I had to reclaim my felt hat. 

I have a soft spot in my heart for tradition.  I grew up with a love for the outdoors, and as a kid I would devour Sports Afield and Outdoor Life each month when they showed up in the mail.  And still today, Gordon MacQuarrie is a favorite writer of mine.  I have read and reread his Tales of the Old Duck Hunters each year.  I’m pretty sure it was in the pen and ink sketches in MacQuarrie’s books that made me want to buy the felt hat in the first place.  It’s the kind of hat that Mr. President from the Old Duck Hunters was always pictured wearing.  It just felt right to wear it whether paddling, or trout fishing or grouse hunting.

But my felt hat was “appropriated” by grandchildren a number of years ago.  As I recall it was as close to a cowboy hat as they could find during an imaginary “Wild West” weekend.  The hat then got tossed into the toy bin during clean up.  I kind of forgot about it.  Since then, it would appear from time to time on various grandchildren during games of pretend.  Meanwhile, I resorted to a collection of various baseball-style hats for my hunting and fishing outings.

But a few years ago, when I was home alone and packing the truck for an end-of-the-season expedition to the trout streams of the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin, I had a moment of inspiration.  I went upstairs to the “play” room and dug through the bins until I found my felt hat.  It was a little flat but I managed with a little work and care to get it back into hat shape.  I put it on my head and re-creased the brim just right, so that both sunshine and raindrops would stay out of my eyes.  OK, so with no one else around it wasn’t exactly a bold move, but I did chuckle somewhat smugly as I climbed into the truck.

The fishing during my three-day excursion was fantastic.  In fact, I had to “retire” one fly during the afternoon of the second day because it had been so chewed up by trout that it was beginning to unravel.  I tucked it in the hatband of my felt hat.  It looks “right” there.  When I got home the felt hat was stashed with all of my fishing gear; I did not return it to the toy bin.

That hat is a metaphor for my own faith life.  I got it because it made me look like someone else – someone I admired which was good, but I never thought deeply about how it looked on me.  There were years when my faith life never made it out of the toy bin.  I had to learn to invest serious adult time and adult effort into deepening my experience of God.  There was a time when my faith was based only on tradition.  It was what I was taught; it’s what my family did.  Tradition can be a blessing as long as at some point you claim your faith as your own and you live it out in a way that is meaningful to you.  I discovered that not only is it OK to ask questions, but I also found that there are honest and true answers for all of them. I learned that it’s possible to lose your faith along the way, or you can misplace it, or someone or something else can cause you to forget about it.  I experienced the reality that I could ”make-do” with something else, but at some point I also began to discover, or re-discover that I needed something of greater substance.  You can find, or re-find your faith again, sometimes over and over if necessary, with God’s help.  I came to appreciate that only God can keep both too much sun and the rain from getting in my eyes and blurring my vision.    

Maybe your faith life is part of your everyday experience; it looks “right” on you because every day you are growing closer to God and closer to living your life as one made in God’s own image. Regardless of where you are at in your faith journey my friend, I wish you God’s speed, and I tip my hat to you.

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan