Everybody Needs A Friend Named David

Hidden Things
Chapter 5

Everyone needs a friend named David. I’m convinced of it. I currently have two of those. I really like them because they are thoughtful, lovable guys who ask great questions and see things that I don’t. They pay attention to nudges.

I think I was in about the fourth grade when my family moved to the Atlanta area as Dad continued to follow a career with the company he’d worked for since college. We lived in a neighborhood in the shadow of a cool high school, and we kids could walk to our elementary school.

Across the street and one house down was David’s house. This is a different David; not one of those I mentioned above.

David and I became best friends from just hanging out together. He expanded my vision of things. Oh, we did all the usual stuff fourth-grade boys do. We played football, pretending we were the most popular players for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They were sort of a local college football team, and it’s where my dad had gotten his engineering degree.

We also rode skateboards. All over that crazy, hilly neighborhood. Back then fourth graders could do that. One time I was riding my Spyder, a board about two feet long, down the really long hill just below our house. No other houses were down there, so the road was a pretty safe ride. That hill, though, was just steep enough that the speed could scare you, and this one day it got the better of me and I started this really crazy swerving thing. And I went down.

A few minutes later I was walking back up that hill having left a significant amount of my hide on the asphalt down there and was bleeding from my elbows and from hip to ankle. I don’t think I knew any bad words that day (fourth graders didn’t back then) but if I had I’d have been screaming them at my Spyder. David was with me that day and he’s the only reason I wasn’t squawling. I went in the house and David went home. My mom helped me with my wounds (a story in itself, for another time), and by the time Dad got home from work it had all become a good story.

I’m going to tell you about something else David and I did in a minute. But first, I want to tell you how David expanded my horizons one day. You see, I went over to his house a few days after Christmas one year to discover that he’d gotten a beautiful, red…electric guitar! With an amplifier! And, this is what blew my mind (it was a small explosion): he could play songs on that guitar! It had never occurred to me that kids our age could be musicians. It had never crossed my mind. And I was a guy who listened to the Top 40 on my transistor radio under the covers every night and knew every song. So, I thank David for opening my eyes to a certain level of art and creativity.

But here’s one of the best things David and I ever did. The lot next door to my house was vacant, as were the next several down that end of the street, on both sides of the street. Woods, in other words. Woods! Boys like us loved to be out in the woods climbing trees and trying to shoot rabbits with slingshots and stuff like that.

One day, we decided to build a treehouse. My dad had a bunch of tools like saws and hammers and hatchets. And, Dad knew how to do stuff, so we asked him to help us. He told us we could go around to some of the construction sites during the day and ask if they had any scrap lumber we could use to build our treehouse. He told us how many boards we’d need if we wanted the treehouse to look like a drawing he made for us, and with that we went on our scavenger hunt. All the construction guys were happy to find us something we could use, and in a day we had all the supplies we needed. Dad helped us figure out how to hold the boards up and nail them to the trees. Within a few days we had the floor in and some rails for the sides, and we rigged a canvass tarp for a removable roof.

When Friday night rolled around we had secured permission from David’s parents and from mine to sleep out in the treehouse overnight. This was Summer, so it was daylight late enough for us to get our sleeping bags and pillows out there, along with our PB&J sandwiches for supper. We had chips, of course, and my mother had provided some cookies in a little bag.

The thing is, back then we didn’t have a weather app on our phones because we didn’t even have phones. When it came to weather, you just took what you got. That night, somewhere in the very wee hours, we got rain. Not just a sprinkle, but what Dad used to call a “frog-strangler.” That canvass tarp didn’t help much, and before long we were soaked. We decided the only thing to do, though we hated it, was to climb down the ladder with all our soaked stuff and trudge the 40 yards through the woods in the pouring rain to the back door of my house.

How he knew we were coming hadn’t really been something I thought about until years later, but Dad was standing at the door waiting for us when we got there. He actually directed us to the basement door where all our wet junk could be hauled straight into the laundry room, and we could get into some dry clothes. My bedroom was down there and there were twin beds, so we eventually settled down and went to sleep in warm beds. With a story to tell.

