I had no idea when I wrote the first entry in this new blog that so much time would lapse before I wrote again. I have so many ideas for things I'd like to write, directions I could go; I just don't know where the words will take us right now. Let's see, shall we? Thanks for coming along with me as far as you like . . .
Flashbacks. I mentioned in the first entry my intention for quite some time to retire the Lonesome Dove Xpress-ions blog, at least for now. It may yet have a purpose I haven't discerned. Over the three years (almost) that I wrote in that blog, some entries contained better writing than others, and some entries became my personal favorites. If you read that blog over the past years, perhaps you have entries you liked more than the ones I would choose -- I'd be interested in hearing about that if so.
What's ironic about my own favorites is that in every case that I can think of, the topic had nothing (or merely peripherally) to do with trucking.
All that is to introduce a short section containing links to my favorite entries from the past three years. Coincidentally, the first one happens to have been written on Valentine's Day two years ago.
February 14, 2008: "Valentine's Day: A Personal History" -- the loves of my life; also contains my favorite poem of all that I've ever written, "Knowing You", which I wrote exactly ten years ago today on 02/14/2000. The part of this entry which is my favorite begins at the section titled "Valentine's Day".
May 10, 2008: "Mother's Day: Three Remarkable Women" -- tributes to my Mama, my sister, Cindy, and my grandmother, Nanny. To the extent the writing is good in this entry, it only reflects the love and honor I feel for these women.
June 13, 2008: "The Hero" -- a Father's Day tribute to the most awesome man I've ever known: my Daddy. And his entry in my address book still reads, where it indicates "title": Hero.
February 15, 2009: "Four Years Later" -- a tribute to the ten years I had with my wonderful wife, Charlotte.
December 19, 2009: "The Gift" -- the last entry of that blog and the genesis for this one.
"Small Steps, Giant Leaps." The last entry of my other blog and the first entry of this new blog detail the reawakening of my faith after several years of dormancy. As I have yielded to the Lord, he has done even more during these past weeks than I could have imagined. I am amazed at his grace and mercy manifested in my life -- Father, I thank you for your faithfulness, your love, your tender mercies renewed in my life. You amaze me, you are so cool, and I love you!
Detroit, Michigan. Just after the first of the year, I was just south of Detroit, waiting on a load that wouldn't be ready until late that night. I was wanting to get to Atlanta and then Dallas as quickly as possible before eventually going up to Topeka to start driving with Terry once more. Instead of leaving that morning, as I'd planned, I was stuck until almost midnight that night. Waiting. (Waiting is something truck drivers do more than driving sometimes.) But I asked the Lord to order my steps, and believed he would, so I was able to wait in contentment and peace that his purposes were being fulfilled in the time there.
I decided to go next door to the truck stop and get some breakfast. As always, I took the book I was reading with me. It's a book by Randy Alcorn called If God Is Good, a biblical defense of the presence of suffering in face of the goodness of God, which was one of the issues the past few years that I had wrestled with as I had discarded my faith. (The book is okay at some points, but he spends one whole section of the book trashing some of the expressions of faith that I've embraced most of the past 25 years, so I was selective in my adoption of some of his conclusions. But the idea of a biblical defense of the goodness of God against the backdrop of evil in the world is a worthy one, and Alcorn mostly does his job well when he doesn't start attacking fellow believers.)
The point of mentioning it here, though, is only to say that's what I was reading when I went into the restaurant that morning to order breakfast. The server came over to bring coffee and get my order. The book was laying on the table, and I was either texting or e-mailing on my Blackberry. Not paying too much attention. After a couple of minutes, the server, a nice young lady in her early or mid-twenties, came back over. My first thought was that the food sure was ready quick. I looked up, and she very shyly said, "I don't mean to interrupt you, but could I ask you a question?"
"Sure." She had my full attention now, as did the Lord.
"What is that book you are reading?"
"Well, it's written by a Christian about how we can believe in the goodness of God even though there is so much evil and suffering in our lives and in the world in general."
