Higher Education

College was a place to experiment,

Mixing songs with sex, ideas with drugs.

The God I had come to know went up in smoke.

I replaced the living Word with words from lives

That thirsted for truths to absorb the Truth

And hungered for rights without Righteousness.

I wrote a book my senior year called,

Life (in obvious places)

Filled with family stories and ones I’d conceived.

At the end, a coquettish Claudia Matson asks the narrator,

“Why don’t you write any love stories?”

“I don’t know any,” he replies.

I took a job at a plastics factory

And started going to a country church

Grammar Presbyterian.

Filled with farmers and grandmothers

Who made room for me in my stained Salvation Army clothes

Smelling of smoke, looking for a God of substance.

Easter Sunday, on my way to church.

I saw a grey-haired woman in a tattered coat wandering.

I pulled over and tried to help.

She didn’t know where she was.

I didn’t know where to take her.

We were both lost.

I drove her to a church downtown.

Dressed in his Easter best, an usher gave her coffee and a muffin.

He sat with her and helped her find her way home.

I left the church in tears.

Finding strength to be weak in a community of grace.

I went to seminary to serve God with my mind,

Hoping my body and soul would follow.

In class we looked at the language of Scripture

And discussed how not to talk about God.

In my pastoral work, I found God:

in the joy of a boy who would never speak.

in the songs of prisoners longing for freedom.

in the tears of a man praying beside his dying wife’s bed.

I say I found God,

But really God found me,

I just didn’t run away.

I met Alice in the office of friends.

She was arguing with the phone company about a deposit.

She won.

I said to myself, “I want her on my side.”

Within six months, we were engaged.

We moved to a three-room row house in South St. Louis.

The heat was unbearable,

Steam rising from the asphalt.

We passionately loved and more passionately fought.

From this conjugal clash, a child was conceived.

We moved to the countryside,

And I became a pastor,

Shepherd of a frozen flock.

I delivered sermons on Sunday,

And took out the trash on Tuesdays.

Sarah Emily was born in early spring.

There was a chill in the air and ice on the roads,

But we barely noticed.

We brought her home to balloons and signs;

A Noah’s Ark nursery.

We made her first week a music video

with Sandi Patty singing,

You are a masterpiece

A new creation He has formed

And you’re as soft and fresh as a snowy winter morn.

And I’m so glad that God has given you to me.

After a week, I was spent (or so I thought).

I retreated to my office and didn’t come out

Even when I came home.

Father Kissing Newborn

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