A Gentle Resting Place



This is the day that the Lord has made. But isn’t every day? Our lives are not our own. We claim all kinds of stuff as ours including the actual breath that we breathe. It is not ours. It does not belong to us. We rent it. We rent the space between our ears, the space we walk on, the attitudes we express, the thoughts we think. We can rant and rave and yell and fuss but at the end of our days, we have a certain number of those days, preordained by the living God and none of it, not one little iota of it, belongs to us. But we sure do think so, don’t we? Enter the parable where Jesus talks about the wealthy farmer who was so satisfied with the status of his life that he built bigger barns to store his stuff in, only to die in the middle of the night. We may believe that we know and have a lot, but in an instant it can all be taken away.

Yesterday, in my desire to do something less difficult than stomping around in a swamp, since it is the opening of duck hunting season, I decided to do something less strenuous like bow hunting for deer, which I have little confidence in and little previous success. Oh don’t fear, Bambi would be safe and besides, I needed something to protect me from marauding bands of squirrels that may try to chew my leg into a nub.

Unable to climb into a tree and looking for a place to sit, while walking through the woods in the predawn darkness, already in pain and hoping that this precious time would help to alleviate some of the stress of my journey with pain, I fell. Yep, landing gear up and in slow motion, I landed; touchdown! Only the landing strip was right on my crossbow! Not sure what all the cracking was upon my graceful landing, but as sore as I am today, I think it was at least some of me. I think my crossbow got it too though I won’t know until later today. Believe me, the killing of something was not at the forefront of my noggin to start with; it was the fact that I could go outside and meld into the life of the natural world. Oh, I melded alright, right into the freshly made mud from our latest storm. It has left me sore. It has left me realizing something else; our life just is not our own!

An owl let out a string of hoots that sounded more like a deep, hysterical belly laugh. I think I was the object of his sickly joke. The crows found him right after daylight and made a mockery of his attempts to hide, telling everyone within miles of earshot of his potential murderous desires. The wood ducks flew and squealed in their excitement for finding a few acorns in the swamp that I inhabited. The mallards quacked and chuckled, circling and looking for a place to land for their early morning breakfast. The robins awoke, chirping with the acknowledgement that an invader was present. And in the world I now occupied, I realized, no matter how much I have gone through and am going through, I was small. I was a simple little piece of a bigger puzzle that was around me.

I would never think that what I go through as a curse by God. It has been a journey of questions with no answers, of denial and acceptance, of frustration and disappointment. For each of us, in our attempt to control everything that skeers us to death, suffering comes to us. But do you know what else it is? This damnable pain is a gift! It is a gift where the model of my existence has been pulled apart like a box of Legos and is being reassembled into something different.

What that is, I haven’t a clue but one thing I do know; I realize that the footprints of my existence on this rotating rock is small and is only made relevant by acknowledging the presence of a God that walks with us in the midst of our suffering and pain. I may have cracked my bow. I probably cracked my spine. I definitely am reminded that in our imperfections and suffering, God is as close as the laughing owl and barking squirrel.

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One cool little duck!

Greenwing Teal Drake By far, this is little duck is my favorite duck.  Has always been.  We used to have one in our first aviary that was pinioned and he would let me get within inches of him.  There is nothing any harder to hit as a duck hunter, nothing any better tasting in the duck game bag, nor any duck as beautiful.  In the field, the hen Greenwing Teal has an unmistakeable high-pitched quack.  The drake only gives a soft little peep in reply.  No further comment is necessary.

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Of Chronic Pain and Thanksgiving Dinner

I had not slept very well. The stuff of my chronic pain is constant and it awakens me at all hours including this hour at 3AM. I had spent the previous two days turkey hunting in Oklahoma and would be leaving in a few hours to fly back home. Damned chronic pain is not left behind anywhere for those who suffer with it but I had an opportunity for a change of scenery to Turkey hunt in Oklahoma and I took it just the same.

We stayed in a ranch house where there were several beds in one room and my bed was located on a wall with a number of windows. One of those windows was situated just behind my head. It would be my last night at the ranch and I looked out of the window at a dark sky lit with a trillion stars. We were far enough out of any town to where there was no light pollution and the night sky was simply magical! Knowing that this was a show I would not see in the city, I sat up, pulled on my sweats, wrapped my back tightly with my back brace, pulled on a shirt and a pair of well-worn wool socks, walked quietly across the den as to not wake anyone else, and opened the door to a world bathed in the stillness of night. A brisk breeze and the call of an owl was my welcome mat to a world of fresh air and darkness.

