The hour is late and everyone, but me, is already in bed. I'm not sure if they are all asleep, but they've all turned in for the night and I'm still up. I was just looking around the house and noticed how stark everything is now that the Christmas decorations are all taken down. Marilyn and I made the last trip to store the garland, tree decorations and nutcrackers in a rented storage building just this afternoon. There something about the quiet of the late evening that solicits a bit of melancholy in me. Either fatigue or the lack of the distracting clutter of noise lets the veneer wash away that has held my emotions intact throughout the day.
In the quiet of this evening I began to reflect on two thoughts; How blessed I am and how quickly life passes. Both caught me off guard with a flood of emotions as I thought of an old friend that passed away just before Christmas. CJ was just about two years older than me. He owned the wheels that the "Fantastic 4" cruised the Chow Now and Shoney's parking lots well after the sun went down. It was a silver Mercury Cougar with a black vinyl top. CJ had bought wide wheels and raised white letter tires. It was a chick magnet, for CJ at least. The remaining members of the Fantastic 4, Mike, Mitch, and myself were wedged into what was left of the interior after the after market 8 track player and speakers were installed. They protruded from every possible flat surface and were to be avoided at all costs. We would tool around listening to the Doobie Brothers groove on "Black Water" or "China Grove" as far as the 39.9 cents a gallon gas would take us. We would talk about girls, the future, girls, cars, girls... you get the drift. Just thinking back on those days brings a smile that I cannot wipe from my face and a tear that just won't stay where it belongs.
We all walked a fine line of faith and paganism. As for me, I began my relationship with the guys as a full blown pagan. I was turned off by the church and was not sure that I wanted anything to do with God. My opinion of God had been shaped by the legalistic and judgmental attitude of my church. My opinion of the church had been greatly diminished after I witnessed two men came by our house to unceremoniously excommunicate mom from the congregation because of my parents divorce. We were not bad kids. I never remember plotting to rob a bank or sell drugs. The most saintly was Mitch. I cannot to this day ever remember him saying a bad word. Mike was the ladies man. His hair was the envy of every girl. It was all the way down to his belt and meticulously clean. I was the youngest and didn't contribute much to group other than my loose change that I dropped in the hat to fill the gas tank.
CJ was the quiet one. I think he was the oldest and he definitely had the coolest stuff. Besides the Cougar he had the nicest of rifles and shotguns. He honestly could shoot a bottle cap thrown in the air with a .22 long rifle bullet. If I could use only one word to describe CJ it would be "cool." It just oozed from him as he drove with one hand on the wheel and the other out the window with a Swisher Sweet cigar....Now he's gone. I understand it was on the first day of his vacation when he just collapsed at home. Gone at 52. Now the "Fantastic 4" is no more. Mitch called me and told me the bad news. In typical Mitch fashion he said, "CJ bought the farm." I knew instantly what he meant. I had only recently been driving down memory lane from the perspective of the back seat in a silver Cougar with wide wheels. For some reason CJ had been brought to the forefront of my memory just a few days ago. I wondered how he was doing. Before I got off the phone with Mitch I asked him if he knew whether CJ had things right with God before he "bought the farm." He said that he had brought the subject up to him several times and CJ always insisted that he did. I sure hope so. I plan on having a "F4" reunion someday.
It is people like Mitch, Mike, CJ and myself I have in mind when I preach. I remember how out of touch I thought the preacher was. That he lived in a different world than I did. I'm sure our pastor would rant and rave against our music and would not approve of our conversations. I saw him as un-approachable and the church as irrelevant. When I entered church I immediately felt judged. I never remember anyone talking about grace, only justice. That someday when we "bought the farm" we would get what we deserved. "Lord, never let me get to that place where I believe I deserve heaven."
Well, I'm not sure where this is heading. Remember, it's late and I'm prone to wander. I just know that life is "but a vapor, it appears for a short while and then it vanishes away." As a rocker once said, "Your everlasting summer, you can see it fading fast, so you grab a piece of something that you think is going to last... Are you reeling in the years, are you stowin' away the time, are you gatherin' up the tears, have you had enough of mine?" Be a blessing to someone. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus and not the eyes of the Pharisees.
Keeping it real - PK