Well it’s time for another addition to This Old Guitar. Long past time actually.
Song for a Father, written thirty-six years ago in 1978, originally began out of my own thoughts and concerns about the decline of fatherhood in our country. At the time, I was a member of a small Christian worship band and we elected to take my basic structure of an incomplete song and work it into a tribute to one of our pastors who had “fathered” many of us in the Lord. This version is just me and my “old” guitar recorded on my computer at home about ten years ago.
Once again, a long gap between postings in This Old Guitar.
Serenade, written in 1977, is a song of worship to the Lord. It is short, sweet, and to the point.
Oh Lord, how good, and how wonderful
To be sitting in your presence
And enjoying You
Let me serenade You
For You Lord are my King
Let me serenade You
Your praises I will sing, Hallelujah!
It came in one of those quiet moments, sitting in God’s presence, enjoying His fellowship.
This is not the best rendition of the song. Back in the late 1970’s I was part of a small Christian band called Family. Serenade is one of my songs that made it into in our repertoire, along a few others that I will be sharing.
I still have several reel-to-reel tapes of our many songs—almost all original—and about twenty five years ago I transferred the best of them to a cassette tape. I also still have the cassette tape … somewhere. Serenade is on that tape and one day I will find it and convert all of the songs to the MP3 format. Of course by then, the MP3 will have probably gone the way of the reel-to-reel tape.
What follows is a republication from a post on my old At Home Thinking blog. It was originally published on April 10, 2006.
I have been thinking about how our personal understanding and knowledge of God comes together. It seems that it mostly arrives in a haphazard fashion. Generally, we do not take a systematic approach to learning about Him. And oftentimes our understanding is incorrect. A friend of mine recently acknowledged that 20% of his theology is likely incorrect. He’s just not sure which 20%.
G.K. Chesterton was one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century, and one not trumpeted nearly enough. It is said that his work, The Everlasting Man, played a role in the conversion of a young C. S. Lewis. His work Orthodoxy is lauded as one of the great religious classics. And there are many other noteworthy works that flowed from his pen.
Chesterton once observed that our walk through life is much like stumbling upon a shipwreck. Strewn about in front of us, in chaos and disarray, are both worthless debris and precious treasures. Hidden somewhere in the mess is a story. Examining the pieces one by one, we can find a small amount of meaning. But when the pieces are re-assembled, reconstructing the essence of the original and revealing the whole, we begin to see the plan and the purpose that existed from the inception.
Our life in Christ is much like this, with understanding coming to us in tiny bits and pieces. It is up to us, with the aid of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, to assemble the many seemingly disconnected parts, and begin to reconstruct them into a cohesive whole. When we do, we experience the proverbial “aha” each time a little more of God’s purpose and plan come more clearly into focus.
Who among us would attempt to build a house without a set of plans? Who among us would begin ordering materials for a construction project without a detailed list of the items needed? Only the most foolhardy. And yet many of us live out our Christian lives just this way.
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 NIV
In this passage, Luke lauds the Bereans. He associates their pursuit of Scriptural purity with noble character. They did not blindly accept the words of Paul, but rather poured over the Holy Scriptures to determine if Paul’s teachings were based in the truth. The Bereans set the standard for all Christians who have followed. They believed the Holy Scriptures to be the authoritative Word of God, the filter through which all ideas are to be sifted.
As God’s children, we need to become critical thinkers, learning to sift through ideas, comparing them to the truths of Scripture, and finalizing our own, firm set of convictions. If we are extremely fortunate, life in Christ becomes a series of revelations, epiphanies, and quickenings of understanding. But if we are inattentive, self-centered, and unenergetic in our pursuit of God, we may end up at the end of our days with the components of our lives like Chesterton’s proverbial shipwreck—still strewn about.
To learn more about G.K. Chesterton, visit The American Chesterton Society.
Or visit G.K. Chesterton’s Works on the Web to read Chesterton’s writings.
Yesterday we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Code named Operation Overlord, the successful Allied effort to establish a beachhead on the shores of France, this monumental day was the first step in the long slog toward taking Berlin in our quest to defeat Nazi Germany.
This critical moment in world history involved not only the American soldiers who stormed ashore at beaches named Utah and Omaha, but also the brave American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne who jumped out of perfectly good airplanes under enemy fire in the still dark early morning hours of June 6, 1944. And we must not forget the valiant efforts of hundreds of thousands of other, everyday Americans who supported these brave warriors behind the scenes in a myriad of ways.
