Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two negatives equal a positive


Sitting here listening to a new song from one of my favorite contemporary song writers, Nicole Nordeman, entitled Not to Us (from her new CD The Unmaking) To listen, click here. It references and embellishes another one of my favorites, Psalm 115, which begins…

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
…our God is in the heavens; He does whatever pleases Him.

It is rare for the psalmist to begin with a negative, much less a double negative.  Not to us…not to us, O Lord. Truth is not all the psalms come out of the gate with praise or thanks.  Some start with questioning, others appear to be rants, still others suggest that David (and other musicians responsible for these 150 poems) could be a bit of a whiner.  Imagine that…a whining artist!  And yet God allowed these musings to be penned and recorded for billions to use as tools for worship.

I think David was so convinced that we are never to be the subject or object of worship that he chose to emphasize what it is not.  It is not about us, though it is essentially for us, for our edification.  And it is certainly not to us, and David gives us the reason why.  “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.”  Period.  As one prof once told me, “Whatever God does is right, because He is God.  When I become God, I can challenge His wisdom for doing whatever He does.” 

Now it is no small thing that we believe, and scriptures clearly teach, that God is good, and mighty, slow to get angry, rich in mercy, etc.  But often we find ourselves in the midst of pain, suffering, or confusion, actually placing God on trial, demanding that He make it perfectly clear what exactly He is up to.  It’s often out of our pain or rebellion that we begin to question His character or motives.

David seems to conclude that the only things we need to know about concerning the worthiness of God are that He is love, and that He is absolutely trustworthy.  Since no one ever created or yet to be created will ever exhibit these two traits perfectly: contest is over.  And since He is God, He gets to make the “glory” call—who deserves it, who doesn’t. Consider a related passage from Isaiah 48:

I am the first and I am the last. 
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens; 
when I summon them, they all stand up together.
From now on I will tell you of new things, 
of hidden things unknown to you.

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; 
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
 I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.  
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.

Our God is a jealous, zealous God, remember?  He alone has earned the right to be the focus of any worship uttered by His creation.  In her rendition of Psalm 115, Nicole Nordeman reminds all Christians, but particularly those who lead worship, not to be tempted to hog the spotlight belonging only to our God.

Let us not imagine
that we might have a hand in
where the wind blows,
where grace goes.

Let not any passion
 be for kingdoms we have fashioned
in our own name,
for our own fame.

As we begin another season in the ministry of leading corporate worship, let us be reminded that we are called to bring glory to Christ through our music. Every picture frame has its place, but it is not in the center. Not to us, Lord; not to us but to Your name…  I told you two negatives equal a positive.

tad

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sweet!


If you’re like me, you love sweets.  One of the very first jokes I ever heard was about the guy who came home late from work, but handed his wife a box of chocolates.  “Sweets for the sweet,” he offered, and was promptly handed a bag of nuts. I thought it was funny anyway.  We usually reserve the word “sweets” for something we taste. But it also applies to other senses.  An early praise chorus, “I Love You, Lord” concluded with the phrase: “Take joy, my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound to Your ear.”

Want to hear something else that’s sweet? Try digesting this from John 8:36: “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”  Pretty sweet, huh?  Becoming a child of God releases us from every chain and form of bondage we can imagine. That process begins with re-learning who we are.  A relationship with Christ frees us to pursue our true identity and to shed the need to be conformed to others around us.  This goes for our personal life and our life as part of His body, the Church.  We all know how strong the world’s collective voices can be in defining success and value for us.  And even in the local church, we can often fall victim to a cloning process which attempts to make all Christians think, talk and act alike. 

For starters, consider our corporate worship experiences. Formally or informally, every local congregation determines what is appropriate and valuable when they come together. Certainly, some non-negotiables come into play here, when we use clear passages of scripture to hedge certain speech, conduct, and practices.  We don’t, for instance, find much value in barking like dogs, crowd surfing, or bringing one of our favorite pets to be sacrificed.  But to be honest, scripture is fairly non-specific in laying out what is and is not to be allowed in corporate worship.  Even so, that does not deter many from trying to institutionalize behaviors which are really nothing more than cultural preferences, or worse, simply the will of the most powerful influences in the local church.  Unfortunately, these are often presented as biblical mandates demanding universal acceptance. 

