I Recognize You

“I must be Dorothy.”

I’ll admit it.  We had been ignoring the beautiful little girl.  In the room full of people, every one of us was looking at the window and offering an opinion about the shades being installed.  No one was focused on her in any way.

The sweet little girl sat on the cedar chest and swung her feet—thunk, thunk, thunk—against the sides, waiting for at least one of us to tear our eyes away from the window and speak to her.

It must have been a sore trial for the little tyke.  When one is used to being the center of attention, to be among a crowd of folks and not even be a part of the conversation would be most difficult.  Especially if you’re an almost four-year-old kid.

Then again, I don’t know.

This sixty-year-old man understands how she feels.  Anyone who’s spent time waiting while life goes on apace for others all around knows how the little girl feels.

Lonely isn’t only being by one’s self.  It’s not.

Lonely isn't only being by one's self. It's not. Click To Tweet

Isolation isn’t primarily about walls and distance.

We might even need to remind ourselves once in a while of who we are.  And, who we were.

I must be Dorothy.

Into the dark room of loneliness,  sometimes a shaft of light—a blazing ray of sunshine— sneaks its way through the blinds we have lowered ourselves and illuminates the entire room.

How’s this for light?

He already knows my name! (Isaiah 43:1)

I’ll never have to stand and remind Him, I must be Paul.  He knows.

He knows.

We don’t need to jump up and down, waving to make sure He is aware of our presence.  We have His undivided attention.

But, perhaps it’s time I—we— who have been shown such love and lavish attention should begin to show love and lavish attention to those around us.

Many are lonely in the crowd.  Many sit, kicking their feet, waiting for someone—anyone—to notice them sitting there.

I’ve been in that crowd.  Alone.  Lost.  I will attest to the loneliness and pain.  But, I also remember the approach of a member of the crowd who says, You must be Paul, and then that feeling of relief and belonging spreading to every part of my being.

It is a wondrous gift to be recognized.

It is a wondrous gift to be recognized. Click To Tweet

Who better to notice those who are alone than we who have been noticed when we were alone?  We have been recognized in a crowd.  Why would we not offer that same gift to others who desperately need it?

We are blessed so that we will bless.  It is a reasonable expectation.

I won’t deny it.  We laughed as we heard the words from the little girl’s mouth today.  And then, we paid attention to her.

But the truth is, most folks won’t ever say a word.  They’ll come into our lives and they’ll disappear just as quickly.  And, quietly.  If we let them.

Let’s not let them.

You must be         .  I was hoping you’d be here.

 

 

 

Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight.
(Roy Orbison ~ American singer/songwriter ~ 1936-1988)

 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Rough Draft

The words are stubborn tonight—uncooperative.  Somehow, I think it may be my own fault.

They—the all-knowing experts who are certain about such things—tell me I must write a first—rough—draft quickly, not stopping to correct misspellings and syntax errors.  They don’t know me very well.

My drafts are never rough for long.  I cannot abide uncorrected errors.  I am barely into my third paragraph and already I have re-read the first two more than once.

As the red-headed lady who raised me would have said, this is like pulling teeth for me.  No, not the painful part of having teeth removed from my mouth.  

Writing a first draft is like the physical ordeal of pulling, of struggling, of wrestling a tooth out of the socket from which it never wanted to be unseated in the first place.

I look again over what I have written and a light bulb snaps on somewhere.  That’s it!  They call it a draft because it’s drawn from the paper (or is it drawn from my mind and heart?), stubborn words and reticent paragraphs, one after the other.

Draft.  The word applies to many things and activities, but all go back to one thought.  A draft is an article drawn out from something else.

A first draft is words on paper drawn from the mind of the author.  A bank draft is something authorizing funds to be drawn from a bank account.  Draft beer is beer drawn from a tap.  The military draft is the act of filling out the ranks by drawing from a pool of civilians.  A cold draft that makes us uncomfortable is frigid air drawn unexpectedly past our location.

