Some When

The paint was peeling on the old doors, but there were no plans to fix it. In the eyes of the caretakers it was a sin to change things from the original. That was the paint that Ebenezer Crimmins put on those doors, lo, those 127 years ago. Yes, they knew exactly how long it had been. They kept track of all of that, and even more. Every tiny detail was documented and filed in triplicate for posterity. It wouldn’t do to have something forgotten.

Sure, they couldn’t see the pattern now, but they had faith that it would surface later. Everything made a pattern one way or another if you sorted it right. Sometimes it was the focus you put on it – duration, frequency, type. Sometimes it was interval – how much time between. They knew it had to surface somehow, but only with enough data and the right person or computer to do the sifting. But now was not the time. Now, nothing made sense except to save everything, change nothing. Who knew what would be the final clue to unlock the mystery? Not them, not yet. But they knew enough that some when, someone had to find the solution.

For shortly after old Ebenezer Crimmins painted that door marking the completion of the house, he disappeared. Not went away. Not was kidnapped. No, nothing as easy as that. Simply disappeared, as easy as you please, fading away to nothing as the paint dried on the doors. He put the paintbrush down and had begun to remove his paint spattered overalls and it just started happening. Passersby thought it was a trick of the light, being odd as it was on that late December day.

It was a rare sunny day, and warm for a change, that December 20, the day before the solstice. The light was slantwise that day, all shifty and strange. Most people didn’t take note of it, but Ebenezer did. He didn’t trust it, no sir, but the door needed painting before the rains came. It wouldn’t do to have the bare wood unprotected. All that work on the house would be for naught if it wasn’t protected.

The house was like every other house in the village, small and squat. The walls were thick, made from the local clay, fired in a kiln built on site, purpose built just like for every house in the village. There was a kiln as part of every yard – they all stayed. Used to fire the bricks to make the house, then afterwards to make whatever pottery the residents needed. Some had small stoves built adjacent, to take advantage of the heat but not mix the materials. It wouldn’t do to get the clay mixed into the food.

All the houses were built by the community as a gift to the new inhabitants. They were not expected to construct their own house, or even to design it. Each house was made for the family in accordance with its needs and the prophecy determined for it. Manys the family of three that were surprised to move into a home with six bedrooms, only to discover they were more fertile than expected or in-law had to move in because of illness. Likewise, manys the family of eight that had to squeeze into a house with four bedrooms, only to discover tragedy came soon after.

For families were not allowed to move once they were in their own home. Once built, you were there for better or worse. Children could move away only upon marriage. There were no apartments, no dorms. Everyone lived with their family and never alone, even in the case of death. If a spouse died, the member returned to their homestead. Houses stayed in the family for generations, until the family died out or the house deteriorated. Sometimes the two happened at the same time.

But this tradition had come to be questioned by the very people it excluded. The loners, the misfits, those alienated from their family – they wanted to live apart rather than endure living together with people who didn’t understand them. Yet there was no place for them – not until this house. Constructed quietly, without council oversight, it had appeared almost overnight and remained empty, with no official resident listed. The villagers who built it had worked quietly, unofficially, and were known only to each other. Only Ebenezer would be public in his actions, finishing the paint job on that fateful day.

After 130 years, the villagers finally understood what had happened to him. He disappeared because they chose to not see him, to pretend that he was not doing this thing. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t spoken aloud. They just looked away, out of embarrassment perhaps, or consternation. They didn’t know what to think about what he was doing, so they chose not to think about him at all.

So he disappeared, slowly but surely, and soon there was nothing left of him. Nobody ever stepped foot in that house, for fear the same would happened to them. Nobody ever tried to build another home for singles either.

It took all that time to develop a pattern to see, truly see, what had caused the disappearance. It would take a dozen more years to learn where, or rather when, Mr. Crimmins had gone. For he’d not just faded from their sight, he’d faded from their timeline. He’d gone nearly 150 years into the future, many times the normal period of reincarnation.

It took 49 days for Tibetans to reincarnate, which was a comfort in that culture. There was no need for a protracted grief. You knew your loved one was alive again, and soon. There was no need to wait for the resurrection – it was happening all the time. Mr. Crimmin’s culture had no such consolation. The resurrection happened just the same to them, but they didn’t know it. It wasn’t like anybody had ever come back and told them. Until now.

