What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews


God & Oreos

I am reviving my blog.
I am also dieting. So...hang on, this could go strangely.
Did you know the pattern on the Oreo cookie was created by a company that also created communion wafers?  Look at the cookie. See the two barred cross?  Add the circle and it looks similar to the logo for the United Church of Christ.   


As blasphemous as this sounds I prefer Trader Joes Jo-Jo cookies to Oreos. Yes, I know. I am condemned to eternal snack-damnation in a place where there are no cookies but I like the cream in Jo-Jo’s better, and you don’t have to dunk them as long as you do an Oreo. (We’ll get to dunking verses unscrewing in a moment.)

There is a box of Malley’s Chocolate Covered Oreos in my cupboard. It is calling me...by name.
I was once told during an instruction about full submersion baptism....”Dunk’em like an Oreo. Hold them under till the bubble quit and then bring them up before you lose them.”  
Quick Trivia:  The cookie to cream ratio of an Oreo cookie is 71% to 29%?  (We’re not talking about Double Stuff here.  Just the regular Oreo cookie.)  Also, let’s all agree the Oreo is the chocolate cookie with the white cream in the middle. It might SAY "Oreo" on the package, but if the inside tastes like cinnamon buns or key lime pie, it is NOT an Oreo. It’s a distant cousin at best. Let’s be reasonable here.      
An Oreo is one of the few cookies that is DESIGNED to be interactive.
Some quick facts:
Dunkers tend to be energetic and adventurous. You’re upbeat, and people like hanging out with you. You may tend to sugar coat unpleasantness and rationalize bad situations into good ones.
Twisters tend to be emotional and artistic.
All-In-One Biters are easy going and optimistic. They consume life with abandon are care-free and exciting to be around. 
Regular biters who eat Oreos like every other cookie lack imagination. 5.4 Billion people in the world eat Oreos this way.
Little Nibbles: You always have a million things to do and never enough time to do them.
Twist Apart-Eat the inside-Toss the cookie part...you take risks, and it often pays off for you. You know what you want, and you make it. Screw the world...you’re looking out for number one.
Twist Apart-Eat the inside and then eat the cookie: You have a curious nature and take pleasure in breaking things to find out how they work. You are meticulous but destroy the evidence.
Eat the cookie, not the cream. You know, it’s okay to relax once-in-awhile. Not everything is work or a challenge.
Twist and lick. - There is something wrong with you. Seek help.
Men, in general, tend to be biters. Women tend to dunk.
Democrats tend to twist.
Republicans generally dunk.      
The “test cookie” version of the Oreo did not have a second cookie top. They were, and the cream was shaped like a hill. Imagine a snow-covered mountain. Some believe this is where the name came from.  “Oro” in Greek meant “mountain” or “uphill climb” In some ways Oro is something you have to work at.   
So let’s go with that for a moment. Oreos are “interactive”  ORO means to go uphill, to take the harder journey, to actually work at something...like unscrewing your cookie before you eat it.
Check the Greek scriptures, and you’ll see a lot of references to ORO. Jesus went up and down the mountains. One of my favorite stories involves Jesus being chased by mob up a hill to throw him off the cliff. (Cool story.I’ll write about that another time.)
But there is that verse in Corinthians. It’s right before the wedding verse about love being patient and kind.  It says “I could have the ability and understanding the workings of the universe and could move mountains (ORO) but did not have love others...I have nothing."
Love is the key.  Love is interactive.  Yes, you can write, but if you don’t write with LOVE, then you aren’t writing much. You can build buildings but if you don’t LOVE what you do, what is the point? You can teach, preach, sing, study, cook, clean...but if you don’t put LOVE into the job it’s not going to be worth it.
LOVE what you do.
LOVE is the interactive part of the universe.
Nobody LOVEs cleaning a toilet, but if you clean a TOILET with love in your heart, it makes a difference.
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with love is better than the one you buy off a cart.
LOVE counts.
LOVE matters.
Do all things with LOVE.
Unscrew life. Dunk life. Nibble Life. 
Live with love in all things. Make it part of your daily routine.



Said the Joker to the Thief (the ultimate buddy comedy)

Chapters 1 and 2 re-tooled.
Story will be told in first person with chapters alternating between Satan and Jesus

Chapter One

 I stared at him through the trees. He was praying again. Always with the praying. This time he was not up on his knees with his hands folded like in the pictures. He was leaning back on his heels, hands resting open on his thighs, palms up. Supplication.  The Son of man. The Christ. The Emmanuel. Yeshua.  He was the Son of God, The Lamb, the Prince of Peace...what a doofus.

