Life is the sum of all our choices. ~Unknown~
My adventure in the used bookstore last Saturday resulted in finding a second book which seemed to be waiting for me to appear.
That book, The Salt Block, Heartwarming Stories from a Cowboy-Pastor, is pictured above.
As I read the title, I was reminded of a cowboy church service I attended in a rodeo arena in Buena Vista, Colorado.
It was a hot Sunday morning during the Chaffee County Fair. Our family was meeting at the rodeo grounds to attend the cowboy church service together.
It’d been a difficult year. We’d all faced personal challenges. Some of these trials put a lot of strain on our relationships with each other. In light of that fact, I was encouraged when everyone showed up.
Walking together we joined the scattering of people already in the small corral. I’d never been to a cowboy church service. I had no idea what to expect. We did not have to wait for long.
Right on schedule, a tall, slender man dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved plaid shirt, and shined black boots strode to the front of the crowd. He removed his hat and opened his well-worn Bible. Yes, this was the man we’d all been waiting to hear.
The moment he began to speak, the crowd grew quiet. He did not have a microphone. His deep voice was steady and clear, carrying easily across the arena as little dust devils stirred up in the mid morning winds. He spoke slowly, taking time to connect with each of us, nodding slightly as he made eye contact.
As he spoke the clusters of people moved inward, drawing the circle closer together, giving each of us a chance to acknowledge one another. Even though we were all strangers I felt at ease with this gathering of souls. It was peaceful and eerily quiet as we listened, focusing as the word of God was shared along with our preacher’s personal stories and life lessons. How fun it was to laugh with him as he gave examples of the mistakes and misjudgments he’d made along the way. The power of a good story was very evident that day.
I have no idea how long we stood together that sunny morning. Time stood still as our eclectic group of people grew closer and closer while our cowboy man of God reminded us that Jesus had died for our sins and we were all forgiven. By his sacrifice we were all saved. We could leave with peace in our hearts.
At that moment, all the problems I’d been carrying were lifted off my shoulders. As I looked around at my family, I could see their burdens fall to the wayside as well.
Powerful does not begin to describe this simple service held in a corral on a Sunday morning many years ago. Tears flowed as we held hands while praying The Lord’s Prayer. After that amen, long, strong, and sincere hugs were shared as we smiled, wishing each other safe travels.
Seeing this little book on Saturday reminded me God is with me and shows up in some of the most unlikely places.
I was blessed then as I am now.
“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”
~Peace be with you~