Carry-ons and Stiff-arms. A Rambling.

Recently, a friend who was slogging through a deep grief, shared some sermons with me. It caught me off guard, because our conversations during walks or coffee doesn’t usually come to specific points. We usually wander around ideas of faith and philosophy with with subtle ambiguity, and a spritz of a wry humor following close behind.

The sermons were buoyed by poignancy, and filled with slicing truths. What I mean by that is the preacher didn’t play patty-cake with God, but held the tension of life close to his heart. He shared his ubiquitous tight-wire between his pain and peace, failure and flourishing, mourning and comfort. Yet those tensions didn’t excuse him or me from taking action.

They had the effect of a simmered stew of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, with Psalms of seasoning sprinkled in.  

Quite honestly, when a sermon comes to a close with pragmatic faith choices, as I believe they should, hives appear on my soul. I stubbornly scratch and scratch wishing I hadn’t heard the application points. I suppose it might be the Romans seven syndrome. The Apostle Paul’s word toss. “I do what I don’t want to do, and that which I want to do, I don’t.” Romans 7:15 The old do-do dance I know all too well. But often it is more than that, the floating around conclusions, the avoidance in the void is the road I most travel.

“It’s how I do, Lord.”

“Really, Hmmm. Come out onto the floor. Let Me show you some different moves.”

“But God, look at me! Two left feet time and time again.”

“You do know the music is going to stop eventually, right?”


“Well, standing, back against the wall, isn’t using the music to its fullest.”

 When there’s a possible “out” or a way of loosening a grip on “my baggage,” stubbornness rises up and I stiff-arm God. We get used to our carry-ons don’t we?

Back to my friend. Any other person sharing sermons with me wouldn’t have the same effect. But his current state of raw grief coaxed an expectation on my mind and heart.

He is ripped open, receive what has spoken to his wounds.

As I listened to one sermon, then another, a vulnerability rose to the surface, and like a steroid shot, began healing the hives. Honestly, I was a bit rattled. Scared of commitment. Afraid of relationship, especially with God. I know. I know. God is love. God so loved. John 3:16. But my experience has its influence on me to the contrary. I’ve pinballed my way through Christianity…hitting bumper after bumper with a reactive-attachment when it comes to God.

In one of the sermons the preacher talks about ‘getting over it.’ At first what seemed like an avoidant approach, an end-around of sorts, turned into ‘getting through it’ to ‘get over it.’ Get it all out on the table. Or—Get out on that dance floor while the music is still playing.

I guess the conclusion is I can’t dance holding the baggage or stiff arming the invitation.

My verse of this year (partial verse, I should say) is “Come unto Me.”

Did you know the first miracle of Jesus was at a wedding? Water to wine. Finer wine. I think there might have been some dancing. Isn’t it funny how the music lasts to the end? Even when the chairs and the gifts are put away there are a few hold outs on the floor begging for one more song.

He truly is the Lord of the dance.

Sometimes how I feel when dancing with God. Not God’s fault. Heh.

“When I Awake, I Am Still With Thee.” Listening to God

Buford had to go.  Buford is big and his “going” is big, so I grabbed his leash and hooked him up.   He sent air kisses.  That is when his cow-like tongue would lick air between the closest pieces of my exposed skin.  A walk would do us both good.  I didn’t have to “go” but had to get going.

There is a path around the perimeter our seven acre field.  It is like an empty block lined with pines.  I used a brush hog last fall to carve a lane so I could stroll next to the whispers of God.  One of my favorite sounds is the hushed tones of wind being filtered through thousands of needles.

Years ago I was delivering a package.  There was a rain soaking, and the cool humidity seemed as though it was slowing the flow of my marrow.  I remember being a bit down after having breakfast with someone.  Life dreams came up in conversation and his dreams were out there on a farm.  He was raising organic cattle when he wasn’t crunching numbers.

After breakfast I was delivering packages under a blanket of emotional clouds.  O.K., I was bumming.  I was bummed all the way down to doubt.   Self doubt, God doubt was dripping slowly on my forehead as I walked a package of shoes to a stoop.   A question slipped out of my mouth.  I asked it out loud just above the asphalt.

“Do you love me?”

It was then the wind picked up and whispers of peace came.  I had not perceived the wall of pines.  Don’t misunderstand me, John 3:16 was always in my back pocket and Jesus loved me this I knew.  But when nature calls, God answering through his design, I listen fairly well.  His “yes” was as loud as a psalmists cry.  I added to the precipitation for a while and kept hoofing it from doorstep to doorstep.

I never would have imagined my own personal wall of pines.  This place, hemmed in by the whispers of God, blesses me hard and often.  My hope is to keep on writing about the grace that has handed me life.  God is good and His words speak to me from pages and pine trees.

How many ways does God bend your ear?  Be encouraged and don’t be afraid to ask God questions.

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!

How great is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

When I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:17,18