Dad used to laugh when he told this story because, in his telling of it, we came through those woods dragging sleeping bags. Riding on the top of one of those, he would say, was that soaking wet bag of cookies my mother had made. Dad thought that was the funniest thing. I reckon it is kind of funny.

How long did Dad wait at the back door for us that night? David and I must have spent an hour or so out there trying to shore up that tarp to keep the rain from getting us too wet. And I know we sat there and laughed hilariously when all our efforts failed and we finally gave up and just got drenched. So, Dad had probably been standing there from the first raindrop he heard hit his window. Probably didn’t sleep much beforehand, just waiting for the rain he probably knew would come. (There was an eleven o’clock news report that usually led with a brief weather segment if there was anything noteworthy. That was right after a thing—I’m not kidding—that said, “It’s eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?”)

Remember: Everything I Know, I Learned From Somebody Else, and a good bit of it I learned from Dad. He said some cool things to me in the 65 years I knew him. He was 92 when we lost him in October ’21 and I’m still amazed at his wisdom and wit even during the last days of his life. But I’m pretty sure most things I’ve learned from Dad have been the non-verbal lessons. We did yard work together, and I held many a flashlight lying up under a car while he tinkered or changed the oil. He threw the football or baseball with me and helped me practice basketball in the driveway. He taught me to ride a bicycle, and how to patch a bicycle tire and how to put the chain back on my bike when it came off. We split firewood together and he taught me how to make a good fire. He taught me to fish, and to clean a fish. How to paddle a boat and a canoe, and even how to water ski. We swam together in lakes and in the ocean and I learned to body surf with him. We built sandcastles.

We went to church. Usually on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and most Wednesday evenings. Dad sat down at the kitchen table most Sunday mornings and wrote out his check for the tithe.

He was the one who taught me to drive, though I did take Driver’s Ed in tenth grade.

You get the idea. All the while we were doing these things dad subtly bathed me in good values. He demonstrated a healthy family perspective. He was just with me, and that’s much of how it is that I have grown up. All of it didn’t sink in until many years later, Dad’s value stuff. Slowly, over time, I’ve noticed him in me. In the “dad” category, I could’ve done worse; couldn’t have done much better, I reckon.

There was a father whose son asked for and got an advance against his inheritance and took off from home to travel to “a far country.” This son blew his wad on bad decisions, finally ending up on skid row eating, basically, out of dumpsters and drinking from old beer cans and from Styrofoam cups he found in ditches. Then one day, I think, The Spirit nudged him to go back home and see if he could get a job on his father’s ranch. As that boy trudged down the road toward home, his father saw him from the front porch while he, the boy, was still some distance away. There’s no telling how long this dad stood on the porch looking down the road. He ran to his son, as the Scripture says, “falling on his neck.” The boy tried to begin the speech he’d rehearsed all the way home, but the father would hear none of it. He got his son some warm clothes, put a ring on his finger, and celebrated with the boy’s friends having barbequed one of the calves they’d been fattening for the family. I wonder if that boy later found an old bag of cookies his mother had packed for him before he left home…

“’For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:24)

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Resurrection Day

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may, by your life-giving Spirit, be delivered from sin and raised from death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

by Marilou Braswell

He Is Risen! Hallelujah!

Well, good morning to all of Mike’s friends and family. I am the least likely to be a writer for anything, never mind something as special as this. I have been blown away by the writings this week and the ease it seems that the creative, beautiful thoughts have flowed from your computer keys and hearts.

Such is the nature of our God… He sent His Son Jesus to die for the least of us — everyone of us and YES as the scripture says~ to Redeem us in every aspect of our lives daily.

God allowed His only Son to die for our Redemption. And today on Easter Sunday He conquered the grave.

From my own personal story of redemption, as a college cheerleading coach I was told I could not pray with my team, say the name Jesus, or have a Bible study in my home that my athletes attended. I was fired, hurt, and knew I had not done anything to discriminate on my team. As a matter of fact, I was sure I was all inclusive on purpose and prided myself in that very thing.

