Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Trail Less-Traveled

I looked across the table at her frail frame. The smoke from her cigar curled a white trail through the air. Her heavy heart was palpable as she stared out the window at nothing in particular. The deep lines that coursed down her face gave testimony of a hard trail ridden. A year ago to the day, they had buried her son—his life taken by the effects of doctor-prescribed drugs. They had buried her daughter a short time ago too though she couldn't bring herself to give details.

What do you say? How do you help this broken woman? What could you possibly say to help ease her pain? I sensed the Lord telling me, "Just listen." So, this was my "action" much of the time during the following days...

We were in Albuquerque when we got the call—our friend needed help working in the sewer holes in a particular town in New Mexico. Huh. "OK, Lord," we prayed, "we've done a lot of things besides teaching and singing in our ministry. But working in sewer holes? You’ll need to confirm this one."

No calls came in for singing dates ... for any dates—just the looming prospect of the sewer work. We decided that the final confirmation would be the price of the horse motel where we would need to stay. We set the we-won't-go-over-this-much price and made the calls. After unsuccessful attempts to find a reasonably priced motel, we decided that this trip was a definite "no."

Then, one of our friends volunteered to put out the word to her rodeo group to see if they knew anyone in the area where we could stay. The word came back: "Yeah, there is one place. But the lady's pretty cranky." 

Well, in our ministry, we've handled 'cranky' pretty well, so we gave it a shot. I called her up and the price was right. She also had room for us. As we chatted, I found out she was an elderly woman and desperately needed the money. I felt a tremendous peace as I hung up the phone. If we're going to invest our money anywhere, I'm excited that we can help her out.

She was a bit on the crusty side, but I found from that first conversation, I liked her. We ended up coming in a week early and so, stayed at "Miss Haddie's" stable and RV park for a month and a week.

While Bruce spent some "iron sharpens iron" time helping our friend rebuild manholes in the sewer system, I spent most days in a smoke-filled room with my newfound friend—or trimming trees, feeding horses, and running trash to the dump for her. I discovered that in the middle of that hard shell lived a woman with a heart of gold.

The lingering question of "was coming here the right thing?" answered itself as I sat with Haddie, listening to her talk about her family, her joys and frustrations, her questions ... her life. I was grateful we chose to follow this "trail less-traveled." This adventure was out of the ordinary from our music ministry, but we knew we weren't supposed to be anywhere but here—for this woman and for our friend in the sewer holes.

We filled the role of protective neighbor as well. My phone rang about 8:00 one evening—a distressed voice meeting me on the other end. "Hey, I need you! Get over here, now!" Miss Haddie was in a panic.
"Miss Haddie, what's wrong?"
“Just get over here!" Click.

Phone in hand, I bolted out the door and raced for her house with Bruce hot on my heels. Looking back, I guess it wasn't too bright of us, running through a half lit stable yard toward who-knows-what—we just prayed and ran.

Rounding the corner of her house, we nearly careened into the man who rented the space next to us. "I don't know what's going on," he blurted out. "She's crazy!" I noticed, however, that this man's words were just a bit slurred. And, as he turned his head, I caught a whiff of the "spirit."

Leaving Bruce to talk to the man, I sprinted up the trailer house steps to Miss Haddie's front door.  
"Miss Haddie, it's Shara," I called through the door.
"Come in!"
I pushed the door open and nearly collided into my friend—with a pistol in her hand. She was scared and ticked off.
"Come with me," she commanded. I walked with her back out on the front porch (careful to stay clear of her pistol-hand), and we addressed the situation.
"I just wanted to borrow your ladder," the renter slurred in his defense.
"Well, you just kept bangin' on the door, yelling you were in Space 519," she retorted. "We don't have a Space 519. I didn't know who in the ___ you were!"
"Sorry, Ms. Haddie," he apologized. "I didn't mean to scare you."

Tempers cooled, and the situation was quickly resolved.

“You still want to borrow my ladder?" she asked.
"Yeah, but I'll get it tomorrow," he replied as he shuffled away.

Living at that little stable was definitely an experience. But it was well worth it. At the end of our stay, we saw Miss Haddie, a woman shrouded in depression, transform as she escaped from that spirit and joy engulfed her. And we saw our friend at the sewer holes receive crucial answers to some issues he faced.

Sometimes the Lord sends us to places that aren't necessarily our comfort zone—sometimes it’s more like a war zone. But we serve a very personal God Who will do whatever it takes to reach someone crying out—or to reach someone who a loved one is crying out about. (Luke 15:1-23)

The questions: Are we willing "to lay down our lives"—lay down what we aspire to be ... our desires and plans? Are we willing to leave the "ninety-nine" (our comfort zone) and go after the one (or two) who need the touch of God's love on the "trail less-traveled"?

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends”—John 15:12-13. 


Shara's book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God's encouragement on the trail less-traveled: