Monday, December 27, 2004

I Shot a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die

So other than the dog almost dying, again, Christmas was good. I didn't receive a lot, but I did get to watch my nephews tear in to their chaches, and we did get a few things for the impending Spawn of Brian. But I did receive a couple of things I had really wanted: An Oregon knit cap, some pilsner glasses and a pair of Thistle-style Single Malt Scotch nosing glasses. But from the title, I'm sure you've ascertained that the gift I'll be talking about today is this one:

Now, I'm not the biggest country music fan -- growing up in Southern Idaho and Southern Oregon, most of the country music fans my age were the kids who had no tolerance for anyone not exactly like them, and I got a lot of grief from them. So I had a built-in animosity towards the genre for a long time. That's changed a bit, but I'm still not an enthusiastic listener.

Except when it comes to Johnny Cash. I cannot get enough of the man's music, though up until now I didn't OWN any of it (not that I was buying other music instead -- it's just not high on the budgetary priority list). But this year The Feared Redhead arranged for Santa to leave this CD in my stocking.

So what is it about Johnny Cash that makes me love his music so much? Let's ignore for a moment (as difficult as it may be) the fact that he is the baddest, coolest man ever to sing on a stage. Let's set aside the fact that when he sings of suffering and the Blues, he knows of what he speaks, having grown up the poor son of a sharecropper. Let's even discount, for the sake of discussing deeper things, that gravelly, crack of doom voice, the self-deprecating humor, or the passionate love for June that made all his love songs work so well.

The thing about Johnny Cash that endears him and his music to me is the interplay of sin and grace that was the pattern of his life. This was a man who made some serious mistakes in his life, who struggled mightily with addiction, who was anythng BUT the quintessence of Godly living.

And yet, despite all that, he was, at his core, a man of faith. He believed deeply in God and in the power of His grace to forgive, and I honestly believe that is what kept Johnny going. I don't think he was proud of the things he did wrong, but he knew he was forgiven when he repented for them. And in the end, I honestly believe Johnny Cash went home to be with the Lord.

And that gives me hope. while I've not live a life a quarter as hard as Johnny's, my own Christian walk is less than exemplary. I make mistakes -- no, I sin. Frequently. Sometimes egegiously. But when I do, and am faced with what I've done, I honestly repent and sincerely rely on God's grace to not only forgive, but to help me avoid the same mistakes again. I think Johnny Cash would know what I mean.

And so, this Christmas, the season of Grace, I received a CD of music from a man who truly appreciated the meaning of Grace. Thanks for the Encouragement, Johnny. I walk the line too.

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