I watch the news and wonder, sometimes, “How did we get so arrogant?” There is no end to familiar faces from pop culture, TV personalities, actors, musicians who never miss a chance to speak their opinion in front of a camera.
But they’re not the only ones. For the most part, the world has gotten to be a know-it-all culture because there are really no unanswered questions.
Today, I got online and asked the question “When is a good time to trim a palm tree?” And I got pages and pages of answers.
“Whatever happened to Ralph Malph?”
“How do you make good fried chicken?”
Don’t judge me.
Most times, when we’re sitting around with family or other friends, the conversations bounce around and, usually, someone asks a question that we all ponder. Then, in a matter of seconds like contestants on a game show, somebody pulls out their phone and gets the answer. We usually assume the answer online is true. Hmm.
So, over the course of my life, I’ve asked questions of God. I’ve been through seasons where I didn’t dare ask out loud but knowing my heart as He does, it doesn’t really matter, does it? And I don’t think our questions are an affront to the One that made us. Now, in the course of conversational prayer that can run through the course of any given day, I’m not afraid to ask questions.
Unlike the www., God isn’t always inclined to cough up the answer right away.
My little boy is sick right now with awful congestion and ear infections. Of course we pray for him but realize, in light of some of the other health issues others in our family are facing, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Still, I wish he didn’t have to go through this.
Ellie, my 8-month-old granddaughter, is, at the very moment I write this, at the hospital with my son Adam and wife, Laura. An MRI was done late yesterday and they’re waiting on results and to discuss a plan of action. A mass was found in her abdomen last week during an ultrasound.
I’m waiting to hear.
If, as a dad, my children were suffering and I could do something about it, would I? You know the answer to that because you’d do the same thing and wouldn’t think twice.
So even though I’ve been a Christian since I was 9 years old, there are still times I’m confused about the whole prayer thing.
God is able to do something for my son and for Ellie and for your child. He can.
Why doesn’t He?
The comfort I find in this is that He is God and I am not.
I can’t see the picture He sees and I don’t know what He’s up to. It’s not on the internet and I can’t google it. I can find a good French toast recipe but I can’t get an answer to the question I want answered most.
When Adam called to tell me about Ellie, our conversation ended and I heard myself say, “It’s out of our hands, son.”
I can’t see. I can’t hear. I don’t know.
And it’s ok.
I was in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. Some of you have already read about the travel drama from a previous post so I won’t go through that again.
As we were tooling around Lancaster, PA, I noticed signs to Lititz, PA. Just seeing the name of the neighboring town brought back a great memory.
I don’t know the year but I do know it was one of those years we were touring “The Young Messiah.” I know a lot of you saw those tours and if you did, I’d love for you to share some of your memories of those days.
“The Young Messiah” would usually kick off Thanksgiving weekend. Many years, I would have Thanksgiving dinner and then leave for the first stop of the tour. We would rehearse on Friday and then the first performance would usually be on Saturday night. Most of the tours lasted until the middle of December. There were a few days off here and there but we played almost every night. The memories are vivid. I could go on and on about those tours . . . hmm . . . maybe one day I will.
On one particular tour, we had a particular night off and someone from Lititz, PA contacted my office about coming to their town to sing. It was a busy season, so I was reluctant and just wanted some down time.
Then I heard the story.
It seems that someone (named Scrooge?) had driven through Lititz and noticed a manger scene in a public park. You can probably guess what happened next. Apparently, the ACLU got involved and because of this complaint (from someone who wasn’t even a resident of Lititz) the manger scene was removed.
I’m not sure how many Christmases went by without the manger scene in the park. But the residents began to stir and ask questions. People from churches, people that weren’t “church people”, children, and elected officials hearing the voices of their constituents began to wonder why this was allowed to happen.
And so, after some time and, I’m sure some wrangling with “the powers” the people of Lititz were victorious and made plans to reinstate their manger scene to its proper place.
They invited me to come and sing at the dedication service.
It was December in Pennsylvania and, therefore, . . . cold! We set up on a platform in the middle of town and people filled the space all around us.
