I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
I was the leader of the pack. When I was growing up in the 60’s, things were just a little bit different. In my school there were a zillion kids and in my church youth group I was one or two years older than most of the other kids. That became important when I turned sixteen and was eligible to get a driver’s license. I remember I got my license before I attended driver’s education and I got a car before anyone else at church. I was the leader of the pack.
Today, whenever I drive by the local school and look in the parking lot I am always saddened. The lot is filled with fancy cars and trucks the likes that were never seen in my 1970 world. A few kids did have nice cars, but most were leftovers and hand-me-downs. Oh, I’m glad for the kids but I just hate they are not going to experience the joy of owning a 1960 Rambler.
Unlike today, it was not an automatic deal to get a car when you turned sixteen. Get a license and you get a car is the general rule today. When I turned sixteen you got the right to ask dad to borrow the family car…occasionally. Only the coolest kids got to actually own a car—and I was about to get cool. My sister and brother-in-law lived in Daytona Beach and he had a car that he drove back and forth to work. When he upgraded, rather than sell his old one, they told my mom and dad that they were willing to give it to me.
Then, and even more now, I realize just how generous that was. It wasn’t necessarily the value of the car as it was them thinking how that just might increase my standing in the world. Dewayne Taylor…car owner. Oh, yes, things were about to get better…much better. So one day, they drove the car up to Jacksonville and pulled in the driveway. There she was. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me she was beautiful.
She was a 1960 Rambler Deluxe. Now in case you don’t know, Rambler was a division of American Motors which of course is now a part of car history. This beautiful hunk of metal was…well…unique. It was hand-painted (as in with a brush) a deep royal blue color. The brush marks only added to it’s uniqueness. Right down the middle of the body was a bold yellow racing stripe. Having lived most of its life near the ocean it probably had an equal amount of metal and Bondo filler in the body. It was powered by a straight line 6 cylinder, 195 cubic inch monster producing 127 horsepower with a very pronounced rod knocking. Anything over 35 miles per hour and the engine sounded like a professional drummer going wild on a trap set. She boasted a three speed manual on the column. It wasn’t exactly a muscle car but she was mine.
One of the first things my dad and I did was go to Sears and buy a set of seat-covers. This was 1970 so we bought navy blue covers plastered with bright red and yellow flowers. To enhance its racing car mystic, I even installed a tachometer on the dash. I was ready. My job bagging groceries at Food Fair provided gas money and I was the indeed the leader of the pack. I became the “go to” guy for social events. “Hey, wanna go horseback riding on Saturday? Great, I’ll pick you up.” “Wanna go to the movies Friday night? Be at your house at 6:00.” Yup, life was good.
The old Rambler lasted somewhere over a year and the old engine just kept on knocking. It was the clutch that finally gave out. Dad decided it wasn’t worth fixing so it eventually found its way to the junk yard. No, there wasn’t a big, fancy replacement. It was back to borrowing when I could. But for those months…I was the leader of the pack and I was grateful.
One of the things we have lost over the years is gratitude. Somewhere we have almost lost the fine art of being grateful for the little and big things that come our way. We stopped being thankful and instead become jealous of what others have. It leads to a vicious cycle of keeping up with the Jones. In case you don’t know, they are the couple down the street that always seem to have more than you. We work longer hours, carry way too much debt and still have the gnawing feeling that we need, we deserve, more. We believe the commercial line, “we deserve a break today” only it isn’t for a burger built our way.
The Book has a lot to say about gratitude and commitment. Paul, one of the New Testament writers, said he had learned the secret of being content with whatever, whenever. Do you know where he was when he wrote those words? He was sitting in a Roman prison waiting for them to decide when they were going to kill him. Incredible. The secret? Faith in Jesus Christ. He went on to say, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” He was saying his faith in God was enough. Everything else was gravy. I’m not saying every car in the lot needs to be a Rambler but I am saying one of the best gifts you can give your kids is the gift of gratitude…teaching them to be thankful for simple things…the little things…things like an old Rambler with more Bondo filler than metal. Teach them to be content. Of course there’s a catch. You kinda have to understand that yourself before you can teach them. Tell you what. Sometime today why don’t you take time and talk to your Heavenly Father about contentment. He’ll probably whisper, “I’m enough. Rest in Me. I’ve got this.” He is, we should, and He does.