An Undeserved Blessing
by Patrick Kennedy
Not For Sale
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AN UNDESERVED BLESSING
I have often said that God has answered every prayer I have ever prayed. The answer is always no but that is not exactly true. I could tell this story in a paragraph or two but nothing is ever that simple.
My second day in the Lord I returned home from work around seven in the evening, got something together to eat, turned on the television and sat down to my supper. It must have been some past eight because the TV was in the middle of a Billy Graham crusade.
Prior to my conversion, the day before, I would never have watched or listened to that kind of thing with out cat calls and ridicule but now I found myself hanging on every word. At the end they began to sing, “Just As I Am,” folks began to go forward and I began to weep uncontrollable. That was not like me, what on earth was happening to me I wondered. At that point it became my plan and my dream to sing that song publicly to the Lord.
I had less than a month in the Lord, when the pastor announced to us that the larger town nearby was going to have a Billy Graham thing and that we were one of the churches that were to be involved in putting it on. No, Billy wasn’t coming. We didn’t have enough population for that but we were going to show a Billy Graham film at the local movie house. With my sixty plus hour a week job I had no time to go to classes to be an usher, sing in the choir or counsel people that came forward but I could contribute.
The pastor encouraged us to pray for the movie and also pray for the Lord’s leading concerning witch of our unsaved acquaintances we could bring. I had plenty of folks to pray about and settled on my fifty two year old parents. They were very suspicious of the folks that had come, over my years of growing up, with a witness for Christ. They felt they were as good as anybody else and push come shove they were better than most. Dad always said that there was nothing but drunks and thieves in those churches so he didn’t need to be there. The desperate sinner part was truer than he knew. Nothing but sinners saved by the grace and shed blood of Jesus.
The folks agreed to go and I was on cloud nine. I just knew it was the Lord’s leading and I was going to be there to see, both, my dad and mom come to rest in the loving hand of Jesus. Wow what a wonderful day it was going to be.
We sat through the movie and it was good. I could see where a person could understand the gospel watching it, so far so good. Then the call began and the choir began to sing, “Just As I Am” and I began to cry. My dad was on the isle and I waited for him to move but he didn’t. I nudged him a little and asked if he would like me to go forward with him.
He was angry and shook his head emphatically. He was also upset with my crying; a man just didn’t do that.
I felt totally let down by the Lord and asked over and over why but no answer was forth-coming, my first real prayer since my asking the Lord for my own salvation and the first no of many, many no’s.
If you have read, “Meanwhile Back At The Beer Joint” you realize that to say I am nothing to write home about is a gross understatement. Most people got their heads on the wrong end part of the time but my head is on the wrong end all of the time. “Meanwhile” took in roughly my first four years in the Lord. Now, I am going to cut a mean swath across the next ten years or so.
I met a man, when he started coming to our church. He was a very successful and supposedly very wealthy business man and claimed to have recently become a Christian at sixty seven years old. That was really something because I had read that it is very rare for someone to become saved past sixty because the older a person becomes the more hardened he becomes in his way of thinking. We will call this gentleman Grant.
Grant had always had the reputation of never being bested in a business deal and some said that he was probably the most crooked person in the country. I considered it all just jealous hearsay but even if it wasn’t; I’d never been sweetness and light myself. God is in the business of taking the bad with the good isn’t He? He loves me, why not Grant?
Now, I had about five years of Bible study under my belt and considered myself fairly knowledgeable. Grant was relying a lot on how he had thought things were while still unsaved. I was trying to help and we became what I considered to be good friends.
I had a better paying job with fewer hours than before and Grant was a cattleman with a nice ranch. I loved ranch work and began to spend a lot of spare time helping out with fence fixing, checking and doctoring cattle and any thing else that needed doing. I never asked for compensation nor did I expect any it was a labor of love.
Grant was no horseman but said he wished he had one. It would be easier to check cattle. There were a lot of places the pickup couldn’t go so he had to walk. I told him that my wife had a horse but it was on her father’s ranch almost 300 miles away. Grant said that if we could get it up here he would feed it for the use of it and we were welcome to ride it any time to.
My wife called her dad and he was more than tickled to get the thing gone and brought it right up. The goofy old horse loved to work cattle as much as I did and if you could stay with him he was the best cutting horse I ever rode.
One day Grant put forth a proposal. He said he was giving up the lease on a piece of grass land and he would tell the lady that owned it that I wanted it if I would like to get a start in the cattle business. He also told me that I could have my pick of his bred heifers before he had them hauled to the sale barn. The price he put forth was a little less than the present going price so I was thrilled with the breaks he offered giving me my opportunity to get started.