I cried and struggled, but God said to my heart, “Watch Me” redeem. He took me from one campus as a coach to campuses all over the country as a director of FCA cheerleading. Now, my job description is to do those 3 things I was told I could never do as a coach. 600 girls have accepted Christ in 15 years, and thousands have rededicated their lives to Him due to their heroes, college cheerleaders, leading their huddles. He wanted to move me, so I had to go through the front page of the Atlanta journal, Fox News, etc. to gain exposure to obtain a strong Christian following to support my ministry. He redeemed every aspect of my life, my name, my finances, and even my heart. He was victorious once again. And He is every day!  

Psalm 118 reminds us, but…  the Lord is my strength and my defense. I will not die but live! The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this and we will  rejoice today and be glad.

This Easter Day, we truly rejoice. As Jesus said, “It is finished”. He paid the price. Let us bask in the depths of the price he paid for us to live with Him forever and ever. I challenge you and myself to allow the light of the Holy Spirit that resides in us, that Jesus gave to us, to permeate the darkness every day.

Once again… He Is Risen! Hallelujah!

Marilou Braswell lives in Athens, GA

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Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

by Lee Gaby

“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can. So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.’ ”                 – Matthew 27:65-66  (NRSV)

Let me tell you what this tomb security thing was all about.  Being a guard involves a lot of standing around on useless assignments.  So, maybe you can understand why I was thinking, “why on earth did Pilate just cave into these ignorant religious nuts.”   And, “Here we go again!”

My buddies and I had to go find a tomb owned by a guy named Joseph, and the whole way I was thinking, “we’re already a day late.”  While I kinda saw the point of the assignment, it irked me that no one thought about the threat of a bunch of grave robbing malcontents from the beginning.   I had seen enough already to be convinced that no dead body was going to get them very far and the idea of someone being raised from the dead was a foolish thing that no one would believe anyway. 

So we got there, and we all began to suggest ideas about the best way to get the job done.  The simplest thing was to pile more stones around the one that was already in place.  One guy thought we could remove it and cut it down to be like more like a cork, the way most tombs were sealed at that time. 

The Jewish guys were no help to us with their impractical ideas.  In the end, we just made sure it wouldn’t roll easily and took up our stations to begin the long watch. 

I guess word got out that it would be pointless to try to get their man. We had done what we were asked to do.  As far as I could tell it seemed like this whole business was over.

When I got back to my place, I began to think some more about what might happen when people woke up the next day.   

You know, the official report says nothing happened while we were there.   A centurion friend of mine is not convinced of that.  If you wait here a little longer, you may be able to hear his account of the story.


Now, imagine it being very dark.  Wonder whether he heard the sound of those outside the tomb, whether he heard the commotion, the piling up of more stones.  Can you see him already standing in their midst?  I strain to somehow understand. There’s that feeling again, of being liminal, on that soft threshold, not really touching solid ground, not really in any place that makes sense.    It is truly like being held in arms unseen, in a place just beneath the clouds, a womb, rather than a tomb. It has been like this before, yet somehow reading the words, “seal the stone,” takes me back, way back, lost, gone, deep inside.   Then he offers me his hand, his no longer God forsaken scarred hand…”Come with me,” He says.


Where we live now, there are three sliding pocket doors that separate the master bedroom, the living room and the den.   In between, there is a small hallway. There are no locks on these doors, and you can move easily from room to room in a few steps.  This small sanctum is another kind of liminal space, and perhaps there’s some place like this that you find yourself now….or as Windy and Mike remind me…you find Jesus teaching you.  

Even when the stones are piled high and it’s dark way down in that place, it is certain, Jesus is unbound!

