Search

The Bible, The Spirit, & Diet Mountain Dew

Faith, Life, Humor

Tag

jesus

Of Cow Patties & Grace…

DISCLAIMER:  If you have a weak stomach, are faint of heart, or have delicate sensibilities… You may want to skip this entry…

 

A few blog entries ago, I mentioned that I grew up with cows on the “farm”.  I use air quotes for “farm” there because it really wasn’t a farm in the conventional sense.  It was more like 20 acres out in the country that had a house, a good-sized yard, some farm land (that we rented out to other local farmers), & in one sliver of the overall 20 acres…  a small barn & cow pasture.  My dad maintained a small herd of 8-10 cows from as far back as I can remember until he had a heart attack in the late 90’s and could no longer maintain them.

Growing up, I could not for the life of me figure out why he even bothered.  They were A LOT of work… We’d sell one off at auction every year or so when the herd got too big, but the amount you’d receive hardly justified the effort to me.  And as the only son, that meant a lot of effort (aka… work) for ME.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I figured out that those cows for him were actually stress relief.  And he had a plenty enough stressful job.

But for me, they were just work…  And the reason I missed Saturday morning cartoons most of the time.  Or the reason I couldn’t go to a sleepover at a friend’s house.  That was as far as I could see it at the time…  I’m not at all proud of how selfish that sounds now as I type this all out…


There are certain things that have to be done in order to manage even a small herd of cows.  One of the more glamorous annual chores that fell to me once I was old enough, was the cleaning of the stable.  Our stable area wasn’t huge…  Maybe 20′ x 12′ if my memory serves.  It didn’t take much more space than that given the small number we had.  The main purpose it served was it gave us an easy place to feed them.  But it also gave them a place to stay warm in the winter or provide cool shade in the summer.  So when the cows weren’t out grazing the pasture, they inevitably ended up in the stable.

I wonder at this point if any of my readers even have a clue about how much poop 8-10 cows can produce in the course of a year…  I’ll pause here so you can try to get a visual…

smiling-cow

Let’s start with the rough dimensions…  I’ve already given you the stable dimension… 20′  x 12’… But let’s talk depth now…  As it turns out, 8-10 cows… over the course of a year or so… can generate poop that is roughly 2′ deep in a space of that size.  That’s almost 500 CUBIC FEET of cow patties my friends!…  And it was my job to remove them…

Why did it have to be removed you ask?  Wouldn’t it just biodegrade?… Au contraire mes amis…  You have to understand that there is an Imbalance in The Force at work here…  The rate of cow patty degradation is FAR LESS than the rate of cow patty production…  So if you do nothing about it, eventually your cows would trap themselves between the ceiling of the stable & the pile of manure under their hooves.  Because really, they’re not all that bright…

So how exactly does one remove 500 cubic feet of manure?…  Well, one shovel full at a time of course…

Actually that’s not true at all…  There are much greater subtleties involved than just this…

Oh sure, the fresh stuff is of a consistency that requires the use of a shovel.  But once you get beyond that top layer… to the 6, 9, or 12 month old poo… That requires a totally different approach.

You see, cow patties of this maturity have basically hardened into a substance stronger than concrete.  A shovel will do you no good in this scenario…  No, Step 1 involves breaking the substance up into manageable fragments.  For this, a Pick Axe is your weapon of choice.  There’s not much art form to it… Just grab the non-pointy end & swing it like a West Virginia Coal Miner…

coal-miner

With the poop broken down into at least basketball sized chunks, you can move on to Step 2.  Here you’ll just need a good pitch fork.  Just back your trailer up and start pitching the chunks from Point A to Point B.  Its back-breaking work, so you’ll want to pace yourself.  And LOOK OUT for the occasional immature chunk… Those sneaky bastards in the 3-6 month old range still carry some water weight with them and they will wretch your back in a heartbeat!

Once you’re done with those big chunks, you’ve reached the final step.  This is by far the easiest of the three steps as it just involves raking up the small bits into piles so they can be easily scooped up… It’s basically the same process as with leaves in the Fall… Only it smells worse… And you’re less tempted to jump in the pile & make snow angels…


“I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me…

~ Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)


Give credit where credit it is due because Layne Staley got this much right…  We’re just like the cows…  If left to our own devices, we’ll bury ourselves knee-deep in our own crap EVERY TIME… We proved it in the Garden and we’ve continued to prove it collectively on a daily basis ever since…

Christians don’t like to admit this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  I’m not really sure why, but Christian culture… which is based on the need for a Savior… drives us to act as if we really don’t.  It’s a messed up paradigm & one of my biggest daily struggles.

TRUE CONFESSION:  I do not have it all together… but I AM working at it with his help.

