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This was downright gross.

August 28, 2017

2I’ve been having a friend meet me every morning when I pull up to the school at 6 in the morning.  He’s a little fellow that has been regularly wandering around the lawn at the side of the school wing near my classroom.

He’s a skunk.

He’s a nice fellow, been meeting me since the beginning of the school year.  He seems to be accustomed to me pulling up in the teacher’s parking lot in the darkness (his eyes reflect nicely off my headlights), so he doesn’t seem bothered at all when I putter in and get my spot.  I say hello to him and he ambles away up the hill to find something more interesting than a fifty-eight year old man in a beat-up Jeep.  I stop and watch him every morning.

He’s serious enough, but I can’t get enough of the way he travels.  Sort of a wiggly little humorous gait.  He’s a bit of entertainment for me, though he is unaware of it.

Sort of reminds me of me.

There are times when I want to be as diligent as possible but things just end up, well, funny.

I’m going to re-post a part of a true experience back when I was a single fellow, traveling the countryside and speaking at small country churches and schools.  It was a great time of my life, getting to meet the grassroots people of this country, and the many stories I collected along the way were published in my book Gas Tank Chronicles.

It reminds me that I am often like the skunk.  This is one of my favorite stories:

I had been speaking and visiting prisons for about five days straight and I had a day’s break as I pulled into Hot Springs, South Dakota.  Some kind folks let me use a house during my travels and I sorely needed the break.  I felt that I may have picked up a bit of a cold while ministering at the jail and I headed to bed a bit weak.  I felt fairly certain that I had shook the flu-like symptoms by the next morning as I got up early, greeted the morning sun through the little trailer’s window, and wolfed down a huge omelet, some toast, bacon, and two cups of coffee while I had my devotions. I was famished, but I was also ready to do some serious exercising.

I pulled on some gym clothes, jumped into the car and headed to a gym in downtown Hot Springs. Within fifteen minutes I was running a circular track. After a five mile jog, I followed up with lap swimming in the club’s pool.

Spoiler alert: Some of this story might be a bit indelicate so I’m going to apologize ahead of time. If you are of a stiff constitution, you’ll get a good lesson from this anecdote, so please continue on.  If not, better find some more light reading somewhere else.

Okay, I warned you.

It was still early as I wandered back into the locker room. I had finished a half an hour of vigorous swimming.   

Oooooh, man.

It hit me, and quick, too. I plopped down and felt a feverish swoon coming over me.  I also belched and realized that I shouldn’t have had such a big breakfast.

A thin-haired middle-aged man wandered in, waved a hand, and opened the door of a locker.

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning…” I answered cheerily as possible while fighting a sour feeling way down in the pit of my stomach. I was wiping my forehead with a towel.  Things tasted funny in the back of my throat.

“Say, I recognize you, ” he said, pointing at me.  “You’re that guy who’s over at Boulder Creek Church speaking this week.  You’re also speaking at some of the Christian school chapels, aren’t you?”

“Yessir,”  I said, stifling a burp and blinking fast. “In fact, I’ll be speaking at a school assembly tonight. I…”

I faded off, weakly.  Man, I really wish I hadn’t eaten that breakfast. I swallowed gingerly.  “I…I’m surprised you would … urp… recognize me.”

“Oh, it’s a small town,” the man chuckled, fumbling with a wire hanger. “My wife went to the church to hear you Tuesday night. I couldn’t make it – overtime hours, you know.” He bent over to untie his shoes. “So you’re a minister? Or a preacher…or a parson, is that right?”

I could feel it coming.

My stomach was in kick-out mode. I darted for the bathroom stall and leaped inside, hovering expectantly over the toilet, my pounding head leaning down and my shaking legs trying to hold me up.

“Well,” I called haltingly over the top of the door, “Some people say a preacher, some say a speaker, or evangelist, but…”

Oooooh, I felt bad.

“… I just like to say that I’m a guy who travels and shares the Bible.”

“Yeah, okay.” I could hear him grunt that he understood. “So, can you tell me about the difference between a Baptist leader and a Catholic one?”

“Oh, ah… well,” I called from inside the stall, steadying my legs and feeling the starchy acidic feeling rising in my throat and into the sides of my cheeks. I gulped but I knew what was coming. “For one thing, Baptist churches have pastors – shepherds of the flock, you might say. Priests are in the Catholic realm. With the Catholic church you have confessionals, and you don’t with the Baptist, or Protestants…”

I was woozy.

“Well, okay, that’s what I had heard,” the man said agreeably. I could hear him unzip the sports bag. “Whatever you call yourself, I’ve had some questions that I’ve always wanted to ask a man of the cloth.”

And that is when I lost it.

I mean, everything came roaring up the tunnel, brother.

The green flag at the Indy 500, so to speak.  Niagara Falls was unleashed. Apollo 13 was launched.

To put it bluntly, I projectile vomited like I never had before. I believe I broke a bone in my ankle, I was shaking so hard.

“I’ve been thinking about dedication to God,” the man continued,  “And what would be a good chapter on talking about real, genuine – you know – Heavenly love?”

I tried to put my words together in time.  It didn’t make it.  “I would say 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen BLEEEEEAAAAAAAGH…”

He grunted again. “Hey, that’s something.  I’ll write it down.  What do you recommend for a good devotional time?”

So here I was, holding myself steady by clinging to both sides of the bathroom stall with legs that were shaking like Jello in an earthquake, vomiting in stupendous fashion while a man sat peacefully on the other side of the stall’s door, happily putting on his flip-flops and asking me for Biblical answers on various questions he had been pondering for many a year. He asked about prayer, Bible reading and the problem of sin.  I kept answering and throwing up.  For reasons beyond me he never picked up on the fact that I was violently ill, nor did he seem to care that I was calling out answers from inside a bathroom stall.

“So, you’re saying that Colossians is a good book to learn about Christian freedom?  Nice, very nice.”  I heard him slam the locker door.  “You’ve been very kind.  Well, time for me to hit the swimming pool.  See you, then.”

He whistled merrily and went out to take a dip.

Now, I really do understand that Paul’s second letter to Timothy contains an exhortation to be ready “in season or out of season” to preach God’s Word and give instruction.  I find that the Greek word for “ready” can be translated as “stand by,” just as a radio announcer would hold his script and look at the director, ready to speak at a moment’s notice.

This “stand by” means that we give Scriptural exhortation in any situation, whether it be at the library, the supermarket, the cubicle or the running track.

Any time, anywhere.  I felt I already knew that.

I just wasn’t aware that it might mean no matter how you felt.

Well, I got my first lesson in that as well.

And also a dose of learning to “be clothed with humility,” as Peter so aptly put it. But I also learned that if the Lord gives the opportunity to share His Word, then I’d like to be able to do what I can, even if I’m hovering over a flush toilet in a locker room in South Dakota. 

And I imagine God had a nice chuckle over that little scenario.

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