We’re a Happy Family

Jim Morrison pegged himself The Lizard King. I was The Scorpion Queen.

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They slipped through the cracks like roaches into our south Austin country home, and while my older brother sustained numerous attacks, I somehow avoided a tail lashing. Mom once forced him to put on his shoes as he complained and protested, “hurt, hurt” but Kirk always complained. He emerged from the womb complaining so Mom thought nothing of it until a scorpion emerged from his shoe, but I was spared the trauma. I once toddled up to her holding out my hand smiling with boastful pride at my captured treasure, “see, see?” The scorpion crawled around in my tiny cupped hand as mom stood terrified, finally grasping my wrist and flinging my new pet into the air.

I was too young to know how good we had it back then. I vaguely remember the house on Circle Drive with the steep rollercoaster hill sloping down into our long driveway. If we had neighbors they were far enough away to remain anonymous. Surrounded by a forest of oak trees, cedar trees and limestone rocks, the Oak Hill community resembled a Norman Rockwell painting back in the early 1980’s. Fireflies lit up the night sky as I zigzagged across our never-ending yard chasing the yellow blinking lights. Absolute magic to a child, but we were banned from keeping them in mason jars. Mom felt sorry for the lightning bugs so Kirk and I were forced to catch and release. Never mind she let me squish grub worms with a rock in her vegetable garden.

In my mind’s eye, our cream colored limestone house was a mansion, but years later when my dad took me to see it as a teenager I was surprised at its modest size. I actually thought he had the wrong place. Growing up, my memories of my father are limited at best. I’ve been told I was a daddy’s girl, and I imagine it’s true. Most little girls are, or would like to be anyway. Along with selling real estate, he also had an auto parts business called Checkered Flag, and to this day those little black and white race flags remind me of him, as does the smell of boot polish. He used to sit down next to the fireplace on our dark brown shag carpet and polish up his cowboy boots. After dinner, he’d lie down in front of the television and fall asleep snoring on his oversized velvet green pillow. I might have curled up next to him, or maybe it’s just a memory I wished existed. Even at that young age, no older than three or four, I could feel the tension mounting in our south Austin mansion. I remember asking my mother, “when’s Guy Guy coming home?”

Cursed with a severe speech impediment, my vocabulary was a string of made up words as I substituted letters for the ones I couldn’t master. I discarded “Kirk” altogether and called him Bubba, blanket became haba, yellow became lello, truck became fu—well you get the picture. My mother was the only person who could decode my foreign tongue. The rest of the family just looked down at me and smiled as I talked up a storm of nonsensical gibberish. Mom was an elementary schoolteacher, English no less, so maybe that helped with the translation process. Adored by every student who had the pleasure of sitting in her colorful classroom, she was the kind of teacher who enjoyed yearly visits from high school students looking for hugs and words of encouragement. Big, hulking sixteen year old boys would return to their old stomping grounds not to vandalize or terrorize, but searching for that petite little schoolteacher who changed their lives forever.

A few days before giving birth to me, my mother was hit with some pretty bad news. The doctor voiced his concerns that I might be born with limited mental capacities due to a narrow umbilical cord preventing blood flow to my brain. In other words, there was a chance that I might be retarded. My mother cried all night on the phone with her sister but as far as I know, I turned out okay save for a slight mathematical handicap. On the surface, life was good back in those days. We were an upper-middle class family with a nice home in the rolling hills of South Austin, my parents an attractive couple with two blonde-headed kids and a dog—we really were the picture-perfect family. Saturday nights were spent at our favorite pizzeria, the one with the cartoon room in the back where I sat and ate my pepperoni pizza watching Looney Tunes with the rest of the privileged youth. When the old black and white episodes of the Three Stooges were inevitably played, I’d toddle back over to my parent’s table and interrupt a conversation that probably wasn’t going too well. On the ride home, dad (despite his need for speed) stayed in the right lane so Kirk and I could enjoy the deep dips in the road created by the numerous street gutters lining the curb. We took bicycle rides through the woods together with me strapped into the plastic child’s seat on the back of my dad’s 10-speed. Blue Boy often followed along, his silvery coat disappearing and reappearing through the thick trees. On one such journey we encountered a small brush fire that left a lasting impression on my young mind. I remember being terrified of the burning field, convinced that our horse-like Weimaraner would soon meet his fate as he inched closer to the flames. Although dad reassured me that Blue Boy would not willingly cast himself into the fire, I was inconsolable.

