Sunday, December 25, 2011

When God [Re]writes My Christmas Story

I believe in the God-scripted life. A script writer myself, I know that he who writes the script authors the outcome, and I believe in God-authored outcomes.

So let the story take unexpected turns!

 For the shepherd on the dark hillsides outside of Bethlehem, the appearance of not one, but countless angels from Heaven's very choir was certainly just that: unexpected.

 And for us, sitting in the car all night in a familiar town was that likewise. And being separated by miles and feet of snow when we most wanted to be together-- this season, and father's 60th birthday-- certainly not in the plans.

 But I have learned that through the unexpected God hones our expectancy towards Himself... And what is this season to remind us of, if not expectant waiting for the King? And even as space and time make loving hearts grow fonder, separation makes reunion more sweet.

So we glory in the gift of Jesus today, together. And thank Him that we have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and lives to live His script.

Wishing you all a most blessed and joyful Christmas! You are (each!) gifts to me this year...

Together! (seriously icy road...)

finally off the mountain

catching up (we get behind within minutes of separating)

Friday, December 23, 2011

So near, yet so far...

I never thought I would be stranded just a stone's throw from home...
But here we are.

I awaken with a start in the post office parking lot where we have taken refuge from the storm. We were on our way to Texas, now we'd just be glad for a place to lay flat. A mere hour and a half from home, and now we can't go forward, and we can't go back. Mother and Chantée who left earlier and were to meet us are likewise stranded in Albuquerque, both interstates closed. We roll our window down to talk to the policeman who is quickly becoming our friend...

"You guys ok?"

Oh boy. We're fine... But are you going to get that car out of this parking lot?
Joshua and I end up white from head to foot after pushing the unit out of the drift created by our very van. We decide to get out ourselves before we're drifted in...

And in the biting wind of the worst blizzard I have ever lived through, I think:
Boy, so near, yet so far! If only we could get home...

I mean, I just drove through the worst conditions of my life to get here, but I'd still give anything to be able to head back towards my room right now.

Snow stings. I squint as I make my way back to the car.
My heart strains at receding red and blue lights. The kind policeman promised he'd see us again.

But just before I yank the frozen-closed driver door open, (to go back to "sleep") this little thought thunders me--

He could have gone home. But He didn't.
He stayed stranded in a cold world, on a cold night... By far the worst "blizzard" He'd experienced. Like me, part of Him probably wondered at the circumstances he found Himself in. But the stronger part embraced them.
And he didn't run home, though He could have.

He came here, He stayed here, by choice...

Merry Christmas.
usually, there's a road there.

p.s. this really is real time blogging. Posted from back in the selfsame Post Office parking lot. No idea when we'll get out of here... Did I tell you this GYC wasn't going to be average?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When I Forget...

I simply cannot tolerate disconnect anymore... Not now that I know what it feels like to be full and free. I don't care what I'm in the middle of doing. When I need to drop everything, I do.
I just do.

My thumb swipes left then right across glass, taps "Reminders."
Check, check. Check. I scroll for the next thing.

These are days unbelievably full in this house. Unbelievably full. With not one, but four young minds straining over plans for the honor of God in Houston next week, (hours a day) there is never a dull moment.
Or a relaxed one.
But we're honored to serve... Honored to go to war with darkness, as indeed such it will be.

But I glance around my room, across my desktop, through my inbox(es) for the next most pressing emergency. And I suddenly become aware of an emergency of a different character altogether.

It's this little heart of mine. Something's not quite right...

I don't brush past a call anymore. I can't tolerate being disconnected from heaven any more... It's the worst torture. I glance at my watch. Almost noon.

I pocket my iPhone, tell my mother I'm going out for a while, take my little sister by the shoulders and ask her if she's prayed today...
And I go out.

And what I learn on the snow-covered hillside I expect to take with me all through life.

-  -  -  -  -

Whether my days are full or empty, my greatest danger is the same...

To forget my calling.

To forget, to neglect, to lose under a pile of other stuff... same thing.

Because the moment I forget my calling, I lose track of God's claim on my life.
And make no mistake, God's claim is the purpose for living. Lose sight of it, and direction is gone, and meaning is gone. I'm at the mercy of my passions and whims--
At the mercy of my merciless enemies. 

