February 17, 2017

My Father’s Staff…

Category: News — admin @ 5:30 pm

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…He heard the spectre moan of the wind, he was entombed
in loss and darkness, and his soul plunged downward into the
pit of night, for he saw that he must die a stranger… And like
a man who is perishing in the polar night, he thought of the rich
meadows of his youth: the corn, the plum tree, and ripe grain.
Why here? O lost!

—Thomas Wolfe
_________________

I remember the day very well. An ordinary Sunday, a regular church service, there at Chestnut Street. I don’t always notice when visitors show up, or pay that much attention to them when they do. That day, I noticed a stranger and his wife. A gray-haired guy, maybe a few years older than me. I can’t remember even vaguely wondering what had brought them to that place.

After the service, we had a fellowship meal downstairs, which happens roughly once a month. I always pay attention to when those meals are, because a guy living alone is always grateful for a good free meal. That day, at that meal, the stranger and his wife sat across the table from me. I was introduced by the friend they had come to visit. The stranger took my proffered hand in a firm grip, and looked at me sharply with piercing eyes.

I forget his name, and it’s not important. He was a missionary preacher man from South Africa, and he worked with Hindu people there. Interesting, I thought. I bet he’s seen some real spiritual warfare. He smiled as if he knew me. Which, it turned out, he kind of did. He told me. They had arrived earlier that week, and his friend had given him my book to read. This was in 2012 or so, the book had not been out that long. He had read it in two days. He thought it was very interesting. But he had something to tell me. And he leaned across the table, close, and those intense eyes looked right through me.

“The part of the book early on,” he said. “Where you wrote about your father being a dowser, how he could find water with a stick. The power to do that comes from a divining spirit. It is not a good thing. It is evil. I have seen so much in my lifetime, with the kind of work I do.”

Well. What do you say to such a thing? Yeah, my father was a dowser. He walked around holding a forked stick. A staff of sorts, I would say. He found water with a little stick, kind of like Moses found water with his staff. Not exactly the same, I realize. But still. Wood and water.

The preacher man was nowhere close to done talking about it, either. He went right on, in that clipped South African accent. “When I read that, early in the book, about the dowsing, I knew one thing,” he said. “I knew some bad things were going to happen before the story ended in your book. And I was right. Your brother, Titus. When he dived into that pond, and broke his neck. It seemed like a freak accident. But it wasn’t an accident. That power that pulled him down was a divining spirit. And that spirit was looking for a sacrifice. That close, it got your brother. Had the wind been blowing out, instead of in, the spirit would have taken him.”

I stared at the man. Across the table, as we were eating a fellowship meal together. Not because I thought he’d lost his marbles. But because I was intrigued. Here sat a preacher man, telling me that the harmless thing I saw my father doing was actually demonic. I mean, I wasn’t going to just embrace what he was saying as truth. But I sure was going to listen to what he had to tell me.

Dowsing is not unique to just the Amish, but it sure has been a part of the lore and legend of the culture. There are lots of dark tales out there, about a lot of dark things. Some of that stuff comes from an evil place, no doubt about that. But does it all? And if so, how is a bloodline affected? Are there curses? If so, are those curses generational? I’ve heard it from about every side. And I don’t take a hard position on most such things. It all just depends on where you came from, and what you’ve seen. Near as I can tell, anyway.

There are Amish tales of many dark things. I’ll never forget the story Mom told me one time when she and Dad were admonishing me after I got caught smoking. I was probably twelve. It was a tale of a rebellious Amish youth who bought a car. Big sin, there. One night, as he was driving home alone around midnight, there was a tap on his shoulder from the back seat. Slowly, almost frozen with fear, he pulled off to the side of the road and parked. Then he turned around slowly. And there the monster sat, horned and grinning. Satan himself. “Welcome to my kingdom,” Satan said. “I’m so happy that you will be helping to fill hell, after you die.” Then, poof, he was gone. The boy, terrified, drove home. He could not sleep that night. The next day, he sold his car. That was the moral of the whole thing. The car was bad, because disobedience was bad. I had to figure out that connection for myself, years later. I listened, wide eyed. That tale scared me for years.

