Back-story: this was the very first thing I wrote about my A.L.S. experience, even before the definitive diagnosis. A lot of my anguish at that time had to do with short term financial woes that seemed to be facing us. Shortly before this the church cut me back from full time to half-time. I have a note from around this time that splurging at the grocery store meant 3 bags of chips, a couple cans of black olives, a couple of cans of Italian stewed tomatoes, and a couple boxes of cereal. Up until this point I had been looking hard for a new position somewhere, but not getting further than a couple of first round interviews. Summer was coming, and my wife wouldn’t be paid June, July, and August. Now facing a terminal disease, our short term finances, to say the least, looked desperate. Fortunately, in the coming weeks and months God truly did miraculous things to provide us with abundance. But that’s a different story.
While the short term fears I express here were never an issue, the underlying pain, particularly the feeling that the rug has been jerked from underneath me, remain.
I’m out at Lot #3 at the Springer Reservoir. It only gets used during the three weeks of the special early pheasant season, when it holds trucks, SUVs, and the occasional sedan filled with florescent orange, shotguns and dogs. The rest of the year it’s empty and quiet. That’s why I come out here and sit in my ’97 F-150 with the severely cracked windshield. It’s a place of solitude.
I also come for the view. Across the road a row of cedars hold the only bunch of magpies that I’ve seen in the area. Hawks float by; once I saw a Gold Eagle. In the mid to late winter the Canadians fly in and out of the reservoir in twenties, hundreds, and occasional thousands. Some years there are snow geese in the tens of thousands on the reservoir. Constantly in motion, they look like the flakes of a monstrous snow globe swirling and falling. To the south is the gap between Bear Mountain and 66 Mountain – more plateaus than true mountains – but the little town of La Grange is down there, and the highway to Cheyenne. It follows the old Texas cattle trail up out of the Bear Creek drainage and onto the highlands. To the north, three miles away are the two white water towers and the elevator gantry of Yoder. That’s been home for six and a half years. Off to the west is the Rim, the line of bluffs that form the boundary of Goshen Hole. East are the wind rows of russian olive, and open grassy areas that make such good pheasant cover. Further away are the cottonwoods surrounding the reservoir, and through them are glimpses of water.
I’ve certainly sat in places with breath taking views this could never hold a candle to, I’ve spent thoughtful hours in places with even deeper solitude, but this has served for six and a half years; a place to think, to get to the bottom of sermon texts, to write sermons. I won’t be needing it much longer.
I’m puffing on an Indian Tabac Super Fuerte maduro toro. They never want to burn evenly, and can be a real bastard to keep lit, (no wonder they’ve been discontinued) but I like them – a good rich cigar. I wonder how much longer my tongue and pallet muscles will let me puff cigars or drink chocolate milkshakes through a straw. My voice and speech is disappearing. I have some kind of “serious degenerative motor neural disturbance”. The exact diagnosis will happen next week, but I’m guessing it won’t be good news.
So I sit here, try to keep the Super Fuerte going, and gaze out my cracked windshield. I feel rim rocked.
A uniquely western turn of phrase, it happens when navigating through rough country, with a general sense of where you’re trying to get to. “Rim rocked” happens when you suddenly find yourself on the cliff edge gazing into the canyon at your feet. There’s no way to get down, and you realize that the straight line to point A you had been hoping for doesn’t exist. Your only choices are to back track, or scout right and/or left to find a way down. If you are on horse back it is possible you could be really truly rim rocked; meaning that you did a stupid thing and came down a truly hellatious bit of rock only to get rim rocked and the horse isn’t going to get back up it, and now you’re stuck. That’s the kind of rim rocked I’m feeling.
My entire adult life I’ve not only been willing to go to the edge for God, I have gone to the edge – repeatedly. And sometimes it doesn’t seem like I have anything to show for it. Like now. The last ten years of being a pastor have been ten years of emotional and financial beating. Two churches, two failures, nothing to show for it. So for six months I’ve been looking for a new “call”.
This was the time for the plum; the church that was healthy, ready to grow, to be vital. This was when God would call me to the church that would be financially stable, a place where my kids could finish school, where I could serve until I was at least close to retirement. This would be the call when my pastor experience, all the lessons learned, my gifts of teaching and preaching would be used by the Holy Spirit to contribute to a wave of spiritual renewal in a congregation and a community. We would escape the financially ruinous summer staring us in the face, be able to afford new clothes, fix vehicles, buy a luxury of two. We would find breathing room to recover from the stress and emotional roller coaster of the last several years.
But not now; now I am looking for God’s generous grace. Where is it? it took me eleven years to get around to becoming a pastor. It’s taken me another ten to figure out how to be one. And now it’s over? We’ve been living hand to mouth for years, and now I’ve had to go part time, and finances are worse. Now it’s all swept away. I don’t know how we’re going to pay medial bills.
I’m rim rocked, and it’s going to be dark soon.