Funny how my brain hangs onto insignificant memories. One of these moments took place on a covered, concrete porch in the country, miles from anywhere. A thermometer dangled on a nail and read 98*, not unusual for a summer afternoon in South Texas. Four of us sat in folding lawn chairs under the porch’s shade. We finished our lunch, and the heat drove us outdoors, since the house lacked air conditioning.
Various waves of cicadas started up their burring choruses, increasing in volume and pitch until they crescendoed, then almost abruptly died down to begin again. The dusty smell of Spanish moss and thirsty grass hung in the air.
One of the four, my grandmother, sat behind a TV tray laden with used greeting cards. She chose a card and, with tiny scissors, trimmed around the edges of flowers or birds. She used these cutouts to garnish decoupage crosses for the church bizarre. Scraps of cuttings littered the tray and her aproned lap. She cleared her throat but said nothing.
Settled in his chair, my grandfather gazed at the surrounding pastures with cattle laying down. He left his cowboy hat in the house. The weather precluded hat wearing. A ring of flattened silver hair circled his head.
My brother’s friend, John, who became a friend of the family, occupied a third aluminum chair. He leaned way back with one of his long legs resting on his opposite knee, forming a triangle. Now and then he bobbed his suspended foot.
Wearing shorts, I shifted to alleviate the edge of the chair’s nylon straps from chafing my bare leg. I looked beyond our porch into the field where two tree’s overlapping shadows shaded leaf-strewn dirt. This was the spot where Grandpa reported seeing a rattlesnake a couple of years before.
A red-wing blackbird called out, conk-a-ree! Beads of sweat gathered at our hairlines and ran down, irritating our ears, but humidity canceled cooling through perspiration. Gnats worried our ears and eyes, and we swatted them away. The air held its breath and stagnated. I sighed.
“Cold flash!” Grandpa declared.
We roused from our stupor, Grandmom laid down her snipping, and yes, a puff of air drifted past. The coolness was so slight that perhaps it was only a thought of a breeze. It was more of a lightening of the soggy air. Still, we all sensed it and sat a little taller.
The moment passed, and we settled back into the sultry afternoon in mutual silence. To break the boredom, I said, “Hot flash.” We chuckled.
Fifteen minutes ticked past and again we sensed the lifting of the air. It could have been a spirit floating past, the change was so subtle, but we all sensed the momentary change.
John blurted, “Cold flash!” We busted out with a full-on laugh.
The cold flash, hot flash signals became a game. They broke the doldrums and the waiting for the late afternoon breeze to show up, after which we could trek to the fishing ponds or bump around in the truck checking on cattle or return to the kitchen and drag out vegetables to chop for dinner. The game became an inside joke.
Why does this boring scene reside in my mind, while important memories lack this one’s clarity? On reflection, the memory reveals that I detest sitting without doing something constructive. Idleness feels lazy or a waste of time, but is doing nothing a sin of omission?
What must I do to do the works of God? Jesus said the work of God is to believe in Him. My work is to believe that Jesus made me forever accepted by God, so I don’t have to constantly worry that I’m not doing enough to make Him happy. The point is, I could never do enough, so Jesus did it for me out of love. As I focus on Jesus, He directs my doing, not perceived expectations from myself or others, but I often struggle to know the difference.
When Jesus planned to feed thousands of folks, He command to them to sit down. Sit down! Then, He directed the disciples to bring food to everyone who sat, not to the ones milling around asking, “What can I do to help?” This isn’t the main point of that miracle, but the Holy Spirit jerked my attention that to be fed, the crowd was required to sit down and wait. Be still, and know that I am God, He says. Being still takes effort until I fully trust His work on my behalf. Then I lean back into Him.
Waiting for the next thing can be boring or it can bring awareness of the present smallest miracles. Being still internally, knowing God is in charge, brings soul rest. Remembering that sultry afternoon in Texas brings that gentle rest to me years later. Don’t underestimate the work of stillness.