And there are sermons, too, based on raw fear. It’s not just for parents to speak to young children. Of demons hovering over “beer joints,” visible only to eyes that are open to see. And somewhere in some graveyard, there is a tomb stone that glows eerily at night with unearthly fire. I’ve never seen it. But that’s what they say. Tales of dark men walking in to the wake of a rebellious young Amish girl (In Illinois somewhere, probably Arthur) who had been tragically killed. The two men walked in late to the wake, they were blackened and singed, still reeking of smoke and fumes. They looked at the dead girl, then at each other and nodded. And then they turned and walked back outside and disappeared into the darkness, back to hell where they had come from.

You preach that, you’re preaching fear. And fear can never be the basis of salvation.

Since the book came out, back in 2011, I have heard from many readers about many topics. One message came from a woman who came from Amish blood. And she told me of how her great-grandfather had been a dowser. He was an Amish minister. He practiced water witching, and used Ouija boards. It was whispered that he at one time had cursed God, challenging God to show Himself if He is real. He never heard any response, not when he was living. But after he died, as they were lowering his casket into the hole, large black snakes came up and slithered away. That’s the story that is told.

A good friend of mine who lives in the Midwest told me. He’s a builder. And one day, years ago, he was working for a guy who lived right across the road from an old church, and a large, mostly empty graveyard. And the guy told him. He used the same method as my father did, but it was with wires over a grave. He could tell you if a male or female was buried there and which end the head was when the body was placed in the grave.

Stories like that are just too wild to make up. Well, they’re not, but you can tell if you’re talking to someone who is credible. These are cultural stories, that science has always scorned. We hear those stories, and we instinctively know when they are true.

My friend told me. “I asked the guy. I said, are you [a witch]? He said, No, I’m not into witchcraft, I’m a Christian! He lived across the road from a large cemetery with only a dozen stones or so. Him and his dad-in-law learned how to do it from the internet. He said there were over 200 unmarked graves.”

I’ve never heard of such a thing, that a man has the power to locate and speak of some pretty intimate details about bodies in unmarked graves. But I don’t doubt even a smidgen of the story my friend told me. I don’t know where power like that comes from. I don’t really care to know. I would never dabble in such an activity as that. But I will talk face to face with any person who would. And I would talk to such a person without condemnation, and without fear.

And fear is really behind the reactions, when people recoil, I think. The reactions to dowsing and other ancient practices. Most of the stories, too, are based in a deep underlying current of fear. Satan is a roaring lion, and he’s out there stalking about, looking to devour the unwary. And the stories are told, passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. I think it’s time somebody wrote them down. At least some of them.

Another reader wrote me years ago, of the fear that is used to control the Amish youth. He came from a hard place, and heard all the stories as a child. This is a little bit of what he wrote to me: “…Fear and torment as a way to control. Fear of the occult, power of darkness, fire from graves, spirits groaning in the hay loft, nooses hanging from rafters, stories, tales and threats of terror to demonize any young person. Harsh severe judgement on sin, no hope…a way of life.” He was speaking truth, from the world he came from. And the better one he was in.

When we were young, we played a game. It took five or six people. One person in the group would leave the room. The others in the room would pick one person from among them. Then the person was called back from outside the room. We all stood around him, put one hand on his shoulders, and thought about the person we had chosen to think about. The person who had left the room always, always was pulled by some magical force to the person all the rest of us were thinking about. And I don’t mean a little tug, either. It was a powerful force that actually would have pulled a person over to the ground. I can’t quite remember where this game came from, or who taught us. I do remember playing the game in Aylmer, before we moved. So it probably came from Daviess roots.

Would I play this game today? Probably not. (There are lots of ancient practices I would not get close to. I would never touch a Ouija board.) There is no question the power we saw and felt was real. I have no idea how it all worked. But it did. Just like Dad’s dowsing worked. And none of it was anything that I ever was afraid of. It didn’t seem based on fear. It just was what it was.

