Tell me the Story

In moments when I least expect it, clarity arrives.

I sat, with others around me, in a service the other day and noticed the lady at the keyboard. I know her. She was my neighbor for upwards of fifteen years. I have heard her sing. I have heard her play.

All I expected was to enjoy the music—possibly to reflect on some lyrics. It would be nice.

Nice isn’t what happened.

I hope you won’t mind. I think we call it epiphany. With a small “e”.

An arrival. A light, small but bright, blazed as my friend sang the old familiar hymn. I have never thought of it before. Never.

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sung the words. But, in her simple gift of song, the words shone with a clarity I’ve not known any other time.

The writer of the letter written to the Hebrews describes it as the fulfillment of a promise made long before. In your hearts, He will place His commandments, and on your minds they will be written indelibly. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

Is a little of that light shining through yet? Maybe, it’s just me.

Every word. Written on my heart.

Every word. Written on my heart. Click To Tweet

I am moved. Overwhelmed, even. But, the light shines on past the initial reaction and I start to wonder.

Is it just for me that He has written on my heart and in my mind?

You indulged me when I wanted to call it an epiphany. Will you indulge me a bit further?

I know the heart mentioned in the Book isn’t the physical, beating organ, but it is the center of our very being—the existence of which we cannot function without. If the physical heart circulates the life blood our brain and entire body must have for life, surely the symbolic heart we describe must circulate the very essence of who we are.

If we follow Christ, He is the essence of our being. Circulating through our veins.

So, I ask again: Is it only for my benefit that He lives within my being?

It is for my benefit. To that, there can be no argument. But, what of those around me? Those who have sin—and loss—and, in the end, death—written on their hearts?

He has put eternity in our hearts!  How could we keep that quiet?

The Apostle—my namesake—lays out the process.  How shall they call on Him unless they believe?  How will they believe unless they hear?  How could they possibly hear if we don’t tell them? (Romans 10:14)

He is the foundation, the Rock at the center of our existence!  How could we hide it?

How could we not tell the story?  How could we not ourselves write the words which have been written in our heart?  Or, speak them?  Or, sing them?

Every word, every action declares who (and whose) we are.

Well, well.  An epiphany in the season of Epiphany.  A small light as we acknowledge the Light of the World.

The Word who was born in a stable, in reality came to be inked on our hearts.  And, He invites us to share His story by sharing our own.

The Word.  Written on our hearts.

To be written on the hearts of others.

Time to tell the story. 

Again.


There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
(Maya Angelou ~ American Poet ~ 1928-2014)

If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.

If I told you my story
You would hear Victory over the enemy.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Freedom that was won for me.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life overcome the grave.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.
(Music Publishing LLC, Open Hands Music (SESAC) (All rights on behalf of itself and Open Hands Music adm. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
Writers: Mike Weaver / Jason Ingram

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Climb It

Is that it?  I expected more.

There have been any number of nights over the last couple of weeks when I’ve sat and wondered.  Surely, I missed something.

I have written every Christmas season for the last few years about the Candlelight Service at the local university.  I’ve been privileged to play my horn in the brass prelude for the beautiful service several decades now.

A few years ago, I said the evening never fails to overwhelm, to lay my heart open before the Creator of the universe.  I never expected less.

I think it was less this year.

Oh, it wasn’t the fault of any of the performers or of the conductor.  The performances were wonderful.  Skillful even.  Well-prepared and talented, there was no fault to be found with any of the participants.

Still,  the big moment never came.  Three nights, I did my part and returned to my seat to listen to the end. 

It was nice.  Christmas-y.

But, there were no tears.  No ecstasy.  No wow! moments.

I did notice that, without it being planned, the first song—and the last—from the stage each night were the same song.  It wasn’t all that wonderful—just odd.

Go Tell It On The Mountain.

Our brass group played it to start the evening—a nice catchy version of the old spiritual.  It was fun.

The main choir sang a version of the song to finish their stage performance, upbeat and catchy as well.  It was fun.

I wasn’t moved by either version.  Not this year.

I’ve spent the year trudging along.  Manual labor and too many steps—every day. 

Somehow, after all the aching muscles and sore feet, I was looking forward to the euphoria of being carried away.  Kind of like a Calgon moment, if you know what I mean.

I did have the same thought in my head as I left each night.  I wondered if there was a reason the music on stage started and ended with the instructions to go and tell it on some mountain.  

I’ve said it at Christmas before:  There are no accidents.

Sometimes, I have to have things pounded into my thick skull.  I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, you know.

I packed up my horn the last night of the program and headed out into the cold to walk the few blocks home.  I was disappointed.

Nothing.  There were no visions, no spine-tingling solos, no ancient conductors who reminded me of the original Conductor.  Just a catchy version of an old spiritual.  A kid’s song, if you will.

It got worse.  I walked home in the cold and had the defining thought for the whole affair.  I even had Siri write a note for me on my phone as I walked.

To tell it on the mountain, one has to first climb the mountain.

Well.  There’s a bit of encouragement.  I’m getting old.  I’m already tired.  And, now I’ve got to climb another mountain.  And, probably another one after that.

Hmmm.  Does it seem as if I’m complaining?  It does, doesn’t it?  Perhaps, I am.

I’ve thought about this for awhile and I want a chance to defend myself.  I want to excuse my churlishness, my complaining.

Haven’t I done enough?

Somehow though, I’m remembering that He climbed a mountain or two in His time on earth.  Walking absolutely everywhere He went, He carried the good news, the gospel, to all who needed to hear—and experience—it for themselves.

He climbed the mountain in Samaria to sit by Jacob’s well and give living water to the woman there.  (John 4:4-26)

He sat on the mount and pronounced blessings to those who would listen to and heed His words.  From that mountain, He gave them, in essence, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5-7)

He went one day with a few of his followers to the top of another mountain and somehow met with a couple of men from history.  (Mark 9:2-8)

And then, there was that day He plodded, bloodied and beaten, to the top of the hill where He would die for the sins of the whole world.  (John 19:17-18)

This was a mountain He had been climbing since before the beginning of time.  From the foundation of the earth, He was ordained to climb to the top of that hill and be raised high above it.

It is the mountain He was born to climb.

This Baby we celebrate, with all our pageants and all our concerts—all our lights and all our decorations, was born to climb that mountain and declare good news.  To all people.

I suppose I might be able to climb another hill or two.

I don’t know how beautiful my feet are, but the prophet Isaiah suggested they would be by the time the task is completed.

To tell it on the mountain, one has to first climb the mountain.

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He did.  The Baby, born in a stable.  The Man, carrying living water.  The Lamb, taking away the sins of the world. 

He did.

Time for me to start climbing again.

You coming with?

 

 

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
    the news that the God of Israel reigns!
(Isaiah 52:7 ~ 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.)

 

Down in a lowly stable 
the humble Christ was born, 
and God sent us salvation 
that blessed Christmas morn.

Go, tell it on the mountain, 
over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain 
that Jesus Christ is born.
(Go Tell It On The Mountain ~ American spiritual ~ adapted by John W Work ~ Educator and historian)

 

 

 

 

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