And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

My closest friends in this world recognize this about themselves & are vulnerable enough to admit it.  And they accept me where I’m at on this journey and we encourage each other to persevere in this race we run together.  This type of fellowship is available to everyone… but you have to be willing to let your guard down to get there…  and maybe deal with a little poop along the way…

Advertisements

Inside Jokes

Six months had gone by since I surrendered my life to Jesus and I was still struggling with so much of the “church stuff” that turned me off when I was 18.  But our church had done the Purpose Driven Life study as a congregation and it gave me some hope that hadn’t previously existed.  As the study drew to a close, one of the key points was to find somewhere to plug in & serve.

So on a Wednesday Night in April, I found myself wandering around the church campus praying to God to reveal to me where it was I was supposed to serve.  My wife had already settled into the choir.  My oldest was in the nursery.  So I’m alone, walking around, feeling like I fit in exactly NO WHERE.  After an hour or so of this, I’m started to get really agitated and I’m quickly drawing the conclusion that there’s no point to ANY of this…


24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” ~ Matthew 17

What an odd little story we have here…  Does anybody else ever have that feeling reading the bible?… No?… Just me then…

Let’s get some perspective here & see if what happens…  We know that Peter is one of Jesus’s closest peeps… He was one of the Big Three…  Peter, James, & John…  You know… Mount of Transfiguration…  Raising a girl from the dead…  Garden of Gethsemane…  At all of these pivotal moments, Jesus pulls in his closest allies…

But in this story, Peter is having a moment of doubt about his friend.  Jesus offers him an explanation without him even asking, but he knows this is something Peter will have to chew on for a bit…  So he sends him fishing…

DID YOU CATCH IT?…  He sends the FISHERMAN… FISHING… to work out his doubts.  That’s either the best or the worst Inside Joke ever!


And its not like this is the only example of Jesus enjoying a good inside joke with the boys…

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. ~ John 21

DID YOU CATCH IT?…  Jesus stands on the shore, but conceals himself from being recognized .  The boys haven’t caught a thing?…  Throw your nets on the other side?…  Remind you of anything?…  Like that other time by the lake?… Peter caught on quickly, that’s for sure…

Have you ever considered that Jesus has a sense of humor?  That may unnerve some of my readers, but seriously?… Where do you think we got it from given the whole Man in His Image thing?…


[PAUSE]  I’m no theologian…  And I certainly don’t intend to dive into anything so deep as The Trinity in this blog post…

But I have this mental image that has stuck with me ever since that night.  It’s Jesus as he turns to the Father & the Spirit with this big sheepish grin and say, “Watch this!”…


So I’m just about to give up and call it a night when I hear it.  At first, I thought maybe I was hearing things… Because there is NO WAY that I am hearing For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica coming from the Old Chapel…  There’s just so much wrong with that picture… I mean did the Southern Baptist Convention know about this?…  Was I being punked?…  Like, where is Ashton Kutcher, cause I know he’s around here somewhere?…

Nope…  Just the Youth Praise Band warming up before someone came in & made them get serious about rehearsal…  Which is actually pretty typical as Youth Praise Bands go…

And so through a love of 80’s Metal he drew me in…And launched a journey into Worship Ministry I could have never seen coming… Inside Joke indeed…

The Hazards of Dukes

On Friday Night, January 26, 1979… The Dukes of Hazard premiered on CBS as a mid-season replacement.  It went on to air 147 episodes and became the staple of CBS’s Friday Night lineup through 1985.  And it had EVERYTHING a 7 year old boy could want…

And when I say that, I’m talking WAY beyond the obvious things like the car chases, the impossible bow & arrow shots from moving vehicles, or the fact that something had to blow up every other episode.  It had a spirit of rebellion that resonates with every boy on the journey to manhood.  It was about doing the right thing, no matter what the cost seemed to be.  It was literally Good versus Evil every Friday Night.  And somehow…  impossibly… GOOD ALWAYS WON!!!…  Seriously folks, this was weighty stuff that was packed into each one hour episode………  There was also Catherine Bach…


One of the iconic events in every episode was the Duke boys jumping their 1969 Dodge Charger over some river or through some barn.  Somehow, no other car in Hazard County could figure out how to make those jumps, but the General always stuck the landing & kept on going.  Now in reality, they estimate that they destroyed somewhere close to 300 Dodge Chargers filming all those seasons of the show.  Because back in the day, there was no such thing as CGI…

But these car jumps were not the biggest thing about the show that resonated with me. When this show was in its prime, I was still years from even driving a car.  And the car I would start out driving was barely capable of jumping cracks in the asphalt.