It’s the trauma that leaves its mark. Despite all the pleasant memories that drift in and out of the exhausted mind, it’s the trauma that sticks around like a well-preserved snapshot. One of my earliest memories of Circle Drive is when I braved the pigeon cage my dad had constructed from some scrap wood and chicken wire. I don’t recall the exact count, but judging by the size of the cage we probably housed at least twenty or so homing pigeons. Some of them even had names, none of which come to mind except for one – one beloved bird named Silver Wing. He was the friendliest of the flock and my father’s favorite, so you can imagine my excitement when he flew down and perched directly upon my small head. Mom was a bit apprehensive but I beamed from ear to ear as though all my childhood dreams had come true in that one spectacular moment. Silver Wing, however, dashed those dreams. In classic birds-gone-bad behavior, he rudely left his mark all over my red-ribbon curls. Once again, I was inconsolable.

Periodically, dad would drive out somewhere and release the homing pigeons, no doubt impressed when every last one of them found its way back to the nest. Eventually though, one by one, they trickled off. Silver Wing stuck around longer than the rest, but he too failed to return home one day leaving my father somewhat broken-hearted. Not long after, when Blue Boy also failed to return, our days on Circle Drive came to a close. One of my last memories of that house is watching a thunderstorm roll in from the screened back porch. Streak lightning splintered across the night sky as the rain lightly brushed against our faces when the wind changed directions. Blue Boy had been gone for a couple of days, which was nothing out of the ordinary, but he always returned home when the rains came. My parents sat in silence waiting, watching for that horse-like dog to appear from the darkness of the woods, but the storm came and went without a trace of him. Soon after, we traded in our country living for a house in the suburbs. Dad sold his auto parts store and took to selling real estate full time, and before long, Guy Guy also failed to return home.

With Love

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

About a year after I met the devil my brother died. After everything I’d been through, and everything I was still enduring, why? I had quit smoking weed, quit drinking, quit cursing (for the most part) and was trying to live a good Christian life, and this is how God repaid me. Did he even care? Had I been blotted out of his book? Was he going to let the devil have his way with both me and my family? Halloween was just two days away the night my world collapsed.

Kirk was a force to be reckoned with, and while the good memories do exist, the bad seem to take the forefront. I can’t count the number of times we received a collect call from the Harris County Jail, or the number of wrecked cars, court appearances, rehab stints, screaming matches, drug overdoses, broken windows and fists through walls, sleepless nights, anger, fear, chaos and destruction – how is this going to end?

The good memories exist. We both loved exploring the great outdoors, and with Kirk, there was never a dull moment. Never. I remember when I was working at Yellowstone National Park, he came up to visit, and we were looking for a good spot to hike. We came across these white signs that read “Bear frequenting area. Hike at your own risk,” and while I turned back towards the car, Kirk ventured ahead, his backpack bobbing up and down and his pace steadfast. I jogged to catch up pleading my case as we hiked further into bear country. He promised, as he always did, that he would never let anything happen to me. He was a protective older brother, and although we were three years apart in age, people often mistook us for twins. He was my only sibling, and now, now it’s just me. How on earth do I cope with that?

My brother struggled with addiction up until the day he died. Alcohol, cocaine, pills – it was a never-ending roller-coaster not only for him, but also for the entire family. The night he died we found him unresponsive in his bed, an empty bottle of Xanax on his dresser and the bible I’d bought him for Christmas on his nightstand. The paramedics were called as my mom performed CPR on her only son. The police officers who arrived on the scene unofficially ruled his death to be a suicide via drug overdose. He was 42. As if adding salt to our wounds, we were told that the person conducting the autopsy was named, Jaren. I mean, honestly, how many “Jaren’s” do you know? Kirk and I only knew one, my sexually-abusive step-father whom Kirk had vowed to kill more than once. It was as if the devil had left his handprint on, not only my brother’s life, but also his death.

I’ve never cried like that before. Heavy heaves of weeping, unable to catch my breath – No, No, No, I cried over and over again. A few days later as we drove to the church for his funeral, I noticed a sign posted on someone’s back fence that read, “Absolutely NO NO NO Trespassing.” I felt like I was being mocked by the powers that be. On our drive home, a white sports car zipped past us with vanity plates that read, No No No. It’s the little things that can drive us over the edge. My brother had been looking for a job prior to his death and was offered a position as a sales rep for a funeral home. He quit the next day when a couple came in needing a casket for a baby. The little things. About a week or two before his death he went online for a tarot reading and was given the Death Card. The little things. About a week or two after his death I opened up my bible and looked down to see the words printed in red, “Thy brother shall rise again.” The big things.

