Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guest Blogger

The Jesus Drop-'n-Roll
by Karen Spears Zacharias

The dog that doesn't know my name and I spent yesterday afternoon at St. James's annual church picnic. Miz Betty Jo called and asked us to go. St. James has two services each Sunday. One in the chapel at 7:30 a.m. and the other in the main sanctuary at 9 a.m. I prefer the early service in the little chapel.

I'd never been to a church where folks chant out loud until I went with Miz Betty. It's what my people refer to as "high church." I guess because it's a throw-back to the Anglican church of their Irish and English roots. My people were not high church kind of folks. My people got mixed with the whooping-n-hollering bunch long ago, and have become forever twined with that group. I think it's because it was the closest they could get on a Sunday morning to a Saturday night binge. Or maybe it's because when they showed up on Sunday morning nobody could tell if they were hungover or just slain in the spirit.

I was slain in the spirit once. But it wasn't in the mountains of Tennessee or on the coastal waters of Georgia but in Seattle of all places. It wasn't an altogether unpleasant experience like my skeptic mind had created it to be. I didn't fall with a thud, although I certainly have the body mass to warrant one. Preacher touched me, lightly, right there in the middle of my forehead -- the center of all reasoning -- and whooshhh! I just floated backwards.

Before that moment I would have told you the only time I'd lay horizontal at an altar they'd be rolling me in a pretty pink casket. But there I was, flat on my back, before God and everybody. And the thing of it is, I didn't want to ever get up. It was like when I was a kid, sprawled out in the sand, or the top of a picnic table, studying God's artwork, trying to decipher what the next cloud looked like -- a horse's head, a Volkswagen beetle, a ghetto behinney. I remember thinking, I really ort to get up. But then countering that with, how come?

I think it scared my four children. Seeing their mama all stretched out that a'way. But my children never went to church with the whoopin-and-hollering bunch of the family. They don't know their own spiritual roots. I'm pretty sure Aunt Cil would've been proud to see me slain by the Spirit.

Of course, there's plenty of people just wished I was slain, period.
People at St. James, they don't get slain. They are too refined for a Jesus-drop-and-roll maneuver . I thought two of 'em were going to drop their dentures at the picnic yesterday when I let a curse word slip. Aunt Cil would have made me chew off the edge of the Ivory soap bar for saying a curse word as a child, but as an adult, she'd think I was putting on airs if I didn't use such words when they was called for.

Now, I'll admit it. I have a potty-mouth. I ain't proud of it. I learned it in the trailer park and for a time -- when I was raising little children -- I stopped swearing altogether. But then I started working in a newsroom, and around all those Vietnam veterans, and Oregon State Police and such. And well, only a girl who'd never grown up in a trailer park, a girl who actually had taken a course at Mable Bailey's Charm School, would be able to resist the urge. I ain't got many urges left at my age that I enjoy, so I try not to fight 'em when they come.

Besides it's not like I go around cussing for the sake of cussing. I only do it when it's warranted. And I don't say things like 'shit-fire' the way Mama always does. I don't take God's name in vain, 'cause that still scares me when people do that. I try never to stand next to those folks.

Anyway, back at the picnic, I was talking to this Navy veteran and his wife about the families of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I said something about how people don't want to read about these families because it makes them too d--n sad and how if they think that's sad they really ort to try living it.

Their heads snapped around like turtles startled. I think they were checking to make sure no one else in line had heard me say the d-word. They didn't talk to me much after we got through the chow line.
I felt bad, embarrassing good Christian folks that way.I fear I really don't know how act around anyone but sinners.

Karen Spears ZachariasAuthor-in-ResidenceFairhope Center for the Writing Arts

Where's Your Jesus Now?
Coming, Aug. 2008.Zondervan/HarperCollins

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