Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beverly Ann Smith

I have two distinct memories of Beverly Ann Smith. One was where I would find her in the early morning when I woke up with a hangover at my friend Baldie's house or when I came over very early to get her two sons Baldie and Doug (now with our Lord) to go fishing or hunting. Dear Mrs. Smith would be leaning over her sink, much of the time potatoes frying or just finished frying in a pan for breakfast, smoking a Pall Mall cigarette and making sure that all smoke went out the window no matter what temperature it was outside. Whether I was inside or came in from the outside she wouldn't even look around at me just yell at me to come in after I'd knocked and scold me for waking the whole house up. I could see her little grin from the side of her face even though her gaze never left that trail that lead into the woods from beside her mailbox on the edge of that dirt road they lived on. She'd offer me an instant coffee or a hot green tea and tell me to go sit down while she brought it to me.

The other distinct memory I have of her was when we three would come to the house drunk. Her husband would be at work and we'd get the music going and singing and playing guitars and banjos, even the juice harp or a harmonica would fit - anything that made noise. We'd have bread races (see who was the fastest to eat a dry piece of white bread with nothing to wash it down) and arm wrestle and push and shove and Mrs. Smith would stay in the kitchen and fix something for us to eat or smoke a Pall Mall until we settled down into a ballad or some slow cheating song. She'd come in and sit and tell us it was her prayer that someday we'd use our music to Glorify God.

The last time I saw Bev was a couple years ago. I had written a song and was drinking a couple beers with Baldie and he told me I had to sing it to his mother. It was a fresh 6 months since her son Doug had been killed by a brick in a construction accident and the song was about how we can't always understand why God allows some people to die in their youth or in their prime. I sang it for her a capella and she shed a tear. Her prayers had been answered and the miracle of proof stood before her and sang to her Jesus' sweet song of redemption.

Bev died on Saturday morning July 28. She'd had a minor surgery 6 days earlier and was overcome by infection and lost circulation in her legs which turned black. I went to her Friday night and told her that she shined, shined like the brightest diamond to me - a kid who desperately needed someone to love him EVEN when I chose to not live within God's will. I'll never forget the smell of Pall Mall cigarettes and fried potatoes.

Saturday I dug some new red potatoes from my garden, picked some tender young summer squash (I can eat those things right off the vine by the pound), and the first half dozen of ripe sweet corn, drove a mile and a half from my dad's house and walked into that dirt-road house. The pack of Pall Malls was still on the window sill but no one was there to smoke them. I sat with Baldie and his dad. We talked of coon hounds, bear tracks, coyote races and fishing. We talked about gardening, tractors, and music. Finally I just had to tell Merle how much Bev had shined in my life. The legacy of love will continue through my six children and many other relationships that have been blossoming from a mustard seed planted in good soil here and there. I told him that she was the saltiest of salty and there was never a bush that could hide her light. A flicker of an ember of that Pall Mall reflected off that kitchen window and into my life and lives to come.

We shed some tears right there and then we smiled together while Merle talked of Jesus' love for us that will transcend our loss. His voice wavered little as he spoke of how important family is and how much it meant to him to have shared that moment of Bev's step into another life. For a moment I really wanted to smoke one of those Pall Malls but only for a moment.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Listened to Bill McKibben last night

Mr. McKibben wrote "The End of Nature" in 1989 and several other books about us, our environment, our joy, and how we live. He gave a great talk to UCSB and eloquently stated what I've had on my heart and have been trying to teach my kids for some time now. I wish I'd written down some quotes but one statistic he used was how a poll that has been done since the 40's asking Americans simply "are you happy" shows a peak in "happiness" in 1956. Since 1956 happiness has steadily decreased in this country while overall personal wealth has steadily increased. McKibben suggested that while most news will have some aspect of the health of the economy rarely do we see much on the health of the community or of the environment we live in - which often is much more closely related to overall happiness than our economic stability. I have found in my own life that my financial status has very little to do with my own happiness. I also know that most of the time the "good old days" in my life weren't all that good and I'm kind of glad they are gone.

