God’s Grand Idea

During the last presidential election campaign, Ben Carson made a very good point about the Internet and the deteriorating state of civility in America. Referring to the Internet, he said (paraphrased), “You can read almost any news story online, then look in the comment section and find people cussing at each other. Where did this hateful spirit come from? It certainly didn’t come from our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

I’m pretty sure things have gotten worse on both sides of any spectrum one could name – political, social, racial, national, economic, etc., since the election results came in.

Of course, most of the people saying horrible things to others online are operating under nicknames, and most would never be brave enough to say such things to others in person. The anonymity of the Internet makes them both brave and unnaturally rude. Thus our dilemma.

About ten years ago, I was wondering if the Internet unites or divides us and wrote the poem below. Unfortunately, I fear it’s just as true today, maybe more. I sure hope humanity does some work on itself soon. I don’t know how many more chances we’re going to get. 

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One day, the good Lord was looking down on us all
And, as usual, wondering where He went wrong,
When He had a crazy idea He named “The Internet”
And thought, “They should have had this all along!”

“I’ll plant the idea in somebody’s head down there
And when they can all finally talk with each other,
All this fighting will be replaced by understanding
And every man will rush to help his brother.”

So He did just that, then went away for a week,
Which to Him is about twenty of our mortal years.
When He returned, he logged on, wildly curious,
But what He saw nearly drove Him to tears.

His first stop was a popular site called You Tube.
But He found everyone fighting about everything.
“I can’t believe it,” He cried. “What’s wrong with them?”
This isn’t what I hoped my Internet would bring!”

He searched, still hoping, but found endless depravity.
There was some good here and there but, all in all,
He felt that His gift had been hijacked and graffiti’d,
Nothing more than a sophisticated bathroom wall.

What He hoped would bring peace and prosperity
Had become rude, ungodly, vile and unkempt.
“I hoped it wasn’t true of My children,” He thought,
“But it seems familiarity really does breed contempt.”

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 13 – The Day I Met Jesus

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Being that it’s Sunday and all, I thought I’d tell the story about the day I met Jesus Christ.

Okay, it wasn’t really Jesus, it was Ted Neeley, an actor who played Jesus in the 1973 movie, Jesus Christ, Superstar, and yet another day when God decided to mess with me a bit for his sitcom, created for heaven’s amusement, and put a look-alike of his son in my path just to watch me squirm.

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I didn’t see Jesus Christ Superstar until I was eighteen and it had a very profound effect on me. Until then, most actors played Jesus pretty straight but this guy was ultra-cool. He looked like a surfer. And he sang! Not only that, he sounded a lot like Steve Perry of Journey, my favorite band at the time. 

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I was walking around downtown Westwood one Saturday night (the “place to be” in L.A. back then) and ducked into one of the shops. I was looking down when I almost ran into someone coming out. The first thing I saw was a pair of leather sandals with the hem of a princely, earth-tone robe hanging above them. I looked up and was stunned to see Ted Neeley smiling benignly at me, dressed in the same get-up he wore in Jesus Christ Superstar. The only thing missing was the thorny crown.

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It was probably the biggest “deer in the headlights” moment of my life. I had only seen the movie a few days earlier so it was a heck of a coincidence, and as far as I was concerned, this guy was Him. The One. The Great I Am. It didn’t help that he had one of those looks that sees right through you. “Pierces the soul” as they say. I started thinking about every cuss word I had said recently, that unpaid parking ticket, the pack of chewing gum I stole from Thrifty Mart when I was seven, etc. 

I said, “Duhbudda bibidee” or something like that. Apparently aware that I was star-struck, dumbstruck, and just plain struck, he said “hello” in a very soft, Christ-like manner. I was a little disappointed he didn’t say, “Hello, my child” but you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Anyway, this was many years after the movie came out so he was obviously still “workin’ it” by dressing up as Jesus and walking around Westwood on Saturday nights, bringing his own brand of redemption to lonely women who felt guilty about one thing or another.

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But maybe I’m being too cynical. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was doing a stage performance in town that night. After all, he’s still doing it, Him bless him, all these years later. That man has saved a lot of souls.

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I finally found my voice and said, “Ted Frickin’ Neeley! Dude! (I was also a surfer back then.) I just saw Jesus Christ Superstar! You were awesome!” He thanked me graciously, said “have a blessed night” and walked placidly away into the balmy California twilight, bestowing blessings on all he passed. 

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It was a little like meeting a corner Santa Claus. We all know it’s not really good ol’ St. Nick, but we suspend our disbelief so we can feel a bit of the magic we’d feel if it actually were. 

I’ve always believed in hedging my bets, so as Ted passed me in that doorway, I made sure to touch the hem of his garment. You know . . . just in case.