Through it all, my brother never lost his faith in God and Jesus Christ. His life was a constant struggle, and some of the things he did and said, well, let’s just say his works most definitely did not land him a spot in heaven. That being said, I know exactly where my brother is, and I know I’ll see him again someday. Faith. It’s that simple. It’s that big.

 

Let there be Light

I always considered myself to be a Christian.

I rarely went to church, rarely read my bible, and never really prayed, but I was more or less a Christian. Believing in God was never a problem for me, but my faith in Jesus Christ, my belief that He truly is the Son of God and that he truly did die on the cross for my sins, well, sometimes I had my doubts. I believed because that’s how I was brought up, because I was (more or less) of the Baptist faith and that’s just part of the doctrine, that’s just how we rolled. The older I got, however, the less satisfied I became with this childhood simplicity. I wanted to believe because I felt it in my heart not because of my fear of disbelief. About six months after the nightmare I got my wish.

I had always been searching. During my college years I enrolled in a survey of the Old Testament course but dropped it halfway through the semester. Granted, I failed to earn anything higher than a “C” in the class, but my main reason for walking away was the effect it had on my faith. By the time we finished the Book of Genesis, I remember thinking that God didn’t sound very, well, nice. The class debates flew way over my head as I daydreamed about anything and everything but God. In the end I figured I knew enough about the bible, and besides, all that really mattered was the New Testament so who needed the Old, right?

They described themselves as goddess worshipping Wiccans…

Near the end of my college career I found myself surrounded by a group of self-proclaimed pagans whom I had committed myself to interviewing. I worked for the college newspaper and had reached out to a coven of witches for a feature story. We met over dinner, and suffice to say, I was ill-prepared for the interview. They described themselves as goddess worshipping Wiccans but I quickly realized that none of them held the same religious beliefs. I met with about five of them: one druid, a couple of Wiccan witches, and two run of the mill free-style pagans. As they went around the table describing their different belief systems and rituals, I did find one area where they all agreed. They boasted about their willingness to accept nearly all forms of worship and religion, their openness and love for one another, for nature, for animals, for the whole of mankind, but Christianity, not so much. Christians, it would seem, were suppressive, ignorant, narrow-minded, judgmental hypocrites who were responsible for all their childhood trauma and angst. When I offered my religious affiliation, I was, of course, different. And they were right.

I felt like I’d failed to represent my faith, like I’d been outsmarted and outwitted…

I was a pot-smoking, rock-n-roll listening, pro-choice Christian who supported gay marriage and despised the Republican Party. I was a free-thinking liberal who knew very little about the Word of God, but enough to know that the bible had obviously been corrupted by man to conform to some king’s agenda. The party of pagans, of course, agreed. In fact, they knew more about the Word of God than I did. Having all been raised by Christian families, my newfound pagan friends were well-versed in the bible, Old and New. They’d done their research and knew exactly who (or what) they were serving. When asked why I chose to remain a Christian, I quietly stirred my mixed drink before looking up and shrugging, “I don’t know, faith, I guess.” I left the restaurant feeling very much inadequate, not only as a journalist but also as a Christian. I felt like I’d failed to represent my faith, like I’d been outsmarted and outwitted by a group of Dungeons and Dragons playing outcasts who were, no doubt, dorks in their respective high schools, but they were well-informed dorks, and I, well, I was an ignorant, judgmental hypocrite. Years later, my search for religious truth finally came to a head.

I survived (although just barely) the film Zeitgeist, a movie which claims that Christianity was derived from ancient religions, and that the story of Jesus is a hybrid of varying pagan sun god religions. The more You Tube videos I watched, and the more books I read about ancient aliens, and the more programs I watched on television, the higher the weeds grew. I even researched the religion of Islam and wondered if maybe they were right after all. Maybe Jesus really wasn’t the Son of God, and maybe he really was just a prophet, and maybe the whole resurrection story was nothing but a well-written fairytale. I remember the moment clearly. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach at the thought of it, at the thought of my entire religious doctrine being false, but I wanted the truth. No matter how painful, come hell or high water, I would find religious truth.

Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart lately?

It was my day off from work and I needed a break. I had spent the morning alone smoking weed and watching a variety of You Tube videos all claiming to know the truth. 9/11, the bankers, the New World Order, the Luciferian Agenda, The Illuminati, the Freemasons – I needed a break, and a beer. I drove up to the neighborhood drug store for a box of smokes and a six pack. After obtaining the goods, I lit a cigarette and noticed a homely-looking woman walking toward my car. Dressed in plain brown clothing, she stood by the passenger-side door and motioned for me to roll down the window. I obliged. “I usually don’t do this,” she said, “but for some reason I felt the need to come over here.” Yeah, okay, I thought, here it comes. “Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart lately?” Surprise, surprise. “Yes, I have,” I answered. “Recently?” she asked. “Uh, no,” I stuttered. “Would you like to right now?” she asked. “We can pray together right now if you’d like.” I chuckled a bit and shook my head, “no,” I answered, “I’ll do it when I get home.” The woman smiled and backed away from my car as I rolled up the window and drove away. When I got home I cracked open a beer, smoked some more weed, and continued my You Tube quest for truth. I did not, however, ask Jesus into my heart.