Because Mr. Ebenezer Crimmins came back, looking exactly as he did when he left. He got to pass go and collect $200. He won the game and lived to tell about it – really. He was so thankful the town had archived his life so he had proof he was who he said. Otherwise they might have locked them up or cast him out. Because that was what most cultures did to people who spoke truth that seemed better than they could believe. 

A quick resurrection wasn’t what they wanted.  They were programmed for death, and guilt, and waiting, and never seeing the other side any time soon.  So they didn’t like the idea of this walking ghost, this man their grandparents knew, standing among them telling them it wasn’t like that at all.  They didn’t have to fear death. They all would get a second chance, and a third, and a 27th.  He might as well have told them that they didn’t have to worry about money, or sickness either. 

After the resurrection – message

I was wondering about how we will share the earth with all the dead after the resurrection. I can’t even imagine how many people that would be – millions and millions. There will be no room for everyone – the planet is overpopulated with the living as is. We can barely support ourselves.

The answer came that we will all be in a new phase reality. There will be many translucent layers of existence, rather than one. This already currently exists, but isn’t visible or manifest to anyone except prophets and seers. But after the resurrection, we will all see like this.

This will not be overwhelming. We will all have new eyes. We will all be able to shift our perception and see more, as we choose. We will not feel like our lives are crowded with people. They will be like the host of angels – ever present, but not always manifest.

