Thursday, April 9, 2020

Essential Workers

• By Tony Harriman"

Ye are the salt of the earth ... Ye are the light of the World ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."  Matthew 5:13, 14, 16.

You hear that term bandied about a lot right now: "Essential Workers."  What exactly does that mean -- essential? Well, very basically, it means you can't do without it.  Right now, around the world, great numbers of people are dying for lack of oxygen.  Oxygen is essential for the life of the human being; just as, with few exceptions, a fish out of water will not survive for long.  Right now front line healthcare workers, striving to provide that oxygen, are essential in the fight for life.

I'm sure we'll agree, "essential" is a relative term.  A soldier is essential for the safety of most modern nations.  A gas station is essential to keep the world moving.  A hotel is essential for the business person who needs a place to stay while away from home.  But couldn't we also agree that those things are only essential as they, and many others, are there only to help maintain the world as it is?

A handful of church congregations across the USA have defied the order to temporarily cease holding public services, stating that it's their constitutional right to congregate and that God will protect them (Heaven forbid the people should discover that their church's input was not so essential after all, and that the people should learn to live without a priest offering their petitions to the Throne of God).  The majority of churches have joined the internet ranks and have taken to streaming services online -- nothing really new about that.  I have three daughters, each of whom is no stranger to streaming their church services.  Personally I would prefer they enjoy the fellowship of a church congregation, but I suppose it could be argued that even God streams to us His services, albeit living streams.  But that's another conversation.

If a person could consider him or herself a soldier in the army of Heaven, or as a shepherd stationed to keep the sheep safe, then yes, under the present spiritual reality, that person is essential.

But you say, "If I were not here, the work would go on without me.  I'm not essential to the Gospel progress."  Perhaps, but for sure, without your input the work would go on differently.  Your single presence among the many thousands aboard one of these enormous cruise liners might not seem to make much of an impact; but make no mistake, as you lean against the rail at the side of the ship, you actually cause just enough of a list that the helm must make a very slight -- even minute -- adjustment.  Your presence and efforts, or lack thereof, make a difference.

There's coming a time when those kinds of efforts will not be needed, but that time is not yet.  Right now you are a Necessary Element, an Important Contributor, a Key Factor in the spreading of light around you and beyond.

And we have not been left alone to wander through life guided by the lights from the sparks of our own making.  We have a Companion who, though He be beside the Throne of God, He also be by our side, always, causing the wind to blow where it lists, unafraid of the waves the wind causes in this dark and dreary world.  "What manner of Man is this ...?" they asked when the tempest ceased.

If you've ever watched parasailors at the beach or lakeside, you will have witnessed a beautiful object lesson in the use of air currents, or wind.  The wind is blowing all around, yet only those parasailors with the right equipment are caught aloft.  And once aloft, all the parasailor has to do is tilt the wings to guide him or herself through the air.  Beach- and lake-goers all around are feeling the same breeze, but are unable to rise with it.  We are invited to spread our spiritual wings, catch the breeze, flee the nest, and do great things for our Lord and Master.

YOU are a spreader of salt.
YOU are a light bearer
YOU are an alabaster box.
YOU are causing the ship to list.

YOU are an Essential Worker.

And that's just my take on it ....

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

"Do Something!"

• By Tony Harriman

In the wake of yet another random act of gun violence in the USA, a town hall meeting was recently held somewhere in Iowa.  The finer details are unimportant, but in a nutshell, a local official was leading out, trying to make some kind of sense of the shooting, or maybe just trying to keep the people calm.  The people were not angry. Voices were not raised. But from somewhere in the hall a demand went up:

"Do something!"

Quickly, more people joined the chorus of desperate voices. At the time my first thought was, "Do what?"  "What exactly do you want the man to do?"

And there's the problem; the problem is the problem, and we all want something done about the problem.  Our problem is, we are better at pointing out that there's a problem than we are at offering solutions.  Perhaps this is the human condition; we know something is broken in the world, we can feel it, from the moment we wake till the moment we sleep.  But we can't quite put our finger on exactly what the problem is.  And that's the reason we have such a hard time finding solutions -- we can't quite focus on the problem.

Recently, during the service of one of the churches my family and I visit, we were treated to a beautiful song by the choir.  I love a chorus of singing voices, and this offering was especially delightful on the ear. I was moved. A part of my soul that delights to be set free was fully abroad that day.  I don't know much at all about the math of music, but my ears have a lifelong degree in all tones bright and beautiful. As I listened, my mind drifted. I wondered about music in Heaven -- the Heavenly choir.  I wondered if tones and frequencies, now hidden from human ears, might one day be included in music and enjoyed by immortal men and women, or whatever form we'll be in. And I wondered how that might sound.

