For over two years I had pined for it, asked for it, and maybe even begged for it, so when my parents gave me a guitar for my 21st birthday, I couldn’t have been happier. I remember gently removing it from its case and admiring its beauty. The grain of the wood, the smooth feel of the neck and the beautifully inlaid mother of pearl on the fretboard clearly illustrated the care of the luthier. I was overjoyed by the gift. For years, that first guitar was a source of creativity, rest and comfort in the dark places.
Recently, I got to thinking about the luthier that crafted my guitar. The skill demonstrated was obvious, but I also recognized that he or she built it for a specific purpose – to make beautiful music. In some small way, as I progressed as a guitarist, I was bringing glory to its creator.
There are, of course, other uses for my guitar. It could easily be used as a hammer, an oil pan or even a tennis racquet. I’m not suggesting it would work well in any of those capacities, but it could be adapted to serve those purposes. But why?
I’m not sure why I was thinking about my guitar being an oil pan, but about two weeks ago, someone asked me a simple question. “Why were you created?” I thought for a minute, and then it dawned on me.
I am my guitar.
Though created by the Luthier to make beautiful music, I often make choices that repurpose His intent. I am that hammer or oil pan in the shape of a guitar. I’m not at my best when I’m repurposed in this way, and I am in no way reflecting the intent of the Luthier.
Why do I do it?
Because I think I know better. I think I can out-think my Creator, and be something I was never really created to be. As I’m getting older and life humbles me, I’m finding more comfort in living out the Luthier’s purpose, not the purposes of others. Or even my own.
It’s a love that came to me later in life. My brother (pictured) has always loved motorsports – boats, cars, jet-skis, and mostly, motorcycles. It took a long time to rein me in, but I finally caught the bug, and it will likely never leave me.
When I first started riding, I was encouraged to take a motorcycle safety course sponsored by ABATE of Indiana. In 3 days, the instructors there drilled into us the how-to’s of safe motorcycling. I loved it!
A principle that I learned early on was the discipline of turning my head and looking into a turn. In motorcycling, where your head goes, your bike will follow. Our natural inclination is to look down at where we are, but to be safe, we must turn our heads, not just our eyes, and look where we want to go. I must have heard “Turn your head!” a thousand times during the class.
One of the most dangerous things about riding a motorcycle is something called “target fixation.” Essentially, the rider sees an obstacle, and focuses on it. “Don’t hit it, don’t hit it, don’t hit it.” And the rider almost always hits it. Remember, where the head goes, the bike goes, and if the head is looking at an oncoming car…well…disaster ensues.
This same principle, however, can also work in in my favor. If I focus on my line and where I want my motorcycle to go, that’s where it will go.
The same is true in my life. If I fixate on the obstacles I face, I will likely hit them head on. But if I can focus on where I want to go, I will almost always avoid the very obstacles that are freaking me out.
In my case, as a follower of Christ, HE is my target….I want to be more like Him. The beauty of it is that the Bible gives me a terrific verse outlining where my target is to be fixed….in a positive way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”(Hebrews 12:2)
Earlier this week I spent a peaceful morning at a gorgeous state park not far from my house. The turmoil in my oversaturated life was in stark contrast to my surroundings, which were reminiscent of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. As I slowly walked through the woods, I could feel my stress dissipate. I could sense that my weary soul was trying to poke through the clouds of my circumstances, and I was relieved.
Near the end of my hike, I found a picnic bench near a pond. A huge tulip poplar tree hung over the water in front of me, and within seconds I was drawn to something I’d never seen before. A slight wind was blowing, creating tiny wrinkles on the pond. From the water, gold reflections of light rippled up the tree’s huge leaves and onto its branches. It was like watching the Northern Lights on a cold winter night. For 5 or 10 minutes I could do nothing but stare at the light show…amazed.
Then it dawned on me.
Water has no light properties at all. If I were to sit in that same spot on a moonless night, I wouldn’t even be able to tell I was sitting near water. It can create no light. Water is, however, perfectly created to reflect light. In water, a blinding light source can create an equally blinding reflection.
The same is true of you and me.
We hold no inherent lighting properties. Left to ourselves, we can be dark and murky. But God, in his grace, created us to reflect His light perfectly. He “is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”(1 John 1:5) When we are positioned in His presence, the light of His glory reflects onto those around us, creating a breathtakingly beautiful light show of grace, mercy and love.
In 1 Corinthians 3:18, Paul casts a beautiful vision: “Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (The Message)
When Johann Sebastian Bach first composed The Well Tempered Clavier, he had no idea the influence these works would have. By establishing tuning requirements for each note, he made it possible for compositions to be played in a variety of keys without sounding out of tune. Prior to these works, re-tuning was required for some pieces, as the distance in hertz between notes wasn’t uniform. Bach changed everything, in a sense, by making music into math.
So why doesn’t music sound like math?
Well, if every instrument had the same timbre, music would be math. Gratefully, each instrument has it’s own tone with its own set of overtones, thereby distinguishing itself from other instruments. Some have mellower tones, providing the “glue” for the musical experience. They are the foundation for those with brighter tones – tones that soar above the orchestral infrastructure.
I find that we are like musical instruments. Mathematically, remarkable similar…easily identified, organically, as homo sapiens. But the timbre of our personalities gives us rare tone. At times, the dissonance of those tones still bring discord to our lives. We long for uniformity….that other’s tones would be more like ours. But in the end, it’s the variety of tones that makes music beautiful and inviting. And so it is with people.
It didn’t take long to write, but it expressed my heart perfectly.
Recently, as part of an exercise, I was asked to write out a prayer. The facilitator wanted us to be thoughtful…writing our prayers as did the psalmists and ancient believers. Here was my entry:
The road is barely visible Covered by the dust of frantic inactivity The remnant of miles traveled hopefully Long ago. What of great import drew me away? Why was the road inadequate - the destination re-routed?
The lure of significance? The beauty of a throne? The nobility of sacrifice or the promise of reward?
The road to joy remains unexplored. Its destinations plural…its source, singular.
I need a Map.
It’s interesting what pours out of my heart when I take a few moments to examine it. The noise in my life often drowns out what is actually important.
John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and others have SO much they can teach us. We can learn from their breathtaking successes and their stunning defeats. We can learn from their brilliant insights and their bone-headed stubbornness. To ignore these influential giants it to miss out on an education that only hindsight can give.
A couple years ago, I read a book entitled, “His Excellency: George Washington“. (I had just finished reading David McCollough’s 1776, which, of course, included many details of Washington’s life in that year.) Since I have loved reading about our presidents since I was about 8, much of the information in the biography was review for me. What was new, however, was a three-dimensional Washington. A Washington with ego, vanity, brilliance, courage, and, occasionally, a man who looked like he had problems making decisions.
The beauty of leaders like Washington, however, is that THEY learn from their lives, too, making mid course adjustments when the game is on the line. The attack on the Hessian encampment on Christmas Day after crossing the Delaware was daring, risky, and altogether brilliant. WHen it was showtime, Washington, the leader, had his “A” game.
Enter Tim Tebow. I know, a football player has no right being placed in the same sentence as one of the world’s great leaders. Still, while I personally like Tebow, I was among the throngs of people laughing at the Broncos when they drafted him. I thought his throwing motion looked like he belonged in high school, and that professional football players wouldn’t follow a guy who had such marginal skill.
I, like most everybody, underestimated the power of a leader.
Yes, he looks horrible for most of the game. Yes, it seems unimaginable, even to the uninformed observer, that Tebow has a job as a quarterback in the greatest football league in the world. But, in those key moments, when other players shy from the spolight, Tebow shows up. Again, and again, and again.
Champ Bailey, an almost sure-fire Hall of Fame cornerback, spoke for the rest of his teammates after Denver’s improbable 17-13 win over the Jets last night when he said, “I know people are still going to talk bad about us, but I don’t care. … We always have a chance with 15 as our quarterback.”
Sure, the bubble may burst. But there is no doubt that Tebow is another illustration, (albeit a more temporary one), of the importance of leadership. We know it’s true because we see it in history.
The world is horrified by the images. We watch as a toddler in China gets run over by a car….twice. 18 people have the opportunity to save this helpless child, but they avert their eyes and pass by. By the time a stranger picks up the tiny, broken body, it is too late. The child would not survive.
Is this us? Is this what we have become?
