Smoke permeated the Delta sky, turning the cobalt blue sky gray. Farmers were burning off the last of the season’s copious corn crop. Thanks to ethanol, Prince Corn had recently dethroned King Cotton, making the land around the town of Greenwood look more like Indiana than the Cotton Capitol of the world. In the middle of one of those fields, a grand white Victorian home sat beneath five massive oak trees. Two older ladies drank their afternoon drink and watched a gray, striped cat play erratically in the front yard.
The tattered-looking tabby suddenly ran head-first into one of the oak trees, temporarily knocking him out. The two ladies watched. One in horror. The other just shook her head and said, ”Percy ain’t been the same since lightning struck that tree he was under.”
The cat shook his head twice, got up and ran into the tree again. He finally made it past the tree and ran into the bushes.
“Just dumb as a sack of hammers. But any cat that can survive getting hit by lightning has my respect.”
Thelma Lynn Jones related to her old cat Percy. She, too had been struck by life’s lightning. She had been attacked while on a date when she was 20. She had been in a car wreck in her 30′s that killed her husband. She had survived breast cancer when she was 45. Her oldest child died in the Gulf War. Thelma Lynn Jones’s life had hit its own oaks trees and she kept going.
A crop duster lazily flew across the smoky sky, spraying a lone cotton field.
“Isn’t that Angie? I thought it had crashed” Frances Smith had known the pilot with the plane named Angie. He had recently crashed his crop duster near Indianola.
“Yeah, he’s back flying again with a new plane — the Angie II. Tough old bird. Told me a plane crash couldn’t keep him out of the air.”
“Yes. Been that way since he lost his wife. Guess life’s lightning struck him, too.”
Life’s lightning. Those instantaneous flashes when life changes in a dramatic and sometimes tragic way.
A man on a bicycle rolled down the gravel driveway. The cat bolted out in front of him, causing him to tumble into the grass. The cat, unscathed, ran back into the bushes.
Thelma Lynn called out to the missionary. “You OK mister?”
The young man, dressed in a shirt and tie, dusted off his pants and his pride.
“Good afternoon ladies. Have you got a few minutes to talk about the Lord.”
“Depends. Would you like a drink?”
The missionary looked at the bottle on the table and said, “No thank you ma’am, I don’t drink. I just would like to ask you ladies a simple question, ‘Do you know Jesus?”
Thelma Lynn pointed to Frances and said, “She went to high school with him.”
If looks could kill, Frances Smith would be picking crops at Parchman.
The young man awkwardly laughed, not knowing if it was OK to laugh at such a joke.
“No, ma’am, do you have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”
Thelma Lynn walked down to the missionary and put her harm around him. They walked together up to the porch. ”Young man, I know Jesus. I know God. I talk to both of them every night when I wake up from my nightmares. I cry out for their help when the Devil comes to attack me again. I ask them to lift me up when I see my husband’s bloody and smashed face as it stuck through the windshield. I plea for Their mercy when my own cells try to kill me. I fall to me knees as I watch my son lowered into the ground every night. Yes son, I have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If I didn’t I’d be crazier than that cat.”
The cat ran out of the bushes and back into the tree, knocking himself out yet again.
The missionary sat and watched as the crop duster danced across the field. It’s yellow paint stood defiantly against the gray sky.
“Like a smooth stone in a stream, my faith is strong, beautiful and a product of my turbulent life. But you want to know something, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The worst times in your life are the seeds for your best moments. I’m sure you can’t tell me anything I haven’t learned the hard way. It’s about Grace. It’s about forgiveness.”
Frances looked at her friend and said, “Forgiveness?!? I can’t believe you just said I went to High School with Jesus. If I went to school with Jesus, YOU went to school with Moses.”
The missionary looked at the two ladies and said, “Mind if I join you? I want to hear more about your lives. ”
“Want that drink now? We have some lemonade.”
The missionary nodded with a smile.
And on that warm fall Delta day, a crazy cat jumped into a missionary’s lap and fell peacefully to sleep.