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God Work (by Billy Coffey)

I’m sitting at work, keys in hand, watching the clock. In nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds, I can go home and call it a day. Though what sort of day remains in question.

My life is no longer defined solely by job and spouse. Other things have been added to the mix over the years, things like children and blogs and columns, query letters and book proposals and deadlines. And as I was recently ambushed by a few college students who bound, gagged, and drug me into the modern world of Facebook, I now have something new to add to the list of What I Need To Keep Up With.

Keeps me busy, yes. But busy in a good way. Because I am doing what God wants me to do. God Work, I call it.

My job affords me the luxury of letting me roam about in relative freedom over fifty acres of a college campus and putting me in touch with a constant stream of people who are more than happy to share what’s going on in their lives. God has blessed me with three wonderful things: a loving family, the ability to hit a curveball, and a bartender’s ear. That middle one isn’t really relevant anymore, but the first and the last come in pretty handy. Writer’s block is something I’ve fought before, but rarely now. If I’m starving for something to write, I just stop what I’m doing and look around. Something or someone is bound to happen along.

Today that someone was katdish, who emailed me and said, “Hey, since you’re so lawesome and frigintastic, could you fill in on my blog occasionally so I can go live my life? Monkey sex pornographic cheese butler.”

Well, maybe she didn’t say that. I don’t remember.

But I do remember giving her an unqualified yes. Because katdish is pretty frigintastic herself.

Even more than that, though, was the fact that I saw this as more God Work. I want to write books, you see. And these days a publisher will pooh-pooh you away with a snorty guffaw if you don’t already have a pretty substantial audience. And since my own blog traffic is just a couple steps above sucktacular, I was looking for a way to attract more readers. To me, this was God saying Alrighty then, here you go. Don’t screw this one up.

The problem was that I had to sit down today and write something semi-coherent and quasi-brilliant. Which meant I didn’t have time to mess around with anyone. No talking, no visiting. I had more important things to take care of.

I had God Work to do.

So when the nice lady on the other side of campus began talking about what it was like cleaning out the closet of her recently deceased husband, I rushed through the conversation as politely as I could and said I’d pray for her.

And when one of the groundskeepers confessed that he was feeling terrible about a fight with his wife this morning over how much milk to put in his cereal, I said a quick it’ll-be-alright and left.

And when the phone rang and a friend began talking about his wife’s pregnancy, I said I’d call him back later.

Because I was busy.

Doing God Work.

Another quick glance at the clock. Four minutes and ten seconds to go.

My post is all typed up and ready to go. Mission accomplished. And it’s decent, if not good. I should feel great about getting all of that done. But I don’t. Not even a little.

Because I’ve just realized that I haven’t accomplished anything. Not the things that mattered, at least. Living a day isn’t simply a matter of crossing things off a To Do list. It’s more than that. I’ve bumbled my day by doing the thing I thought God wanted me to do rather than the things I knew He wanted me to do.

Those lofty ambitions we have, those dreams of things we believe will make us more suitable for God’s use than we are now, really don’t matter as much to Him as they do to us. Because while we’re busying ourselves by getting ready to do some good eventually, God’s tapping his foot because He knows we can do some good now. And it doesn’t have to be as moving as writing a bestseller or speaking to thousands. God’s more into little movements: bending an ear or lending a hand or lifting a burden.

That’s what He wanted me to do today. Pounding away on a keyboard wasn’t as important to Him as listening and helping and encouraging.

That’s God Work.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have to say, I think reading my blog has richly enhanced Mr. Coffey’s vocabulary. So I just wanted to say, “You’re welcome.”

For more writings by Billy Coffey check out his blog: What I Learned Today

Answer: An Increase in Female Readership

Question: What is HLAC not seeing much lately?

I’m not one to complain. Okay, maybe I am, whatever. While I seem to be reaching a broader audience, I seem to have an inordinate increase in male readers and not so many female ones. I asked myself, “How can I maintain my current readers while attracting a more feminine audience?” (I didn’t say this out loud or anything. I’m not that crazy.)

One of the ideas I came up with was to change my blogger template to include flowers, butterflies and Care Bears riding atop flying unicorns over sparkly rainbows. This was a thumbs down because it might cause me to lose some guy readership, not to mention it would place my honorary man card in serious jeopardy.

Then I thought, “I know! I’ll ask Sherri the girly girl to guest post for me from time to time. But alas, this wouldn’t work, as she is spending less time blogging these days. No really, she is. She blogs about it all the time. You should check it out.

Then the idea came to me all at once when I didn’t feel like writing a blog post and wondering how many deviled eggs is “too many”. What if I asked Billy Coffey to guest post for me on a regular basis? Now you may be asking yourself, “How do you increase your female readership by asking a Virginia redneck, manly man to guest blog for you?” The answer is, go look at his comments section. Chock full o’ women! If Nicholas Cage had a blog where he wrote short stories, he would get the same kind of comments. No, wait…Sparks…Nicholas Sparks. The Notebook guy. Chicks dig that guy.

So, starting tomorrow, Mr. Coffey will be guest blogging for me on a semi-regular basis. And by “semi-regular”, I mean whenever he has the time to write a story that he won’t be posting on his own blog or writing for a publication.

How long will Billy guest blog for me? I’m not sure. Probably until some publisher comes to their senses and decides to give him a book deal. (Or when he gets a call back from “Dancing with the Stars” – whichever comes first.) Until then, I will simply be grateful that he’s agreed to write here at all. It will class the place up a bit without having to add any extraneous rainbows unicorns or butterflies.

Tune in tomorrow…

In the meantime, you can check out Billy’s blog: What I Learned Today

And Billy – Keep reaching for the stars!

It’s all a Matter of Emphasis

One of the great things about being completely random is that I never feel the need to write something thought provoking and/or deep. I may do that accidentally sometimes, but – you know – no pressure. I’m not, after all, a writer. I’m a silly person who writes a blog that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, people read on a regular basis. I do have a theory, however. Not to brag or anything, but I think I have the uncanny ability to find really good writers in the blogosphere. And don’t try to deny it, because some of you people follow me everywhere! Hey Look a Chicken has become some sort of bloggity portal through which many people find much awesomeness. (You’re welcome.)

Oh, and check this out! The last time I wrote a post about a really good blog, the writer’s name was Koffijah. This time, his name is Billy Coffey. I really like coffee. I really like Koffijah and Billy Coffey. Did anyone else just get a little chill down their spine? No? Okay, whatever…

I suppose I could just give you a link to Billy’s blog, but he was kind enough to allow me to post a story here. Besides, I think after you read it, you will be a fan of What I Learned Today just like me. And while you’re over there, please disregard my stupid random comments sprinkled among the unabashed declarations of adoration for his writing. I just like to mix things up a little. Enough of me, here’s one of Billy’s recent posts:

Please Take One

The toy store downtown is one of those mom-and-pop deals that you can get lost in, the sort of place where you can find things that Toys R Us would never think of stocking. Good things. Great things. Things that really, really make me wish I were a kid again. Which makes shopping there both a pleasure and a curse. A pleasure because there is so much I’d like to get my kids for two weeks of chores well done. A curse because I can’t make up my mind what to get them.

So, there on a Wednesday during lunch, I wander. And in my wandering I happen to spot a Longaberger basket sitting atop a wooden display of toy soldiers (Toy soldiers, I think to myself. My son would love some toy soldiers).

In the basket is a pile of those long, thick pretzel sticks. The sign above them says PLEASE TAKE ONE.

Given the fact that it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry, that’s exactly what I do. I take one and munch while I walk. Through the Legos, the building blocks, the books, the dolls. Through the Tonka trucks and coloring books and Play Doh.

And I am back to where I started. At the basket of pretzels.

Still unsure of what to buy and still hungry, I decide to restock and take another trip around the store. I reach into the basket for another pretzel. And as I bite it, I see something out of the corner of my eye.

Standing beside the stuffed animals about four feet away is a little boy. Sixish, not much older than my son, and staring. At me. He holds out one fist and raises his index finger.

One, it says.

I wrinkle my eyebrows, unsure of what his attempt at sign language means.

One, again.

“What?” I ask him (which actually came out as “Wamp?” because I hadn’t swallowed yet).

“You took two pretzels,” he says.


“You’re only ‘posed to take one.”

“Who are you” I ask, “the pretzel police?”

“It’s what the sign says,” he states, now using his index finger to point. “Mama said the sign says ‘Please take one.”

I look at the sign, then back to him. “No,” I answer, “the sign says ‘Please take one.’ There’s a difference. It’s all a matter of emphasis.”

“What’s empkasis?”

“Never mind,” I say.

“You shouldn’t have taken that pretzel. Mama says God watches us.”

My mind takes a sudden detour to those old Disney movies, where the older, bigger kid was always accompanied by Jiminy Cricket, Mr. Disney’s version of a conscience. I’m starting to think this kid is my Jiminy Cricket. Or maybe just aggravating. I haven’t made up my mind yet.

“Your mama’s right,” I answer, wondering where in the world his mama was. “But since God knows the sign says ‘Please take one,’ I think I’m in the clear.”

“Please. Take. One,” he corrects.

There we stand in the middle of the store, staring down one another like two gunslingers in a Western wondering who would draw first.

PLEASE TAKE ONE. An invitation to me, a rule for him. Which was right? I’m not as sure as I was a few minutes ago.

How do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Easy.

Go ask the owner of the store.

“Excuse me,” I say to the nice lady behind the counter. “I was wondering if you could shed a little light on a problem this youngin’ and I are having.”

She perks up and joins us, happy to have something to do.

“We were wondering about this sign here,” I say. “Is it please take one, or please take one?”

The owner gives us both a strange look. “Well, I’m not sure. No one’s ever asked.”

“It’s preyin’ on our minds, ma’am,” the boy says.

“Preyin’,” I add.

“If you’d like a pretzel,” she says, “please take one. If you’d like another, you can take one, too.”


“Can I have a pretzel?” the boy asks.

Situation resolved, the three of us part ways. Him to his mother, who had been preoccupied with the books, the owner back to the register, and me to finish my shopping.

Funny, I think, how three words led us this far. But I am sure of this: if two people can disagree over something as simple as pretzels, it’s no wonder why we disagree over the important things even more—politics and God, right and wrong, war and peace.

Who’s to know which is right and which is wrong? Or even if there really is a right and wrong? How do we settle our differences, put away our prejudices, and find the truth?

Maybe, I thought, we should all do what that little boy and I ended up doing.

Maybe we should all go the Owner of the store and see what He says.


(Oh sure, it’s no top ten shiny vampire list. But still, very good.)

P. S. – Billy, In your email, you mentioned that you didn’t remember how you found your way over to my blog. I’m pretty sure it was the first comment I made on your post, The Fruit Salad. Here’s what I said (in part):
“Your grandmother was a very wise woman, indeed. And you dropped the “f” bomb on her? Jerk!”

You left a comment here before mine was even posted.

P. S. S. – If you have a comment for Billy, please feel free to post it here. I’ll try to keep my big mouth shut. (No promises, though.)

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