2010-04-21 / Church News

Don Lively

I’m pretty sure that I’m going to Heaven. In fact, I’m as certain as I think it’s possible to be.

But, if for some reason my final destination is the least bit in doubt, I can pinpoint one of the reasons. I understand that Heavenly residence does not require a sinless life and that no single event can cause you to be fire and brimstone bound rather than eastern skyward when you die.

But some things, on the face of them, simply seem a little worse than others.

I have one of those moments in my past. A dark moment that makes me hope God truly does have a sense of humor.

More about that in a bit.

Speaking of praying, if you grew up in a country church in the Blessed South you have, no doubt, experienced sitting through seemingly endless, sermonic prayers that were supposed to end the church service but actually seemed to extend it by half.

Years ago we had a gentleman in our little congregation whose name I dreaded hearing called to close the service because, if it was Sunday morning I would be starving before we finally made it to dinner and if it was Sunday night we were going to miss the first part of Bonanza.

He was a godly man, no doubt, but a long winded one. He literally preached his own little sermonette between “ Dear Lord” and “ Amen “. He was not shy about correcting the pastor while talking to the Lord if he’d taken exception to anything that had been preached that day. But the strangest part was when he would quote scripture during his entreaties.

“Almighty Father, it says in Isaiah 5:11…”

I‘d think, “ I’m sure God knows what it says since He wrote it!”

That sweet old saint was responsible for dozens of overcooked Sunday dinners.

Prayers are serious, obviously, but, because they’re offered by man and not by angels, they don’t always go as intended.

Once, before a family meal, my brother Willie was called on to pray. My grandmother was quite elderly by that time and she had been snacking a bit before the meal had actually commenced. As Willie was asking God’s blessings on the bounty before us, my grandmother let out a loud belch.

Willie didn’t miss a beat.

“…and we also thank you for the part that Grandma already ate. Amen.”

As long as there are flawed humans doing the praying, there’s always the possibility that things might go a bit askew.

Which brings me back to the grievous event from my past.

When I was in college I ran around with a group of friends, most of who shared my beliefs. We often enjoyed impromptu Bible studies and devotionals together.

One day we were at Watson’s Mill Bridge State Park, a beautiful setting a few miles from campus. Somebody suggested a prayer time. We found a nice, grassy area by the creek and settled down.

Back then I would not always close my eyes to pray, preferring to look out on His creation. When it came to my turn I began with thankfulness for our magnificent surroundings. As I prayed I opened my eyes to gaze at the flowing water and when I did I sensed movement below me so I glanced down.

That’s when things went terribly wrong.

There, directly between my feet, lay my least favorite of His creations.

A water moccasin staring at me with his wicked little eyes.

Before I could stop it my twenty year old, farmboy/college student mouth let loose with a barnyard bad word that Mama would have smacked me for saying anywhere, let alone in the middle of a prayer session.

I cussed much louder than I’d been praying.

I couldn’t help it.

Every last one of my companions looked at me, stunned, but then looked down and saw the subject of my nasty epitaph. None of them cussed, but the whole bunch fled the scene, all howling and laughing like crazy folks.

“Did you just cuss in a prayer?” asked one of my girl buddies, giggling nearly uncontrollably.

“I don’t think it’s technically possible to cuss and pray at the same time,” I postulated while beating my own hasty retreat.

To this day I’m convinced that the snake was the serpent of Scripture come to test me.

I failed.

But I’m pretty sure that the nanosecond that the cuss word flew from my immediately remorseful lips, the praying ended.

We later finished our prayers from the top of a picnic table. My friends had a good laugh at my expense.

Hopefully, God did too.

At least I pray so. Don Lively is a retired police officer and freelance writer. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com

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