My gift to you...

[My gift to you faithful readers this season is a short story. My hope is to finish it by mid-December. I have no idea where the story line is headed; we'll find out together. I do, however, welcome your suggestions for a title. I hope you enjoy it. I really do.]

Meggie absolutely hated Christmas carols and Silent Night was at the top of her list. She felt it mocked her. She had gone completely deaf at age six; she was now thirteen. She loved the sights of the holidays, but the sounds were a gift that had been returned. Now every night for Meggie was silent. Maybe it was easier if you'd never heard anything at all, if you'd been deaf from birth. As it was, Meggie had heard her father's whistle, the honk of geese, the sizzle of bacon, and Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now. Now that was gone, all gone. She used to pray with the faith of a child that God would please give back what he had taken. But she never heard any reply. This last year had been especially hard on her faith; she felt as if her heart might be dying. She desperately needed the nourishment of memory to live beyond this winter.

Her father had been completely taken with Rachel Ward's performance in The Thorn Birds, so much so that he prevailed in naming the third of his four daughters. He had written words on parchment paper and framed them for her seventh birthday. They hung above her bed, silently. There's a story... a legend, about a bird that sings just once in its life. From the moment it leaves its nest, it searches for a thorn tree... and never rests until it's found one. And then it sings... more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. And singing, it impales itself on the longest, sharpest thorn. But, as it dies, it rises above its own agony, to outsing the lark and the nightingale. The thorn bird pays its life for just one song, but the whole world stills to listen, and God in his heaven smiles.

Meggie had endured three surgeries in three years with no audible results. And last year, in what her father now referred to as the grand mistake, her wealthy aunt arranged an audience with a faith healer in Tulsa. The evangelist had taken her ears in his hands as if he might pull them off. He placed his forehead on her nose and with eyes tightly shut began to shake as if suddenly chilled. She smelled fear on his skin, but never heard a word. On the drive home, her mother turned and signed we'll keep trying. They stopped at a diner called The Purple Cow and had cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes. When her mother and sisters went to the bathroom, her father signed Meg, I'm so very sorry. I should have stopped it.

In early October, Rev. Paul O'Neill began making plans for the upcoming Advent season. He called and asked Meggie's father to read the scriptures on the third Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday. I'd like to have your family beside you when you read. And would Meggie be willing to light the candle for that day? Ask her to think it over and let me know. At dinner that night her father shared Rev. Paul's request. Her sisters became giddy simply at the prospect of being in front of a captive audience. They were strikingly beautiful girls. But Meggie felt something flicker deep within her, something almost hopeful. For as long as she could remember, her family had never been asked to visually participate in the Advent season. Why now, now in what felt like what might be her last winter?

As she fell asleep that night, Meggie could see the wreath of Advent: three candles of royal purple, strikingly beautiful. And then the one of rose pink, the candle she'd been asked to light. She suddenly remembered the subtitled lines from her father's favorite movie: Meggie's dress was rose. "Ashes of Roses", it was called. And in it, she was the most beautiful thing any of us had ever seen. With what faith she had left, Meggie determined to tell Rev. Paul yes. She might not hear on Gaudete Sunday, but she might half-hear; the fire and the rose might be one.

All of this day, this Thursday

I sat at a table round today and ate like a king in these desperate economic times. I helped her prepare the meal - turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green peas, sweet tea. She was thankful for this day, this Thursday, and for the people at the table round: our son who ate his turkey-leg like a man, our middle-daughter who made place cards for us all, our youngest who ate nothing but butter and rolls, and me. Before we started eating, we lit a candle and held hands and I read from the Book of Common Prayer and they chimed in Lord, we thank thee. She's leaving Monday to spend the week with her dad; he's having some major surgery next week. I will miss her, more than she knows. I, too, was thankful for this day, this Thursday.

The last minute dessert, razzleberry pie, took 75 minutes to cook, so we had time to catch the end of Miracle on 34th Street, the old black and white version. It's the story of a gentle soul with a beard who did some fairly miraculous things and was patient as people progressively came to believe he was who he said he was. Oh, and he just loved children. It's doesn't make a lick of sense to me how some folks can gush all over Aslan and then pitch a conniption fit over anything Santa.

The razzleberry pie was topped with vanilla ice cream and washed down with coffee. It was worth every one of the 75 minutes we waited and every one of the 150 times the kids opened the oven door to see if it was ready.