Science has never verified that any of it works, any of those strange cultural things. Not the dowsing, not the Ouija Board, not the game we played. I guess science can’t explain everything. I respect real science. The provable experiments, the medicine, the surgery techniques. I’d be dead, if it weren’t for science, from my heart procedures in the past few years. I respect and appreciate it a lot. But that doesn’t mean I worship it.

It’s the “consensus” politicized “science” that I abhor and detest. They have become the new priesthood, such scientists have. And they will cast out and ostracize anyone who dares to question their grave noble proclamations about how the universe was born, or their shrill screeching about manmade destruction of this planet. When an arrogant, condescending hack like Bill Nye can pronounce that Christian parents should not be allowed to homeschool their own children because faith has no place in the classroom, and be taken seriously, when that happens, the priesthood needs to be resisted at every turn. In every way possible. These high priests are frauds. Just like the religious Christian ones were, a long time ago.

An idol is an idol. It don’t matter who’s worshiping it.

The sorcerer’s gifts, and his deeds, are always based in fear. At least in my culture, they are. I never, never sensed any fear in Dad, that way. Don’t get me wrong. He was deeply flawed, in a lot of ways. But not ways that I ever saw connected to this.

And yeah. I know all about God’s curses, and such. But I’ve always wondered. If “witching” is such an evil thing, why do the people who have the gift have so little clue as to why they have it?? Seems to me, if it’s evil and cursed in the Old Testament, then the people who are cursed should be aware that they are, and why.

I don’t know. I guess I feel a little defensive. Like a child of a person like my father was would be. I saw what I saw. And it didn’t seem all that harmful, any of it. Actually, it all seemed downright calm and peaceable. Dad never talked about it, much, his gift. He never advertised it. He just went and dowsed when he was called on to do so. Looking back, there was something so orderly about it that I just can’t bring myself to get all harsh and biblically judgmental about it. I just can’t. It’s who I am, and where I came from, what I saw and lived. You can’t slog through life on a foundation of fear.

Well. I guess you can. But it’s not healthy. Fear never is.

Circling back around, then, to the preacher man from South Africa, with the piercing eyes. We chatted through the meal that day in church. And then I asked him. Will you be around for a few more days? Can we do lunch one day this week? He told me. They would be around for a week, so that would work.

We met for lunch, down at Dutchway, a few days later. I carried a small gift, a copy of my book. He had read it, but I figured he might like one to take back home with him. And we had a great time that day. I had been right, in my thinking. He told me war story after war story of the spiritual battles he had seen and waged back in his home country. I listened and asked a lot of questions. I did not doubt any story he spoke to me that day. And we talked about it, too, the divining spirit he claimed my father used when he dowsed. I just listened. I did not scoff, and I did not fall over myself to agree with him. It was a respectful conversation.

Soon enough, it was time to wind down. We walked outside. And I thought about it, and then I asked him. Would you say a prayer for me? We may never see each other again. He agreed instantly. He would be happy to.

We sat there in my truck. The man placed his hand on me. And he spoke to God in a way that I trust. Simply talking man to man. And he told God. “We pray for Ira, in the name of Jesus. We don’t know if there is a generational curse that passed on down to him from his father, with the divining power. But if there is, we rebuke it, today, here. And we tell it to depart forever from having any effect on Ira or his extended family.” Not an exact quote, there. But words to that effect.

I thanked him. We shook hands and parted ways. I have often wondered if there was any particular reason he came striding ever so briefly through my world, the preacher man from South Africa who knew what it was to do battle in the spiritual world.

I’ve wondered, too, about that curse thing. You won’t be able to tell, from my life. It’s been in shambles, often as not. But I have never sensed a generational curse over me. I mean, that would leave me pretty hopeless, walking around under a curse I never had anything to do with.

Jesus died for the hopeless. That’s what the gospel is all about.

Still, I come from where I came from, and I saw what I saw. And I have often pondered them in my heart, the things the preacher man told me that day.
***************************************

The motorcycle journey rumbles on. Well, maybe I should say, it stumbles on. I’ve kept the grooming going, the long hair look. About once a month, I stroll into the barber shop in downtown New Holland. It’s a classic little man cave place. My buddy Michael is usually working his way through the line of customers. I sit and wait, like you do in a barber shop. When my turn comes, he always welcomes me, and chats about his latest woman troubles. I nod and smile and agree. Yeah, it’s best to stay away from’em. They never brought me a thing but trouble.

