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why I like Lee Pitts

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HAY MAKER

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author Lee Pitts


We buried a good man last week. In his remarks, the priest said that my friend was not a religious man, and I suppose that he wasn't in the sense that he didn't go to church every week, tithe 10 percent or drop 20 bucks into a collection plate on a regular basis, all noble deeds indeed. But just because he didn't dress up in his best Sunday duds and sit through a sermon did not mean that my friend was not religious.

Now, I am not making excuses for my departed compadre, but for the priest to say that he was not religious merely proved that he'd never had the pleasure of his company. While it may be true that my friend was not seen in church every Sunday, did not play bingo on Wednesdays or wear his religion on his sleeve, this did not mean my friend was not a religious man.

It's just that he worshipped in a different church. In fact, it was God's grandest cathedral: the big outdoors, under an open sky where God's message did not get scrambled by interference or an interpreter. It's that hallowed place where country folks know they can feel closer to God than anywhere else on this good earth.

My friend may not have admired beautiful stained glass windows from inside a temple, but he had an even better view of God's handiwork from the front seat of his pickup, looking out a cracked windshield at all of God's wondrous creations. Maybe my pal could not quote scripture and verse or sing songs off-key without looking at the hymnal, but he heard God's choir every day. To the lowing of his cows the birds sang alto while the bulls sang bass. He did not need any further proof that there was a God in heaven than frolicking lambs, golden fields of grain and a copper cloudy sunset.

You want to talk about faith? Who in the world has more faith than the farmer who plants a seed, expecting a grain crop? Or a rancher who depends for his livelihood on the miracle of conception and birth? Who talks to God more on a regular basis than a farmer or rancher who regularly prays for rain and a good market? Or that his colicky horse or diseased dog will get better?

And when it rains, or even if it doesn't, the farmer or rancher is the first to give thanks. It doesn't have to be Thanksgiving for a son of the soil to give thanks for the bountiful crop he produced with God's help. You don't have to be sitting in a church to talk to God. Farmers and ranchers know that you don't necessarily even have to kneel on your knees or raise your voice in unison with others to have your prayers answered, for He hears the silent ones too.

Just as Jesus didn't preach from a pulpit, my friend knew you didn't have to sit in a pew to be a believer. I'll admit, he didn't sing in the choir or teach Sunday school class, but my friend darn sure believed in the glory of God. He believed that a righteous man did not cheat on his wife, cuss in front of his kids or steal from his neighbor. He took care of his parents, honored the Sabbath, was ever faithful to those he loved, helped those in desperate need, raised good children, and left this hunk of ground we call home a lot better off than how he found it. Those may not exactly be the Ten Commandments, but I'm guessing they came close enough in God's eyes.

My friend's religion was not one to start wars over or to cause converts to crash airliners into skyscrapers. His was a more compassionate one. He believed that a person should do the best he could do with what he was given. And I know he believed that if he didn't cheat, helped those less fortunate and took care of his family, his reward would be waiting for him in heaven.

As a farmer, he believed that after his death his body would once again become part of the earth, to be nourished by the soil, rain and sun. To be reborn. To start all over again.

So, you may say that my friend was not a religious man, but I know better. And so, I'm sure, does God.
 

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