Lee Gaby lives in Old Lyme, CT

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Good Friday

Almighty God, we beseech you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the Cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen


by Margo Martin Rhodes

When Mike asked me to write a devotional for Holy Week, I immediately said yes. When he asked me to take Good Friday, I was inwardly less enthusiastic because it’s already all been said. There are no new crucifixion day revelations to share. But, in all seriousness, someone has to do it, so I reluctantly stuck with the yes. And then my computer weighed in by literally converting the letters of my saved composition into symbols that made no sense whatsoever… not once, but twice… and this has been the journey:

The first Good Friday devotional I wrote was simply stating that there have been almost 2000 Good Fridays observed since the actual crucifixion of Christ. In some parts of the world there are parades of bleeding self-scouragers. Closer to home, flowers are removed from altars, candles extinguished, crosses draped in black, and music sobered. Like all profound scriptural truths, like every Good Friday, and like the text of a great hymn, there is power in the repetition. While the story is unchanging, it constantly changes us, draws us closer, deepens our sorrow, increases our joy.

The second Good Friday devotional I attempted compared and contrasted the accounts of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 with the crucifixion of our Lord in the gospels. Both revolved around the willingness to sacrifice a son. Both used a donkey for transportation. Both required the sons carry the wood on which they would be sacrificed. Both involved an instrument of piercing, though Isaac was not actually pierced. Both displayed extraordinary obedience. Abraham was able to sacrifice a ram the Lord provided as a substitute for Isaac. Our Heavenly Father sacrificed Jesus, the Lamb He provided, as a substitute for us. God not only used the prophets of old to help us see the truth of His Word, He gave us this actual foreshadowing so that our faith could run deep and confident. There is even scholarly speculation that Mount Moriah, where Abraham took Isaac for sacrifice, may be the same Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was sacrificed. And that, too, was turned to gibberish by my computer.

This is a third and final attempt at a Good Friday devotional at the request of our good friend, Mike of mikesbikes.fun. At this point, the Biblical significance of the number three is hitting home as it is used repeatedly in scripture to group people or days or events, or to signify harmony, completion, or newness of life. My personal Good Friday resting place, and I pray yours, is in gratitude. Thank you, Lord, for every display of “the sacred head now wounded,” for every retelling of the mockery and torture endured by our Saviour, for sparing us that which we deserve because “Jesus paid it all,” for the “sorrow and love” that “flowed mingled down,” for the thief saved at the bitter end when bitterness turned sweet, and for the knowledge and repentance that fell upon the earth when Jesus gave up the ghost.

In the words of Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), translated by James Alexander (1804-1859), most often sung as a final verse of the Passion Chorale by Hans Lee Hassler (1564-1612) and harmonized by J.S. Bach (1685-1750):

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end,
O make me Thine forever! and should I fainting be,
Lord let me never, never outlive my love for Thee.

Margo Rhodes currently lives in Austin, TX.

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Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

by Steve Van Scoyoc

It was 1989 and I had my eye on on those black Air Jordan 4s with that fire red stripe on the toe and that funky waffle mesh on the side. The migration from 4th grade to 5th was a big transition: new school, new friends and new swag. Although not much of a basketball player, my prospects were about to change. In 5th grade I grew 5 inches! The kids on my rec soccer team thought I was a giant and begged the coaches to make sure I didn’t step on their toes. I started playing basketball and was placed at center. I didn’t have much court time under my belt, but in 5th grade size mattered so I got some playtime. I loved MJ and as I shot up like a weed, visions of the NBA started dancing in my head. Sure I probably wouldn’t be Jordan, but if I kept growing like this I would settle to be Horace Grant. Fast forward two years – I had played 5th and 6th grade ball. It was time to try out for the middle school basketball team and those 5 inches had been an anomaly. Now stuck at 5’7″ in 7th grade while the rest of the world shot up all around me, my size dominance dwindled. My family was out of town the first day of tryouts but I jumped in on day two. Decisions were released and I didn’t make the cut. I was sure it was because I missed the first day of tryouts, but I think God (and the coaches) really know the reason. Cut from the 7th grade basketball team, I was offered the position to serve as manager. Disappointed but eager to feel like part of the team, I served joyfully, helping with water bottles, being a gopher for the coach and sweeping the court before and after games. I mean really what 7th grade girl wouldn’t chase after a stud with a giant dust mop. Let’s be real, it was a reality shift. All those dreams of wanting to be like Mike faded. The hopes of fame and glory ended and reality set in.