We hear phrases like, “we don’t do (allow) that in our church,” or “that’s what they do in such and such a church.” As a child, I learned this lesson first hand when I observed a worship posture which felt “foreign” to me and not widely practiced in my conservative Lutheran church.  It was really rather simple, and certainly within the bounds of scripture.  A highly respected man (actually one of my godparents and the choir director of our church) returned from communion (we came forward back then) and simply knelt by his pew to offer a whispered prayer of thanks.  Had our church had “kneelers” in front of the pews as do many other more formal churches, it probably would not have even caught my notice.  Since we did not have such devices, you can correctly deduce that we were never on our knees—at least not on Sunday morning. 

And yet here was Mr. Reinschmidt, kneeling right on the floor…and praying.  By himself.  I waited for the floor to part and for him to be swallowed up.  Surprisingly, he is still alive today!  It never even occurred to me that maybe he was just responding to a move of the Holy Spirit in that moment.  And if that had been the case, he simply would have been one of many in a long line throughout history who have felt the freedom to express with their bodies what was going on in their souls.

Later at lunch that day, I asked my dad (the pastor) what that was all about.  I’ll never forget his answer.  He shook his head and said simply, “O, that’s what Catholics do.”  And his body language was anything but positive.  When I pressed him about what he meant by that, he said ‘Lutherans try to avoid showy, even pharisaical postures.’ (Had that conversation happened today, it probably would have included the condemnation of other expressions, such as hand-clapping, hand-raising, shouting, whistling, even, God-forbid, dancing!)  Wow! Without even realizing it, I had received a cultural explanation for why our church dismissed (even criticized) a very valid, scriptural act of worship. 

My question is this: “Who determines these boundaries or limits we place on the work of the Holy Spirit, especially when we usually begin our services in Jesus’ name and invite the Spirit to work among us?”  Paul says in Galatians 5 that [since] Christ has set you free, make sure that you stay free and don’t get tied up again to the law (man’s rules and rituals). Obviously, this is not merely an issue with the contemporary church.

Consider this gem from the earliest local congregation.  Acts 3:8 records that a man who was lame from birth and spent his days outside the temple begging, responded to his miraculous healing by “walking, leaping and praising God, and then “went into the temple with them”(the disciples who prayed over him).  Are we to conclude that the celebration stopped the moment he went inside?  Well, if this incident were to have happened in 21st century America, it probably would depend on which church he went into. Paul exhorts us, however, to resist the cloning process in our local churches, to not quench the Spirit’s work among us, and reminds us: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

I find that most Christian churches are so far away from the “out of control” freedom of expression which they fear in public worship that it makes me suspicious the Deceiver is more at work in this than we think.  My suggestion:  let’s begin to encourage, even expect freedom of expression which can be orchestrated by the Holy Spirit in our public gatherings and see if we don’t experience more conversions, healings, power for daily living, and transformed churches. I bet the acts of worship that reach the heart of God are as diverse as His very creation. Now that’s sweet.  


tad

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Think about His love.

One of my favorite praise songs from yesteryear was entitled Think about His Love.  Written by Walt Harrah, it spoke of the pursuing, relentless love of God.  The part that always grabbed me was the final line of the chorus…great is the measure of our Father’s love.  It reflects one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament as well:  Lamentations 3:22, 23—

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The verse is intriguing, to say the least. Most of us cannot imagine why we would ever be in danger of being consumed.  We see the benevolence of God as almost a birthright, an entitlement.  That is because we often choose to only relate to one aspect of His nature—His kindness, His charity.  Jeremiah had come face to face with the holy fury of God as well and realized that apart from God’s compassion, we would all be toast—literally!

We know from the scriptures that God’s spirit can be grieved, so let’s assume our Father God experienced profound pain, grief and loss over the slaughter of His Son at the hands of sinful men.  This was, of course, despite the fact that He orchestrated it.  Isaiah 53 says; “Yet it was the Lord’s [Father’s] will to crush him [Jesus] and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the [Father] will prosper in his [Jesus’] hand.”  Jesus had to be a willing Isaac, but the Father had to be an equally willing Abraham, so to speak. 

