Darrin … April 26, 2012

Question 2: What can I do with what I have to make things better?

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I met Darrin Gantz when I was twelve years old. He was the minister of the local Church of Christ in our small town. He was a bewildering blending of John Birch with John Lennon. What I mean is, he thought that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a communist, but he allowed us kids to listen to the Beatles on the radio on our way to church camp. Well, after all, it was the 1960’s, when chasing one’s tail was frequently rewarded with a bone of contention.

Darrin did not want to be called “Pastor.” He said that Jesus was the only Good Shepherd. Likewise, you could never call him “Reverend,” because he cited that the word appeared in scriptures only one time, in reference to Almighty God. Being a Church of Christ “minister” was the only word he would tolerate.

He believed the New Testament was the only foundation for building a church, that communion should be served every week to all souls gathered, and that baptism was the only guarantee to escape the fires of hell. (And of course,

Baptism surrounds my memories about this gentleman, because every Sunday he would invite all those at the worship service to make a decision for Christ, and if they did, that was immediately followed by a baptismal service in a tank which had been erected directly above the altar and pulpit. It was about five feet deep, seven feet wide and had all sorts of drawings of angels and doves flitting about in the background.

I was always impressed that on those occasions when somebody actually decided to take the leap, that Darrin would appear in the baptistery, with the converted soul clothed in a robe, but Darrin still wearing a shirt, tie and jacket. It was perplexing. Because after the ceremony he would reappear, completely dry, and I could never figure out how he got into and out of that water without becoming dripping wet.

My curiosity got the better of me, so one Sunday I snuck out during the preparation time for the baptism and took a peek in the room where he was preparing. There he was, standing in front of me, wearing wading boots–all the way up to the middle of his chest. Above them you could see half of a shirt with a tie, and a coat that had been trimmed to be just above the boots. He looked so funny that I couldn’t help myself. I giggled and he heard me. Fortunately for me, he was not angry, but explained that when he first became a minister, he tried going into the water in a bathing suit, but felt it was inappropriate to take off his pants for such an endeavor, and was also not comfortable being clad so scantily in front of female congregation members. So he thought and thought and thought, and finally decided to get a big pair of wading boots so he could get in and out of the water without getting wet and still maintain the integrity of his shirt and tie in the process.

I could see he had spent a whole lot of time thinking this thing through. At first I thought it was silly. After all, who cares if somebody takes his pants off, if he’s wearing a bathing suit, or for that matter, if he gets soaked to the skin? But you see, this was so important to Darrin–this baptism thing–that he found out what he could do with what he had so he could make things better.

Now honestly, as the years pressed on, Minister Darrin and I had many philosophical difference, and soon our friendship, unfortunately, fell by the wayside. But I will never forget that day when I peered at him standing there in his wading boots, getting ready to baptize. It registered with me. Because after all, the only piece of true debilitation to the human soul is when we finally convince ourselves that there’s no way to solve what we need with what we have. As long as we’ve got an inkling that we possess a chance to use existing talents to benefit our situation, we are quite endearing folks, full of hopefulness. But the minute we think we’ve run out of resources and that our problems have accumulated to such an extent that we are already defeated, we’re not only going down for the count, but are usually quite grumpy about it.

What did I learn from Minister Darrin? That the greatest gift we can give to God and ourselves is to take what we can do, using what we have and set out to make things better. Because of a surety, I know that complainers and those who give up too soon are the best friends of hell. Just refusing to give up or complain keeps you in the ranks of the chosen few.

So as I begin my day and I think about Minister Darrin, who refused to be a pastor, repelled the notion of “Reverend,” hated black people, but thought the Beatles’ rendition of Daytripper was really cool, I retain in my memory from him how to put on my own boots and wade into the mess.

**************

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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