You could smell the smell of chocolate. Yes, the town of Lititz smells like chocolate! I grew up around towns that smelled of paper mills (not chocolate) and I’ve driven by feed lots in Colorado with the smell of . . . well, definitely NOT chocolate! But I’d never been to a place that had the fragrance of the precious bean in the air. Among other confectioners, the Wilbur Chocolate Company has been generously spilling its delicious fumes into the atmosphere since 1894. Before I left, someone handed me a huge bag of Wilbur Buds – little discs of chocolate candy like I’d never tasted before (or since . . . does anybody know where I could get me some???).
Lititz is a tremendous place with a great history. It was came to be sometime around 1741 by the influence of one Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who was a devout Moravian. The Moravians are one of the oldest protestant denominations in the world and the Count was looking for a place to establish a model Moravian community. While freedom to worship and to live as they interpreted God’s will was the goal, there were strict guidelines. One posted publication declared that “ . . . dancing, taverning, feasting at weddings, christenings or burials was prohibited and those given to such inclinations cannot live in Lititz.”
On a lighter note, it’s said that pretzels were started in Lititz and that the twisted shape of the pretzel is often associated with a child’s arms folded in prayer. OK.
So with the fragrance of coco in the air, we proceeded to dedicate the manger back to its rightful place in the park. The crowd was reverent and quiet, their breath in the cold winter air creating a beautiful haze. Men and women of different faiths and practices, some of no faith (yet) all united as a community to make their voices and hearts known.
I played some carols and we all sang. And then, the crowd dispersed. Back to their homes and lives but richer now. Some probably didn’t even know why, but richer still.
I think Christmas in Lititz was different that year. I know it was for me.
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the movie “” but we saw it over the weekend. I’m a sucker for sports movies and have a high tolerance for any degree of cheese factor and most of them never fail to provide the cheese! I won’t specify for fear of calling out one of your favorites or exposing mine!
“When The Game Stands Tall” starring Jim Caviezel came on the screen and within a few minutes I could tell this movie was going to be a cut above. Never mind tagging it as a “Christian” movie. While the story line and the script repeatedly follow a faith-based ideal, it’s done in a believable way. In one scene, a member of the football team is with his girlfriend at a diner and when asked by one of the other players if they were . . . well . . . you know, his response was “No, we’re waiting. We took a purity pledge.” To which the other guy asked “Man, what cult are you in?” “Pleasant Hill Baptist Church!” he replied smiling.
It’s realistic and beautifully filmed and edited. The dialogue, while refreshingly void of the rampant obscenities that we’re led to believe are the norm in the teenage vocabulary, is really well written. There are believable lines delivered with believable teenage frustration, angst and intensity without the barrage of vocab-bombs. Maybe a lot of teenagers express themselves with the lowest of language denominators but I don’t want to pay $11 to hear it. Don’t want to hear it from adults either, for that matter.
I won’t go on and on. I’m not a movie critic but I’d encourage you to see it. When the ratings description on one movie website warns “smoking scenes” as one of the things to beware of, well, all things considered, that’s pretty mild. And, by the way, it only takes a matter of minutes for the filmmaker to show the consequences of the tobacco habit.
I can’t say whether you should take your kids or not. I don’t know you or your kids, but this movie has some terrific moments and some vivid life lessons that are well told.
When someone of Robin Williams’ stature dies, it’s fascinating to observe the outpouring of sentiment from all kinds of people – from the rich and famous, the friends and co-stars, those in the media that interviewed and spent time with him, nameless ordinary people that experienced his kindness and generosity. No doubt there will be some that will site his lack of reverence and his crude stabs at some sacred social and religious structures and, frankly, I just wish they’d give it a rest.
And yet underneath his almost manic delivery of, what some would call, comedic genius (Charlie Rose of CBS said he’d never been with anyone with such a quick connection from brain to mouth), there was, to the discerning eye, the very clear display of sadness and loneliness of addiction and depression.
I’m not going to pontificate or editorialize.
