Thursday, November 14, 2013

Confessions of a Band Geek

I confess without apology; in high school I was a band geek.

Some of my favorite memories come from those days. Pool parties and football halftime shows and marching in parades, the band took up most of my free time and provided a readymade social circle.

Did people ever make fun of us? Duh. We were pretty easy targets. We marched before school. We marched after school. We spent our weekends traveling to various competition parades. We were an interesting bunch and no one really understood us. We were definitely not the popular crowd, but between us there was always this sense of belonging. We were completely unified by the goal of winning the sweepstakes at the parades we participated in. That was the highest honor; it meant we were, on that day, the best.

marching band

So we marched together. We worked hard together. We played hard together. Underlying it all was the exhilarating, high-energy music of the marches, driven by the pounding cadence of the drums. It represented the driving intensity of purpose, and the beat of unified steps.

Some of us easily found the natural rhythm the cadence dictated. Others struggled a bit to find that stride. In spite of that we were a team, always a team, unified against outside criticism and encouraged by each other.

The payoff to all the hard work? At the first parade of the year, hearing “and the sweepstakes award goes to Orange Glen!”

The big trophy we received was nice, but what the words represented—a validation of all our hard work—mattered more. We had won!

Christians need to be band geeks.

Well, not exactly, but here’s what I mean.

It is becoming increasingly unpopular in society to be identified as a Christian. So be it. We are meant to be a team, all working together so that others come to know and love Jesus. That’s our goal, and it’s the most noble and highest goal possible.

Is it hard? Sometimes. We don’t always hear the same beat, and sometimes we march out of step with each other. But that unity was so precious to Jesus that it is what He earnestly prayed for at the end of His life, saying:

I pray… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…so that they may be brought to complete unity.                                                                                            John 17:21, 23

Jesus prayed for our unity! We need to encourage each other to…

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.                                         Ephesians 2:2-3

What’s more, we are promised that the hard work of extending grace, working together, and loving each other will pay off.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.                                                                                     Galatians 6:9-10

At the end of it all, the crowns we may receive are nice (2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:2; 1 Peter 5:4), but it is these words from our Savior that we long to hear:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!                Matthew 25:21

That will be the very best trophy of all.

Further reflection:

  1. What would you say you work the hardest at accomplishing?
  2. Does your life reflect what you say are your highest priorities?
  3. Does your life reflect the unity of believers that Jesus desires?
  4. When you come face-to-face with Jesus, what do you think He will have to say to you?

Father, You meant for me to live in unity with other believers. Help me to love them, to live in unity with them, and to seek to do good to them, for they are the ones that I will live with for eternity. May we work together for Your glory, so that Your words to us may be the ones we long to hear.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Good Thing

Yes, it’s true…I really did flush my cell phone down the toilet.

Of all places, it happened at a funeral reception. I was helping at church that day, so the phone was in my pocket when I went to the restroom. I looked for somewhere to set it, but didn’t see any options.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I was not using the phone—no calls, no texts, no Facebook, I promise—when I entered the stall.

  iPHone for the phone

The phone just flipped out of my pocket. Plop! The sound of it hitting the water registered before the sight did. I stood there for a second in disbelief before instinct took over, and I reached for it. 

Too late! The auto-flush toilet was already sending a cascade of water. Before my hand could make contact, the phone was gone. Not just drowned and no longer functioning, but the phone had actually made the turn in the toilet’s plumbing and completely disappeared.

I really hate those auto-flush toilets.

There was absolutely no way to retrieve that phone, and pointless even if I could. Was I bummed? Oh, yeah. It wasn’t that my phone was all that cool. It was actually a hand-me-down. But it had numbers stored that I had collected for years. I won’t even know which ones I lost until I need them! Plus I knew how my phone worked. I’d had it for quite a while, and navigating its functions was second-nature. Like an old friend, it was comfortable.

What’s more, as the Director of Children’s Ministries a phone is one thing I absolutely have to have on Sunday mornings. Since this happened on a Saturday afternoon. My husband and I raced to the nearest Verizon store as soon as the funeral reception ended,. I walked back out the door with a brand new iPhone.

This thing is amazing! It has a weather app, so I can see what the weather is like in the Midwest where some of my kids live. The maps app has a built-in gps system. And it’s an iPod, too? I cannot wait to figure out all the cool stuff it will do!

While I would never have wanted to lose my earlier phone (especially in such an inelegant fashion), I love, love, love my new iPhone.

Sometimes, we have to give up what is good in order to receive what is better. This applies to things a lot more important than a cell phone. It might be a relationship, or a job, or a dream. Whatever it is, it has been a good thing in your life. Losing it may not be your choice, but getting it back is not an option.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

When the reality of loss settles in, do we truly believe this verse? Not just in an intellectual way, but in a practical, experiential way? Times of loss test what we believe. When we lose something good, there is normal human emotion involved. But there is also a choice: are we going to trust the Lord in this circumstance? Are we going to trust that what His word tells us is true is far more reliable that what our emotions tell us? As my senior pastor would ask, “Are you going to think with your faith attached?”

Too often in my life I only realized all the good that came out of those situations as I saw it in the rearview mirror. What I’ve seen is deeper trust and greater hope in the Lord, and a greater reliance on His word. Sometimes, I’ve clearly seen that God actually took what was good, and replaced it with something even better.

Gotta’ go now, my new phone is ringing.

…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.                                                                    Romans 5:3-4

Further reflection

  1. What is something that you lost and wish you could have back?
  2. Where do you see God at work in that loss?
  3. Pray and ask God to show you the good in it.

Father, all that I have comes from Your hands. Please help me hold on to You more tightly than I hold on to anything else. Help me treasure You, and the truth of Your word, the most. I want to see Your goodness at work during, and not just after, loss. Help me to offer You the praise You deserve, for You are the giver of every good and perfect gift.