Commentary

The letters before your name, the letters after your name, the books published, the awards won – all that is just commentary. What we really want to be is good people. ~ Harlan Coben

I have a dumb job. That’s what I say sometimes – just to my friends and family.

I used to have a smart job.

I had a job where people took copious notes when I spoke and stood up and applauded when I finished. It made me feel important. It made me feel like what I was doing mattered. Over time, I think it made me feel like I mattered.

No one applauds me now. Working the night shift as a gate guard on an oil rig is lower than the lowest rung on the ladder. Sometimes I mix up what I do with who I am and I wonder if I matter at all anymore.

Last week my friend died. He was driving to a rig when a truck crossed the center line and plowed into him. He was only 45. To be honest, I didn’t even realize how very much we’d become friends until after his death. The persistent ache in my heart is a tangible testimony now.

Lee didn’t have any letters after his name. I don’t know if he finished high school. I don’t think so. Maybe. I’m pretty sure he never had a room full of people stand up and applaud him. He didn’t need applause to feel important. I don’t think feeling important was particularly important to Lee.

But he was important and he did matter. He was kind and fair and unassuming. He brought me chicken at midnight and I miss him. I’ll probably miss him for a very long time.

I learned a lot from Lee about what important people do. Important people are generous. They extend grace. They go out of their way to be encouraging. They don’t think too much of themselves or too little of others.

My life was better because he was a part of it.

Lee, with no awards or extra letters, reminded me that all the rest is just commentary.

Old Long Since

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!  ~Clarence Oddbody, AS2

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We sing it (or hear it) around this time every year. Auld Lang Syne. How funny that we so heartily join in singing a song that we can’t even translate. The meaning was near to the heart of the Scottish poet Robert Burns who penned – or he would say reworded  – the words, over 200 years ago.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Although there are several more verses, most of us can’t sing beyond the first 40 words, a third of which are in Old Scotts. The individual words mean old long since, which, today we would probably render for old time’s sake.

So, for old time’s sake, as we’re busy evaluating the past year and setting goals for the new one, we remember. Our lives have been touched by many. Altered this past year by the new the friends we’ve made, and changed by death and by distance.

For auld lang syne, in tribute, in memory of old acquaintances held dear, and in gratitude for the new we share, lets take a cup of kindness. I think Clarence Oddbody, AS2 had it so very right. No one is a failure who has friends.


How to Conquer the World

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world. ~ Frederick Buechner

I made a checklist as I was reading Buechner tonight. I considered what kind of lover I am. Here are my results. You can try it, too, if you like.

Love for my friends and family and kindred souls. You bet!

Love for equals

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Love for those who suffer and struggle, who fail and have been less fortunate than I have been. The poor, the sick, the unlovely and the ungrateful. Most of the time.

Love for the less fortunate

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Love for the more fortunate. Unusual category. Love for those who succeed where I fail, for the wealthy, the famous. So far so good. Love for those who have much but give little. Love for the selfish, the arrogant and the prideful. Not sure.

Love for the more fortunate

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Love for the one who mocks, threatens, inflicts pain on me. Sometimes. Love for the one who mocks, threatens, inflicts pain on those I love the most. Less likely. Love for the intolerant, the hate monger, the abuser, the torturer. Not so much.

Love for the enemy

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For the love of God, I have boxes that need work. I’m a great theoretical lover. But love isn’t theory. If it isn’t practiced, it isn’t love.

You’ll know them by their love. I want to be known for that; known as a lover, the grateful recipient of grace who never, for a moment, hesitates to offer it to others.

You’re Not IT

I have a Holy Spirit and you’re not it.                                ~ H.H. Fogle

I’m famous among my friends (and perhaps already here at Two Minutes of Grace) for my love of reading and quoting “dead white men”. While I have an abiding respect for the writings of Lewis and Chesterton and Merton and Nouwen and McDonald, it’s often the words spoken by those I know and love that resonate the most deeply with me.

I have a Holy Spirit and you’re not it. This wasn’t said to me, but it could have been. Trapped in a hospital elevator on a long ride to the 8th floor, Heidi was exhorted by a church leader: You’re choosing Plan B for your life.

Clearly, nodding and simply walking away wasn’t an option. Not that she would have anyway – not her style. Heidi’s response was gentle but direct. I have a Holy Spirit and you’re not it.

As she shared this scenario with me, the truth of her words embedded themselves in my heart. I can’t begin to recount the number of times I’ve stopped myself from telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do. Or how many times I’ve caught myself on the verge of audaciously speaking for God and sharing my great insight into His will for their life.

They have a Holy Spirit and I’m not it. Thank you for the reminder, Heidi.

A Sunday Song – Hold Me Jesus

Well sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

I’m singing hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

~ Rich Mullins

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I had chosen a different Sunday Song, but changed to Hold Me Jesus because so many that I love are in the eye of the storm. Some are in the path of Hurricane Irene, some are dealing with the heartbreaking storms of Alzheimer’s, broken hips, broken promises and broken hearts. He is your King of glory – you evidence that every day. May He also be your Prince of Peace. This song is dedicated to my dear friends who need holding right now. I love you.