One of my ministerial friends over the years has been Dick Cheatham who is now retired and living in San Antonio, Texas. Dick plays a “mean” clarinet, I “tickle the ivories” and we share a common love for jazz. Actually, at one time there were 5 of us clergy types that comprised a jazz group and occasionally played at the Detroit Annual Conference gathering at Adrian College. We had a lot of fun!
Dick is now an author and I recently purchased his book, Can You Make the Buttons Even?. In Chapter 2 he writes about his experience around the book title: “When I was a young boy living in the southeast corner of Detroit, morning was a rich experience. No matter how often or urgently Mom would remind us of the need for haste I usually headed for the door at the last moment, grabbing for whatever the weather called for on my way. In winter this usually required a bit more time. Michigan winters can be brutal. I invariably began the buttoning process somewhere in the middle of my coat, donning hat and scarf between buttons. Often, in my haste, I began with the wrong button in the wrong hole. By the time I was finished part of the coat was scrunched up around my neck, while one side dangled limply alone at the bottom. In frustration I would turn to Mom and plaintively ask, ‘Can you make the buttons even?’ In response she would begin unbuttoning them and then start the process from the bottom, saying, ‘Dick, if you get it right at the bottom it will come out right at the top.'”
As I read his words I thought about my life, my life with the church and the life of the church itself. There are times when I simply need to re-button my life, beginning at the bottom, the basics of what life and faith is all about. For me, summer is a good time to do this, although I’m certainly not going to limit myself to only one time a year. I think we all need to take the time to realign our priorities. What are our bottom buttons? What do we need to do first in order that everything else even has a chance to be even?
Later on in the chapter, Dick writes: “Examine the way you spend your money and your time if you want to make your buttons even. Show me your checkbook and your personal calendar and you will have shown me much of your value system. These are the bottom buttons of your life. If they are not in the proper place, nothing else will fit correctly. Take a look at them. Are you comfortable with them? Do they represent what you want your life to be – what you want your soul to become?”
I believe those are good questions for our personal lives. Our checkbooks and calendars are evidence of what we think is important. For me, however, my bottom button takes an additional direction that includes these questions: Am I helping people experience the love of God in their lives? Am I helping people experience the love of God with their lives?
What are your bottom buttons?