I finished Jim Harrison's Farmer around 3:30pm. I've about decided that Harrison is one of the true master storytellers of our time.

As the black of dusk began to descend, white snow began falling.

The national news report began with scenes of death in India. The man's face was covered with bright red blood and our son said Dad, look at that. I did. Our local news broadcast showed scenes of bleachers full of teary-eyed wives and restless children, all waving American flags, all waiting for their soldier's safe return.

After the evening news, she sat on the couch with our oldest two watching This is Jeopardy! Our youngest asked me if I'd read with her, so we both got in our sleeping bags in her bedroom floor and she read Rabbit's New Rug to me, complete with sound effects and character voices. After the end, I said hey, wanna make some crescent rolls with me? She beat me to the kitchen. We popped the can and tore apart the perforated dough and rolled them tightly like snooty pastry chefs. After 13 minutes at 375 degrees, we pulled them from the oven and let butter run down their hips. So, for our youngest, both meals today, lunch and dinner, consisted of butter and rolls.

Our kids all wanted to sleep in the den tonight. I'm not sure why, but I'm not sure it matters. As I turn off the lights, one is on the floor in a Wiggy bag, one is in the recliner, one is on the couch, and the Beagle is in the club chair. It's still snowing outside.

She didn't want to sleep in the den tonight. Me neither. So, I joined her in our flannel-sheeted bed and we borrowed our son's TV and watched Shopgirl as the snow stopped falling. The narrator, Steve Martin, begins the film with these words: Mirabelle Buttersfield moved from Vermont hoping to begin her life. And now she is stranded in the vast openness of LA. She keeps working to make connections, but the pile of near misses is starting to overwhelm her. What Mirabelle needs is an omniscient voice to illuminate and spotlight her and to inform everyone that this one has value, this one standing behind the counter in the glove department and to find her counterpart and bring him to her.

The narrator's voice concludes the film with these words: As Ray Porter watches Mirabelle walk away he feels a loss. How is it possible, he thinks, to miss a woman whom he kept at a distance so that when she was gone he would not miss her. Only then does he realize that wanting part of her and not all of her had hurt them both and how he cannot justify his actions except that... well... it was life.

I do not want part of this life. No, I want all of it.

It just started snowing again.

Happy Thanksgiving

The weatherman says winter's comin', but he sounds more hopeful than convinced. We've had an unseasonably long, warm autumn so far. I'm not complaining. All the leaves are off the Aspens and the neighbors are puttin' up Christmas lights.

We've had the Beagle one year now; he was the Christmas gift last year. He's always slept in a pen in my son's room, but this week we've started letting him sleep in the La-Z-Boy recliner. As I walked past him early this morning, he was on his back, snoring, with all four legs up in the air like a dead armadillo on the shoulder of the road. Upon seeing him, the only word that came to mind was happy. Should the thief cometh at the midnight hour, I'm betting he'll happily sleep right through it.

During our weekly visit to the public library, I witnessed a lady make a spectacle of herself in front of God and these witnesses. She and her son were both on the public computers and he exclaimed well what do I do now? She violently backed her chair and stood and said whatsa matter with you? Can't you figure it out? Her explosion was easy to hear, libraries being places of quiet and all. She looked up and our eyes met. Truth is, jr. had probably interrupted her 75 times before we walked in and couldn't he understand that she was trying to google something really important and he just kept asking and the 76th time she lost it. I immediately went to the front desk to pay my 70 cent fine. The librarian said oh, John, we'll take care of it next time. Blessing and cursing out of the same library. My lord.

I watched a news clip last night about a church in our area going green. The young, spiffy preacher stood before those assembled and waxed eloquently about stewardship and talked later to the reporter of proper water usage and the right bulbs. Something in me wondered if spiffy knew how utterly stupid it all sounded. We'll do about anything to avoid going red; being people of the blood won't make the news. I'm about ready for a John the Baptist type to come out of the wilderness, scratchin' himself, with locust legs in his beard, screaming Repent! But we didn't listen then, so I'm not sure we would now. Unless we were all in libraries.

A young lady in our office brought a homemade apple pie to work yesterday. I wasn't hungry when it was officially cut and tasted, but there was a little left later in the day so I took a piece and went back to my cubicle and ate it. It tasted so good I found tears in my eyes; it tasted golden, humble. Earlier in the day I'd encountered a man who was doing everything he could to come across as not humble, in charge, authorial. Maybe we should have given him the whole pie. Then again, I don't know if that would help. Maybe he never had a Beagle as a kid or his mom yelled at him in the library.

