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.

Why?

She sits and stabs the needle through the material, first down and out of sight, then right back up beside the spot it disappeared.  For hours, she does this.

Intricacy.  Detail.  Painstaking industry.  All are parts of what go into the task—the unmitigated drudgery—that is counted cross stitch.

For a few moments tonight, we discussed philosophy.  The Lovely Lady doesn’t discuss philosophy—or politics.  But tonight, I trapped her.  For just a moment or two, I had her talking about why.

It’s a big subject—Why.

I’ve been reading a two-hundred-year-old book.  What I mean is, the author penned the words two hundred years ago.  The actual volume in my hand is only one century old.

Washington Irving, he of Rip Van Winkle fame, suggests in his Sketch Book (ca. 1819) that writing books is a futile endeavor.  The sacrifice of a lifetime for authors, only to slide the fruit of their labors onto an “inch of dusty shelf…and in another age be lost even to remembrance.”

His words started the why bother wheels into motion for me.  What is the use of writing?  Why would I ever want to publish a book, much less a single essay?

With those heavy thoughts running rampant in my head, I baited the Lovely Lady.  She is a fan of mine—perhaps the only one—and has been gently nudging me toward publishing a book of my material.

“I’m rethinking this book idea.”

She listened to my words with disbelief.  Then, for a few moments, she did what she doesn’t do; she discussed philosophy with me—the philosophy of useless deeds.

It didn’t take long.  After a little give and take, she looked down at her lap and, shaking her handwork in my direction, finished the discussion.

“Why do you think I do this?  Some things you do simply for the joy of doing them.  If writing doesn’t give you joy, then stop.”

With that, she went back to the tiny stitches again, the needle moving like clockwork, first one way and then the other.

The red-headed lady has a point.  But, there is more to it, isn’t there?

I think about the can of worms she has just opened.  She sits for hour after hour of what should be her leisure time, and she turns thread and cloth into art.  Sometimes, she uses a different needle and turns yarn into blankets—or shawls—or scarves.

Hours, she invests into each item.

She gives them away.  Every single one.

Suddenly, in my memory, I am standing in a large plot of plowed dirt watching an old man with a hoe.  He is making a small furrow in the dark, damp soil.  Reaching into a pocket, he pulls out some tiny black particles, dropping them into the furrow before pulling the dirt right back over them.  Tamping them down a little, he smiles and nods as he reaches the end of the row.

2014-04-21 08.44.08Hours, the old man spent in that garden.  My father-in-law loved the garden.  I guess I should say he loved working in the garden.  It was true of him even as a little boy.

He loved thinking about working in the garden.  In the middle of the winter, he was poring through seed catalogs, scheming about how he could change the layout next year to include this certain green bean, or that special cabbage type.

As I let the thoughts float in my head, memory mixed with present realities, a truth comes to mind—one I have never considered.

The old man and the Lovely Lady love the same thing.  They love planting seeds.  Their joy is not in the crop (though they desire that it become reality), but simply in the promise of the seed.

Sowers.  That’s what they are.  I suppose the bad pun of suggesting the lady is a sew-er would be inexcusable, so we’ll just stick with sower, shall we?

Well, one might say, the old man certainly is that, but how is it true of the Lovely Lady?

It’s easy to see.  She spends her hours in preparing the blankets, the scarves, the shawls, and then she buries them in the ground.  Well, not literally, but certainly figuratively.  She gives them away and her part in their journey is done.  What happens next depends on the recipient.

The joy of the sower is in the anticipation.  Anticipation of growth, of longevity, of usefulness.  He or she is not responsible to ensure these happen, but simply to give them an opportunity.

And with that, I realize that our Creator, benevolent Provider we know Him to be, puts in our hands the things He wishes us to sow.

Music, art, communication, mechanical ability, wealth—all of these and more, He invites us to sow.  

We sow, not for the harvest we will reap, but simply for the joy of doing what He has made us to do.  

He tells us to work industriously at whatever we put our hand to—not for our own reward or to reap the harvest for ourselves, but in His name and for His glory. (Colossians 3:17)

I can’t skip over the hard truths, along with the pleasant ones, though.  The seeds don’t always take root.  They often meet misfortunes along the way.

It is hard not to take it personally when that happens.  

When you see an item over which you labored long hours selling in a garage sale for a few cents, it’s easy to lose heart.  I’ve stood with the Lovely Lady in flea markets, as she sadly fingers the work of others, now languishing in a strange place, awaiting some stranger who will see the beauty and appreciate the love that went into its creation.

I wonder; do you suppose the One who sows His love and grace in our hearts, stands and weeps as He sees how far astray we’ve gone?  It is what we are wont to do with His gifts, devaluing them and disregarding the Giver.

Still, He plants and cultivates—and sows again.  

I will be a sower.  It is my calling.

It is our calling.

It’s a difficult undertaking.  We want the compensation.  We want the glory.  We want the fame.

He calls us to sing songs that never make the top lists—or any list at all.  He calls us to invest in others with no chance of a profit for ourselves.  He calls us to cook meals that others will eat—and perhaps complain about.

He calls us to write books that will sit on the shelf awaiting that one person who will open the aging tome and be changed forever—even if it doesn’t happen until we’ve been gone a year, or a hundred years.

He calls us to give cups of cool water—even if we’re the ones who are thirsty.

The joy is in doing what He has put in our hands and hearts to do.  

The beauty is in giving the gift.  

The reward is in obedience.

Seeds are made to be planted.

It’s time to work in the garden.

.

 

 

My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.
(2 Corinthians 9:6 ~ NET)

 

Such is the amount of this boasted immortality.  A mere temporary rumor, a local sound; like the tone of that bell which has tolled among these towers, filling the ear for a moment, lingering transiently in echo, and then passing away like a thing that was not!
(from The Sketch Book ~ Washington Irving ~ American author ~ 1783-1859) 

 

 

 

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