As I read the account of the Last Supper, I imagine a pivot in the hopes and dreams of the disciples. As Jesus’ ministry had built momentum and the crowds gathered to get a glimpse of the possible Messiah, I’m sure the confidence and optimism of the disciples increased their stature five inches as well. In the Upper room as Jesus’ is revealing centuries of mysteries, the disciples focus on which of them is the greatest. Peter professes his undying devotion yet Christ reveals that Peter will deny him three times (Luke 22:34). Reality starts to set in as Jesus reveals that he will not conquer with swords and sit on an earthly throne. The disciples will not be a revered group of leaders in this new world order. Instead they will be mocked, threatened, beaten and killed. Dreams of greatness will be replaced with the reality of service and sacrifice. They will not be rewarded on earth, but in Christ’s kingdom (Luke 22:30). As Christ breaks the bread and drinks from the cup, He tells the disciples that He soon will suffer and die. However, He reminds them He has always provided for them (Luke 22:35) and will continue to provide for them.
As the prophecies of the Messiah are fulfilled, God reveals to us that his promises are true. He is always faithful and even though we may not understand the direction He has taken us, He has a plan, a perfect plan.

In case you’re wondering, I never got the Jordans (thanks for the all white Brooks high tops Mom), and the dust mop didn’t bring me the girl of my dreams. But with a little patience and the guiding hand of God, my high school sweetheart has been by my side for over 20 years and at 5’5″ can take me down in a game of HORSE.

-Steven Van Scoyoc lives in Pinehurst, NC

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Wednesday of Holy Week

Assist us mercifully with your grace, Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts by which you have promised us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

by Hattie McCall

Gaius Julius Caesar or Caesar, as he is more commonly known, born into Roman nobility, rose to the role of Dictator of Rome via his impressive military career. Over the span of his military conquests, he greatly expanded the territory of the Roman Republic. Following the successful Gallic wars, the Roman Senate requested his return to Rome and his secession from his post as Commander. He responded by launching a civil war, in which he was the victor, and grasped the scepter of nearly limitless power.

The many reforms he enacted as Dictator garnered great animosity, eventually leading to his betrayal and assassination by mass stabbing, to include a wound inflicted by Brutus, a close confidant to Caesar. According to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Caesar called out as he was dying, “ Et tu, Brutus?”, or roughly translated as, “Even you, Brutus?”. He was betrayed, and worse yet, betrayed by a close friend.

 The Bible tells us, this day, the fourth day of the week, is the day of Jesus’ betrayal in Holy week. Judas, a close confidant to Jesus,  sought out the chief priests and asked what he could gain for delivering Jesus into their hands. 30 pieces of silver later, Jesus’ fate is sealed. Jesus’ response is beyond the understanding of Judas or those who thoughtfully ponder His story: He neither leans upon His status as deity nor calls upon the power of His Father.

Instead, He meekly allows himself to be betrayed. Betrayal that He knows will lead to his own violent, traumatic death. He surrenders His deity, His power, His will, to be slaughtered. A slaughter that He knows will cover the sins of all mankind, thus accomplishing and forever fulfilling the covenant set forth by His Father. It is beyond my imagination to think of acting lovingly or to desire any good for a person who could betray me. But Jesus responded, “Et tu, Judas.”, or “Even for you, Judas.”, as he allowed himself to be led to His death as the ultimate recompense for sin.

— Hattie McCall lives in Southern Pines, NC

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Tuesday of Holy Week

O Lord our God, whose blessed Son gave his back to be whipped and did not hide his face from shame and spitting: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

by Ned McNair

When I read the prayer for today, I was aghast at the word ‘spit’.  In the prayer, and the scriptures I see God doing things that gods are not supposed to do.  The creator of the universe being spit on, and hit with a stick by the most religious people in the known world, not to mention the blood-letting, whip-slinging, thorn-smashing, crucifying Romans does not fit any of my models of god-like behavior.  What kind of all-powerful, robed in glory being does that? 

