The Miracle Man

Paradise, AZ 1951

Welcome to Paradise. Off the beaten path, sleepy, backwater—call it what you will, Police Chief Luke Hollis likes his town just the way it is. Clear skies and fair winds make for smooth sailing. Luke’s perfectly content to concentrate on nothing but a good cup of coffee and working up the nerve to approach his dispatcher, Ruby Brooks, with his feelings for her. When an unexpected miracle occurs at the Mount Moriah Pentecostal Church of God events are set in motion that will challenge him, test everything he believes, and ultimately change his life forever. Throw in a struggling minister, a world-class grifter, a stranger with an unbelievable story of love and redemption and the stage is set for The Miracle Man. By the time it’s all over everyone involved will come face to face with a Power that’s greater and more wonderful than any of them could have ever imagined.

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Rear View Mirror...
                           a Blog

The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez 

A strand of black hair blew across Gomez Gomez’s face and he pushed it away with a rough hand. Hands that hadn’t known the indoors for what, two years now? A strange pair they must have made. Father Jake, the wind whipping his black cassock against his legs, and Gomez Gomez—the outcast. Unclean.
            Gomez Gomez knew what they thought of him. And why shouldn’t they? They lived their lives offices and churches. Went to schools and picnics and shopped at Harlan’s Market. They went home at night to houses made of solid things like wood and brick and the warm smell of cooking food.
            Not him. Nothing solid made up the walls of Gomez Gomez’s camp beneath the Palos Verdes tree in Johnson’s vacant lot. His walls were made of nothing but ghosts that flickered and shimmered around him through the long days and nights. His house smelled like lizards and diesel fumes from the highway.
            But here they were. Gomez Gomez and Father Jake. The unclean and the priest, standing on top of Apache Drop—the very edge of the world—with a hundred miles of Arizona desert stretching out beneath them in three directions.
            “It’s a nice evening for it,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “Would have been good for it two years ago.”
            “I wasn’t ready then, I told you.”
            “And you are now?”
            “No.” Gomez Gomez held up the Folgers can. His hands trembled. From the whiskey, not nerves. “I wish I had something better than this.”
            Father Jake put a hand on his shoulder. “We do what we can with what we’ve got. She wouldn’t have minded.”
            “That’s just it. She wouldn’t have. That’s why she deserved better.” He grunted a laugh—a foreign sound. “She liked Yuban. Always told me to get Yuban when I went to Harlan’s.”
            “Let’s do it, amigo. Whenever you’re ready.”
            The lid came off too easy, even with trembling fingers. He’d hoped it would take longer. “Okay. Goodbye then.” She always liked to keep things simple.
            A tip of a Folgers can. A life, dreams, all of it—into the updraft. Air rushing from the warm desert floor to coolness of the deep blue. The ashes swirled and dipped, rising high into the air, falling, then climbing again. They whipped around Gomez Gomez and peppered his clothes. Small white specks of her.
            He didn’t brush them off. “They were beautiful ashes, don’t you think?”
            “Prettiest I ever saw.”
            “She really knew how to die, you know?”
            “I do.”
            “I don’t just mean at the end. I mean from the first day I met her. She knew how to die. I never did.”
            “I know what you meant. Most of us don’t know how. Not like her.”
            Tears came but Gomez Gomez blinked them away. She wouldn’t want them.
            Father Jake bent and picked up a rock. He threw it over the edge. Even when they were kids he’d had the best arm. “She touched us all. Everybody. You should have seen the memorial, man. The whole town…”
            “I couldn’t. You know? See… I never bought her Yuban.”
            “She loved you. You were the world to her. She didn’t care about Yuban.”
            “Exactly. That’s why I couldn’t go.”
            “Yeah.”
            Gomez Gomez pulled the bottle out of the inside pocket of his coat—Dewar’s White Label. He removed the cap and took two steps forward. The whiskey didn’t pour as much as spray in the stiff wind. He wound up and threw the bottle as far out toward the dropping sun as he could—not far. A strong gust drowned out the sound of it breaking below.
            “We can go now,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “Alright.”
            “I want to learn how to die.”
            “I’m glad. We all need to die more.”  
            “Maybe I could come inside now.”
            “We have a room for you at the Mission can till you get back on your feet.”
            “Thanks for driving me up here, Jake.”
            “You got it, amigo.”
 