When I heard the news, my heart ached. What a cruel world sometimes. I’ve dealt with suicide in my family and it’s just . . . there are no words to the shock, the suddenness and finality. My heart hurt that a human created in the Image was so very sad.
Whenever I witness genius, my first thought is to thank God for His creation, His imagination and the very fact that He gives gifts to human beings. I hear incredible musicians, singers, players, great writing, great acting, brilliant comedy and whether they acknowledge the Giver of their particular gift or not, I know where all this comes from and I thank Him. Sure, as a dyed in the wool evangelical, it would be great (and I would be so inappropriately proud) if they would, from time to time, mention that God has blessed them with a gift, etc., etc.
But again, even if they don’t publically or privately name the Name, we can breathe deep in the knowledge that God has created some beautiful things and some beautiful people.
August 12, 2014
My home church is in transition. What a useful word. It can be a hopeful word pointing toward refreshment, new visions and new accomplishments. But it can be a copout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word “transition” applied to any of a number of situations that were simply in limbo. If no one is paying attention or addressing problems being in “transition” is a good way of putting things on the back burner.
Our senior pastor, a man who I have come to love and appreciate like few others I’ve ever known, retired in May. A couple of weeks later, he and his wife left for an extended trip to Europe. He gave lots of reasons for leaving the country. And the best one seemed to be his desire to get out of the way and make room for the new man and allow transition to take place.
We have a tremendous lineup of associates and they’re taking turns in the pulpit this summer. Last Sunday, one of our gifted and deeply insightful men was on point. I could tell when he came in the room early Sunday morning that something was a little off. He had that look of someone who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, covered in the fog of a summer cold. At least that’s what we used to call it. Now, it’s a more sophisticated “respiratory distress.” It still stinks. And in this condition, he was supposed to preach at three different services.
At one point in the service, he led a reading where he, as the leader, read a sentence or two and the congregation responded. On the screens in the sanctuary, the assignments were clearly laid out with the leader reading the yellow lines and the congregation reading the white lines. About two or three slides into the presentation, he read the wrong line and, in response, some of the people in the seats read the other line and some of them read the line the leader had just read. It was as close as tongues of fire you’re ever gonna hear around our place.
And then a funny thing happened. I noticed the energy of the people participating dialed up considerably. Before the mistake, everybody was just following along . . . business as usual for a pretty common part of the worship service. But when things went sideways accompanied by a moment of mild panic and then a few laughs, concluding with a “Why don’t we try that again,” everybody joined in at a whole different level.
Someone said in a fervent prayer one day “Lord, let something happen that’s not in the bulletin.”
I’ve noticed at concerts, some of them my own and others where I’m in the audience, that people don’t seem to mind if there are problems. Sure, there are those rare occasions where an event will come off without a single flaw, but lots of times, there
are technical issues – a microphone will not work or a light cue is missed or somebody’s voice cracks or somebody forgets the lyrics (no names please!). And then the audience engages with new energy. It’s almost like they’re reminded that what’s happening in front of them is being carried on by real people, fallible humans subject to the same unpredictable bumps in the road as everybody else. And then there’s a new relationship between them.
I wouldn’t want mistakes to make regular appearances in the things I do but mistakes can pull us together and make us feel more connected. When they happen, we can acknowledge our common ground, the food chain or the ladder of ascent gets a little more fuzzy and less relevant, and we can relax and enjoy the ride.
I saw a news story this morning with the headline “Can we believe anything LeBron says about the future?”. Really . . . he can tell the future! Wow, that’s a news story! If you can, with any degree of certainty, tell the future, please call me now! 1-800- Wayne (not a real number!) I think there are too many exclamation points in this paragraph!!!
Probably won’t get any calls.
Enjoy the moments today. There will be mistakes. You’ll make them and so will every living, breathing being around you. I hope they’ll be innocent without collateral damage. If you see them in yourself and everybody else, just laugh and enjoy the botherhood.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is this . . .