I worked nights getting home about one thirty in the morning so after a little sleep I could be feeding those heifers almost every morning. My son was just beginning to walk and I took him with me. He loved to hold out handfuls of hay and have the animals eat out of his hand while I looked them over and made my picks. It was only a couple of weeks until I would have to cut mine out and move them. I was feeding the heifers one day when Grant came out and I told him I had figured out which ones I wanted. He cleared his throat and told me the sale barn guy had been out the day before and said cattle prices had gone up and if someone was allowed to pick out the best ones he would suffer a lower price on the rest. He ended with, “you will just have to go to the sale barn and bid like anyone else.” I just walked off in a daze. I couldn’t believe a person could go back on his word so easily.
I had just about decided to not go to the sale barn and figure another way into the cattle business when my employer took it out of my hands and asked me to work that Saturday. The next time I saw Grant I asked him how he had made out with his cattle sale. He hesitated for a time and then told me a price thirty dollars a head under what we had agreed on, that made me feel better.
Grants place ran for two and a half miles along the river. All of a sudden the river came roaring out of its banks and became a raging torrent making new channels and the flood lasted days into a couple of weeks. About twenty head of Grants cattle were trapped on a sand bar between the old river channel and a new one. The cows were dropping calves and needed to get off that bar or be fed on it. Grant asked one of the church members that had a fishing boat to bring it out and haul hay a bale or two at a time over to the hungry bawling cows. I saw the boat go by my place and I saw it come back in a pretty short span of time so I went to see how it was going. Grant said the guy looked at the raging water and debris including whole trees being washed along, said it was too dangerous and went home. At this point Grant asked me if I thought I could ride my horse over to the island and drive the cows across to grass. I told him it was to late in the day to try it but that I would look at it early the next morning and if I thought I could I would get those cows home.
When I got there the next day Grant wasn’t around so I saddled up and rode down by my self. I found a place with a hard sand bottom stretching out quite a ways into the channel and tried to get the horse to go on in. After about three or four steps and before the water was much past his knees the old fool went nuts and began to rear up and hop around. That is when he fell off the hard sand bar and in over his head. The current caught us and washed us along into a deep channel with steep cliffs that neither I or the horse could climb out of but the fool horse kept trying until he had worn himself out. A horse is a wondrous creature. He can look backwards and frontward’s at the same time. That horse had one blue eye and one brown eye. I saw the panic in that blue eye in the beginning but that was soon gone and in its place was resignation to his fate. He quit trying and began to allow himself to sink under the waves. I was pulling up on the reins with all my might, trying to keep his nose above the water and trying to force him away from that steep bank and out into the middle of the river. He just had to keep swimming until we could get out of this. He finally tried one weak stroke and then another and another when all of a sudden his feet touched bottom and he lunged up out of the river on to the sand bar with the cattle. I let him rest for a while then put him on those cattle and just held on and let him do what he did best. He soon had those cows started across and I realized that he had a new found confidence, no balking, bucking or rearing. He swam like a champ. The cows amazed me, they are so smart. They positioned themselves so that they were down current from the calf. If the calf wasn’t strong enough he would be washed right into the side of the cow and she would keep him there. I had never seen that before. Only one calf got washed away. I turned the horse in that direction and when he saw the calf he really swam out. It was quite a swim but he caught up and I pulled the calf across the saddle and as soon as I did that old clown was headed for shore. I will never forget that morning as long as I live. I can’t swim a stroke. Do you think God was involved in this somewhere?
After awhile I found a place to buy where I could have my animals. I told Grant that as soon as we could move in I would be moving my wife’s horse. Grant blew mad and told me that the horse was his and I wouldn’t be taking it anywhere.
When I was a little tyke I determined to not only be good at cussing I was going to be the very best. I spent hours behind the barn practicing. I was always amused by the kids at school that got hell before damn and other mistakes in progression.
I was the very best and I turned my dogs loose on poor old Grant. I called him every thing but smart and went home. My wife was out of town getting some training for her RN so I couldn’t tell her about the horse problem. After I slept on it I felt real bad about what I had done to Grant and I went to apologize. When I told him I was sorry for calling him all those vile names he squared his shoulders and said, “I thought you would come to your senses and realize that I was right about the horse”.
WHAT! you blankity blank old fool and I didn’t stop there.
I was gone to work when my wife got home for the weekend. When I got home early Saturday morning she was asleep so I still never had a chance to mention the horse. On Saturday morning I always did my banking and went to the boot and saddle shop to talk to the proprietor and watch folks walk by. I told him about my falling out with Grant and he said that it was about time. “You been hanging with that old crook so long that a bunch of us had about decided you were just like him”. That’s food for thought.
When I got home and came through the back door into the kitchen I could hear Grant in the front room whining to my wife about what a terrible person I was. With a big bellow that an old bull would approve I tore through the door yelling, “I am going to hang your butt up around your neck you old so and so”.
For an old man he moved pretty fast and my wife got between me and the door so I couldn’t get out too catch him so he got away.
The big day came in no time. I hired an old trucker that had been best friends with my grandfather when he was alive and met up with him up on the hi-way. I hoped Grant would be gone and I could just get my horse and move on. No such luck he was there.