 I stepped into the clearing. The apostles were sleeping several yards away from him . At least six of them were sleeping with their heads on each other’s stomachs. One of them, probably Thaddeus farted a long squeaker and then giggled in his sleep.

 I walked up on him quite like, but he knew I was there already.  “My hands have gotten soft.” He said.

 “Say again?”  I asked.

 “My hands.” He said again. “They are my father’s hands.  Not my Father but my father. I mean my birth father...I mean the father who’s real. Well, I mean real like in flesh and bone.” He smiled for second.  This little conundrum pretty much summed up his entire relationship with his father...not his Father but his father. 

 “Joseph,” I said.

 “Yeah, him. He had carpenter’s hands. Scarred and nicked by the chisel. His nails were smashed and healed again and again. I haven’t built anything in three years.”

“Yes, you have,”  I said trying to be reassuring. Thaddeus farted again. You know, timing is everything.

 A wind came in through the trees, and he lifted his head so he could feel it on his skin. “I want to go to the beach again.”

 I said, “You can you know. You do not have to do this.”

“Are we going to go through all this again?”

 “No,” I said, “I am just saying.”  He was so much like his dad.



Tonight I was here on my own. God did not send me. I felt I owed it to Jesus. Why would you leave your child alone on a night like tonight? I didn’t understand. I tried again. 

“You can skip this.  He asked you to give up everything to this cause, and you have. You gave up everything. I mean EVERYthing.  This...this is a lot to ask.”


“I asked for a pass,” he said.


“What’d dad say?”


“Nothing. It’s like shouting into a canyon and not getting an echo.”


“He sent you to your room, and now you get the silent treatment.”


“This is my choice.” He said. “I could run. I could call down angels, and they would come. This is my choice.”


“But it must feel very...I don’t know.”

“Disconnected.” He offered.


“Yeah.”  Actually the word I was thinking of was “Cruel,” but I wasn’t going to say that. Not tonight.


“These people...they don’t feel connected. If I do this, then everyone knows. Everyone knows’ it’s all true and maybe they will be nice to each other.


I was quiet.  He said again, “...and maybe they’ll be nice to each other.” He sounded a little....just a little...like he was pleading.  After a moment he asked, “Is it worth it? In the future?”

“I do not do future.” I said, “Where I came from, where you started, where you are going back to ...everything is now.”

“Don’t give me that.”


I shut my mouth. What was I going to say? No, in the future people will burn each other and hate each other and condemn each other all in your ever-loving name?  No, I wasn’t going to say it.


“Is there a reason you’re here?” Jesus asked. 


“I brought you something.”




“Because tomorrow is going to be a terrible day. Not just your worst day but the worst day in the entire history of days. So I brought you this.”   I held out the cup. Coffee. Black. “Picked it up on my way from a little place called Lorena’s Diner in Ohio. Good French Toast.  I’ll take you. You’ve got some free time coming.”  That was reassuring. Right?


He turned to look at me for the first time since I’d arrived. “What is it?” He asked reaching.

“Careful. Hot.” I said. He took it gingerly and blew on it. 


“Coffee,” I said. “Honestly, one of your dad’s better ideas, the beans. Humans had to go and monkey with it. Still...”

He sipped. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”



“I don’t recognize the words.” He said.


“Like I said. I’ll take you.”


“Let me get through this first.”


“Well...yeah. There’s this.”


We heard a sound in the woods. “Judas is back.”  I said. “and he brought friends.”


“Yeah.” He sighed. It was the saddest word ever spoken. 


Chapter 2



Okay so let’s start with this...there are a lot of ways into heaven.  I’m not talking about the whole “only through me” thing which isn’t really true. I mean there are a lot of ways to get into heaven..phyiscallly.  Well, physically as in the soul.  Getting in.  That whole “narrow is the door” thing? True. That door is narrow. There are others.


There’s the Welcome Station. Big Place. Dad designed it to look like Jacksonville’s Welcome to Florida Rest Stop from the 70’s. (Our juice is better and the brochure racks go on for miles.)  Sometimes dad sends an angel to be a direct guide on the way up. (Those are a special case. Mother Theresa for instance.) There's the “other way,” but we don’t talk about that much and then there are the holes.


