Right about the time the guy across the table started talking about getting the call for an ATV accident with Justin Bieber, it was about time to head home right about then.
Now, sure, volunteer fireman around our parts here, they get called for overheated hay bales that combust like burning bushes up in old bank barns.
And you hear of police getting called for heated fence disputes between one sheep farmer and his next-door-neighbour goat farmer (because, yeah, it’s true on more scales than one, it can be a problem of epic proportions, when you you’ve got to separate the goats from the sheep.)
But when the guy in emergency work starts talking emergency calls in our neck of the woods for a mud-running ATV run-in between pop stars and paparazzi?
Yeah, it’s just time to go home and feed your sows.
So the Farmer and this old wife of his, we grab another handful of salsa and chips, wave goodnight to good and honest friends who know how to be Real, laugh loud and beg honest prayers, and make a hoppin’ plate of salsa on Sunday nights…
And we hit the road, just rode home in our beat-up pick-up truck, the wrenches and vice grips and tow-strap rattling around on the floor, rode down the snow-packed back roads back to the farm and a bunch of sows banging their feed troughs looking for a bit of chopped corn.
“You did see that video Mr. Bieber shared last week, yeah?” The Farmer’s got his low beams on when he passes the Riverbend Lily Farm that’s being buried in about 3 feet of quieting snow.
“Yeah…” I think the poor kid’s just feeling the weight of it all the time?
You could see it, how Bieber had sort of stammered it out in the grainy, shadowy clip: “I think I was nervous because I was afraid of what people are thinking about me right now… Often we pretend to be something we’re not, as a cover up of what we’re truly feeling inside.”
Life is unbelievably excruciating. It can make a heart hurt, make you want to crank the music up louder and weep in your mug of cold coffee.
Yeah, we hear and see and feel your pain, Bieber and beautiful Bobbi: Sometimes covering up what you feel inside can just about kill you.
And the insanity is that, for all this generation’s 93 million selfies a day and counting — The more exposed we are, the more unknown we can feel.
Don’t know much of anything really about Bieber and beautiful, brave Bobbi, but scroll through that third most frequently used hashtag on Instagram — #me — and you can see it: Going around showing a lot of bare skin is usually a sign that you’re covering up what you’re really feeling inside.
You wanna cup all these hurting kids’ faces. You wanna whisper: You’re seen and you’re known. You don’t have to pursue fame to transcend your own mortality, because Christ pursues you and in Him you transcend all of time right into eternity.
You just want to put a gentle arm around all these kids: Fame and getting attention isn’t the same as being known and getting loved.
You want to look straight into those hungry eyes of that young girl looking for likes on Instagram and say it slow so she yearns for something Real: Attention-hustlers can find themselves hustled right out of their own authentic souls.
You want to get down on your knees and pray like a fire for a miracle for Bobbi and Bieber and for the courageous kids you get to do life with and you want to beg for eyes to see what the glossy magazines and headlining screens and radio stations aren’t telling you: We’re all made to become really Real, but Fame goes around handing out masks.
We’re all made to become Real, but Fame ties Masks on even tighter because it doesn’t feel wise to live unmasked in front of that many unsafe people. (There isn’t a crowd anywhere that doesn’t have more than a few hunters toting their bow and sharpened arrows.)
We’re made to become realest Real, but Fame can suit you up in this protective suit of armour so you can end up be nothing more than a painfully empty suit. What you thought was a face mask to protect you, can turn out be a death mask that suffocates you.
Yeah, I’m just crazy enough to want someone to sing some song so the kids can get it on repeat in their beautiful heads: The greatest venom of fame can be that you start thinking mostly about yourself — to the point of death by self.
You’re not made to think mostly about self — you’re made to think about serving, about others, about giving away yourself.
You’re made to live just that: a platform is whatever one finds under one’s self—and the only thing that is meant to be under a Christian is an altar.The only call for a Christian is, not to pick up a microphone, not to pick some stairs to get to some higher platform — but to pick up a Cross and come die.
The only call on a Christian is to build every platform into the shape of an altar, to shape every platform into the form of sacrificial service.
Every platform, every microphone, every podium is actually meant to be a nail — fixing us to Christ, the only One lifted up — and fixing something in someone else’s life because you knelt down to serve.
The Big Dipper’s hanging up there over Versteeg’s snow slumbering field.
Sometimes during the year, that Dipper hangs right upside down. I’ve always thought the stars that looked the most unforgettable were the ones quietly pouring themselves right out.
When we turn at Martin’s corner, their lights all on out at the barn and all the Martins out there in the barn milking their cows under the stars, sometime after that, I want to turn to the Farmer and find words for that:
When our culture places a premium upon stardom — we live in perpetual dark.
Culture that is fixated on stardom misses the rising sun of extraordinary people doing holy, ordinary work.
We’d miss out on the wonder that Jerrod Ebert and Kevin Schultz get out their shovels every day and clear a path for Bud Caldwell.
Bud’s 82 now and he goes every day to visit the bench at Lakeside Park that he bought and dedicated to his wife Betty after she passed away two years ago, after 56 years of an ordinary and extraordinarily beautiful marriage. We’d miss out on Jerrod and Kevin just shovelling that path so Bud can sit on that bench and talk to his Betty.
We’d miss out on the woman who lives her unseen calling of getting up in the middle of the night with the sick kid, cleaning up the reeking mess now caked to the bathroom floor, throwing in the laundry, making up a batch of chicken noodle soup, and doesn’t consider the calling of raising 10 kids a burden —- tiring, yes, hard, yes, terribly sacred, yes — because it’s all worship work and the wise know never to their blessings into burdens.
We’d miss out on this public defender who worked hard on a case for a man who’d never passed out of middle school, who was facing thirty years for crack possession — so he got his sentence reduced to twelve years. That man wrote her a thank you note.
And the public defender said, “It really bothered me that we live in a society where this man felt he needed to thank me for getting him a twelve-year prison term. I didn’t decide to become a teacher until two years later. But I always think of that thank you note as the turning point. I still keep it in my classroom.”
We’d missing out on the people writing thank you notes to the people teaching and advocating and sacrificing, to the people pouring out their lives in classrooms all around this country, people working endless hours down hospital hallways, and side street nursing homes and back room kitchens, the tired and brave visionaries who take in foster kids, take the lonely and forgotten out for coffee, who practice the ministry and art of neighbouring — because the people who are making their lives count know that we are not here to make an impression — we’re here to make a difference.
You get sorta desperate to tell the desperate kids taking their fame-famished selfies, who are starved to be known but are terrified to know what real vulnerability is, who dare to not cover up, as their cover up for not daring to be deeply authentic — desperate to write it across their skies: You will most deeply find yourself when you find yourself serving others and looking up into the face of God.
The Farmer’s said it many times, and he said it again, when we were coming down that snowy blur of Line 81, before the woods there at Omand’s:
The soul was never made to carry the weight of Fame.
Fame can only be carried by the One who could carry the weight of the world on that Cross.
There’s something about sitting with just the holiness of that through the quiet snow falling all the way home with all the truck’s wrenches rattling around your feet.
When we park the pick-up out by the shed, the Farmer heads out through the shake of flakes, out to the barn and and his boots and his hungry sows.
And I tramp in through the drifts and into the house, up the back stairs through the mudroom and a fling of kids boots, and chop up some potatoes for some bowls of steaming chowder for all their hunger and tonight’s draughty cold.
Place the bowls out onto the sturdiness of the old wooden table.
The frame of a soul was never made for fame. The frame of a soul was made to serve.
The steam off all the served bowls rises straight up.