Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Visit From the Priest – V

I headed to Pittsfield in our Ford Ranger via the Hinsdale Flats, putting the truck into 3rd gear as I crossed the bridge over the railroad – wanting to stay clear of the Hinsdale constabulary.

When I pulled into the parking deck of Berkshire Medical Center I was thankful to see an  empty space in the clergy parking area, otherwise I would have had to have likely driven to the top of the parking deck to find a space. Upon entering the hospital I obtained Jean Claude’s room number from the information desk and proceeded to his room. Jean Claude was in a double room, in a bed over by the window; the other bed was vacant.

“Jean Claude?”


“I’m Dave Jenkins’s pastor. I heard you weren’t feeling too well and thought I’d come see you.”

We chatted for about 15 minutes, after which I laid my hands on him and prayed and then headed back to Becket.

Now it takes about 30 minutes or so to get from the Berkshire Medical Center to my office in Becket. I didn’t go via Hinsdale Flats but over Washington Mountain Road – I seldom returned from Pittsfield the same way I came – it made the drive a bit more interesting.

When I left Jean Claude I was thinking that I was glad I made the trip to see him. Hopefully I could build a relational bridge with him and his family, hopefully I could share the love and grace of Christ with him, hopefully I’d get to know him in the months and years ahead. That’s what I was thinking – I was glad I’d made the visit.

It’s funny the way different people can have different views of the same event – I was glad I’d seen Jean Claude – but little did I know that Jean Claude wasn’t glad that he’d seen me; in fact Jean Claude was pretty upset – so upset that he got on the phone and called Dave Jenkins.

“Dave,” Jean Claude said, “your priest was just here to visit me.”

“Yeah, he said he was going to see you,” Dave replied.

“I must be worse off than the doctors are telling me. I must be going to die.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, your priest came to see me.”

“What’s that got to do with you dying Jean Claude?”

“He must have come to give me Last Rites. Priests only come to see you in the hospital when you are going to die. The doctors aren’t telling me the truth about my condition.”

Jean Claude was Catholic. Of course you and I know that Roman Catholic priests make hospital visits just like Protestant ministers, you don’t have to be near death to warrant a hospital visit – but Jean Claude, not being what you’d call a regular communicant, didn’t know that. So when I introduced myself as Dave’s pastor Jean Claude figured that I had come because he was going to die.

Dave explained to Jean Claude that as far as he knew Jean Claude wasn’t at death’s door and thereby granted the sick man some relief – the thing is that the whole story is bittersweet. There is an element that is humorous – Jean Claude thought I was there because he was so sick that he was going to die and that, of course, wasn’t the case at all. Or was it?

You see the death rate in our nation is 100%, and all the taxes we pay and all the medical research we do and all the drugs we take can’t make a dent in that statistic. Yet, most of us live like we are either the exception to the rule or that we actually think that death is the end of existence; and so we live however we want without regard to the possibility that this life is a segment of our existence with eternal consequences.

I did indeed visit Jean Claude because he is going to die. Everyone I visit, whether in the hospital or at home or in the coffee shop, I visit because they are going to die. The friendships I have I have because my friends and I are gong to die – and that means that I view my friendships not as transitory utilitarian experiences, but rather as relationships that will continue into eternity. To be sure I have friendships and other relationships in which the other person does not know Christ, and this means that the person does not have the life of the eternal New Creation in Christ living in him or her – but it is always my hope and prayer that the other person will come to know Jesus Christ, just as one day over 40 years ago I came to know Christ through Howard Wall, a coworker who developed a relationship with me that led to a relationship with Christ.

The bitter part of Jean Claude’s story is that later on he would demonstrate overt opposition to the Gospel – of course the last chapter of his life has not been written and if Christ can bring me out of the cesspool He can certainly draw Jean Claude to Himself. (In case you are wondering – Jean Claude is not this man’s real name, and other elements of the story have been changed as well for purposes of confidentiality.)

Well now, since the dead rate is 100%, how shall we live today?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Visit From the Priest – IV

Johnny Jenkins was helping install new wood siding on the Guild Hall during a church workday one Saturday. Johnny reached into his nail pouch, pulled out a nail, and as he held it against the siding with one hand, preparing to hit it with the hammer in the other hand, he noticed that he had the head of the nail up against the siding and the pointed end toward himself.

“Oh look,” he said, “the point of the nail is facing south when the siding is toward the north. I’ve got the wrong kind of nail for this side of the Guild Hall.”

With that he walked to the north side of the Guild Hall, all the while holding the nail so that the pointed end continued to face south, and when he got to the other side of the building he said, “Now that’s better. Now the pointed end is up against the siding and the head of the nail can be properly hit.” Such was the way Johnny Jenkins was, and therefore it should come as no surprise to you that one day Johnny Jenkins drove two cars across Washington Mountain Road.

This came about when Johnny was sitting at the lunch counter at the Becket General Store reading the weekly advertiser. His eyes fell upon an old Nash Rambler for sale over in south Pittsfield. As a matter of fact, the person who had it for sale lived at the base of Washington Mountain. At the time Johnny’s friend Benny Hastings was also in The General, and so Johnny said, “Benny, how about going with me to Pittsfield to look at this Nash Rambler? If I buy it I’ll need someone to help me get it home.”

Well, Benny said he was too busy and couldn’t spare the time. Now it so happened that there were a couple of other men in the store who Johnny also asked to go with him to Pittsfield, but they turned him down too. So off Johnny went to Pittsfield by himself to inspect the Rambler.

Since the Rambler was to Johnny’s liking he bought it right then and there. And then, I might ask you, what did Johnny do? Now you and I would have gone back to Becket and made arrangements for someone to go back to Pittsfield with us to retrieve the vehicle, but not Johnny. After all, he had asked three friends to give him a hand and they had all turned him down.

So Johnny got in his car and drove it a quarter mile or so, got out and walked back to his Rambler and drove it about a quarter mile beyond his car; parked and walked back to his car and then drove it a quarter mile or so beyond the Rambler; parked it and walked back to the Rambler and drove it a quarter mile or so beyond his car…and you get the idea. A quarter mile here, a half mile there, and so forth and so on, up Washington Mountain Road and across Washington Mountain, and then down Washington Mountain Road into Becket, somewhere around 4:30 AM. He parked both cars in the parking lot of Becket General and slept the rest of the night in the Rambler. Since his wife was out of town visiting relatives no one missed the old boy that night, expect maybe his hound dog.

Well, I think we need to get back to Jean Claude in the hospital up in Pittsfield, but as you’ve probably noticed I’ve run out of time today…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Visit From the Priest – III

As I mentioned, Washington Mountain Road had its own adventure – it is called “driving”. Prior to its repaving, the asphalt on the road was in such poor condition that to drive in either the northbound or southbound lane was to invite vehicular destruction at worst, and a trip to the garage for a front-end alignment at best. I often thought that someone should open an alignment shop at each end of the mountain, as well as a chiropractic clinic – perhaps driver and car could be straightened out at the same time for a special combination price?

The only way to avoid the bone-wracking car-rattling ride when traversing Washington Mountain Road was to do the only sane thing – drive in the middle, straddling the center. The good news was that there was little traffic on the road; the bad news was that there was occasionally traffic on the road coming from the opposite direction. That in itself would provide for an interesting ride, but what heightened the experience was speed and topography. The road was undulating, it was, after all, a mountain; this meant that one’s line-of-sight was often limited. And as to speed, well, just let me say that the tendency of motorists when on a sparsely traveled stretch of road is to push the accelerator down just a wee bit more than they would normally. I hasten to point out that I speak not from personal experience, but from observation and from listening to others.

Therefore, a central question in a driver’s mind when identifying a bogey at 12:00 o’clock on the radar screen was, “When will he get off the center of the road? When will I choose to get off the center of the road?”

Now if the bogey moves into his lane first, it is, after all, only decent etiquette to do likewise. After all, to remain in the center lane long after the oncoming vehicle has pulled into its assigned lane is discourteous – plus the reality is that if you don’t move into your lane, like an idiot you’re going to hit the oncoming car. So most folks do the decent thing and move over upon recognition of the other car.