Went to the mall last night with my oldest two. They both needed winter coats; weatherman says it's comin'. We walked through several stores, looking, evaluating. Most all the salespeople were standing around the registers talking to one another. Nobody was buying anything, so I guess they thought hell, might as well visit a little. We finally found some coats they liked and they just happened to be on sale. I paid with cash. As the teenaged employee was counting out my change, I asked him about the return policy; it threw his mental counting totally off. He looked at me like whatsa matter with you? Can't you see I'm counting? He finished his counting and gave me the correct change. I disarmed him with ya' did good. Happy Thanksgiving. He blushed and smiled.

I walked out into the crisp night air with my son by my side and my daughter ridin' piggyback; her feet were hurting because she wore her boots without any socks. I've probably told her 75 times not to do that, but the 76th time allowed me to piggyback my little girl one more time in this long, warm autumn. I felt as happy as a Beagle in a La-Z-Boy.

Happy Thanksgiving. May all your pets sleep contented. May homemade apple pie find its way to your piehole more often and tears find their way to your eyes. May all your library fines be waved away until next time. May you find what you need on sale. And may your children stay children, just a little bit longer. Winter's comin'.

The Sounding Joy

Several days ago, my girlfriend's dad heard a doctor say maybe pancreatic cancer; we'll have to do some tests. He's to have his test this coming Monday and we'll know something more then. For him, for her, for all of us, it's been days of uncertainty.

I don't know what this day will bring

Will it be disappointing, filled with longed for things?

I don't know what tomorrow holds...

A friend was flying in from New York yesterday. He arrived in Dallas to delays, and mechanical problems, and a flight schedule run amuck. Finally, he landed in Co Springs after a day of amuck. Another friend will fly out this morning with his family to visit his brother in CA. His brother, his little brother, is in the midst of cancer treatments.

I don't know if these clouds mean rain

If they do, will they pour down blessing or pain?

I don't know what the future holds...

My girlfriend and I stayed up to watch The Family Stone last night. It's the story of holidays and plans and kids and life and a mother celebrating her last Christmas with her family. If your girdle's on tight, it's got enough to offend you. But I don't wear girdles. One pivotal scene has Sarah Jessica Parker and Luke Wilson in bed as the snow slowly falls on the skylight above them. She begins humming the refrain repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.

I don't know how or when I'll die

Will it be a thief, or will I have a chance to say goodbye?

No, I don't know how much time is left...

The lyrics in this post are from the song Faithfulness by Brian Doerksen. I got to spend time yesterday with Brian and his wife; it was a gift. He said John, the life of faith is about learning to trust. That's it. Brian prayed for sons that would sit around and discuss philosophy and theology with him. His two sons have Fragile X Syndrome; they don't talk much, if at all, but they hug and kiss their dad alot. Brian wrote the song after one of them was born.

None of my children have Fragile X Syndrome. But my youngest got in bed with us early this morning, head full of fever...

You could read this post and get up all shitfaced on melancholia, maybe even go back to bed and pull the covers over your eyes. Or, you could wade into this day remembering that the best-laid plans of mice and men and mothers and friends and fathers-in-law and Sarah Jessica and Brian and John gang aft agley. We don't have the foggiest idea what this day will hold; we are, all of us, fragile. But if we are people of faith, real faith, then we get up and brush our teeth and feed the dog and commute to work and face the day. And we trust. That's it.

Surer than a mother's tender love

Surer than the stars still shine above

I can rest in your faithfulness.

Repeat the sounding joy...repeat the sounding joy...

A Good Thing

It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD
and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning...

Psalm 92.1-2

It's early. I've got some loving-kindness. So, being all psalmicky and such, I might as well tell of it.

I signed a book contract yesterday. Yep, I really did. My agent, JK, called and said it's ready to sign. I grabbed for my Montblanc fountain pen and then remembered I don't have such a thing, so I borrowed the assistant's blue Bic clicker, and I signed the solid line.

I had wondered what that moment would be like. Would Glen Campbell step out of the shadows and start singing Wichita Lineman? Would the earth cough up little hobbits who would come close and dither about my knees? Would the sky suddenly turn dusk and stay that way all day, making it the best day ever?