But when the claim of God is understood, and the calling of God embraced, then I am alive. And I can fold my arms and stare massive losses in the face with perfect calm. 
Because my side wins either way...

All at once, I'm ready to work again. 
I've been up the mountain, through the valley, across the creek... on my way to Zion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We Know

I awake early. I've slept for only a few hours, but I am charged...
I blink at a dark room, pause to pray. To consider. To remember--


I have no idea what time it is. I don't check.
Instead, I count God's mercies, and beg that He will keep us His... always.
That nothing will ever induce us to chose another life. That no success, no opportunity, no open door, no pain or loss, or suffering will distract us from His claims on this little family of mine.

Hours pass. I don't know how many. The light of dawn finally glows in the east. I reach into the leather bag I set down by my bed at 11:00 last night, pull out a book, open to December 18.

"And we know that all things work together
for good to them that love God."

"And we know...!" Not we think, or we hope. Not even we have faith that...
No, we know.
I know. I'd love to tell you just how, sometime...

I keep reading. But I've been fed already.

My mind wanders back over hours of prayers in the dark. There is only one condition in this verse before my eyes. "Love God." For those who love God, one day (quite possibly much sooner than you think) all the darkness will be understood to be exactly what it really is-- a gift.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, 
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. . . 

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors 
through Him that loved us."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just a Pebble...

Some day when every wrong is made right, I will understand the true weight of today. For now, let's just say it was one of the best days of my entire life...

I step out, zipped and buttoned. Black wool and cashmere reach earthward almost to my knees. The very air is alive with vigor, somewhat like my insides... I go to meet my God in a beautiful field, on a beautiful farm, this beautiful morning of mornings.

I sit on sandstone at the spot where two friends of mine became one months ago, and read...
And my journal, this spiral bound book with my handwriting in it, this book that records the secrets of my broken-hearted moments, this book my Nana gave me, it opens my eyes to the goodness of my God.

Every moment I have lived, every mercy I have tasted, every tear I have shed, every battle I have fought, every dream turned to ashes, was for today.


Without them, the new dreams springing up would have nothing to root in; to feed on. Because of them, I love my God more than I love anything else in this great wide world. And I love all that is (are!) His...

Hours pass and I wander around the pond; ponder why my heart is here today anyway...

It was just a pebble.

Just a friend who doesn't even know it happened. But just because they love Jesus, because they love what is high and holy and pure, and just because I was blessed to catch a glimpse of it when I was momentarily unsure of what to do with my sword, just because of that; them.....

Some day when every wrong is made right, I will understand the true weight of today.

Mean time, I will never again underestimate the power of influence...
Even if it does seem like just a pebble...

"Throw a pebble into a lake, and a wave is formed, and another...
until they reach the very shore. So with our influence. 
Beyond our knowledge or control it tells upon others 
in blessing or in cursing...
If by our example, we aid others in the development of 
good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn 
they exert the same influence upon others, 
and they upon still others. 
Thus by our unconscious influence many may be blessed."
Signs of the Times, Oct 21, 1903

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

I can think of others... Like the day Lusitania sank, or the Britannic.

But one principle pervades. Don't ignore it for its over-simplicity.

When ships go down, they take men with them.

Men who would float, but can't.
Can't, because they're surrounded ("entangled?") by steel that won't.

I've been reading II Timothy. (yes, still.)

And I've been chewing this one verse for days:

"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life..." II Timothy 2:4

Because "this life," this vessel of pleasure, is already mine-struck.

Need I repeat myself? You're a soldier.
Make absolutely certain you are on an unsinkable ship...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love Stronger

I thought I understood forgiveness.
Then the anguished cries of a heartbroken hero filled me first with wonder, then with hope...

-  -  -
-  -  -

Mahanaim, Land of Promise.

A king and a father await word of the battle, from the safety of the city's gate.
At long last the runners are seen. The pacing ceases. The king must know the state of the nation. The father longs to know the state of his son.

The report arrives, breathless.
King listens. Father waits... Then:

"But what about my boy??"

