The wind is howling around our home. Molly keeps nearby me; I think because she hears strange noises outside. Dale will be coming home soon now, and about this time of day, Molly is alert to the autos that drive by. There are times when I know she feels secure being near me, and right now, she is sheltered under my desk. The rain ended early afternoon with a few wet snowflakes, and now that that has passed, it is sunny outside.
I’ve prepared our stove in the living room for a fire because at night our home becomes ever so chilly. We keep our home cool so a fire at night makes us comfortable and, eventually, very sleepy. At night, a fire in a stove or fireplace can certainly make you drowsy. At the end of a day, it is a good feeling (if you have accomplished what you needed to do) to be in that state of awake and yet sleepy. Molly will curl up on the divan beside Dale and at least two of “us” three will fall asleep. Ahem! Not usually me!
On our walk last week, I expressed that I was hoping to hear about some favorite poems from you, but I only heard about a favorite poem from one person. The poem he loves is “Footprints”. It is the poem beloved by many that speaks of how Jesus carries us during difficult times in our lives. Indeed, there are times when we need to be carried from one day to the next. Perhaps in the future, I will have some one of you on our walk tell me of your favorite poem.
A few years ago, my wife gave me a subscription to a beautiful magazine called The White House Quarterly. It is a publication about the history of the White House and its inhabitants. There is an issue about former presidents and the sports they played and another how the White House looked during different presidencies. This quarter there was an article about a man called, “Steve” and his job at the president’s home. Steve was the man who cleaned the windows of that home and, after he suggested it, cleaned all the beautiful chandeliers.
This article held a lot of meaning to me for couple of reasons. In our home in Melrose, my mother had a very nice chandelier in our dining room. When that light fixture became dusty and dull, my mom would ask me to clean it with her help. Carefully, I would lift down all of the crystals and place them in a container. My mother would then wash them in a solution containing ammonia, and the crystals would shine and gleam in different colors. I would then put them back in the correct places. How happy I am after reading the article about Stuart Stevens that we did not have chandeliers that were nine feet tall and five feet wide with thousands and thousands of crystals.
One of my mother’s most wonderful characteristics was to grant praise if you did a good job on a chore. She would speak many times over if you had done a task for her that was well done. Do you know how wonderful that was? I seldom rebelled as a teenager if my mother asked me to do a task for the reward was always praise that made my heart feel so full and pleased. When I painted a ceiling at the farm, my mom would speak months later of how great that ceiling looked. Truthfully, you wanted to have my mother ask you to do another chore for she so appreciated the last one you accomplished. So, the article about Steve and the chandeliers at the White House brought back those memories I had of doing the same thing – cleaning windows and the chandelier in our dining room.
The windows were a more difficult chore for my mother would wash inside, and I would wash the outside. She would frequently rap on the windowpane near a corner and point out that the corner needed more attention. That was not always pleasing.
It is a wonderful article that he has written. Much to the surprise of his supervisor, he told his “boss” that he did not have enough to do and that he had experience cleaning light fixtures of crystal. He was given permission to clean one; this particular light fixture had remained unclean for years and was “filthy dirty.” When people saw how beautiful the light fixture was, it became a point of pride for “Steve” to keep all of them in the White House sparkling and shining for all affairs.
He happened to come to the White House because he and his brother had a window cleaning business. While cleaning the windows in the new executive office building, the manager there asked him if he would like to work in the president’s home. Usually that happened only to those who had an inside contact. He was so proud to work in such a place for he had been raised in a poor section of the city, and now he worked in a place he had never even visited.
As he worked, he thought of what Martin Luther King had said in one of his sermons.
“Even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’”
The title of the article by Stewart Stevens is “Here lives A Great Chandelier Cleaner.”.
He speaks of the different presidents under whom he served and his relationship with them. After a fall from a ladder that tore a tendon in his knee, his wife asked him to retire. He did so, and after he lost his wife of sixty years, he spends his time telling his story of his years as the chandelier cleaner at the White House.
I do not wish to include poetry in every walk but a poem I had to learn in elementary school fits the words of Martin Luther King and Stewart Stevens. The poem was “Be
The Best of Whatever You Are” by Gary Bachland.
If you can’t be a pine at the top of a hill,
Be a scrub in the valley – but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill,
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.”
The last verses are:
If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be a sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win, or you fail –
Be the best of whatever you are!
That is what our faith teaches us, isn’t it? As Christians, we are to be the best of whatever we are. The command is difficult in the Sermon on The Mount – “Be ye perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
That command of Jesus is hard to even imagine, but we must be the best Christ follower that we can be.
We humans may not be able to find perfection, but we can strive to be the best of what we are.
Ken, the pastor and one-time chandelier cleaner and window washer, wishes for you a wonderful week. Please join me again next week for our walk together. Perhaps next week we might go for a while to the farm at this time of year.
Also, it is the time of Lent – time to think of our Lord – to promise to serve Him better by living as he taught us by being ever kind and loving – to ALL around us.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”