Pickup Man

He was young, maybe twelve.  His home was what some call 'broken' and a childhood accident left him scarred literally and figuratively.  He walked everywhere, just him and his dog.  He was always much more comfortable with adults than kids his own age. And he loved pickups and trains.  I liked him.

The church I pastored at the time celebrated every fifth Sunday evening by having a sanging...yes, that's spelled correctly.  It was basically open mic night at church...a sorta non-closed communion where bread and juice took a backseat to the human voice...all were welcome.  There were the regulars - quartets, duets, solos - they gave the people what they wanted to hear...Little Is Much When God Is In It...Have a Little Talk With Jesus...I'll Fly Away. And then there was the occasional shy soul who no doubt sat and watched the others for years thinking lord I'd like to do that someday and for some reason, nobody knows, he or she finally screws up enough courage to sign their name to the clipboard list and stand before the casual crowd and give it their all.  One Sunday night, he signed up.  He told me earlier he had decided to sing and his song selection...I approved of both.

Some folks were surprised when his name was announced.  He stood and handed his cassette accompaniment tape to the soundman and walked up to the microphone positioned just behind the table with the etched words do this in remembrance.  If memory serves me, the song prior to his was a Sandi Patti anthem, a goose-pimpling affirmation of faith with a key change near the end rounded by a full court press to the final orchestrated grace note...a true gift of gold, frankincense, myrrh.  Angels probably dabbed their eyes and said yes, yes.

And in that wake, the little drummer boy played.

I don't know if you've ever heard Joe Diffie's Pickup Man, but that evening, in Dolby sound, we did:
"I met all my wives in traffic jams/
There's just something women like about a pickup man."
I sat on the backrow and watched folks squirm and blush...I'm sure a few thought hell itself was gonna open its jaws and swallow us all, me first.  Several cut their eyes at the pastor throughout the song, that you can stop this look.  But I didn't.  He and Joe sang it to the end, to the final two words - "that's right."

I don't know what you believe about God and the Church and all that, but here's what I think.  Once upon a night, years ago, in a south Arkansas gathering, a quiet boy without a dad stood before those who'd been knowing him for years and sang from an ember deep in his life called desire.  I believe on a higher plane than Arkansas some of the angels began to squirm and blush and shake their heads no, no.  But then there were shouts of let me through! let me through! as the man of sorrows elbowed his way across the angelic throng, to the very edge of the heaven itself and he raised his nail-scarred wrists and thundered be still...he's singing!  can't you hear him?  he's singing!  And a grin the size of salvation broke across our hero's face as he leaned in and listened to the rum-pa-Joe-Diffie-pum-pum of a shadowed little boy struggling toward the light, toward life, toward love.  I believe Jesus listened all the way to the end, finally saying yes, yes.






  

27 comments:

  1. BRO. John, that's just what I needed to read today. Last night I was at a sanging and I was critical of a 10 yo little girl singing The Climb. Talk about feeling ashamed. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael, no need for shame...you're a good man and no doubt a good pastor...grace for your day tomorrow as you stand as offer grace...we all need it.

    John

    ReplyDelete
  3. I guessin' there are hundreds of these stories stuck in your heart. You need to exhale some more and let us wallow in them. Turned some pretty phrases in there too! Amen, brother.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jesus, is no doubt a pickup man that is why he was more than glad to listen. Glad you gave the church this gift of song, but more importantly this gift of modeling a song familiar to them, Just as I Am. Good on you John and Joe!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good story, John. And a good lesson for us to listen like Jesus wants us to listen.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Rich...yes, I need to remember to breathe...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mark, good to hear from you, bru...a post in the spirit of ole' red, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Glynn, thanks...hearing is easy, but listening is hard.

    ReplyDelete
  9. n. davis, yes, that's right...

    ReplyDelete
  10. God in the secular in a boy in the church. Beautiful story.

    ReplyDelete
  11. just caught this on Twitter again today - I read it yesterday... amazing, beautiful story. I am him, you know?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow. This one brought tears to my eyes. Aren't we all stopped by, and longing to get past the people shaking their heads, no..no...wanting to be heard by the One who says, Yes! Yes!

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks, Seth...funny where God shows up, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sara, thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Kelly, yes, I'm him too...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Melinda, you've tapped into what we want...and need...those are often two different things, but in this case, yes, yes...

    ReplyDelete
  17. Deena7:22 AM

    Wow- That's beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ok, so I took this post and tried it out yesterday.

    At the end of our worship service (at the juvenile center) I was closing out and something tugged on my heart and said "ask one of the kids to pray us out". Now these are some rough tough kids. So I asked, people looked around, and one kid in the front row raised his hand. I said come on up, he said I don't know how. So I closed us out in prayer and the door was opened to go talk to that kid. I told him about the regular Bible studies and how they can teach him to pray. He seemed interested.

    So, thanks John for the courage to throw that question out there.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "And a grin the size of salvation..."

    My favorite line and I'm tucking it away knowing, just knowing, one day I'll pull it out and use it myself. I hope it surprises me :).

    {Wait! I'm not a plagiarizer! That's not what I mean!!}

    Every time I come back for a dose of The Dirty Shame, I shake my head and ask "Why did you wait so long?"

    Beautiful story, wonderfully told. Magic in bits and bytes.

    ReplyDelete
  20. How long had it been, I wonder, since courage and desire danced like that between those pews. Wow.

    I so wish I'd have grown up around you, I so wish my dry thirsty soul coulda experienced the rain God brings to me when you loan me your eyes.

    And that's the dirty shame. Thank God it's never too late for wonder.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great story, great happening and perspective. Too many are seeking to stop things instead of seeking to understand them. I'm in the midst of raising a son, now 10, who not only is aware of God, but he also talks with God, seeking His forgiveness, His truth, His love.
    I pray that there are more fathers like me, who are aware of a loving God who can and does understand us and who wants to not only listen to us, but also encourage us, to help us thrive in every great sense of that word, in love. Thanks for your loving and your sharing.

    ReplyDelete