Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hymn from Today

Slipping into the church pew, I extracted a hymnal from the bench in front of me. The church was empty; the acoustics marvelous. The slightest sound reverberated through the sanctuary. It wasn’t large, but cozy. The traffic on the street outside was muffled. I had seen no one when I entered and found my way to my seat. Another solitude day was here. Attempting to get my mind off of the recent ministry tour and my upcoming studies, I flipped through the hymnal which was now in my hand. Ah, here’s one I know so I sang it. Out loud but quietly lest some one hears me. horrors! But, duh, what other kinds of sounds would you expect coming from a church sanctuary? I sang louder. Finishing that song, my gaze fell on the one across the page. The tune was familiar though the words weren’t. This one I sang as well. When I was done, I examined the words more carefully. Though it does not name the persons of the trinity by name, it names them by their actions. This was the author’s intent in writing these words.

 

Creator God, creating still by will and word and deed,                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Create a new humanity to meet the present need.

 

Redeemer God, redeeming still with overflowing grace,                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Pour out your love on us, through us make this a holy place.

 

Sustainer God, sustaining still with strength for every day,                                                                                                                                                                                                               Empower us now to do your will, correct us when we stray.

 

Great Triune God, for this new day we need your presence still,                                                                                                                                                                                                   Create, redeem, sustain us now to do your work and will.

 

Something about those words went deep into me. We need God. He gives us all we need to do everything He has called us to do. Amen and amen.

EJ

Categories: Music | 2 Comments

Created for Good Works

(written five weeks ago; pulled from my notes and published now)

About a year ago I was fresh from South America and trying to settle into life here in the United States. The emotional rise and fall of changing cultures and homes made me question myself as a person and my place in the American culture where I was dwelling. For example, what should my occupation be? What degree should I pursue? Where is my place in the circle of my friends? Two and a half years can cause a bunch of changes and these thoughts swirled through my head for days, leaving me feeling fatigued. My selfish side justified my tiredness. “Look EJ,” it said, “you just finished two years of service, giving of your precious time in a foreign culture. Many times, people didn’t understand you and what you felt. Inconsiderate and unfeeling, the took advantage of you and your time. Enjoy this time of being a returned missionary. Allow others to laud you and burnish your sense of entitlement. It’s okay to relax and be served.

That’s what one side of me said. Deep within me, I felt myself revolting. Something didn’t sound right. Was service actually something that could be accomplished only in far away places? No, I knew service was an integral part of being a Christian. I also know that my life had now changed and that my life was now not as dedicated to serving others. I felt caught in the midst of this juxtaposition: the desire to rest vs. knowing I had more to give.

It came to a head one night at a youth function. Finding a spot apart from the rest of the group, I drank in the tranquility of the night. Sitting there I pondered on these questions. “God,” I cried, “is there no rest for the weary? Can I not take a break from helping and serving and giving? Why demand me to continue to serve when I just lived twenty-eight months at a mission station in Paraguay?” God allowed my thoughts to ramble. When I had finished, I continued to sit there, staring into the darkness. Throughout this running together of thoughts, I had been interrupted by some of my friends who wanted to talk. In my need to be alone, I confess to making a poor effort at conversation. The thoughts faded into contemplation, the friends returned to the main group, and then God showed up. Not with the brilliance of a falling star or the booming voice of the thunder but silently and swiftly, like the shadow of a forest animal crossing a moonlit aperture in the forest shrubbery.

My child, to whom much is given, much is required. You’ve been given much.” The thought came and left as soon and as quickly as it came. But like the brilliant passing of a meteor which can still be seen minutes after its disappearance, that thought stayed with me. I grew misty eyed as I pondered its import. My pity party was over. O – V – E – R. No mas. It felt unfair to not have any divinely sanctioned personal time. To look ahead at the future seemed overwhelming, the task too huge. I could only see the present which seemed like a large room and I a small child trying to find its way through it with a dim flashlight. My desire was for pity and self-recognition; nonetheless, for my own betterment I knew I had to listen to that thought.