In this worldwide conflagration, we did not stand alone. Our most loyal ally, Great Britain, had been fighting this war for several years before we Americans fully entered the fray. My purpose here is not to discount the efforts of the British, the Canadian, the Australian or any other allied warrior who spent their blood, their toil, their sweat and their tears. My purpose here, as an American, is to tap this inspiring story of millions of Americans who gave themselves willingly to defend liberty. My hope is that I might inspire today’s generations of Americans. For we too are called, in our own way, to stand and fight for freedom.
The American heroes and heroines of the WWII generation entered the story. We can take a lesson from them.
Today, we early 21st Century Americans likewise fight for liberty. Yet ours is a war of a different kind. I write not of the War on Terror, the conflict in Afghanistan, or our recent engagement in Iraq. These are real wars against real flesh and blood enemies who seek our demise and destruction. They want to fill our hearts and minds with terror. But my focus here today is not on this ruthless enemy.
The conflict of which I speak, the struggle in which we find ourselves engaged today, is the defense of our own lives against the treacheries coming out of our own, out-of-control national government. All three branches have become detached from the core principles of our nation’s founding, often ignoring our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. And what may be even more threatening is the massive bureaucracy in Washington which now moves unchecked into every nook and cranny of our lives, telling us what to drive, what kinds of light bulbs we must buy, and now, even what we should eat.
Underneath this fearsome foe of big government lays a seedbed of co-conspirators in our primary and secondary schools, our colleges and universities, and in our entertainment industry and news media, who wish for us to stop thinking on our own. And many of us have.
Meanwhile, most of our church pulpits remain silent about this war of worldviews going on right under our noses. Ours is a war fought on the battleground of ideas, where worldviews collide, where hearts and minds are the contended-for ground. Should we not be contending for this ground? We attend our Sunday services, read and study our Bibles, enjoy our morning devotionals, and then send our children off to the university-mills, which with factory-like clockwork, regularly crank out mind-numbed, brainwashed products. Fortunately, not all are as weak and unprepared for the assault on their souls as are most. Some survive to join us, the protagonists in this story. The vast majority are simply taken out of the story altogether, reduced to mere outside, unengaged observers of the story, but not participants in it. And some are won over and become warriors, now standing against us as fresh, newly recruited antagonists in the story.
Although we do not yet face the same fears of shed blood, loss of limbs, or even loss of life as did our ancestors and those who fight on foreign fields today, we yet contend for the same American liberty. Yet sadly, unlike those in the days of our parents and grandparents, Americans of our generation slumber. Awash in things, we are numbed by our possessions and our pleasures. As our country is systematically subdued, and our founding principles are methodically undermined by twisted, malevolent ideologues, we go about our everyday routines, either oblivious or unconcerned.
Yet underneath it all, there exists in many of the slumbering, a hidden, yet to be quickened, yearning for meaning, for purpose. I recently viewed a short, but well produced video that I found to be quite poignant. It is about a young man’s discovery of life’s meaning beyond the emptiness of his own “selfie” generation. Please take a few minutes to watch.
“I was concerned with having something. They were concerned with giving something.” Douglas Gautrad
Consider now this simple invitation. Like this young man, take some time to reflect on those in your own personal history. Perhaps you have a family member or a friend of a family member from another generation who spent their life pursuing an heroic purpose. Perhaps you have a hero from history from which you draw inspiration. Perhaps you have decided that you simply want to begin living for something bigger than yourself.
Ponder. Reflect. Consider.
How might you “enter the story?”
Please read below before you listen to these songs!
As I noted in my very first This Old Guitar post (March 29, 2013), I received my first guitar on my 14th birthday in 1965. Within a couple of years I began writing songs. I also noted in that same post that I have catalogued 138 songs born of my own creativity or developed in collaboration with friends and family members.
I am posting only a selection of these 138 songs, in part because some of them are not really worthy of public display, and perhaps more importantly, because many of my tunes have not yet been recorded. Going through my song file folder I just now counted 42 recorded songs. That leaves 96 songs of mine, still unrecorded. A number of these unrecorded tunes are, in my humble opinion, among my best works.
In today’s installment, I am providing two short songs. The first song is a mere sixty-four seconds in length, the second just a bit longer at eighty-eight seconds. Neither song is among my best, and for that I apologize. However, I have posted them both because they emerge from an era of my life that might be counted among some of my best years.
