EIGHTY-ONE! Hats off to you.


Last Thursday my Better Bones and Balance class abandoned our normal regimen to celebrate a birthday.  Shirley, a faithful participant, was turning 81. Having 10-15 years on everyone else in the class, Shirley does not stand out as the oldest, but the most spry.  Her senses are remarkably intact.  Sure, one day she kept referring to her grandchildrens’ vet instead of pediatrician and she only hears the words I say inches from her face, but there is little else about her that even hints to her 81 years.  I have never once heard her  complain about aches and pains, lack of sleep, body parts falling and failing.  Most days her only complaint is how uncooperative her hair has become.  Which explains the hats.

Rain or shine Shirley comes to class every day fifteen minutes early and head covered.  Her hats vary from a classic sailor cap to a men’s fedora.  At the birthday party someone asked her about these toppers.

Turns out, in all, Shirley owns 25 hats.  Ten of them sit on styrofoam heads on the bathroom counter, but she ran out of heads years ago.  So the other 15 hang on a giant rack on the wall.  And not just any rack.  This rack, was actually made to hold rifles.  Shirley bought it at a garage sale for 50 cents and converted it. 

Twenty-five hats might sound like a lot, but according to Shirley it is not.  If you consider the number of days in a week and multiply it by four seasons, twenty-five is actually not nearly enough.  And if the rifle rack can handle the load, she will be buying more when garage sale season picks up again.

Shirley’s favorite hat?  The fedora, of course.  That one she bought at a yard sale years ago.  A disgusted housewife sold it to Shirley for a quarter in order to spite the husband she bought it for.  Apparently the housewife thought it was terrific, the husband refused to wear it.  His loss, was Shirley’s gain.  It is the one hat she can wear year round because of the 20 scarves of varying colors that easily wrap around its brim. 

Shirley has learned to take caution when wearing the fedora, however.  It seems some of the women in her dancing group have not aged as well as she, and if she combines the fedora with a fancy pant suit she is often mistaken for a sexy older gentleman.   She couldn’t tell you how many napkins laced with phone numbers that old ladies have slipped her on the dance floor.

I have only known Shirley for one of her eighty plus years.  Until her birthday, I defined her by her hats.  As I listened, I realized that she in fact defines them. 

Perhaps the most controversial verse in all of scripture tells us that we are to “work out our salvation.”  The controversy lies in what appears as a contradiction.  The majority of the scriptures emphasise that we experience salvation through grace and not works.  No past action or future good work can initiate, maintain, or destroy our salvation.  So is it a contradiction to command Christians to work it out?

Not at all. We are simply being told to put our hats on.  To no longer just be saved,  but to live like someone who understands what it means to be saved.

Shirley does not pull a hat from the rifle rack based on what she hopes it will say about her.  She chooses the hat that best suits the day ahead and the plans she has.  We do not  simply embrace our salvation because of what it says about us, but we daily choose our salvation as the source by which we conquer and face the day.

We do not merely call ourselves Saved;  but we express our salvation in every word we speak, decision we make, every attitude we exude.

Sure we might be misunderstood, mistaken, slipped a phone number from time to time.  Still, our Salvation is like a hat (Paul called it a helmet).   Not something that happened to us once, but something we put on every day.

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