Grace, Contentment and Dapper Dan

Grace and contentment are two things on my mind lately. The former is something ongoing, something which I experience at a deeper level the more I realize, as it’s name suggests, I don’t deserve it. The latter is something I am learning from the contents of the pockets of my jeans.

Depending on the day, the contents of my pockets will vary. From the universal contents such as pennies and dimes and lint, not Lent (that would be an odd as well as an abstract thing to carry around), to more personality-specific items such as a guitar pick or a ratchet end wrench. Every now and again, perhaps, a small paperback in my back pocket. Not to be found, a silver money clip with a rock star supply of cash or a can of FOP (because if I was a pomade user, I would use Dapper Dan).

At any rate, monetarily speaking, my pockets are on the lean side of life and to make matters worse, even if I wanted to use Dapper Dan, I probably couldn’t afford it when adjusted to current prices. Therefore, lately, I have been in a less-than-content state of mind. The obvious and thankful fact that I have pants at all is lost to me when I wander from the immutable truth that God doesn’t forsake His elect. That doesn’t mean He won’t let His children go without things like aromatic hair tonics or rock star money clips. I really should just be glad I am not only a creature but a child of the God who fashioned all things.


I suppose, too, the oddities I do have in my pockets also should, in a strange way at the end of a long day at work makes sense to me, be reasons to give thanks. Guitar picks enable the picker to cut the finger nails on the picking hand so he or she doesn’t have to have crazy long nails to pick the strings. Pennies and dimes mean at one time there was a dollar bill used to buy groceries and they are simply the remainders. Lint, not Lent, means, um, my awesome wife washed my jeans.


Bringing all back home, I like what Paul the apostle formerly known as Saul said in his letter to the Christians in Pilippi,


I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13, ESV).


Not to be mistaken as meaning he could literally fly like an eagle if he wanted or misapplied as a graceless, Christless prosperity gospel mantra, Paul simply stated he could deal both with having and not having. Simple as that. He could deal with it because of the gospel. He could deal with it because his greatest need was met on the Damascus road, where Christ was the intersection.





Mistaken Identity: Valdez is Coming!

Whenever I meet new acquaintances, fairly often they are surprised by my last name. (Yes, a random topic I pulled out of a rhetorical, imaginary hat.) “Valdez, really?” “No, really, what’s your real last name?” Or sometimes there’s simply a momentary pause, followed by a quiet nod. This happens in both instances where the other person is either white or is blessed to heartily enjoy the more exotic fair from the taco truck’s menu. In the case of the latter, I get, “¿Verdad?” or “But you are white.”

Once, on my first day of a new job, I was waiting to be picked up by the crew on the way out to our job. I was waiting outside my motel at four in the morning with my hard hat and lunch box, when a three quarter ton Dodge Ram with the company logo on the side pulled up. I could see the puzzled looks on their faces. Then, still not sure if they were relieved or disappointed, they smirked as I began walking up to get in and go. It all worked itself out from there.

I enjoy getting junk mail in not-my-first-language. It’s like a free mini language course. You know it’s junk mail, as opposed to something legit, when the words, “¡Todo es gratis!” grace the front of the envelope in a bold, zesty font.

Back to acquaintances. Every once in a while, after the cordial exchanges are through, the guy I just shook hands with moments before will ask me a question. It’s happened enough that I anticipate the question. It goes something like this:

“Have you ever watched that movie, Valdez is Coming?”

“Oh, the one with Burt Lancaster?” I’ll reply.

“Yeah! That’s the one!”

“You know, I really haven’t.” And then we get on to talk about other things.

I really hope that it’s a good movie, or at the very least be Burt Lancaster’s best movie. With a title like Valdez is Coming, there’s too much anticipation to be a complete and total bomb. Someday I will take the time to track it down and watch it so I can form an opinion and thereby enrich later conversations. Or the polite exchange will go something like this:

“Valdez? Really?”

“Hard to believe, I know. But I really am an albino guy from Zacateca.”