If I am confused imagine what Jesus was thinking?  He knew he and the Father were one so much so that he told Thomas, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”.  It staggers me to think of the one who created the love I have for my wife, child, and grandchildren, and the wonders of the universe being treated like that.  The man, Jesus, must have been very confused and deeply hurt emotionally as wells as physically. 

Jesus, our God, the only true and living God, isn’t anything like all the other gods.  And what he allowed himself to go through to demonstrate how utterly unique, totally connected to us, and merciful he is, is both painful to imagine, and incredibly thrilling at the same time.  I am so glad to read that Paul said, “the foolishness of God is wiser than all the wisdom mankind has, can have, or ever will come up with.”  Yes, that is a paraphrase. 

I don’t have a very high view of the wisdom of man right now but my view of Jesus is definitely improving.

Ned McNair, that’s me, is an 82-year-old codger that has lived on Hilton Head Island for 50 years.  My foolish wife has stuck with me for 60 years.  God graced us with one daughter, one granddaughter and one grandson.  They are all happily married and have dogs. 

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Monday of Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. — BCP (Book of Common Prayer)

By Guion Pratt

Listen, something’s come up. I can’t come to your party this weekend. In fact, I’m probably not partying anytime soon. I’m gonna stay home. Gonna bake some bread. Yeah, that’s it, that’s me now: the breadmaker! Got my milligram-sensitive kitchen scale, my jars of flours arranged neatly on the counter beside the Danish dough whisk and stainless mixing bowl. You know what? This is fine. This is going to be OK. Maybe this virus is just what the world needs to discover simple pleasures again. I might even be (can I say this?) thriving!

This domestic energy was all the rage at the beginning, wasn’t it (that is, among those whose jobs and lives afforded them the ability to stay at home)? The virus could take our lives, and OK, our freedom, too, but it couldn’t take our nesting. Disorder reigned out there, but in here, determined to make the best of it, things were looking bright. Tidy. Purposeful in a way they maybe hadn’t been when the pressure wasn’t so on. Those on the internet self-appointed to track “vibes” gave a name to this collective defiance of apocalypse: #cottagecore, the cultivation of order in the midst of so much chaos.

And it worked! For a little while at least. Fast forward two years. I’m willing to bet that an inch-thick layer of black water has separated itself from the rest of your jar of sourdough starter, neglected and mutating in the fridge. That fitness room they added at the office just before the pandemic hit is now home to an unplugged kegerator and a bunch of arcade games, a space so relatable it haunts your dreams (at least when you forget to take your weed gummy at night and you actually have dreams). We used to make our own pizza dough with Italian tipo 00 flour; now we order Dominos and don’t really get too bothered when it stains the couch. Because, like, who is ever going to see that couch again anyway? Somewhere along the way, #cottagecore gave way to something else: Welcome to #goblinmode.

No, really—here’s the fitness room at my office right now.

From The Guardian last month:

“‘Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long T-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines,’ he said. ‘It’s about a complete lack of aesthetic…the complete opposite of trying to better yourself.’”

Call it a “vibe shift” if you like. I think that’s too generous. We want to think we’re cottage at our core; deep down we know the truth. We’ve always been goblin to the bone.

Tale as old as time, right? Year: ~33 AD. Jerusalem is, to put it mildly, a heavy drag. Then Jesus rolls into town, and my dudes, the people are stoked. They lay down a bunch of palms on the road in front of him. They get their act together and write him a theme song they chant as he comes through like it’s the WWE. You know what? Maybe this is gonna be OK! We’re gonna thrive. All we needed was a little optimism! Smooth sailing from here!

Of course we know the end of the story. The whole town is about to go goblin mode on Jesus in a matter of days. They’re ready to elect the robber and hang the Messiah, just to see what it looks like when all of it really does burn.

Arguably my favorite instance of goblin mode in the gospels is the woman who breaks a fancy vase full of expensive perfume and just absolutely soaks Jesus at a gathering. And he loves it. He rebukes the decorous onlookers with a line I really want to try the next time someone spills a drink on me: “She’s preparing my body for burial.” Goblin mode, baby.