The most famous of sales ads played during football games on American television is one for a beer company.  I laugh at the pun, intended or not, every time I see it.  The huge Clydesdale horses are harnessed to the loaded wagon as it spins down pleasant lanes.  They are beautiful beasts, also known as draft horses because they draw a wagon behind them.

Draft horses drawing draft beer.  What could be more clever?

So, I draft the words to the page.  Many seem to have become conscientious objectors, unwilling to be drawn.  The going is slow.  Sometimes—many times—the wrong word shows up to report for duty and has to be thrown back—4F.

But tonight, as I sat staring at that word showing on the side of the page of my computer’s editor—Draft—and considered the difficulty of drawing something from one place to another, the light that flickered on earlier blazed into bright midday glare.

I remember words David wrote in a Psalm.  Words about a God who drew him from a horrible pit—up out of the miry clay—setting his feet on the rock. (Psalm 40:2)

And again, I can’t help it.  The pun, certainly unintended this time, is stuck in my head.

The original Artist, who once drew His greatest masterpiece from the dirt, from the mud, must once more draw us from the mud into which we choose to crawl back. 

The first was an act of creation; the second, an act of love and mercy.

Both times, He drew us. 

From Him.  To Him.

We are His draft.  First. Last.

From Him. To Him. We are His draft. First. Last. Click To Tweet

Never rough, save by our own doing.

Nearly finished.

Another masterpiece.

 

“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers.  No one is told any story but their own.”
(from The Horse and His Boy ~ C.S. Lewis)

 

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:36 ~ ESV ~ The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Intervals

I love playing the horn.  Really, I do.

If it sounds as if I’m trying to convince myself, perhaps I am.  Of all the endeavors I have undertaken in my life, playing the horn has been the most mercurial.

By that, I mean to say it has been the most enjoyable and the most frustrating.  I’ve had astounding successes and disastrous failures.  Most days, I love playing with other musicians.  Then again on others, I detest the very thought of it.

Mercurial.

Up.  Down.

Hot.  Cold.

I suppose my attitude toward the activity may be tethered to my commitment to preparation for it.  For some odd reason, when I don’t take the horn out of its protective case and play it between rehearsals, the rehearsals themselves are less than satisfactory.  Often, much less.

The lady is kind if nothing else.  She is.  Standing there on her podium, she has no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings.  All she’s after is music—correct notes, played at the right time, and at the volume indicated in the dynamic marking.

It’s not much to ask.

Still, it requires more than just attempting it in the instant of need. Sometimes, a lot more.

She was frustrated on the last occasion.  The violins may have been a few cents off pitch.  The timpani player might have played that roll too loudly.  The bass voices could have been dragging the beat a little.

None of those was the cause of her frustration.  This time, anyway.  No, it was something else.

The horns had blown their entrance.

Three notes.  That’s all it was.  Three.  Play a G in the middle octave, then a jump to the G in the higher octave, then a little slur down to the F#.  

Except, it didn’t happen.  The first note was nowhere near to a G, nor was the next even close to the octave interval required.  Perhaps, we shouldn’t even talk about the F#.

The exasperation was obvious as she motioned with her baton.  A big circle in the air.  That meant stop.  No.  It meant stop now!  

She needn’t have bothered on my account.  I wasn’t playing any more notes after that flub anyway. 

She looked back at the horn section, the frown on her lips replaced quickly with a smile.  If not one of confidence, it was at least one of hope.

You’re going to get that.  I’m sure you will.  Next time.

She didn’t insist we play it again in front of all the other musicians.  She didn’t berate us for our second-rate performance.  She extended mercy.

Mercy and grace.  

A second chance.

An interval in which to work on our interval, you might say.

A wise man would spend the time judiciously, these minutes—and hours—and days—in that interval of grace. 

I wonder if I fall into that category.  I suppose time will tell.

