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

computer-God

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.

jesus-christ-superstar

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. 

TedNeeleyJesusChristSuperstar

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.

ted-neeley-jesus-christ-superstar

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.

Just Live (poem)

Young hand holding old hand

I wrote this about twenty-five years ago. It’s about four stages in a man’s life. When I wrote it, I was in the second stage. I’ve completed the third now and hope to complete the fourth gracefully. 

Just Live

There once was a bright, young boy
who thought and thought all day
and rarely joined his little friends
when they went out to play.

Even when he would come out,
his mind would keep on turning
and while all the others laughed and played,
his questions kept on burning.

Like “Where did I come from?  Why am I here?”
and “Where will I go when I die?”
Very big questions for such a small boy.
Unanswered, his childhood flew by.

***

A young man sat on a sunswept beach,
away and apart from the crowd.
You see, he was thinking quite serious thoughts
and their laughter was far too loud.

His nose in a book, he just couldn’t hear
the young girls when they’d call out his name
and though the sun shone so very brightly above,
had no time for their foolish games.

No, there were too many doors to unlock
and so many knots to untie
like “Where did I come from?  Why am I here?”
and “Where will I go when I die?”

***

A middle aged man sat on the same beach,
a place he had come to know
as somewhere to ponder his life’s many why’s
though the answers he still didn’t know,

when a feeling of emptiness, never so deep,
filled his heart and made him afraid.
He thought of the voices of friends, long ago,
but could only hear silence today.

Then he thought, “Oh, my God.  Half my life has slipped by
and still, no solution is near.
I think I’ll stop trying to figure it out
and for once, just be glad that I’m here.”

That day, his eyes opened and though nothing had changed,
the world became bright, rich and new.
And as he lay back to blend with life’s colors and sounds,
the great sky never seemed quite so blue.

***

An old man lies on a bed, close to death,
but not worried, not sad or afraid.
He smiles at sweet faces, gathered around
saying, “Please Grandpa, don’t go away.”

He says, “Don’t be sad.  I had a life full and rich –
something not many can say.”
But their young eyes were still pleading, scared and confused
so he searched for the right words to say . . .

“When I was young, I had so many worries and fears
and questions I couldn’t get by.
Then one day I stopped fighting and searching in vain
and decided to live till I die.

I traveled the world, drank in its wonders,
found true love in a good woman’s eyes,
had beautiful children, life’s sweetest reward.
Each one, an incredible prize.

Now, one journey ends and another begins
and I was right to be patient and wait
for the mysteries that plagued my troubled, young mind
can’t be solved on this side of the gate.

So do one thing more for me.  Know your own beauty.
Always stand strong, proud and tall.
And think of my passing not as the end
but as the summer becoming the fall.”

~ Mark Rickerby

Messin’ with Mark – A Divine Comedy, Episode 2 – “The Zipper Incident”

Unknown

You may not know me down here, but I’m kind of a big deal in heaven.

Here’s still more evidence that I’m God’s little cartoon character, or the star of a heaven-based sitcom. Comic relief in heaven. It’s the only explanation. 

Before the first incident, Jesus noticed a large group of angels gathered around God, looking down at something or someone on the earth. Curious to see what the commotion was about, He strolled over, looked over God’s shoulder and said, “Whatcha looking at, Dad?”
God replied, “Watch what I’m gonna do to Mark today. This is gonna be hilarious.”
Jesus shook his head and said, “Him again? C’mon, Pop. Why are you always picking on that guy? I mean, you created him. You’re supposed to be compassionate ‘n stuff.”
“I know but I can’t help it,” God replied. “I mean, look at him!”
Jesus looked down again and said, “Yeah, I can kinda see what you mean. Look at his face.”
They both laughed before Jesus checked Himself again.
“No, Dad. Really. This is wrong. We’re supposed to watch out for people like him.”
God stopped laughing and thought about it for a few seconds, then they looked at each other and said, in unison, “Naaaaaaaa!” 

They decided then and there to make a show out of it – Messin’ with Mark. Read on and you, too, will believe.

Case in point –

One summer Saturday, I was driving to my wife’s house to take her to a long-anticipated concert. She and I had just met and I was struggling to impress her. I was stuck in typical L.A. traffic when I started to get overheated. I had put on a pullover sweater because it was one of those “June gloom” days that started out cold and quickly heated up. Since traffic was stop and go, I decided to quickly remove the sweater the next time traffic came to a full stop. Traffic stopped so I released the seatbelt and started trying to take off the sweater. I had an RX-7 at the time so there wasn’t much room to do anything, let alone put my arms over my head to take a sweater off. The sweater and I ended up in a wrestling death match.

Having used up the 1-2 seconds drivers in Los Angeles have to move when traffic starts moving again, drivers behind me started honking, then yelling, then making hand gestures. But the sweater had become a thing possessed. In desperation, I yanked it off with a vengeance and stepped on the gas to avoid getting shot at by someone whose life I had stolen seven seconds from. I immediately felt a searing pain on my forehead. I looked in the mirror and saw that the zipper on the v-neck had torn an angry path right up the middle as I pulled it off. I had never thought about how treacherous the zipper on this sweater was before this incident. 

I arrived at my wife’s house. She gasped and asked, “What happened to you? Did someone hit you with a tomahawk?” I told her I had been attacked by my own sweater. She laughed as she cleaned the wound. She offered to put a few band-aids on my forehead but I couldn’t bear the humiliation. At dinner, walking around afterward, and at the concert, strangers speculated about what might have happened to me as I fanned my forehead with anything I could find. 