None of those things happened. I know, hard to believe. No, I signed the three copies of the contract, stood and shook JK's hand, stepped back out into the bright sunlight of a Colorado noon, and got in my '97 Dodge and drove back to work.

And the Wichita lineman, is still on the line.

The book? Oh, yes. Sorry. I wrote through Advent last year, some reflections on the readings in Luke's gospel. That's what it's gonna be; a Christmas book, small, filled with a few sketches by a good friend. Maybe, just maybe, it'll be something to help folks walk a little saner through the moments leading up the big day. I reread them not long ago and I'm proud of them, I really am.

Right now, things are set for a September '09 release, just in time for you to purchase multiple copies both for yourself and those you call friends. We've still got to decide on a front cover and someone all spanky to endorse it, maybe Glen Campbell. We'll have a little party here at The Shame when it releases; you know, Ritz crackers, summer sausage, fancy coffee, maybe even some Blue Bell ice cream. I'll let you know. Dress is always casual, so don't fret about getting stuff pressed.

This book deal is a loving-kindness from His infinitely tender hand and I'm grateful. Actually, I'm humbled. A fella by the name of Pierce Pettis wrote a song entitled God Believes in You:
When you start to doubt that you exist, God believes in you.
Confounded by the evidence, God believes in you.
When your light burns so dim, when your chances seem so slim
And you swear you don't believe in him, God believes in you

If you ever get the chance to see Pierce perform, carpe chancem. If you come away disappointed, I'll reimburse you for the ticket.

No, all this is humbling because it points to the presence of something that oftentimes lurks in the shadows: the thought that God believes in me. Some folks may think that bassackwards theology, but I don't. That thought makes me more grateful and these days, that's where I'm puttin' my money. If who or what you're holding to isn't making you a more grateful person with each passing day, then I say you've got a hole in your bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Thanks for taking a few seconds to rejoice alongside him who rejoiceth. But, now it's up and back off down the main road, looking for another overload, a little bit surer I can hear Him singing in the wire, thru the whine -

And the Wichita lineman, is still on the line.

The Valley

[This is a fiction thread I'm going to follow for awhile; same title, but I'll add to it each time]

You shall be like a dove whose wings are covered with silver...Psalm 68.13

She had underlined those words from the Book of Common Prayer years ago. They had slowly, naturally, become her petition, her longing: Please, make me a silver dove. But the whisper beneath the prayer was to be his silver dove.

It was his hands she noticed first. They were not huge, bearlike gloves, adept at handling tools or rope. Neither were they small and demure. The hands of this man, his hands, would hold you and hang on. That is what she knew the aching moment she saw them, holding the hands of wife and children. Since that first sighting she was haunted by them almost every day. Not every day, mind you, for there were days when her mind felt rid of him. But the emancipating sun would always set and dusk would invite her back to the chains, the freedom of her chains. And the whisper: make me his.

How can you love, truly love, from afar? Is not proximity the core of affection? How she wished that the distance between her point and his were a straight line. If it were, she thought he might see her, notice her, hear her. But there was too much between them, too much that mattered.

A good friend bested cancer two years ago. She faithfully sat with her friend through the chemo, the loss. As each treatment would yield, she would rise to go, but not before a benediction: It's just a shadow, Lucy. Hang on.

Her good friend was in remission now; wigged, but alive. Lucy had dropped a statement once, during chemo’s reign: Tell me about the valley of the shadow of love.


Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
– Rilke

He swore he’d heard her that day, years ago. It was only a whisper, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Such was that time, that day. The whisper grew into a statement that scared him, quieted him.

Mutual friends were celebrating 25 years of marriage. It was July. She had worn a simple linen blouse, cut so clavicles were prominent. To those his eyes were immediately drawn; from the Latin clavicula meaning “little key.” Those long bones turned something in him leaving him exposed in the moment. And also from then on. He was certain they shook hands as a greeting, but he could remember nothing of her hands, her touch, her smell. Just the sound of bone.

He would now celebrate 20 years, come September. Time had once seemed a stream to fish, but now it had become a torrent tossing him into each new day. He held on. It was what he did, who he was. He was confident in his strength, always had been. His was not a swagger of pretense, but rather the arrogance of belonging.

Shoulders brush in an elevator. Eyes meet at a stoplight. Hands reach for the same piece of luggage. Moments. Whispers. Little keys which spring something in us, something unexpected. We find ourselves short of breath, blushing, apologetic, quiet.

