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7.25.2006

Asking for Direction


This week's UPI column

So There I was...

Lost in Vancouver, Washington. This was during my itinerant days and I was on my way to preach the morning message at New Life Friends Church in the Rosemere neighborhood, of a town that people often think is in Canada but is actually just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

Alivia Biko, my right hand, ministry partner, and musical director was not able to be with me that morning. I had grown accustomed to the luxury of Alivia, and one of the luxuries is that I almost never had to drive on preaching mornings. This is a good thing since I tend to go into a sort of unction fog an hour or two before the appointed time – it is not conducive to driving. Knowing that I would be handicapped, I had allowed myself extra time, took the cell phone, plenty of coffee and I made sure that I had a church directory for our group of Quakers. I thought I had things covered. I often forget whose job that is.

I was enjoying some liturgical music by U2 as I went north. BB King was singing "When Love Comes to Town" with Bono and the boys as I crossed the Columbia River. This is one of the greatest testimony songs in Christendom, I often have to open up the moon roof, or blessing window, as we call it, and raise a hand in affirmation when they get to this part

“I was there when they crucified my Lord.I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword.I threw the dice when they pierced his side.But I've seen love conquer the great divide”

I may have seen Love conquer all, but I completely spaced my exit. When I realized it, I just took the next right and wound my way on down into old Vancouver, trusting my sense of direction which usually serves me pretty well; except on preaching mornings.

I was all turned around and I knew it. Nothing looked familiar. I pulled over and consulted my directory. Then I discovered my real problem. New Life Friends was only six months old. I knew this because I preached at their kick-off Sunday the previous November. This meant that they weren't in the directory I was carrying or in the local phone directory. I could not remember the name of the street they were on. I had 30 minutes to find them.

I prayed a bit and drove off in a direction I could no longer identify, and then I saw my salvation; a cab company. My definition of a town is a municipality big enough to have a cab company. A city has multiple cab companies. In towns the cabbies let you sit up front with them, in fact, they are sort of insulted if you sit in the back. I once had a cab driver in my home town of Salem ask me if I thought my name was Trump – sittin’ in the back like that. I gave the excuse of having been raised in Chicago and moved up front. Portland is a city these days – you sit in the back, but they still don’t lock the front door, and there aren’t usually bars or glass between you and the cabbie. I wasn’t sure if Vancouver was a town or a city, but I was glad to see that they had cabbies – because cabbies know everything.

I pulled into their yard and walked up to the dispatch building.
A big guy in a loud shirt waved me on into the back room.

"What am I doing for you this mornin’, darlin’?" He said.


"I'm lost,” said I.

"No you aren't,” He said with surprising vehemence.

"Well, I don't know where I'm Going"

"Yes you do... You're goin’ to church. Which one?"

"I'm preaching at New Life Friends in just a few minutes."

"Hmm...what's it look like?"

"Ummm, It’s a little funky old place between an New Age bookstore and an espresso booth."

(note: in the Pacific Northwest, coffee addiction and New Age proclivities are pandemic. We sometimes have three coffee shops per intersection. The description I gave might have well as been “It’s on a corner, next to a street)

"Ah, I know your place" He said confidently, and he gave me directions.

I was less than a mile away.

Out of the chain smoking mouths of cab dispatchers – once again - God’s very own truth. There is no such thing as lost. Knowing where you are going, and knowing how you are going to get there are two different things. The knowledge doesn’t have to be completely in your head. The reality is that I, and you, and the whole world, live in the palm of the hand of God and we couldn’t walk off if we tried. When we step off, His other hand is there to catch us like a Mr. Magoo cartoon. When we feel confused, we can always stop and ask for help, and help is out there.

Dispatch man walked me out to my car, and after I thanked him, he said this.

"Now, when you go in there this morning you’re gonna be full of juice,
you hear me? I'm tellin you, you're gonna Ace 'em.
Just go Ace 'em Baby, OK?"
So I did.



Comments:
I hope I get to hear you preach sometime. That would be awesome.
 
Yeah, I hope I get to hear me preach sometime too! It's always a kick.
 
Dear Peggy,

You do have the most amazing stories. Personal narrative theology, indeed!

Keep them coming, please.

Chris M.
 
In November 1972, I hitchhiked from Valparaiso, Indiana, to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to work election weekend for George McGovern; I had to hitch because I missed the bus.

I had No Idea where the headquarters was or how I would find it. But when the lady dropped me off at midnight on some random street corner in the part of town Brother George would have fixed up a little, I was drawn like a moth to the storefront window with a light on. I looked in, and there were my comrades, eating pizza and stuffing the envelopes.

The following Wednesday morning, and on several occasions since then, I wished God had gotten George elected president and left me wandering the streets of Grand Rapids since he obviously couldn't do both at the same time.

I know better now, of course.

Thanks for the story, Peggy. Keep 'em coming.

Keep the stories coming, Peggy.
 
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