OLD LAME SIGN

By John Thomas Tuft

“Christians think of themselves as the one good cult in all the world.” The speaker paused, thoughtful. “When really what it is about is seeing the beauty in those who are broken. And the wonder to be found in the healing of the broken. Nothing else makes any sense when you think about it.” Jedidiah Crump, a version of what used to be called a barn storming evangelist, surveyed the assembled perishables. “Not the good ol’ boy Jesus, the glorified Jesus, the give ‘em hell Jesus, the grand old Jesus, the get ‘er done Jesus, the keep ‘em all in a straight line Jesus or,” now shouting, “CHRIST ON A BISCUIT!” He pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his brow, before continuing in a hushed tone, “The Almighty, the giver of imagination, the inventor of breath, the fire that creates water, the melody of galaxies, the cause of conception and the conception of cause, has,” and here he enunciated carefully, “NO NEED,” his voice rising again, “as we enter the new year, FOR THE SAME OLD LAME SIGN!”

Then he abruptly walked to the side of the stage. “Martha, get me my tools,” he said to a middle-aged woman, who shot him the universal sign of spousal distress: The Look. He turned back to the audience. “I started pitching woo to Martha back in high school.” He stopped, turned to where Martha’s back was disappearing offstage and called in a plaintive voice, “Please? Honey, would you please get me my tools?” With a sweet smile for the chaser, which brought an eyeroll from Martha.

Jedidiah turned back to his audience, the annual convention of the best of the best of the one good cult in the world. “When was the last time you checked your cell phones?” The audience shifted uncomfortably. The near universal anxiety of not knowing if more news alerts, email arrivals, dating app notifications, or other electronic clutter had arrived to be displayed in our palms left attention spans in tatters. Jedidiah knew that with FaithMatch promising spiritual sustenance only a few taps away or UnitedYoung promising to hook you up with only the best of the best members of the one good cult, ChristianMingle promising God only knows what, or that one can log onto an account where the Almighty will tweet the good cult members scripture each day…what a time to be alive! Who needed him or his kind any longer? Maybe God is the Big Microchip in the Cloud!

Martha returned shortly, pushing a Sears & Roebuck magic toolbox, and parked it beneath the huge wooden cross hanging on the back wall of the stage. As Jedidiah selected some tools and climbed on top of the box, he kept talking: “Do you remember as a child receiving a potholder weaving kit? A little metal or plastic frame and loops of material, with posts all around the frame. You hooked the loops in and,” he grunted as he used a wrench to loosen the supports behind the cross, “then carefully worked other loops in and out, over and under, weaving something while they clung to the frame.” He grabbed the hammer out of his belt and gave a few good whacks. “When you were finished, you had something new, something useful, and proudly presented it to your mother to protect her hands from the hot dishes from the oven.” One more mighty whack and the massive wooden cross started to lean forward, teetered for a long moment, and then crashed to the stage. The startled best of the best dropped their cell phones and looked up in alarm.

Jedidiah clamored down off the magic toolbox and reached in and extracted a power saw. Without hesitation he set to ripping into the cross, the saw making a loud screeching and saw dust flying everywhere. It raised such a cloud that Jedidiah disappeared into it. The noise abated and then drilling and hammering could be heard. Finally, the noise and dust settled down, and there sat Jedidiah. In a brand spanking new rocking chair. Beside him sat a new cradle, beautifully crafted. And beside that sat a big, beautiful wooden frame. Holding a shiny new mirror. Facing the best of the best so they could not help but see themselves in it.

Martha shook her head as if to say, “There goes the offering.” Jedidiah pushed himself out of the chair and went to her and gave her a proper apology kiss. Then he faced the best of the best perishables. He pointed over his shoulder to the now empty wall. “Up there it’s nothing but the same old lame sign. Useless.” He went over to the cradle and rocked it gently. “It’s nothing more than a frame. A frame for us to learn how to weave. Isn’t that the least we should expect from those who believe they are members of the one good cult in the world?” And with that benediction, Jedidiah put his arm around Martha and escorted her from the stage. Leaving the best of the best wondering what the new year would bring as they stared at themselves in the mirror…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.