A few months later my uncle died. His funeral was held at a quaint ocean-side chapel unknown and unlisted on most maps. Mom and I sat in comfortable silence as we neared our destination, the overgrown forests of north Houston giving way to the flat farmlands of the Coastal Plains. The drive took us a little over two hours, and with me riding passenger spouting off directions, it’s a miracle we arrived on time. It had been about six months or so since the nightmare, and although it nagged at my daily thoughts, I resisted the urge to analyze it too much. After all, my search for truth didn’t include night visions.

We piled into one of the middle pews and waited for the pastor to begin the services. I loved my uncle dearly but glared at the freemason symbol propped up against his coffin, disgusted that such a symbol was even allowed in a church. They don’t know any better, I told myself. My uncle was a God-fearing Christian man, and if he’d known what the symbol really stood for, if he’d known what the freemasons were really about there’s no way he would have joined the organization. The funeral service drew to a close and we bowed our heads in prayer. “I don’t normally do this during a funeral service,” the pastor stated, “but God has put this on my heart.” He then proceeded to ask if there was anyone who needed to ask Jesus into their hearts, if there was anyone who needed to be saved. “Just raise your hand,” he said. “Everyone’s eyes are closed so just raise your hands up.” Hesitantly, I raised my hand into the air.

A Dreamer of Dreams

They say to never begin a book with a dream. They being the experts, the key holders for the publishing world, the gatekeepers so they’re called…

It all started with a bad dream, a really bad dream, one that jarred me awake in the middle of the night and had me sleeping with the light on afterward. I’ve since dubbed it Halloween Town, and although I didn’t know it at the time, this really bad dream would later turn into a living nightmare.

The alarm clock read about two in the morning. I threw off the covers, jumped out of bed and stumbled over to the light switch. Up down, up down, up down – nothing. The alarm clock flickered and blinked as I pressed my back against the wall, my legs shaky with panic and my breath shallow and strained — I jerked awake.

Like a hunter in the trees it slid through the room undetected yet somehow magnified.

The alarm clock read about two in the morning. I tried to sit up but my arms and legs struggled under the weight of the covers and my body strained to flinch even one tiny insignificant muscle. It was coming for me. Like a hunter in the trees it slid through the room undetected yet somehow magnified. I tried to scream, to move, to kick, to flail – I cried out for Jesus to save me but my lips quivered and my voice choked on itself. I jerked awake.

The alarm clock read about two in the morning. I jumped out of bed and flicked on the light. Up down, up down, up down – nothing. I threw open my bedroom door and padded out into the glow of the narrow hallway. Our tiny living room resembled a scene from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and as I turned the corner, I spotted my roommate seated on the couch lit up by Halloween decorations. I was relieved to see her. Everything would be okay. I began describing the nightmare I’d just had and looked around the room somewhat confused as to when she found time to decorate. After  applying the final touches to her makeup, she flashed a broad smile and bid me farewell as she slammed the front door behind her. I jerked awake.

I knew what was hiding under the bed. The boogieman was real that night.

The alarm clock read about two in the morning. I sat halfway up in bed and scanned the dark room waiting for my eyes to adjust, waiting for my head to clear. The light switch on the far wall triggered irrational fear in me as I focused on its downward position. What if it doesn’t work this time? Hesitant, I pulled the covers down, slid out of bed and stumbled into the master bathroom where another seemingly innocent light switch awaited me. Artificial light illuminated the tiny room as I sighed a breath of relief, but the dream remained fixed in my mind like some prophetic vision of horror. I smoked a cigarette through the bathroom window and attempted to analyze what exactly it was that had me so spooked. When I laid back down, I kept the bathroom light on and the door cracked. Thirty-seven years old and afraid of the dark – so be it. I knew what was lurking in the hallway. I knew what was hiding under the bed. The boogieman was real that night.