For me, it was always about Bo & Luke, jumping out of the loft of some barn to catch the bad guys… JUST BEFORE they got away.  It didn’t happen in every show, but often enough that it became a thing.  And THIS I could relate to!…  I knew barns!…  I knew how to jump!…  I’ll pause here while everybody catches up with where this is going…


So long before my cousin & I would jam on electric guitars during family get-togethers, we found other ways to entertain ourselves.  Like playing “Dukes of Hazard” of course…  And my grandfather had a sprawling farm in central NC that provided the perfect backdrop.  Seriously.. I’m talking cows, chickens, tractors, the whole nine yards…  And of course, the centerpiece was… THE BARN…

I can’t recall what I was really thinking as I stood in the loft that day.  Probably that there were bad guys getting away & I had to do something.  I do remember looking over the ledge of the loft at the ground below only once…  Because I can still hear my own voice ringing in my head 30+ years later…  “That doesn’t look so far…”

So without much more thought than this, I jumped…  And I accelerated to the earth below at 9.8 meters/second square…  Or 32.2 feet/second square if you’re too American to embrace the Metric System.

Either way… 12 feet later I hit the ground with a THUMP…  I jumped up immediately, but I was wobbling around like Michael Spinks after 91 seconds with Mike Tyson…  I think I stumbled past my cousin and at this point attempted to form a word…

Prior to that point, I had no concept of getting the wind knocked of me… Like I didn’t even know it was a thing…  I gasped for air, tying to form words… ANY words…  If I’d been old enough to curse, those are the words I would have chosen.  But no… I had to flop around like a goldfish that jumped out of the bowl for a good 2-3 minutes before air finally returned to my lungs.

And that was when I realized that my right ankle hurt like HELL!…  But I wouldn’t have said it like that at the time, because curse words hadn’t been invented yet.  Fortunately, there was nothing broken, but it was one vicious sprain that had me hopping around 2nd grade on one foot for a month or more because I hated those crutches…


It’s a sobering moment when a boy realizes he doesn’t measure up to his heroes.  And it doesn’t matter if your hero is Bo Duke, Bruce Wayne, or Michael Jordan… Sooner or later, we all have to face the fact that we fall short of those guys in one way or another.  Sadly, some boys get stuck right there & never really grow out of it.  They never recognize that their heroes are flawed too, if not entirely fictional in the first place.  And as a result, they never ultimately find the power & strength that they do possess and that the world desperately needs.  But this is another blog post for another time perhaps…


My landing point for this post instead is this…  I’ve rarely leaped as freely as I did that day…  Whether its been relationships… or career… or my faith… The world taught me I had to be cautious in these things.  That I needed to move slowly and anticipate all the possible outcomes.  Otherwise, I might end up hurt… flopping around on the ground, gasping for air.

But that’s not how we’re called to live… We’re called by Christ to live with boldness… Not reckless, but also not fearful… And so I’ve spent the last 13 years UNLEARNING all the things my first 31 years taught me.  And so I push myself out onto the ledge more frequently now & I try to give less thought to outcomes…  And occasionally, gravity still wins…  But quite often, it does not… And the bad guys get caught!

Enter Sandman

Mercifully… Piano lessons ended and for the rest of middle & high school, my development as a musician ended with it. Unless you count those two months with the French Horn in 7th grade, but thankfully… it didn’t stick & I’ve been able to mostly block all memory of it.

The thing about all those attempts to learn an instrument boils down to this…  The music sucked!… If you’ve ever sat through an elementary school piano recital or middle school band performance, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s in no way a knock on the tiny musicians…  They’re giving it all they’ve got!…  I’m just saying that hours & hours of 10 Little Indians never really captivated me or made me want to play.  And if I didn’t want to play it, I lost interest FAST!

So what was I interested in playing?…  Somewhere along the way, I decided I was going to go counterculture musically to the world I grew up in… And in eastern North Carolina in the 80’s…  Radio stations came in three flavors: Country, Pop, & More Country. So when I discovered the Headbangers Ball on MTV, I was in love…


As far back as when Cronkite was still on the CBS news, my cousin from SC & I spent one week together every summer and it was always the highlight of my summers. We alternated houses annually, one year in NC… the next year in SC…

As we moved on into high school, he started taking Bass & Electric Guitar lessons.  He had no sooner taught me the chords to Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions and I was HOOKED!…

Only one problem…  I had no guitar  of my own.  So every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other family gathering, we’d get together & he’d show me the latest riffs he’d been learning. And I’d play for hours until my fingers hurt so bad I had to stop. Bryan Adams wasn’t kidding…


It wasn’t until my Freshman year of college that I finally bit the bullet. I saved up money all year & in the Spring of ’91, bought a blue Kramer Pacer Deluxe & a 10 watt Crate amp off of a friend of a friend.  It was a great little guitar that I completely underappreciated at the time.  And the case only smelled a little bit like marijuana…

The only real problem was the Spring semester was going to end & I had to go home for the summer…


