Chapter 3 - "huffing gas"

What do you do if you're a pastor with the weekend services staring you in the face, and yet, deep within, you know that right after church you're leaving for Montana? How do you concentrate on what you're responsible for? How do you not daydream in the middle of your message? How do you stay interested in conversations about weather and when you're woolgathering about wildlife and the life of the wild? You don't.

I remember drifting off in one of the three services never to return, not really. I mean my body was still in tact, by my spirit had run for the hills. Nothing seemed important in comparison to the tantilizing trip. Nothing captured my attention, I was pre-occupied with "gladness of heart" as it says in Eccl. 5. Completely bewitched by the thought of the unknowns just around the bend of the pastoral duties, the ministerial mayhem. I could almost taste it...

The last service came to an end and after a couple conversations, I hurried toward my car in excitement. I had to pack my belongings and meet up with my travelling comrade at 2:00pm...I had little time to trifle with superfluous conversation, or to linger in the church coffee shop sipping brew and shooting the breeze...I was on a mission...a Montana mission. I was in every way Missional.

At home, I scarfed down some grub and looked out my front window waiting for Doug's red truck to make its way into my pot-holed driveway. I had my face pressed up against the window pane like a little boy waiting for his dad to get home from work so that he could go fishing. I felt young again...really young of heart. I felt the same feelings I used to get riding my bike to Breitbeck Park to play little league at age 9 for the American Legion. I felt the same emotions I used to get walking up the front porch steps of some stranger to ask them if I could shovel their driveway for money. I felt the same racing of my heart that accompanied me when I was getting ready to go to Disney Land and we were going to leave really early in the morning before dawn. So I'm standing there with a 33 yr. old body and a 9 year old soul. It has been a long time since I've brushed up against these euphoric emotions. Way too long.

This moment was etched into my soul even more profoundly due to the tardiness of Doug in getting there. He pulled in at precisely 2:24pm...24 minutes that felt like 24 hours. 24 minutes that felt like I was holding my breath. 24 minutes wondering if this was actually going to happen of if I had only dreamed it up. 24 minutes of watching, waiting, wondering. And then, as if in slow motion, the red Ford pickup truck rounded my mailbox and glided to a stop in the middle of my driveway. It was a Diesel engine, purring and knocking and grinding like Diesel engines do. I love the smell of the exhaust...there is something about it that makes me feel like I'm on a farm, even if I'm at the mall. It reminds me of tractors and hay and silos and silage. As I hauled my luggage and bedding out the extended cab, the intoxicating aroma of burning diesel filled my lungs giving me a mild buzz. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and packed my junk in the back on the pickup. (if you're wondering why I'm making such a fuss about the smell of fuel, old habits die hard...I'm a recovering gas huffer from my childhood. I lost some serious brains cells over my gassy addiction. I supposed it's sort of like a smoker that gets around second hand smoke and feels something inside leap and lurch toward the hovering cloud, or an recovering alchoholic feeling saliva glands excreting spit at the sight of a shinny brown bottle of Bud Light. It's just like that, but it's gasoline that casts that sort of spell over my being...anyway, back to the story).

I had way too much stuff. I had a massive suitcase with the girly handle and rollers and that had to go. I brought way to much bedding. I even had my fan ready to be hoisted into the back, which would have made little difference since we didn't have electricity where we were going to power the fan. (I can't hardly sleep without a fan, but I'll wait to explain the effects of fanless nights until later...) I took some of my stuff back into the house and consolidated my belongings into essentially two bags instead of four. I left behind all the amenities, the luxuries of life. I took the bare necessities--I say necessities, but even things like toothpaste and deoderant, I learned, can be thrown overboard in comparison to the basic human needs--and with that, we climbed into the front seat and kissed the commonplace of my everyday existance goodbye. Something that felt quite barbaric, which only shows how civilized my heart truly is.

As we backed out the driveway and headed due west, I heard my heart say inside my chest, "Welp, ready or not here we go." And it was the very wonderment of my readiness that made the whole experience worthwhile in the first place. "For this I was made", whispered my heart. "I hear ya'." I mumbled under my breath. "I finally hear ya'."


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