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Just A Thought or Two: The Unexpected Gift

The Unexpected Gift

Has a little moment ever impacted your world in big ways?

The Wilderness

When you live as a teenager in a far-off corner of Alaska (long before the advent of the internet and satellite radio), your cultural connections to the rest of the world are rather tenuous. Arriving in Nome, Alaska, in the early 60’s, we discovered that the town had only one radio station that played nothing but indifferent gospel music and things like Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. The “TV station” was a shack where they would play whatever films of old sitcoms would arrive on the daily flight from Anchorage. Until the TV transmitter died.

The Gift

GE+StereoChristmas morning arrived, and I, as a 7th grader, unwrapped a bulky gift. Inside was a small GE stereo (portable turntable and detachable speakers) made out of ugly, green plastic. Along with the small stereo was a membership in the Capitol Record Club. In addition to the membership, my parents had taken the liberty of ordering my first five LP’s. Among those were “The Beach Boys: Live in Concert” and “Meet the Beatles.” I carefully cut open the plastic that covered the LP album covers and put the records on the turntable, and my life has never been the same.

Early on I fell in love with the music of artists like Nat King Cole, Vivaldi, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Dusty Springfield, the Dave Clark Five, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Van Morrison, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Santana and others. Later there would be discoveries like James Taylor, Vince Gill, Phil Collins, Puccini, U2, Alabama Shakes, Leonard Bridges and Adele. And, all along the way, there were The Beatles.

George Martin & the Beatles

George Martin, the genius who produced the music of the Beatles for so long, died this week. I never thought much about George Martin, but through the music of the Beatles and their stunning output over a decade, he gave me a great gift. A man I never knew and a small plastic stereo given to me one Christmas morning by my parents changed my life. Music of nearly every variety brings me deep joy on a daily basis.

All of this made me think about how God can use little moments to impact our lives in big ways.

Grace Music

A week ago, our Bible study group attended a showing of the film “Risen,” a very well done retelling of the resurrection story.  It explores the perspective of a Roman officer asked by Pontius Pilate to investigate the wild speculation about the disappearance of a crucified Nazarene’s body. The officer’s investigation leads him, eventually, to the band of 11 disciples. Conversations happen. There are moments. He is puzzled. Then, he finds himself in a house listening to the very same Carpenter he had seen die on the cross.

risen_poster_300A series of small moments change his life forever. Near the end of the film he takes off his ring, which signifies his identity as a Roman officer, and walks off to live a new kind of life.

I’ve never been able to tell the “big moments” from the “small moments” before they happened. One Sunday morning, I happened to listen to a sermon, given by a rather odd man, and something clicked inside my soul. One day a friend invited me to go to Institute (senior high church camp) with his youth group from Fort Wayne Good Shepherd UMC, and that casual invitation changed my life.

You never know, do you? And the “small moments” you have with others may not be as small as you think.

Little Moments Can Be Big Moments

Saturday afternoon, in Aurora, Illinois, I will lead a celebration of the life of Elva Balluff. Elva was a tall Canadian with a stunning soprano voice. Her family happened to be in Alaska at the same time as mine, and we all became good friends. Elva, in a small town that was amazingly tough (and often ugly), was a source of grace. I remember her laugh. I remember the night at Christmas when she sang “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” in a drafty United Methodist Church. It was a little moment that lingered, that continues to fill me with hope and grace, and I never saw it coming.

After the celebration of her life, I’ll turn the car south and come home, eager to preach on Sunday morning, eager to talk with you about the moment when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus (John 12:1-11). It was a little moment that people continue to talk about two thousand years later.

Never underestimate the small moments of your life.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be

-Lennon & McCartney (EMI Music Publishing)

Thanks, George.

Thanks, Elva.

Thanks, Mary.

Grace,
Mark

First Methodist