I once passed a church during the season of Lent which had a crude, wooden cross near the curb with a sign below quoting Lamentations 1:12.  It read simply:  Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?   As I drove by, the words began to impact me immediately.  Why have I grown so casual about this symbol of God’s love for me?  What kind of sacrificial act was this? 

For a moment, my mind flashed back to the days of the Vietnam war.  Vivid in my memory were the images from TV reports showing fathers of slain soldiers as they watched protests and 
flag-burnings.  Think about it: even as they were burying their sons and daughters, who had been killed while trying to preserve those very freedoms, their children’s heroic acts were being despised.  I was aware that I knew little of this kind of love.  Soon after, I heard a story that helped me understand a little better.  I can’t prove that it really happened.  I only know it helped me get in touch with the measure of my Father’s love.

There once lived a man called “Big John” whose job it was to operate a mechanical drawbridge. Several times a day a train sped across this bridge carrying passengers safely across a deep and potentially deadly river.  Big John’s job was crucial, of course, as the slightest delay in lowering the bridge to accommodate the oncoming train could mean certain derailment, hurling the train and its occupants to their death.

On one particular sunny afternoon, Big John decided it would be a delight to bring his young son, Little John, to the jobsite and allow him the thrill of watching him work.  Sure enough, the boy could not contain his excitement witnessing his dad in action, lifting and pushing levers which engaged the mighty gears as they empowered the bridge to open and close at Pop’s command.  It was not difficult for Little John to realize that the fate of many lives lay in his father’s hands, and the lad was filled with pride.  Someday, perhaps, he could be so important.  Someday, he thought, people’s lives could depend on him.  How exciting it all was!

About noon that day Big John and the boy sat down to lunch and talked about the possibility of the Little John actually trying out the levers later that day.  As they talked, time seemed to slip away, and only the loud piercing whistle of the oncoming 1:05 train jarred Big John back to reality.  Realizing that the bridge remained in its UP position, he had only a matter of seconds to react to engage the gears, which could lower the tracks in time to greet the speeding train.  As he quickly maneuvered the levers, he assured himself that, in fact, there would be enough time to ready the bridge. 

Just then he heard Little John scream.  The boy had apparently lost his balance on the walkway above the gear mechanism, causing him to plunge headlong into the grinding, steel machine.  In a split second, the father torturously considered his alternatives: stop the whole process with a pull of a lever, thereby saving his son, while watching hundreds of innocent passengers plunge to their death--or allow the gears to continue engaging the bridge.  Big John knew the latter option would provide safe passage for the train’s occupants while at the same time tearing his hapless child into pieces. 

In his heart of hearts, he knew he had only one choice.  With tears streaming down his face accompanied by the loud cry of a man gone mad, he held his hand steady, watching as the bridge slowly came into perfect alignment just seconds before the roaring train zoomed by, its passengers casually unaware of the sacrifice just made on their behalf.  Some were sleeping, some played cards--others just gazed out the window as if nothing had happened.  John could not bring himself to look downward at what had become of his precious boy, but instead stared intently at the blank faces in front of him.  Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? 

Understandably, this story is not an attempt to accurately reflect the Christian gospel, on a number of fronts. Firstly, God the Father didn’t sacrifice His Son because He was forced into a real tight spot, as Isaiah 53 clearly teaches. “It was the Lord’s [Father’s] will to crush him [Jesus]”. Secondly, unlike the hapless boy in the story, the scriptures clearly teach that Jesus offered himself willingly, voluntarily. Thirdly, the people on the train were completely unaware of what was going on. They weren’t to blame for the accident, unlike you and me…and everyman. Isaiah continues, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” Still, this illustration reminds us that the Amighty One so loved us that at a point in time He allowed Himself to experience profound grief and loss as His beloved son was slaughtered for the sake of others.  Is there any debate? Great is the measure of our Father’s love.

tad

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I wouldn’t be caught dead…

You’ve certainly heard the phrase before.  Perhaps you’ve even used it in conversation.  I wouldn’t be caught dead…  In reality, unless the Lord comes first, each and every one of us will be caught dead doing something.  I had a college buddy who got a letter from his mom informing him that their church organist had literally died in the middle of the service that Sunday.  Fell on the organ.  Imagine the sound of that last chord.  Needless to say, it was not a joyful noise. 