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalms 103:8-14 NIV)
Wayne Watson June 2014
I was at my home church yesterday. It was, sort of, an ordinary Sunday and things came off, pretty much, as usual and as planned. I’m pretty sure some things happened that were not in the bulletin, but we can’t always see those.
My wife taught our Sunday School class on the chapter in Genesis where Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. She told me, the night before, that she’d heard and read lots of opinions as to whether the angel of the Lord in the wrestling match was actually an angel or really God Himself. Some of these “discussions” can go on forever and, honestly, the older I get, the less time I want to spend discussing or batting around issues that cannot and probably will not be settled while we’re on the planet. Most times, people are comfortably settled into their positions and are rarely convinced to change.
As a side note, even when talking to somebody that doesn’t buy the whole Jesus story, my (our) part in the experience is to simply tell the story, testify as to what Jesus means to us and – and this is the important part – let God, by His spirit, do what He’s going to do. To someone with their heels dug in, the only one that is going to change them is Him.
I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer people carry Bibles at our church. Trying to maintain some restraint over my formerly hyper spiritual and judgmental self, I make an effort not to read too much into this.
And then it hit me that I read from the scripture from my iPad a lot! I travel with it. It has all my stuff on it. I have a large library of all kinds of books on several different apps and then there’s that one big icon that displays my iPad “Bible”. When I’m feeling particularly free of guilt or especially washed up by a whole pile of grace and looking for something to feel bad about, the iPad Bible icon comes through.
Conscience: “You should really be reading the scripture from a real Bible, you know.”
Me: “Uh . . . what?”
Conscience: “I said . . . You should really be reading the scripture from a real Bible, you know.”
Me: “That’s what I thought you said. Can’t you leave me be for even a second?”
Conscience: “No, my job is to bother you and make you think.”
Me: “Well, right now, you are just bothering me. I was feeling ok about myself and then . . . “
Conscience: “Let me interrupt . . .”
Me: “You usually do.”
Conscience: “See, you’re dodging the issue and trying to change the subject.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s what I usually do.”
Conscience: “We’ll talk about that later.”
Me: “No doubt.”
Conscience: “Will you stop trying to always get in the last word?”
Conscience: “Thank you.”
Me: “Don’t mention it.”
Conscience: “Now, back to the Bible thing. You need to be reading God’s Holy Word from a proper book. One bound in, preferably, genuine leather with hand stitching.”
Me: “Genuine leather? Hand stitching? And do you have a color preference?”
Conscience: “YES, genuine leather. Enough with the fake stuff already. And no, color doesn’t really matter . . . well, not for now.”
Me: “Yeah, I know. The fake stuff peals and falls apart. It’s embarrassing. But what does proper leather and hand stitching and all have to do with the words in the Word?”
Conscience: “Uh . . . well . . . you know, it’s just not . . . respectful.”
Me: “Wow, I’ve never heard you say “Uh” before. I thought the content, the teaching, the spirit and the truth of what the Bible says is way more important than a genuine leather cover. And wouldn’t it be better to, oh how can I say this . . . , hide God’s Word in my heart than carry it around in a leather cover covered by another cover with a fish symbol on the cover?”
Conscience: “You used the word “cover” a lot in that last one.”
Me: “Now who’s trying to change the subject?” I’m just saying, I thought the insight into who God really is and who He wants me to be is more important than whether I read from a book or a computer.”
Conscience: “Hmm . . . “
Conscience: “I’ll have to get back to you on this. Now, let’s talk about versions.”
Me: “Let’s not.”
Random stuff . . .
*Watched the Super Bowl last night. I remember when some people (not mentioning names here . . . ‘cause mine might be in there somewhere) thought it was just downright heresy to blow off Sunday night church to watch Super Bowl – oh, excuse me “Big Game”. I’m not officially licensed by the NFL and I don’t want any of their goons at my door. So, I do remember having Supe . . uh, Big Game parties at church where we would watch it together at the church! I guess the venue made the difference.
Those events morphed into Super Bowl (aw . . . forget it. I’m just gonna live on the edge today!) parties in homes where some church members gathered (few, if any, outsiders allowed) to have a very long “blessing” that must have been an adequate substitute for Sunday Night Church.