By this time, hundreds of angels had gathered around God and Jesus to watch the show, laughing uproariously. Probably feeling a little guilty, too, because they’re supposed to prevent stuff like this, but a little guilt always makes things we’re not supposed to do a little more enjoyable, like when we got a day off school for a holiday as a kid versus when we stayed home from school pretending we were sick. It was always more fun when we knew we were doing something we weren’t supposed to do, right? Angels are no different. Don’t let their name fool you. 

It’s also no coincidence that God and the person who comes up with ideas for TV shows are both called the “creator”. I imagine God received a little resistance from Jesus on this one since an injury was actually required for this episode, but his response was probably, “Don’t worry, Son. I’ll heal him, too. It’s worth it. This is gonna be hilarious.” Jesus argued to heal me faster than usual, but not so fast that I get suspicious that He orchestrated the whole thing. But they underestimated the intelligence They gave me. I’m onto Them. I’m not this dumb. I can’t be. It has to be Them, and their show. But I don’t mind contributing to the laughter in heaven. It’s kind of an honor, actually. I just wish they would warn me, but I guess tipping me off would ruin the show. God writes in mysterious ways. 

Messin’ with Mark – A Divine Comedy, Episode 1 – “The Wad of Bubble Gum”

computer-God

I obtained more evidence the other day that I’m God’s little cartoon character, or the star of a heaven-based sitcom. Comic relief in heaven. It’s the only explanation.

Before the incident, Jesus noticed a large group of angels gathered around God, looking down at something or someone on the earth. Curious to see what the commotion was about, He strolled over, looked over God’s shoulder and said, “Whatcha looking at, Dad?”
God replied, “Watch what I’m gonna do to Mark today. This is gonna be hilarious.”
Jesus shook his head and said, “Him again? C’mon, Pop. Why are you always picking on that guy? I mean, you created him. You’re supposed to be compassionate ‘n stuff.”
“I know but I can’t help it,” God replied. “I mean, look at him!”
Jesus looked down again and said, “Yeah, I can kinda see what you mean. Look at his face.”
They both laughed before Jesus checked Himself again.
“No, Dad. Really. This is wrong. We’re supposed to watch out for people like him.”
God stopped laughing and thought about it for a few seconds, then they looked at each other and said, in unison, “Naaaaaaaa!” 

gum

Case in point –
I had just dropped my daughter off at school. I was walking back home when I saw a giant, pink blob of chewing gum right in the middle of the sidewalk. I didn’t want some kid to step on it so I tried to kick it into a tree planter about ten feet away, but I kicked it too hard and it flew right past the planter and landed on the windshield of an occupied car. The lady behind the wheel had to look around it to see where it came from. Of course, when she saw me standing there with a mortified expression, she said, “Whyyyyyyyyy?”

What could I say? She got out of the car. I went over and tried to explain. Fortunately, being a mom, she had a bag of baby wipes in her car which I used to extract the pink blob from her windshield. As I was doing so, I apologized that God had included her in His daily sitcom starring me.
“You may not know me here,” I said, “but I’m big in heaven.”
She already thought I was crazy for kicking bubble gum onto her windshield, but that cinched it. She left me standing on the sidewalk with a bubble gum filled baby wipe.

Meanwhile, in heaven, Jesus said, “Forget what I said, Dad. That is some top-drawer comedy. What’s the name of the show?”
“I call it Messin’ with Mark,” God replied.
“Perfect!” Jesus said, “Call Me when the next episode is starting.”

Just Live (poem)

Just Live

There once was a bright, young boy
who thought and thought all day
and rarely joined his little friends
when they went out to play.
Even when he would come out,
his mind would keep on turning
and while all the others laughed and played,
his questions kept on burning.
Like “Where did I come from?  Why am I here?”
and “Where will I go when I die?”
Very big questions for such a small boy.
Unanswered, his childhood flew by.

A young man sat on a sunswept beach,
away and apart from the crowd.
You see, he was thinking quite serious thoughts
and their laughter was far too loud.
His nose in a book, he just couldn’t hear
the young girls when they’d call out his name
and though the sun shone so very brightly above,
had no time for their foolish games.
No, there were too many doors to unlock
and so many knots to untie
like “Where did I come from?  Why am I here?”
and “Where will I go when I die?”

A middle aged man sat on the same beach,
a place he had come to know
as somewhere to ponder his life’s many why’s
though the answers he still didn’t know,
when a feeling of emptiness, never so deep,
filled his heart and made him afraid.
He thought of the voices of friends, long ago,
but could only hear silence today.
Then he thought, “Oh, my God.  Half my life has slipped by
and still, no solution is near.
I think I’ll stop trying to figure it out
and for once, just be glad that I’m here.”

That day, his eyes opened and though nothing had changed,
the world became bright, rich and new.
And as he lay back to blend with life’s colors and sounds,
the great sky never seemed quite so blue.

An old man lies on a bed, close to death,
but not worried, not sad or afraid.
He smiles at sweet faces, gathered around
saying, “Please Grandpa, don’t go away.”
He says, “Don’t be sad.  I had a life full and rich –
something not many can say.”
But their young eyes were still pleading, scared and confused
so he searched for the right words to say . . .

“When I was young, I had so many worries and fears
and questions I couldn’t get by.
Then one day I stopped fighting and searching in vain
and decided to live till I die.
I traveled the world, drank in its wonders,
found true love in a good woman’s eyes,
had beautiful children, life’s sweetest reward.
Each one, an incredible prize.
Now, one journey ends and another begins
and I was right to be patient and wait
for the mysteries that plagued my troubled, young mind
can’t be solved on this side of the gate.
So do one thing more for me.  Know your own beauty.
Always stand strong, proud and tall.
And think of my passing not as the end
but as the summer becoming the fall.”

Mark Rickerby (c) 1989