Beg your pardon?

What boy?

You mean the one who killed your eldest son? That cold blooded barbarian who sought to steal from you everything you had, ending with the crown? The one that this very day launched a campaign to end your life? That boy?
The one who so slowly, so slyly turned the hearts of your friends against you? Turned your influence to ashes from the inside out? Shamed you? Defamed your character before your counselors? Unravelled every thread of trust in the fabric of your rule? That boy?
The one who won the hearts of the kingdom's greatest talent, greatest beauty, greatest skill? Split your family in pieces, then laughed at your sorrow? That one?
That boy?

Yes. Exactly that boy.

And when the king-father hears that his son has fallen, he breaks in pieces.
He breaks into bitter sobs; looks for a place to hide his grief.
The guard tower above the gate will have to do. He stumbles up crude stone stairs meant only for soldiers. Breathless messengers and stalwart guards watch him go, hear him sob:

"O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!(II Sam 18:33)

-  -  -

I blind with tears even now.
Lord of Glory, teach me the heart of forgiveness...

Don't misunderstand me. I am known as a merciful man. But this has pushed the bounds of my conscious duty.

How in the world...?

It isn't complicated.

Forgiveness is simply love, stronger.
Stronger than death.
I mean real love...

Until days ago forgiveness was mechanical in my mind. Simply a releasing of hate. Almost an aloofness that says "I'm fine, you're fine. I'm not hurt by this."

But forgiveness isn't finished with the releasing of hate. It needs the (re)embracing of love.
Real love.

I can feel from here the throbbing hearts of readers that will never comment on this post. Hearts that cry because trust has been broken, shame has been dealt out. I sense tears, even in the dark. Your soul sinks, because you're sure there's more to this I can't possibly understand.

I don't pretend to fully understand, but my heart throbs with you. Nor am I so naïve as to believe that healing is always as quick or simple as a choice.
I have a Master's degree in counseling. And I know and love more broken people than some will meet in a lifetime.

But please, oh please my friend... Listen to me. And then pass the word to every hurting soul you know.

Whether you've been defamed, distrusted, shamed, violated, exploited, stolen from, crushed, then laughed at...

David was wounded by his own flesh and blood. His family. And it is those closest that have the greatest power to harm, as well as heal.

But David had love. Love stronger...

Love is stronger.
And to love is to be free.

Tell, oh tell the hurting world...

Monday, November 28, 2011

New CD!

It was a beautiful home the Lord of Glory left, when He set out o His mission to save His friends... And it was a cold and barren wilderness He came to. But there was no hesitation. Heaven poured out praises as its Commander became nothing for an ungrateful race...
What He saw here to make Him choose pain and sacrifice over the adoration of angels, We Cannot Tell.

But He chose anyway. And it makes us sing...

Our new CD is shipping. Listen to samples, or order your copy right here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cost of Giving

Like all gifts, Heaven's almost always come with the price tag removed.
And that's no accident. Because one shouldn't be able to casually calculate the cost of giving...

-  -  -
-  -  -

Crickets sound and I quiet my iPhone in the dark. It's not long before I'm smiling.

Thanksgiving day.
Best day of the year.

Gifts pile up all year long, and of course we say thanks along the way...

(I hope.)

But today is different.

Today we sing over our gifts, and keep singing.
But there's more than that...

Because a step back to take in a full year's worth of grace gives us a little bit better sense of the cumulative cost of the giving.

You know, the price tags are always removed before the gift is wrapped up pretty... Heaven does that too. Even if we were informed of exactly the purchase price, we wouldn't remotely be able to compute...

So we're given another way to understand.


There is only one kind of person in the world that can grasp the value of a priceless treasure.

It's the man or woman who rejoices over the gift they don't understand until their own hear bursts with giving-back.

Gifts I'm rejoicing over (and over) today:

A bleeding Brow.        John 19:2
The Father's Hands.     Luke 23:46
The innocent Face.     Mark 15:14
Everlasting Arms.      Deut 33:27
Eyes that never wander.    Psalm 33:18
A Heart that never forgets.    Isaiah 49:15 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Don't Be Ashamed of My Chains..."