The next morning I still couldn’t shake the dream. It stayed with me all day, and even that following night I had to force myself to turn off the bathroom light, but what was it? What was it that spooked a girl like me who could watch slasher movies all night and have no problem falling asleep, a girl like me, rather, a thirty-seven-year-old woman, to sleep with the light on? I wasn’t completely sure. I only knew that the dream inspired absolute terror, a nightmare played on a maddening loop, but the part that stuck out the most, the part that struck a chord in me was my inability to cry out to Jesus for help. I just couldn’t do it. I remember thinking, if I could just rebuke it, if I could just call on Christ to save me, but I couldn’t. Something was in the way, something far more evil than I could ever imagine.

A Girl I Used to Know

What’s in your DNA? It’s a question that, up until a few years ago, I thought was best left for the scientists.

I’m an average female who stands about five feet, six inches tall. I’m naturally thin with an olive complexion, hazel eyes, and acne-prone skin. I’m allergic to almost any animal put before me (especially horses and cats), my sweet tooth is incurable, and my thick, dark, curly hair is unmanageable at best. These things, for the most part, are unchangeable. My looks can be temporarily altered and my allergies can be suppressed with medications, but my DNA remains the same. The words have already been written, the letters fixed in place, the book closed until my time here on earth is fulfilled, but what would happen if those words and letters were somehow rearranged? What would be my fate? How would I identify myself? Who or what would I ultimately become? If I allowed the words of my DNA to be rewritten, who would be my creator? Who would become my God? These are not questions reserved for mankind’s greatest philosophical thinkers or the world’s most educated minds. In today’s present climate, where gene editing is an emerging news headline, these are questions that every day folk should be asking themselves. They are, indeed, the questions I asked myself when my own DNA was temporarily hijacked.

It was as if a witch had cast a spell on me. I felt like poor old Job…

I can’t say that I understood these concepts right off the bat. In fact, I had no idea what was happening to me. The sensation was painfully physical, like an invisible fire brought down from heaven; the initial hijacking brought me to my knees as my body twitched and burned from the inside out. I had no concept of what was happening to me, only that it was spiritual. It had to be spiritual. There was no other explanation. In the days, weeks, months, and years following, my life became unrecognizable. The world around me disintegrated into a confusing collage of absurd coincidences and maddening synchronicities that made it impossible to see the forest for the trees. I was a rat in a maze lost in a seemingly normal world that, in my mind’s eye, was anything but normal. Strong delusion surrounded me. My thoughts, my sense of smell, sight and sound, my ability to differentiate between imagination and reality – none of these things made sense anymore. It was as if a witch had cast a spell on me. I felt like poor old Job, my path darkened, my soul vexed, and the waters up to my neck.

The invisible fire changed me. Physically, I suffered through reoccurring skin rashes, body tremors, eye twitches, excessive saliva, numb limbs, and double vision. Mentally, I was at a loss. I needed guidance, someone to explain to me what was happening, a teacher to point me in the right direction, a book to show me the way. I had a limited understanding of the bible, and while I did read it, the songs on the radio seemed to have much more of an impact. All those lyrics that I knew by heart made more sense than ever before, and they all said the same thing.

The layers of the onion were peeled away. I knew the secret to fame and fortune.

All those songs, all those musicians, all those bands, they all sang about the same thing. I understood them perfectly. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Cure, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, you name it, I knew the meaning behind all their veiled lyrics. The layers of the onion were peeled away. I knew the secret to fame and fortune. I was swimming in the same deep waters as my most adored rock gods. I knew who the walrus was. I knew the real meaning behind their album covers. I was learning an unknown tongue through their melodic words. After all, their words I had memorized since my youth, the bible I had not.

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33 KJV)

It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t want to swim in those waters. I didn’t want to learn their tongue. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted my life back. No more radio, no more social media, no more television — I spent my time immersed in the Word of God. I filled my mind with purified water and this is where I stand today. I drive to work in silence, study the bible, pray, study the bible some more. I ignore the taps at my window, the phantom smells, the static in the air, the lingering effects of a tongue I wish to forget. I stand, having done all to stand, and I thank God I am not one of them.

Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. (Job 31:35-36 KJV)

My adversary has written a book. The pages are found within popular music, movies, art, and even some translations of the bible. His DNA is layered into the fruits of our entertainment, our blockbuster films and favorite songs on the radio, our weekly television programs, books, paintings and corporate advertisements. His words flow through the airwaves like blood through the veins giving life to an idol shepherd, giving life to a molten image. After passing through the fire, his tongue was revealed to me and his words were like the poison of asps.

In the end, it comes down to this: whose word do you follow? Some priest? The pope? Facebook? You Tube? Your favorite celebrity? Your favorite writer? Your favorite politician or historical figure? Do you follow your own word? Do you follow God’s Word, and if so, which one? Whose word is in your DNA?