The trucker followed my jeep down to the barn and corral and I motioned him to back up to the shute. Grant had told folks that if I tried to take the horse he would make me sorry so my single six was strapped in place and hugging my leg at just the right angle. Grant came out of his back door cradling a lever action rifle and walked to his pickup parked beside the corral. You should have seen that poor old trucker. He had got backed in and had stepped out on his running board when he became aware of what he had got himself into. His eyes were big as baseballs and his mouth was all set to catch fly’s. I stood there waiting to see if Grant was going to raise that rifle and if he did I knew I would put six into him before he could even blink. At that point he laid the rifle across the hood of his pickup and just stood there. I got my horse and put him in the truck, sent him on his way, got in my jeep and followed. Grant didn’t say a word and neither did I. That trucker had a wild tale to tell his cronies that night.
At the risk of beating a dead horse you need to know this was not a new thing for me. Probably a year or so before my wife and I had taken our toddler for a long horse ride on a Sunday afternoon. My two hunting dogs had gone along for the lark. We were coming along the north side of Grants place with the dogs staying right with the horses when we cut into the barn and I began to unsaddle. I didn’t notice the dogs were not there until a shot rang out and a dog began to yip. My dogs came tearing out of the trees one of them with blood streaming from his throat. I was instantly enraged. My six was in the jeep so I strapped it on and hit the hi-way at the river bridge just about three quarters of a mile from this sheep mans place. I knew he had shot my dog cause he was always warning people that he would shoot any dog that got on his property. I am sure he had lost sheep. I am also sure my dogs had probably wondered on to his land but he had no sheep out so there was no sheep to be protected. That made him mine. When I turned the corner just a quarter mile from his house I saw his station wagon disappearing down the county road. He had got his wife and kids all loaded and out of there very fast once he had seen my jeep hit that hi-way. Would I have shot him? Not unless he raised that rifle. I probably would have cussed him good and that would have been it unless he popped off, then he may have got a pistol whipping. I couldn’t catch anybody with a jeep so I went to bury my dog. When I got there my nurse wife, bless her heart, had stopped the bleeding and showed me that the bullet had only gone through the loose skin hanging down from the throat. The dog was fine.
Very soon after the removal of the horse I noticed a marked difference in how I was being interacted with at church. Oh, two or three fellows with which I had a very good relationship continued on as usual but my treatment by most could only be described as shunning.
Now, I knew a little bit about how and why shunning was sometimes called for and these folks weren’t playing by the rules. Grant should have brought leaders of the church to talk about the problem or problems between us. If it was found that I was the one in the wrong then I would have to repent and make it right or risk being out of fellowship. If I refused then let the shunning begin. But no one ever said one mumbling word about it, content to believe every word Grant dropped on them concerning me.
Why didn’t the pastor and other leaders come? Why in all the years this shunning went on did no one ever ask me my side?
Well, it might have been because Grant only wanted to poison minds against me behind my back to keep from having to own his part in it. Also, the leadership might not have been too crazy about attempting to beard the lion themselves. A couple of years before I had started to miss church pretty often and the pastor found out I was being asked to sing in the church’s of a denomination of which he did not approve. He came to the house to talk to me about it.
I had worked overtime the night before so it wasn’t far from daylight when I got to bed and I had to get up without much sleep to try and fix some shingles that had blown loose
in the wind the day before. I was on a ladder with a hammer in my hand when the pastor arrived. I came down and he explained that I should not be getting involved with those other churches.
I tried to explain how I felt that I needed to sing anywhere I was asked to sing because I had told God I would do it that way. One word led to more words from two hot heads and I ordered him off of my property. In fact I told him to get pronto and I still had the hammer in my hand. Well, I wasn’t done with it yet. I did not threaten him with that hammer. I did not throw the hammer at his car as he left. I heard all about how it was said that it went down after the fact.
Now, to their credit no one shunned my wife and kids, oh, we didn’t get invited anywhere as a family but the wife and kids were asked to be involved in things all the time. To shun me was a colossal waste of time. I have never been into small talk so I rather liked being left alone.
The Sunday School Super really showered the love on my rug rats. She would have all the kids in assembly but my kids got her special attention. She, personally, quizzed them every Sunday about what and who they would like prayer for and if nothing was forth coming she would asked if there wasn’t something their daddy needed prayer for. I don’t think she ever left disappointed. The kids always came up with some wild thing to take before the Lord. I loved it and would even prime the well a little on the way to church.
Grant really worked himself in with the power I will refer to as the sociables from now on. That included the board members and those that belonged to the elite club. They all knew his business reputation but all things are new in Christ. Grants money did him no harm and he knew how to use it. He made, what I considered, a very good suggestion. He thought the church needed to put a bus on the road Sunday morning to bring in kids in town and out in the country, whose parents had no interest in spiritual things or were unable to bring their kids to church. The board liked the idea but told Grant there just no funds for such a thing. Grant sprung for the bus then asked for volunteers to pay him so much a month. I signed up. Do you wonder if Grant made some money on the deal? Knowing Grant I wouldn’t bet against it.