If bringing a smile to the face of God means checking the attendance box on another offering envelope, I’m in good shape. If rubbing shoulders with people, whether they believe what I believe or not, if they behave the way I think they should behave or live like I think they should live or not, then I’ve got some catching up to do. I don’t think He put us here to be isolated and insolated from our neighbors.
By the way, why do we expect people that have never been to the Cross to behave as if they have been? It’s hard enough for those of us that have been there to behave.
Sure, the game was a blow out and, at one point, I was just hoping Peyton and Company would just do something! Tough night for them. But I like some of the stuff I heard from Russell Wilson, the Seahawk’s quarterback. Good testimony and, what seemed like a mature relationship with God.
Bruno Mars at halftime . . . He’s a mix of Prince, James Brown, Little Richard and Michael Jackson all rolled into one. I hope he appreciates the groundwork others did before him. And I hope he keeps it together. At least there was no wardrobe malfunction this time. And, other than the Chili Peppers being shirtless (dang, that must have been cold!!!) nothing too weird or funky.
Can you imagine the money that changed hands last night? Wonder what a hot dog cost at Met Life Stadium?
Went to Sunday School yesterday and the teacher talked about $$$ and how it’s such a fight on all fronts. We’re studying Genesis and we’re in the 31st chapter – deceit and greed and all sorts of bad stuff. We talked about the cycle of wealth and how it can have a hold on us. The Book says “You can’t serve two masters” and it’s a constant battle. I can justify it lots of ways. “I just want to prepare for the future” or “I need to take care of my family” or “I want to leave something when I’m gone” etc. etc.
I don’t know much but I know this. The battle with the cash idol can’t be won by passively wishing and hoping and praying that one day, we’ll overcome. It has to be an aggressive effort to push back and make firm decisions that will kick in and help build a solid wall and foundation.
I have a pastor friend who is retiring soon. I had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and asked him “What made you decide that this is the time”. He said, “I want to be less of a big deal” and sighting the words of Ron Burgundy, he is one that could genuinely say “I’m kind of a big deal”. He is . . . to a lot of people. He told me the scripture that keeps running through his head is “ . . . He must increase and I must decrease”.
I don’t hear that or see that kind of heart very often. And I love him for it.
Trying to learn Spanish this year. Slow, but working on it. And no, there’s no political agenda and yes, I do think people that live in the USA should speak English BUT I think it’s incredibly arrogant for Americans to travel all around the world and expect everyone else to speak OUR language. I feel lazy. Mi pinquino no comen arroz. (“My penquin does not eat rice” . . . . nailed it!!! Can’t wait to work that into a conversation today!)
Writing songs this week. Hope to record something new soon. I appreciate your prayers in this. No one needs another CD or download just because. I don’t know why, but it’s tougher and tougher to write good lyrics right now. But there’s stuff there and, God willing, it’ll come out soon.
I know some of you are facing tough things this week. Right now, some are in hospital waiting rooms, have loved ones in surgery, some just wanting to hear a doctor say something good. Some are in danger of losing a job or going broke. Some have children that are AWOL, away from God and all the things you taught them. Some are in marriages that just seem to be done. So, while you’re out there this week, be on the lookout for somebody in pain that might just need you.
Where were you?
I was 9. Probably in the 4th grade. Living in the only world I knew, the almost utopian realm of the small, southern town. It probably wasn’t as perfect as I remember, but it was my world nonetheless.
We were sent home from school early. What happened?
I had no knowledge of John F. Kennedy other than the fact that he was The President of the United States and, therefore, my President.
I’m pretty sure my town, given the political climate, was probably not pro-Kennedy but what did I know about political climate from the 4th grade? Or care.
But that didn’t seem to matter on the 22nd of November, 1963.
All the adults were very upset about a lot of things. First, the obvious and then the rumors (that I heard about later) of conspiracy and all sorts of sordid business. What was going on?!
We watched Walter Cronkite of the CBS news choke up as he delivered the word that “at 2:38 PM, President Kennedy died”.
