Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Requiem in Pacem, Dan

The news of Dan Fogelberg’s death at age 56 was a real blow to me. Admittedly, although I love music, I’m not a real devotee of any person (I get close with Michael Card). I confess, I owned only one album and it was a “greatest hits” compilation.

Still, certain of his songs I absolutely love. My favorite (one I learned to play on the guitar) is “Leader of the Band.” It makes me think of my father, who was a Methodist/United Methodist preacher, an old school cowboy from western Kansas. I became a United Methodist preacher and I learned a lot from Dad. I’ve long felt something of a parallel, then, between Fogelberg’s relationship to his father – assuming that the song reflects real family relationship – and mine with my dad. When I began learning the song, I had to sing it about fifty times before I could make it through without crying. My father had died back in the early 1980s.

And now, Dan’s music has stopped. He was so young and, worse, he died of a cancer that is one of the more curable kinds. I’m mourning.

I surfed the net for awhile after hearing of his death and read some of the reports. They say how he died – gracefully, full of appreciation and wonder for the fans who loved his music. His wife talked of his peace and courage through the horrible suffering.

The old Methodists used to talk of dying a good death. Doing so was a particularly difficult challenge, because death could take a long time and the suffering could become unbelievably intense, with little in the way of palliative medicine available back then. To put it bluntly, in dying, people just had to gut it out. And Methodists wanted to die well.

Dying well for them meant that one could give testimony to the witness of the Spirit right up to the point of death. One could honestly say that God was one’s all, that one had assurance, that no doubt or fear of death troubled. These testimonies were powerful witnesses to the living of the goodness and power of God, even in the momentum extremis.

By the accounts I read, Dan Fogelberg died a good death. I know nothing of his faith in Christ or otherwise and I won’t presume to draw personal inferences. Whatever else one might consider, this death shows that God’s heart is clearly good, full of mercy and love. God gave Dan the grace to die well. That is a comfort.

I want to die a good death. And in the meantime, I want to live – in the full Christian sense of that word – a good life. God give me grace.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | Pop Culture | 2 Comments

My Dirt Doesn’t Bother Me

In my haste to get out of the office shortly before Christmas, I left a quarter-full coffee cup sitting on my desk. A week later when I went to the office to climb back in the work saddle, there was the cup with a thick slab of dried coffee in the bottom. Off to the bathroom I went to clean things up.

It was amazing how many rinses it took to get all the sludge out of that cup. And that’s when I thought, “You know, if I were in someone else’s office watching this process, I’d be a little grossed out.” Then came the next thought, “My dirt doesn’t bother me nearly as much as someone else’s dirt.”

Last Friday, Joni and I met halfway between our work places to pick up a part for a home bathroom project. We decided to make it a date and go for dinner. Now, you need to know that I’m culinarily challenged. I eat what’s put in front of me. I like pretty much everything I eat. I’m not very picky or discriminating. And I promptly forget what we just had after we eat. I’m a happy, but quite dull, don’t-notice-much eater. Sadly (for my wife), I’m married to something of a gourmet cook, who loves to try new things and who really, truly gets the chemistry of cooking.

OK, back to the date. Joni suggested that we go to a new Japanese Steakhouse that she had spotted not far from the national chain home repair/building/supply store we had just frequented. So off we went. The restaurant was brand new, so new, in fact, that they didn’t have their liquor license (ergo, no saki after dinner). We sat, as people do in Japanese steakhouses, with total strangers, at a big cooking station with seats surrounding it.

That’s when we started noticing – the place wasn’t very clean. The cook station was slightly dirty from the previous meal: little bits of rice back up under the edge of the grill, a stray pea, a sticky spot on the floor under my feet. Our cook was good. He was funny. (He was also Mexican, not Japanese. I love this country.) But somehow, the food just didn’t taste quite right. We didn’t relish the meal like we would have had we gone to the other place where we’ve been before. As we left Joni said, in that philosophical tone, “Well, I’m glad we tried it, but the next time we want Japanese, I probably won’t recommend we come here.”

My nasty coffee cup didn’t bother me at all. A less than perfectly clean restaurant made my gullett a little jittery.

I don’t really mind my dirt. Now yours…? Hence, my problem. I’m so thankful Jesus isn’t squeamish like I am.

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Christian Spirituality | 4 Comments