Heaven is full of holes.  You can look down from heaven and see your loved ones on earth. Other holes area about the size of a large swimming pool and they are full of clouds.  Sometimes folks come up through the holes.  That’s how this part of the story starts.


Back in 1957....58, there was a group of monks from St Marjorie’s Abbey just outside of Cleveland. Good group of guys there. They made beer and coffee. The grapes and beans were shipped in from various parts of the world. The beans roasted. The grain and hops fermented. Like I said they were good at it.  They could also sing. These guys could seriously harmonize. One of them snuck a radio into the abbey, but the only station they could get down in the basement where they worked was Motown. Forget Sister Act (no offense Whoopi), but the monks of St Marjorie’s could lay down some tunes. They began to tour the large Christian conferences around the country. People thought of them as a novelty act. Some didn’t believe they were really monks but once they started to sing people were in awe. They were moved. It was a real gift to hear them.


So around about November of 57, they were on their way through Pennsylvania. They had a converted school bus. Took out some of the seats and put in kneelers for prayer. There were a dozen brothers plus Brother Ambrose who drove and acted as an unofficial tour manager. 


The legend goes that Brother Ambrose had just about had it up to HERE with the monks behaving like Junior Highers in the back of the bus. There are only so many fart jokes to be told. Ambrose was driving. The windshield wipers were barely keeping up with the snow outside. The heater was blowing flames on Ambrose's feet, but his hands were freezing on the wheel. He was tired and hungry and really really annoyed with his fellow brothers in me for seeing if they could actually sing the entirety of 99 Bottles of Beer.


No one blamed Ambrose for what happened. 


There was a spot off the highway called Emilton Hill. The exit boasted “World Worst Apple Pie,” but you had to get down a treacherous sidewinder of a hill to get there. Ambrose just wanted some pie and coffee to settle his nerves. The first hairpin turn, the back end of the bus fishtailed, and monks quit singing. They looked out their windows and saw only sky. Ambrose righted the bus, and the rear end followed the front end back onto the road. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Ambrose even smiled. Then they broke through the guardrail and plunged about 180 feet into the valley below.


Okay, still with me?  Here’s where the holes in heaven come in...


All thirteen monks went down into the valley, and their souls went shooting up through the roof of the bus just milliseconds after it hit. They avoided the reported ball of flame.

It was a glorious WAAAAAA-THOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM sound, and the monks came flying up through one of the holes, right by my favorite cafe’ the one where Twain hangs out. Coming up through one of the holes is like falling, only falling up. People are all waving arms and scrambling legs. Ambrose was upside down with his robe falling over his head. Yeah, we don’t talk about that much. They call came through at once before falling back through the cloud in little puffs of mist. Then they came up again. This happened several times until people around the pool started stretching out nets (like the kind you grab a fish with at the pet store..only bigger....much bigger.) A few angels flew out and snagged a flailing monk and eventually brought them all to a nearby table where they were given coffee and welcome pats on the shoulder and allowed to get their bearings.  


I wasn’t there for it. I’ve heard stories. But I haven’t missed the annual re-enactment since then. It’s an excellent show.


This is where Satan comes in.


I admit he kind of gives off a dangerous vibe...not evil...that’s not it just a little dangerous.  When he walks through Heaven people mostly give him a wide birth. He just comes off like that. 


I’m not talking about horns and red scales and forked tail and pitchforks. Listen to me...we call that HO-LEE-WOOD.  Okay?  Satan is an angel created by my dad with all the other angels.  His very name means “Obstacle in the road.”  My Dad created Satan for one reason...because even HE needs someone to talk him down now and then. My dad is sunshine and rainbows, and when he runs his ideas buy the angels he counts on Satan to raise his hand and say, “Seriously?”


Don’t give me that. If Satan hadn’t been in the room dolphins would have had had udders like cows. So...there. You’re welcome.


I’m there for the show.  I was early.  Had coffee with Twain, he’s still kind of bitching about the cigar ban.  People are milling about waiting for the show to start.  


There’s a bunch of coffee places and diners and other shops. Yes, you can shop in heaven you just don’t need money. 


The hole in question is about twice the size of an Olympic swimming pool. There’s a bright red railing around it to keep the kids from falling in. It’s for show.  A kid could take a swan dive into the abyss, and some angel is going to yank him back out. You know that friend who died just after saying, “Hold my beer?”  Guess what job he gets in the afterlife.