Who knew the fallout or the timeline that would reveal the details and the ongoing banter over who was really to blame, who really did it, etc.
And now we mark it in decades. Where has the time gone?
Since then, you and I have experienced more grown-up sadness and loss. We’ve gotten older and face the consequences of those losses. The innocence of youth and it’s naïveté’ has past. The depths of helplessness have introduced themselves to us and although we’re never prepared for it, we face it and live.
Where were you? May 16, 1997.
In the early hours of that morning, I woke up and grabbed my chest feeling like I was being shocked. I’ve never had a heart attack (thank You) but I imagined “This must be what it feels like to have a heart attack”. I went back to sleep only to be awakened by a phone call from my brother. “Dad’s gone”. I had been there for over a week, decided I had to get back home for a few days, then I’d come back to be with Dad. I came back to bury him instead.
Where were you? August 14, 2012.
Mom had been in the hospital for over a week. Kidneys failed, we had her in hospice care. I went to dinner that night after being at her bedside for days. A good friend came and we took some time to get away. When we were about a mile from the hospital, my brother called and said “You need to get back as fast as you can”. I drove aggressively and my buddy parked the car as I ran from the lobby to the elevator to the floor where my mom was staying. As the elevator door opened, I heard crying. Too late.
April 1, 1977. August 28, 1980. October 25, 2008. January 6, 2009
These are dates for which I have concrete answers to the question “Where were you?”. Today, as a nation, we’ll rewind the tapes and relive some of the memory of November 22, 1963. And hopefully, reflect, learn and apply. But then you have those personal dates. I think it’s ok to visit them. But if I might . . . don’t get stuck with in the rewind.
For whatever reason, God has breathed life into us again today.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
Blessings to you all
The pastor walked onto the platform carrying a guitar case. The subject was treasure and it was refreshing to hear him say “These are some things I love”. Now, we knew what he meant by “love”. I’m pretty familiar with this guy and count him as a friend and I’m certain that the word, in this context, wouldn’t compete – wouldn’t even be considered in the same category as, say, people he loves. I know some of those people, too. They are truly loved. That’s a whole different story. But on this day, we got to see inside – to catch a glimpse of some small material things that were the objects of the sermon and dear to the heart of this man.
I said it was refreshing to hear him say “I love these things” because too many pastors or others caught in the spiritual spotlight would be way too pious or cautious or insecure to actually admit love for things.
He began by pulling out a twelve string acoustic guitar. I recognized it because I had one sort of like it a long, long time ago. It was an Ovation guitar and one of the first public sightings of Ovations was on the Glenn Campbell TV show back in the 70s.
Ovation guitars were unique. Made from some high tech composite, the back was bowl-shaped and virtually indestructible. At the time, I think I remember them saying the bowl was made from the same material as helicopter blades – and they sounded pretty good. I actually owned two or three of them. One was stolen from the airport in Baton Rouge, LA . . . don’t remember the year. I just remember having it one minute and not having it the next. Another showed up at baggage claim with the headstock (the part where the tuning keys are) dangling precariously . . . held on by the strings. Another was a nylon string version that was pretty cool. It was as close as it got to me becoming a classical guitarist.
Over the years, they were replaced. I don’t know if a guitar player can ever justify another guitar . . . but we just think every one (or every different one) has a new song or two in it so why not?
The pastor’s guitar was a gift from his wife. She knew how much he “loved” them and presented this beauty to him one Christmas or birthday or some special occasion. It was one of his treasures.
He to dug around in the guitar case some more and pulled out a watch that his wife had given him for a wedding present. It was nothing particularly fancy but it was still working and it was valuable in a sentimental sort of way.
He pulled out a car key and declared, “Every man, at some time or other, wants to own a Porsche”. I can’t say I’ve ever wanted one but don’t want to spoil a good story so I’ll go along. OK. He told us about being a young businessman, newly married and one day passing the sports car of his dreams sitting on a lot for sale at what seemed a very fair price. Lured into the purchase, he found out what so many of us have discovered about so many things.