"Well, I believe in God, but lately, I've begun to doubt." She went on to tell me how she had lost both her father and one brother to drug overdoses, and just over last Christmas had walked in on another brother using drugs.
"Well, I went through a time in my life the last few years of being angry at God, doubting my faith, but my faith in God and his goodness are being restored." I encouraged her to keep seeking God, to believe in his goodness, and his good intentions for her and her family. I told her I'd pray for her.
She smiled then and thanked me for encouraging her, throwing her a lifeline of hope.
When she brought my check, she had written the sweetest note on it: "Thank you for talking to me. Have a GREAT day!" Below that, she signed her name and drew a big smiley face.
Meanwhile, the Lord told me to leave that book for her. I had already read most of what was going to be useful to me anyway. So, I left the book with a note inside and my e-mail address.
A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from a friend of the young lady, who was writing for her because she didn't have access to a computer or e-mail. It testified of the work the Lord was doing in her heart -- and I was able to be a part of that just because I was (1) at peace in waiting, trusting God; and (2) because of the waiting in peace, I was available.
That's all the Lord really wants or needs from us -- our trust and availability. Yes, he's given us talents and giftings, strengths that will enhance whatever he chooses to do with us, but the important thing is our trust and availability.
Venus, Texas. Saturday, January 16. I was in Dallas in the midst of the most significant weekend of my life (much of which I will detail in days and weeks to come in this blog), and was driving down to Cleburne to visit my precious cousins, friends, and partners in ministry, Chris and Deb. I was just on the south end of Venus (and when you read this, you might think I'm talking about the planet Venus instead of the town of Venus; that's okay; think what you want) coming into Alvarado going down US highway 67, doing about 65 miles an hour, listening to some worship music and praying. Suddenly, to my right, I noticed a group of men standing along a fence line. I thought they were repairing the fence. Then I looked a little further behind them, and saw that there was a church there.
"Turn around and go back there." The Holy Spirit, a welcome and familiar voice in my heart.
"Turn around and go back there. I will show you what to do when you get back there."
So, at the very next spot to turn around, just about 500 yards up the road, I turned around, all the time thinking how crazy this seemed, how crazy those people would think I was if I walked up to them and told them God told me to come back there. "For what?" I could imagine them saying. "Uh, I don't know."
But God told me he would show me, so I shut down those vain imaginations, and told the Lord I was trusting him. There's that pattern of trust and availability again. Conventionality has never been a requirement on God's part.
So by now, I'm pulling into the church lot, putting the car in park, still waiting on God to tell me what this is all about.
Suddenly, I know I'm supposed to walk over to where those men are still standing along the fence line and confirm what they are doing. I still don't even know what they are doing, but the Lord wants me to go tell them he's confirming it. So, here I go. They are about 100 yards from me, their backs to me.
As I walk up behind them, I realize they are praying. I still can't hear clearly, but I can tell that's what they are doing. These men didn't see me pass by, turn around, or come back. And they don't know I'm walking up behind them.
Then, I'm right there, and I can hear one of the men (whom I learn from his words is the pastor of this church) praying. He's thanking God for the way he's led them up to this point, the people who have been saved, the miracles they've witnessed. And then he goes into dedicating this property to God, for his plans and purposes, and praising him for the vision he's given them for the church, and the future plans God has for them.
When he said that, I knew exactly what to do.
He said "Amen" shortly after that, and these 11 or 12 men all turn around to see me, a total stranger, standing in front of them.
I looked right at the pastor, pointed my finger at him, and said, "You don't know me, but God had me turn my car around to come back here and tell you that he is confirming what you're doing here, that he will honor you for honoring him."
Those men all started shouting and praising God. Without another word, I turned around, walked back to the car, and continued to Cleburne.
Those men still don't know who I was, or where I came from; I don't know anything about them or that church, except what God told me to tell them. But we all know the Lord sent a stranger with a word. That's all that matters.
