Sunday, May 27, 2018

Harmony

May 27, 2018

The Everly Brothers had it. So did the BeeGees and the Andrew sisters, and lately, Willie Nelson and his grandson Lucas. I know...I’m dating myself and revealing my musical preferences, but it’s true; there’s something special about the timbre of harmonies sung by members of the same family. This morning in worship, we had the privilege of hearing our son Nathan, Alex and Abi, (two of his daughters), along with their friend Katie Meadows, as they sang four part harmony. Periodically, I stopped singing just to listen to the interweaving of their voices. It was glorious! 

I was never much of an athlete. As in “not at all.” There are times I wished I had done more athletically. I liked the gymnastic apparatus and did pretty well on it in gym class, but never pursued it. Music however, was where I was in my element even though I was more of a second-string team player than a star. I ended up playing bassoon because I wasn’t good enough on saxophone to maintain my spot in the concert band. As I’ve said many times, I am living proof that one doesn’t have to be a good musician to be a good music lover.


I’m at the age when most sports are pretty much out of the question for me. I say that in ignorance, because I can’t say I’ve tried most sports. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Even if I am, one thing I know: music is still a big part of my life. I love playing my bass, and for my birthday, I would love it if we could get all the family singers and instrumentalists together just to harmonize with each other (hint, hint). It would be even better if we were able to record harmonies on some of the songs I have written. Even if that never happens, I am thankful tonight for the harmonies I heard this morning. If that is a foretaste of heaven, it’s going to be over the top wonderful.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

John

May 26, 2018

A well-laid foundation will stand the test of time; the storms that inevitably come may be ferocious, but the edifice stands. In 1974, a man started building in Sinclairville. Stone by spiritual stone, he labored for seven years preaching to the saints and ministering to the community. Soft-spoken, with a ready smile and story, he made my early pastoral ministry easier than it should have been. When he moved on in 1981, he left behind a growing and cohesive congregation and a community that trusted his Christian leadership. I walked into a winning situation; it would have taken some determined effort to mess things up. 


John Rough suffered a mini-stroke today. The word that I received is that he is resting in ICU, but expected to be moved to general care tomorrow. For 32 years, I built on the foundation he laid. The structure I built may in places be deficient, but the foundation he laid remains solid and immoveable. I owe him more than I can say. I was young and relatively inexperienced back then, but although he probably had ample reason to, he never interfered with my ministry, but was consistently supportive. Although for many years, it was a back-burner lesson, John taught me how to pass the baton. I am grateful for this man, and pray for a full and quick recovery.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Perseverence

April 20, 2017

Giving up is not an option. Not when you have a dream. And the bigger the dream, the longer it is likely to take. Your dream may not be realized for years, even decades; in fact, you may never see it yourself. But giving up is still not an option. 

Joshua was 40 years old when tapped by Moses to be his assistant. When they marched out of Egypt, he had every reason to believe that his dream of freedom in the Promised Land would be fulfilled in a matter of months. When he, Caleb, and ten other leaders of Israel spied out the land, he and Caleb saw the future where the others saw only the obstacles. In spite of his faith and enthusiasm, the unbelief of the ten carried the day and postponed his dream by 40 years. Finally, they crossed the Jordan. A cursory reading of the text gives the impression that once in the land, the conquest was almost instantaneous, but when Caleb made his request for the inheritance he had been promised, when he spoke of the 40 years in the wilderness, he added the amount of time it had taken to conquer the land. 

"And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old" (Joshua 14:10). Not only the 40 years in the wilderness, but an additional five years of conquest. I don't know too many people who had to wait till they were eighty-five to realize their dream. 

This evening I attended a book signing of a friend who recently published his first full-length western novel. During the course of the evening, he read excerpts from his book and talked a bit about the process of writing it, mentioning along the way how patient his sons had been when he was squirreled away with paper and pen. Don is in his seventies; it's been awhile since children graced their household. So I asked how long his book has been in process.

"Louis L'Amour was my mentor. When he pictured a stream meandering through a valley surrounded by hills and forests, he was talking about places he had been, and if you were to go there, you would actually see what he described. L'Amour died in 1988, and I wanted to write a tribute to him." Don's dream has taken nearly thirty years, but I hold in my hands a signed copy of the realization of that dream. It took a lot of hard work, but he didn't quit.

Neither did Jesus Christ. He had every opportunity to give up, take a shortcut, quit, but instead, he followed the course laid out for him even when it led to a cross. No, quitting is not an option. We may not feel like keeping the faith, but giving up is out of the question. I have read my friend's book; it is very good, with an engaging plot, vivid descriptions, and plenty of action. I'm glad he didn't quit. I'm even more grateful that Jesus didn't quit. I don't plan to, either.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lost and (Not) Found

May 24, 2018

At least it’s not catastrophic. Even though it is my favorite, I have others I can use. After our men’s Bible study Monday night, I put it in the sidecar of my bike and drove home. That was the last time I remember seeing my Spanish/English Bible. It’s all marked up with notes and cross references, so misplacing it is like losing an old friend. The Bible apps on my phone don’t quite cut it; I like seeing Scripture in relation to surrounding verses, which doesn’t happen on the phone. Apps have their place, but actually studying the Bible is not one of them.

Linda and I have looked high and low; every conceivable place I could have left it, to no avail. I’ve misplaced it before, but never this completely. It’s frustrating not being able to just pick it up when I want it. Years ago when I was a teenager, we were encouraged to memorize verses. “After all,” my Sunday School teachers reasoned, “What if your Bible were taken away? What if the only Bible you had were what you memorized?” I’ve never been very good at memorization, but tonight, I wish I had paid more attention to the wisdom my teachers tried to impart to us. 


As I said, it’s not catastrophic. It’s been three days, so even though it’s not ideal, I’m thankful that I have other Bibles I can use. Many believers around the world don’t even have one, while I can probably lay my hand on a dozen or more. I am blessed beyond measure, and will have to take to heart the admonition of Psalm 119:11, hiding God’s Word in my heart so it will be available to me even if I can’t hold it in my hand.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Just a Little Cut

May 23, 2018

Seasonal tasks are usually pretty humdrum, but once in awhile...

It was past time to change out the winter tires, and the afternoon being warm and sunny, I decided today was the day. We are fortunate to have our snow tires on separate rims, so it’s a job I can actually tackle myself. Roll out the floor jack, fire up the compressor, get the air driver, socket and extender, and we’re in business. About three quarters of an hour was all I needed. I almost forgot to check the tire pressure, which would have been a big mistake. Three of the four were right up to snuff, but the right rear was down to about ten pounds. Odd, that only one had lost air. 

When I was pumping up that rear tire I noticed it; a cut on the sidewall extending almost to the bead. No wonder it had gone flat! 

It’s not all bad; they were near the end of their tread life with only 2/32” left before they would have had to be replaced anyway. That cut tire decided the matter for me. I had been debating whether to replace the set, but cheapskate that I am, I would have run a marginal set through the summer, which isn’t really a very smart move; tires and brakes are not the place to cut corners, especially with the wife’s car. A phone call later, and I have a new set ordered. 


God watches over children and fools. Too many summers have passed for me to be considered a child, so that only leaves one option. I’m thankful tonight for a cut tire that prompted me to do what I should have done at the beginning, and I’m thankful that God reminded me to check the pressure before driving off. I feel better knowing my wife will be riding on new tread. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Craftsmanship

May 22, 2018

Working meticulously, I slowly pulled the tape, revealing the crisp edges of the casting and exposing the grey stone beneath. A few days ago, I masked the stone in preparation for the paint I intended to spray on the cast iron framework. Yesterday, I laid down the paint, and this afternoon, it was time to unveil the project. With each strip of tape, a bit more of the stone was exposed till the stove sat there in all its earthen glory, and I stood back to admire my handiwork.

Craftsmanship is almost a lost art these days. “Good enough” seems to be good enough for most people, so when we see real artistry, it captures our attention. Whether it’s a classical musician who plays long, involved sonatas from memory, or the carpenter  whose crown molding fits the corner with a joint so tight you couldn’t slide a piece of paper between them. Years ago when our boys wanted to earn their own money mowing lawns, I inspected their work at the beginning. I made sure they trimmed the edges, swept the sidewalks, and picked up twigs and leaves. They balked, but I told them, “You learn to take care of the details now, when you get a real job, you’ll do what to you is an average job, but everyone will want you because that ordinary work is actually very extraordinary.


I wonder if when he formed Adam from the dust of the ground, God stood in breathless anticipation, examining his handiwork, making a last minute adjustment or two before inhaling deeply and blowing into the man’s nostrils the breath of life. I can imagine him talking quietly to himself, “You really outdid yourself this time!” And when Adam took that first breath all on his own, I can picture God standing there, admiring his work with the same satisfaction I felt this afternoon. Craftsmanship is from God, the Author of detail and beauty beyond our understanding. I appreciate it more than I can produce it, and am thankful for any small portion of it that has rubbed off on me.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Energy at Work


May 21, 2018

Writing to the Christians in Colossae about his calling to preach the Gospel, Paul says something unusual: “We preach [Christ], warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” That isn’t the unusual part. He follows these words that I would expect with ones that surprise me: “I labor for this, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

One would think that if the energy of Christ that raised him from death is powerfully at work in me, I wouldn’t have to be laboring or struggling; life would be a piece of cake. Of course, it is not. Life is more like a gristly, tough, old steak that all but breaks our teeth. His resurrection energy doesn’t replace my own; it gives it life and strength. Elsewhere, Paul speaks of boasting in his weakness so that the power of Christ may rest upon him, for “when I am weak, then I am strong.” It’s a paradox; a truth that on the surface cannot possibly be true. And it’s a good thing, too.


Whenever I’ve gotten overconfident, I’ve gotten in trouble. It’s good to stretch, to dream and take a risk for Jesus, trusting in his leading and provision, but it is deceptively easy to subtly drift from trusting in Jesus to trusting in the latest guru, the newest fad, or my own experience and wisdom. Paul’s words steer us between the Scylla of human effort and the Charybdis of a Christian laziness that refuses responsibility for holiness, evangelism, and discipleship. I am thankful tonight for the whole counsel of God in the Holy Scriptures that instructs us for life in this world with a view to the next.