“Who Cooked the Goose, Who Cooked, COOKED the Goose!”, the owl echoed across the forest as I walked under the cascade of a God lit sky onto a deck that overlooked a grain field. Over the years I have learned to imitate the sound of an owl during Turkey season knowing that the replication there of would help me locate a Gobbler sitting in a tree, allowing for a stalk in the dark to a location close by the weary ole bird. On this morning however, there would be no hunt, no attempting to locate a bird for a morning stalk, rather, it would provide me with a chance to sit quietly and observe the palate of stars and planets that painted the sky above me. And wow what a portrait that was painted!

The hooting of the owl echoed through the dark woods once again but then, in the middle of the night, I heard a gobble interrupting the wise ole hoot. Owls and Turkeys have a long standing war since their very creation, and more than one battle has been recorded between the two staunch enemies. Later in the morning, after coffee, I would hear 12 or 13 Gobblers respond to my own hooting but now, at 3AM, there was one ole Tom Gobbler sitting in a tree that was awake enough to challenge an owl with gobble after gobble. For the life of me, I pondered, why was that Tom awake? Here this dude was gobbling in the night air, telling  the owl to keep its distance.

Just before dark, I saw the gobbler fly up into a dead Oak tree about 400 yards away and I could see him through binoculars stretch out on a limb and gobble with all of his might.  Now that ole codger was still gobbling at 3AM. My thoughts rushed back to the day’s previous hunts, the unsuccessful attempts to convince a weary boss gobbler that I was the sweet hen turkey he sought after, and my friend’s successful crawl to take him. Unfortunately, I was reminded as well of my own painful enemy, not unlike the gobblers own nemesis the owl that just does not go away, not for a minute, an hour, nor a day, which for me is chronic pain.

At least now I could be in a different environment and hurt like a son of a gun, and in the dark of this particular night, I could sit quietly, look at the stars, and think about my time in the outdoors with Quail calling to one another and scurrying about; hawks flying across the open prairies looking for their next meal; and a new bird that will tease me into carving in the months ahead, which is the King Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I was able to observe one of these beautiful creations as it would sit on a barbed wire fence, fly into the field in some sort of acrobatic show, catch an insect, and come back to the barbed wire, this time 20 or 30 feet down the way from where it had previously sat. It was a masterful flight and every day I enjoyed the beautiful elegance by which it flew.

Looking up at the stars, I found myself now reflecting on my hunts and how we will reap the rewards of my successful Turkey hunt with a Thanksgiving turkey to share with my family.  On a much deeper level now, while experiencing  the superb handiwork of God through the star painted palate,  God placed a simple question into my mind; what about Kerry’s handiwork?

I sat there chilled by the morning air, looking at stars too numerous to count, listening to birds calling in the night filled woods and dwelling on the concept of Gods handiwork and now thinking about my own creative place in the star filled universe . I have a Masters of Divinity where I have spoken about God and will speak about God in a way that reflects that intentional study. I have experience as a new church planter in a number of states and have pastored some of those churches. I have been a youth minister in several churches. All of those ministerial experiences, every one of them relate to a pivotal dynamic to the call of God and that is the use of the voice and life to express the love of God as reflective of Gods ministry through the person of Jesus Christ.

The concerns of my physical condition from churches and institutions that prevent me from performing ministry in the ways I just described, have led to a deep seeded frustration in continuing ministry. Why in the world a church could not look beyond the physical limitations and see the person of Kerry Smith is beyond me. I suppose they would not give the apostle Paul a job either, what, with his own disability.

Yet now, in the dead quiet of the night, I was left pondering if the call of God can be only in the form of a professional, education filled experience or could God use the Artist Kerry Smith? It is a question and deeply spiritual wrestling match that has hounded me for a long time and then, it hit me; God Needs the Artist Kerry Smith! Underneath Gods very own star-filled creation, at 3AM, with the hoot of an owl and a gobble from a turkey I had my answer: God needs Kerry’s creativity in the world!

Those on the religious right will narrowly define the roll of God’s children in the universe as a singular voice to simply “win a soul for Christ.” Today I will wake up, put on my braces, pull on my sweats, put on my anti-vibration gloves, and go to my shop. It is there that I will fulfill my own call of God by attempting to recreate a creation of God in the form of a bird, with the very best of my ability, with hands that don’t work as well as they once did, with trifocals, with braces on my neck and back and I too will fill my place in the midst of a star-filled universe created by God.

Divinci said it best: “Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there can be no art.” That same Universe creating God has called me to create as well, imitations of what was made by God where God’s Spirit will work with my very own scarred and weakened hands to fulfill God’s call in my life.


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