Don’t Camp Out On It

Are you satisfied?

I’ve written the words before.  

The old Irish pastor had leaned over the pulpit in the little sanctuary—the same one in which the Lovely Lady and I had made promises to each other, years prior.  It seemed to me then that the old fellow was leaning right down into my face and directing the question solely to me.

Twenty years on, it still seems like that to me.

I had not only been married in that room, but I had carried my first-born child proudly in to sit with my friends there.  My second child followed a couple of years later.  I had sung with the choir, played the piano a time or two, and even preached when the opportunity arose.

Life was good.

This was as fine a place as any to settle.  I was satisfied.

Was.

Who did this old Irishman think he was, rocking my boat?  Because, that’s what he was doing.  As he spoke, a restlessness grew in me.  

It was high time I was moving on down the road!  High time.

I’m still not satisfied.  Not yet.

There is more along this road.  As long as the journey has been to this point, there is still a fair distance to go.

There is more along this road—still a fair distance to go. Click To Tweet

I can’t help but remember the lesson I learned the first time I played the piano at the Lovely Lady’s home in the days when we were dating.  Her Mom had been a piano teacher for many years.  I was to learn that it was an identity she couldn’t leave behind with her afternoon piano lessons.

I sat down to the beautiful Chickering grand piano in the living room as my future bride and mother-in-law labored in the kitchen before supper on that evening.  Glancing along the page of classical music before me, I decided it was worth taking the chance and began to play.

I had nothing to be ashamed of for the first few lines of the song, holding my own in picking out the melody and counter-melody.  I even did a fair job of reaching the bass notes along the way.  

Then, looking ahead, I saw a cluster of notes.

Uh-Oh!  I really didn’t like chords all that much.  I usually got a note or two wrong in them and it never came out quite right.  

My brain worked to comprehend the structure of the chord as I finished up the running notes leading up to it.

Miracle of miracles!  I hit every note right in the chord!  Every one.

It was beautiful!  Beautiful!

camp-1551078_640I reveled in the victory!  What a gorgeous chord!  Listen to that!  

Well?  Don’t camp out on it!  

The voice came from the kitchen.  Ever the teacher, the dear lady felt the need to encourage me along on my way, as she did with all her students who took longer than they should to move on.  

I wasn’t done yet.  There was still more music to be played.  A lot more.  For me to stop and revel in my accomplishment would actually diminish what was to come.

A friend shared a short quote this afternoon.  I read the words and felt that restlessness again—the same restlessness I felt twenty years ago when the old Irish preacher asked the question.  You may read the quote below for yourself.

I think perhaps the Apostle said it a little more accurately when he assured his readers that the One who had begun the work in them wouldn’t stop until it was completely finished.  (Philippians 1:6)

What is in the past, impressive as it may be, is simply prelude to the future.  If we stop and camp out to revel in the accomplishment, we may forget to move on and the song will never be completed.  

The Great Composer has a masterpiece for every one of us to make our way through.  Every chord and every note—loud or soft, pretty and resonant, or strident and bombastic—will sound before the end.

The journey is not complete.  It’s not time to set up camp.  

Not yet.

The journey is not complete. It's not time to set up camp. Not yet. Click To Tweet

The old preacher’s question still stands.

Well, are we?

 

 

 

You didn’t come this far to only come this far.
(Mike Foster ~ American author/teacher)

 

Be still my soul:  Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
(from Be Still My Soul ~ ca. 1752 ~ Katharina A. von Schlegel)

 

What’s past is prologue.
(from The Tempest ~ William Shakespeare ~ English poet ~ 1564-1616)

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Never Again a Stranger

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
While traveling through this world of woe.
Yet there’s no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright world to which I go.

Except, I’m not really.

A wayfaring person, that is.  Not in the sense that I actually travel long distances.

I see the questionnaire in the feed of my social media once in awhile.  I even took the test once.  It was embarrassing.  

The question asks, How many states have you visited?  

I’m not going to tell you the answer.  Let’s just say less than half of them.  I don’t have a deep-seated desire to travel.  I never really have.

I’m sure it says something about my personality.  I don’t really want to know.  Or possibly, I do.  

Maybe, I already know.

The song lyrics with which we opened this essay speak of traveling in this world, but they really look to the one to come.  And, the words used to describe the poet in the first line tell the story.  They tell it for me, anyway.

hiking-1312226_640A wayfaring stranger.

Were there ever two words juxtaposed to present such a bleak perspective?  It is not the picture of camaraderie, fellow travelers headed for a common destination. It is, however, a tableau of a lonely figure wandering along the highway, shoulders hunched and coat held tightly at the neck to block the icy fingers of the frigid winter’s chill. 

And, in that sad vision, I see myself clearly.  I don’t travel with ease, for new surroundings put me in strange circumstances, a stranger in a strange place.

I’m not apologizing.  I don’t even feel obliged to change.  

There’s a reason I often feel uncomfortable here:

I simply don’t fit in very well.

I’m not supposed to.

The Apostle for whom I am named suggested that we who follow Christ will never be at home here.  He, who historically was so bold as to claim citizenship in the Roman state even though he had never been in Rome, made an even bolder claim for us.

We are citizens of Heaven. (Philippians 3:20)

The poet called himself—and by association, each of us—a wayfaring stranger.  My friends who live in foreign countries have a different word.  Ex-pats, they fondly say, referring to themselves and folks who, like them, are not from the country they reside in physically.

Expatriates.  It comes from the Latin expatriare, meaning out of one’s native country.

The Apostle speaks of being surrounded by those who think only about life here on earth.  Somehow, they believe the journey all of us are on ends with death.  The result is a preoccupation with comfort here and now.  YOLO!  You only live once!

As if.  

Mr. Lewis suggests that,  unlike nature which is mortal, we are immortal and will live forever.  He is not wrong.

I cringe as I think about the number of times I have heard the YOLO phrase on the lips of others who claim to believe as I do, who say they follow the same Savior.

There are many who don’t seem like strangers here.  Blending in like natives, they indeed, act as if today is all there is to live for.  Certainly, they don’t seem like ex-pats, either to me or to the non-believers who surround us in this place.

But, I don’t speak for them.  I can’t see the heart of any man or woman, and certainly wouldn’t presume to know where their journey will lead them.

I only know I’m looking for the day when my journey is complete and I arrive at my true destination, my native country.  I don’t want to be an expatriate forever.

May I tell you a secret?  

This is one trip I’m enjoying.  Sure, I’m a stranger.  The road is not always comfortable.  Blazing hot days of struggling through the desert turn into the frozen blast as we scale the mountains between us and our destination.

There is pain and sorrow, there is loneliness and loss, along this road.

Ah, but the destination!

Like the Apostle and his citizenship in Rome, I have never been there.  I’m not bothered by that in the slightest.

You see,  I’m not a stranger there.

Home.  It is my home.

They know me there.

How about you?

 

 

 

 

What springs from earth dissolves to earth again, and heaven-born things fly to their native seat.
(Marcus Aurelius ~ Roman Emperor ~ 121-180)

 

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.  Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 ~ NASB)

 

 

 

 

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.