Twitter is a wonderful tool. I keep up with dozens of journals, news sources, and artists who interest me through it. Of course, if you lack a trash filter, you can easily get distracted onto thousands of useless spiritual cul-de-sacs. They are hard to resist. For some reason, two stories caught my momentary attention. One said, “Taylor Swift may never marry.” The other said, “Teen Mom photographed in bikini. Makes sex tape with porn star.” My reponse to the first is, “Uh, Taylor Swift is free to not marry. Think I’ll survive.” The second? “Someone needs to help that child before she makes another stupid mess out of her life.”
What’s the deal with us? People ruining themselves is momentarily interesting, of course, but it’s the spiritual equivalent of eating only French fries for the rest of your life. You’ll pay for it eventually.
My day was not nearly so glam. I conducted a funeral for one of my dearest friends in the world. He was the chair of the committee that brought me to my present church twenty years ago. He was always the one who was working behind the scenes to lead through others without a spotlight on himself. Today, after the service, the stories poured out of things he accomplished, family members he helped with finances or trouble, lives changed because Charlie said, “I think you ought to do it.”
I had a copy of his autobiography written years ago, just so his family might know about his life. I read back through it before I did the eulogy. It was a story like many from his generation—love of family, friends, faith, and helping others. He rose to a Vice Presidency in the Bell system before he finished, but you would never know it. Everyone felt like his best friend, although if you fought him, he was tough. He had a way, said one friend, of being determined and once he set his mind on what was right, there was no way you would stop him. But he was never mean about it.
His son said during the service,
My Dad taught me what it means to be a man of character and integrity, who always tries to do the right thing, even when people are not looking, and even if it is not the popular thing. My Dad taught me what it means to be a man of service, pouring himself out for others before himself. My Dad taught me what it means to be a man of humility, not going around drawing attention to himself, but humbly doing the jobs God called him to do. My Dad taught me what it means to be a leader, leading by example and always encouraging others to do the same. My Dad taught me what it means to be a husband, who is committed to the wife of his youth even when times are hard and money is tight, in sickness and in health. My Dad taught me what it means to be a father and grandfather, loving, providing, encouraging, and giving.
So we laid this Navy veteran to rest, ending the day with the said refrain of “Taps.” From the hardscrabble of the Great Depression and Mississippi to a life full of accomplishment and service to others.
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I went to the grocery store this evening, stopped by the Pharmacy and then picked up a few items at the checkout. I always chat with the checkers on my way out if the line isn’t too impatient behind me. While waiting on a man and his little boy, I let my eye scan the gossip magazines. Kardashians everywhere. I have never watched the Kardashians since watching ten minutes once to see what all the furor was about. It was apparently about nothing, since I could never find the point of these dull and uninteresting (and apparently unproductive) people. Why give them money by watching? On principle, I don’t read anything about them, watch anything they are on, or buy anything with an article about them. They are the modern welfare family, except it’s very high payoff, at a very high price. They pay for it with their privacy, dignity, integrity and any real value in life in exchange for everyone knowing everything about them.
There were five headlines about Kardashians. Two said Chloe, I think it is, is now the “most popular Kardashian” and another was about Kim getting fat during her pregnancy and not caring. Any word on how long their fingernails grew this week?
I kept thinking about my friend Charlie. Two ministers today have told me their stories about how Charlie reclaimed their ministries by his faith in them. Family members, friends, everyone talked about what this man had meant to them. He spotted gifts and called them out into productive life.
Finally, at the grocery line, it was my turn. The lovely young woman who waited on me said hello and started ringing up my purchases. “Boy,” I said, “So many Kardashian stories.” “Isn’t it awful?” she said. “I have one customer who counts how many stories about Kardashians we have when she comes through. And what is it they do?” Nothing, I answered.
I just thought about Charlie, who would say, I think, that my cashier was a lot more important to my life than the Kardashians. I buried a friend today whose whole life was about keeping the spotlight away from himself and on others. I wouldn’t take a trainload of Kardashians for one Charlie. If we lose our way, it will be because we spent so much time and attention on worthless things and let the good ones go to ruin. I hope we won’t. I will get up and try a little harder tomorrow. I don’t want Charlie to be disappointed in me. And just for good measure, I’ll pray that the Kardashians might go away for the good of their own souls. And that for our own sakes we will turn off the trash and help someone else.