My dad was a frugal man… People would give him clothes for Christmas… Jeans for instance… And he would store them in his closet, many times still in the gift box, until the jeans he was presently wearing developed enough holes to justify replacing.  This cycle could take up to 3 years to complete…

So the thought of bringing home a guitar & amp that I’d spent several hundred dollars on TERRIFIED me!…

I begged a friend that lived nearby to let me hide the guitar & amp at his house for the summer.  He had a great detached Rec Room at his house that we could jam in for hours without bothering anyone. But after about two weeks of this, I couldn’t stand it…

So one day while mom & dad were at work, I did EVERY chore I could think of without being asked… I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, cleaned the gutters, & fed the cows…  Yes, we had cows… I did mention the Eastern NC thing, right?  Then I laid the guitar out on my bed (which he had to walk by to get to his room)… And then I left the house as fast as I could & didn’t return until almost dark…


Not often, but every once in a while, people will surprise you… Even your parents…

I came home that evening & nothing was said about the guitar. Like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, I wandered through the house waiting for the shoe to drop. It never did… Eventually, I put the guitar in the case and went to bed.  At least the marijuana smell was mostly gone by then.


A few months later, but still the same summer, I was playing in the bedroom when dad walked through.  He stopped, looked right at me and said, “I always wanted to learn how to play guitar…”  And then he continued on through the house like nothing had happened.  We’ve never spoken about it since, which is pretty typical of our relationship…


I left one thing out earlier…  I also quit piano because I thought he didn’t approve.  Even though he’d never said anything close to these words, I believed he thought playing piano was for sissies, so I wanted nothing to do with it.

I didn’t know at the time what playing guitar would eventually mean for me.  But I do know that without his 9 words of affirmation, it could’ve turned out completely different.  So even though he’ll never read this… Thanks Dad!

ELEVEN

At age 11, there were very few things I hated more than piano lessons, but at the top of the list was Baseball…  You see, there was actually a time when I sorta liked baseball, but that had been Pee Wee League a few years prior.  But then some kid in Florida got hit in the head by a pitch & died, so of course… that was pretty much the end of my baseball career.  Or at least I thought it was…


Pause…  This will not be a blog about baseball… or age 11… or piano lessons…  And yet it WILL BE about all those things because that’s how we got here.  I’ve long held back at starting a blog, but now that I have, I like to think it’ll sort of be like Seinfeld… which was the show about nothing.  But it will also be about everything.  So now that I’ve gotten that clarifying mission statement out of the way, back to the story…


Baseball was there one day & gone the next and to be honest, I never really missed it all that much.  I think I was probably too young to even realize it was missing.  Then one day, two years later, my dad picks me up from my best friend’s house on a Saturday following a sleepover.  When I get in the truck, I noticed my old glove was on the bench of the truck.  Strange things were afoot at the Circle K my friends.

Instead of going home, we stopped at the local ball field, where apparently every other kid my age had all gathered.  Dad hands me the glove & tells me to go play… I had no clue what was actually happening.  I’m pretty sure that I convinced all the coaches that day that I was a space cadet, because they kept asking me questions about teams, positions, & tryouts and I kept telling them I wasn’t even supposed to be there… that I was just killing time while my dad talked with the other dads over under the shade trees.


I can only imagine the power struggle that must have taken place at home.  My mom had successfully won the argument for two years and there was no baseball for me.  To this day, I still don’t know if my dad actually won the argument or simply just signed me up and took me to the tryout.  In the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter.


In those two years of not playing, I went from being an average baseball player to a downright awful baseball player.  And as such, I hated almost every minute of it.  My career highlight occurred in my first game when they put me in left field and I caught a pop fly to end an inning.  I can’t tell you much about it because I tracked the ball up off the bat & looked straight into the sun.  I had no clue where that ball was, but I stuck my glove up & by divine intervention, the ball landed there.  I should’ve retired right then…

But instead, I went on to a Little League Career Batting Average of .010…  My hitting was so bad that I intentionally took pitches thrown at me just to get on base.  How’s that for cosmic irony?  Still want more?
Well my second & final year of Little League, I was “rewarded” with a spot on the All-Star Team.  Not because I suddenly became a great player in the off season…  No, I was basically rewarded for having a late birthday and being on a very, VERY bad team.  All of my friends from the prior year (mostly my school classmates) had graduated & moved up to the next level of ball.  Which left me on a team with a bunch of 9 & 10 year olds that didn’t win a game all season.  But every team in the league had to be represented on the All-Star Team, so I was rewarded for being the best player on a VERY bad team…  Something every other kid on the All-Star Team was eager to remind me of…


I gave up baseball shortly after that…  And I gave up piano lessons about the same time…  And it was probably about this age that I started to give up on God too.  I couldn’t have put words to it at that age, but I’m still pretty sure it started about then.  Fortunately, he never gave up on me…  That’s not irony … That’s just Jesus…

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