Although I began playing guitar in the fall of 1965, it was not until the spring of 1968 that I began my walk with Christ. I was thus wed to music for 2-1/2 years before I became betrothed to my Savior. And it did not take long for my music to become focused on my Lord. In the summer of 1969 I first began to sing publicly in praise of my Savior, and to play some of my own works. By the early 1970’s I was regularly leading worship in small groups. By the mid-1970’s I was a church worship leader. And by 1984, one of my songs was published by Integrity Music. That song will soon be published in This Old Guitar No. 14. During that stretch I wrote or co-wrote a number of worship songs. Unfortunately, just a handful of them will be posted on This Old Guitar because only a few have been recorded. The two posted today, unquestionably among the weakest, are published only because they are recorded. I wish I had a some better examples from that period to share with you.
The Way Up is the Way Down, crafted in 1975, is actually song no. 40 on my list of 138. And It’s So Easy to Worship the Lord falls in at number 43. So, number 11 (and 12) are really numbers 40 and 43. These two, sadly, are the poorest representation of my song-writing capabilities that I will be publishing on This Old Guitar. But I share them here because, as I noted above, they are among the few recordings I have from that significant stage of my song-writing life.
Don’t judge me!
Way back in 1986, nearly thirty years ago, I began reading a series of stories about the early American frontier. These stories captivated my imagination in such a significant way that I have yet been able to shake myself loose from their grip.
The first book I read, Follow the River by James Alexander Thom, is classified as a novel. In fact all of the books I am going to list in this brief blog post are technically classified as novels. Nevertheless, they are heavily researched novels, researched to such a depth that they are extremely close, or as close as humanly possible, to the real history of events.
Follow the River tells the true story of Mary Draper Ingles’ capture, captivity and escape from the Shawnee Indians. Twenty-three, married and pregnant, Ingles’ family home was raided on July 30, 1755, and she and her sister-in-law were kidnapped and carried away from their homes in Virginia’s New River Valley not far from the present-day Virginia Tech campus. After several months of captivity in Central Ohio (my home state, which fact only added to my interest in the story), Ingles bravely escaped and trekked 800 miles through the wilderness, moving in a southeasterly direction and following upstream the rivers that her captors had led her down several months earlier. She found her home again and was reunited with her husband. This brave, determined woman not only survived but lived to the ripe old age of 83. A dramatic, inspiring, true and powerful story.
Now captivated by the storytelling magic of James Alexander Thom, I picked up another of his novels titled From Sea to Shining Sea. This marvelous story recounts the lives of several sons of Virginians John and Ann Rogers Clark. The two most well known are Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark and his younger brother, William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. At the time I was reading this story, I was working in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, just one county north of the historic Clark family home in Caroline County, Virginia. Thus, once again, I found myself held captive by local geography.
I had never heard of George Rogers Clark. But wouldn’t you know it—and much to my great pleasure—Thom had also penned his story in another novel titled Long Knife. The term Long Knife is the label the Indians who hunted in Kentucky gave to the frontiersmen who crossed the Appalachian range and began to settle in their hunting grounds. When we read and study the Revolutionary War, we seem to focus on events along the eastern seaboard—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah and of course, Yorktown. But while all of this commotion was going on in America’s colonies struggling for freedom, other battles were being waged in the west. Rogers, visionary leader that he was, almost single-handedly defeated the British Army west of the Appalachians. The story of his march on Vincennes is stunning in its stark nature of commitment and war. It is a story for the ages which few have heard. And I will soon be posting that story here. You will not wish to miss it.
There are other novels I read during that period of my life and they shall, for now, remain unnamed. All that is except for one, the one pictured above, The Frontiersmen, by Allan W. Eckert. I have left this novel for last because, without question, it is my favorite. It is perhaps my favorite novel of all times. The novel spans the life of its main character, Simon Kenton (1755-1836).
Born in present-day Fauquier County, on the western side of Bull Run Mountain, not far from The Plains, a small town in northeastern Fauquier, not far from my present-day home, Kenton became one of the primary leaders on the Kentucky and later Ohio frontiers. He fought the Shawnee, and served many times as a scout for both British and later American armies. A Shawnee captive, he escaped death more than once and became a legend to the Shawnee people to the point where they feared to kill him. He served under the aforementioned George Rogers Clark, he knew both Tecumseh, the legendary Shawnee Indian leader, and Daniel Boone. I remain captivated by Kenton’s story especially, and the others named above to a lesser degree.