I did disagree with Mr. McKibben on one point. He stated that he wrote the first book that really revealed the theory of "Global Warming" but I read about it in "Entropy" by Jeremy Rifkin in a book published in the late 70's. Granted the book was about much more than global warming but it had a chapter on it so Mr. McKibben wasn't the first (he was first published in 1989). Aside from all that Mr. McKibben appeared very honest, straightforward and not as venomous as some of the "tree-hugger" types (what my co-worker Jeremy calls me) that I often hear or read.
I think his new book "Deep Economy" will be a very good read.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Deadly Farm Methane causes deaths

My heart is broken over this tragedy. The family and community will be in my prayers. Farmers need confined space education.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Friday night I helped my son change his brake pads on his car. We ate together and talked about our changing hearts and how different we both are and about redemption. We did church.

After he left a person that has not been all that kind to me from the church I used to attend stopped by. He is going through a rough spot with his ex-wife and wanted to talk. We spent three hours together talking about Jesus and forgiveness and redemption. We did church.

Saturday morning an usher from the church stopped by (in our neighborhood) and we caught up and shared our lives and we did church.

Saturday afternoon a old old friend called and we spent a couple hours on the phone talking about his severe arthritis and heaven and hell and Jesus and old men in our lives and how we are not far from it (he's 42, former concrete finisher with two kids left at home and now crippled with arthritis) and yes we did church.

Saturday evening a very good friend of mine that I just seem to hit it off with stopped in to see if I needed some help from him (I rented a jackhammer to break concrete but was blind-sided with a plumbing problem and since he works at the hardware he knew all about it) but we sat and talked about life a little and just a little about Jesus and about his upcoming trip to England and about loving your neighbor and about growing up tall (he's really tall) and we did church.

Sunday I jackhammered all day but did get interrupted by a good friend who was excited about the pastor and christian author that moved in a block down my street and right across the street from him. Our conversation was very short but I know why he stopped and in that little act of love we did church.

This morning I and four of my co-workers and two of their wives drove 3 1/2 hours north to attend a funeral mass for a 23 yr. old man who found life much to difficult for him to bear and put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger last Wednesday morning. His sister works with us. I didn't know Adam. I know his family loved him very much. On the way up I rode with two other guys and the subject turned to Sodom and Gomorrha (I can't remember why we got on that subject, I think it had to do with Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt) and we had differing interpretations so we read it and we talked about it and it ended by following Lot's lineage through Moab through Ruth and through Tamar and on through to Jesus. We then talked about evil and lessons and growing and redemption and GOOD and we finished about 2 miles from the church when I read Revelations 21. It was spooky cool when the same scripture was read by the priest at the funeral. The mass was so beautiful and the service so rich that I was compelled to get up and go to the elements before the priest even called the body to recieve them. I stayed in my seat though because I've gone up front with my hand outstretched and been blessed when asking for nourishment and the rejection burned angrily within me. I remained seated so as to not rush into the same sin. Afterward a catholic friend of mine told me how to hold my hands to "look like a good catholic" so I could recieve communion. I know it seems as though it shouldn't be that important but my spirit longed for those elements. If it happens again I'll know how to hold my hands like a good catholic. After bagpipes cried out Amazing Grace and we walked the shady procession to the cemetary (the first time I've ever seen that done and it too was just beautiful) we joined together for great pans of scalloped potatoes, polish sausage and saurkraut, potato salad, cakes of every description, jello molds and Kool-aid to wash it all down. We followed Adam's sister to the family farm, where they'd all grown up, and had a little cry out by the pig pen overlooking the alfalfa field that leads to the woods where Adam was found in his deer blind. With the fresh, cool, slightly-fishy breeze of nearby Lake Huron in our tear-stained faces, we did church.

God this is a rough and beautiful place. I know you must be both rough and beautiful (warrior and nurturer that you are) and I am with you and I ask you to please hold Adams family very tight and very long because they are in that suffocating parched throat pain that only you can provide relief from.