 
Fair winds,
Buck 

The Happy Ignorance of Being Thirty-nineteen  

            When I was seventeen I was a genius. A serious, going-to-change the world type of genius. So I did what every red-blooded Arizona border town kid does—packed up my guitar and headed for NYC to play music on the streets.             
            See? Genius.
            I limped back home some months later with a smashed hand and about thirty pounds lighter.
            By then I’d turned eighteen… still a genius.
            Funny, now I’m thirty-nineteen and I don’t know anything. The God of my youth I graciously invited along on my life-adventures has proved himself in these middle years a great and wonderful mystery. I’ve seen Him do amazing things. Miracles really. I’ve tagged along as He’s reached out and touched the broken, stoned, poor, wealthy, and arrogant. From prisons to castles He’s taught me He’s no respecter of persons, but loves equally and completely. His love crosses every nationality, border, and sin. Even mine. Even yours.
            I don’t want to change the world anymore. Just allow myself to be changed. To tag along and be a blessing to the one, not the masses. To reach out and take the hand of the Father Who offers me breath. He pats me on the head and says, “Okay. Now watch Me change the world. Starting with you.”
            That’s fine with me.
            Being a genius is exhausting.
 
Fair winds!
Buck 

The Conversation 

So there was this guy named Ray…

Traveler’s Tip # 322: If you find yourself in an Irish pub, or a breakfast hole in the middle of Montana—or anywhere in the world come to think of it—and a trucker or cowboy or farmer or tractor mechanic says, “So there was this guy named Ray,” there’s a 60/40 chance it’s going to be a good story.

Let’s see where this one lands. Roll the dice. Could go either way.

Ray never showed much emotion. In fact in the weeks, months, years I knew him—every Thursday at the retirement center—I’ll bet I could have counted his smiles on one hand. Even so, he’d be the first guy in our little Bible study to show up and often the last to leave. Ray self-appointed himself Official Chair Setter Upper, and it helped so I didn’t argue. After his weekly chore he’d plant his long, thin frame in the furthest back corner, cross his arms and watch. Frankly, he was a book whose cover I judged at first sight. I titled it Grumpy Old Man.
It may have been a month or more when I heard Ray speak for the first time. We were alone in the room and he stood there for a long moment. I thought he might chew me out for something. Then he said, “It started when I was thirteen.”
To this day I consider that one of the greatest conversation openers ever (I’ve tried it myself a few times but never as successfully as Ray).
“What started?” When someone hits you with a statement like that it leaves no wiggle room for the curious mind.
“The conversation,” he said.
He had me. “What conversation?”
At that point I noticed—and it surprised me very much—stoic Ray had tears in his eyes. He explained he’d grown up very poor in Southern Idaho before and during America’s Great Depression. A more innocent and terrible time. Steinbeck’s America. The beginning of Ray’s thirteenth summer his dad stood him next to the road in front of their farmhouse and pointed east. A hundred miles down that road was another farm, and they were expecting Ray to report for three-month field hand duty in a few days. So, the thirteen year-old kid fast-tracking to manhood took a backpack of food, a jug of water, got on his bicycle and started pedaling. His dad didn’t wave.
And the conversation began. Under that bright Idaho sky Ray started talking to God. The first hundred miles of an infinite journey.
“We started talking that day and we never stopped. The conversation just goes on.”
Ray was quiet. He didn’t give much away in the feelings department. But I came to know Ray as a man deeply in love with his Lord. And Ray’s quietness taught me more than a thousand sermons. Ray wasn’t grumpy. He wasn’t lonely. He was simply content with the companionship of his Maker. He had no interest in the opinions of men.
The Apostle Paul suggested unceasing prayer. His conversation started on a road like Ray’s.
Enoch walked with God then, one breath to the next, took in the air of a Sweeter Country.
I haven’t seen Ray for some years but I think of him often. I wonder what air he breathes now? Either way, one thing I know—the conversation continues. And it will long after the stars in that Idaho sky are but a distant memory.

Happy peddling,

Buck

The Second Most Beautiful Thing 

            There are many kinds of sunsets. In fact, if you think about it, there’s one happening every second of every day somewhere in the world. Old Man Sun eases his body down on jungles, plains, and mountains. He sinks, hissing into rivers, and casts his fading gold over the summer children who laugh and splash in the shallows. He bounces off sheets of ice and sets oceans on fire. The sun dies a hundred, a thousand, a million deaths a day—yet remains a grand and eternally optimistic Romeo, offering his dying breath to lovers and poets around the globe.           
What kind of God puts a thing like this into motion? What kind of God imagines a star and it is—it becomes? Who can speak universes into existence? Fill the skies with wonder simply for His good pleasure? 
            He is wild and holy. Painting unending sunsets with His fingertips and soaring far above the pumping tiny fists of men who demand He request their permission to exist.
            No, God is free. Free from my will—and your will.
            He is the unshackled Great I Am.
And so we gather, those of us who call ourselves Christians. We discuss and bat around spiritual ideas and concepts. We listen to long diatribes from men in the know as they explain to us the detailed thought, will, and character of the One who gives us breath. We stuff these ideas comfortably into boxes and get on with life. We’re ants in a hole beneath a Nebraska barn confidently describing to each other the details of New York City.
            I love the holy and free God. He takes me to my knees. I don’t understand Him.            
            He commands the heavens and He helps me find my car keys.
            He’s spilling His colors across the Idaho sky at the moment--the second most beautiful thing.
            Right behind the Artist.
 
            Fair winds,
            Buck  

Immediate God  

If God is God it stands to reason that I'm not God. I'm glad I'm not God. You should be glad I'm not God. I'm finding in Him a love that I can't begin to understand let alone imitate. He's present and immediate in our lives should we choose to seek Him. I choose to. I have to. I need to. I'm in thankful mode today, watching miracles drop around me like apples off a tree. 

Walking with my Friend,
Buck

Tips for the Traveler 

 Traveler's Tip #321: If you're in the Twin Cities, on the St Paul side, don't ever EVER say that you're enjoying the Minneapolis area.
Traveler's Tip #322: If you in fact blunder into #321, you can diffuse the situation by pumping your fist and shouting GO VIKINGS! Then, no matter which area you're in someone will give you a hug.

Boxes 

I'm seeing more and more clearly that we moderns, especially westerners, have become very good at shoving everything into our own particular and comfortable boxes. We have work boxes, play boxes, family boxes, friend boxes, faith boxes... This isn't the way we were created, but the way we've become. Our one purpose on this planet is communion with God. This single fact splinters to bits any box we can build. Worship is why we're here. We can no more compartmentalize worship and communion with the One who allows us our next heartbeat than we can breathing air. Boxes aren't freedom, they're a grey-walled prison cell. I'm getting out the crowbar and sledgehammer. Let a little light in. That first swing feels pretty good.

Peace in Jesus,
Buck


Orange Moon 

It's always a strange feeling to take a song, birthed in some dark, quiet and often very private place, and drag it out into the light of day, in front of a room full of people. Just the fact that this can happen, and to see an audience respond on a real level, is a miracle to me. I've been answering emails this morning from very nice and sometimes broken people who were moved last night by some of the words and rememberances of this journey. So encouraging. It reminds me that we're all in this together. We aren't alone, and fellowship and love for one another is such an important part of this brief experience we call life (I imagine our definition will alter drastically when we one day step into that better country!).

A huge, orange, moon followed us home--at least last night's home. It tracked it's way across the Seattle cityscape, at one point cutting the Space Needle in half. Magical and beautiful. I couldn't help but think that even that was a small gift from the Lord. "Courage son!" He says. "You will never be left or forsaken."

Thank you Lord for the gifts you give to men.

Tonight we'll do it again.

Peace!

Buck

White Knuckles 

 “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
- Winston Churchill

"The Miracle Man" is in the second layer of editing, all active verbage and syntax correct hopefully. Getting closer to the time someone might actually read this thing. Oh boy...

Miracles 

So the wifi at Starbucks is out. Don't worry, it'll be up tomorrow... Tomorrow I'll be two hundred miles south of here. Oh well, Staples parking lot has internet so it all works out--and the sun's coming out in West Seattle. Had a wonderful time at Calvary Chapel Paulsbo last night, followed by a midnight ferry run from the island into downtown Seattle. We were the first car on the boat so the view spread out before us unhindered. Just awesome. I'm continually blown away by small daily miracles. Many who read this will be unbelievers or on the the fence. For me, these days, there's simply no denying the reality of God in my life. It's just a minute by minute walk, skin to skin with Jesus. I'm just blown away. First night last night of two weeks on the road with Randy Stonehill. It all came back pretty well. I felt the Holy Spirit in every note. There's also talk of an original Buck Storm Band reunion concert in Santa Barbara. All the guys! What a blast that would be. Tomorrow night in Salem (temporary home of Ransom Storm) then on again. Thank you Jesus for loving and using the unlovely.

Strength on the Journey,
Buck
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