You hear the low hum of the speakers turn on and people make their way to the hole. A thick cloud fills it in like putting dish detergent in your swimming pool. Then the music starts.


Is this the real life....is this just fantasy. 


It’s a recording. Freddie has refused to perform it until the rest of the band shows up. 


Caught in a landslide no escape from re-al-iteeeeeeeeee.


Then we hear the first Wa-Thooom, and it’s glorious. Brother Henry pops through doing a double half-gainer before dropping through again. 


Open your eyes look up the skies and seeeeeeee...


Brother Austin and Brother Peter pop through side by side like synchronized swimmers and spin like ice skaters. The crowd cheers.


Then I see Satan. He’s heading my way. And I was really enjoying this.  The guy next to me slides over without thinking about it, and Satan stands next to me, coffee in his hands. Elbows on the railing. He says, “Don’t you ever get tired of this?”

“Never,” I say.


We watch the show. It’s glorious. I’m laughing. Satan...not.


When the song gets to Mama Mia Mama Mia all twelve monks wa-thoom through posed like a nativity.  Satan chokes and blows coffee through his nose. I smacked him on the back as he sputtered.  Finally, he choked out...”Your dad wants to see us.”




“Yeah.  You and me?”



“I don’t know. He’s your dad. Don’t you two have a connection thing?”

“I’ve told you before. It doesn’t work like that.”


“Yeah, well,” Satan said, “But apparently WE have been called to the office.”


“What did you do and how did you get me involved?”


“I didn’t do anything.” He said. “I just go back and forth and report on the shit people are getting into down there.”


He wanted to add “in your name,” but he didn’t. I could tell he wanted to and he could tell that I could tell he wanted to so he didn’t need to say it.


My dad does not have an office. He had an orchard. Sometimes a beach. A door? Yes. Big one. Has his name on it. (That changes every day. His little joke.)  We knock and wait for the come in. Once through, the door is just sort of sitting by a tree. Dad is painting.  He’s got a canvas that’s about 3’ by 3’ and he painting a sunrise it looks like Van Gogh’s starry night only its dawn.  Van Gogh and dad have been hanging out a lot lately.  He doesn’t look up.


“Ah, there you are.” He looks at me. “Again with the Amy Grant concert shirt?”


I’ve been to all of them.  What can I say? 


Satan says, “Nice sunrise.”


“Thanks,” Dad says still not looking at us. “It's for the Keys. They’ve been taking a hit weather-wise lately. I thought they’d like it.”


Satan opened his mouth. I just knew he was going to stay something obstinate, so I elbowed him in the ribs, and he shut his pie hole.


“Would someone like to tell me...” Dad said dabbing some light blue on his brush, “Why an archeologist in Jerusalem just found a 2000-year-old coffee mug?”


Satan immediately looked at me. “You left it there?”


“What was supposed to do put it in my pocket?  Those robes didn’t have pockets.”


“Yeah, but you left it there?”


“I had Judas and his playmates coming through the forest. You wanted me to...what...dig a hole and hide it?”


“Somebody did,” Dad said. “And now we have an archeologist who thinks she just found something that will turn the faith of the world on its ear.”


Satan put on his best sarcastic voice. (For the record, he did NOT invent sarcasm. Gabriel did.  Satan said, “What do you want us to do?  Go get it?


Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stu...






Rainbow Ninjas on the attack.

They sneak around behind your back

What’s that sound? 

Do you hear them creep?

It’s nothing dear, go back to sleep.

They move like the wind and are quiet as stone

Don’t wander through the house alone. 

They’ll attack and punch and pull your hair

Steve is this story going anywhere?

What if your color changed with your attitude?

Yellow is happy and green is rude.

Red is angry and calm is blue

What would the world see 

when they look at you?

We do display our attitudes

Though it may not be through colors viewed.

But body language and tone of voice

But all these things are our own choice.

You can have a bad day without being a jerk

Because you bombed a test or forgot homework.

When your attitude is on display

You can push your closest friends away.

Who I am is up to me

I can run my day or my day runs me.

Yes it’s hard to smile sometimes I know

But when we let our colors show

We can see who’s hurt and who needs a friend

Who needs a swift kick in their own rear end.

