The Day the Laughter Died

“A long, long time ago

I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died”

These haunting lyrics were penned by Don McClean 12 years following the 1959 plane crash which ended the lives of three of that day’s most popular rock stars. The news must have travelled fast even in the days before social media that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper had gone down in Clear Lake, Iowa. Don McClean’s biggest hit, “American Pie” popularized the phrase “The day the music died,” honoring the loss of such great musical talent.

Two days ago we learned of the loss of another entertainment icon. Robin Williams’ death to me has an equal sense of loss as must have been experienced in 1959 causing the phrase “The day the laughter died” to come to mind. It is unbelievable when pop culture figures unexpectedly die, but even more so when one who is so identifiable with laughter succumbs to the darkest, least humorous feelings one can experience.

If you are like me, you have this expectation that people such as Robin are just naturally the way we see them on stage. That if you went to his house unexpectedly, you would be greeted by a man-child eliciting a gut busting laugh with every action and mood lifting perception of the world around him. The notion that he would be anything less than hilarious even at home just does not fit the naturalness of his humor. However, this silencing of the laughter has revealed the truth that not only was this not his natural disposition but was the exact opposite.

It causes me to realize the unreal expectations on many who have the abilities to bring us joy. If I were to visit the home of (insert your favorite singer here), I would not expect this person to sing rather than to speak, yet I anticipate comedians to be funny, teachers to desire to unceasingly cover their subject matter, preachers to speak only in psalms and hymns, as well as others who enrich our lives to constantly be “on” without showing any of their humanity. We mistake the public persona as the person’s whole being and are disheartened when we realize they too are human, forgetting the wonderful gifts of humor, learning, or hope they have shared with us.

What we have learned from Mr. Williams’ life and the laughter he has given us is that sometimes the inner struggle of one’s own humanity can provide a catalyst for bettering others’ lives. Even from the darkness which eventually overcame him, Robin found a way to lighten the world around him. His depression did not make his antics any less funny.

What is in your humanity that can be used to benefit others? What is it that causes you to hold back from people but gives your empathy toward their struggle? Make your own music for others, add laughter and joy to someone else’s day. Don’t worry that your humanity may become visible. Music did not die on a field in Iowa and laughter did not stop at Robin Williams’ home in California.

 

We still sing and we still laugh.Robin_Williams-Esquire

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Moving Boxes

Have you ever moved to another residence? Until I married, I never had the experience of moving. The house which provided a locale for my earliest memories was the same house I left to start my own home with my wife Janette. The process of boxing, labeling, and eventually relocating our possessions was not a part of my early life experience.

Since that initial move, Janette and I have moved three times. Four if you consider a two-year span in which I was a bi-vocational pastor of a church 60 miles from Paducah, living in Paducah Monday – Friday and staying in the parsonage Friday evening through Sunday evening. Not a full move but both homes containing necessities of life. Today, as I am yet again snowed in my house, I am surrounded by blank walls with pictures removed, empty book shelves, and full boxes. 

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Yes, we have started the packing process again. Where to are we moving? Read my last blog post Question Marks to see what’s happening in the Hines’ life. Moving has taught us the importance of living light, meaning that the tedious work of moving has shown us the nuisance of clutter. Life brings a big pile of stuff with it and we either use, lose, or store the stuff. The size of the pile becomes obviously large as we begin to fill and stack the boxes. “Who needs this much junk?” is commonly heard as we see Mount Moving Boxes grow in the hallway and mudroom. Each time we have moved, we have discovered many things that are not essential to life or worthy of storing.

From 1939 until the time they left this earth, my grandparents never moved. Their years of living in a single locale allowed plenty of time to amass mounds of things. After they both passed, my wife and I bought their house and began to work through the house, garage, and storage shed. The amount was staggering. One room contained all of my grandfather’s check stubs back to he early 1950’s, magazines from the 1960’s, and random cards and letters from over the years. I even found my dad’s draft letter inviting him to join the army. While this was an interesting study into the history of my family, there were also truckloads of junk which had no value at all. The former found homes with family members who had a closer tie to the items, the latter found its way to recycling or refuse centers. 

