You’ll Be – Listening?

image1

My Dad, Rev. George Whitman

Growing up as a preacher’s kid in a small country church that was surrounded on all sides by dairy farms, I suppose it was rather unusual to have vivid memories of a radio broadcast, “Echoes of Faith,” being recorded from our Sunday evening services (choir, special music and all), but that was exactly what took place. My Dad delivered an evangelistic message every week. We even had a small orchestra, led by my Mom. During the week, she would faithfully listen at home while preparing school lunches and rounding us up for breakfast. The messages have long since receded into my long term memory bank, although I suspect they are living out their truths in my life. However, I can still hear the choir’s opening hymn:

Encamped along the hills of light, ye Christian soldiers, rise!
And press the battle ere the night shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below shall all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world!
– John H. Yates, Faith is the Victory

I have to tell you – we had some pretty good musicians in that little congregation! They loved the Lord and you could hear it in their singing, which my Dad often explained was the spiritual thermometer of the church.  But even more remarkable to me was that humble, unassuming servant of God, whose main objectives in life were to bring as many souls to heaven with him as he could, and to train and equip the next generation to go out and do the same. And I can still hear him signing off each week with,

“This is Pastor George Whitman speaking. Until next time, you’ll be – listening?”

He was never famous, although his children can hardly go anywhere in the world without running into someone who knew him or sat under his ministry that extended well past his 53 years of pastoring churches. His early childhood and upbringing were very simple and ordinary: raised on a farm in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, a mischievous lad who walked with his sisters to a one-room schoolhouse. His family was so poor he had to sell homegrown popcorn to buy his first bicycle. He even brought a cow along with him to his first week of Bible camp – you know, to pay his way by providing milk for the campers that week! Wouldn’t our health inspectors have a cow over that?

What was it that compelled such an ordinary young man to go out and accomplish such extraordinary things? What was it that inspired a young farm boy to set his sights on eternity, planting seeds throughout his life that would bear fruit in the Kingdom of God? It was the soft prompting of the Holy Spirit calling him out and leading him on to do great things — things that most likely seemed ordinary and mundane to him as they played out in his daily life.

“There’s no sense in going further — it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it — broke my land and sowed my crop –
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges –
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!
. . . Anybody might have found it, but his whisper came to me!”
– Rudyard Kipling, The Explorer (1898)

And his whisper came to me, too. I shall never forget it and I cannot quit. I must forge ahead even though I most often feel undeserving – inept, inadequate and incapable. I know that when he calls and where he leads, he will provide and he will keep. I am reminded that as long as you and I have breath, there is work for us to do.  It may not look glamorous to us and at times may seem far too difficult and costly to complete. But “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus,” and we must allow the Lord to accomplish his creative and redemptive purpose in our lives.

We are continually retreating behind our limitations and saying, “Thus far and no farther can I go.”  God is ever laying His hand upon us and thrusting us out into the open, saying, “You can be more than you are; you must be more than you are.”  
– Lettie B. Cowman, Springs in the Valley

So my friends, as we begin yet another year by the grace and mercy of God, let me remind you that the Lord is still seeking open minds, tender hearts and willing spirits to do His work in this world while there is time.  Our Heavenly Father is speaking.

Until he calls us home, you’ll be – listening?
Advertisements

Ribbons of Goodness

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17

I love Christmas – the joy and festivity in the air, the lights, the music and friendly smiles. I love the way people can go out of their way to be cordial and neighborly, extending kind gestures in ways that are often unexpected, giving gifts that, whether they recognize it or not, point back to the birth of a baby boy over 2,000 years ago. A baby boy whose advent had been predicted and anticipated for hundreds of years and yet, whose sudden appearance in an obscure place seemed to take everyone by surprise.

cmas2God’s people had been waiting and longingcmas2 for his arrival but they were expecting more of a conquering king; a political savior and religious leader who would play by the rules. Mary and Joseph held their firstborn son, not in the comfort of their home with adoring family and friends, but huddled in a cold and lowly stable they shared with some animals and a few shepherds who had just received a celestial invitation. Not exactly what the young couple might have expected, but far beyond their wildest dreams. The heavens erupted in praise. The angels looked on in wonder.  The shepherds knelt in reverence as the tiny Prince of Heaven locked eyes with his earthly parents, and Mary and Joseph rejoiced.

I love to watch the pure excitement on children’s faces as they gather around the tree. My younger grandchildren can hardly contain themselves. In fact, they have forced me to become more creative with the gift wrapping because the little urchins will gang up on me and somehow figure out who got what, thus spoiling the surprise. I have been known to employ riddles, numbering systems, color coding and themed gift wrap to help preserve the suspense and while they’ve never met a gift they didn’t like, they are naturally drawn to the biggest, brightest and most colorful packages, mesmerized by the possibilities contained therein.

Although I wouldn’t accuse my Heavenly Father of resorting to such trickery,  I realize how very childlike I have been in my expectations and yes, demands. For I desired only the gifts that looked like blessings to me – the brightly wrapped presents that everyone else would admire and crave. The exciting and noteworthy things that would announce to the world that I somehow deserved the goodness that had come my way.

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God; not only by unbelief, but by thinking that you know what he can do.  Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'” – Andrew Murray

I blush at my youthful dream of becoming a songwriter. I knew that God had gifted me. Surely the songs would flow effortlessly and pain-free from my pen and paper to the ears of eager listeners who would anticipate with enthusiasm each new offering. I was naive in expecting that my songs would be recognized and sought after, that I would be “discovered.”  Well, they weren’t, but I was – discovered, that is, by a God who could see through all my delusions and superficial requests. He knew exactly who I would become, where I needed to be, and how he would get me there.  With utmost patience, he continued to surprise me with a lifetime of unexpected gifts.  Some actually looked like blessings and I shared them with excitement, while others came wrapped in heartache and I stared at them in disbelief from a lonely, impoverished place, not understanding until much later that all were tied with ribbons of goodness and given in the fullness of time to carry out his perfect plan.

So this Christmas, whether you are rejoicing over the many good things the Lord has bestowed upon you or struggling under the weight of an unexpected circumstance too difficult to carry, remember – they are all good in the Father’s gift-giving plan.  Take a moment to look for those ribbons of goodness and let his sweet presence fill your heart with comfort and joy.  Though born of humble means, these gifts can lead your soul to greatness.

“…and I thank you, Lord, that when everything’s put in place,
 out in front I can see your face and it’s there you belong!” – Dan Burgess

Have a blessed Christmas!

Becki