There is always, it seems, the exception to the rule, that driver who has watched too many James Dean movies and wants to play “chicken.” You can’t really do much about that driver, just remain in your lane and hope that he stayed awake long enough in science class to know that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time without some rather interesting things happening – none of which are good.

Depending on where you are in Pittsfield you might be inclined to choose Washington Mountain Road to return to Becket as opposed to Route 8, it can be quicker. The weather is also a factor for the wind and rain and snow can whip across Washington Mountain reducing visibility, eliminating traction, and serving up a ride worthy of Bush Gardens or Disney World. After one particularly harrowing drive in the snow I swore off the road in snow and ice. That particular time I was heading home from Pittsfield and it had been snowing for only a few minutes and I thought I could make it. The ascent from north to south is steep with a number of curves, thereby reducing traction at every turn – I had my doubts whether I’d get to the top for the  snow accumulation was rapid, traction was all but nonexistent, and I could hardly see – and while one side of the road is fairly tight against the mountain, the other side has a drop off that I’m sure more than one driver has experienced.

I have found such rides to encourage my prayer life dramatically, kind of like those booster rockets hitched to the Space Shuttle. (Sometime I may relate our drive over Beartooth Pass in the snow while heading into Yellowstone – that was the mother of all Space Shuttle prayer-boosters.)

When most folks drive over Washington Mountain Road they only drive one car, there was once, however, a man who drove two cars – let’s save that one for next time…oh…I wonder how Jean Claude is doing?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Visit From The Priest – II

Now as to Hinsdale Flats; if you don’t know what a “flat” is when you move to the Berkshires you soon figure it out, why even my cousin Clovis who spent a good measure of his life in the 5th grade could figure it out – it is purely and simply any stretch of road that is flat. Flat road is something, unlike in Iowa where Vickie is from, that you notice in the Berkshires, for just about everything is vertical.

In the section of Becket where we lived there was no gas station (Becket being a township of 40 some square miles). Once a neighbor ran out of gas in Becket and coasted 7 miles down Route 20 to the town of Chester to get gas – now that is vertical – wouldn’t you say? He was fortunate in this trip in that the Chester gas station, which did not have regular hours, happened to be open. Otherwise the neighbor would have had to shoot for Huntington, farther down Route 20.

How did we get to Huntington? That’s south, Pittsfield is north, and to get to Pittsfield from Becket you’ve got three choices, one is via Washington Mountain Road, another is to veer off just before you cross the railroad bridge into Hinsdale via the flats, and the third is right through Hinsdale on the Hinsdale Flats. While you are on “flats” prior to the aforementioned veer-off, the Flats continue on the other side of the bridge and it is that section of the flats where you want to be cautious – for lurking there like a predator appearing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is the infamous Hinsdale constabulary with radar.

Now please understand, this is not an endorsement of exceeding the speed limit, nor of speeding; which I guess are the same things. Kind of like when  on Monday you want to refer to Wednesday; you can say, “Two days from today,” or, “The day after Tuesday,” or, “The day before Thursday,” or I suppose you could just say, “Wednesday.”

The thing about the Hinsdale Flats is that the speed limit drops from 55 to 35 with NO NOTICE.  Makes you wonder if the town fathers of Hinsdale did that on purpose; what do you think?

When I drove our 5-speed Ford Ranger pickup through Hinsdale I would automatically lock it in 3rd gear as I approached the drop-off from 55 to 35 MPH, then I’d remain in 3rd gear through the town of Hinsdale.

Folks who contested speeding tickets in Berkshire County had to go before the Magistrate in Pittsfield to plead their case. One morning the first three offenders had all been nabbed on the Hinsdale Flats. After the third motorist protested his innocence – for the Hinsdale constabulary were said to be rather liberal in their reading of the radar gun – the magistrate looked up and asked how many others there had a ticket from the Hinsdale Flats. When virtually everyone raised their hand the Magistrate dismissed all their cases – he’d had enough of the Hinsdale constabulary that particular morning.

