The Cricket in the Bushes

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On a Columbo TV show the other day, a car drove by in a night scene. The camera was in the edge of the woods so we (the viewers) were, in effect, standing in the bushes as we watched. The car was too far away to hear the motor, but you could hear one of the cast members making noises in the bushes. The sound of a cricket’s chirps rang out, trying to convince the viewers they really were outside at night.

I’m sure he wasn’t listed in the credits, but he was probably the main cricket cast member for Columbo. Anytime there was a nighttime chirping part to fill, I imagine the sound effects editor pulled out the “cricket #1” tape and over-dubbed it on the soundtrack. Perfection every time. Never had to do a re-take.

I wondered if this cricket was featured in other soundtracks. Had I heard him before but didn’t         recognize him? Maybe he was a mega-star among crickets, and recordings of his chirp were shared among the studios and his “voice” heard in hundreds of shows and movies. Or was he even an international star – you wouldn’t need subtitles for that, because they all seem to speak the same in any language. (Actually, not speaking, of course, but rubbing their wings together.)

I don’t know the answer to the cricket’s stardom status. It’s likely he’s just another “extra” that remains unknown. Like the extras I point out to my wife, Sharon, now and then. I’ll pause the TV, rewind a bit, start it again and excitedly say “See me? See me? There I am, over the star’s left shoulder!” as someone walks through the background of the scene. Only him (or her) and their family has a clue who they really are.

I once read extras are there to enhance the ambience (the mood or character) of the scene – to make it more enjoyable. Most of us are extras in the sense we remain unknown to most folks. We may be heard and not seen, like the cricket, or seen and not heard like the person in the background of the TV scene. Now and then, we may be seen and heard for a few minutes as we pass through. And, in all those moments of  being extras, our job is to enhance the mood or character of the scene and make it more enjoyable to those involved.

Jesus gave us instructions to enhance the ambience of any scene we’re a part of when He said “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Then, He made it clear that we are the extras, and the glory goes to where it truly belongs:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

Joseph and Our Hard Times

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Last week my Bible reading included Genesis chapters 39 and 40. Joseph’s brothers had sold him to a caravan of travelling merchants, and he ended up in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes” on Joseph and tried to seduce him.    Joseph refused her over and over but one day she caught him alone in the house and grabbed him. He pulled away and ran but she held onto his coat and he left it behind. Potiphar’s wife yelled out and lied that he had tried to assault her. The result was that Joseph ended up in prison even though not guilty.

After two years, Joseph was released from prison because God enabled him to interpret  Pharaoh’s dream about seven good years and seven years of famine that were coming. Joseph told what the dream meant and also gave a plan to deal with the famine. The plan pleased Pharaoh and his advisors, and Pharaoh made Joseph second in command because it was obvious to him that     Joseph was wise because God was with him.

About that time in the chapter, my brain began wondering about a possible scenario. Say, two or three months after Joseph became second in command, he called his administrative assistant. “Here, Hapusenaram, take this note over to Mrs. Potiphar. Tell her to come to Pharaoh’s palace, where I’m second in command, by the way. I’d like to talk with her a few minutes.”

Wouldn’t that get her excited about what Joseph might do and say? I have a hint of what I might do and say in that situation and it might not be nice (We can deduce that because my mind wandered in this direction in the first place). But I also think we can deduce what Joseph would say based on what he later told his brothers about being sold by them: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Those words can easily roll off our tongue, but it takes a work of the Holy Spirit and much work by us to have them come from our heart. So, we pray and work against our wandering mind so that we can mean it when we say “God is good—all the time!” – no matter what situation we’re in.

And in the End……..

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We went through a course at work many years ago on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits was: “Begin with the end in mind.” In the postscript, beyond the business aspect, of his book, he explained the life aspect rather starkly. What do you want people saying about you at your funeral? Figure that out and live toward it.

Along those same lines of thought, my Uncle Ivy once told me he had spent a night in his recliner praying and meditating while considering much that same question—what kind of man did he want to be? He concluded that he wanted folks to think of him and say, “Ivy Spivey is always willing to help in any way he can.” (And he always was.)

In another course at work we were required to develop a personal mission statement. I didn’t think a lot about it and just took the Boy Scout Oath as mine. That is a great statement and living by it is certainly a good “mission.”

But, through the years I’ve thought more about my life’s mission, as Steven Covey suggested and as Uncle Ivy did. My latest rendition is:

  1. The only things that really matter in life are God and other people – so live like it. (You may recognize this is a paraphrase of the two great commandments Jesus gave – Love the Lord, and Love your neighbor. I was thankful when I realized that.)
  2. Do the right things – for the right reasons. (It’s obvious The Bible tells us to do the right things and not do the wrong things. But 1st Corinthians chapter 13 (“the love chapter”) makes it clear that without the right motivation, particularly love, doing the right thing means nothing. See also the Sermon on the Mount and what I call the “woe” chapter—Matthew chapter 23)
  3. Pay Attention (If we don’t, we’ll miss opportunities to do the first two. Isaiah chapter 42 mentions looking but not seeing and listening but not hearing.)

I’m not writing those points here because I’m always successful in following them – The older I get, the more I realize how pitiful my results often are. And, I’m not saying you should take them as yours. I’m just suggesting as we go into this New Year, along with making resolutions like eating healthier and exercising, which are still good resolutions, we also spend time in prayer and meditation and, as Jesus said, consider the “weightier matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  (Matthew 23:23)
Micah 6:8  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Sometimes We Have to Love Enough to Insist

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I’ve neglected spending time playing my guitar for several years. It’s a mighty fine guitar. I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time in the late 1970’s when a friend wanted to sell it and buy a fancier one. (It was made in 1973, the year Sharon and I were married – neat, huh?)

Over time, I noticed it wasn’t sounding like it once did (more than just my being out of     practice.) Little by little the sound had degraded – a rattle here, a buzz there, dull sounding, a piece of binding coming loose, etc. It still sounded ok, but because it happened slowly over time, the level of degradation wasn’t obvious.

I often mentioned to Sharon that I needed to take it to Randy Wood, but never followed through. (fyi – Randy Wood is a premier instrument maker/customizer/repairer who has built       instruments and done work through the years for Elvis, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, etc. Randy was in the middle of the Nashville scene for years and got tired of the hustle-bustle and somehow ended up with a shop in Bloomingdale, Georgia.)

Last Christmas, after many mentions by me of what I needed to do, Sharon told me what her Christmas present to me was going to be – she was going to insist that I take the guitar to Randy’s shop the first week in January. Those who know me, know that Sharon moving from suggesting and encouraging to insisting on something pretty much makes it a done deal for me. So, I took it in, and it was repaired. It was in bad shape. They reset the neck, glued a couple of braces back into place, reset the binding, cleaned it up and changed the strings. And, the first time I strummed a G chord in its “like new” condition, tears came to my eyes. How wonderful! That’s the way it was made to sound. How could I have let it go like I did?

Many things we let slide aren’t physical, like my guitar, but are spiritual. The first steps in    correcting those are prayer, faith and obedience to God. Another step could be looking for someone with wisdom and life experiences they can use to help us. And, we can look for someone who loves us enough to insist on something (whatever that may be.)
Then, as we go through that process, we can ask God to help us learn enough to become someone else’s “expert” when they need it, and love them enough to insist.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24