Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where Will Your Name Appear?

   One of the great and enduring joys of my childhood started on one trip to visit my grandparents' home in Brunswick. I was probably in middle school, back then, when my grandfather introduced me to one of his favorite pastimes: reading Louis L'Amour westerns. He had nearly every one of them and dozens of duplicate copies. L'Amour wrote novels filled with action that taught me invaluable lessons about right and wrong, tough choices, courage and, most important of all, never sit with your back to the door of the saloon!
   Jokes aside, the L'Amour books I loved reading the most were from his seventeen-novel series that follows the Sackett family from the British Isles to Colonial America and then across the Wild West. So, when my oldest came looking for a book the other day, I was delighted when he accepted my recommendation of Sackett, first published in 1961.
   When I went online to find reviews that might jog my memory of any content too adult for my son (it turns out they are fine for teenagers), I stumbled upon a note I never knew: his first books were written under a pseudonym that he never claimed to have used. He was commissioned to write four books in 1950 for a series called Hopalong Cassidy. Originally published under the under the pseudonym, "Tex Burns," L'Amour denied writing them until the day he died, refusing to sign any of them that fans would occasionally bring to his autograph sessions. It seems everyone knew he wrote them, but he said, "I just did it for the money, and my name didn't go on them. So now, when people ask me if they were mine, I say 'no.'"
   This is fascinating to me. A famous and influential writer - Ronald Reagan gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 - would not claim books that he wrote because of the original intent he had in writing them: just for the money.
   What about us? Have we ever created something to which we we later did not want our names attached? Have we ever written something, spoken something, or done something that we would later want to distance ourselves from?
   The good news, really it is the Gospel, says that we can move forward and past the things and places from our past. Our names might be attached, but we don't have to be defined by them. And L'Amour wrote that very thing once in a book when he said, "The way I see it, every time a man gets up in the morning he starts his life over. Sure, the bills are there to pay, and the job is there to do, but you don't have to stay in a pattern. You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse and take another trail."
   May we be about the creation of words, actions and lives that are worthy to bear our names and the Name of the One who created us. Grace and Peace, Scott

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