“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Eccl. 9:10.
I saw the band Rend Collective Experiment in concert a while back. If you’ve never heard of Rend Collective — as I hadn’t before this night — they’re an Irish Christian band that’s heavy on the use of percussion and strings and other unique instruments.
Unique instruments like, oh, I don’t know … a metal trash can.
I was far enough back that I couldn’t see at first exactly what the girl (Ali Gilkeson) pictured above was doing. I’d see a ribbon go flying up and then hear a “boom.”
I said to the person next to me, “Is she banging on a trash can?”
Yes, yes she was.
It was beautiful in a way I can’t describe, but I’m gonna try.
Banging on the can itself was not the beautiful thing, nor really what it added to the music, although it added something to be sure. What was beautiful to me was this: this girl was using whatsoever her hand was doing — even making music with, of all things, a metal cylinder made to hold garbage — to the glory of God.
Colossians 3: 16 & 17 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus ….”
Some may be skeptical or critical of using a trash can in praise to God, but I think beautiful also is the word picture this affords us.
If a cold metal cylinder intended to hold the nasty waste of our world can be used to bring glory to God and encouragement to others how much more can He use us? Sometimes we may feel as nasty as a trash can — I have felt that way — but when put to use for Him, even a trash receptacle is beautiful.
It’s the same with us. When put to use for Him, we become more beautiful too because He redeems — gives value — to us and our trash.
I don’t make music with trash cans, although I’d love to. If the music director puts out the call for a trash can player for our church band, I’m on it. The “whatsoever I do” are things like write, volunteer, knit, read …. I try to write as unto the Lord and He gives it value. Knit as unto the Lord, volunteer as unto the Lord … you get the idea.
Say “yes,” do it as unto Him, and He will give it value.
My high school Latin teacher Mrs. O’brien used to stand at the front of the classroom and read a devotional each day before class. (Note: I attended a Christian high school.) Her favorite was a devotion called “Let Go, Let God.”
She was sincere and at times seemed to be pleading with us to grasp the concept of letting go and letting God.
I didn’t get it.
I still don’t, not completely at least.
As a teen, I didn’t even know what she meant. It seemed like the sentence was missing something. Let go of what? Let God what?
Now, I at least get that I’m to let go of my life, my wants, my selfishness, my _____ and my ______ and my ______. Let go of the word “my” even. And I’m to let God handle it.
But finally getting that what Mrs. O’brien was trying to teach us was surrender doesn’t mean I have any clue how to actually successfully do it.
Years ago a Bible study teacher talked about taking all of our mess, our sins, our worries, our everything and laying at Christ’s feet. That’s part of surrender. But as this teacher pointed out, what a lot of us do is pick it all back up and keep carrying it around with us. That what’s I do, apparently.
I’m struggling right now with surrender, with truly surrendering my preferences, my expectations and my wants into God’s hands to do as He pleases. I want Him to do what I want Him to do and I want to help him do it. He doesn’t need my help, and really anything I do outside of what He tells me just gets in the way and messes things up even more.
I often come up with things I can “do” or “say” to help God do what I want. I’m a fixer; I want to fix it rather than wait for it be fixed. And I’m constantly feeling his Spirit tell me “no,” “wait” “let me handle it.” When I don’t listen, things get all squirrelly and I find myself thinking shoulda listened, shoulda waited, shoulda, shoulda, shoulda ….
Surrender is hard, thus why I’m struggling with it.
It sounds so simple, summed up in four short words — Let Go, Let God — and it’s a good thing when I make the choice to do it and stick with it. So why then is it no easy to do.
In the Civil War, at the Battle for Fort Pulaski, Confederate Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, surrendered the fort to the Northern troops in the interest of saving the fort and saving the lives of himself and his men. He had the wisdom and intellect to know he couldn’t win and to know that a loss would be more devastating than a surrender. What he gained with surrender was greater than what he would lose if he didn’t.
Now if only I can put that consistently into practice in my own life.
I’m trying. I’m struggling, but I’m trying.
For Good Friday, the boys and I hiked to the large across on Monte Sano Mountain.
It wasn’t much of a hike. The trail is paved pretty much the whole way, and it only took about 30 minutes to get from the start of the trail to the cross. The point was to discover this unique icon in our city and to experience being at the foot of the cross on the day on which we remember Jesus’ death.
I’m so thankful I can look at the cross and be humbled by the death that occurred there but then also see it as a symbol of hope and victory and grace. Let us not forget either of those this Easter season.
I experienced a miracle this past weekend.
I had a bad attitude about receiving John’s Navy commendation, and I had wrestled with my attitude for the whole week leading up to it. The Navy was a point of conflict for us, and I was not as supportive as I should’ve been. I often felt like the Navy took him away from me, so to now be asked to receive an award for an activity that I felt had come between us was not something I wanted to do.
After wrestling with my bad attitude for a few days prior, I woke up the morning of the ceremony and prayed Psalm 51:10, particularly the second part:
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
It wasn’t immediate, I believe because I wasn’t totally willing yet to let go of my bad attitude. I wanted it gone but was still hanging on to it too. Whenever I felt it creeping up I would just say that second portion again — renew a right spirit in me.
By the time the awards ceremony was to begin, I felt some better. I was still just a little bit conflicted but much improved attitude over where I’d been.
The miracle came when, later that day, I wanted to take the award and accompanying ribbon to show members of my family who couldn’t be at the ceremony. And then the next morning I wanted to take it to church and show friends in our small group. I wanted to blog about it. I had the thought that I should take pictures of the medal and certificate and type up the inscription and mail to several of John’s colleagues who would be interested to know. I recognized these things immediately as God doing just what I had asked of Him — He was giving me that right spirit and actually inciting in me extreme pride!
I shouldn’t be surprised, really. I had faith He was going to do it. I just didn’t know what Him doing it would look like. I didn’t imagine Him filling me with overflowing pride but that’s just what He did. I know that I know that I know it was God doing it because there is no way I was going to get there on my own.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13