After being relocated to his town, he and Brad had ridden horses together most weekends for over 5 years. He was thankful for the opportunity to ride with his younger brother again. It made them feel like boys. That boyish feeling caused him to interpret Brad's slump a month ago to be a joke, a prank. His brother momentarily leaned on the horn and then fell from his saddle. The fall broke his collarbone, shoved it straight through his shirt. The doctor said aortic aneurysm as he held his sister-in-law's widowed hands. He gave a short eulogy at the graveside and then placed his carnation on the casket.

Now, most weekends, he rode alone, listening.

Writing to clarity, maybe

I'm going to try and write myself into some clarity on this. If you've any thoughts to add, so as to help the old man, please chime in.

Do you ever think we've gone a little too far? For example, consider this statement: you can worship God anywhere; you don't have to be in a church building. The gist there is trying to say there are no unsacred places. You know what? I fully agree with that statement. Shucks, I've pealed that one forth from the pulpit before. But what if, just because we can worship God anywhere, it's not best to worship God just anywhere?

The poet Wendell Berry writes:
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

What if, just think a moment, what if it's best for us to worship God in sacred places, places that are not desecrated? I realize that may feel like semantical two-stepping I'm doing, but dance with me a moment, wouldja?

That what if? leads me to yet another: the Church is not a place; the Church is the people. Yea, I say thee verily, I've proclaimed that one loud and clear as well, trying to get the folks to stop thinking about the brick and mortar. Again, I fully believe that statement, I really do. But what if, just what if, the Church can be the people AND a place? At least as long as we're here on this dark and bloody planet? What if this it's only the people mentality harbors within it a refusal to fully be incarnate in this world? You know, that I'm just a passin' through, don't want to put down any roots, 'cause this world is not my home stuff. That stuff, as spiritual as it may sound, can, and I emphasize the word can, excuse you from really caring about much in this world, from the people to the rain forests to yourself; it allows you to throw stewardship out the window while whistling I'll fly away...

And one more here, so as to have three points. Mercy, this feels like a sermon. Sorry. But just one more: every person is a minister; the priesthood of believers. For all you reformers out there, I believe that, I really do. It's something that's been overlooked and underutilized for centuries. But if everyone's a minister, then what do ministers do? Better yet, what do pastors do? Wanna know what I'm thinking? Well, let me tell you. We've emphasized the reality that all are ministers to the point where the earth is flat, so to speak, in the church. In trying not to worship the man or woman up there behind the pulpit, we've thrown out the collar with the cassock. And what's a pastor/priest supposed to do when everyone's a minister? What flies into the vacuum created by diluting the gifts? Leadership - the word that far too many pastors and churches worship like a golden calf. Last time I checked, being a leader meant someone was following you.

Pastors are to break the bread and offer the wine, pray for the people when they cannot pray for themselves, hold the hands of the dying as the river calls their name, try with all they have to rightly divide the word of truth, comfort the people in times of trouble, and stuff like that. Not everyone is to do that stuff; not everyone wants to do that stuff. But when and if everyone can and should, then pastors guess that they need a BlackBerry and a posse that they're pouring their lives into and vision statements and gospel trajectories and a missional manifesto. You see, leadership looks like you're doing something. The work of a pastor sometimes, oftentimes, looks like you're doing nothing. Eugene Peterson titled that book The Unnecessary Pastor for a reason. Leadership will get you rave reviews on your annual elder-led evaluation. Pastoring, at worst, just might get you fired, and at best, will cause the elders to give you a list of improvement goals for the next year. Let's work on being a little more effective, John; try to be one of those, what do they call 'em? Yeah, influencers.

I'm still wrestling with this angel, so please bear with me. But I'm just not sure I'm liking everything that I'm seeing. All things are possible, but not all things are beneficial. I read that, somewhere.

A Little Scratchin'

Some of you know that I used to be a pastor. And some of you know that I'm not a pastor anymore, at least not in a formal sense. It wasn't the wine, or the women, or even the song that caused me to step away. No, it was the doubt. But that's for another post.

I still, however, have that itch to preach or teach or give a homily or whatever you want to call it. And, according to a facet of my personal credo, he who hath an itch, let him scratch.

I've decided that every Sunday morning, Lord willin', I'm going to do some scratching over at The Spoiled Priest. I plan to follow the lectionary readings for the year, just so you know. Some days it might be the OT reading, some days the NT, some days the gospel.