A watery resurrection

Marley awoke and there was water everywhere. Dark, murky water filled her mouth and lungs, but she didn’t need them anymore, because the same water filled her grave.
She’d resurrected the moment Jesus had appeared in the sky overhead. Even though there was 6 feet of earth and well over 20 feet of water between her and the air, she still knew. She knew the same way Bradford pears knew it was time to bloom, when all at once, seemingly overnight, every one of them burst into shimmering snowflakes of petals, all over the city. How did they know? Scientists still couldn’t figure it out, but scientists couldn’t measure the Spirit, and that was what was at work, both with the trees and with Marley.
She was lucky she’d been buried before “professionals” took over the laying out. When she died, her mother and her aunts had cared for her, just like they had when she was born. They took her down to the creek, a branch of the Stones River, and washed her body. It was like a baptism she’d never had.
She’d died at 11 in 1843 of diphtheria. One week she was fine, and then she got a sore throat that seemed to take over all of who she was. It weakened her heart and that was enough to send her out of this world. Little did her family know but if that disease hadn’t killed her, the strain of her having a child later would have. Better to die now, with no obligations, nobody to leave behind.
Her Granny had told her about Jesus, about his coming back, so what was happening now wasn’t a surprise. There’d been many quiet talks over the years while they quilted together or snapped beans for the evening meal out on the back porch. They had been looking forward to formally including her in the local congregation. That wouldn’t have been until the next summer when the preacher came by to do the yearly baptizing in the creek.
Sure, she went to church, when she could, when she remembered, when there wasn’t something she had to do at the house. There were always chickens to feed or weeds to pull, and these things didn’t do themselves, as Marley’s Pa was always saying when she tried to put the chores off until later. “Best do them now, Marley girl, before something else comes up what wants tendin’.” He was right, of course, but all those “have to” things took away from the “want to” things, and to her mind the creek needed swimming and the flowers needed picking and the insects needed catching just as much as the chores needed doing. The days were just filled with things that had nothing to do with chores, but there was no way of getting around to it all.
Marley always kept the Sabbath in her heart all her days. She was a simple girl, never one to pry or gossip. All children start off good, the only problem is that the clever ones were a quick study on how to be bad. It took smarts to figure out ways around the rules, and Marley was lucky in that she never had cause to worry about that being a problem. There was no school to go to, not for her, not for anybody in Old Jefferson. There weren’t enough families to pay for a building and a teacher, and there weren’t enough children to fill it. The nearest school was a three hour’s walk away and her family couldn’t spare her for that long with so many things to do around the homestead.
She knew it was time to rise from the grave, the same as if it had been a school bell calling her. The call was silent but just as insistent, just as impossible to ignore. And why would she? Who would want to play hooky from heaven? She shoved against the rotten pine boards of the coffin, sending them swimming lazily to the side along with thick clumps of mud. It took her about 20 minutes to reach the surface, which in this case was the bottom of the lake. It didn’t take long after that to swim up to the air, but it was hard work, hard for muscles that hadn’t been used in over a century.
Why was her grave underwater, she mused? Where did the lake come from? Where was her house? For that matter, where was the rest of her family? Surely they’d be rising with her, but she saw none of them nearby. Perhaps they were buried elsewhere? She didn’t dare consider that they might still be in the ground, like iris bulbs that had gone mushy, with no spirit left in them to bloom from the dark earth in which they were planted.
The Corps of Engineers had flooded the town of Old Jefferson late in 1966 to make a hydroelectric dam, big enough to bring clean, reliable power to them and half a dozen other little towns to boot. The only trouble was that the towns had to relocate to higher ground to benefit from that progress. Power doesn’t do you any good if your farm is at the bottom of a lake.
Moving the people and their livestock was hard enough, but then someone remembered the graves. There were hundreds of family cemeteries in the valley, often tucked away at the ends of farms, at the highest point, so that the well water wouldn’t be affected. Here the dead were laid to rest at the tops of hills so they be closer to heaven. But with the water coming, all the dead had to be relocated the same as the people. It wasn’t an easy task – living relatives had to be located, permission forms had to be signed and notarized. Many of the dead were moved to the Mount Juliet cemetery, but some stayed right where they were laid to rest however long ago that was.
Sometimes the family had moved on or died out, meaning they couldn’t be asked for permission. Sometimes the remaining relatives decided it was more respectful to leave their loved ones alone after seeing some of the other graves exhumed. Plain pine boxes and fancy mahogany ones all rot the same after a few years under the pressure of 4 tons of dirt from a standard size grave. It was a hard sight to see, all those coffins being dug up and falling apart. It wasn’t respectful, to their mind. Better leave them where they were.
In Marley’s case, it was a little of both. The family had moved away not long after she had died, too distraught to live in the same place where their child had died. It didn’t make sense for her to go so young. Mama blamed herself for not taking better care of her, while Pa lamented that he’d not had enough money saved up to take her to the doctor. They’d left rather than have to answer all those ugly questions hanging around like dead fruit. It didn’t solve the problems, of course, just pushed them off until later. Unanswered questions always have a way of not staying quiet.
The family had left the tending of their graveyard to the neighbors, who promised to keep the small plot mowed and free of trespassers. They assured her kin that they’d treat them like their own, and sent them off with sandwiches and a jug of fresh apple cider on moving day. In return they got the house and the farm signed over to them. Her family was ready to start again from scratch. They figured it was the only way to make up to Marley for letting her die.
When the time came to move that plot, the neighbors had said no, in part upset at the hullaballoo created by the other exhumations, and in part hopeful that the Corps would give up on their plans. They thought that if enough people left the dead where they were, the government would have to relent and let the living stay. They didn’t count on the fact that the government doesn’t have feelings about people, whether alive or dead.
It sure was a sight to see the dead come up out of the grey-green water that late August day. It was a Wednesday when it happened in Davidson County. The Rising had started a day earlier in Israel, and had traveled like a wave over the world, spending just as long in each area as the number of dead required. Some areas took longer than others. Some were full of the faithful. Some took barely a moment, in spite of the many thousands of graves there.
The Messiah appeared in the sky, exactly as promised, trailing clouds of glory. Signs and portents had pierced the skies for weeks beforehand, but only a few people heeded them. Likewise, dreams and visions occupied the nights and days of many people, but most wrote them off to stress and took another Xanax or drank some Nyquil. They complained about their insomnia on their Facebook pages, not taking notice of how many others were having the same experience.
It was a lot like when the first raindrops started to fall when the Flood happened. Nobody but Noah and his family thought it was going to keep on raining. It was a lot like when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed – all those people died, and only Lot and his daughters were mindful enough to leave. Noah, Lot, Joseph – they all heard the voice of God and took it seriously and lives were saved. Only those who took the messages seriously were saved.
This time, many preachers told their flocks to ignore the messages, because they hadn’t heard the voice themselves. Surely God would speak to them, they thought. Why would God waste God’s time on the sheep and forget the shepherd, they mused. The problem was that they forgot that Jesus was the Shepherd, and they were the same as their church members. They’d forgotten that they weren’t in charge of anything at all. When they’d decided to take up the role of minister and do all the talking, they’d given up the most important part of following God – listening. Only those who’d remained humble pastors were called to the great awakening. They were the ones who remembered the One who was the true leader of the Church.
Marley was listening, that was for sure. She rose up, high in the sky, and was greeted personally by Jesus. She asked him how this could be since she wasn’t baptized, and he said that she’d been baptized with the only baptism that counted, the one of the Spirit. He told her that a water baptism is something people do, for show. It wasn’t real. It was a hope, a promise. It pointed towards the real thing, but it wasn’t it. It didn’t mean anything at all when it came to being saved. That was something between the person’s soul and the Spirit, the presence of God in the world.
Like called to like, with the Spirit calling and the soul responding. Water wasn’t necessary, because the Spirit could use any element it wanted. An element from the Earth was helpful, because it was a sign to the body. The soul knew when it was recognized by the Spirit, when it was welcomed home. The body needed a little more convincing, however, so some sort of ceremony was needed to remind it. That was all baptism was, he said, a reminding, a remembering, a joining back together with the side that had been forgotten during childhood. He told her that we are created in heaven, in the Spirit, and as babies are still attached to that world. Marley, having never truly left it, didn’t have any work at all to do to be part of that world again as a soul in a body.
Many others had a lot more work to do, because being a soul in a body was distracting. It was so needy, the body, so demanding. It made them forget their commitments by replacing them with cravings. It provided daily (sometimes hourly) reminders that they couldn’t possibly survive in this world without constant and persistent re-turning towards the Light that is God.
So Marley rose, far up into the sky, flying among the great crowd of people who truly followed God. They were people who were humble and pure, those who could hear the Master calling his faithful home. They had waited for a long time, asleep in the earth. Today was their true birth-day.

