“I was looking decent, but nothing fancy and certainly not sexy! I was going to the grocery store! I mean, I had shorts on, but not short shorts. I had on that little tee-shirt top, you know, the pale yellow with the little loop stitching on the edges? Nice, but not exactly an attention getter. Well I see a group of construction workers working on a building up ahead, so I just look straight ahead, no eye contact, nothing to lead them on. So when I get up close every single one of them goes presidential on me. I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to tell them a thing or two but that would just encourage them so I kept my eyes straight ahead and kept walking. What’s this world coming too?”
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
I looked at this verse differently. What if you turn around? I was excited. It fit so well into the rest of the Bible. Repentance is an abrupt about face, turn from your sin and turn toward God right? So I shared it with three pastors. I’m thinking this will preach! But not only did no one get all excited and start to make sermon notes; they didn’t even like it.
Looking into it I think I now understand why. The modern day view of Grace is that our sins are made right. But sin is never right and can never be made right. God prunes the bad branches and takes them to the dump to be burned and while we are on Earth the consequences remain. Only Godliness goes to heaven. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
So how far is my sin from me? I’m a fairly normal guy. I read books and find descriptions of people who think a lot like me. I can be driving in my car singing worships songs (Walking West) until someone cuts me off for no good reason and I ride their bumper (Walking East) and then the love of God finds its way back into my heart and I back off and look for my place in keeping the highways safe (Walking West). I’m making an effort to walk toward God all the time, but I don’t and going from walking away from God and walking toward God is always an abrupt about face.
So what is the Grace God gives us? What is this undeserved gift that we should not be able to even conceive? I believe that because of the Grace of God we can understand what goodness is. We can make a choice between Good and Evil because of Grace.
Just before dinner Ricky shows up at our door. He carries an old, green, heavy, Coleman sleeping bag over his shoulder, the edges of a white pillow stick out of each end of the rolled up sleeping bag. Everything else he may need is rolled up in there too.
I go out the door instead of inviting him in, “My stuff is already up there,” I tell him as we walk around to the backyard through the carport. It takes two tosses to get the bag up to the deck.
“What’s your mom cooking?” as we go up the steps to the back door.
“Smells like fish.”
“Your mom makes good fish.”
“She does pretty good,” I agree as we walk into the dining area, which is also the kitchen.
“Who’s she?” my mom asks as she places a pile of dishes on the table and nods at us to spread them around.
“You are she,” I answer and start dealing out the dinner plates.
“What do I do pretty good?” she asks while putting some potatoes into a bowl.
“Some people say you’re a good cook,” I say with a quick look at Ricky.
“Thank you Ricky. That is very nice of you. I hope you like chicken,” she puts the mashed potatoes on the table and gets the chicken out of the oven. “Go find your father.”
We spread out both sleeping bags and completely cover the plywood deck. We kick off our tennis shoes; one of Ricky’s shoes slips between the railing and lands in the grass below.
“I can get that in the morning,” Ricky states.
With pillows leaning against the newly installed two by four railing we lay on top of the bags, it’s still too warm to get inside. The sky is almost black; the moon is still below the horizon, stars shine.
“This is nice,” I say while looking up at the stars.
“That was fun, working with your dad.”
“My father comes through every once in a while,” I tone it down a little so as not to get too mushy.
“What’s that?” a light streams across the sky.
“A falling star?” I suggest.
“If a star fell to earth the earth would burn up in a fiery ball long before the star got anywhere near us. Stars are huge,” Ricky informs me.
“A meteor, a falling meteor,” I correct myself.
“I think it was a spaceship,” Ricky says just looking straight up into the night sky.
“Sure, Ricky, and it just crashed into the ocean.”
“Do you really think that?”
“No Ricky. No I don’t.”
A car show took over the whole beachside town. Ricky’s dad wanted to see the cars so we tagged along. Perfectly restored cars fill every empty lot. People have opened Kettle corn shops on wheels and there are lines in front of all the fish places. One place known for its bread bowls of clam chowder has a line half way down the street.