Not that I had that much. I’m only a young man with a vision and dreams. I face questions of career and education. I struggle with anger, lust and ego. I was raised by Christian parents, know who my siblings are, and attend a Bible believing church. What do I have that is the “much” that God told me that night? Okay, I’ll grant that the latter three things I just mentioned are a pretty big deal. If I focus on them, I am in a minority. I have that “much.

Being young, I have more energy than older people. If I get their wisdom for projects and provide the energy, the synergy is delightful. Being young and footloose I have more time for humanitarian projects in other places. Older (read married) people find it more difficult to find the time and energy to do the things I have access to. I have that “much.”

That was then. Jump forward past two semesters of school and a summer of construction work to the present week. Last night, that call of service got a much needed kick in the pants. Life is hard. To live sacrificially is difficult to do and lately my zeal for doing good has waned.

Good works do not save us. They do not gain heaven for us. As Christians, we are created to do good works. But after we are saved, we bring glory to God by looking for ways to be a blessing to mankind. This is accomplished in many different ways and in every way possible. Helping a child tie his shoe, retrieving an item for someone, or complimenting a person. These are good works and after we experience salvation through Gods grace, we are designed by God to do good. Ephesians 2:8-10 brings this out. Paul’s explanation indicates that we are saved so we can do good works. In essence, we have a license to act and do good. We have duty to fulfill.  Time restraints on this injunction do not exist!

So do good because its good.

Do good because you are commanded to do so.

Do good because you are created to do good.

Now, go and do.

EJ

written from JAARS, a place that does good. For more information about JAARS, click here.

Categories: About life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

For This Moment

leaning back in my chair, i stretched and sighed. why, why, why God? seemed all my brain could produce. i was at a why? moment in life and i turn to my blog to write something that will give me a release. for starters, i do not know how friends, emotions, and tragic experiences all inter-relate but after having a successful afternoon at my desk, i discovered that i could not study after supper was past. oh, i got a paper written but i was not in the vibe like i sometimes am. i made a cup of coffee for a friend; i took a walk. nothing seemed to revive me and get my mind cleared. deep in the recesses of the brain, i could feel . . . something but i had no name for it.

after my walk i came back to my desk. i tried to review my paper and correct what mistakes i could find. there were some but i still felt listless. a phone rang and a student answered it, which is not an uncommon occurrence around here. a few minutes later, i was passing by my friend’s desk on my way to i forget where. he flagged me down and said, “hey my mom just called. John Beiler’s dad died.” (john was a mutual acquaintance of ours) it took awhile for the announcement to sink in. i asked to make sure i had heard correctly. “did it happen while they were cutting silage?” was my question back to him. he affirmed this.

now, how did i know that this was a farming accident? here’s how. last weekend i went to lewistown, pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding. john and i have been friends since February of 2008 and have been close. life has put some distance between us since then but last weekend i stayed at his place.  that visit was fresh on my mind when mark told me about the accident.

i don’t have any details but i do have thoughts. why should this happen to a family who needs a dad to help earn a livelihood? why should it be so soon, so tragic? death is hard enough to accept without having any warning. i’m confident he is now in heaven but what about his family? will they be able to maintain a family unity and spiritual stability?  why did it have to be a month before his son’s wedding?

i don’t have answers except nice, trite ones.  for this moment, the ache is all i feel. the days ahead, the uncertainty, the heart pain of not having dad there, the sorrow of seeing him, lifeless and cold, never again on earth to break out in a smile of appreciation.

in all of this is God’s hand. for this moment, that is security against the uncertainty, the hope against the stark reality that is death, and the knowledge that the current heart pain will melt away someday into a bliss unbelievably sweet.

what to do? why? what’s the point? the questions swirl. for this moment has come and we must live.

EJ

 

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