I grew up in Ohio, first along the Ohio River where much of the story of the early American frontier took place. I have walked the same Kentucky shoreline as Mary Draper Ingles and later, James Alexander Thom, who followed her path in preparation for his novel. I have boated on the mighty Ohio as did Simon Kenton, though I confess I was not on the lookout for the Shawnee. As a youth I dug for and found Indian arrowheads in my own backyard and in the woods behind our house—arrowheads no doubt shot from the bows of the Shawnee, the Miami and the perhaps other tribes of the Southeastern Ohio region. Later I moved north, to Cleveland on Lake Erie, where brave sailors waged naval battles in the War of 1812. I moved to Virginia in 1971 and adopted this Commonwealth as my home. I have since traced my own, personal family history from Ohio, through Kentucky and North Carolina, and eventually to the early days of Virginia from whence my ancestors came, back to the early decades of the 1600’s, and even into Loudoun, Stafford and Albemarle Counties. I feel a deep connection to both Virginia and Ohio, and to the people who settled these lands. And that is why I find these stories so compelling, even after nearly thirty years.
It has been 282 days since I last posted a song to This Old Guitar. Way way way too long. For those following who have not forgotten, I have been slowly (in this case very slowly) posting songs that I have written, or participated in writing, throughout the years. My father and I began writing this tune, True Love, in 1971. We finally finished fifteen years later, in 1986, two years before he passed away (miss you Dad). Another seventeen years passed and I found myself at my cousin’s house in Gainesville, Florida. It was there, in his in-home studio, that this recording was quickly slapped together. Don’t expect anything too serious. My dad, after all, didn’t much care for exceptionally probing conversation. One my favorite lines of his was, “Aww … we’re not gonna talk about any “deep crap” are we?” So expect for a smile or two to cross your face as you listen to this sorrowful ballad of love lost.
My pastor, Jeff Ling, is preaching through the book of Luke. On Sunday, April 6th, Jeff began to open up and explore Luke chapter six. He was only able to get through the first two verses. But when early on in his message, Jeff proffered the word “boundaries,” my ears perked up and my cognitive wheels began to spin. I was also simultaneously reminded of a conversation I had last week with my boss. I will get to that conversation in a moment, but first, let’s look at Luke six, verses one and two, from the English Standard Version (ESV):
“On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
Jeff reminded us that historically, the Sabbath day has been reserved for rest. The Sabbath, to the Jews, is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. We Christians take our rest day on Sunday, the first day of the week, or resurrection day. We set it aside not only for rest, but also to acknowledge God’s mercies displayed in Christ, and to worship and glorify Him.
The word “rest” in Hebrew, as Jeff explained, is shabath שאבאט which literally means “cease.”
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2 ESV
Literally, God ceased His creation work after six days. Another way of looking at this passage is to say that God set a self-imposed “boundary” for Himself. “I will work for only six days. I will cease working on the seventh day.”
Boundaries can be found everywhere in our world. A door for example represents a simple and universally-understood boundary, while a door with a lock and a key represents a more serious boundary. A fence represents a boundary. And a fence with a gate represents a boundary that is meant to be crossed under certain conditions.
After God created mankind, he laid out certain boundaries for the first man and woman:
"…’You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2: 16b-17 ESV
And when that boundary was breached, God set up another boundary.
“ … therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24b-24 ESV
Jeff read to us a few verses from Job, chapter 38, which tell us a great deal about God’s boundary-making ways:
“’Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Job 38:8-11 ESV
We also learn from the book of Acts that God created the boundaries around the nations:
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place …” Acts 17: 26 ESV
I have provided but four examples of likely thousands of places in Scripture where boundaries can be found. For example, God’s Ten Commandments are certainly boundaries – not physical boundaries, but moral boundaries.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ time, with their pharisaical laws, created unnecessary boundaries – actually man-made add-ons to God’s laws. Theirs were burdensome and excessive boundaries, nearly crushing the Jews of their day, and that is why Jesus challenged them often.
But, I am drifting over into Jeff’s sermon now, and he is so much better at this than I.
So … on to my short story about the conversation I had with my boss last week. And for time’s sake, I won’t set the stage, I will just say that in the course of a conversation with another person in my office, I blurted out these words:
“It isn’t the government’s job to take care of the poor.”
Well, he heard this statement of mine and interjected from his office.
“Mark!? You don’t believe it’s the government’s job to take care of the poor?”
“No sir, I do not.”
After a few minutes of lively discussion, we mutually agreed to disagree.
Boundaries? Yes. A boundary has been crossed. It was actually crossed a while ago. Today, our civil government is now taking care of, not only the perpetually, multi-generational poor, but just about anyone who asks.
In February of 2012, I published a series of three short articles titled: The Government We Deserve. Here they are. Check them out and as you read, think about the theme of boundaries breached: