He stuck his head in the door, talking over the music: “Bother you for some coffee?”
Arlough was across the room and had picked up the carafe before answering.
“Smooth. Well played.” Creamer and two spoons of sugar. He walked across the room, spotlighted briefly by the sunlight slanting through a window. He sat, one leg casually hooked over an arm of the comfortable old chair. One thing about Granger–he wasn’t worried about style when he furnished his office. Probably wouldn’t win a guest spread in Architectural Digest but it’s comfortable.
“Mmm. What’s this java?”
“Yes.” Granger just sat, eyes on his friend, an amused look on his face.
The rightward cant of Arlough’s head and half-lidded gaze widened Granger’s smile.
“It really is java. Moka Java to be exact. In the 1600s—-”
“Okay-okay-okay. I’ll do a Bing search, already. Let’s just stipulate that it’s good.” Another sip. “Real good.”
“What’s up?” (Granger)
“You ‘member telling me about a song that had grabbed your attention? ‘I Will Rise’?”
“Heard it yesterday during worship. Talks about an anchor for my soul and that one day what I’ve had to accept by faith will be reality. That I’ll rise when God calls my name…”
Granger listened. He knew something was nibbling around the edges of his friend’s life, like his curious gouramis occasionally did whenever he’d stick his fingers into the water while feeding them.
“Will I?” Rhetorical. Arlough’s gaze was stuck somewhere in mid-space, 35 or 40 miles away. “Rise, I mean?” His eyes sharpened as his gaze locked on to that of Granger. “How do I KNOW it’s true? It’s one thing to try to follow the reasoning of loons who’ve been hitting the bong a little too often as they laugh at God. But the others like Hitchens who have pretty good minds and can be alarmingly persuasive? People pay way too much attention to the ones like him. It’s hard when there’s so much weirdness being tossed out there in the guise of truth and being substituted for God and His Word.”
Granger slowly nodded. “Yeah. It is.”
“Well, what do YOU do to stay sure?”
Smiling. “I listen to a lot of music just like ‘I Will Rise’. Sing a lot of it, too. There’s a lot of shallow pap and spiritual froth out there, but there’s a lot of meaningful music of faith out there, too. I use it.”
“That’s not all, though–right?”
“Oh, of course not. Obviously, I read The Bible a lot. There’s so much shaved, shaded and even shady ‘truth’ out there that the person who doesn’t open his Bible is gonna get swallowed, regardless of how good a thinker he is.
“I also derive a lot of strength by watching other strong believers like you. Listening to you. You don’t live in a vacuum, Arlough. Life’s rarely simple, and for you sometimes it’s been pretty hair-raising.”
His friend’s eyes got a vacant look for a few seconds.
“But as I watch you and others like you walk in spiritual integrity, while keeping your faith in God intact it strengthens me.” He sat, quiet now, observing his friend absorb his appreciation.
Arlough’s eyes came back up. “What? Something else, right?”
“I’ve watched Godly people die and I’ve watched people die who’d turned their backs on God and gone with whatever’s behind Door Number 2. Definite difference. And no slick verbiage or persuasive argument ever successfully fills that gap.”
“Without grossing me out or making me puke or something, what’s the difference?”
“Excuse me? Would I ever gross you out or cause you to toss your cookies? I?” Also rhetorical. Granger had shared with his friend some of the reality of trauma work behind the ER doors, sometimes with comical results. Other times not so much.
“Okay. Point taken. The difference is in how they go. Those who declined Christ ran the gamut from cold, sometimes arrogant inevitability to tearful pleading to mute terror to screaming obscenities and a few even needing physical restraints and sedation. The Christian believers, though, all seemed to draw strength from an inner sense of peace–regardless of how much pain and discomfort they were experiencing.”
Granger paused. “You know, no matter what part of the Christian faith they’ve come from, I’ve never heard a single dying believer regret giving their hearts and lives to Jesus. It reminded me of something an old saint once said at the viewing of a longtime friend: “God’s people sure die well.”
Arlough had gotten up to refresh his coffee, refilling Granger’s cup as well. Sitting back down, he mused, “After all this time, you’d think they’d start getting it, wouldn’t you?”
“I’ve prayed they would. But I can’t confer God’s forgiveness on anyone any more than I can force them to turn away from how they’ve been living. If He Himself won’t put a figure-4 leglock on anybody and force them to do the right thing, I sure can’t make it happen, regardless of what a difference it would make. We all make our own choices. We all live and die by them.”
Well, 2nd Cup friend, we’ve got to leave our two friends to continue their visit. Life goes on and we’ve all a week to get jump-started.
This week’s challenge is on me: to be living every day so that anybody looking on can see I mean business when I say, “I follow Jesus Christ and He’s Lord of my life.” It sure doesn’t mean perfection. Doesn’t mean I’ve always made excellent choices and had flawless performance. Far from it. But it does mean where my heart’s concerned, I’m 100 percent committed to God’s direction in and through my life.
And as it connects with yours, it’s my resolve to be as encouraging and helpful to you as it’s possible for me to be. Your spiritual life is what it is; you are who you are. And because you are, I count it a privilege to call you my friend. I’m humbled that you take time from your busy day to stop and chat over some good coffee.
Now–if you choose to maybe join me in accepting the challenge to live a practical, authentic Christian life, too? I’ll be grateful. You’re one of those people, like Arlough, whose real living gives me personal strength and energy to walk on in faith!
Because no matter what anyone else does, Jesus really is Lord of my life. And my death, too.
I love you and I believe in you,
© May 2013