As a retired pastor, my own grandfather, William Frederick Dommer, died instantly of a heart attack administering communion to a woman in a hospital. That’s the thing about death—no matter when it happens, there is always a where.

In these two cases, both men died doing what they loved to do. But this phrase, I wouldn’t be caught dead is usually heard in the context of some despicable job or life situation in which we could never imagine ourselves.  Years ago, I served a church in the Chicago area as a minister of music and full time teacher in their Christian school.  Once, while taking my eighth grade students on a field trip to a factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I actually made the unfortunate and arrogant statement that “I wouldn’t be caught dead” working on an assembly line doing something menial and boring like that.  Almost a year to the day later, I was standing in a paper mill, counting notebooks and packaging them for shipment…eight hours a day, six days a week. 

It followed a fateful decision to leave that church position in Chicago and embark on a consulting ministry with a pastor friend of mine.  Long story short, the free-lance ministry never gained traction, and I found myself jobless with a wife and three young kids in Appleton, Wisconsin.  The factory job was my last resort.  In fact, I wasn’t found dead in that paper mill, but for close to nine months I found myself slowly dying inside. 

How could I have so misheard God?  How could I have been so presumptuous as to leave one job without securing another?  How could I take such a risk with my wife and family involved?  And what good was I now to God, when all my education and training was for “ministry?”  I’m making no music.  I’m not teaching young minds the things of God.  I’m not leading people in worship.  And to add insult to injury, any attempt at rational Christian thought was drowned out by the noise of high-speed machinery and worse, the loud blaring rock music over the factory PA system. 

Among the many decadent and depressing lyrics to which I was subjected was a song repeated several times daily by the rock band Pink Floyd.  Into my already dwindling self-esteem rang out this mantra…           

We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave those kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave those kids alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

Well I was no longer a teacher, but that is exactly how I began to feel.  In the kingdom of God, I had become just another brick in the wall.  So I cried out to God, admitting my sense of worthlessness, repenting of squandered opportunities and wasting His time in this God-forsaken place. 

It was then that God spoke to me in a way I had not heard before and have treasured ever since.  It went something like this: Tim, your value to me is not in what you do…in how much ministry you accomplish.  Your value to me is simply that you are my son.  I pictured, for a moment, those words ringing over Jesus after His baptism…this is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.  At the beginning of…not the end of…His public ministry.  God’s pleasure in Jesus was rooted in relationship, not behavior.  If that were not the case, God could not be pleased with any of us.  As the Psalmist says in Psalm 130:  If you should [keep track of] iniquities, who could stand?  God’s introduction of Jesus to the world was not “TAH-DAH! Meet the Savior of the world!” but rather, “Here’s my Boy, in whom I am well pleased.”  The Father delighted in His Son—first and foremost—because He was His Son. 

We have been bought with a price, not with silver or gold, but with Jesus’ very own blood, to secure that relationship.  It was, after all, while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.  That’s how much we matter to Him.  Do you believe that on a deep level?  I know for me personally, it took me ending up in a place “I wouldn’t be caught dead” to really discover my true value to God.

tad

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hello Out There…


In the critically acclaimed and box office blockbuster movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks, a Fed Ex employee finds himself stranded alone on a deserted island after a plane crash. Covering a span of four years, his life is on display as the viewer watches his struggle against the elements, loneliness and depression.  As a tale of the triumph of the human spirit, the film is close to perfection in every way…save one.  Not once in the over two hour movie is there even a hint of Hanks character crying out to God or a deity of any kind.  Oh, he creates a friend out of a volleyball he names Wilson with whom he can have some sort of connection.  But as far as seeking divine help or communion…absolutely nothing. 

My first reaction to this notable absence was “how unreal!”  Does such a person exist, made in the image of God, who for four years—separated from every human connection—never once utters, “hello out there!  God, if you exist, can you hear me?” It can be argued that just because that exchange was not in the script does not mean it could not have happened.  It’s just that for a film depicting virtually every other human emotion and struggle, this omission seemed rather glaring…at least to me.

It brings to mind just how mysterious the very act of prayer is.  Think about it: we little creatures, little “bugs” on this planet, if you will, attempt a conversation with an unseen, untouchable Person or Power and often at times when we are most vulnerable.  What exactly is this thing called prayer anyway?

