Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out of Context

I cried myself to sleep last night.
I know some of you might not think it would be unusual, or rare considering the places I go and the people I see around the world in such dire straits of poverty, disease and death, but none of those situations were the reason for my sadness.
I am not fond of "forwards." Even the ones promising good fortune in 10 minutes if I send it on to ten friends, or questions of my faith or patriotism should I dare be the one to "break the chain." With that disclaimer, I can add the link at the bottom of this email and you can chose for yourself whether or not to go to the website and get the full story. You will not receive a check from Microsoft, Bill Gates, or anyone else - and the good things that happen after you receive the email - well - they are just good things.
I cried grieving the failure we commit each day to recognize the beauty, the wonderment, the awesome power, the mighty nature, the omniscience, the omnipotence, the love, the mercy, and the tenderness God shows towards us and showers on us each and every day. I wondered because the article I read (see link) illustrated how beauty taken "out of context" for the most part goes totally unrecognized, unappreciated, and worst of all ignored. It is present and unmistakable on anyone's scale and yet...
I wondered how the Father feels about that?
Several years ago, The Washington Post conducted an experiment with one of the world's irrefuted top violinists in the world. Joshua Bell was a child prodigy, and now as a young man he travels around the world and is a sought after performer. The Post asked if he would be willing to participate in an experiment and being young, and known as a bit of a character he agreed.  He would stand in the middle of the subway station, instrument case open for tips and play some of the most difficult pieces ever composed for the violin. The Post asked sociologists if they thought "out of context" (a concert performance in a subway) people would "get it." They agreed at least 10% most likely would recognize "art" and "beauty" and take note. They even calculated how much he would earn in tips. The newspaper grew concerned about security, what if hundreds of people recognized the performer and stopped and drew a crowd and held up traffic and the subway....etc... this could be a nightmare.
Of course cameras were in place to catch all on tape. The virtuoso took out his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin and began to play.
After 5 minutes, not one person had stopped, or even noticed.  No one even turned their head. Just a little over 6 minutes into the amazing performance one man did pause to listen.  Joshua Bell (and the Washington Post crew) were astonished.  He commented, he felt invisible. Here is a young man who earns thousands of dollars a minute when he picks up his bow and now -
out of context
the superstar was ignored.
I cried.
In our "advanced" artistic, intellectual culture, you would hope - someone would recognize beauty and stop and stand amazed.  Finally, after several pieces, a few coins tossed in the case, a young woman stopped and stood a few feet away from him. She held back her applause because after all she was not in the concert hall she was in the subway. She said, "I heard you perform the other night and you were amazing. Only in Washington could something like this happen." Joshua Bell performing for everyone and anyone and no one in particular at all - for free!
The Creator of the Universe stands before us each and everyday flinging His artistic talent and majesty just because that is part of who He is. When was the last time you thanked Him for a sunset, a sunrise, a wonder in baby's hand or cool breeze across your face?  When was the last time you just "listened" to anything?
We rush through our day, going past beauty and through beauty and just like the thousands of commuters who passed a virtuoso playing a "free concert" we never stop, we seldom listen, we fail to see we are standing hallowed ground.
Joshua Bell played the night before and was paid a handsome sum indeed. The open case of his 3.5 million dollar instrument was just a prop - added to see if someone would care, pity, take notice leave something of themselves. I was reminded of the verse where God asks His people if they think He needs their thousands of bulls as an offering.  God really doesn't "need" any "thing" from us. He certainly doesn't need our loose change. He is beauty incarnate - shown through the love of an Only Son. He has given us His heart freely, He just wants us to notice.
I leave in a few hours for my 50th Birthday vacation, compliments of close friends and supporters of the ministry.  (My actual birthday is August 31). When I was returning from the Warrior Getaway, accompanied by my oldest son Alec, we talked about the upcoming adventure in Italy. He asked "do you think they would let me come?" So... here we go. He just dropped off his suitcase and is off on errands. I asked, "are you excited?" to which he replied, "you have no idea. It has been 13 years - half a life ago I did something like this".
Pray for travel mercies and his heart to be open to the "music" of the Maestro. I know I will be listening!
Ears and heart open to the majesty of the Master!

Pearls Before Breakfast - washingtonpost.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html?referrer=emailarticle <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html?referrer=emailarticle>

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, June 19, 2009

Proverbs 16:19

"A man may plan his steps but the Lord directs his path"

I left DFW this morning under the threat of bad weather in Chicago. As much as I fly, stormy weather still makes me anxious. We were on time, but the bad weather came with us. Hail, wind sheers, and torrential rain hit and that, as they say, was that. It wasn't long before my little commuter flight to Bismark bit the dust. Flashing lights filled the Departure screen signalling "cancelled", and "delayed".

Chicago O'hare is no place to be stuck when bad weather hits. It is the hub of thousands of flights and when things shut down - they are down!

My best laid plans of flights and long drives came to a thunderous halt when I discovered I could not get out of Chicago to my planned destination no matter which way I flew (Denver, Minnesota, etc... Etc...)

The Lord has directed my path - for reasons unknown - right back to Dallas. Oh well. I was looking forward to the celebration and time with friends but... then again we serve a God who is totally in control and in charge of all weather events.

As I was running to the gate to try and make my stand-by flight, moaning at the inconvenience I passed by a familiar face (how odd is God). It was Joni Erickson Tada in her wheelchair followed by her assistants. I stopped - reminded her of who I am (she is used to seeing me as CARE EE) and greeted her warmly and humbly. Here I was able-bodied, thinking what a nightmare and then the Father gave me a picture of grace, mercy, love overflowing in spite of everything and anything!

It was a terrible day to be stuck in Chicago - but it is always a great day to praise God for all His goodness - no matter what.

Smiling on the way back home

In the Air Again

It is early morning in Dallas and once again I find myself sitting in the airport and waiting for the "boarding call." This trip doesn't take me over oceans, but to the plains of Montana to celebrate the 75th birthday of my friend J. The Ps, are the missionaries I have worked with in China for the past 8 years. One of their students (now a businessman in Shanghai) is even flying in for the event.

I am excited to be part of this time of a life well lived in service to the King. As a young man J served in Singapore/Malaysia planting churches and evangelizing. A few years ago he and his wife D returned to celebrate the anniversary of a church he was part of starting. The children (and children of children) are mighty servants, pastors and evangelists and continue the harvest!

Praise God for those willing to go and go and go at sacrifice of comfort, family and all things familiar.

I praise God for the opportunities He has given me to minister to thousands of students and orphans these past 8 years in China. It is only through the faithfulness of these and others in the "field" doing the day in and day out "work" that allows me to gather fruit I did not sow! Thank you for being a part of the gathering and watering - now pray for more sunshine than rain!