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I suddenly hear in his words an agony of earnestness that makes my heart stop. I breathe. Heave breathe; roll onto my side to get the weight off my chest. But it will not leave...

- - -
- - -

An old man, bent and nearly blind* is pressed down the corridor.
The step that once was firm and free is encumbered by shackles, the joints beg for mercy from the damp cold. This man is innocent. One look at his face is all it takes to prove it. But he is going to die.

You are in Rome. And this, is Nero's dungeon.

Ruthless hands. Ruthless hearts.

The steps of the guards fade into silence and in my mind I am there.
There to see the great man grope about his cell; call out for his companion.
He calls for parchment, but he can't see to write. Faithful Dr. Luke will write for him, this last will and testament. His hands tremble, his voice trembles, but this heart is strong.
Stronger than the Roman Empire.

It is Nero's heart that trembles upstairs. (AA chap 48, "Paul Before Nero")

But his frame is tired. And with the knowledge that he has not long to live, highest priorities becomes only priorities.
He wants to see his boy.

I do not know how the good doctor took the dictation without soaking the parchment with tears.
I couldn't have.

I read the letter now, this last letter ever written by the Apostle to the Gentiles, this last will to the world, this letter to his boy, and I want to weep.

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4:7)

Indeed you have, sir. Indeed you have.

I hear his chains rattle. And I hear a cry that is half audacious challenge, half daddy's heart.
I can almost see the hand upraised, silhouette of shackles against cold stone. And my heart stops...

Don't be ashamed, my boy.
Oh, don't be ashamed of my chains...

And don't be ashamed of the Gospel. **

Luke writes. I read.

My heart leaps, as Timothy's must have.
Timothy, who most likely did not make it back to Rome in time...

I hug my pillow. Pray--

Oh my Father...
let me never be ashamed.

*Many scholars believe the "thorn" of II Cor 12:7 was in fact near blindness...
**See II Timothy 1:8

Monday, November 14, 2011

Imperative of the Supernatural

The sound of dry leaves underfoot charms me through. (I'm a midwesterner by breeding.)
I shuffle for the joy of the sound; the joy of the smell...

I breathe pure November under naked oak and hickory;
pause to watch the world readying for white...

And I wonder:

When a man of God does, who does the doing?

I have heard more than one new recruit on the field say to his fellow:

"Buck up, man! You've got what it takes."


I'm unconvinced. Especially when I remember that Adam in his spotless strength and beauty drew every drop of nobility he possessed from his connection to his Maker... even though he was fresh from the hands of God (and thus was arguably in the best place to stand alone). His glory, his perfection, his holiness were gifts given not to stand alone, but to put and keep him in connection with the Perfect and Holy... And even as every leaf today draws it's life force, and every star it's brilliance from the heartbeat of God, Adam drew his glory from the Infinite.

I other words, the crown of God's crowning creation (read: humanity) was the connection with Heaven.
What can be compared?

But disconnect... Now there's a real problem.

[I bend down, aim my iPhone a few inches above grade.]

Disconnect perfect angels, and you get demons.
Disconnect perfect and glorious humanity, and... Well, look around you.

And if Adam needed so badly to be connected to his God... then what are we thinking when we blaze off on our own? Or when we foolishly unfit ourselves for the inhabitance of the Holy Spirit... (emphasis on the word Holy.)

Every man of God, ever woman of God, is nothing.
The image of God, yes... But every shadow disappears when the object is removed.
Without the Supernatural indwelling, we are lifeless, empty shells.

Or worse.

Yea, much worse... the indwelling of the other supernatural.

You're just a shell, my friend. Just a shell...

Ah, but what glory, when filled with Heaven itself!?
What an honor, to be God's shadow.

Then let everything else be cast out, that we might not restrict the inflow of the Spirit.
Darkness and Light cannot both be.

Let the Light so shine...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Words of the King's Daughters

I awaken this morning on a Tennissee farm with a little question on my mind.

Perhaps you have picked up by now that I am passionate about the Gospel...

But I wonder if you know why.

It is really quite simple.

I love life.
I love life...

When a man loves, hard work isn't heroism.
It's joy.

Duty is joy.