Grant was soon running that church but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted the title to go with the power. The pastor told him that he could not be on the board because our denomination took very seriously Paul’s admonition that a leader in the church must be the husband of one wife and since Grant was a divorced man with a wife and an ex-wife still alive he could not qualify.
Not long after that the pastor moved on and the church hired a young fellow right out of school. I suppose Grant figured the kid might not know some stuff or be easier to intimidate but unfortunately for Grant the kid had read the same book as the other guy and Grant was out of luck again.
By now Grant had worked himself in so tight with the sociable’s that he had them eating out of his hand. He also had no respect for the “kid” pastor so he went after that poor fellow with every thing he had. More or less the pastor was given to know that if he wanted to keep the job he had better bless ole Grant right in as head of the board. The young guy didn’t roll over.
Things came to ahead on a Sunday when I had gone to a family get together at my in-laws place. Maybe Grant picked that day because I was gone and maybe God moved me out of the way on purpose. The pastor had just started giving his message when Grant stood up and began to shout out all the grievances he and the board had against him, such petty things as not having the church warm enough when he had arrived that morning. All the board just sat there on their hands but one. One board member stood and asked Grant to sit down and shut up but Grant wouldn’t. The board member finally went and stood with the pastor showing support. I will always admire that man. I imagine he paid a heavy price for going against his friends but if he did he never said a thing about it to me.
A couple of weeks later I had just got home from work when the phone rang. My wife answered it and handed it to me with an it’s for you. It was the chairmen of the board’s wife. She wanted to tell me that a special meeting had been called for that night at the church to vote on firing the pastor. I played dumb and asked why they wanted to fire him. She rehashed some of the petty things Grant had been yelling about in the middle of service. I told her I felt these things were petty nonsense so she told me that the pastor’s wife was a gossip. “Wow,” I said, “she ought to fit in with you folks real good”.
There was silence on the other end of the line for a long moment then she said, “Do you know how long it has been since you have been asked to sing”?
I told her, “I don’t know, a long time”.
“You know that I am in charge of special music,” she said, “and this pastor you like told me not to schedule you to sing because your life is not right”.
I said, “are you sure you want to fire such an astute man as that? What do you suppose he says about your life”?
I should have gone to vote. To have called me must have meant they were very unsure of having enough votes to get the job done. But he was fired and a major split developed in the church. Someone, not me, I wouldn’t have known how to do it, got the story out to the headquarters of the denomination and they took over the church, to try to keep it together, suspending the board and sending in their own pastor. I don’t know who made the call; I think it was that one board member with integrity because he would have known who and how. I also don’t know who told Grant, the new pastor or headquarters, that he would under no circumstances be a member of the board in that church and Grant up and quit. But it was plain that he still ran everything he could from behind the scenes. The sociable’s hated the new arrangement that stripped them of power but all made the best of it. Grant was the only one to leave. The way that everybody handled it all with grace and pulled together was ample evidence to me that these folks were indeed what I had thought they were eight years before, real born again Christians.
I really liked that new pastor, up to that time he was the best preacher I had ever heard. The sociable’s called him the hit man behind his back but they came to love him too. But I didn’t have time for all this drama I had a ranch to run.
My wife had been after me, for some time, to paint the house. One beautiful Saturday morning I decided to do it but first I had another chore that needed taken care of. We had been loosing chickens along to some kind of predator and low and behold my wife had got home the day before to see her poodle female standing over a dead chicken, feathers in her mouth and a guilty look on her face. This ole country boy sure knows how to break a dog of killing chickens.
There were two dead chickens and I took them and put them in a gunny sack then I forced the dog into the bag and tied it off with a piece of baling wire. The next step was to beat the bag with a hose but I didn’t have one handy out in the middle of the barn yard so I put my boots to work instead. I worked that dog over real good then leaving the dog in the bag to think about her sin I got to my painting.
I hadn’t been painting long when a strange car slowed down on the county road by my house and then began to turn in. The car stopped in front of the house and as the driver climbed out I was surprised to see that it was the pastor. No pastor had visited me in a long time, not since I supposedly ran one off with a hammer a good five years before. He came up to the house and after the hand shaking and proper salutations I went back to painting and he went to watching. After a while I noticed that he was looking out in the barn yard.
I had forgotten all about the dog in the bag. I just kept painting.
After a bit the pastor asked if that bag was truly moving out there. The fat was in the fire. For a few moments I searched my pea size brain for a plausible lie that would get me out of this mess. I really liked this pastor and would have liked to have had a decent relationship for once. But as usual I was right in the middle of being my own worst enemy.
