Pencils

May 14, 2014

Okay, so apparently I’m struggling with a little… uh… “writers apprehension.” No, not “writers block…” there are plenty of thoughts (wholesome and otherwise) in the old noggin… I just don’t feel like writing them down… know what I mean? I can’t figure out why there are times when I do not and will not do what I know is best for me. I find that writing these little ditties every week is therapeutic and yet… Sort of like exercise or eating right… both of them make me feel better but…

Every month I go to the local nursing home and do a little church service. Lynn Jamison accompanies me and plays the piano and generally talks to the folks who attend that I’m not so good at communicating with. Anyway below is basically what I shared with them today.

I began by telling them a story from my Jr. High days. One of my best friends and I were “fastballing” a pencil at each other across the woodshop class. It was Jr. High… we didn’t think about what might happen. Plus, fun trumps responsibility and maturity. Anyway on one occasion I fired the pencil at my friend and a “non-friend” strolled in the way… bulls eye! I hit him right in the side of his fat head! Did I mention he was a “non-friend?” I can picture him now running to the shop teacher with the pencil dangling from his skull: “Bill Little and _________ were throwing a pencil and they hit me.” (See why he was a “non-friend”?) Well the shop teacher had few options. He told us our fate and began to search for his paddle. Yes, this was back in that day. After turning the shop upside down to no avail he disappeared into the scrap room and returned hence forth with a four foot long piece of 1×4 inch lumber. He went to the band saw and expertly cut a handle. Then it was off to the sander to take off all the rough edges. I can’t tell you it was very pleasant standing there watching the construction of the instrument of my demise. It wasn’t much longer before we were out in the hallway receiving the obligatory 3 swats. I have heard from other folks of my generation and it seems that different schools had varying customs… the routine at Pine-Richland in that day was 3 whacks. Did it hurt? YES! Was it a deterrent? That’s a more difficult question. Did I like getting paddled? Nope, not on any of the dozen or so occasions that I got the lumber did I think it was worth whatever I had done. But when one is immature… well deterrents are complicated. I think deterrents require some sort of mature/rational thought… neither of those are strong suites for Jr. High boys.

Well I hope I’m a little more mature these days… however if my “non friend” was walking past I might still want to bury a pencil in his cranium… whoops, did I just say that?

Here’s the question I then asked of the seniors at the nursing home… How do we gauge maturity in the faith? No doubt we have all sorts of thoughts and traditions that are used to answer that question… i.e. how often do you attend church, do you attend a regular Bible study, do you read your Bible every day, do you pray regularly, have you been a church goer for a long time, do you speak often of your faith to others, are you “born again”, do you speak against anything and everything that doesn’t fit into your perception of the faith… I’m sure this list could go on and on.   Well here’s what I said to the folks today.

First I read to them from Psalm 13:

Psalm 13

A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Then I told them that this is a lament Psalm… one of the almost 2/5 of the Psalms in the Psalter. We then looked briefly at the first 4 verses. Notice that the author is going through something difficult in their lives and they wonder where God is?!?! They are so down they are at the point of death… And still… no God. They challenge God and get right in His face… 3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

And then the weirdest thing happens. Even in the midst of their devastation and inability to see or sense God… they say this:

5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Friends, that doesn’t make any sense… at least to the world it doesn’t. When we are in the midst of deep distress… we don’t know where God is… and we begin to wonder if He will ever make Himself evident… in that place we say that we will trust in his love and sing praises to Him because He has been good…

The short of it is this… that is Christian maturity: The ability to worship God and call him Lord when we can’t see or feel Him or make any sense out of what He has done. This is not the place we begin when we are hoping to introduce folks to our God… but it is the place that we as believers need to grow into. Here’s hoping and praying that we all move in that direction.

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