Tuesday, February 23, 2016

All That Blood

for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. -Matthew 26:28

I can tell, when someone tells me they don't really care for reading in the Old Testament, that they have probably been reading in Leviticus.

Goes something like this: I should read the Bible through, so I start in Genesis and it's pretty smooth sailing, lots of stories about some interesting characters.

Exodus is pretty good too; the plagues, the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, but then you begin to get bogged down in the minutiae of the construction of the tabernacle and all its furnishings.

Then comes Leviticus. Chapter after chapter of the endless detail and description of the sacrificial system, including precise instruction on the handling and usage of entrails and blood and body parts.

The thing that always (always) strikes me is the sheer number of animals. Why so many? And the blood.

All that blood.

In the film The Passion of the Christ, we see Mary, after Jesus has been flogged, on her hands and knees attempting to wipe up all the blood that has been spilled on the paving stones of the courtyard.

Our hearts break for this mother vainly trying to clean her Son's blood off the ground. And there is so much blood.

Thinking of this, I begin to understand the Books of the Law with their endless repetition and the oceans of blood that were shed under the Old Covenant.

And a little of what God wants me to understand as I wade through all that blood, and experience, to the slightest degree, what the Old Testament believer experienced.

It is this, I think: how could all the blood of all the animals in all the world begin to pay the penalty I owe?

Old Covenant believers were simply looking ahead to a perfect sacrifice; one where the blood shed would atone, once and for all, for every sin, every trespass, every act of rebellion I ever committed.

Blood of the perfect God-man, effective to save to the uttermost, effectual to save each and every one that God has chosen, no matter what the number.

Amazing love!
How can it be
that thou, my God,
shouldst die for me?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Smell of Diesel in the Morning

Amen!!! And diesel!!! People think I'm crazy but it always reminds me of Daddy. -Debi Tolar Ringer

Springtime always came early in the Delta, it seemed.

Early in March, I would drag myself from my warm bed in the Old House, dress, and trudge the forty or fifty feet out to the shed where Daddy and Red Paul would be fueling the tractors.

The chill morning air would fill my lungs as I walked, and sting my cheeks, and by the time I reached the John Deere 4430, I would be awake.

I cranked the tractor and heard the familiar clatter of the idling diesel. The diesel smell was oily and black in my nostrils as the black smoke hanging low and heavy in the morning air.

Reflecting the low-rising sun, dew sparkled in like diamonds in the patches of grass dotting the pale tan earth.
Moving out, I looked behind me and down at the divots left by the cleats of the tires in the soft ground.

I drove to the far 60, next to the railroad track bordering Lexa.

I hit the power-lift and the disk made a satisfying soft crunch as the  blades bit into the loamy soil and began to turn it over onto itself, the earth underneath a rich dark brown.

And I could smell it. The odor of freshly-turned earth. It contained the promise of new life; life springing from ground disked, harrowed, and planted.

There would be long straight rows of cotton here soon, pale green leaves rustling in the warm breezes of June and after that, in late September or early October, fields white like snow.

After the harvest, late fall sliding into early winter, the disk would come again; this time turning the bare stalks under for winter's rains, frosts and freezes, returning to the earth some of the nutrients taken from it in the growing season.

All that was half a year away or more.

For now there was the diesel smell and the rich scent of freshly turned earth.

I've smelled nothing like it, before then or since.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Old House

The old house is still standing, though the paint is cracked and dry.... -Green, Green Grass of Home
                                                the Old House sometime in the 90's

I find myself an increasing rarity among friends and family: one who remembers living in a house without indoor plumbing.

The Old House, formerly a shotgun house, perched on the crest of a razorback ridge cutting across Highway 1 in the otherwise flat delta farmland of Phillips County.

I say "formerly" because a bedroom had been added to each side of the front room facing the highway, making the shape of a "T."

In 1959, with my brother Rodney on the way, Dad added an extra bedroom on the north side of the house, and (glory of glories!) a bathroom!

We lived there until my senior year in high school when, in one of those odd bits of trading country folk do (involving farmland and tractors), we moved across the highway into a two year-old brick ranch-style house.

I was gone from there in less than two years, so my memories center mostly on the old house, with its tractor shed and cow barn.

My younger sister and little brother were conceived there and brought home to there after they were born.

A giant willow stood a few strides from the back porch, providing a wide shady area under which to play in the summer, and long, supple switches for disobedient children year-round.

The cow barn also doubled as a chicken coop and I learned that there is an art to removing eggs from the nests of bantam hens, if one desires to remain unflogged by tiny but fierce wings.

My behind got left behind in one of the side rooms of the tall tin-roofed tractor shed. More about that another time.

I hoed cotton in the fields surrounding the house and taught my sisters to sing three part harmony.

Even after I had grown and gone away, I returned there.

Three of my four children were conceived there.

And once, when my mother objected (and rightly so) to my living there with a woman to whom I was not married, my dad said, "Nobody's gonna tell my boy he can't come home."


I live in a place that I have called home for twenty or more years; in a house, my home for thirteen of those years.

My youngest still returns there to check on the Old Man. With a fussiness which I find amusing, but also precious.

She cried recently when I took a tumble over a garden hose, dumping just-off-the-grill hamburgers onto the concrete driveway.

I cursed, then laughed, then invoked the five second rule.

The Old House now exists only in memory, being in the process of decay and collapse way back in '85 when Joyce and Sandy began to live with me.

But the memories are vivid and constant and I think of them whenever my mind wanders back to that long-ago home.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Like Arrows Piercing Valentine's Heart

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. -Song of Songs 1:15

The deep longing of true love is a palpable ache for the beloved, which does not fade with time nor diminish with distance.

Even death cannot break these cords of love, this love which plays upon the strings of memory a melody that daily grows more poignant, more beautiful.

To think that the love with which I have been loved, the love with which I have loved is but a very dim reflection!

I have read the Song of Solomon each Valentine's Day for as long as I can remember.

This scriptural depiction of romantic love speaks to my heart and exposes my deepest emotions.

But I know it points to something deeper, it and all the related passages speaking of the Bridegroom's love for His beloved.

Because I have been loved by someone who desired my good with all her heart and soul, I can begin to understand the eternal, supernatural and all-sacrificing love of my Savior, the depth of which I can barely begin to grasp.

But God has revealed Himself in His Word and so I have the promise of a love of which, as blessed as I have been, I have only had a foretaste.

And though our hearts must be broken over our sin and failure, they are at the same time healed with joy and gratitude.

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.