Today I read a trilogy that made my Gospel-loving soul stand tall.

Written by three of the King's daughters, who as far as I know, don't know each other at all.

Not just the what of war, but also the why...

I'd tell you the secret, but their words are better than mine.

Go read the words. Eat the words. Live the words...

"The love of Christ constraineth us..."

Emily.    Esther.    Moriah.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To Fight or Not to Fight, That is The Question

Consider this Science of Temptation, part 2.
I was born to be a warrior.
So were you.
Trouble is, most warriors today are in confusion over titles and job descriptions.
If grace and faith are really sufficient, what need have we of war?
-   -   -
-   -   -

I pace the floor of my basement office, from french door to bookshelf and back. 
It's cold in here. But my mind works best that way.

My finger runs past scores of titles on the shelf--
Past my Greek New Testament, Waggoner's commentary on Isaiah, 11 journals...
Testimonies to Ministers, Conflict of the Ages, and great Christian classics.
Leather bound, paper bound, hard bound...

I find the one I'm looking for. 

And I pace again, my whole posture insisting on an answer. 

Temptation's power is utterly insufficient for the man or woman who takes God at His Word, and denies the tempter's underlying lie:
"I've got something better."  *

End of conversation.

But if the power of temptation is truly thus neutralized, is there no need of war?

Ahh, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

The promises are completely (and exclusively) sufficient to vanquish the enemy. The money is in your pocket already. (Do yourself a favor and depend on it, because no other currency of your own earning will pay the debt, either.)

But we are soldiers. We wrestle.
Oh, but why??

"Conversion. . .does not put new flesh upon the old spirit; but a new Spirit within the old flesh. . . Deliverance and victory are not gained by having the human nature taken away; but by receiving the divine nature to subdue and have dominion over the human."  **

Paul was surely talking of a wrestling match when he said "I keep under my body..." [better english word order would be, "I keep my body under me"]

Yet he speaks not of wrestling with the tempter... Christ Himself would not do that. ***
The tempter is to be dismissed by the Word.

But to wrestle the flesh is the work of the will.  
To receive the power of the engrafted Word, we must align ourselves (read: obedience) with that Word. 
And there is nothing easy about that.
But if being a soldier were easy, there would be no honor associated with the title.

This room is still cold. 
A mild allergy to gas flame means I awaken more alert with the heat off. 
The flesh hates 50 degrees in the morning. Every morning
But I have only three choices. Stay in bed and lose Gospel battles, turn up the heat, wake up groggy, and lose Gospel steam...

Or get up anyway.

I'll take the third. 
* * * * *

The book slides back into it's place on the shelf. 

We must fight. White knuckled and sore armed. Discipline. Sacrifice. Self-control. 

That is our battle.

There is no substitute for obedience.

Fight, soldier. Fight.

-  -  -
-  -  -

*  "The tempter can never compel us to do evil. He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will must consent, faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power upon us." DA 125.2

** A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, April 18, 1899

*** "Though Jesus recognized Satan from the beginning, He was not provoked to enter into controversy with him. . .He would not parley with temptation. . . Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. 'It is written,' He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. . .So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage." DA 120

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thy Thoughts Towards Me

"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand..." 
Psalms 139:17-18
Crashing waves on endless beaches always do something moving in my soul. 
For the larger God looms, the less I fear my problems.
And God grows at the beach in my little mind. By virtue of sheer volume of sand; sheer power of water.
If you don't understand me, go count the grains in a teaspoon of sand from the neighbor kid's sandbox.
My long silence has had to do with crossing the United States by car. (then back again). The trip is only half done... But one of the highlights was certainly gathering on the beach at AMEN conference with the surgeons, physicians, dentists, and PHDs and their little ones building sand sculptures from the bible.
You've never watched anything like it...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Thirst

Another full revolution around the sun...

I thirst.

25 years have taught me a few things, and none more potent than this:

The greatest gift to any man, is the faith of a child.

Just days ago I sat on the piano bench in a living room full of life, and animated conversations. I was surrounded. Surrounded by young friends 8, 10, 12 years my juniors. Thirsty for God

I love young lives. And I try to maximize every opportunity to make them stronger.
But these lives had at least as much to teach me as I had to teach them.

I thirst. And I'm not alone.

Strange thirst; all consuming, filling to rejoicing, yet only growing stronger with time...

I thirst for Christ.

Nothing else matters.

If there is anything I intend to do with this year of my life,
it is pass on the faith of little children.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Science of Temptation

Victory is not about resisting temptation until we build enough spiritual muscle to beat it in an arm wrestle.
Victory is about unraveling temptation before it starts.

Let's back up.

Satan deceived angels not by leading them to concede to the viability of evil, but by offering them a counterfeit good.

He entered the garden, and offered Eve freedom when she was already free.

He offers us love, [insert: happiness, peace, fulfillment...] when in fact, we are already loved.

The fundamental principle of evil is calling into question the sufficiency of the genuine.

That's the great controversy in one sentence.
And that's the science of temptation.
First, causing you to question the real, then offering a supposedly viable alternative.

That is why faith makes us righteous, (ever heard of Righteousness by Faith?) and free.

When the child of God believes that all the promises are "Yes, and Amen!"
When he believes that every word of God is creative-- just as creative as "Let there be light."
And that the promises are not stored in Heaven for our aid someday, but are already in our pockets...
Already acting in the lives of those who believe them...

Then the very fundamental principle of temptation is shattered.
Temptation is neutralized before it gets off of the ground...
Unraveled like a rotting sweater.

When we believe (with our hearts, not just our heads) that the promise is all sufficient,
Temptation suddenly becomes utterly insufficient.

You have a billion dollars in your pocket. Why are you falling for the enemy's penny?

Only because you think you're poor.

Read part 2 here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Distinguished is...

In God’s economy, distinct is distinguished.  

Same word.

“But know that the Lord hath set apart6395 him that is godly for Himself...” Psalm 4:3
6395 palah paw-law'  -  a primitive root; 
to distinguish (literally or figuratively): 
put a difference, show marvelous...
--Strongs, emphasis added

Friday, October 7, 2011

Multitude of Mercies

I love driving into town. No sooner do I pull out of 2837 onto the highway, when the dialogue starts. 
I usually pray out loud in the car, and while He never answers out loud, yet He speaks...

* * * * * * *

This morning I opened my Bible to Psalm 5. And my mind went back to yesterday, halfway home.

“Your Grace, disobedience of the slightest sort is high treason against the Crown.
And we are traitors. Deserving of death.

I do not remotely understand You.

I mean, I get it... But I cannot fathom. 
I just can’t.

Normally, if mercy is strong enough to commute the death sentence for treason, it certainly does not restore the traitor to trust. 

But time and time again, You pick your little ones up from the dirt, and trust...


Multitude of mercies...  

How long can You keep trusting traitors?”   

The last question was rhetorical. But after a moment of silence, He saw fit to answer in a still, small voice with the distinct tones of a smile--

Until My blood runs out.   And that, my boy, won’t happen any time soon.

“But as for me, I will come into thy house in the
 multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear 
will I worship toward thy holy temple.” Psalm 5:7

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Christian vs. Criminal

There is only a subtle difference between the Christian and the criminal.
Subtle, but significant.

You'll find them both in the heart of darkness, fists closed around iron bars, rattling and shaking bolts and hinges until the halls ring with desperation. You'll hear them throw all their weight against doors again and again, until their shoulders swell with bruises. Sweat and tears will mingle, and run down their faces, and dampen their clothes... All in in the desperate quest for freedom.

But there is one subtle difference.

They're on opposite sides of the door.

Because a free man cannot rest while his friends are in captivity.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ten Dollars for Joy

Ok, so... I’ll just drive up like the wind, and give her this box, tell her I’m in a huge hurry, and she can take it to them when she takes the rest of the stuff tonight. 

Best laid plans of mice and minnows.

“Hey Sheena, do you know where Rosemary is?” 

We’ve known this girl as long as we’ve lived here. It’s her dad that keeps our veteran fleet of vehicles mission-worthy. (Quite a feat, by the way.) We’ve called him more than once from 3 states away...

[quizzical look] “She’s not here...”