Dallas, Texas. Sunday, January 17. My last day before leaving for Topeka. I am visiting with people I love, including Stretch and Orie, people I worked in ministry with in Dallas when I lived there in the late '80's and early '90's -- and now. That is a story for another entry.
Other people I'm visiting are some of the kids (now adults) I worked with in those days of ministry in Dallas. These kids, in particular, among the thousands I worked with, were as my own kids, and remain so to this day. They could not be more my children if my very blood flowed through their veins. So it has always been, and always will be. Now, these days, my kids have kids, so I am a grandfather by adoption. And these kids love me as much as their parents did. That's part of another story as well.
So it happened that I was visiting people I knew I proabably wouldn't see for quite a while, and I was going back over to Stretch and Orie's for church that night. One of the grandkids, Beonce (I call her "Boo"), wanted to go with me. So off we go. From where we were, Lorena's, we went over to see a dear, dear woman I've known for 25 years, who is part of this extended family, and whose own children used to be part of my ministry in Dallas. (This would be Boo's great-aunt, Carmen.)
Carmen has had some health problems over the past few years, so before we left, I knew I needed to pray for her, for healing, health, provision, and blessing on her life. As I went to lay my hands on her, the Lord told me to have Boo do the same and pray with me. So we both layed hands on Carmen and prayed.
We also went to Fort Worth to see one of my other kids, Joe. Boo and her sister Edith (whom I call "Frank" -- long, funny story to that one, but not for now) went with me there (and if you are trying to keep everyone straight, Joe is their uncle). I enjoyed a wonderful visit with Joe (as I always do), his wife, and his kids (one of whom, Jacob, when I came for a visit after being away for several years, came up to me and said, "My dad said you were like his dad, so I guess I will call you 'grandpa'" as he gave me a huge hug).
Joe had just had surgery, so before I left, I prayed for him, and just like at Carmen's, all the kids gathered around with me and layed hands on him and prayed for him.
I dropped Edith back off at her aunt's house, and Boo and I went on over to Stretch and Orie's. Boo is eight years old. On the way to Stretch and Orie's, we talked about the Lord, and I told Boo some things the Lord told me to tell her when I was praying on my way to Dallas the week before. One result of that conversation was that Boo accepted Jesus as her Savior, much as I had done when I was seven, and much the same way her own mother, Perla, had done when she was eight years old (this would have been in 1985 I think). I was there for that, too.
Here's the point of this particular story: one of the things that happened when I was in Dallas was that I was reconnected in ways I could not have imagined with God's call on my life, and his hand on my life for ministry and the calling I recognized back in 1980, when I was fourteen years old. Most of that involves Heartlight, the ministry I worked in with Stretch and Orie; but some of it involves this legacy of these kids and their kids -- 25 years ago, I led these kids to the Lord and they worked with me in ministry, just as Boo was doing that weekend.
God's work of restoration and redemption in my life, and the ways it's reconnected me with dreams, plans, and purposes of God, his call on my life, continues to amaze me. I can only lift my hands in awe and worship, thanking the Lord for his faithfulness and love. There is more about all this I will write later, but for now, it is enough.
The end is just the beginning. As I end this entry, I can say it's really only the beginning of many things in my heart even now to write. But the constraints of the clock telling me it's time to get ready to drive from here (Topeka) to Denver mean I must finish for now.
But I end with this question for you, whomever you are who is reading these words (and if you are still reading, I count you bravely done and well met): have you lost that connection with your dreams, with your faith, with God? Have you thrown away your calling, your purpose? Looking back over your life, have you thought, "It's too late for me. I could never go back to the way it was before. God can never use me again."
If that's you, I can tell you: it's not too late, you're not too far gone. I will tell you what the Lord told me that Saturday, December 19, 2009, sitting in a big orange truck at a truck stop in Greeneville, Tennessee, stuck in a snow storm: "I love you. I'm still here. I'm not through with you."
He says the same to you. "I love you. I'm still here. I'm not through with you."
Until next time . . . be blessed! Jesus is Lord! Jesus' Love Rules!
Allan the Anointed Trucker