I live in Indianapolis, and this summer during a severe summer squall, a straight line wind of over 70 miles per hour toppled the stage trusses supporting the lighting and sound systems at the Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair . 4 people were killed, and several people were trapped beneath the crushing weight of the trusses.
As lightning, thunder and horizontal rain pelted the crowd, something amazing happened. Hundreds of onlookers, instead of running for cover, jumped over barriers and fences and ran toward the stage. Ignoring the grave danger, they worked together to lift the trusses off trapped victims. Why?
Because it was the right thing to do.
I am writing this on a flight from Bangkok, where I attended a conference with my organization – Campus Crusade for Christ. As you know, floods have ravaged this nation, and millions of people have lost their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods and even their lives.
In the midst of this mounting catastrophe, the CCC staff that live in Thailand had a decision…..should they work to protect their own homes, or should they leave their material lives to the floodwaters and help others in need? Knowing they would lose everything they owned, they made the only decision their faith left them. They helped others. But why?
Because it was the right thing to do.
They made this sacrifice without any promise of personal recovery, but perhaps we can do something to thank these heroes. If you would like to help, you can donate to them here. Why?
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Here’s a video on the effort to help….thanks for considering this!
Imagine being a 13 year-old boy in the 70’s. Divorce was not yet the norm, and it was unusual for you to have a different last name than your parents. You haven’t seen your “real dad” since you were 8, and you REALLY identify with your step-dad.
You get it, right?
Junior high isn’t the most forgiving sub-culture in the world, and constantly explaining who you are and where you came from can be both exhausting and humiliating.
Wouldn’t you want to change your name? Wouldn’t you want to remove the obstacles that keep you from your mission? (Which, in junior high, is survival with the minimum amount of humiliation and pain.)
This week our organization announced a name change…from “Campus Crusade for Christ” to “Cru”. For 29 years I have been a part of this amazing group. Our DNA has always been to take the gospel, the love of Jesus, to EVERY person on the globe – giving every person the opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus!
In recent years, however, our name has become an obstacle. The media would have you believe that “Christ” is the issue. It’s not. But if we remove “Campus” and “Crusade”, which are obstacles, we are left with “Christ.” (I think we can all agree that that’s a bad name for an organization.)
So our leadership embarked on a prayer-saturated, sober process to rename a 60 year-old organization…an organization with a clear reputation for being willing to do ANYTHING to take the Good News to the four corners of the world, where men and women desperately need to know the God who loves them so dearly.
Explaining and operating with our name actually became an obstacle to our mission – to exalt and proclaim the name of Jesus! As our US Director stated, “We care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ then we do about having the word ‘Christ’ in our name.” So we made the change.
Like hundreds of churches and parachurch organizations that operate without “Christ” or “Jesus”, our mission is not defined by our name. Our mission and values drive us…and our mission is the same mission and call given to Dr. and Mrs. Bill Bright in 1951, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)
Oh, and that 13 year-old boy? That guy was me. Changing my name made all the difference in the world to me, and I survived junior high with minimal damage.
Motorcycles, boats, planes, remote-controlled cars….anything fast. As anyone with the need for speed knows, however, the love of velocity can also be risky business.
I remember my first and only trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. One of my good friends was college roommates with one of the top drivers that year, and he got us pit passes for the race. While almost 200,000 people were in the stands, WE were allowed on the track! I was standing literally 3 feet from one of the Indy Cars when I heard, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” As the cars roared away, I ran off the track and over the pit wall. It was an exhilarating experience.
While standing in the pits produced some amazing moments early in the race, honestly, it got a little boring after 30 minutes or so. Why? Well, we could only see about 100 feet of the track from where we were situated, right at track level, and at the speeds the cars were carrying, we couldn’t even tell what color the cars were, much less who was driving. Eventually we took some seats in the grandstands. It wasn’t as frenetic and exciting, but it definitely gave us a better and more enjoyable view of the race.
My life is often like that Indy 500. I love the exhilaration of the pace, the roar of my schedule, and the riskiness of trying to accomplish more than I should sanely attempt. But there is a problem…
I miss the race.
As husband and father of a beautiful family, I am prone to miss out on the big picture in order to experience the adrenal rush of the speed of my life. Oh, how beautiful my life looks when I slow down a little and watch from 30 rows up.