Because as always, Jesus beats us to the punch. The way up is down. Rather than meeting our “total lack of aesthetic” with a 12-step plan to attain permanent cottagecore nirvana, he continually one-ups us in the goblin direction. Born in a feed trough. Sees you’re running out of wine at this wedding; fixes that for you. Parties with sex workers. Rides into his own parade on a donkey. Sucks hot sour wine from a sponge (honestly, relatable). Dies on a cross.

The way of the cross is not an ordering of life but a disordering; a complete collapse of power, control, function. We like to look at Christ’s death on the cross as a reversal of expectations, a savior whose methods subvert the powers and currencies of this world. But to accept this is to mistake our facades of power and might for some core truth about ourselves and our world. When the crowd goblins up on Jesus, yelling, “Crucify him!,” they aren’t possessed or out of character as we’d like to imagine. This is why the congregational role in the Passion play at church during Holy Week feels so convicting; no other perspective is more truly us. If there’s a lesson in the last two years of collective backsliding from cottage core into “the complete opposite of trying to better ourselves,” it’s that a flailing powerlessness is the resting state of the human condition. And in spite of it all, Christ loves our hopeless little goblin hearts.

To quote at length the passage from Phillipians my brother referenced in yesterday’s post here, Jesus:

“who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.” —Philippians 2:5-8, NRSV

To save a goblin, gotta become one.

–Guion Pratt lives in Charlottesville, VA

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Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for us you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon himself our nature, and to suffer death upon the Cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and come to share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. — BCP

by Win Pratt

Early on in our relationship (maybe before we were even dating), my now wife and I connected on a shared enjoyment of musical theater. In the time we’ve been together, we’ve often made the time to see productions of our favorite shows together. So, last weekend, we ventured out to the beautiful Durham Performing Arts Center for a Broadway Series South production of the 1940s classic, Oklahoma! If you don’t know the show, you may recognize some of the popular songs, like Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ or The Surrey With The Fringe on Top.

We were prepared for the joyous, fun, light-hearted Rogers and Hammerstein production I remember from my childhood. What we were met with, instead, was Daniel Fish’s dark and artsy 2019 interpretation of the 1941 classic. This new, modern, take on Oklahoma! has won Tony awards and the critics (for the most part) have raved. And we were not prepared for this interpretation when we went to the theater. We got the story we expected, told in a starkly different way.

When Jesus makes his triumphant entry to the city of Jerusalem, the crowd that gathers, with palm fronds in hand, are there to greet a king. The king they expected, though, is not the king they were met with. They expected an earthly, liberating, show of might and power, to bring peace and justice. “Hosanna!”, they cry out to their savior. What they get, instead, is one who “humbled himself, even to the point of death— even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-11, NRSV)

That is the message of the Passion, of all of Holy Week. That Jesus empties himself, humbles himself, in stark contrast to the expectations of those he came to save. He does save them, we know! The liberation, the peace, the justice, are all promises of the Passion— and they are promises of eternity, not just temporal satisfaction. Like our viewing of Oklahoma!, the crowd gets the story they expected, told in a starkly different way.

As we prepare for Holy Week, let’s take time to reflect on our temporal expectations of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and how the Passion might turn those presumptions on their heads, and exceed our wildest hopes.

— Win Pratt lives in Raleigh, NC.

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My Headache Broke in the Middle of the Night

It’s a great story, really, involving a dream of six young African girls whom I’ve never met, and their prayers.

I have this “condition” I guess you’d call it, which the doctors refer to as “cluster headaches.” Think of migraines that come along in, well, clusters in terms of timing. Back in March I had two of them that lasted three or four days each, with a couple of days in between.

And then an unusual 23-day, incessant headache from which there was no relief. My doctors tried everything from tweaking medications to all the go-to treatments. Anything short of cutting off my head, which I figured would solve one problem but might create a few others.

