Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Michael Card - an overdue thanks

Very early in my marriage, just over 25 years ago, my bride plunged cheerfully into contemporary Christian music.  At that time, I was still squarely in the Jimmy Buffett phase of life and looking forward to many years of carefree, escapist music.  In college (Go Hokies!), I had finally been exposed to some new sounds that my small town’s K-Mart didn’t carry, and didn’t intend to carry since pickup trucks were not represented prominently in the lyrics.

So it was with a condescending tone that I smiled and offered a less than heart-felt “Thank you” to my wife when she returned home from a concert and placed in my hands a twin-CD of Michael Card’s ‘The Ancient Faith’. 
Ah well – thanks honey.  I’ll just file that over here by the dog-food and paid bills.  It was a sweet thought.  It was well intentioned. 

It changed my life.

That CD currently rests on top of a stack of CD’s on my desk here at work.  Its edges are worn.  The cover is faded.  The style is perhaps somewhat dated.  And having handed out copies through the years, I know it’s not for everyone.  All I can tell you is that the themes and passion for God got a hold of my insides – heart and soul.  To me, it’s an amazing work.  It paints the Old Testament with colors I didn’t know existed.  I’ve listened to it for those 25 years and still discover facets that I hadn’t heard before. 

The work is strong across the board – but particular favorites include:

‘Asleep on Holy Ground’ – recounting Jacob’s dream.  “He limped away on holy ground, awakened from the dream.  Having learned his costly lesson from the ways of the Nazarene.  That pain’s the path to blessing, Love will fight us to be found, and God remains a dream to those, who sleep on holy ground.”

‘The Way of Wisdom’ – on Proverbs.  “The Way of Understanding lies in not how much you know.  For the Pathway is a Person that you come to love and so you can stop pretending that it all depends on you.  For it’s not how much you love, as much as how much He loves you.”

Over twenty years ago, on a bright August day, we welcomed our first child into the world.  After literally being up all night, I drove home in the morning from the hospital to collect some things for my lovely wife.  On the way, Michael was on the cassette player singing about the Song of Songs.  “Set me like a seal on your heart, for love is unyielding as the grave.  The flash of it is a jealous fire no flood can quench for Love is as strong as death.” All the world was right and hopeful.  I was a dad and God was in His heaven. 

On returning to the hospital, I learned that newborn Hannah’s breathing was labored and they wanted to air-lift her to Roanoke.  I had to make another run to our house this time to gather clothes for my trip with her.  And this time, Michael’s words were from Job and they hit me with such force – “Oh Lord send a Comforter now to my door, so that this terror will frighten no more!  A Counselor between us, to come hear my oath; Someone who could lay a hand on us both.”  It was a rare moment, when I felt God was saying to me, “Remember who you are – and who I Am.”  Tears spring to my eyes even now on the thought of it.  How good is God.  How weak and fragile we are. 

And it’s not too much to say that outside of the Bible and friendships, Michael Card has had as large an impact on my faith as anything else.  This little essay isn’t intended to get you to listen to his music – although I wish you would.  But to say a long overdue thank you to a Brother.  I know your sacrifices have been great – and the load heavy.  You have kept the faith.  Thank you.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Architect & Builder

A legend has grown up around a site visit that Wren made one day at the construction of St. Paul’s.  Not being known personally by the laborers, he could mingle among them incognito.  Approaching one stonecutter, he asked him what his task was.

“Cutting stone”, replied the man who dully returned to his work.

Moving on, he asked another the same question, “What is it you’re doing?”

“I’m paid three and six each week to cut and place this stonework”, was the reply this time.

Finally he approached a third man and made an inquiry about his work, “What is it you’re doing?”

The man straightened from his task, turned and looked the architect straight in the eye and said, “I’m helping Christopher Wren build this magnificent cathedral.”

It’s easy to become distracted from our purpose of a task.  That might sound silly – after all the purpose of taking out the trash is to, you know, take out the trash.  But little things make big things and there is a purpose behind them all.  Yes, I crawl out of bed in the mornings to go to work and provide for my family.  But I hope that there is a deeper purpose.  One that is abiding and even eternal.  Eternal in one sense that, like my father, I pass on a work-ethic to my children.  But eternal in another sense that God has put me here to be a part of His great work.  He is the Architect and Builder.  We are in this together. 

I am a structural engineer by trade.  When I do my job right, no one ever knows.  Beams are hidden by ceilings and walls conceal columns.  My work is simply a part of a greater work.  My life is part of a Greater Life.  And in Him, there is satisfaction and the greatest purpose of all.