A Toy Piano and the Promise of Eternal Life

 

2016/08/img_5889.jpg

Triggers can be unusual, capricious things.  At least for me, they are almost always unwelcome. Last Wednesday, my trigger was a small, worn-out, Little Tikes piano. A toy piano like the one I started playing almost from the time I could sit up by myself. A toy piano like the one my grandpa tried to teach me to play  by ear — even though I didn’t understand why this was necessary since I had perfectly good, color-coded music. Wasn’t it easier to just use that? Years later, I learned to appreciate that lesson from my first piano teacher. But it was too late. My suspender-wearing, organ-playing, book-reading, pocket-knife-carrying, even-tempered, loving grandpa with a wood shop in his basement was gone. Last Wednesday, that little, out-of-tune piano in the church nursery brought back what little I can remember of my grandpa’s voice… and it reminded me how much I could miss a man who has been dead almost 25 years.

Then, with a goodness and comfort that passes all understanding, the Holy Spirit stopped me from lingering alone in that hurt. He prompted me to also remember that there will come a day when I won’t miss my grandpa anymore. In my future, there is a day when both the pain of missing Grandpa and the joy of being reunited with him in heaven will be consumed by the unimaginably perfect joy of living in Christ’s presence.  And no one will be able to take that joy away from me. (John 16:22)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Lord, tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait- the sky, not the grave is our goal. Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed rest, blessed hope of my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, a song in the night, o my soul!

– Horatio G. Spafford, It Is Well

If Christ can be trusted with such a future, then He is to be trusted with my present and my past, whatever the joy, pain, or memories… even the ones triggered by little toy pianos.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18

Desperate

Lord,

We are a desperate people. We are desperate for safety and security.  We are desperate for health and material things. We are desperate for comfort. We are desperate for the wrong things.

We snub and we rob. We demean. We grasp after our wants greedily and selfishly.

Then we look outward and hear news. Black men are shot. Police officers are shot. Men, who lived, laughed, loved and were loved, are gone. Men, who knew joy and sadness, anger and fear, died at the hands of other men.

And we grow more desperate.

We hear more news. Children are missing and abandoned; women are raped; terrorists take slaves and blow up families.

And we grow more desperate.

We are desperate for peace.  We are desperate for love and unity.  We are desperate for healing. This time, we are desperate for higher things.

But we fight among ourselves. We take sides.  We look sideways at our neighbors in fear and distrust.  We blame; we pass judgement. We contribute to the noise by shouting and typing out our opinions and flawless arguments.

Yes, in our brokenness, we become desperate for the right things, but we do not pursue them rightly because we are not just desperate, we are a lost people.

We are desperate and lost… and without hope.

Yes, we are without hope… apart from you.

So, please, look on our brokenness and show us mercy.  Show us that we are alienated from each other because we do not abide in you.  Remind us that while we were your enemies, you died to save us.

In our brokenness, may we beg your forgiveness. Setting aside our entitlements, may we submit to your authority.  May we be desperate for your grace and mercy. In you may we find eternal life.

Remind us that love is patient and kind.  Just as you were patient and kind with us, may we be patient and show kindness to others.  Remind us to seek the good of others and show honor. Remind us to discard our records of wrongs against us.  Help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.

May we delight in truth and justice, and not evil.  May we hold on to our hope in you, as you faithfully hold on to us. May we persevere to the end.

And, please, keep us desperate. Keep us desperate for you, so that we may continue to seek you.  For you alone are the way, the truth, and the life. For you alone have shown us what it means to live justly and show mercy.

And, please, Lord Jesus, come soon.

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Hospitality Outside the Home (part 5 of 8)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11

The last post in this series touched on lessons God has taught me as a single woman hosting company in her home – whether a dorm room, apartment, or house. Seasons come and go.  Sometimes my home is not available for hosting people.  This school year has been one such season.  Work has been so much more demanding that the time and where-with-all to have people over is not available as much as I would like. Instead of wishing and wallowing in self-pity that my home is going to waste (although, there has been some of that…), God reminds me that He has given me other venues of practicing the Christian art of hospitality: my car, my workplace, my church.

One of my biggest material blessings from God is my car.  Eleven years, 98,000+ miles, a new roof, new fender, and new windshield later, and we’re still going strong. Now, I can tend to take a more utilitarian view of my car. The car is meant to transport people and things.  I don’t often think of keeping it as clean as my home, or decorated like my home.  So, I’m usually more mindful of the readiness of the house than the state of my car. (OK, who am I kidding?  I’m always more mindful about the cleanliness of the house.  The only time I think about the cleanliness of my car is a brief twinge of guilt whenever I happen to look in the back seat… which isn’t that often). I don’t think about it needing the same kind of peaceful atmosphere for hospitality that my home does.  That is, until I suddenly need to give someone a ride. If I have half empty water bottles, a Kleenex box, items to be returned, and dishes (I know, right?) scattered around the inside of my car, I have a feeling that my car will speak of stress much louder than my cheerfulness will speak of peace.  Granted, I’m not going to decorate or invest as much time in my car as my house, but now I ask myself: Is the car clean?  Does it smell good?  Am I a safe and courteous driver?  Do I tend to let the gas needle get dangerously close to empty? What purposeful conversation and music happens during the drive? Do I give people rides begrudgingly? Am I giving rides out of Christ’s love in my heart? It’s not unreasonable take a few minutes to make sure my car is as hospitable as my home.

I have the blessing of a classroom in which I can practice hospitality to students, parents, and co-workers every day.  I have the freedom to pick out the decorations, set the behavior rules, arrange supplies, and decorate to a certain extent.  I keep notecards, gum, and chocolate in my desk for teacher friends that may need them. But, as I mentioned in “Hospitality in the Home”, that is not enough to make a place hospitable.  Do I welcome students or co-workers when they interrupt the other work I have at that moment? Do I greet others with a smile — a genuine, glad-to-see-you smile? Does my desk speak chaos or peace? Do my ears listen for the well-being of those who come by or are my lips quick to encourage gossip? Hospitality is possible whether I have a classroom or a cubicle.

Another place to practice hospitality that may get overlooked is the local church.  All who enter need to be welcomed, visitors and long-time members.  Is there someone habitually sitting alone?  Is there a new visiting mom who needs someone to help get her kids to Sunday school? Is there someone who needs to be cheered? Hugged? Encouraged? How can I contribute to the needs of the saints on Sunday mornings?

God has given the means and the grace for me to practice what He commands.  Hospitality in the home is so important, but, praise God, my ability to practice hospitality is not limited to the home.