wreck of both my body and soul, and so with that in mind I want to relate a vision I believe was given to me by the Lord.  Close your eyes and imagine me stretched out for miles as if transmogrified into a  train on a supernaturally straight line of tracks laid down upon a flat desert with no oasis in site.  Coming toward me is a train pulling hundreds of freight cars laden with booze, exotic women, spices, Turkish delights, jewels, untraceable currency of every description--and all I have to do is reach out with me filthy paws--I've got thousands of them in this vision, like a millipede-- and pull a switch shunting me onto another track leading faster and faster to escape the pull of this fallen world and from there to the City of God.  Or I can reach out for gleaming and lubricious debauchery. DEBAUCHERY!  But I cannot decide, brothers,  I cannot decide . . . Perhaps when the time actually comes the decision will be made for me, if it's God's will.  Amen!  But the time hasn't come yet!  So you and I are in a state of suspense.  Will he?  Won't he?  This is moral dilemma on a knife's edge.  In Christ's name, Amen.

--While all this was going on I was thinking, what difference would it make after this stuff if I went up and recited my dream?  It went like this:  I was standing on the rim of an active volcano next to a beautiful woman who looked a lot like the young Winona Ryder, but it wasn't really her, it was just a dream woman.  Know how that goes? There were some other people scattered around us and we all seemed to be tottering over the smoking red maw of the volcano.  The woman threw her arms around me and shrieked, "My God!  There are thirteen of us!  Thirteen!  We're doomed!" 

"Silly bird," I said.  "You always forget to count yourself!"   Then the dream shifted to the deck of a sinking ship and the exact same scene played out, the fake dream Winona Ryder throwing her arms around me and screaming about the deadly number thirteen, and me comforting her with a grin and a chuckle like Cary Grant:  "And Baby makes fourteen!"  The dream shifted to other scenes of peril--quicksand, burning building, tsunami, earthquake--until suddenly the fake Winona and I were alone in a meadow and I was asking her suavely, "And how many of us are there now, darling?"  But before she could answer I woke up.

The dream was radically different from anything my subconscious had ever produced before and it had numbers in it and scenes of destruction.  It was kind of Biblical in its own way.  Maybe I should share it.  Sure.  Just for the hell of it.   But instead of going up I settled back in my chair as Connie, the Mission's village idiot, stumbled up to the podium to cheers and bellows from the guests.

"Hi, everyone, I'm Connie, most of you know me, I love animals and I have a story I know you'll all like and many of you have probably heard it before.   A man was on the beach throwing stones into the waves, and a man dressed in white came walked up to him and said, 'Hey, pal, be careful there.  You might hit a starfish.  Always be careful what you're aiming at.'

"Well, the two of them started walking down the beach together and neither of them said anything.  After a while the man got tired and lay down in the sand to take a nap.  When he woke up, the man in white was gone!  He looked down the beach the way they had come and he only saw one set of footprints, his own.  And that was pretty weird because he remembered walking down the beach with the man.  Then he thought, 'That man looked a lot like Jesus!  He was walking with me and didn't leave footprints!'  So it was a miracle."

At this point someone in the audience shouted out, "That ain't the way the story goes, Connie!  The man  sees two sets of footprints for a while and then he only sees the stranger's."

Utter bafflement from Connie.  "Well, I guess that means . . . The man walked in Jesus's footprints to follow him."


Somebody muttered, "That boy's all fucked up.  Seriously fucked up."

Connie tried again.  "Maybe the whole thing was like a dream, or maybe . . ." 

The pastor stepped in and put his hand on Connie's shoulder.  "Son, I think what happened was the man saw his footprints all alone and asked the Lord why he abandoned him and the Lord answered, 'That was when I carried you, my son.'"

After Connie was gently nudged off the stage and we lined up for showers, I felt cowardly and envious of the bold, if muddled, visions expressed by my fellow Mission guests.  That night I had a dream about going to a movie that turned out to be all loud, gaudy previews for two hours.  Then, in the manner of dreams, I went on a fruitless, circular quest through the labyrinthine theater to ask the management for a refund.

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