They say the best two days of a boat owner’s life are (1) the day he buys it and (2) the day he sells. That wasn’t particularly true with my boat owning experience, but again, I don’t want to spoil a good story so . . . OK! Apparently, the dream car cost more to repair and maintain that it was worth and that led to the happy day when he was rid of it. He still had the key, though, as a reminder. He did say he thought it would be fun to look up the current owner – providing it had yet to be made into a steel pancake – and maybe take a peek at it . . . and maybe take the beloved key and move it from one parking space to another. This is a mischievous pastor-type guy.
He showed us more treasure. A book his father had written . . . a tie that belonged to his late father-in-law.
And then he asked the question: “If your house was on fire or a tornado was bearing down on you, what would you grab?”
Makes you think, huh?
While my years of exposure to God’s Word, the instruction for living a Godly life, and the sometimes feeble efforts I make to that end are always on my heart and mind, there are some things I still hold to have some value. A few things I can hold in my hand. I think the key to being able to enjoy whatever the perceived value might be in these material goods is to always be aware of how quickly they can disappear.
I carry a fifty-cent piece in my pocket almost every day. Sometimes I use it to mark my golf ball when I play (If I mark it “heads up” and make the putt, it’s “heads up” for the rest of the round). I think I’d have to be pretty desperate, starving or dying of thirst before I’d spend it. It’s a 1957 Benjamin Franklin half-dollar – Benny’s head on one side and the Liberty Bell on the other. Any serious coin collector would probably tell you it’s not worth much but I like it. I like reaching in my pocket through the day, grabbing for other change (what’s the deal with pennies and how long are we going to play this game??? ) and knowing it’s there. I think good thoughts about my dad every time. I loved him and still miss him. Dad gave me several coins like this. I carried one and lost it somewhere – a 1939 Liberty Walking half-dollar. It was my favorite one that dad gave me and I hope it will turn up someday, but like I said, stuff has a way of just vanishing sometimes. I’ve looked on ebay and could buy another pretty much just like it – and I might do that – but it wouldn’t be the same.
I have an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5000 (yeah, the spelling is Swedish) fishing reel that was made in the late sixties. It’s a beautiful ruby red and it was the first nice piece of fishing gear I ever bought. I saved up my money from mowing lawns to buy it and used it all the time. The one that sits in my bookcase is not my original. That one, too, got put aside in a move or is somewhere in a box in an undisclosed location. Maybe that will turn up again someday, too. I found the one I have now on ebay. Whenever I catch it out of the corner of my eye, I think about some of the good days of fishing in the warm summer sun when I was a kid.
Just now, I sat still for a moment and looked around the room then, got up and looked around the house. Found a few more things. But I had to think about it for a minute.
Here are some more . . .
There is a cassette tape in my desk drawer. On it is a conversation between my first born, Neal (age 3) and his mom. I haven’t listened to it in years and honestly, I’m a little apprehensive to play it. First off, I don’t have a cassette player anymore so that’s a problem and second, I think if I did play it, it might be the last time as the tape would probably vaporize and fly away.
There is a pen that I still use every day that my friend, Tim, gave me a long time ago. We were very close – like brothers. Still one of the best people I know. Time, circumstances, geography keep us from getting together like we used to. But we still talk from time to time and I’ll always count him as one of my true friends. My name is etched into the side of the pen along with a scripture reference – Proverbs 17:17.
*”A friend loveth at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” KJV
*”A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles.” CEV
*”A true friend is always loyal and a brother is born to help in time of need.” TLB
*”Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together
in all kinds of trouble.” The Message
But as I looked around the house a little more, there aren’t that many things that are that valuable anymore. I think that’s OK.
I have a few good friends. Lots of acquaintances but a few friends that would, literally, drop everything right now . . . no questions asked. How can I measure the value of those people compared to a coin or a cassette tape?
My wife is a treasure. In the hands of God, she has saved me from a life of “me” and given me more life than I could ever tell you.