Washington Mountain Road was another adventure, but not in the same way as the Hinsdale Flats. There was no radar on Washington Mountain Road for there were no shoulders and only the occasional driveway, on the south section, where a law enforcement office might pull over and drink his coffee with one eye on the radar gun. On the north section there were no pullovers, no driveways, and sometimes not much road; at least not much road until Washington Mountain Road was repaved.

Vickie once had the pleasure of a moose traveling with her on Washington Mountain Road. As she was motoring along its crest out from the woods comes a moose and lopes alongside the Jeep. Since moose are so tall and our Jeep didn’t have a sunroof the moose didn’t have much eyeball to eyeball contact with Vickie, though it did bend its great head down a time or two to peer into the passenger-side window.

This particular moose wore a radio collar, not because it was into XM Radio, but because it had been in the town of Lee a few days earlier and had been apprehended by the Mass game warden, tranquilized, fitted with a radio collar, and transported up on Washington Mountain. I wonder what would happen if you put aluminum foil on a moose’s antlers, would it increase its ability to receive signals?

Now I suppose I should mention that on the north descent of Washington Mountain Road, a twisting and turning proposition, it was not unusual to find a Pittsfield cop nestled at the bottom of the mountain where there was a flat, a straightaway. The natural tendency for the motorist, after negotiating Washington Mountain Road and its twisting descent, is to increase his speed upon arriving at the flat stretch of road. It’s like what happens when there is a backup on an Interstate, the tendency among many folks is to go a bit faster than the speed limit after exiting the backup. Now I write these things not because I do them, but only from observation. Speaking of observation, I observe that I need to wrap this up – we still need to get back to Jean Claude don’t we?

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Visit From The Priest

Did I ever tell you about my first hospital visit in Becket, MA? I went to see Jean Claude up in Pittsfield at Berkshire Medical Center. (Jean Claude is not his real name, but he is from French – Canadian extraction).

One of my parishioners, who worked for Jean Claude, mentioned to me that the big guy had come down with Lyme disease. Trouble was that it hadn’t been diagnosed early and that Jean Claude was sick, really sick. So sick he was hospitalized. He had dropped a lot of weight, his breathing was labored, his strength had taken a vacation – the big man was sick. He was  a big man, could have been a lumberjack, as it was he was a stone mason.

Now I am all for hospital visits by pastors. Some pastors are so concerned about efficiency that they don’t do hospital visits – they delegate. What’s the deal with that? I mean, they don’t do any hospital visits. I can see spreading the responsibility for a number of reasons, but to not do any hospital visits – I don’t know about that.

Hospital visits help pastors practice the presence of God, and hospital visits and funerals, as well  as sudden tragedies, (hopefully) throw a pastor totally upon Christ in terms of “what do I do and how do I do it?” Only a pastoral fool is sure of himself in a hospital visit, or in working with a family in dealing with death, or walking with a family or community through a tragedy.

So a pastor who avoids hospital visits avoids needed doses of humility. He also avoids practicing the presence of Christ in the midst of his parishioners for their blessing. There is seldom much, if anything, you can say during a hospital visit – but you can be the Presence of God, the Presence of the Holy Trinity, in the midst of pain and uncertainty. The only thing you can really do is to pray with people, and of course love them, but beyond that you can’t perform and you can’t produce – you aren’t “on stage” like on Sunday morning – oh yes, and your audience is small. Sorry, no lights, no cameras, no folks waiting in line after the service to tell you what a great job you did (even though they can’t exactly tell you why they’re saying that if you ask them). Nope, none of that, just you in a little hospital room with one or two sick folks and maybe another visitor or two. Only God is watching you – not much of an audience I guess.

I think somewhere Christ talked about folks who visit those who are sick, feed the hungry, and visit the prisoners; I think He talks about His delight in women and men who do those things. I don’t recall Him specifically saying that He gets a charge out of preachers putting on a good show on Sunday morning. (I’m not against good preaching, don’t get me wrong, but I will say that I believe that all good congregational preaching should be born of parish ministry – but hey, that’s just me, and for all we know I’m one of the guys who might have purchased an Edsel).

So anyway, I let folks know that I’ll visit anyone in the hospital, they don’t need to be part of my congregation, they don’t need to be anything as a matter of fact, other than sick, for me to  visit them in the hospital. So when my parishioner, Dave (not his real name) told me about Jean Claude I got in the car and drove the 40 miles or so to Pittsfield, being careful when driving across the Hinsdale Flats.

Did I ever tell you about the Hinsdale Flats? Oh – I see I’ve got to go – I’ll be back…oh yeah, remind me to tell you about the Hinsdale Flats.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Library Memories

The pictures are gentrified, a warning that what was is usually not what is. Nevertheless, sometimes, like an archeologist, your mind’s eye can recapture shadows of what was. I think gentrification is attractive to those who didn’t grow up in an area, but to those who did it can be bittersweet or downright repulsive. Memories can be like comfort food; while visits to the actual places from whence memories flow can be like coming home only to find your family doesn’t live there anymore.

I post the pictures of my childhood library – but the memories are better.

It was place in a quiet neighborhood under a canopy of majestic old trees, with trunks as grand as the Empire State Building and with roots broad and twisting like a Los Angeles expressway with multiple cloverleafs. I used to bring my toy cars and use those roots for highways so I know whereof I speak.

And just as a Fifth Avenue high-rise, those trees had their tenants – squirrels, scurrying up and down trunks and limbs and from branch to branch; you might think they were related to the bee family and that ensconced in one of those palatial trees there lived Her Royal Highness, The Queen of Squirrels, served by these her frenzied vassals.

It was a place of tranquility. Not just inside the library, but outside as well. It was as if there was always snow on the ground in the woodland with a hush and stillness, why even the squirrels moved with a lightness so as not to disturb the peace. Their mothers no doubt instructed them that they lived in Libraryland and must therefore be good and quiet little squirrels. No doubt the creatures could read; entering the library at night for bedtime stories.

From the pictures perhaps some (most?) of the grand old trees are no more – Ents no longer, alas Mr. Tolkien.

The Noyes Library in Kensington, MD. was my first library and my first love. Going to the library was like going to church, it was a place of reverence, for my mother taught me to reverence and honor books, and history, and learning. In comparison to church the library was much to be preferred, not that I was opposed to church, it’s just that I couldn’t take church home and cuddle up with it, but I could do that with a book. I could go places with a book, I could travel in time and space and experience history and people and adventure – with church, well, what can you really say about Jesus on a Flannel-Graph? Kind of weak isn’t it?

The floorboards of the library were old, much like the floor boards of the Kensington General Store. Old, and wise, and welcoming were those floorboards. They were grandfather and grandmother floorboards, not linoleum or tile or carpet – good old wood from a good old time when the men who installed them were more concerned about workmanship than glitz and glitter.

Perhaps the library represented a respite from the uncertainties of home life? Perhaps it represented security? Maybe it was an escape into a realm where the only limits were my vocabulary and imagination and comprehension? Whatever it was, it was a place I retire to now and again, beneath those grand old trees in that quiet neighborhood, among the squirrels, and within the sheltering confines of my first and best-loved library – Noyes Library of Kensington, MD.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Take a Galvanized Tub, Add Water And Prayer - IV

I think the day of the Pool of Bethesda Service was a good day for Jesus. Not that I really know whether Jesus has good days and bad days, but since He is fully man, that is fully human, as well as fully God, perhaps some days are better than others for Him.

I think when old Linwood was contemplating the Pool of Bethesda in John Chapter 5 that Jesus had pleasure – I think when Linwood’s thoughts were drawn to Jesus in Jerusalem that Jesus enjoyed it. And I’m pretty sure that as Linwood contemplated serving the people of his little church the way Jesus served the people when He walked this earth that it evoked pleasure in Jesus Christ.

