Friday, February 21, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 11

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by John Mueller
Proverbs 1:7-9 (KJV)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

As we go through our somewhat autobiographical series, a number of things came together recently that reminded me of the irony in life.  And much of that irony is summed up in those verses.

Relating to life, dictionary.com defines irony as “an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.”.  The last several weeks have been a series of ironies

If you read my previous posts, you’ll recall my mentioning that I spent a number of years doing my own thing, to put it mildly.  That was my first reminder of the irony of those verses.  My behavior wasn’t from a lack of good counsel from my parents, it was very much my playing the fool, despising wisdom and instruction.  And you’d think that’s where the irony would end.

I attended broadcasting school and took (and passed) the test to obtain a first class radiotelephone license.  I worked for a number of stations in New York State and New Jersey.  There were women, a growing amount of alcohol, but nothing of God.  As you'd expect with that set of priorities, I drank myself out of the business and out of some very nice relationships.

I tried changing locale, jobs, etc.  I finally ended up back in New Jersey, completing college with a degree in business.  But before college, there was a period when I took care of my mother, who was dying of cancer.  The drinking had slowed, but not that much.  And, after college,  I ended up with some very nice jobs, paying very well.  Which allowed me to indulge myself with women and alcohol, but little of God.  You can see what's coming.  As the drinking increased, again.  And the time working for any given company grew shorter, with decreasing pay levels.

At the last radio station I worked for, I had a jazz show that was very popular.  Along with the music I had interviews with well known musicians and singers, including Stan Kenton, Arthur Prysock, and others.  Most were prerecorded by me, but some were live on the air.  There was one night that Hank Jones and Hal Lieberman came to the station to promote their album and the High school band clinic they were doing.  I would interview them in between playing tracks from their album.  And something else happened.

When we met, Hank seemed to notice my lack of any real spiritual life.  And he asked me straight out, if he could talk to me about God.  And, in my great spiritual wisdom, I said he could, as long as he didn't mention Jesus.  He agreed to that.  He never once mentioned the name Jesus.  But, every time the music was on, Hank was telling me how much God loved me.  If you've ever had a similar experience with him, Hank had a variety of ways of telling people about God's love, so that he wasn't boringly repeating the same thing over and over.  And his point got through.  Maybe partly because you sensed his love in what he was sharing and the realization that love was beyond human capacity.  Enough that, today, thinking about it reminds me of Ephesians 2:4-5 (KJV), "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)".  I was a tough case, but God, through Hank Jones, was able to open a door that never closed.  

Though I didn't take the complete step of faith that night, there were some strong seeds planted.  And God never let me forget that little nun who loved Jesus.  Between the two, it was a losing battle trying to avoid God.  But I fought that battle, anyway.  Through all my missteps, there was a connection to God that I couldn't sever.  Oh, I tried.  But God wasn't letting go.  The same fool who ran from wisdom and ran from God was so loved by God that He kept putting people in front of me who would demonstrate God’s love so much that it couldn’t be ignored.

Hank Jones was a pivot upon which God was going to turn my life around.  Whether in the spiritual realm or not, I think we've had those moments where a person, a statement, a thought would change the direction of our lives forever.  Maybe not immediately.  But there would be a realization that grows into something much bigger, much more important.  That moment when coal starts to become useful, Or that moment when the pressures transform coal into a diamond.

Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)  God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

I don't usually like that translation of the Bible.  But, in this verse, it speaks a spiritual truth better than the ones I usually use.  God never forces us into unity with Him.  He allows us to get there by choice, using the gift of free will that He gave us.  That translation of Ephesians 3:20 describes it well.  Even if God isn't yet taking residence within us (because we haven't yet made the right choice), He's tugging at our heart, giving us more and more ammunition to choose rightly.  And He's patient enough to give us our entire lives to make the right decision.  The Spirit continually speaking to our spirit.

Next time, we're going to get to where this ride we call life gets really interesting and fun.  Things start falling in place.  And I change in ways that I would never have expected.  If you haven't had that kind of experience, consider what the possibilities can be.  And, especially, consider what could happen with that much love flooding your life.  If you've never made that choice, I'm going to suggest reading the Gospel of John all the way through.  Take your time and meditate on the verses that speak to you.  Ask God to use that to make Himself real to you.  If you've already accepted the gift of salvation, but your life seems to be stuck in a rut, I'll suggest the same thing.

It's not Hell.  It's not how good we need to be.  It's not how bad we can be.  It's having a relationship with God that makes all the difference.  And His love for us.  Have you connected with that reality, today?

Deuteronomy 30:19 (KJV)  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 


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