I've gotten the impression that many, or some, of you are without a church these days. I certainly hope you can find one at some point, but maybe, in the meantime, if you're itchin' for a sermon or homily or whatever, this might ease the itch.

The phrase spoiled priest refers to those Irish priests who never took their vows of ordination or dropped out of seminary or were defrocked for one reason or another, maybe doubt. Because of that, I feel a kinship with them. It is said that when the people of the countryside had problems, real problems, they would seek out the spoiled priests rather than going to talk to the priests who had big parishes or still wore their collars. The thinking was that these men knew about trouble, about problems, about pain and suffering and betrayal and loneliness and heartache. And doubt. And as such, it was they, the spoiled priests, who could really listen and pray. And hope.

The Morning After

I wondered how scripture would greet me this morning, the morning after. This is what I found:
24 - Domini est terra
The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it,
the world and all who dwell therein.

I stood in line yesterday in small town Colorado for an hour and twenty minutes to vote. Everyone was cordial. I said yes ma'am and no sir to the election judges; their faces registered pleasure at those small acts of respect. They know the change has to begin there: small acts of respect.

The wait line was outside our town hall building and the morning air was a little too brisk for heavy conversation. I brought along Norris's Acedia & me to redeem the time. Two thoughts found my pen beneath their feet:
*Everyone believes in sin...what everyone does not believe in, as nearly as I can tell, is forgiveness.

*The culture may glorify people who do Pilates at dawn, work their BlackBerrys obsessively on the morning commute, multitask all day at the office, and put a gourmet meal on the table at night after the kids come home from French and fencing lessons, but...are these hyperscheduled, overactive individuals really creating anything new? Are they guilty of passion in any way? Do they have a new vision for their government? For their community? Or for themselves?

I kept wanting to read this stuff aloud while standing in line, stand up on one of the faded given-in-memory-of benches are orate. But I did not. Those words, I realized, were for me. The broad road is to orate, convinced that those in ear shot need to hear my words. The narrow way is to meditate, humbled that he with ears needs to hear: it's not about them first, but me. I realize that runs counter to the conventional evangelical wisdom - it's not about you - but that very perspective will forever and always keep evangelicals conventional. The spiritual life is always about you. The wisdom of those who predate the evangelicals have always told us this.

I was pleased when our new president hinted at that last night, in front of what I believe they call a throng. He said something to the effect of this is not about me, this is about you. This is not the change we seek, but the opportunity to change.

As we greet the morning after, are we, am I, ready for change to begin with me?

Scripture concluded with these words this morning:
26 - Judica me, Domine
As for me, I will live with integrity;
redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

Super Tuesday

Well, I know you haven't slept much since THE GYPSYS, TRAMPS & THIEVES GRAB'N'RUN began, but such is the nature of the gambling lifestyle, eh? Kinda exciting in a dangerous sorta way. I called my old classmate, Jimmy Paul, at Jimmy-Paul's-Jiffy-Lube, an oil change establishment which also has a random integer generator in the back, and he was happy to help. He poured a little used 10w30, along with your entries, in the generator and voila! - a winner we do have.

Since we don't allow drum rolls, too dramatic, at the Dirty Shame, let me turn up the volume on that Cher song for effect -
I was born in the wagon of a travellin' show
My mama used to dance for the money they'd throw...

Brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it? Our winner in THE GYPSYS, TRAMPS & THIEVES GRAB'N'RUN is Laure. Laure, I realize you're probably flat on the floor right now, hyperventilating; breathe, my friend, just breathe. Some days, you're just, well, lucky. Congratulations! I think you'll enjoy Winn's new book and I hope you'll tell others about it as well.

To the rest of you who screwed up the courage to play this game of chance, I salute you and sincerely thank you for being a part of the faithful few who gather at the Dirty Shame. It does mean more than you know, you stopping by to read my thoughts and all. It really does.

Pastor Mark pastorally queried: Well, where would a loser get the book? Those weren't his actual words, but pastorally speaking, that's what he wanted to know. First of all, you can get the book at for the fairest price anywhere. And secondly, we're all losers here at the Shame. The quote over the bar is from Will Campbell: We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway. That is the ground upon which this fine establishment sits and, well, somedays thrives.

Lucky Laure (o.k. if we call you that just for today?), if you'll send your mailing address to my email (, I'll send your book to you, all packaged nice and such. Grab'n'run and be happy! And Jimmy Paul, thanks for the random help; this world is not worthy of you.