I opened the bag as I told him that was how I taught a dog to quit killing chickens. I then dumped that poor little house dog poodle out and it tore for the house like her tail was on fire. As I dumped out the dead chickens I stole a glance at the pastor. I could not see the disgust that I was sure I would see but maybe he was just good at hiding it.
He asked me if I had ever done that before and I told him I had. Then he asked me if it had always worked when I did it and I said it had so he told me that he had a lot rancher and farmer friends that would love to know that trick. He left with me feeling pretty good but thinking he may have been just pretending to like what he had seen. I expected to hear another horror story as it passed around the church and town.
To finish the dog saga I have to tell you this: I was gone to work and when I got home my wife pointed out my very last chicken, dead, down in the corral. She had a day off and was washing clothes in the laundry room with windows that looked out to the south, a panoramic view of the corral. She heard my last chicken squawking for its life and saw it running madly down through the corral with a mongrel dog she had never seen before right behind it and bringing up the rear were two wiener dogs she had never seen before either.
She ran out the door screaming but was two late. The mongrel had got the chicken and as she was running after them screaming bloody murder the dogs headed for home but the short legged wiener dogs could not run that fast and she caught the slowest one and kicked the crap out of it. At that point I had to ask why did you kick a dog that hadn’t killed the chicken? She looked me right in the eye and said, “Because it was the only one I could catch”. She told me that the dogs had run across my east forty and to a ditch rider’s house.
I said, “Well, I got to go over there and take care of it”. My wife objected saying it was too late to help the chicken. It made no difference to me. I had been injured; something of mine had been killed. I had to go over there extract my pound of flesh. When I jumped in the pickup my wife did too. I reckon she hoped to keep the situation under control. She was aware that there was always a loaded saddle gun hanging is a scabbard behind the seat of that pickup.
The ditch rider was not home but his wife and the dogs were so I could get the job done. I wasn’t going to shoot the dog, out of hand, on its owner’s place anyway but with only the wife there I tried to be a little friendlier. I think I failed. I told her what the dogs had done or what the mongrel had done and she told me that the wiener dogs were hers but the other one was her husbands. She told us about buying the dogs for breeding but that the female got sick. The vet said that it was cancer and the dog had just got out of the hospital where it had had an operation that would make it impossible for the dog to reproduce. I was just about to crack up. You should have seen the look on my wife’s face.
She is undoubtedly the most dedicated nurse I know and the realization that she had been kicking on a poor cancer patient was almost more than she could stand. When I got away from there I must have laughed for a week.
I told the fellow’s wife that I didn’t think she needed to worry about the wiener dogs they would do no harm but if I caught the other one anywhere on my land I was going to kill him. Tell your husband to pen or tie him up or lose him. The man quit his job and was gone in less than a week.
Ten years had gone by since the day I had found the Savior. The next three would be the best I had experienced. The new pastor and I became close, as close as I had been able to come to any one. The first change I saw was when that person in charge of the music came up to me and asked me to sing. I had been reinstated on the special music list. I had often wished for a mentor, a good, knowledgeable Christian to kind of guide and advise me and that is what I had in this pastor. The job driving Grant’s bus came open and the pastor asked me to do it. I loved that duty.
I heard, through the grape vine, that Grant had been diagnosed with cancer. Neither he nor his wife had attended our church since the hit man had come and I was told that they were attending no where else. Just waiting I guess. For what? I don’t know. After a while I heard that Grant’s situation was grave and he had moved into the hospice unit. I thought I should do something, but I didn’t.
I hope that I have not given the impression that Grant and his click were villains and I was trying to be some kind of hero. There are no hero’s in this story unless it would be the hit man. Grant may have told a lie when running me down to the powers that be in the church but he sure wouldn’t have had to. First, he may have really believed he had been given that horse. Second, I cussed him out twice, threatened bodily harm twice, once by a beating and once by wearing my pistol. The other thing to realize is that it probably wasn’t Grants testimony alone that convicted me. When I got to thinking about all this memories began to flood back and I became very ashamed. I only told the things I felt were pertinent to the story. There were very many more incidents, situations and altercations that took place in those years involving family, law enforcement, teachers, other ranchers, store keepers and others. You get them all spreading the word like manure and I stink. Oh, I wasn’t out lying, stealing, raping and pillaging but I was still a long way from putting forth a good testimony. Those folks may have shunned me but they should have done much more. Had it been me the least I would have done is not allow me within a hundred miles of that church. Only Christians could have treated me so well.
Grant died and it thrilled my heart to hear that his manner of dieing brought two of his care givers to the Lord. Grant’s wife came to ask the pastor if Grant could come home for the funeral. Yes, of course he could, he should never have left.
My wife told me about it and told me I must be sure to get the time off from work. “What, I’m not going to that funeral. You got to be kidding me”. She wasn’t kidding.
I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be there.
Why is it that wife’s all seem to have the same nick name? “She who must be obeyed”. I think it is because boys are raised by mothers and never get over needing mothering.
It was a mistake but I already knew that. As I walked in I felt every eye boring in to me, every face was frozen in what ever expression was on that face when the person saw me.
The only time I ever wanted a front row seat was to hear ole Johnny sing, I wanted to sit in the back but my darling spouse walked me down about four rows from the front and into the middle of the row in the middle section. I was perfectly situated to be easily watched by everyone and it felt like everyone was, indeed, doing just that very thing.
The pressure began to grow and grow. I was finding it difficult to get my breath. When I become extremely nervous or angry I am very likely to begin to laugh and laugh uncontrollably. That is what happened, I tried to hold it in but I couldn’t so I put my hands over my face and let it go. I was so embarrassed. I can only hope that the folks observing this terrible embarrassment thought I was crying.
One Sunday the pastor told us about a group of mostly retired business men that would travel to churches and bring several days of evangelistic meeting on their own dime. The service to kick off the meetings would be on a Saturday night. I was called a business mans banquet. To finance the banquet the men of the church would buy tickets at five dollars each.
I was really excited about this and began to pray and plan for who I would bring. I settled on a man I worked with, a rancher friend and my banker. I bought four tickets and with much prayer I talked to each man at his home and in all three cases the men graciously accepted the opportunity.
My wife was told that the ladies of the church would be getting together to prepare the banquet on Saturday morning. She told them and me that she was working late nights at the hospital and would not get home until around eight AM Saturday morning and would have to get some rest. At that point she volunteered me to work in her place. I pitched a fit cause I did not want to be stuck in the kitchen with all those women besides I had work to do at home but she who must be obeyed had spoken.
I was at the church, ready for duty, at 0830 hrs and was put to peeling potatoes but I could not miss how uncomfortable the rest of the kitchen people were with me being there. Everyone acted as though they were wearing wet blankets. At about 1000 the pastor came in and kindly asked me to come and help him. I believe to this day that the leader of the operation complained to the pastor and asked him to get me out of their hair. How could a bunch of ladies be happy in their work and really get down to serious gossip with a man listening in?
This turned out to be one of the most wonderful days I can ever remember. Shortly after I escaped the kitchen the first of the business men, who were to bring the meetings, arrived from Kansas and the pastor and I went out and sat with him and his wife in his big Lincoln car. That man had story after story of folks coming to Christ. I loved every minute of it. He had ridden back and forth across the country on the troop trains during the Second World War talking to the service men and women about the Savior.
Shortly after noon another team member showed up and joined us in the Lincoln, the wives getting together in the new guys Cadillac. The new guy was a Texan and I really liked him. He had been an executive with Bell Telephone and had hundreds of workers scattered all over Texas under him. Apparently, if there was anyone on earth that could out cuss me he had been the one. As he drove around the state of Texas doing his job and cussing he would memorize a Bible verse for every slip up. In a few short years he no longer felt compelled to express him self with profanity and he had the whole King James version of the Bible memorized by heart. What a man to listen to.
That afternoon fled by faster than any other afternoon I can remember and all too soon it was time to go home, chore my animals and get ready for the banquet. Man, was I ever pumped. God was going to do a great thing, I just knew it.
I came down the county road from the north and right on past my house to the next mile line to the south. That is where my mail box was. I got my mail and headed back to the house. I was shocked out of my tree, all three of my tickets had been returned with a sorry something came up notes. I was devastated, I had prayed so hard that these gentlemen would come, hear something they needed to hear and come to Christ. To add to my grief I had told the pastor and several others I was bringing three guests.
I did what I do best and began to throw my terrible two’s tantrum. I stormed back and forth through the kitchen and dining room waving my arms and bellowing like my best Herford bull. My poor wife would probably laugh at me now but she wasn’t laughing then. When I finally began to run down she suggested I call and ask my dad to go with me. That was out of the question. The banquet was due to start in less than an hour and a half, could I call at the last minute and say everyone backed out on me and I need someone to go with me? No, I could not and not just because of that. You know about my spiritual family shunning me, well, my blood family was shunning me also.
There was a flood of water that had gone under that bridge but the most recent incidents probably took in two years. First: a brother in law and I got in an argument over truck driving and he called me a liar and I knocked him down. I got in my truck and went home. My sister and he got in there car and rushed twenty six miles to cry to the folks. No one ever asked me for my side, they all just said that is the way he always is.
Second: A sister called me to tell me they had planed a birthday party for my dad, a barbeque at a certain park, at a certain date and time. Then she added that since your birthday is in the same month it is going to be your party also. The date they had chosen was the last Sunday before the County Fair. I had my eldest son in 4-H and that day was always a mandatory meeting for last minuet preparations and failure to attend would disqualify my boy form showing his livestock. His summer of hard work not to mention mine all for nothing. I tried to explain this and pointed out that the month had thirty other days to choose from lets do it the Sunday before or after but all I got was a stone wall. That was the day. Be there or else. I wasn’t there and a brother in law called me to say that it was a terrible thing when a son showed such disrespect for his ageing parents. My name was mud with the whole bunch of them.
