Dust In The Wind

[Note: This is a piece of fiction. It is not biographical, but it tells the story leading to today’s song in a way that just seemed right to me.]

Country RoadI pulled my car to a stop on the side of the country road, the gravel crackling in the early morning air. Turning the key to stop the engine, I was aware of the quiet. Road dust stirred up by his tires hung in the air, and then settled.

Dust. That was appropriate. I felt so dry inside that I could be literally full of the stuff. If the doctor tried to take my blood again, he would find just a syringe containing powder. Sighing, I pulled out the keys, pocketed them, and climbed out of the car. I opened up the back door and removed my beloved old battered guitar and worn Bible. I briefly considered locking the car, out of habit learned from living in town, and then decided there was no point, out here so far from potential thieves.

Facing forward, I began to trudge down the road. Ahead, indistinct in the pre-dawn light, I could just make out the grove of trees about a half mile away. This was my destination.

“Our old church building out in the country. That’s where I want you to go”, Pastor Rodney had told me. “It’s quiet, secluded, and a perfect place to ‘wait on the Lord’. Sit there, and just wait for God to speak to you.”

I had protested. “I have prayed, I have read my Bible, I have done all the things that have worked in the past, and it just feels like God is not there. I know He is there, of course, but I’m just flat inside.”

Pastor Rod had persisted. “Your desert. I remember what you’ve told me. But you know I’m right in giving you this advice. You told me something like it three years ago who I was feeling like a prune myself. And I eventually I did come out the other side, and was stronger for it. You will, too, I guarantee. And sitting in that old church, praying and meditating on God’s word, helped me to return to myself in a way that had eluded me for a long time.”

The grove of trees were getting closer. I kicked at the little gravel ridges as I walked, raising small dust clouds that quickly dissipated. This was something I hadn’t done for – how long? Ten years? Fifteen? Probably not since I took the girls on a walk around grandad’s farm up near Creighton, that year before he passed away. They were in grade school then, and now Cheryl had a baby of her own.

“Meditate on a scripture passage,” he had told me. “Take it just a word at a time, and ask God to show you truths about that verse that you’ve never seen before.” Perhaps that was what I needed. I had read through the entire Bible many times in my life, and for the past few years had just fallen out of even that habit. It was just so familiar that I had not learned anything new from it for quite a while.

“What a year I’ve suffered through,” I thought to myself. The physical that my wife had encouraged me so many times to get, the one that resulted in the discovery that I had diabetes, and a ‘little’ high blood pressure as well. The doctor reassured me that neither problem was very bad yet, but I did need to start medication for both. Repeat tests showed I was improving in both areas, but still…

The trees were now close enough to see the old white building, sitting back from the road. The remnants of untended grass and weeds from last year’s growth obscured the front door from sight.

Then there was that visit with the boss. “Gee, we’re sorry, but we have to downsize right now, and your position is being eliminated.” The shock, the numb feeling that went through me. I had tried to say to myself, “Well, praise the Lord anyway.” But the words felt hollow, like my weak smile I had on my face as I took my severence, cleaned out my desk, and left for the last time.

I had finally reached the lane, and turned in to walk down towards the old church. It was light enough now to easily see the little steeple with cross, rising up above the walls covered with peeling white paint. The weeds rustled in a soft breeze.

I sighed again. Losing Dad six months ago had been one additional weight on my heart. He had been so important in my life, someone I could depend on for advice and help. The hole he left in my life and my mother’s life was enormous. And after the funeral and estate issues and tears were done, the dryness had just intensified.

Photo credit -- Ange's photos, Flickr
Photo credit — Ange's photos, Flickr

I walked up to the battered red door, and paused. Closing my eyes, I imagined the door open, the pastor shaking the hands of the parishoners as they left at the end of the service, organ music filtering out the door, all those years ago.

Opening the door with the key Pastor had provided, I stepped in. The room was still a bit dim, but I could make out the cross on the wall at the front of the room. The wooden pews were all pushed up against the north wall, on the right. A single chair sat in the front, before the steps leading up to where the pulpit had stood. On the left wall was the old pump organ. I had asked Pastor if one was still there. He laughed, “Yes it is, but don’t bother trying to play it. Mice got to it years ago, and chewed up the bellows. Bring your guitar instead.”

I left the door ajar, for light and fresh air, and walked slowly into the dim room, I was acutely aware of everything: The creaking of the floor, the dusty smell in the air, the growing light as dawn approached, the sets of dusty footprints on the floor, from the door to the chair and back again. “Hmmm. Looks like Pastor Rod has given this advice to others,” I mused out loud. My voice sounded hollow, almost with an echo in this nearly bare room. The loudness of it startled me.

I took the chair up front, and faced the cross on the wall. I opened the guitar case, and tuned the strings until they sounded right. I set my Bible down in the case, to keep it from getting covered with the dust from the floor. I had brought it along as instructed, but I already knew which verse I wanted to focus on. Explaining more about what he had recently learned about meditiation. Pastor Rod had quoted from a book: “What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctury in the heart.” I knew about that sanctury; I had even taught a Bible study about something like it many years ago. But, as I looked around the room in which I sat, I felt like my own personal sanctury was probably in a more run-down state than this old building.

I strummed the strings on the guitar, just humming along in harmony to the random tune I was playing. The verse I had in mind was Psalm 51:10, the version that we had sung to in church when I was a child: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”

“Create”, I softly sang. It was to ask God to make something new. “Create in“, came next. This was where the creation was needed; inside. “Create in me“, came out next. This was the place where creation was needed. “A clean heart”, I next sang. Was my heart dirty? It certainly was dusty, like this room. “Create in me a clean heart”, I sang, as one whole phrase, following the chords I strummed on the guitar. “O Lord” came next. This was the One who had to do the creating. I could not do it myself. I had tried, but failed over and over again. It was my Lord who had to do the creating.

As I hummed and sang these words over and over, I had closed my eyes. I opened them again and found the room was a bit brighter. I could now see that there were some simple colored glass windows on the sides of the room, ones that blurred the view through them. The color was not yet distinct, but it would soon be possible to tell.

I went on in my singing. “And renew,” came next. Renew. Make new something that has become old and dingy. Like my spirit.

And then my tune changed. Keith Green did a version of this song years ago, and I knew it so well I began to sing it the way that he did. “Create in me a clean heart, O God …”

And as I sang, the sun finally came up over the horizon. The breeze that had begun picked up a little, and swung open a little further the door to the church. The dust began to swirl around in the room, making me cough and my eyes water. And when it settled down and I could see again, it was now apparent where the other stained glass in the room was located. The rising sun showed through colored windows above the entry to the church, directly hitting the cross in the front of the room. My tears from the irritation due to the dust became tears of my heart breaking from finally feeling what I had been dull to in the past year. And then this changed to tears of joy, as that “joy of my salvation” truly began to be recreated inside of me.

And then I changed to one of Keith Green’s other songs, one that fit so well with what I had just experienced. It was on the 1979 album The Keith Green Collection, the song Rushing Wind.

Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breathe your breath upon me:
I’ve been born again.

Holy Spirit, I surrender;
Take me where you want to go.
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.

Jesus, you’re the one who set my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.

Separate me from this world, Lord;
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.

Ev’ry day you’re drawing closer;
Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done, Lord,
You know it’s been worth the wait!

Jesus, you’re the one who set my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.

Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breathe your breath upon me,
For I’ve been born again.

The Keith Green Collection, Keith Green, 1979

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