Thursday, November 07, 2013

Speak to one another

What a blessed week this is! Last Sunday afternoon we drove over to Rotselaar (near Leuven, Belgium) to sing with the church there. We are getting together with them every month or so. Last night we had our monthly singing in Maastricht and sang with our brothers and sisters from LiĆ©ge again. This coming Sunday we will go to the church in Brussels again to sing with them – a collection of the English-speaking and French-speaking brothers and sisters who meet there. And we did this last month as well!
Have you ever noticed? Perhaps I have mentioned it before. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 tell us something about singing. These are two places where we are clearly given a command to do something for one another. It is something that everyone should do, that the group is to do. They are among the ‘one another’ passages. Singing is where we speak to one another, teach one another, admonish one another, and, in harmony, praise and worship our God who is the reason for our harmony and life together. Everyone in the body can and is commanded, if you will, to do this.
I know that not everyone can sing well. That is part of why we are visiting these congregations – to help them in their singing and offer times to sing together that they usually would not organize. God presents this place – song – the only place where emotion and word meet. There is no other way to combine and communicate what we feel with what we think so clearly. We put emotion to words. We speak of our heart, from our heart even with our heart, but with words! And God has not only created this, he has commanded us to use it, knowing how valuable it is. Wow!
So we sing. We practice songs we know and learn new songs. We take time to look at the words and the melodies and talk about why they are written that way. We learn about dynamics and tempo and meter (a little bit) so that we understand this wonderful language God has given us to speak to one another. But mostly, we sing.
This is not a post about church politics, or maybe it is. I want to encourage everyone I can to join in this wonderful blessing and command that God has given us. It is at this siging that we are family. It is here that we share our hurts and joys. Last night we sang for Josette, your sister who passed away. You don’t know her and I had only recently met her, but we will see her soon and sing with her. Our singing now is not perfect, or great, or often even melodious. But it is where we can place all of our emotion in our words, together, as one body coming before the throne.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

Friday, November 01, 2013

For a time

Just a few hours ago, 24 years ago, I joined the ranks of those who have been blessed with this privilege of time and responsibility doused in love. I became a father. This small – no sorry, ‘small’ doesn’t define what I felt at the moment I first held him: he was tiny for a human being as far as I was concerned, fragile, wonderful, amazing.
And this baby was placed in my hands. Literally of course, at that moment. The nurse picked the baby up and placed him in my hands. Actually he fit in one hand, with his cheek on my palm, his legs dangling from my elbow. I didn’t hold him like that the first time. I doubt the nurse would have allowed it and I certainly didn’t know it was possible. At that moment I was afraid I might break him. But in that moment I first started to grasp this privilege – and I was immensely thankful. 
We can look back now on the hours, days, weeks, months, years that have flown by and marvel at how these boys have grown. Our two sons are both basically out of the house. Stephan, who just turned 24, is married and living in Ohio. Sean, who recently turned 20, is mostly only home on the weekends while studying in Brussels through the week. The time flew by. Everyone told us it would, but it did! And it is such an important time.
I realized that first moment 24 years ago what an immense gift this is, although I did not grasp all of the implications at that time – I don’t know that I have grasped them all even now. To be granted to care for this person for a time, to help them grow, to show them what it is to live – this is a privilege. We did not ‘make’ them. They are not ‘ours’ – even though we say that because that is how our language notes that the children are in our care. We have been blessed with this short time to influence and be influenced by this precious life.
We don’t ever really know how long we will have. We always think that we most certainly have until the great-grandchildren are gathered around our deathbed to hear our last wonderful words of wisdom passed on in our last breath. And we do have some continued influence even after ‘our’ children have left home. But the time we are given to be parents is precious. And short. And wonderful.
God has chosen us as parents and has placed this child in our hands where we wonder at his size and how wonderfully he is made. And then we begin to realize the reality of what this means – we are to care for him, teach him all that is good, not break him, let him become the wonderful person God has made him. As our boys grew we were periodically reminded of this wonder, this responsibility, this blessing. I am so thankful that they were placed in our hands – for a time.