But if you know me, you know I wonder about other things, as well.  It’s impossible for me to consider that little ragtag group of musicians we like to call a chamber orchestra and not get a glimpse in my mind of this great, huge symphony in which all of us are participants.

Every single one of us plays a part.  The phrase fits the subject perfectly—not by my design—but because it is true that all of us understand we play, at least in some capacity, a part of the music of life.

Everyone plays a part in the great symphony of mankind. Our Conductor has high expectations. Click To Tweet

Even with the high expectations, we’ll all play a clinker at some point.  Our Conductor understands.

He does.

He once played in the symphony, too.  Is it too much to believe He’d be sympathetic with our weaknesses?  (Hebrews 4:15)

He hasn’t forgotten the music; hasn’t lost the rhythm of creation.  And, He knows how difficult it is to play those intervals sometimes.

Grace.  Mercy.

Intervals.

I wonder.  This might be one of those other intervals.

Maybe, we should use the time wisely. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

The Day is approaching—the day when the baton in our Conductor’s hand sweeps toward that down beat.

I’m not going to miss this interval.

 

 

In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory.  In practice, there is.
(Yogi Berra ~American baseball player/manager ~ 1925-2015)

 

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:15, 16 ~ NLTHoly Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Basking

A year ago, life took a turn.  Let’s just say it was a turn I didn’t want to make and leave it at that.

A year.  

A wise man I know sent me a poem early on in that year.  Something about being called aside.  I didn’t want to be called aside.

We closed our business—and waited.  We worked in a yard—and waited.  We emptied a house—and waited.  We watched our bank account empty—and waited.

Many would say it’s been a hard year.  If you pressed me, I might agree—for a few seconds.

Earlier this week, when a hint of good news arrived, a friend called it a blessing from God.

He’s not wrong.

Good news—hope for the future—is a blessing from God.  It is.

Still, I wonder.  Why do we assume only the things we want and desire and then receive from the hand of God are the blessings?

Why not the yard work?  Why not closing down the business?  Why not the filthy, heavy labor?

Why not the waiting itself?  Couldn’t that be God’s blessing?

I’m not going to argue theology; I won’t break any new ground here.  Still, there is one thing I need to say.  Well, one thing before I say other things. 

God gives good gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11)

Always.

Good gifts aren’t defined as wealth or power, or the good life.

The Teacher sat down on the mountain one day and began with a list of blessings.  It is a famous list. Most who are seeking blessings don’t seem to want to consider it in their search.  Matthew 5 has the complete list.

At the top of the list?  Those who are broken, helpless, and destitute in spiritual resources.  Knowing we bring nothing of our own, we are blessed.

The blessing of God is Himself.  Himself.

The blessing of God is Himself. Himself. Click To Tweet

Everything else is peripheral.  Anything more is simply icing on the cake.

He blesses in the waiting.  He blesses as we labor and as we pray.  He blesses as we walk in faith—painfully placing one foot in front of the other.

And, when He answers our prayers, the blessing is no more spectacular than when we walked with Him in the dark.

When He answers, the blessing is no more spectacular than when we walked with Him in the dark. Click To Tweet

I would be lying if I told you it’s not good to see the hint of dawn on the horizon.  But, in the dark I knew He was there.  

I basked in His presence in the dark.

The morning will be no different.

You see, God is good.

Always, He is good.

Bask.

 

Here sat Marilla Cuthbert, when she sat at all, slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously…
(from Anne of Green Gables ~ L.M. Montgomery ~ Canadian author ~ 1874-1942)

 

 

Thou art giving and forgiving, 
     ever blessing, ever blest, 
Well-spring of the joy of living, 
     ocean depth of happy rest! 
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, 
     all who live in love are thine; 
Teach us how to love each other, 
     lift us to the joy divine.
(from Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee ~ Henry Van Dyke ~ American author/poet ~ 1852-1933)

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.