Creations without a Creator?

Creatures like this are proof to me that there is a creator. Can an insect will itself over many generations to look like a leaf so its enemies won’t see it? What consciousness is at work here? A creator’s, or a bug’s? A mistake or intention? 

The atheist and/or evolutionist’s answer is natural selection, the strong, smart or better camouflaged surviving (survival of the fittest) and the others dying until the product is this, but that still indicates a kind of consciousness, the kind of consciousness that adds the deterioration specks of the leaves to its wings, or the reflection of light to an owl’s eye on a butterfly wing. The question is – what is the source of that consciousness?  

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom – Episode 5, “The Mummy on the Plane.”

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Okay, if this isn’t proof positive I’m the subject of a YouTube prank channel owned and operated by God Himself, I don’t know what is.

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I was returning from Hawaii, seated at a nice window seat. I had arrived early so I was the first one on the plane. The plane filled to capacity for half an hour or so but the seat next to me remained empty. “What luck!” I thought. “I’m going to have two seats to myself!” But God had other plans. You see, I didn’t know it, but I was again smack dab in the middle of another one of His pranks.

With no seats left, I saw a man coming down the aisle who can only be described as “the mummy.” He wore Bermuda shorts and a tank top but his arms, legs, neck and face were covered with gauze. Old gauze. Gauze with yellow liquid seeping through it.

“God in heaven, no,” I thought. “Me in heaven, yes,” said God, laughing.

Jesus said, “Dad, you really should stop. This is going too far.” Jesus tries to stick up for me, but ultimately he must capitulate to that prankster Dad of his. God might actually stop pranking me if Jesus didn’t always end up laughing, too. He needs to commit. But I digress.

So the mummy sat down next to me. I tried to squeeze myself against the outer wall of the plane to avoid contact with him but it was a smaller plane so the seats were even narrower than usual. 

“Okay, what’s going on?” I asked. 

“With what,” the mummy asked.

“With YOU,” I replied. “Is it contagious?” There was no time for manners. We had a three hour flight ahead of us and the plane was about to take off.

“I don’t know, dude,” he said, meekly. “I caught something in Fiji and nobody’s sure what it is.”

“Right, that’s it,” I said. “Let me out.”

The mummy stood up. I got up, wished him luck, walked to the stewardess station, and told them I refused to sit next to a walking, talking mummy. After some argument about FAA regulations, they agreed to let me sit on one of their fold-out chairs that was apparently made for four-year olds. Suffice to say it was not a luxurious trip. Of course, my squirming discomfiture was only more fodder for the video. Angels need to laugh, too, maybe even more than mortals.

Hopefully, being God’s little cartoon character will get me an instant pass when I get up there. There should be some reward for all this abuse. Again, this is another story that can be filed under “Funny now – not so funny at the time.”

Messin’ with Mark – Episode 4 – “God’s Corny Joke”

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God was looking down at the earth one day, cracking up, and Jesus overheard. He looked over His Dad’s shoulder and asked, “Whatcha lookin’ at, Pops?” 

“Just pranking that guy Mark again,” God replied.

Jesus tried to talk Him into laying off since He made me and therefore should probably be nicer to me, but God played some old clips of ridiculous situations He put me in, and Jesus thought they were so funny, They decided to make a series out of it, or maybe a YouTube prank channel. Not sure which.

Here’s another prank They pulled on me one day. I’m sure it gave Them and the angels big laughs up there.

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I was eating lunch at my home away from home – El Pollo Loco – and decided to have a corn on the cob. It was particularly juicy and the restaurant was crowded so when I went to take the first bite, I was concerned it would squirt at someone. There were people less than two feet away from me on either side. 

I should point out that I’m a big believer in the law of mental magnetism – that is, whatever we think about most expands. We actually make things happen that otherwise wouldn’t just by thinking of them. So I put the thought of my corn squirting at someone out of my mind, but apparently it was too late, or the thought of not thinking about it amounted to thinking about it, because the very first bite I took sent out a jet of corn juice directly sideways to my left. I froze mid-bite, afraid to even look that direction. Then I felt eyes on me, staring. I slowly looked over and saw a very unhappy woman with corn juice all over the right side of her face, nose, even in her hair. 

“Really?” she asked.

“I am SO sorry,” I said, mortified, my eyes wide as saucepans.

I handed her a napkin. As she dried off, she smiled and said, “Oh, it’s alright, honey. It was an accident.” 

I was fortunate because this lady was what comedian Chris Rock calls the happiest kind of person on earth – “a fat, black woman.” (Hey, those were Chris’s words, not mine. Should I say “heavy-set woman of color” to be PC? I use the other term only for brevity and to accurately quote Chris.) Anyway, I don’t know why it is but I’ve found that to be true, too. Chris thought it was because they were so acceptant of themselves that their acceptance and love for others was stronger. Makes sense to me. People can’t be any kinder to others than they are to themselves. So, what could have been a bad situation became a pleasant one. We even laughed about it and had a nice conversation afterward. I’m not sure which one of us God was testing. 