Google the word and you get soup to nuts. Among the entries: “a devout petition to god or an object of worship, spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying (i.e., The Lord’s Prayer), an earnest request or wish, a petition; entreaty, a negligible hope or chance (“tried hard, but didn’t have a prayer of getting that job”), or a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers.”    

Speaking personally, some of my earliest influences regarding prayer appeared in a variety of forms—a wall plaque here, a miracle there.  In our dining room, a small, insignificant wall hanging dangled precariously, displaying a simple message: “Prayer Changes Things.”  I couldn’t eat a bowl of Cheerios or down one of Mom’s store-bought fish-sticks without being reminded that life had a bigger purpose and that, unlike my chores and bedtimes, not everything had been pre-determined. 

Most of my childhood prayer life was of the ritualistic variety.  Meal prayers, nighttime prayers, church prayers—most everything was some memorized recitation topped off with the Uber-prayer, the Our Father.  That all changed when my mom announced one morning that God had answered her prayers and healed my brother Mark of deafness in one ear (the other one worked fine).  It was, as I recall, the first time I really began considering that prayer changes things.  What exactly it changes remains a subject of large debate. 

In the movie Shadowlands, for instance, based on the relationship of C. S. Lewis and his late-in-life love-of-his-life Joy Gresham, Lewis is portrayed as a man who prays a lot. When Joy discovers she has cancer, Lewis prays even more.  When her cancer goes into remission, Lewis’s pastor tells him, "God is answering your prayers." Lewis replies with fervor: "That's not why I pray--I pray because I can't help myself--the need flows out of me. It doesn't change God; it changes me."

In the case of my brother Mark, one of the results of my mom’s prayers was a dramatic change in his physical condition.  In observing Mom’s enthusiasm over this new discovery, I concluded that prayer had changed her as well.  Throughout the Bible, we are given examples of God’s activity and intervention in the lives of people as a direct result of their crying out to Him. 

In one of his most compelling treaties on prayers, Jesus encourages us to:

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7:7-11). 

The apostle James puts it in the negative form:

“You don’t have because you don’t ask God.  And when you [do] ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  (James 4:2,3)

Is prayer really all that important? After all, we in America are a sophisticated, an educated people.  We should be able to figure out life’s problems on our own, right? Consider this:

One of the most glaring omissions from the life and ministry of Jesus recorded in the gospels is a listing of any kind of resource library from which He drew all his amazing insights.  You and I will spend hours (literally years) of our life reading books, going to seminars, watching videos to glean a bit of wisdom in an effort to help us navigate this mysterious journey we call life.  Where did Jesus go?  To the word of the prophets and to His Father’s heart in prayer.  The result?  A singular life of unparalleled joy, purpose, and accomplishment.  In the history of the world there has been none like Him, nor will there ever be. Does prayer matter?  We might want to consult the expert.

tad

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Alive Again

For all of you who sit in cubicles, work out of your car, or slave over a hot stove day after day, enjoy this picturesque reminder that God’s handiwork is all around us to quicken our spirits within.  If time and funds allow, try to spend at least a day on a beach yet this summer and be reminded that even the seas declare the glory of God.  I wrote this little poem for my wife’s birthday a few years back, since she grew up in Florida and the coast never failed to awaken her awareness of the One who made her.  Enjoy!

The Beach
by Tim Dommer

At first sight of the blue horizon, 
the smell of the ocean’s salty breezes 
and the sounds of lapping waves 
as they caress the coast:
I am alive again.

Left behind are dreamless days; 
I walk along the contoured sand 
while gritty pathways ‘neath my feet 
remind me of my Father’s love. 
His thoughts toward me 
outnumber every grain. 
I am alive again.

Here it is that I’m a child— 
shoeless on this holy ground. 
I think that nowhere else on earth 
can make me long for heaven’s shores 
quite like this beautiful display. 
I am alive again.          
                                                                                     
Confronted by such evidence 
of my unique significance,
I join the symphony
of this vast sanctuary: 
“The seas have lifted up their voice…” 
I raise my hands in newborn wonder. 
I am alive again.  


tad



Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Power of a Moment

Have you ever wondered what you’re going to be when you grow up?  Whether you’re an adult or not, many of us struggle with this question throughout our life.  Part of it is this: as fallen creatures, made in the image of God, we intuitively know we are in process.  But also contributing to our restlessness is an awareness that even while time is marching on, we are prone to devalue or even waste it.  Christian songwriter Chris Rice expressed it this way:

What am I gonna be when I grow up?
How am I gonna make my mark in history?
And what are they gonna write about me when I’m gone?
These are the questions that shape the way I think about what matters
But I have no guarantee of my next heartbeat
And my world’s too big to make a name for myself
And what if no one wants to read about me when I’m gone?
Seems to me that right now’s the only moment that matters.