Three: About six months before the banquet one of my sisters came calling, unannounced, early on a Saturday morning. Saturdays were very important to me. I worked in town five days a week and kept up my chores during the week as best I could but Saturday was my day for special projects. That day I planned to start the training of a coming three year old horse that had never even had a hand laid on him as yet. He was a big and very beautiful horse, already right at sixteen hands. I had asked a cowboy friend of mine to give me a hand with the horse’s first lesson. Just at that moment my sister showed up at the corral with her baby daughter and wanted to introduce that child to a horse. Oh not to ride, just too feely touchy touch. She wanted her daughter to become familiar with the feel of a horses nose and mane and what ever else. Well, she sure couldn’t touch that wild one yet so I had to use my valuable time to go get a horse out of the pasture for her and her daughter to vent their love on. I hoped my disgust didn’t show too much but it probably did. I delivered a horse to the pen north west of the one I was going to be working in and they got to their petting and I got to my work.
The first lesson is called choking him down. For a horse to be worth anything at all to the operation it must respect the constraints that are put upon it and comply. That is also true of we who are a part of God’s operation. The Bible is perfectly clear concerning this position and uses the analogy of animal training to get it across. Jesus says to Paul in the book of Acts: 9; 5 “Why do you kick against the pricks”?
The pricks were pointed objects place right where the animal pulling a thing would strike the thing if he kicked. A smart animal would kick once and think to himself, “That hurt” and not do it again but once in a while you run in to an animal that the more he kicked the more it hurt the more he kicked. Who does that sound like to you?
In the book of the Jer, 17:10; David writes of God trying our reins. He expects positive response. At His slightest touch we should know to go forward, to the right, to the left or back up. In Jer. 2:24, 25, God says, don’t be a wild ass out snuffing the wind and running hog wild after every whim and fancy. Who does that remind you of?
The cowboy that had come to help me set up with his rope and I ran the horse by him. Hang it, he missed his loop. The horse ran to the west side of the corral where there was a cattle feeding shed with a concrete floor and a hang down from the roof to give the cattle even more protection from the weather. That was a tall horse and he had to put his head way down to get up under there but he did it then he went back to star gazing and under the circumstances there were lots of stars for him to see. He was rapping that fool head on everything. By the time he figured out to get his head down and get out from under there he had opened up a pretty good gash above his right eye and the blood was a running. This time, when he ran by my friend, the loop didn’t miss and I ran in grabbed the end of the rope and hitched it to the post in the middle of the corral. Half a second later the horse hit the end of the rope and like most of them do he sat down. Then he scrambled to the left then the right, pulling and yanking all the while sitting back against that rope with all his weight and might.
Choking him down is a misnomer because we weren’t chocking the horse down he was choking himself down. A horse is smart enough to realize this but many times in the process of choking our selves down we blame God. He’s not chocking us down we are choking ourselves down.
All of a sudden the horse just keeled over, his air cut off for so long he passed out. I rushed in and loosened the rope so he could get his air and after a while he got himself up. Now, many horses, at this point will go right back to fighting that rope and go down again and some don’t stop with two but this horse was smart. Once was all it took. He worked himself around that post looking it and the rope over good but always keeping slack in the line. That is what you want to see. If he respects the rope he will, as a matter of course, respect the reins.
After a while we went to the house for a little coffee and to watch the horse from a distance to see if it would continue to keep the slack when no one was there, that is when I thought of my sister. Her car was gone. My wife said she had not come to the house and she never saw her leave.
Well it is a wonder she didn’t kill her self. I was told she dusted out of there like her pants were on fire, drove fourteen miles of county road bawling and screaming and frightening her daughter into a screaming fit also. The two burst in on the folks like banshees and when she could be calmed down enough to talk my sister told the folks that I had deliberately and cruelly killed a horse before her very eyes. They all gathered to hang me in effigy again. Not one of them ever said a word to me about that poor horse but attacked my wife saying that if she could stand to live with a monster like me she must be as bad as I am.
So, you see why I was reluctant to ask my father to go. I just continued to rant and rave and swear that I wasn’t going. Every time I would pause for breath my wife would say call your dad and set me off again. Finally with time all but gone I called. Mom gave the phone to my father and I just told the truth and a waited his emphatic no, not no H no.
I couldn’t believe it, he said yes. I had forty minuets to make the banquet. It was seven miles north east of me and dad was 14 miles west of me. I told him to get his drawers on I would be there in twenty miniuts. I changed my clothes and hit the county dirt in my big v-eight. I stayed on the dirt coming back even though it was two miles farther to the church because I didn’t have to worry about the law out there and we got to the banquet on time.
