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just check’n

I love this prayer from A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen:

Listen, O Lord, to my prayers.  Listen to my desire to be with you, to dwell in your house, and to let my whole being be filled with your presence.  But none of this is possible without you.  When you are not the one who fills me, I am soon filled with endless thoughts and concerns that divide me and tear me away from you.  Even thoughts about you, good spiritual thoughts, can be little more than distractions when you are not their author.

O Lord, thinking about you, being fascinated with theological ideas and discussions, being excited about histories of Christian spirituality and stimulated by thoughts and ideas about prayer and meditation, all of this can be as much an expression of greed as the unruly desire for food, possessions, or power.

Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence.   No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.

Early on, back when I was a “proper” denominational pastor, my people-person wife used to ask me after Sunday church, “How many people did you see today?”  I’d shoot back, “all of them.”  That was a load of manure right there.  Honestly, I wouldn’t see anyone.  I was focused on what I was focused on.  Deeply focused and in my own world:  The Mike Zone.   The body was present, but the mind was elsewhere, rehearsing sermon notes, ideas, and concepts that needed to be laid out.  Some pastor, huh?

I’ve worked hard to change that about myself.  But I can still go there in a heartbeat.  Thump-thump.  Gone baby!

hitchhikerLast Saturday, Patti and I were headed on an errand to McGregor.  That’s about a fifteen-minute drive from where we live.  We drive that road all the time!  No biggie.

Saturday was a typical March day in Central Texas.  March in Central Texas can either be warm and sunny, or cold and cloudy, with nasty north winds.  Picture the latter.  Howling rainy winds.  Miserable stuff.

We were on a mission to get our errand over with so we could chill the rest of the day.  On our drive, however, we spotted a man—through slurpin’ windshield wipers—pushing his grocery cart with four large suitcases on the highway.   Of course Patti commented, “Oh, poor guy!”  I grunted.  But, we kept moving.  We were on a mission.

Two hours later, we were headed home from our appointment.  And yup, he was still out there on the highway.  Dragging his cart… still raining… his nasty pancho flying sideways because of the wind.  Now she said, “He hasn’t gotten very far.  Poor guy.”  I grunted out actual words this time, “Someone will pick him up.”

During my Seminary days, I had a two-hour commute between home and Ft. Worth.  So I would pick people up off the highway all the time.  Yes, ALL THE TIME.  So, I’m not completely heartless… regardless of what you might be thinking right now.

The next day, I was supposed to be preaching back in McGregor.  As I was driving to the church, I was definitely back in The Mike Zone, making sure I felt prepared.  Serious thinking.

There he was again.  Same guy.  Same road.  The same conditions existed, just colder.  He maybe progressed about four miles since I had last seen him the day before.  He was now displaying a sign with his destination: TEMPLE.  He must have slept in that patch of woods over there.  His odds aren’t great being on this particular highway.  He needs to be on I-35 not Hwy 84.  It can work over here, but not likely.

I grunted.  I really couldn’t be any later than I already was.  I had a serious message to give on the Holy Spirit.  I kept driving.

Three and a half hours later, I was headed home.  I was hungry, spent, and ready for a nap.  I made a quick call to see if Patti needed anything before I got home.  Nothing.  Sweet!

Damn it!  There he was again.  He had made a little more progress, but not much.  No grunt.  No more thoughts.  Now I’m talking out loud:  Just drive dude—just drive.  You’re almost home.  Frik!

I made it about three miles past the guy.

How many times are you going to drive by that guy?

Silence for another mile.

How many times are you going to drive by that guy?

Damn it!  Really?  [I’m laughing in the car because it’s just so frikk’n bizarre]

Shouting:  Ok.  Ok.  OK!

I made a quick u-turn and headed back in the opposite direction.  I scurried to shove my bible under my seat (didn’t want him to think he was being accosted by Bibleman) and rearranged the clutter in the passenger’s seat to make some room.  I grabbed the cash stash we keep in the car for such things and I was ready to roll.  I was actually surprised I had driven so far past him.

I kid you not.  You can’t make this stuff up.  As I pulled up, a man with a pick-up had pulled over and was loading the guy’s stuff into the back of his truck.  From the time I passed him, until I turned around and drove back to him, he had gotten the relief he was asking for.


“Just check’n.  That’s all.”

Listen, there is no one in this story who deserves a pat on the back other than the guy driving that truck.  I’m pretty sure he reacted the first time he saw the poor guy.

I asked one more time as I neared my home:  Anything else You want to say about this?

The guy was done.  He needed help.  It’s that simple.

That was it.

It was much to weird for me to draw any hasty conclusion here.  Honestly, I’m still processing it.

Let me get back to you on it if I can wrap it up all neat and tidy for y’all.

Don’t hold your breath.


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Connie
    March 20, 2014 at 8:22 am

    See Pascall I would of been the one in the pick up truck!! I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not in this day and age. My lesson is I can’t help everyone and I can’t take in every stray. I’ve finally learned my limits and boundaries.This silent time and reflection with God is pretty cool.Learning to be the student.Yeah I know your impressed. Ha Ha. Miss you guys


    • March 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Yeah, I seriously considered a mini-commercial at the end of this blog to clarify that I was in no way advocating anyone picking up hitchhikers… especially the women folk. There are a million ways to help people. Picking up hitchhikers doesn’t have to be one of them.

  2. Morman, Clark
    March 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks Mike.

    Praying for mercy!!

    Keep looking up!

    Clark Morman

  3. Patti Paschall
    March 20, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Maybe God sounds like me and you need to listen to me better!!!!!!!!! 😉😳😎😛😝😜😙😗😚😘😘😍😍😉😉☺️😀😀😃😃😱😱😱😱😱😱😭🙌💏👍👏

    Sent from my iPad


    • March 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      I’m sure that is exactly right honey. xo

  4. Joseph Rodriguez
    March 21, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Mike, you started my day with hopes high, I’m encouraged with your words and the story you shared.. thanks for being gut honest… refreshing

    • March 21, 2014 at 8:54 am

      Thanks Pastor! Favor and anointing abound for your people today! M

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