A large amount of stuff such as I have been describing can act as an anchor to life. If the desire or need to move arises, the effort to collect, box, and transport would bring the process to a crawl. However, its not just the moving process which is affected. The daily living process is similarly weighted down with the accumulation of necessary and unnecessary hodgepodge. This weight of living causes us many times to slow or stop in the process of heading to a new  or desired place in life. As we begin to redirect and proceed to this place, the tug of stuff grabs our attention just long enough for the desire or opportunity to fade. Living lighter allows a more flexible lifestyle.

ImageToday is also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a time in which we likewise look into the storage spaces of life and try to weed out the clutter. During the 40 days of Lent we are also packing to move. We are, through our simplicity of living without some of life’s usual clutter, moving closer to God. As we pack up boxes with things that have taken over our time, emotions, or affections, we release the anchors which keep us stagnant in the sea of life, allowing us to correct our bearings and ride the wind of His grace to the isle of His presence. Once we arrive at our destination, Easter in the season of Lent, we realize that the “important” things are not so important, and as we settle into our new residence, we dispose of the unnecessary items in order to make space for that which we have discovered is much more valuable. 

What has your anchored? Is it business of life, unforgiveness, anger, selfishness, or some other clutter which keeps you anchored in place seemingly out of reach of God? Lent is a time to box these items and be free to move. The packing process is slow and it is difficult to let go of some of these items. Know that God’s grace will empower you to keep filling boxes even in those times that sentimentality causes you to pause and look at the item a little longer before taping the box shut. He wants you to move, He desires you to move, He is forwarding your mail to the new location.

So, during this season, pack up that which has you anchored, be willing to dispose of clutter in life, and be free to move closer to Him. 

Question Marks

We’ve all been there. That place of not knowing what’s next. That place that, despite our best goal setting, planning and accomplishment, our next stage is unclear. It seems as though, despite our best efforts, any discussion regarding our future is punctuated with a question mark.

I am there. As I sit and type this post, I am watching the weather to decide if I should cancel the morning worship service anticipating the arrival of an impending winter storm. If you were to ask me direct questions about most areas of life right now, while I may tailor my response to keep a positive tone, a truly forthright answer would include an if and end with the tonal upswing of a question mark. Whether concerning ministry, vocation, family, even where I will be eating lunch, there are many variables beyond my control, requiring any discussion to contain as many questions as answers.

If you have found yourself in similar situations in life, or like me, seemingly living in the land of question marks, there are some statements that I have discovered which, no matter the situation, will remain definite and give you a foundation on which to build in the most questionable of circumstances. 

God is good. While there are those who would question this, I have discovered through the revelation in Scripture and through personal experience that God is truly good. He has proven His goodness even though my life has elicited a wrathful response. Even in times of ignorant foolishness or blatant rebellion, God has displayed His goodness in deliverance, guidance, or comfort. Even though I am not, God is good.

God will provide. A good father takes care of his children and our heavenly Father, as defined in point #1, is the “goodest” of the good. Jesus describes the Father’s care of the birds of the air, the lilies, and the grass of the field and then goes on to point out the even higher esteem He has for His children. No matter the question mark, God can and will, through many different means, care for His children’s needs.

Love endures. Question marks in direction causes question marks in action. With plan A, B, C, or even Z, there are specific courses of action which must be taken. Without knowing which plan is in effect, action seems fruitless. This is where the course of love is best taken. 

Personally, this course requires us to receive love from the Source of love. We should strive to convince ourselves of the enduring love of God and pursue this love with all of our hearts. This love is demonstrated in the atoning work of Christ and is revealed in the Word of God and through relationships with others who likewise strive to know His love. 

Secondly we are to strive to share this enduring love to all around us. There are those who have not heard of the truth of His love or who have a misrepresented picture of His loving nature. We have the commandment, given by Jesus, to love one another. As God through Jesus did not give up on us in our time of need, likewise, through the empowering, enduring Holy Spirit we are to endure in love for the needs of others.

My purpose in this blog is to record my responses to many of the question marks I see in life. These three statements are on the short list of foundational beliefs I hold which form much of how my viewpoints develop. As a follower of Christ, I have accepted the inevitability of questions in the faith journey. However, even in times like today, I have the reassurance that any interrogative in life can be changed into a declarative (or exclamatory). 

FYI: The winter storm won the battle. One less question mark.