Occasionally our thoughts are elevated to consider life in a better place, a better existence, better minds. And as I sat there listening to the choir, I wondered if there could ever come a time when, during my mortal existence, I might actually enjoy that Heavenly peace that passes understanding, and become a more useful person in the hands of Heaven.  Those of you who know me a little know nothing about the concerns I carry around. You know nothing about my childhood or what things were like at home.  Like you, I have fears, doubts, aspirations, things that disturb me, things that make me angry, things that make me weep. You also know nothing about my wishes, those things I would like to make happen, or how much I would pay some of these holy healers to walk through the children's ward and cure all the children.

There I was in the pew, and those words, with no effort on my part, tapped themselves out on my mental keyboard, the one reserved for my conversations with Heaven:

"Do something!"

The thought that followed was immediate, almost like an answer:

"What?"  "What do you want me to do?"  

"Fix me.  Make me a better person. I have far too many broken pieces. My mind is stuck with the junk of earth, while my heart yearns for something better."

A sigh is a curious thing, expressed in grief and joy alike.  We sigh as a result of loss, and as a result of love. Much like tears of joy and of pain, sighs are self-existing, not only in the human heart, but also in the hearts of those creatures we call pets.  It is perhaps because of the capacity to sigh in pain and in contentment with their keepers, that dogs and cats are high on our emotional comfort animal list. I imagine Jesus as being a Person well acquainted with sighing, on so many levels. He has peace beyond understanding, but I'm sure He also experiences disappointment -- for now, anyway.

Is there anything worse than feeling helpless?  Helpless to heal a broken heart; a broken bone; Helpless as a child lies dying; and helpless to stop foolish people doing stupid things.

There's no earthly cure for foolishness; never has been.  Although, in a bizarre twist, a side effect of foolishness is that it helps to clean up the gene pool. Unfortunately, foolishness is no respecter of collateral damage, and so we end up losing a lot of innocent people as foolishness goes out to play.  Would we be happier if fools would keep to their own kind? Hurt only their own? Keep to a well insulated corner of the planet? Probably not. Many of us are fools in our own right, and seem unable to leave foolish-enough alone.  And a part of us wants to help Heaven deliver those who are stuck in Foolville by no choice of their own. After all, Jesus came not for the sane, but for the fool; not to leave us as fools, but to wipe away the insanity and install software that will never wear out, break down or get old. Born again; eternal life; new hardware and software.  The ultimate "Do Something!" And the only something that will last.

We can't help but feel sympathy for the heart behind the voice in the Town Hall.  Foolishness and evil rear their ugly heads every day; we see it on the evening news, in the daily paper, and through our favorite online news sources.  Eventually evil arrives at our own front door, and we quickly join the chorus of voices seeking change. But nothing gets better; nothing worthwhile, anyway. Broken human beings are unable to fix broken human beings. And sometimes it seems the only thing that becomes more skilled and refined is evil itself. 

Try as we might, human beings are unable to put Humpty back together again. The only hope we have is found in Revelation 21:5 -- "Behold, I make all things new." We look for a new Heaven and a new Earth, one where, once again, God will declare: "This is very good!" And it will stay that way, never to be broken again -- ever.

The call, "Do something," really translates down to, "Stop evil people doing evil things!"  In this Town Hall case it's to take all the guns away so that evil people won't use them to do evil. But you can't stop evil just by removing opportunities to do evil; evil itself has to be removed, otherwise it just finds another outlet.  We won't stop punishing lawbreakers, or stop putting up lights and cameras. Punishment is a deterrent, not a cure. But it's a necessary deterrent; without it there would be much more mockery and blatant ungodly behavior. Broken human beings cannot cure evil; only God can do that. We have to recognize that we are powerless to stop this runaway train.  The train will eventually, by God's good grace, run out of track; and that's the time God will make all "ALL" things new. No more evil, no more sin, no more sickness. The "Something" will have been done to put an end to evil. Thank God.

And that's just my take on it ....

The Story of Redemption - Narrated by Tony Harriman

Steps to Christ - Audiobook

Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing - Audiobook

Christ's Object Lessons - Audiobook

Up a Tree with Christina Bee - Audiobook

Leave the Thorns Alone - Music CD