Last time I was in, he told me. “Your hair is sure filling out, nice and long, like you want it. Soon it’ll be down to your shoulders. Your kind of hair, it’s hard to get long, because it just curls up.”

Ira steampunk2

Yep, I said. And then I told him. Let it grow, let it grow. I want to look all mean, so the little children shrink in fear behind their mothers when they see me. I thought I had told him that before. Apparently, I hadn’t, because he stopped what he was doing. Stood there for a second. Then he threw back his head and laughed as long and hard as I’ve ever seen him laugh.

“No,” he said it matter-of-factly. “That, my friend, is not going to happen.”

Ah, come on, I chided. Don’t shoot down my goal.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a cheap motorcycle. Something small, like the one I took the classes on. Not too small, but still. Small enough so that I can ride the back roads until I know what the heck I’m doing. Confidence, and all that.

Earlier this very week, a good friend told me. “That little car dealer in Gap is going out of business. My daughter just drove by, and they have a really sharp little bike sitting out there. For sale. You should go check it out.”

And that how things get started. The next morning, on the way to work, I stopped at Waltz’s Sales. It’s a small, very old fashioned place, straight out of the 1950s. I walked into the office. Greeted the father and son sitting there. I hear you have a bike for sale.

Yes, they did. And the son took me out to where the bike was in the small garage. A Yamaha 650, with lots of after-market chrome. 2010 model, low slung, very sharp. White, not black. Which is OK for the first bike. The next one, I’ll get black. The most amazing thing of all: this little bike had only 1600 miles on it. I mean, that’s practically brand new. The price. Very low, but still at the top of the range I had set for myself.

It was a cold morning. We pushed the bike outside and he started it. I didn’t feel comfortable test driving it in Gap, because of the traffic. I sat on it, and rolled the throttle. It rumbled magnificently.

If you’re gonna do something, you might as well get it done, I thought to myself. And I wrote out a check for the full amount. I got it licensed and insured, and my friend Lewis is driving it home for me tomorrow. I have notified the tenant. We got a new thing coming, that needs some garage space. He parks his car in there, but I’m sure he’ll find me a spot. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I don’t think a scabbard is going to fit on this bike. It’s a little small for that. So the coach gun will have to stay at home for now. Until a new black steed shows up on its own, kind of like this bike did.

I’m excited. There’s a new road rising.

bike2

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January 20, 2017

“Selling” Jesus…

Category: News — admin @ 5:30 pm

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Talkin’ to a preacher, said God was on his side.
Talkin’ to a pusher, they both were selling highs.
Well, I gotta tell the story, boys,
I don’t know the reason why.

—Waylon, lyrics
_______________________________________________

It’s funny, how things work sometimes. The other day was just an ordinary January day, there at the office. If there is such a thing as an ordinary day in January. It’s a depressing month, all around. (Well, not as dark as March is. But dark enough.) That day, it was late morning. The door opened, the doorbell jangled. I looked up from my desk, and automatically got up to take care of the customer.

He walked toward me, smiling. Then he spoke my name. “Ira.” He was all loud and jovial. I looked at him, tried to place him. His face was familiar. A youngish guy. Then I recognized him and spoke his name back, not quite as loud. He walked up to the counter, and we shook hands. It’s been a while, I said. “Yes, it has,” he answered. “I’m here to pick up some of that wood siding you sell.” Good, I said. I got plenty in stock. He was a local guy, from over close to Philly. I’d sold to him off and on, many times over the years. He’s young, driven, hard-working, and very successful with his own business. And he’s usually all business. On this day, though, he was a little more relaxed than usual.

This time, he asked me, right off. “How’s that book of yours doing out there?” I grinned, surprised. Not sure how he heard about the book. Maybe I’d told him before. Or maybe he just saw the poster on my computer screen. I grinned again. I might as well brag a little. Oh, it did pretty well, I told him. Seventh printing. Close to 200,000 copies sold. It made my publisher a lot of money. He looked impressed. That’s the kind of language he understands and respects. Making a lot of money. I never mentioned the book was a NY Times bestseller. That kind of thing wasn’t going to impress him like making a lot of money did.

