I make frequent visits to our local grocery store. I do not really like going to the grocery store but it is one of those necessary things that we all do…right? Every now and then, however, something special happens…a God Moment…even at the local Kroger.
Yesterday, I was pushing my cart up and down the aisles when I looked up and saw a dear friend, Polly Saculla. Of course, we stopped, pushed our carts to the side and gave each other a hug. (It is what you do in Texas!) We visited a bit about this and that…things really of no consequence like hair products and the busy-ness of our lives. It was not long though, before our conversation turned to the deeper things…the matters of the soul.
One of Polly’s sons, Josh, was killed in a bull riding accident on July 3, 2016. He had been an active member of the Backyard Bull Riders and loved the sport but on that Sunday, during the 11th Annual Bash in La Grange, a bull took an unexpected turn and stepped on his right rib cage. Josh walked out of the arena and then collapsed. Immediately, the paramedics were on the scene giving CPR and shocking his heart but to no avail. Josh died at the arena surrounded by cowboys who loved him and participating in a sport that he loved. Everyone in the Brazos Valley mourned the loss of this young life. He was twenty-eight years old.
Polly and her husband, Johnny, are members at our church but I do not get to see them often because they are continuously out on the road ministering, singing and speaking at rodeos and Cowboy Churches all over the state and beyond. After this incident, I have been more attentive to their Facebook page so that I could stay informed of their day-to-day lives. Polly is very open, so as she has posted it was easy to know how to pray for them. Although we had communicated through texts and social media, I had not seen Polly face to face since this accident had occurred. I had often wondered and asked myself the questions, “What could I say to encourage her? What could I do to help her cope with this tragedy? Would I know how to convey to her how deeply my husband and I feel about their pain and loss?” Now, here we stood in Kroger, right next to the deli meat and bacon, opening our hearts to one another as if no one else was even in the store.
She reminded me of the earlier years in Josh’s life when they were so concerned about him. As many young boys, Josh had chosen a path from time to time that was not a productive one…not one that God would have chosen. She went on to say that they had watched him learn from his mistakes and return to a deep faith in Jesus Christ. Her eyes sparkled as she recounted the nights that she would wake up, see the light on his room and peek in the door. There he would be, reading his Bible with the bedside light on. At times, Polly would tell him, “Josh, I think that God has a very special call on your life.”
“What do you mean, Mom? Speaking like Dad does? I could never do that! I could not get up in front of people like that…ever!”
“No, son…I know you are shy…and I do not know how God will use you…but I do feel that He will use you right where he has planted you.”
After his death, Johnny continued to go to the bull riding events as he was the chaplain for the group and spoke after the rides on Sundays. Polly said that she just could not go at first…it was too hard. Cody, their oldest child, talked to her one day and encouraged her to attend with his dad.
“He does not need to be there alone, Momma.”
“Well, you go with him, Son! I just don’t know if I can do it.”
“No, Momma, you need to go.”
Listening to her son and to her heart, she went the next week and has been going ever since.
It was in going to these events that God began to show that sweet Momma her son in a whole new way. The boys took her under their wings. They became her family at these events and began to share with her stories about her son that she would have never known if she had not gone. One that she especially liked was hearing that all of the boys were riding together, headed to a rodeo in another city. Josh was talking to them about spiritual things and there were questions that came up in the car that Josh could not answer. When that happened, Josh would call his dad and ask him the question. Little did Johnny know that he was on the speaker phone with the whole group. As he taught Josh, he was teaching the whole posse of bull riders in the car!
Another time, the boys shared with Polly that they were at an event and were waiting their turn to ride. They were sitting out on the back of a pickup like Texas cowboys do. There were young cowboys (children) all over the area around the truck. The kids were enamored by the bull riders and just wanted to be close to them…like celebrities. Josh told the young men with him, “Boys, we are planting seeds…planting seeds all the time. Look at these kids…they are watching everything we do. Let’s not dig up those seeds that we have planted.” The cowboys told Polly that they would never forget that. Josh reminded them often if things were going the wrong direction, “Hey guys, let’s not dig up the seeds.” They all knew what that meant.
One of the last things that Polly shared that day was that Lane Frost’s parents had heard about the accident and wanted to meet them in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Lane had also been killed in a bull riding accident. The movie, 8 Seconds, was made to tell his story. Polly laughed and said, “I have not even told Johnny yet that we are going next Saturday. If I do, he will invite the whole Brazos Valley to go with us! That is just how he is! I am not telling him until the night before we leave!” (We laughed…) She continued, “I think that this time around it needs to be just the four of us. I think that God has provided this as a step in our healing and I am so grateful.”
“People have asked me if I am mad at God. How could I be mad at God, Peggy? I know how much He loves me. I do not understand why my Josh was taken so early but I trust God’s heart and His love for me,” she said. “Peggy, on the night he died, God was already using Josh’s life and death to draw people to Himself. One of the paramedics that worked on Josh that night came to the hospital and waited on us to arrive. After we had confirmation that Josh was truly with Jesus, we walked out to the parking lot and shared the news with those who were there, including that paramedic. His response has stayed with me. He said, “You know…I thought I knew Jesus but I want to know Him like you know Him.”
“What do you mean?” Polly asked.
“You walked out here and told us that Josh was a believer, that he was now in the presence of Jesus and that you knew with assurance that you would see your son again. At that point, you invited us in to see Josh for one last time. M’am, I know that is only strength that Jesus can give to someone.” He was right.
As we stood there in Kroger, I felt as though we had entered a Holy Place. I had wondered what I would say to Polly but in those moments by the bacon, God had sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in our conversation. It was Polly who ministered to me. I walked away from that time with a deep sense of His presence, His comfort and His intimate love that spilled over onto me from a woman who is walking close by his side. Thank you, Polly, for being a surrendered vessel of His presence. Thank you for ministering to me in a deep way in a very unexpected setting. I won’t forget it.