Reading Leon Hale‘s column is an institution in Houston and the surrounding counties as well as my house. Mr. Hale has been published in a Houston Paper for most (if not all) of my life, and his was the only column I remember reading in my dad’s paper as a boy…My interest in those days was more the daily comics section.
Today, his column really touched a place in my own life and spirit…
The church I go to at this time of year is on the bank of Coyote Creek, which is the name we’ve given to the crooked little stream that this property uses for a north boundary. I know of at least two other creeks named Coyote in our state, but they’re in other counties.
Washington County didn’t have a Coyote Creek until we showed up here at Winedale, and now it does, even though it will probably never show up on anybody’s map. This is a fit name for the stream because coyotes lope up and down it and sing almost every night.
When I start to church — the dog is always with me — we walk a couple of hundred yards along a winding woody path, just west of this old house. Solid timber on both sides of the path.
Just before it reaches the creek the trail suddenly tries to end, blocked by a bushy limb, hanging low, almost down to my waist. The limb is live oak, the foliage still bright green in February.
Once I carried the nippers down there, thinking I’d lop off that branch and clear the path. But then I decided the branch made a nice door for the church. Push it aside and go in. The church with a green door.
Center aisle of the church is about 15 steps long, sloping down to a small flat clearing on the creek bank. All around the clearing, tall thin trees reach high, their branches touching above.
In the clearing, beneath that canopy, that’s where we sit, and have church.
I have found in my own life, that I have been more comfortable worshiping in churches just like Leon’s. I even have my own “church with a green door”. As often as not my fellow worshipers have been just like his, one or more dogs. The only difference Leon and I may have is that I enjoy the choir of birdsong, the hum of the insects…Yes, and even the bass bravado of the frogs. They are part of what brings me to this “church” in the first place.
The thing about visiting “my church” is, I don’t do it once or twice a week. I may miss a day or two, sometimes even a week. But on the whole, I worship regularly in my church, my face lifted to the sun, the breeze at my back, bird trailing across my ceiling with their songs raining down.
I have found my churches in every part of the country I’ve ever visited. The roof may be higher in the northern California redwoods or the cove forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or much closer to my head in the south Texas brush country. There may be no roof at all in the deserts and canyon lands of the southwest, or the mountain peaks of the Rocky mountains. But my spirit is uplifted and my heart is full wherever I find my church in whatever weather blesses the day…Maybe someday I’ll stumble across Mr. Hale in his “church with a green door”.