When we push our feelings down this way

The color we show the world is gray

Gray skies gray roads gray trees gray mood

It’s all about the attitude

Let someone in when you need assistance

Don’t put up walls and armed resistance

Talk to parent or teacher or friend

Not to those who would condescend

You’ll soon see a light 

and the world gets brighter

Your colors will shine lighter and lighter

Then you can see who else is gray

Who needs some orange poured in their day.

Because you’ve been there, you understand

You’ve had your soul inside crash land.

But after the night comes the break of day

When ALL the colors are on display.

This light that lights the world is you.

You decide what you will do.





The First Nativity Play

Saint Francis of Assisi is often referred to as the father of the modern Christmas pageant or the first known church leader to create a live nativity scene as part of Christmas time worship. The good monk would get people to put on costumes and then parade through the town inviting others to join the parade, which ended at a stable or barn several miles from the church. 

 The first recorded practice of a live nativity event in America came in 1805 in Philadelphia. The first "players" in the pageant were not children but prisoners from a local debtors prison. (Women were not permitted to perform...even the role of Mary). The "performance" consisted of standing outside in the town square. There were no lines to be memorized. They were simply lawn ornaments. Because the temperatures were so bitterly cold it the church found it difficult to find volunteers so a suggestion was made to recruit from the local prison. Prisoners were given payment toward their debts if they agreed to standing in freezing temperatures dressed in Biblical costumes. 


Mary Ann Hudson wrote in a December 21 letter to her mother. 

Tonight we have seen a most splendid event. Charles took the children and I to see a performance of the Nativity. Eleanor remarked how the angle who stood behind the Blessed Virgin Mary was both extremely large and extremely hairy. I did not mention this to Charles, not did I mention that the blessed virgin herself seemed to be in need of a shave. 

 The first year the church attempted such a performance, two of the prisoners had to have multiple toes amputated due to frostbite. Official records stored in the museum of Criminal Justice in Philadelphia note that each man was compensated a dollar for each toe. The records indicate that the toes were "Given for Christmas."



The Rev Quick Dunnley's Completely Untrue Christmas Tales #2

The Smallest Crèche 

Probably the least known and most beautiful depictions of the traditional nativity scene, was in a small piece of glass about 2 inches long and one inch wide. 

On the day before the first Sunday of Advent In 1787 in London a Chemist (as pharmacists were called then) was apparently bored enough at his job to begin catching insects at random and smashing them with his pestle and then examining them under the microscope. On this day, to his surprise, a common housefly revealed a startling site. The insect’s remains created an absolutely perfect depiction of the nativity. Shocked and amazed Dr. Barker called his assistant to look. His assistant concurred and the men determined that they could be in the presence of an authentic miracle. They summoned a local priest Fr. John Havensforth of West End. The priest who had never used a microscope attempted for an hour before finally be able to see what the chemists saw. Fr. Havensforth was more than surprised. 


The good priest crossed himself and immediately prayed a prayer of forgiveness and then bestowed a blessing on the slide, our instrument, our business and both Dr. Barker and myself. I had never been spontaneously blessed before. It was an extraordinary feeling.

-Nigel Evans -Asst to Dr. Baker in a letter to his mother. 


The priest quickly summoned a bishop unfortunately by this time Dr. Barker's assistant had also summoned the press. Word spread quickly throughout London and by the time the bishop arrived a sizeable crowd had also. 

The Bishop, who had some experience with microscopes peered into the glass and immediately declared the site a non-miracle. When questioned about his decision the bishop replied that the alleged "nativity" had four wise men. 

 Stunned by this, both Dr. Barker and his assistant looked again. Sure enough, there to the left of Jesus and his mother were not three bur four kings in full array. Dr. Barker suggested that the slide was still too perfect to be coincidence and perhaps God was trying to tell the world something. The bishop left without another word. Fr. Havensforth explained to Dr. Baker in an official letter... 

 "Any miracle depicting an inaccurate display of the holy nativity was not a miracle. Miracles surrounding the images of the Christ Child and his Mother would be more likely to happen within the walls of the church and not in the splayed remains of a common household insect."

 Dr. Barker was soon ruined when it was learned that he had been using pharmaceutical instruments to kill bugs. His assistant "acquired" the slide and sold it to the original house of Ripley's Believe it Or Not. (Then known simply as Mr. Ripley’s Collection). The slide remained in the museum until 1805 when it was dropped and broken by a careless custodian.