The chorus of this song, “The Power of a Moment,” went like this:                                                                                                                                                                
You know the number of my days
So come paint Your pictures on the canvas in my head
And come write Your wisdom on my heart
Teach me the power of a moment.

These words suggest that we don’t naturally default to placing a high value on time.  The One who has ordained the number of our days has to teach us to live in the moment.  Left to ourselves, we tend to live as if time will never run out.  Much like the makeup opportunities we have for everything from missed piano lessons to college entrance exams, we assume that we can always do just about anything later.

The prophet Isaiah warned: “Seek the Lord while He may found; call on Him while He is near.” The apostle Paul reiterates this in 2 Corinthians 6:2 “In the time of my favor, I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation.”  If none of us can really control how much time we have left, then what we can choose to do is make the most of what we have—namely, this moment!  Honestly, we don’t even have the rest of today, tomorrow, or next week guaranteed to us.  I think about a friend I had, in the earlier days of my ministry, who was picnicking with his wife and two young children, suffered an aneurism, and died before he hit the grass under the table.  My point is not to be maudlin or to scare you into action.  It’s to encourage you to maximize each moment God gives you.

Think back to your childhood.  For a moment, don’t reflect on periods of time (your first summer camp experience, your favorite Christmas, the year your parents split up, etc.).  Instead, let your mind lock in to certain specific moments that have really had an impact on you.  For many, if not all, of you, it might be the day you received Christ as your Savior and Lord.  Maybe it was the birth of your first child, or the day you left home.  For others, it could be a historic event, such as the day JFK or Martin Luther King were assassinated, or the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded before our very eyes. 

But what about those moments which seemingly came out of nowhere which not only impacted you but also really shaped who you are today or how you look at life?  I still remember my Aunt Millie cupping my face in her hands and telling me I had “smiling eyes.”  I think I was nine.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  And yet there was an even more powerful moment in my childhood which left an indelible print on my mind and heart.  It involved my mother and me.  It was not planned.  It was not pretty.  But it was profound. 

Our family of eight lived in a small parsonage (preacher’s home owned by the church) in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  The smallest room in the house, other than the one bathroom, was the kitchen.  It was separated from the dining room by a swinging door.  On one special occasion when we were preparing to have company for dinner, I was helping set the table (don’t think too highly of this action—I’m sure it was conscripted service).  I remember being in a bit of a hurry, and as I rushed into the kitchen for more tableware, I swung the door into my mother, who was standing on the other side holding a bowl of beans.  Like I said, it was not pretty.  Nor was her reaction.  She screamed at me, and I, being the young stud that I was, ran screaming up the stairs to my bedroom.  Soon after, I was summoned back to the kitchen to my mom’s waiting arms for a big hug and an apology for her tirade.  She admitted that it was obvious I was only trying to help.

In truth, I believe that moment was so powerful mainly because her physical gesture of approval was so rare. She had a very difficult time expressing those kinds of tender emotions, having grown up in the home of an abusive, alcoholic father.   And yet in a moment, she decided to swallow her pride and dial into my pain.  In a moment, she modeled the need for even big people to admit their faults to little people.  And she chose to kneel down, make a physical connection, and reassure me of her love, even when time was running out before our guests arrived. 

Are moments powerful? Chris concludes his song with these words:

I get so distracted by my bigger schemes
Show me the importance of the simple things
Like a word, a seed, a thorn, a nail
And a cup of cold water.

Who in your sphere of influence needs an encouraging word from you today?  Who needs a cup of cold water?  Who needs to hear that thorns and nails were endured on their behalf by a loving Savior?  Look around.  Don’t miss…better yet, take full advantage of the power of a moment.            

                                                                                                                                                                                                tad