You see, I think Jesus loves it when He sees faith in people. He loved it when He walked this earth in flesh and blood, and He loves it as He walks among us today.  Why I think when Jesus saw Linwood’s thoughts directed to that old galvanized tub that Jesus was amused; not amused in the sense of being judgmental, not amused in the sense of thinking Linwood’s contemplated actions childish, but amused with a twinkle in His eye – amused with joy and merriment. I think that Jesus smiled as He saw Linwood wash that old tub out and clean it, and I happen to think that as Jesus saw Linwood filling that tub with water that He was thinking, “I’m going to bless those children of my Father tonight in that tub, I’m going to bless my brothers and sisters, this is going to be fun – I haven’t had a Pool of Bethesda Service for 2,000 years.”

Now I’ve seen gimmicks and Linwood’s tub was no gimmick, as far as I know he never had another Pool of Bethesda service. That night he used that tub and that water to evoke Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda within his little church – and that little church took off its shoes and socks and responded – and do you know who else responded? Jesus responded. Jesus was right there in that water with those folks laying His hands on them just as sure as Linwood was placing his own hands on that little flock; Jesus saw a shepherd after His own heart.

Sometimes I wonder if we don’t over intellectualize the Good News of Jesus. I’m certain that if Linwood were to appear at my old seminary with his tub in front of the seminary chapel that he’d have few people, if any, take their shoes and socks off and come forward to step in that tub to be prayed for. Linwood’s appearance would be a thing of beauty for Christ and the angels because I believe Linwood would be unaffected by the atmosphere of academia. The sadness would be in the reaction he’d receive. Sadder yet, I’d likely be in the back row, hiding behind some really tall people so that Linwood wouldn’t recognize me and call out, “Brother Bob, it’s you! Come on down and let’s show these folks what this is all about!” Yep, sad to say, I’d be hoping that Linwood wouldn’t recognize me.

Too much pride, too much self-consciousness. Linwood would be on campus as a man; I’d be there as an adolescent worrying about what people think. I’m sure glad Jesus didn’t worry about what people thought as He touched the lepers and other unclean folks; I’m glad Jesus didn’t care what people would think when He called me to Himself and washed me, and as He keeps washing me…and I sure am glad that I was honored, in a little country church, decades ago, to be a witness to how God could use an old galvanized tub, water from a country well, and a pastor with a heart for people, in a 20th century version of the Pool of Bethesda, right out of John Chapter 5.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Take A Galvanized Tub, Add Water And Prayer – III

As I mentioned, my Dad managed a Safeway store in Bethesda, MD and my Aunt Virginia lived down the street from the store – but there was no pool in this particular Bethesda – oh I imagine there were swimming pools, but I’m not aware of any of them manifesting healing properties.

My Aunt Virginia had her eccentricities, which might make the outside observer think we are related by blood, but of course that is not the case. I remember once, when the price of sugar was shooting sky high and the media was speculating (What else does the media do? It doesn’t report the news as a rule.) about its continued price increase and a probable scarcity of sugar, that she purchased quite the quantity of soda pop – I mean cases and cases. When I asked her why, she responded that she figured its price would go up as a result of the sugar situation and that she’d resell it at a profit. Now the thing is, if I were to say that you’d think I was messing with you; but I don’t think Aunt Virginia was kidding.

Anyway, Bethesda, MD was not the Bethesda mentioned in John Chapter 5 and it was not the one preacher Linwood had in mind when he filled his galvanized tub with water.

As Linwood warmed to his preaching I wondered about that tub up front in the church. I have to admit that while I saw the tub and saw the water in it that the thought, “Pool of Bethesda”, never occurred to me. But then his message moved over to John Chapter 5 and he started in on the mov’n of the waters.

“Oh, don’t you see those folks a-lying about that pool, and a’wait’n for the angel to come and stir those there waters? Can’t you feel their expectation? Some of them have a-been lying there for nigh up to 20, 30, maybe even 40 years – a ly’n and a-wait’n – and know’n that only one of ‘em would be healed the next time the waters be troubled.”

“But with Jesus there ain’t none of that scarcity of heal’n ‘cause thar ain’t no scarcity of love and compass’n. Nah my brother and NO! my sister – if you are here tonight and you need a touch from Jesus it ain’t “first come first served” it is - “all who come will be served!”

“And that’s what this here tub is a-do’n here right now, in this place, on this night. It’s a-here for all of you, it’s a-here for all of us. If you’un needs a touch from God tonight, I’m asking you to come, to come with you shoes off, to come with your socks off, to come with your pride off – to come and stand here in this tub and in this water – and we’re go’n believe that Jesus – not some angel – but that Jesus – will be here with us tonight in what I’m a-calling, “A Pool of Bethesda Service.” You all come and I’m gon’a pray for ya, and I’m asking Brother Bob to come and pray for you with me.”

Well – as I recall – the line formed down the aisle and one after another folks stepped into that tub filled with country water, and Linwood and I placed our hands on the folks, one by one, as Linwood’s wife, Gloria, banged out hymns on her electronic keyboard – they came, they stepped in the water, and we all prayed and worshipped and loved one another in Christ – believing indeed that Jesus was there with us – and of course Jesus was there – not just for the first one, but also for the last one, because with Jesus is isn’t, “First Come First Served”, with Jesus it’s, “All who come will be served.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Take A Galvanized Tub, Add Water And Prayer – II

So one night out in a little country church in a little country town (the town used to be a bigger town when the railroad stopped there to change crews, it had a YMCA that catered to railroad men, gave ‘em a place to stay and decent food, and the “Y” received funds from the RR for operations – a sweet deal all the way around), one night good old Linwood – the preacher – got to think’n ‘bout that old boy in John Chapter 5 and the mov’n of the warter (no, that’s not a typo, I did say “warter” – same as I say “Warshington”) and then he got to think’n ‘bout what that must have been like – an angel coming down and stirring up that water.

And then I guess old Linwood got to think'n ‘bout his people in that thar church and how they were need’n stir’n up – and then he set to think’n ‘bout how to stir ‘em up.

Well now, eventually his mind set on an old galvanized tub out in his tool shed – that’s the way I envision it anyhow – and even though before he got religion he’d used that old tub for making the recipe, and even though since he got religion he’d used it to dip his old hounds – well – he got to think’n that maybe he could use it to stir folks up – maybe he could have a pool of Bethesda service.

So that night – it was a Thursday as I recall – he carried that old tub in the church and put it right up front, in front of the pulpit, in front of the old altar rail – and then he filled it with water. My what must have been going through Linwood’s mind as he filled that thar tub – what had once been filled with the recipe, what had once been filled with flea and tick dip, was now being filled with water for a pool of Bethesda service.

Now let me hasten to add that Linwood filled that tub with good old country water – none of that fancy flavored water that I know some of y’all drink, none of that bottled type water that Food Lion sells (rumor is that they draw it from the tap in the back of the store), no sir, no ma’am, nothing but good old country water from a good old country well went into that galvanized tub for good old country people.

Of course I didn’t know noth’n ‘bout what Linwood was fix’n to do when I thought I’d drop in and pay him and his church a visit – I didn’t know a thing about that tub, a thing about that water, and I had never seen nor heard of such a thing as a pool of Bethesda service.

Years ago my Daddy managed a Safeway store in Bethesda, Maryland. And my Aunt Virginia lived right down the street from that store, it was on Old Georgetown Road. My Aunt Virginia was married for a short piece to Uncle Cleve, one of Daddy’s brothers – that’s what made him my uncle - not the fact that Aunt Virginia married him, but the fact that he was one of my Daddy's brothers.

Once when we were all at Uncle Caskie’s, out in Loudoun County, Virginia when Loudoun County was still country and you could get country water from a country well – once Uncle Cleve was sitting on a cinder block and drinking and talking with his brothers – and me and my cousins…well…truth be told…we came up behind our Uncle Cleve and lit a firecracker inside the cinder block – you see the cinder block was set in such a way as the hollow part was facing outward – and so you could strategically place a firecracker right inside the cinder block – ah, let me tell you, it was indeed a thing of beauty. I believe the observation was that the family had never seen one of the Withers brothers sober up so quickly.

Anyway, as I was saying, my Aunt Virginia lived down the street from my Daddy’s Safeway store – oh my…it’s getting late…I guess we’ll have to continue this.