Welcome to the Family!

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.




Rear View Mirror...
                           a Blog

The Problem With Pockets 

It’s been lots of states over a couple days and I’m feeling pretty spongy. Today I’m in a hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska. Playing here in town tonight. I’m looking forward to the people and time with Jesus. 
Last night in Omaha was great. Had some old friends drive a long away for the concert and it was wonderful to see them. I love the family of God. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. We speak different languages. We wear different clothes. We worship in all kinds of ways. And yet, there’s such a joy of community with Jesus in the center. Jesus said the world would know we were His by our love for one another. I’m happy to be a part of that. I pray we’ll live up to it.
 
Over the last one million seventy-three miles I’ve driven in the last two days, I’ve been thinking about pockets. I’m emptying mine. Too many things shoved down in there that I don’t need. The old wounds and hard memories. Big things. Heavy things. After a while it gets hard to walk. Those tough, bitter stones that sink us straight to the bottom of our self-created hell. Have you been shot at? Maybe you knocked out the windowpane with the butt of your rifle and shot back? Have you been kicked into the dust then kicked some more? It happens in this imperfect world filled with imperfect people. Jesus said we’d catch a roundhouse once in a while. Sometimes we see the punch coming while our hands are tied behind our backs. It gets so frustrating. Then we have to decide what to do with the pain. God’s answer is simple—give it to Him. Lay it at the foot of the cross. Hey, Buck, drop the pistol.
 
Here I am. Emptying my big pockets of hard lumps of black. Some of them handled so often they’ve worn to a shine. There’s a great Bob Dylan line—Surrender your crown on this blood stained ground, and take off your mask. He sees your deeds, and He knows your needs even before you ask. I’m no mystery to God. I’m transparent as glass. There’s a great freedom in that. I’ll just come with all of it, turn my pockets out and ask Him to take all the trash. I’m tired.
 
I imagine a face to face with Jesus. I’d plead my case. Show Him the bruises. Talk about all the miles and dreams and dust. The churches and the bars and the broken. Man, it would be a long story. I know He could tell me to get over myself. Talk about His own very real suffering. But that’s not the Father’s heart. In the end I think He’d simply smile and say, “I love you. Be born again.” He has a way of getting straight to the heart of the matter.
 
Let me be free. Let me be clean. Let every day be the end of me—the beginning of Him.  
 
So I’m emptying my pockets of all the stones I’ve collected along the road. And I’m filling those same pockets up again to overflowing with the limitless love of God.
 
And here’s the incredible part—Love doesn’t weigh anything.
 
Fair winds,
Buck
 

Traveler's Tip #325 

If you're walking into a roadside rest area in Iowa and a maintenance lady with a mop says, "Be careful in there," if you say, "Why, are there tigers?" you'll have a new best friend.

Betting On the Global Bar Fight 

Traveler’s tip #324
If you’re vacationing in the Islamic Caliphate, it might be fun to take along a stack of Coexist bumper stickers to hand out to the guys for their military vehicles.
 
 
Jesus said, “When you see these things beginning to take place, look up. Your redemption draws nigh.” Is your neck getting stiff? Man, mine is.
 
It’s a whirlwind out there. So many things twisting with such insane abandon it must be spiritual. Brothers and sisters are being tortured and killed around the globe everyday for nothing more than having the audacity to take the hand of the God of Love. To bake or not to bake?—Make it stop! Deals being struck. Deals not being struck. Donkeys and elephants shaking their fists at one another. On and on it goes… A global bar fight, and the blood of sinner and saint alike is soaking into the sawdust on the floor.
 
And here I am, like many of you, spinning through space with the dust and stars and tumbleweeds and bits of trash. I find myself looking for ways to hedge my bets against the spiritual and political climate of the day. I wrack my brain for some way to build a razor wire fence around everything I love and believe. Just like the seekers at Mars Hill in Apostle Paul’s day, I grope in the darkness for an answer that’s right beside me, loving me, whispering out of the wind.
 