Taxidermy for amateurs (short story)


Emma had no way of knowing how her experiment in home taxidermy would work out until she tried. She’d read up about it in a correspondence course, changing her name to Eugene on the paperwork. No self-respecting school would teach a woman how to do such work, especially if they knew how she planned to use this knowledge.

She’d started simple – a dead raccoon she found near the edge of the field. A bird who’d gotten too close to a stray cat. It was unfortunate that the possum she’d spotted just down the road from the farm was too far gone, the turkey vultures having gotten first dibs. Sure, she still could have practiced on the mangy thing, but she wanted her artwork to look natural, or as natural as the deceased can look.

It took her two and a half years to work up the courage to try on a human. This had been her plan all along, but she had to be sure of her skill before she tried something so bold. Even men wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to step into that field of work without official license.

Emma knew too many folks in the village who went into debt over having to bury their dead. There was no good reason to spend a year’s income on someone who couldn’t appreciate it. New fancy clothes for someone who could never afford better than hand-me-downs his whole life? Nonsense. Silk lined coffin to sleep in, when cotton sheets were just fine all their life? Ludicrous.

And worst of all was all those chemicals pumped into their veins to keep them fresh for whenever Jesus got around to making a return visit. When he came, he’d better have a shovel, a jackhammer, and a pair of wire cutters to help them out after he woke them from their slumber. 6 feet down stuck in a concrete vault and a locked coffin was bad enough. Their mouth wired shut (to avoid any unpleasantness during the viewing) would make life difficult for the newly reanimated. Who wanted to come back from the dead like that?

Emma had another plan, a kinder, cheaper plan. Taxidermy. Dry out Grandpa Ross or Uncle Seymour so he doesn’t develop a case of the rot, and prop him up in a chair in the living room. Much cheaper, and he’d still be around to chat with. When the second coming happened he’d be just as ready as anyone else.

The resurrection of Lazarus

Jesus was filled with a deep anger when he heard this and approached the tomb. The tomb was in a cave and there was a large stone covering the entrance. Jesus asked them to roll the stone aside.

Martha said “He’s been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

But Jesus said “Did I not say that you would see the glory of God if only you believe?”

So they rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. Jesus raised his eyes and said “Father, thank you for listening to me. I know that you always listen to me, but I’ve said this now because of the crowd which is here, so they can believe that you sent me.” After saying this Jesus shouted, “Lazarus come out!”

Lazarus walked out of the tomb covered from head to toe with the linen cloths that he had been buried in. Jesus said “Remove the burial cloths and release him.”

JN 11:38-40

Life and Judgment

“Truly, anyone who listens to my testimony and believes the One who sent me, that person will have eternal life and will not be judged. Such a person has moved from death into life. Truly, it is now the time when those who are dead will hear the voice of God’s Son, and will live because they hear his voice. The Father has granted the Son to have life in himself, in the same way that the Father has life. The Father has also granted the Son the power to pass judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Don’t let this amaze you, because soon all who are buried will come out of their graves when they hear his voice. Those who have been righteous will arise to the resurrection of life, and those who have been wicked will arise to the resurrection of judgment. I have no power of my own. I can only judge as God tells me, and my judgment is sound because I seek the will of the One who sent me and not my own.”

