Faith like old jeans …

I woke up this morning and slipped into my faith. The anxiety and worries of the coming day faded.

The weather channel informed me there was a 50% chance of rain today. I checked the chances of me screwing something up … 100%, the same forecast every-single-day. No worries, I thought as I pointed skyward, you’ve got this.

I’ve had some designer jeans with logos predominately displayed, but they were never this comfortable. I always felt like a poser, pretending to be something I wasn’t, plus they were ridiculously expensive. What I put on this morning didn’t cost me anything … not that they were cheap, quite the contrary. The purchase price was beyond my imaging, beyond measure. Hand-me-downs to be sure, over two thousand years old I’m told. They are old, worn, blood-stained, tear-stained, the knees are threadbare, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Sadly they are becoming out of fashion. A strong belief system today can get you labeled as intolerant, even hateful.

It’s said that a critic is one who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. In my opinion, things of real value are rarely new things. Puppies are cute but give me an old dog any day. My decades-old Sears Craftsman drill requires a chuck-key to tighten the drill bit and by modern standards is too heavy, but the solid metal case and the over-built motor has held up through much abuse and has never failed me. It reminds me of the great Guy Clark tune, Stuff that Works, if you’re not familiar with the song, it may be the best 5 minutes of your day. The chorus goes like this:

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’ hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall

The last line, in particular, resonates with me. I fall (or fail) a lot, but my faith is always within reach. It’s taken me a while to get to this point. I’ve spent too long worrying that I wasn’t doing enough of something or doing too much of something else. Eventually, the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel smacked me upside the head and I finally understood that I was never going to be good enough. I realized that every day I will mess something up, 100% of the time … and that’s okay because I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to understand the price paid by the one who was perfect.

I’m no theologian and comparing Christianity to old jeans, or a Sears Craftsman drill will no doubt permanently exclude me from their ranks … I can live with that.




Brief Moments of Clarity

The windows in my kitchen face due east. I wish I could tell you that Poppy got up early enough every day to enjoy the sunrise with a leisurely cup of coffee and a well-balanced breakfast … but I don’t. I’m doing good to grab a quick mug of coffee for the morning commute. The afternoons are a different story. This is when Poppy engages in his cooking therapy. Putting on some good music, enjoying an adult beverage, creating a meal for people I love … this is when I unwind. Though my windows face east, I can always tell when the sun is setting. It’s never dramatic, a slight shift in coloration, a change in the quality of light, a feeling that has no description or definition. Sometimes I verify my instincts by walking to the front of the house, stepping out on the porch, scanning the western horizon. Yes, the sun is setting … sometimes accompanied by dramatic hues and glowing clouds, often the event is rendered in a more subdued pallette. I walk back to the kitchen, once again looking east, its vistas offering an understated beauty and a brief moment of clarity.

When you walk past the open door of a club or bar in any entertainment district and hear the sounds of music flow out into the street, without going in, you instinctively know whether that melody is live or recorded. It’s a matter of faint audible clues that no one can explain. It’s the difference  between the pure and the duplicated. A brief moment of clarity.

To say that life is complicated would be the ultimate understatement. No matter our station in life, rich or poor, black or white, young or old, we travel a road that is always uncharted. Each morning we step out on that journey, never knowing where it will take us. The history of humanity tells us that we will have good times and bad times, sometimes within the same day, sometimes stretching over weeks, months and even years. This I know to be true. But I believe along the way, God gifts us enough little moments of grace to get us through.

These moments of clarity can bring life into focus, offering an “Aha” event, reminding us that there may actually be a plan. There are little gems of faith and grace hidden in the messiness of life and they can take many forms. Sometimes it is in the form of a sunset or piece of music. Occasionally it’s a scripture, hymn or poem that comes to mind and carries us through the day. But it can also be an overheard loving exchange between a parent and child at the grocery store, an unexpected spontaneous smile from a stranger, or the unrestrained giggles of a child. Sometimes an encouraging text from an old friend will bring the day into focus.

These micro-events will not fill the full 24 hours of your day. They will be rare, precious, brief and fleeting. Train yourself to recognize them in the most unlikely places. Learn to drop your defenses, learn to make yourself vulnerable enough to receive these tiny gifts from God, because they will not announce themselves with the fanfare of trumpets or a loud voice over a public address system, but rather in the most subtle of ways … like a gentle whisper.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out … (1 Kings 19)


Funerals, Faith and Fog

The sun rose before Mrs. Poppy and myself. By the time we left Sikeston, Missouri the sun had been up an hour or more. We woke to a foggy landscape that would stay with us through most of the day. The fog was not so dense that it made driving dangerous. We had at least a half-mile of visibility down the road. At that point cars traveling in our direction, would abruptly disappear into the mist. On the opposite side of the highway, cars would suddenly appear as if emerging from an other-worldly portal.

Even knowing we were headed north, I could not locate the sun that bathed the landscape in a warm glow, softening the edges of everything it touched. The vista outside our windshield became an impressionistic painting as the fog settled into the valleys and low-lands that we passed, creating lakes and rivers of swirling grey mist.

I wrapped my fingers around a paper cup filled with hot coffee, courtesy of the motel we had stayed at the night before. It was better than expected for a complimentary cup of coffee, but mostly I appreciated its warmth. Continue reading “Funerals, Faith and Fog”