Both of my doctors, each great believers, were praying for me, as was my wife. She has the capacity to keep on when some might give up. Some folks in my church were praying, and some friends in Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey (yes, they pray there), California, South Carolina, and, as it turns out, at least one other place…

Hard to believe it, but I actually meet folks from time to time who have never had a headache. “What?” I respond. “Have you never run headlong, full-speed, into another human being in a football drill, practicing for such an incident in a real football game?” (Fact: in ten years of “organized” football, I never had a head-on collision with an opponent. But that’s just me.) I’m just saying that headaches have been part of my life since I was a young fellow.

On that Monday the headache was as bad as it had been during the 23 days. Prednisone had not helped, and the Durable Medical Equipment supplier had sworn they couldn’t fill the prescription for oxygen as written by the doctor, so that what they gave me actually damaged my nostril (good grief!). I went to bed Monday night with a bad headache and wondering what would happen. I was going to be referred to the UNC Headache Clinic the next day.

I somehow went to sleep that night. I was lying on my left side, the side of the headache. Early in the night, I think, I began to dream. I say it was early because this dream seemed to repeat itself many, many times. I’ve tried to describe it like this: have you ever had a dream that was like you were obsessing over something? Something you just could not let go? This was like that. I may have even awakened a time or two and then returned to the dream. Anyone? (I haven’t had any takers yet…)

The dream was of six young African girls, and they were standing in kind of an irregular circle, and they were praying. Each would pray in turn, and when each would pray, it was like a layer of something was being placed on a table or something. Then the next would pray, and a layer would be placed. And on, and on. When the sixth had prayed, the cycle would start again.

Until one time, as I watched (there was no indication that they had any idea that I was watching, nor was there any particular indication that they were praying for me), the cycle progressed and the sixth girl prayed and the layer came down to the table, and I knew it was done and that my headache was gone. This was in the dream.

And I awakened from my sleep. And my headache was gone. I looked at the clock: 1:30 a.m.

I lay there for a while reveling in the no-headache zone and then shook Windy awake. She prayed for me and we praised the Lord for a while, and then drifted back off to sleep. That was some happy sleep; I was rejoicing!

My alarm went off at 5:10 a.m., and I got up to let the dog out and feed her. Did a couple other things and then went to get my glasses and my phone. I noticed a text message from my cousin, in Florida, at 1:25 a.m.: “Hey brother! I’m up, praying for you. How are those headaches?” I refer you to the 1:30 a.m. comment of a few lines above…

Later that morning when I was talking to Bubba, that’s my cousin, he told me that the day before he had been praying, “Lord, some of my friends are always talking about how they see you or they see you do things like heal people or find them parking places or stuff like that and, well, I haven’t seen any of that, and I don’t need to see any of that but sometimes I think it might be nice, but I don’t need to…”

He said when I’d sent him the text telling him about the timing of me waking up without a headache, he praised the Lord and said he told Him “You know Lord, sometimes a boy just likes to see his Dad show off a little!”

Later in the day Windy and I were talking to a friend to whom Windy had already told the story, and this friend said, “Well, you know who those little girls are. They are some of the students at the orphanage in Kenya that y’all support with the wood choppin’!”

Hit me like a log in the head.* I hadn’t thought of it like that.

I shared that with Tom, one of my fellow wood choppers, who is also one of the previously mentioned doctors, and he said it had occurred to him, too.

Ephesians 3:20 indicates that God has resources working that we have no idea of, that we can’t even fathom. We were, I was, frustrated with all the things that didn’t work, but God was more interested in growing my faith than anything else. He used the prayers of my cousin/brother Bubba in the middle of the night, and undoubtedly the prayers of the children of MFangano Island to come to my aid. I never would have thought of any of that! We have a resourceful God. I am thankful…

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us… — Eph. 3:20 ESV

*One Saturday morning a few years ago when we were out splitting firewood (see the “wood choppin’” link above), a ~60 lb. log popped off the hydraulic splitter and hit me in the head. I’ve written elsewhere about that, but the short version is that I think it killed me for a few seconds or a few minutes, during which I may have been closer (duh) to the Lord Jesus than ever, and self-resuscitated when I hit the ground. I owe much to the children of Mfangano Island, in particular those at Gethsemane Garden Christian Center.

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