JN 5:24-30

Mary Magdalene and the other women see Jesus

Mary saw a man in the garden not far from the tomb. She assumed he was the gardener. He was Jesus, but she did not recognize him. When he said “Mary”, she instantly knew who he was.

“Teacher!” She exclaimed, reaching for him. He cautioned her “Don’t hold on to me, because I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. But go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to our Father – mine and yours. I am leaving for Galilee, have them meet me there.”

The other women saw him as well, and they held his feet and worshipped him.

The women reported to the disciples on all that had happened and relayed the message from the angel and Jesus to travel to Galilee, yet they didn’t believe them. The disciples thought they were making up the story.

(MT 28:9-10, MK 16:9-11, LK 24:9-11, JN 20:14-18)

Resurrection morning

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Joanna, and Salome went to the tomb while it was still dark on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had ended. They brought the spices and perfumes they had prepared to anoint the body. They were wondering among themselves how they would roll back the stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb.

An angel of the Lord suddenly descended from heaven, causing the earth to shake. He rolled back the stone door and then sat upon it. He shone with a brilliant light and his robe was snow-white. The guards were paralyzed with fear when they saw him. The women bowed down to the ground, amazed and terrified.

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Why are looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and will rise on the third day?” Then they remembered that Jesus had said this.

The angel continued, “Come and see where they put him. Go quickly and tell his disciples that ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead to Galilee – you will see him there, just as he said.’ Make sure you tell them this.”

The women, trembling with amazement and alarm, ran from the tomb to tell the other disciples the news.

MT 28:1-8, MK 16:1-8, LK 24:1-8, (JN 20:1)

A widow’s son restored to life

Shortly afterwards, Jesus and his disciples went to the village of Nain, accompanied by a large crowd. As he got near the gate, a funeral procession was coming out. The person who had died was the only son of a widow. A large crowd from the village was with her. Jesus felt compassion when he saw her and said to her “Don’t cry.” He went up to the bier, touched it, and the pallbearers stopped. Speaking to the dead boy, he said “Child, I tell you, get up!” Immediately the boy sat up and began to speak, and Jesus returned him to his mother.

Awe swept over the crowd, and they began to glorify God, saying “A great prophet has arisen among us” and “God has come to help his people.” News of what had happened spread throughout Judea and the surrounding areas.

LK 7:11-17


I’m not about “the resurrection of the dead”. That line in the Nicene Creed I fumble over. I say it half heartedly. Maybe I do mean it, but not in the way that it is meant. I’m not really interested in dead people coming back to life, but people who are already alive being really alive, being fully present, being intentional about their lives.

I think this is much more meaningful than the idea of the Resurrection that is currently sold to us.

The current idea of the Resurrection is concerned with a future that we can’t see. We can’t know when it is going to happen. And it doesn’t make for any real changes now. The current idea of the Resurrection is something so far out there that it sounds like science fiction.

Maybe it is possible. Maybe it will happen. But how does that make the world better now?

Sure, I believe in it, in the same way that I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that he walked on water. I believe it because it doesn’t hurt to believe it, and because I was told it by people who mean well. I believe it because it is there, as part of my faith structure.

But I’m more mystical. I dig further. I dig deeper. I start to wonder how far this idea can go, because God is quantum. God has revealed things to me to be far bigger than I ever imagined. When God says something is going to happen and it does, it is always more surprising and amazing and complete than my little head can grasp.

I believe in a resurrection of the dead right now, right here. I believe in a God who wakes us up to our calling, who fills us, who animates us. I believe in a God who created the world and filled it with all sorts of living things, and who does the same for us. I believe in a God who loves us and calls us and wants us to be active participants in this world, who wants us to show love by being love.

I believe in a resurrection of the dead in the biggest sense. I believe that God is here, right now, and is on our side. I believe in letting others know that God is real and created each person because each person is needed and wanted. I believe in sharing the idea that nothing God made is an accident.

I believe in a God who is approachable by us, on our feet, faces upturned. There are too many stories of people who threw themselves to the ground when they were approached by God or God’s messengers – and they were repeatedly told not to do that. They were told to not be afraid.

I believe in a God who forgives us, who seeks us, who celebrates when we wake up to our full, true nature of being daughters and sons of God. I believe in a God who sees us all as equal, and wants us to do the same.

I believe in a resurrection of the spirit, right here, right now, no waiting.