It was everything I thought it would be, successful business men giving their testimonies and telling what Christ meant to them but when it is over it is over. As I have already said, I am not a small talker so I was on my feet and wanting to hit the door but dad wasn’t so quick. Dad was slowly gathering himself and getting to his feet when I looked up to see the old fellow from Kansas coming down the way with a purpose. He was a large man and both knees were shot so he went on two canes. It reminded me of a sand crab making his way across a sandy beach. Dad had just got both feet under him and was turning to join me out in the isle when the man from Kansas came up to him and bellowed out, “are you saved brother”?
Dad looked like a deer caught in the head lights. He stood there for a moment looking down and then mumbled the very worst thing he could have said. “We sure hope so”.
That old Kansan grab him around the shoulder and said, “let me show you how you can know so” And sat him back down at the table, flopping open his big Bible as he spoke.
Man, am I in trouble. I watched from the door way for awhile as folks were all leaving. Dad just sat there, hang dog, shoulders hunched and as his tormenter talked he would nod his head once in a while. I went outside and paced the parking lot praying. Was I praying for my dad’s salvation? No, I was praying, “Lord, if you get me out of this one I’ll get out of the next one by myself. I went back and watched again and then out in the parking lot again. This time I prayed, Lord, if you are ever going to take me do it now, please. I was watching as they finally stood up, shaking hands and I went forward to collect my dad.
As I stepped up to them the Kansan turned to my dad and said, “Tell this gent what you did”.
Dad’s face went deathly white as he looked at me then every where but me. Finally he mumbled, “We just received Christ”.
Was I happy? Not on your life. I knew dad would nod his head to anything to get shut of that fellow and it was going to be me fer it.
Dad spoke not one word all the way home; neither did he look at me. He just sat and stared at the right side window and I think he had tears in his eyes. As when I was extremely angry I laughed dad would cry. He got out of the car at his house without a word and walked away.
I had just got in my front door when the phone rang. I heard my wife say, “Yes, he just got home”. As I took the phone she said, “It’s your mother”.
My mother’s voice was a horrid hiss as she said, “Why did you do that to your father”?
I denied doing anything and she hissed, “You set your father up”. I tried to deny it and she hung up on me. That tears it. I have just committed the last straw. They will never forgive me this one.
The next day, Sunday, the business men took over all services and it was a great time but true to my way I was out of there as quickly as possible. I had work to do. One time, on the way home from church, one of my rug rats asked if we could go visit some folks because he wanted to play with their kids, I said, “No, we have to get home, there is work to do”. Pretty soon, I heard him mumble, “All we are is a bunch of Cinderella’s”.
I got to my work and I worked long. Sunday night, I was to bring the special music for the real kick off of the four evening meetings being brought by the business men. I was outside doing my thing until shortly before I had to leave to make the meeting. I breezed in, grabbed my guitar, ran through the first two songs that came to mind, changed my clothes and I was ready to go. My wife was upset, she felt put upon having to feed the kids and then get them and herself ready to go with no help. She accused me of just being a little boy that can’t pull himself away from his toys. She was probably right but we fought all the way to church. I was so mad I nearly turned about and went home before I even got to the church. I did not want to be there.
I pulled into the parking lot and it was full so I had to park down in the alley by the dumpster. By the time I walked in to the church I was already fifteen minutes late but nothing was going on. No one was on the platform. There was an empty pew in the back because it was roped off. We got settled in and I got my guitar and myself ready to go.
There we sat. I got to thinking that maybe the whole church was full and with no show. Maybe the business men were unaware they were suppose to be there. Then the door banged open and down the way came the crab moving Kansan, and following him, my father then my mother and bringing up the rear, my pastor. Right down the isle and on to the platform they went. The old Kansan took the podium and introduced my folks as new converts to Christ and then had them come forward and testify to their conversion. I was totally stunned and as I was pouring out my thanks to the Lord from my heart I became aware that I was being introduced to bring my music. I grabbed my guitar and stumbled forward but I wouldn’t be singing my songs that night. I blubbered them.
My folks coming to a saved position in the Lord was most certainly a blessing but the Lord is in the business of doing just that. The wonderful blessing to me, that I am so undeserving of, is how He had me stumbling all around in the middle of it. If the Lord had not caused my wife to endure the abuse and continue to insist I ask my dad to go he would not have been there. If the Lord had not led the old Kansan to barrel down there and button hole my dad he would have had the opportunity to come to the Lord and while I was there, I was there with my head on the wrong end as usual But God was faithful and thirteen and a half years after I prayed for my folks salvation my answer came in the affirmative.
I never did sing, “Just As I Am” publicly for the Lord.
I couldn’t manage the problems I laid on myself
It just made to worse when I laid them on somebody else.
I finally surrendered it all brought down in despair
I cried out for help and I felt a warm comforter there.
Patrick (Paddy) Kennedy
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