Echoes From the Campfire

Beauty is not what you see on the outside, but the spirit you know is within.”
              –Elmer Kelton (The Buckskin Line)

    “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
              –Philippians 1:11 (NLT)
I remember it well, it was August of 1972, and we were driving down a road in West Virginia toward my first permanent duty station at Tyndall AFB in Florida.  The details have gone from my mind, but I can still see my hat flying out the window.  We were moving along at a good speed, so it was a spell before I could get the car with trailer pulled over to the shoulder and begin my trudge back to retrieve my hat.  Annie laughed at me the whole way and will probably laugh more in disgust when she reads this now.  But that was my hat.  Now that hat’s been long gone, but I have one that has taken its place and another one that I’m working on.
    You see, that was my hat.  When I look at my worn one now it tells stories.  There is the smell of a thousand fires that it has fanned into existence.  Plenty of sweat from work that I had taken on.  There were trails traveled while hunting, and a place where it had fallen off and been stomped on.  Look inside and you can get a view of a few hairs, and a well-worn brim.  The aroma of sweat, hair tonic, and after shave are there with the hint of wood-smoke.  There is a place on top of the crown, mostly faded out now, where the eldest granddaughter started showing her artistic talents by marking on it with a marker.  Why if that old hat could talk, the stories it could tell.
    Looking at that old hat I see the similarities between that hat and me.  There is a common bond–they both have character.  Like me, that hat took a spell to break it in to fit right.  Now, it slides right over the bumps and lumps on my head.  It is permanently stained from the toils of life just like the creases in my forehead have been etched over time.  That hat was once new and brilliant, silver belly; now, because of the weathering of life it is mostly gray, with only a remnant of silver left.  That hat has some tears just like the scars that I carry.  Yes, don’t mess with that old hat of mind for it took quite a spell to get it that way.
    Maybe the words from this Ed Bruce song can convey some of the meaning.

         “This old hat’s hung on the bedpost too long
          Forgotten like some used to be remembered like a song
          Where all the words are so easy to recall,
          Hmmm, this old hat.

          It’s seen day fade to night in an open sky,
          Beneath the fury of the heavens,
          Kept the rain out of my eyes
          Yet, somehow don’t look as weathered as I,
          Hmmm, this old hat.

          This old hat’s been down some dusty trails,
          And may not look as good as it did new.
          The crown is stained, the brim is torn
          It’s even been walked on a time or two….”

    I’ve walked into stores wearing that old hat and people turn and look.  At wonder if it is at me or the old hat, but then some will walk over and either say, “Nice hat,” or “How much will you take for it?”  There have been plenty of times that folks have tried to buy that hat off my head.  Now, what I think is that they don’t see many who walk with character, much less have it on their head.  A person of character, who knows a good hat, is hard to find these days.  It sort of stuns them for a few moments until they recognize what it is.
    The same is true of a person with righteous character.  They shake up a person of the world and they cause the hackles to rise in an evil person or a fool.  As we walk through this life, the Lord’s character should be evident upon us.  The toils and suffering He took upon Himself showed His true character, so why should we wonder if we get a little sullied and scared from struggles in this life; it only adds to a person’s character.