“Lord, let me live until I die.” ~ Will Rogers
This quote may seem strange until you think about who wrote them. Will Rogers started off as a trick roper — even starring in his own movie, The Roping Fool, but it was his credo of respect for all of humanity that he is remembered for; “I never met a man I didn’t like.” He was a sought-after speaker for his simple philosophy: tell the truth in simple words so everyone can understand.
I thought of this today while attending the second of two memorial services this week. These gentlemen were 30 years apart in age; one a heavy duty mechanic, the other a retired rancher. They shared the same philosophy on life; work hard, treat others fairly and don’t waste words on unnecessary talking. At the first service, the eldest son shared how when working with him, his dad would say, “Bring me that um, that um, that…” then he’d go get it himself, it was easier than talking.
The second service was for the old rancher. It was at the graveside looking over the Red Deer River. It was simple and to the point. His youngest granddaughter read a bit of poetry, a grandson read the 23rd Psalm and Taps was played on a trumpet. The whole service took less time than it takes a federal politician to form a coalition. This was in keeping with Hugh’s wishes. He only said what he wanted to and if he offered you something, you best take him up on it. In the 15 years he was my neighbour, what I admired most was his strong work ethic, dry sense of humour and if he said it, you best listen—it’s important and won’t be repeated.
Folks showed up for both of these men because they’d lived a life of integrity. Their expectation of themselves and of others kept their plow in the ground and their furrows straight. They lived their life in simple truth so that folks could understand and in doing that gave the rest of us a straight furrow to follow.
If we take that thought and apply it to our own life, how do we do the same? The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is where Jesus laid out the pastures we were to ride in and where to find the gates. He wraps it up in 7:24-25:
“Therefore anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (N.I.V.)
Integrity (plowing a straight furrow) is easiest when you have a straight line (a standard) to follow. The Sermon on the Mount sets the standard to follow but only if we keep our hand on the plow, or, in the words of Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes; “Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to fly under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.”
Bryn Thiessen is a rancher, poet, cowboy and preacher at Cowboy Trail Church in Cochrane. Bryn and his wife Bonny market grass-fattened beef from their Helmer Creek Ranch southwest of Sundre, Alta.
Photo Courtesy of Designpics Inc/Carson Ganci
Originally Published June/July 2011