As soon as Ricky’s dad parks the Honda N360 he has a line of his own. Most of the people want to see the engine – it’s very small. They seem willing to overlook all the body rust. Ricky’s dad gives the same speech over and over about the car’s mileage and what needs to be done to keep it in top running condition. Occasionally when the size of the crowd increases he gives some history that dates back to his college days. I don’t know if he ever gets around to looking at the car show cars. Ricky and I purchase the over sized bag of kettle corn to share and leave him to his audience.
With the extra material the plans for the deck of the tree house change. The triangle becomes a quadrilateral. Each of our four sides ends up being a different length because of the way the branches of the tree have grown. After trying everything from bracing a two by four on the bumper of my dad’s car to one of us standing on a two by four while the other works the saw we find that if we nail the two by four into place on the tree we can take turns with the saw and eventually get the board to the proper length. Without the use of a level we determine level by looking across the boards.
“Up just a little,” Ricky instructs. I already have a nail started and nailed completely through the board; all it needs is a quick tap with the hammer in my right hand to tack it into place.
“How’s that?” I ask while keeping my feet planted firmly on the ladder, my left arm wrapped around a branch and pushing up on the two by four with my left hand from the backside of the board.
“Just a hair more,” Ricky replies as he squints from the first board we nailed to the one I am holding. I nudge the board up another quarter of an inch.
“There!” he shouts and I give the head of the nail a quick hit with the hammer. Once the board is held by the nail I can adjust my hold on the tree and get a better angle to finish hammering in the nail. Each end of each board gets two of our longest, thickest nails. As soon as all four of our foundation joists are in place we lay our fence planks side by side across the two by fours giving us a place to sit while we nail them into place. I hammer three nails into the West side of a plank, hand the hammer to Ricky and he hammers the three nails into the East side of the plank. It’s much faster, easier work now that we have a comfortable place to sit. My father wants his ladder back so we head for Ricky’s garage. Ricky’s garage is piled high with boxes on every wall and there is no way a car could ever fit inside but it is a great source for specialty items, like a way to get up to our tree house.
“How’s this?” Ricky holds up an old wooden stepladder. “It’s way too short but we could nail it half way up the trunk” I can tell he doesn’t like the idea any more than I do so we keep looking.
I find three short planks held together by thin ropes Ricky’s mother must have made to hold potted plants, “how’s this?” I ask knowing it won’t work but I ask anyway just to let Ricky know I’m still looking.
“Rope.” Ricky says. I know he’s on to something from the satisfied look on his face but I have no idea what he means. I tilt my head sideways like a German Shepherd dog. “We can tie a length of rope to a branch and climb the rope to get up to the tree house.” With this decided our search narrows to a search for a good, thick rope, which we find by going through only about twenty boxes.
I hold the ladder while Ricky ties the rope to a branch above our deck with a couple of good knots.
“Try it,” he says as the ladder is laid on the grass. I grab the rope and climb hand over hand, pushing with my feet. Ricky watches my slow progress from the ground. I make it to the platform breathing hard, my hands sore. “We should put some knots in the rope,” Ricky states, already putting a knot in the rope about a foot up from the ground. He ties a knot every foot or so. He ties a forth knot about four feet up and starts his ascent. As he reaches the deck, not nearly as winded as I was, we pull up the rope and set to work tying four more knots.
“Hey, this works for keeping unwelcome guests from coming up,” Ricky notices while we tie the knots. We sit on our newly completed tree house deck looking out on the world from our perch.
Between two towers of books, on the floor, leaning against the wall, I sit with my legs straight out in front of me and a book in my lap. If I tilt my head up and stretch my neck I can see Amy in the children’s section sitting at a short round table with some other children talking and reading. Kids are allowed to talk quietly in the children’s section. Adults are required to show more restraint.