I could go on and on with treasures of immeasurable worth . . . my sons, my grandchildren, all my family, my wife’s folks. Remember the old Mastercard commercial . . . “ . . . priceless.”
As time passes, the hold on things grows weaker and for that, I’m truly thankful. Still, given that we’re still made of skin and bone, we’ll grab some shiny lure (fishing term . . . appropriate, don’t you think?) that we just have to have. And more often than not, before the figurative “car is off the lot” buyer’s remorse sets in and the eyes start looking for something new. Sigh.
So this Thanksgiving 2013, I’m just as grateful for “what is not” as I am for “what is”.
Ain’t life grand?
I’m gonna take a risk.
I’m gonna risk some criticism or maybe a little judgment.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Easy access to twitter or facebook or any other social media app on a smart phone opens the door for anyone to express themselves and their opinion – educated opinion or not. No offense, but arming oneself with little to no information on a particular subject doesn’t qualify you or me to weigh in on everything
Here’s the question.
Do you ever get comfortable living life by faith? Are you supposed to?
If you answer “yes” then I suppose you can stop reading and go back to your life.
Really? Really at ease, with a slow heart rate and low blood pressure kind of trust in God for everything?
I have to confess that, just when I think “I’m there!” something else comes along to make me realize that, sometimes, my faith is hard to locate.
Where did it go? It was just here! I was on a roll!
Then, with one phone call, a piece of mail or a message out of the blue, I’m sidelined . . . out of the game until I can get my wobbly size 11s taped up and get back out there.
I’m not a young person anymore. There are days I still feel like one, when fewer parts ache or nag at me with a “this-is-taking-a-lot-longer-to-heal-than-it-should” kind of reminder, but youth (at least as defined by the real world) is a thing of the past.
And I’m just wondering, will I ever get this faith thing down???
I think I’m fooling myself by claiming to live by faith, to live in faith when/if everything is perfectly set before me – when the jobs are secure, when the bank account sufficiently full and adequately refilling on a regular basis, when the market is rising, when the bills are paid, when the body is working as it should and the future is bright . . . and I can see it!
I wrote a song a few years ago called “Trust in You”. The first words were:
I don’t trust my eyes anymore
They’re easily deceived
Too often led astray by things
That cannot be believed
Smoke and mirrors
Slight of hand
Make a mockery of the truth
I don’t trust my eyes anymore . . .
But God I still trust You
People ask, all the time, “Who or what is that song about?”. If there’s a real answer or a real story, I’ll give it but lots of times, the song is about what I perceive to be all of us. I guess I want it to be about all of us because I don’t want to admit that it might be just about me! Heck, I don’t want to be alone in this. Who does? And lots of songs are about the person I’d like to be, not necessarily the person I am right now.
I’m do a song most nights called “Sing for Joy” written by Clint Lagerberg. The chorus is very singable and, most nights, people join in.
I will sing for joy
The joy of the Lord
In the middle of it all
And almost every night I tell the audience that this song is not necessarily how I live but how I’d like to live. And it ain’t easy.
Back to faith . . .
There are seasons where, even if things are shaky, even if things around me are in chaos, that I can literally feel the presence of God. I know most of you have felt that, too. But if I said I’ve never ever felt abandoned, I’d be less than truthful. There’s a huge difference in feeling abandoned and being abandoned though. The aftermath of the feeling is usually the proof that I never was alone – that God was faithful and present.
So there are times when faith is weak (and maybe for you, it’s today) that I force myself to look back and take stock of the faithfulness of God in my past. I didn’t say my faithfulness or even my belief . . . but His.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to let God love us. Maybe it’s because we simply don’t believe we’re actually worthy of Him. Ok, let’s get this straight . . . we’re not. One thing sets us right, one thing makes us lovable, one thing makes it possible for God to see us as worthy. The blood of His Son. And when I take a deep breath, put aside all my efforts to “be good” or to prove my worth to my Creator, then I can let Him love me, let Him take care of me. The more I see that image of Him as God and me as a loved child, the slower my heart beats and the peace that passes understanding takes over.
He holds the future and He will take care of it.