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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Your Regular Scheduled Program Will Not Be Aired Tonight . . .

So that I can bring you these few thoughts.

It has come to my attention in the week since I last included an entry on this lil blog o' mine that my "teaser" could be widely mis-interpreted to mean various and sundry things-- none of which it, indeed, did mean.

In the interim, my enthusiasm in reporting on the grace which was given me on my trip back to Lubbock has diminished . . . so I will only give a "Cliffs-Notes" reporting of those events for those who may be curious.

About an hour west of Fort Worth my car began to overheat. Noticing this, and not wanting to wait until it had begun to steam and boil, I pulled over at a picnic area and popped the hood to let it cool.

It was my belief that the thermostat had closed up and was no longer allowing the antifreeze to flow so I thought I would see how far I could make it before being forced to do a quick repair job in a parking lot somewhere of removing the thermostat and continuing without on to Lubbock without the worthless piece of metal.

After an hour and a half of conferring with family by cell phone and sitting in the heat that is Nowhere, Texas . . . I found myself needing to lay in the shade due to the heat and dehydration.

Once again on the road, I stopped in Eastland (I believe) to pick up a gallon of antifreeze and some silicone should I need to replace the thermostat on the side of the road.

It was but 15 minutes later we began to hear a whine from under the engine, the temperature of the engine dropped dramatically and then the battery light came on and I lost power steering. I quickly veered off the road onto an exit which was nothing but a glorified dirt road.

For those of you unfamiliar with Texas, it is a widely-varied landscape and most of Texas is not as depicted in the cartoons I would watch as a kid showing deserts, tumbling tumble-weeds, scorpions, dirt and more dirt. However, this is exactly where I happened to stop.

Lifting the hood I found that they belt had broke, destroying the water-pump in its wake.

In the course of the next 2 hours I sat over a hot, utterly useless engine in 105 degree heat . . . I was visited by a scorpion and a very, very large bull which, it seemed, had come to peer into my engine only to lament that, yes siree, I was screwed. But, I saw no other passers-by-- unfortunately-- as the exit I had taken dropped the car well below the sightline of those on the highway.

What I did not realize was there was another stranded motorist a few hundred yards behind where I had stopped. She was a young mother with a flat tire heading from Ft. Worth to Abilene, just 30 miles beyond. She had called her husband who eventually made it out to her and changed her tire.

Now this was getting on near evening, on a Sunday, the day before the 4th of July. It was obvious the young couple (who had a very hot and tired child with them now) had no planned on the delay which had occurred because of her car . . . but that did not stop them from stopping to ask me if I needed help.

Indeed, I could not refuse . . . though I felt terribly guilty at his generosity. Who was I to have him stop and help? What had I done to deserve it?

I was trying desperately to get ahold of the a State Trooper who could call me a wrecker so that I might beg, borrow or steal to pay the $100 (or more) he would charge to tow us into Abilene. Instead, this stranger hooked a chain onto the bumper of my clunker and towed me at 65 mph the next 30 miles to Abilene with only 7 feet separating us-- a venture that was extremely dangerous to us both.

And upon arriving in Abilene, when I attempted to offer him what cash I had to compensate for his gas and trouble . . . he held up his hand, smiled and said, "no, I insist, hold on to that. It looks like you'll need it." After leaving us at a deserted Ford dealership, he several times asked if I would be alright and then handed me a business card (he has a mobile pressure wash business) and told me to call him if I needed anything. (And he did stress "anything").

On the way I had remembered an old Preacher friend of mine had just moved up near Abilene to preach with the Merkel church of Christ. I called him just before evening services were beginning and he put me on the phone with a Deacon at the church.

By 7:30 this Deacon arrived in a van to pick the whole vagabond lot of us up (pets included) and luggage and looked at the car. Surmising a new thermostat, new hose, new belt and new waterpump out to get us going again, he decided he would call someone to pick up the car and have it towed the next 15 miles to his house.

After picking up the needed parts at an Autozone, he took us to Merkel and, at the expense of the church, checked us into a motel and provided us with a nice meal and lots of iced-tea. Even though I had spent the first part of the weekend holed up in a 4-star hotel . . . there was nothing sweeter than the whine of that window-unit and the feel of that old mattress as I went to sleep in my own bed watching "Tommy Boy" that night in that small motorist's inn.

The next morning we commenced working on the car. Though he anticipated it would only be an hour, maybe two, of work . . . we began at about 10 and after a break for a nice lunch with his family and two more trips in to Autozone . . . we finished at 4:15pm.

His family had given up their whole backyard-barbeque, hanging out with the neighbors, eating watermelon and drinking lemonade Fourth of July Holiday . . . so that he could help me repair my car.

By the way, I had never met this man before Sunday evening when he arrived to pick us up. By Monday afternoon, he'd made a friend for life.

As I got into the car Monday evening to head home, he made sure I had his number and assured me that should I have anymore trouble between Merkel and Lubbock, to give him a call. He would drive however far to make sure we got home that night.

Those are the people I have forgotten about after a year in Law School and now three years out from the ministry. Its a shame, it seems the only Christians I remember from my days as a minister are those who wear it in name only . . . and who helped me make my decision to leave.

I don't remember people like him, or the guy who stopped and towed me into Abilene . . . but now that I've had time to think back on it, they did make up the silent majority of those people I sat next to/taught/preached to/sang with each Sunday.

But they were silent. And they are so easily forgotten. I am so glad I have been reminded.

So for any who may have read more into what I was to say in this much-delayed entry . . . that's for you to contemplate on your own.

As for me, though I know this is no Cliff's-Notes version after all, all I really wanted to say is . . . after so long an absence in my life-- it seems-- last weekend I saw God.


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