The small talk was over, then. We stood at the counter, and he got to telling me about a garage he wants to build at his home. He figured I could provide the materials, and maybe even build it for him. And I don’t know exactly why I did what I did, then. As we were talking, I turned to my desk and picked up a copy of my book from the box, there. Back at the counter, I set the book off to one side, out of the way. I never said a word about it. Just set it there. In the back of my mind, I figured. If I can get a word in edgewise, I’ll see if I can sell him my book.

He was all business. And we talked for fifteen minutes about the garage he wanted. I showed him pictures of what we had done and what we could do. The book sat there, looking forlorn. I never mentioned it, never even glanced at it. We wrapped things up, then. I wrote up the invoice for his siding, and he wrote me a check. I handed him the paperwork and told him where to go to load. I thanked him for the business. And that was that, I figured.

But no. As he was turning to leave, he stopped and motioned. “How much for the book?” he asked. I didn’t act surprised. Fifteen bucks, signed, I said. He laughed. “How about if it’s not signed?” he asked. And I laughed, too. Still fifteen bucks, I said. He got out his wallet and handed me the cash. I signed the book and handed it to him. He thanked me.

And I thought to myself as he turned and walked out. The book just sold itself, right there. I didn’t do anything. Sometimes you sell by not selling.

I’ve thought a lot about the little scene that came down at the counter that day. I think it was just instinctive on my part, to let things go and let everything play out naturally without a lot of fuss. Had the guy not glanced at the book again, I would never have thought twice about it. I never pushed it on him, and so he took it upon himself. It was all pretty amazing, when you think about it.

I’ve never considered myself that much of a salesman. But looking back, I saw it from my earliest days and my earliest memories, what a good salesman is. My father was a natural born salesman. The man lived and breathed sales pretty much every day of his life, at least the part of his life that I saw and remember.

I’ve mentioned it before. Dad loved the art of the deal. Growing up, I saw it all around me every day. Dad plunged about madly, here and there, pursuing his far-flung ideas to wherever they would lead. The thing is, it never fazed him when he failed. Over the years, he wore a lot of different sales hats, with some varied success. And when one little business idea faltered or sputtered to a halt, he was soon busily engaged in launching the next big thing. As long as he was selling, his world was about where he figured it should be. That, and when he was writing, of course. But that’s a form of selling, too, getting people to read what you wrote.

In Dad’s vast and varied career, he sold just about anything you can imagine, from purebred Landrace hogs to grape seedlings to metal roofing and siding. And he had a lot of other little side businesses scattered about, here and there, all throughout my childhood years.

Dad sold fruit. Well, mostly he sold black sweet cherries and peaches in season. And he raised acres of strawberries and sold them, too, in season. The strawberries, we peddled door to door, in Aylmer and Tillsonburg. The cherries and peaches, well, he brokered those. Was simply the middleman who moved and shook things, and made them work. It’s all part of Dad’s legend, how he got into the cherry business. Early on, after moving to Aylmer, he was traveling to the east one day, over close to Niagara Falls. He saw the rich fertile ground, he saw the mile after mile of vast orchards with bowing trees. And randomly, he stopped in to talk to one of those orchard owners. That man’s name was Alfred C. High. And Dad and Mr. High struck up a deal that day. Mr. High would bring Dad a flatbed truck load of cherries, all packed in four-quart wooden baskets. And Dad would sell them to the people in the community. I think they started small, that first year.

Dad soon had the community saturated with fresh, delicious sweet cherries. He needed a bigger market. And that’s when he went to the Aylmer Sales Barn and set up a stand. When Alfred C. High came around with his little flatbed truck, we unloaded all the baskets the Amish people around us had ordered. Then it was off to the Sales Barn vendor’s lot. By mid-afternoon, usually, Dad’s table was loaded and ready for business. And he developed quite a reputation as a seller of quality fruit. At the stand, he didn’t just sit around. Not Dad. He got all active. “Fresh, delicious cherries,” he hollered to anyone who would listen. He poured a basket of cherries over into an empty basket, to show that the cherries were good, all the way down to the bottom. And he usually sold out well before dark, when the market shut down.