The most unpopular answer of all—Jesus. God of Love, wild and free.
 
Why? Because He’s the lover of the lost. He’s the radical. He’s political poison. He’s the crusher of walls. He rejoices over the prodigal’s return. He is LOVE without cost. He is gentle and just. He’s the friend of hookers and children and addicts and the I.R.S.
 
I’m in no position to judge anyone. That’s already happened and men are found wanting. Inflicting my vision of morality on a fallen world is pointless. Winning the debate makes me nothing but right. Who cares about that? But there is something I can offer. Just like Paul, I can bring the stripped down, simple message that offers hope and peace and light and life. I can say—Come home! Your Father misses you! I can show them Jesus. Be they rich or poor, gay or straight, tele-evangelist or talk show host, king, common man, or lice-ridden child on a Honduran street. I can show them love. And that’s something worthwhile. 
 
President Obama needs Jesus.
Congress needs Jesus.
Billy Graham needs Jesus.
Jews and Palestinians need Jesus.
Donkeys and elephants need Jesus.
Bakers and buyers need Jesus.
The ACLU needs Jesus.
The ACLJ needs Jesus.
I need Jesus.
You need Jesus.
 
If He is the answer then there’s no more fight. And He will be. When the final punch gets thrown to clear the floor… His love… is a bottomless ocean.
 
Fair winds,
Buck

G.K Chesterton, Drunk Truckers, and a Couple of Churches 

Traveler’s Tip #323 
If you find yourself in Montana, make it a point to visit Ovando, population 94. Such wonderful people! But, if you’re playing in the log church on the hill there, try not to continually say Or-vando. This is the west, and most people are armed. Thankfully, they’re too polite to shoot.
What a great Sunday in Ovando! Hope to come back and I promise not to add an R.
 
 
I drove through a tiny town in Idaho recently. A pretty place with a short main street, a scattering of houses, obligatory log tavern, a town library in a single-wide trailer—these are the places I love. At the end of Main Street there were two old churches, almost identical, right across the street from each other. So close they could have thrown open the stained glass and had a spitball fight. It brought to mind the old joke about the lone castaway on the desert island with his three huts—his house, his church, and the church he used to go to.
 
I wonder about us Christians sometimes and our churchianity chest thumping. We love our doctrine and—be it conservative or liberal or cautiously in between—we’re proud of it. We talk about it, teach it, arm-wrestle over it, write thick, important books about it so we can teach it some more…
 
The problem is you and I can have doctrine in common but if we don’t have Jesus in common we’re just wind banging a loose shutter against the house. We’re a general annoyance with nothing real to offer. I’m not just talking about the idea of Jesus—the historical, print Jesus—as wonderful and important as the Christ story is. I mean the reason-to-get-out-of-bed-in-the-morning Jesus. The one who gives us breath today. The one who walks with us and guides us on the minute-by-minute, second-by-second paths of our lives. The Love that rescues us from the storm and calls us friend. Doctrine without that Love exemplified as its foundation is nothing but a scattering of dead leaves. Worthless and forgettable.
 
I wonder which of those two churches Jesus would walk into? Both most likely. Because both would be filled with the beautiful and broken. And afterward He’d be down at the tavern chatting with G.K Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and other thinkers with initials for first names. He’d most certainly be hanging with the prostitute and the drunk trucker over in the corner by the Coors sign. He’d find me, and you, and offer us hope from our helpless posturing.
 
Oh the infinite love of Jesus! A bottomless ocean. A shoreless sea.
 
I guess if you need me I’ll be down at the tavern too. You know what? Maybe we could unload the guns, kick down the church walls, and all meet there. It’s easy to find. Just across the street from the hardware store. I’d love to ask C.S. a couple things. Who knows, maybe J.K Rowling and J.D. Salinger will show up. We could call the prostitute and the trucker over and watch the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace. Let’s put the inescapable love of the resurrected Jesus in the middle of our lives and see where the conversation goes…
 
See you there. I for one could stand to learn a few things.
 
Fair winds,
Buck        

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.
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