Friday, April 21, 2006

Helicopter Crash & Graceland

I like Paul Simon (the musician, not the former Illinois Senator, [though I don't necessarily dislike the Senator. He did after all wear bow ties when no one else was willing to. And now Tucker Carlson and Dhani Jones have joined in, claiming to be starting a revolution.])

I will always think of Paul Simon (musician) as he appeared on Saturday Night Live years ago in a chicken suit singing, "Still Crazy After All These Years", with a complete deadpan attitude while people on camera, probably off camera too, and those of us at home were about to wet ourselves. Truly hilarious.

But his music is even better than he was funny that night. He knows how to put together rhythym and melody in such a way that it is contagious and infectious. And his travelings into all sorts of musical genre make him one of my favorites; a real musical genius.

This morning as I'm doing some work around the house I had the "Graceland" CD playing. One song stood out above all the rest:

"I Know What I Know"

And one line of that song lingers in my mind even now, an hour or so after I've left the place where the music was playing:

"Who am I to go against the wind?"

You know how sometimes music just comes into your life, maybe even reappears, at just the right moment? There is a crash at the intersection of what's happening in your life and a particular song? Maybe it's in the summer with the windows of the car rolled down and some great tune with an addictive beat. Or maybe it's a rainy day and a sad song comes on just as you've broken up with a girlfriend.

Well today was one of those days for me.

In the past week our little town of Chelsea, MI has buried our police chief and fire captain. Both of these men went down in a helicopter crash last Thursday. Perhaps you saw it on the news. They were both relatively young. One has two small boys who will grow up without a daddy. Both leave behind grieving widows.

Our family lives next to the cemetary in town. And the turnout yesterday for the second funeral was unbelievable. The processions for both men included throngs of people who showed up to show support and respect, in a way that seems unique to a small town.

A friend of mine was asking me "Why?" "Why these two guys who had done so much?" "Why now with so much life ahead?"

I have to tell you I spent more time listening to him and then agreeing with him about the lousy timing and plucking the particular people from us who'd passed away. I've heard all the Reader's Digest theology:

- Their time was up
- God needed a couple of angels
- This was some kind of divine punishment/reward

I'm not sure any of that is very comforting to those who are left to sort through the mess of fatherless children and grieving widows.

I know we could pull out a couple of scriptures and do some prooftexting (making the Bible say what we want it to say based upon this one brief little quote).

- "There is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under heaven." (Ecclesiastes [which is where the 60's/70's song came from])

- "The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Quite a statement of faith from Job [pronounced 'JOBE'] who knew a little something about pain and sorrow, having just lost his children, his house, and his health)

- "Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted" (that gives some hope for the future, and instructs us that God's Spirit wants to use us to do the comforting)

- "Jesus wept" (reminding us that God knows a little about sorrow too. [This is also a favorite memory verse of precocious children as it is the shortest possible verse they can learn and still claim to have learned a whole verse]

- "My ways are higher than your ways says the LORD" (and the Psalmist is right. This is a good verse when you don't know which end is up and aren't even able to form a complete, coherent thought to add to the discussion.)

And, I suppose, these would be appropriate in different ways and different circumstances. But today, I reach for Paul Simon's (the musician) quote:

"Who am I to go against the wind?"

Because like it or not, we're here. And so are those who are devastated by loss. And if we live very long, we'll come in contact with more pain that isn't necessarily deserved, and more things that are unfair. And we can either rail against it, or come to grips with the fact that life is like that sometimes.

Sorry that this entry is a bit of a downer today. If this is your first reading, you won't know I don't tend to be so gloomy. But today my friends are hurting and this is the moment in which we're living.

Grace & peace.

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