One of the serendipitous experiences of an American male traveling to Cuba is seeing the parade of 40’s and 50’s American cars cruising the streets of Havana. Of course, we know we are going to see that, but the sheer frequency of the sightings is surprising. You just want to stop and admire them. It’s like living in a perpetual car show. Until you get up close.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of the cars are perfect, or nearly so. After all, how many of us actually remember what a real 1958 Chevy fender and tail light originally looked like. We just admire the artistry and engineering. We conjure up the sights and sounds (often from movies we have seen) of such vehicles racing down a quarter-mile dragstrip. Oh, the power! Oh, the masculinity!

Here’s where the needle scratches across the record with a terrible screeching sound. Am I showing myself to be old by using these illustrations?

Nonetheless, we all know the adage, “beauty is only skin deep.” Of course, this statement means different things to different people. Beautiful people often deplore the saying, and not-so-attractive people revel in it. Have you noticed that we judge what is supposed to be the truth by the way we feel about it rather than by unchanging standards? We have come to the time when truth no longer exists unless I agree with it and it benefits me.

Back to Cuban road trophies. I am not bad-mouthing these stunning cars on the Pearl of the Antilles. It is amazing what their owners have done without being able to pick up the phone and order replacement parts for the last sixty years.  

I rode in the 1955 Ford Fairlane in the photo. The smooth, nearly perfect looking skin and shiny paint job impressed me. Anyone who merely watches this beauty drive by would be duly impressed. Back in high school, I rode around with my buddy, Mike in his ’54 Ford. This car was much better looking than Mike’s.

A Cuban Road Trophy

That’s where the grandeur often (but not always) stops. The proud owner let me know that the upholstery was being replaced to match the outside. That’s good because the seats did look like Mike’s, right down to the bare metal floors. He didn’t say when that improvement would be finished. And when he started the car, the engine wasn’t the original 223 CID straight six, much less the 272 CID Windsor V8. There was no smooth purr, but rather the choppy rattle of an east European diesel. It felt like riding in a truck.

Many of these cars are rebuilt from scratch after accidents. They look reasonably close to original, but there may be very little of the Detroit workmanship still in them. Frankly, though, they are real testaments to the ingenuity of the Cuban craftsmen.

All this brings us to my point. We were made by God in His image to be perfect and to live forever. Through all these generations of genetic mutation, it is actually surprising that many of our species still look quite good. Humanity has been through some pretty rough times. Some genetic researchers actually wonder why we haven’t become extinct many times over.1

We may even look good physically and/or morally/spiritually, but be terrible people inside. “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,”2 and a whole list of other things also mentioned. You may find some of these things in your own heart. There’s more to muse about in these words. I’ll be doing so here in the coming weeks and months.

I may look great, but if any of the things in this list are in my heart, everything else is just a shiny paint job covering the real me. Each of us needs to take a close look at the person we really are. Looking good is a poor alternative for being good. Are you a Cuban road trophy, or the real deal? What are you here for? I’ll explore this in my next post. Do you know someone else who is struggling with purpose and reality in their lives? Share this post and invite them to find their answers.

Open Up. Tell us if you ever wish you could be a shinier example of the person you are? What keeps you from it?

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2 Mark 7:20-23, New Living Translation

Valor Life Profile – Desmond T. Doss, Sr.

Welcome to Valor Life. Thank you for joining me as we introduce what will be a regular feature. It is a profile of a person who exhibits traits of character that can be found in the concept of valor.

I’m standing in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN. Around us are the final resting places of many men and women who have fought for our country. We are grateful for every one of them and for their sacrifice for us and for our freedom.

It would be easy on these hallowed grounds to think of death. But the souls represented here deserve more from us than that. Besides, dying for a cause does not necessarily display valor. Rather, it is the things you do and the motivation for doing it that determines valor. It is not what happens to us when we do right. We will get into definitions later on

Today, I want to introduce you to a man who has been a hero to me for more than fifty years. His name was Desmond T. Doss. Private First Class Doss was a very unlikely hero.