I can’t remember that he ever sold peaches at the Sales Barn. For those, he simply took orders from people in the community. And Alfred C. High brought the amounts Dad ordered. Those black sweet cherries and those peaches were the most luscious fruits that I have ever tasted. Maybe it’s a childhood thing, the vividness of those early memories. But I think all my siblings would agree with me. Alfred C. High raised the most delicious, mouth-watering cherries and peaches we ever ate.

The strawberries were another story. At dawn, we were out in the strawberry patch, on our knees in a vast sea of dew-soaked plants, picking box after box of the ripe red berries. And we had a different way of selling. We peddled those strawberries door to door, mostly in Aylmer. I peddled my first fruit when I was probably ten years old. I look back on it all now, and just marvel at how audacious it all was. We walked through the back streets of town, lugging a crate of strawberries. I can still feel how to was to walk cold to a door and knock or ring the doorbell. You wait, then, for some kind of noise from within. If all is silent, you knock or ring again. Back in those days, the early 1970s, more women stayed at home, I think. Someone was apt to be home, about any hour of the day. And when the housewife came to the door, you asked her as politely as any little Amish boy could. Would you like to buy some strawberries today?

I can’t remember many people being rude, although I’m sure some were. We were focused on getting that buggy load of berries sold, so we could go downtown. After a hard afternoon of selling, we would walk into Clarke’s Restaurant, there on main street. A cheeseburger and French fries, those were the reward. I remember that Clarke’s had a juke box, with a song selector at every table, a little glass cabinet. In that place, that’s where I first heard Sammy Davis, Jr.’s classic. The Candy Man Can. The place was a mecca to us, so cutting edge and worldly.

Dad sold nursery stock. Again, how that ever came to be is lost to me now. I never heard how he got the idea. He loved shrubs and bushes, loved to plant a nice blue spruce here and there around the yard. And somehow, he got the idea that he could sell shrubs and trees. So he sent off for thousands and thousands of infant seedlings of every describable type, breed, and nature. Blue spruces. Evergreen shrubs. Oak and maple saplings. We planted the seedlings on the sandy hill east of the pond. It was the only sandy spot on the whole farm. And it was the perfect spot to sprout Dad’s inventory of nursery stock.

And for the nursery stock, Dad had to bring the customers out to our farm. Along the gravel road, seven miles east of Aylmer. And somehow, the man did it. He placed a small ad in the weekly Aylmer Express. I don’t know, he might have advertised in the daily St. Thomas Times-Journal, too. And in the summer, especially on a Saturday, the people came. Car after car cruised slowly down from the west, and pulled into our drive. Sometimes there were four or five cars stacked up. The place got full. Usually it was a husband and wife. Sometimes the wife was alone. And they all came to buy the bushes and shrubs Dad had for sale.

We were just kids, my brothers and me. I was ten, probably. We kept a few bushes and shrubs in the shop, there, in the yard. But often, the customer wanted something fresher. And we would grab a shovel and escort the customer right out to the sandy hill east of the pond. And there we would dig up the shrub the customer chose. Those were busy days.

I remember a couple of things about it all. Me and my brothers, Stephen and Titus, took in a lot of cash from those sales. We often walked around with a pocket full of assorted cash bills, including twenties. Our system of writing up sales was extremely lackadaisical. We handed over a lot of cash to Dad, when he came home for lunch from his office at Pathway. And always, a little bit of that cash stuck to our fingers. A five here, a ten there, a twenty there. We didn’t really consider it stealing, but I guess it was. We were just storing up funds we needed to buy hockey sticks and comic books and other goodies. Titus even saved up enough to buy a shotgun. An Ithaca twelve-gauge that kicked the empty shells straight down, not out to the side like all other brands of pump guns. I feel no guilt from here, looking back at that syphoned cash. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it. But that’s what boys are gonna do, right across the board, normally, if they get a chance. It just was what it was.

The second thing I remember is a small thing, but it stayed with me all my life. I was just a kid, a raggedy, snot-nosed, barefoot, dirty kid. But that was the time of my life I learned to hold the car door open for a lady. I’d sell a few shrubs to a man and his wife. We’d load them in the trunk of the car, and the man would pay me. And as they walked forward to get in the car, I darted forward, too, on the lady’s side. Opened the door. And every single lady I ever opened the door for acted all surprised and delighted. Always, they smiled at me, real smiles. And always, they said, in a pleased voice. “Why, thank you.” (On the other side of the car, the husband sat, looking glum that a little Amish kid had outclassed him.) You’re welcome, I mumbled, rubbing my shirt sleeve across my nose. It was all quite wild and wonderful.

Back to the opening scene on this blog. I come from a place where selling was what we did from our earliest memories. So maybe I kept silent instinctively, because of how I had seen my father sell all those years ago. I can’t say for sure. In sales, there is a time for silence, and there is a time to speak. I do know I have never come close to matching Dad’s selling skills.

And perhaps his most lasting sale of all came from the true calling of his heart. His writing. When he founded and launched Family Life, he put all his many sales skills to work, honed to their finest edge. He produced a quality inaugural issue of the magazine. He mailed it out to thousands and thousands of people, for free. And he included his sales pitch, in that first offer. This is our vision, here at Pathway. This is an example of what we can produce here. Please subscribe if you want to read more such material in the future. It was my father’s greatest sales triumph. And he will leave behind the work of his hands when he passes on. No one can ever take that accomplishment from him.

And sliding off on one more little bunny trail, here. The last one, I promise. It made me think of one other thing, that little incident with my customer friend. He asked about the book. I told him. We chatted about it. Then he got down to the business he had come for. And I just quietly set the book off to one side, there. Didn’t call any attention to it. Not one word. There it was. If he wanted it, he could ask. He knew it was there for the taking.

And I thought about it. Isn’t that how we should treat the gospel? You walk through life as a Christian. You don’t have to wear it on your sleeve, the fact that you are a child of God. You don’t have to tell the people you meet in the wilderness. If you meet them where they are, if you reflect the true love of Christ, they’ll see and know that on their own.

I come from a quiet people who are not expressive at all about their lifestyle or their faith. I was taught from my youth. Live your faith. Don’t worry so much about speaking it. It’s OK to speak it, if someone asks. But don’t go around harassing people, don’t go around preaching. Anyone can claim anything.

I want to be careful here. The vineyards of the Lord are vast and varied. As are the numbers and types of laborers in those vineyards. I’m not knocking the wild-eyed preacher on the street corner. I’m not talking down on people who knock on doors to spread the good news. I’m just saying. That’s not who I am. And no, I don’t feel even slightly guilty about any of that. I just walk. I figure that’s what I’m called to do.

And yeah, I’ll tell you, here. I’m a Christian. No, I don’t make a big fuss about it. I might tell you in person, if I figure it’ll make any difference. I might not, too. But if you ask, I’ll never, never be shy about it. I’ll never flinch. Yes. Jesus is real to me. Yes, life is still hard, as often as not. Yes, I am flawed, just like anyone else. Yes, I get pissed and sometimes lose my temper. Yes, I’m human. I always will be. And my heart will always be as depraved as the heart of the vilest sinner out there you can imagine. It’s only God’s grace that makes any difference. And you can have that grace, too.

These things I’ll tell you, if you want to know. If you don’t want to know, I’ll just keep walking. My words won’t make any difference, anyway. I won’t try to “sell” Jesus by telling you life gets easier if you speak the “sinner’s prayer” and believe. It doesn’t. It gets harder. It gets messier. Still. Either the gospel will reach you, or it won’t.

There is no “bargain basement” pricing, either. Because it’s all free, that grace is. It always was, and it always will be. You can drink deep from that fountain whenever you choose to believe. And then you can walk in calmness and in peace through any hard and messy place that life slings at you. Take it from a guy who’s seen lots and lots of hard and messy places. A guy who’s still walking.

And that right there is about the only “selling” of Jesus you’ll ever hear from me.

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