I told this story to a friend of mine. He told me he gave blood once and thought he was okay to leave but fainted while walking through the hospital waiting room. He woke up in the lap of – you guessed it – a fat, black woman. She was stroking his hair, looking down at him with real love and saying, “You’re alright, baby.” He felt like a kid again, safe as an infant in his mother’s arms. 

So even though I don’t appreciate being God’s little cartoon character, I’m thankful that He selected a fat, black woman to be on the receiving end of the corn blast. He has a mischievous sense of humor, but He really is merciful. 

Messin’ with Mark – A Divine Comedy – Episode 3, “The Dog Poop Lob That Did Its Job.”

This is the third installment in my attempt to convince the mortal world that I am and have always been the star of a sitcom in heaven called Messin’ with Mark, a show created, written and produced by God Himself for His personal amusement and that of the angels that inhabit His heavenly area up there.

Jesus didn’t approve of His Pop’s antics at first, but He got with the program when He saw how funny it was to have ludicrous and even impossible things happen to me, and my pained reactions, which apparently They both think are pretty funny. 

I’m reaching pretty far back for this episode, but I think you’ll agree when you’re done reading that some divine intervention had to have taken place. 

My brother, Paul, was three years older than me. Not a lot of time between adults, but two different worlds to kids. He was bigger, taller, stronger and smarter. We got along well except for the usual sibling rivalries and disagreements. But one day when I was about nine years old, I upset him pretty bad. I can’t remember what I did but it was bad enough for him to chase me right out of the house and down the street. I sought refuge at the house of my best friend, Dana Eckman, who was home at the time and let me in just as Paul was about to pounce on me. I locked the door as he tried the knob. He banged on the door before walking away and yelling, “You’ve got to come home sometime, you little jerk!” 

I probably should have let him calm down but I couldn’t resist waiting for him to get a safe distance away, then walking out onto the front porch to annoy him some more. I suppose I figured I was already going to get a beating so I might as well enjoy myself while I could. I danced and said something very original like, “Can’t get me!” or the classic “neener neener.” He came running back. I continued dancing just long enough to make sure I could get back inside and lock the door a few seconds ahead of him. I then went to the front window and laughed some more at his red, anguished face. Dana just watched, horrified. He didn’t understand the complex cat and mouse game that is brotherhood. Paul swore he would kill me as he walked back across the street. I went back out onto the porch and continued my dance. He ran back. I ran back inside, and the cycle repeated several times. I started getting bored so I upped the ante and walked to the sidewalk. I was pretty sure I could get to the house before he could make it across the street. My brother eyed me, calculating, trying to figure out if he could beat me to the door. He must have decided he couldn’t because, as I was dancing and singing my “can’t get me” song, he scanned the ground for something he could throw at me. Fortune smiled on him as his eyes spotted a dog poop. But that wasn’t the only bit of luck he would have that day. Oh, no. Far, far from it.

Without thinking, and probably not very hopeful he would even hit me, he threw said poop in my general direction. My singing and dancing was so unguarded and carefree that I failed to see him pick up the poop and throw it. I didn’t know he had thrown anything until . . . IT LANDED IN MY MOUTH.

Yep. Right in the old pie hole. One hundred points and the big plushy on the midway. God must have had a little mercy on me, though, because it was one of those bleached white dog poops that had sat out in the elements so long, all the color and, more importantly, flavor had run out of it. It exploded in my mouth and left me feeling like I just chewed up a piece of chalk. Of course, the shock made me gasp and inhale a bunch of it. I coughed as my brother, amazed at his luck, gleefully cried out, “That’s dog poop! A direct hit!” 

Oh, how the tables can turn. I was now retching and he was the one laughing and dancing, celebrating his throwing arm and the poop dust I was coughing up. Sometimes karma takes a while, sometimes it shows up right away.

It’s hard to describe the maelstrom of emotions that went through my mind at that moment except that they were all bad – repulsion, anger, humiliation, horror. I ran to the hose in front of Dana’s house but it had one of those recessed knobs that requires a special wrench to turn on. My brother’s laughter rang in my ears as I continued to cough up white, poop dust and search desperately for water. I finally ran into Dana’s house and stuck my entire open mouth under the faucet upside-down and ran it full blast until my head, neck and upper torso were drenched.

I finally washed away all the poop, but have never been able to wash away the memory. Having dog poop thrown into one’s laughing mouth tends to stick in the memory bank, filed under “Funny now, not so funny at the time.”