The Gift of Music

How far is heaven? Let’s go tonight
I want my daddy to hold me tight.

As Kitty Wells began singing these words I was sitting at my sewing machine working on a project when I was suddenly transported back over the years. I recalled vividly running into my mother’s arms after she told me that my daddy was dead. My eyes blurred with unshed tears as I recalled the pain of that moment.

How is a nine year only child supposed to process such information? I was daddy’s little girl and now daddy was gone…

God has given us a most precious and powerful gift. Music. A gift that teaches truth; a gift that brings joy and lifts the spirit; a gift that soothes our hurts; a gift that gives expression to our unspoken needs and wants. This precious gift allowed a nine year old girl process her father’s death.

A little girl was waiting for her daddy one day
It was time to meet him, when she heard her mommy say
Come to mommy darling, please do not cry
Daddy’s gone to heaven, way up in the sky

How far is heaven? When can I go?
To see my daddy, he’s there I know
How far is heaven? Let’s go tonight
I want my daddy to hold me tight

He was called so suddenly, and could not say goodbye
I know that he’s in heaven, we’ll meet him by and by
The little girl she trembled, her tears she could not hide
Then she looked towards heaven and I heard her cry

How far is heaven? When can I go?
To see my daddy, he’s there I know
How far is heaven? Let’s go tonight
I want my daddy to hold me tight

I sang that song almost constantly. I was too little at the time to understand the effect that my singing that song might have on my mother but never once did she ask me to stop. I would sit on the porch step and sing it; I would sing it as I rode in the car; I sang it sitting on a tree branch in the side yard. Every time I needed comfort I sang it.

In recent days I have been reminded of the power of music to evoke memories and to soothe the pains and disappointments of life. But I have also been reminded of how music can tap the into the joy that undergirds it all.

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Last week while sitting at a country music concert I was able to experience the joy of my childhood. Thank you, Lord, for music and all that it gives us.

No More!!

“But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”  then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:15-18

No More! Is it a sad lament or a shout of glory? If there is “no more” of a good thing—like that chocolate cake—then it is a sad lament.  But if “no more” rids us of negatives (like no more bills to pay), then we shout “NO MORE” with a note of glory.

The promise of Scripture is NO MORE MEMORY. God promises to forget our sins and iniquities; to remember them “no more”. They are thrown into the sea of forgetfulness when God pronounces them forgiven.  If our sins are forgiven, they are forgotten.  God has NO MORE MEMORY of them. NO MORE OFFERING will ever be necessary for our sin. Jesus has satisfied the demand for a sin offering once and for all.  The sacrifice of His sinless perfect life on the Cross of Calvary suffices for all sin for all men for all eternity.  NO MORE OFFERING is necessary for our sin than the offering made by Jesus.

Because of Jesus’ atonement, we can approach God’s throne of grace with NO MORE FEAR! The veil of the temple was torn in two, giving us access into the holy of holies—“the holiest”—by Christ Jesus.  We need not fear as we are invited to enter “with boldness”. We can come with NO MORE FEAR because our hearts are purified from evil conscience by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood.

Thou art coming to a King

Large petitions with thee bring

For His grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much.

The Salvation Army Song Book, 1987
Song 563 vs.2

We come with NO MORE FEAR knowing that, because Jesus has paid the price, there need be NO MORE OFFERING for our sin—and when God forgives, He has NO MORE MEMORY of that sin. 

 HALLELUJAH!

Autumn Reflections

Autumn is a gorgeous time of year.  It is a time when nature surrounds us with vivid colors and the air becomes cool—tangy and crisp.  Autumn is that time of year when fallen leaves blow wildly every which way around the yard and up and down the streets. As the leaves settle in the streets and on sidewalks people begin to shuffle along through them crackling and crunching as memories of childhood take over.

For those who live in the New England area, autumn is just a beautiful breath-taking time of year when nature takes out her paintbrush and goes to work getting rid of the sameness of green. An interesting thing begins to take hold of us in this bright and beautiful season for along with its beauty it brings with it a sense of purpose that touches us all in different ways:

But for me autumn has also a time of reflection; a time for me to gain perspective and to think about and evaluate my life and situation.  In years past it was a time of program preparations for ministry; in retirement it has become simply a time of reflection.  Autumn is a good time of year to do a spiritual check-up. It is good to take the opportunity of the season to check our spiritual connectedness to my source of spiritual nourishment and power and my spiritual condition period. During these days of reflection what I want to know particularly is, “how are my roots?”  Are they deep and well nourished? Am I producing fruit? And most painful of all, what needs pruning away? 

I remember when our son was graduating from college, I decided to make him a scrapbook of his school pictures, activities, and report cards. In the process I discovered that a photo album is like a magic carpet ride into the realm of memory. Like leaves of October tinted with the red and gold colors of autumn, snapshots are colored with the rich colors and pastels of previous events and people. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins writes this in his book, Human Options:

“A man (woman) comes to know himself through the pictures he takes … in … reviewing the hundreds of pictures I have taken … in many parts of the world … I learn … the camera is more than a box that records an external situation … it is also turned inwards.”

I discovered the truth of that statement as I recognized that I was not the same person that I was in many of the photos that I was gathering for David. We won’t talk about age or weight as that was irrelevant at the moment, but more importantly, I was not the same spiritually. Thank you, Lord, I began to realize that I had grown spiritually, not only grown but had blossomed, and having endured the hard times of pruning the Lord was making “something beautiful of my life.”

In the harvesting season we tend to be more impressed with the fruit of the harvest. Not so God. He cares about more than just the end result—He’s watching over the roots and the process of their development.  We like the product but God emphasizes the process. It is the Spirit Who plants right seeds and nurtures them. In due course, in His time, “fruit” appears.

Remember: “God Who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His work within you is finally finished.”  (Phil. 1:6, TLB)

This promise is at the root of God’s purpose for us, it’s a guarantee that the One who started “the good work within you” won’t leave the task unfinished. We can continue to grow and flourish—and be pruned—in the sure knowledge that God will never fail us. For you see, while we may be in the autumn season we know that there are other seasons in which to live that help us to fulfill the promise that we can live life abundantly. 

The rich variety of seasons is an example of how the Lord uses time to work out His purposes in our lives.  Ruth Thomas expresses it best in her poem, “The Untried Way” when she writes: 

“The same Yesterday – the God behind me, the God of the ages

The same Today, the God beside me, with His guiding hand

The same Forever – the God before me in the dim, unknown future.

Theologian Helmut Thielicke expresses his trust in the God of seasons when he writes, “It is true that I do not know what is coming, but I know who is coming. Therefore, I can drain the moment in which I live, laughing and weeping … with the face of God shining on me … we can catch a fleeting glimpse of the magnitude of the future by the down payment we have already received.”

As autumn continues to progress expect your roots to deepen and grow.  Reflect on the Lord and as He makes you aware of His creation, through the vivid colors and the bare trees of this season, remember God is at work. He is working with you and in you to bring out the beauty of your life.