Not here!? This was not in my best laid plans...

“Nope. She’s in town. Can I help you with something?”

I stare stupidly while my brain twirls like a little girl in a new dress. 
Listen, this was not my idea! Going up to the rodeo grounds to hunt up some perfect strangers crossing the United States in a covered wagon, and offering them a random box of fruit? They are probably both allergic to pears. Where are you when I need you, Rosemary? This was your idea after all. And the box isn’t even from me! So I’m supposed to go up to them (whoever they are!) and say: hey, Rosemary told someone else about you, and they decided to send you this, which I brought? Wow. Oh, and by the way, I’m Seán. 

The girl at the gas station is still staring at my quizzically. (little wonder why.)
“Oh, uhhh... No, no. I had some things to drop off for her to handle, but I’ll just take them myself.”

Um. Hello? Did I just say that? 

I jump back into the van and put it in drive. Of course the moment I do, things don’t seem so daunting. Until, that is, I am actually putting the van in park beside said covered wagon way out at the rodeo grounds. Then once again that voice inside me (which I despise) demands: So here you are. ...and just what do you plan on saying? 

I don’t know. I shoot back. (Maybe even out loud.)
And I shut the driver door behind me.  

20 minutes later, my new friend and I are still learning against the hood of my van in animated discussion. His wife had long since hauled the box of peaches and pears into the back of the covered wagon, and is seated in the lawn chair under the juniper tree on her second or third piece of fruit. We on the hood are somewhere halfway through our life stories, when I mention I was born in Chicago... 

“Ahh, I knew you weren’t from around here.”

I looked down at myself. Red Izod sweater with sleeves pushed up, a watch that’s definitely not the cowboy edition, dark blue denim, dotted dress socks and casual leather shoes I brought home from Germany... But what do you wear every day? I was just going to the Post Office. 
He launches back into the tale of taxi cabs in Daytona. 

45 minutes. I finally decide I’d better go. (I was in a huge hurry, remember?)
I’m ready to bid my new friends farewell, but he wonders if I’ll be back. I ask what he needs, and he gestures towards the gas can that supplies their little generator. Of course I’d be happy to take him into town to get some. His one leg and crutches won’t get him and a gas can there and back any too easily. (Never heard if he lost the other one while on US Navy's SEAL team 6 thirty years ago, or thereafter.) He’s hunting for spare change in the back of the covered wagon.

So it is that I return to the gas station 45 minutes later. 
He follows me in. 

“Hey Sheena, we want 10 dollars on pump 3.”
Poor girl. There she is looking at me quizzically again. But I’m having a scattered day. 
(No Nebblett every pre-pays at that gas station. If we don’t use a card, whoever is in the office recognizes any Nebblett-mobile at a glance, and the pump turns on.)

I dismiss the need for his change. He counters, but I tell him it’s my joy. 
He puts the fuel into his can, and I return alone to pay.

“Do you take AMEX, or only VISA.”
“AMEX. American Express. Do you take it?”
“Oh, yeah. Of course.” 

That quizzical look again.
“87829, right?”

Why did she ask me that?
Suddenly it dawns on me. 
She hands me back my card. I tap it on the table. 

“Uhh, I guess I could have done that out there, couldn’t I?” 
Quizzical look, this time accompanied by a suppressed smile.

“Uh huh.” 

Now I tip my head back and laugh. She laughs too. When we recover, she asks: 

“So what’s he doing with you?

I glance out the window at the stranger with the graying beard, wearing a tattered sleeveless t-shirt and one-legged jeans, in animated conversation with her mechanic-dad working on a car out in the parking lot. 
And then back at Sheena--

“Oh, he’s my friend.

-   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -

20 minute later, and finally heading back towards home, I realize:
I almost missed that one, you know. But for Tia’s box of fruit, and Rosemary’s trip to “town.” (Albuquerque) 
And still, I could have missed it... 

Because of selfishness. 
Because I didn't want to look dumb.
I’m so, so ashamed.

You can’t reckon joy in minutes or dollars.
Joy comes from sharing life. 
Life temporal, and life eternal.

Tell me, of what use is life that’s not shared? 

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