THE VIEW FROM MY WINDOW - APRIL 2022
DOES WHAT I DO REALLY MATTER?
I imagine that some of my friends from my law enforcement days just cringed when they read this title. At the close of my first year as helping lead our Sheriff’s Office I produced a video with the same title. Modern law enforcement is a mostly thankless job where public attention typically comes in response to a mistake, mischaracterization or an outright lie. Back then I thought the faithful men and women who served our County could use a bit of encouragement, so I created a video to address that concern. I wanted them to know that what they really did matter. In retrospect, I think I delivered a bit of encouragement. Now that I think about it, I also delivered more that a few laughs at my expense.
We’re back home from our two weekends in Southwest Missouri. As you may recall, our “tours” are now more often of the “two week” variety, and these were indeed two great weeks! A dear friend of this ministry gifted us with a membership to a gorgeous RV resort in Branson. (Both Shaunda and I hope this leads to even more weekends in this area in 2023!) Another great friend (you can even read more about them in ON THE VIRGE) helped open an opportunity at First Baptist (Willard MO) where we had the privilege to make many new friends during their two Sunday services. Another couple, also great friends of this ministry, made it possible for us to visit the “bustling burg” of Cedarcreek Missouri; but more on that later.
We spent the days in between with friends while enjoying the off season in Branson. One couple brought their RV and camped beside us for a few days. Another great friend and fellow musician plays bass for the Baldknobbers. That yielded a great matinee, and an even greater lunch! We saw two other shows, ate some great food and met with a dear Pastor friend and his wife. We took some refreshing walks, visited a couple tourist attractions, enjoyed a couple stress free rainy days and drove unimpeded up and down Highway 76 whenever we wanted. The latter was made possible by the whole “off-season” thing.
Yet it was during those drives that I was to face once again one of my long term personal struggles. Thanks to a combination of growing older and the whispers of the enemy, it was time to grapple again with the nagging question: “Does what I do really matter?”. Silly, I know. And actually way worse than “silly”, it is utterly baseless, and completely faithless. Still it raises its ugly head from time to time. If you read TEARS IN A BOTTLE, you may remember me talking very frankly about this struggle as I related my brush with a musical career instead of a ministry career. This came as a very young man in the form of a blown audition with the Cathedral Quartet. Even though I did not realize it then, this was one of those life altering events.
As you drive up and down “76 Country Boulevard” you are bombarded with Vegas style video screens and lighted marquees, all claiming to have the best show in town. Many years ago I had the opportunity to produce and even play in a gospel show on this same road. Back then it was one of the only gospel music shows. During these days images flashed before me of multiple religious shows and Sunday worship opportunities. These video presentations, although soundless, held well produced imagery including action shots of musicians, vocalists, special effects, animated titles and animated worshippers. I was reminded of the lack of all that when I simply sit behind a piano and tell Matt’s story. I was also reminded of a time when I led similar worship experiences in much larger venues. A time when I was much younger. And then the question surfaced again. “Does what I do really matter?”, or is it time to reconsider and head to the local Cracker Barrel and start sizing ups those rockers on the front porch?
That brings me back to Cedarcreek, not really a “bustling burg” of any sort. It consists of a post Office, a fire station and a gas station. In full disclosure, the gas station is shuttered. Just outside of town is the home of the Open Door Community Church, a small church situated beside an infrequently travelled road. This Church is small in size for sure, but huge in heart and love for God and each other. They are Pastored by an an energetic young mission Pastor and his wife and six children (and no, you didn’t read that wrong.).
I mentioned earlier that we were brought here by some wonderful friends we met in our grief conferences. Friends who share our unfortunate Journey. This good friend took me on a tour of the town… Ok, we went to the post office and then the fire station for their Saturday flea market. During this whirlwind tour I learned much about these people and about their love for their community and the beautiful view of the Ozark mountains and Bull Shoals Lake. I learned a bit about some of their struggles as well, and how they are all working together to save their fire department.
When the time finally came to tell Matt’s story on Sunday morning, the church members came in one and two at a time until the church was nearly full. After having led a packed kitchen/sunday school room in an earlier Bible Study, that young Pastor came to the front of the Sanctuary and led in announcements and opening prayer. And then the six tiny speakers in the ceiling of the paneled sanctuary ceiling roared to life (sarcasm intended). There were no in ear monitors to adjust, no haze machines in which to top off the fluid. No lights to focus, no movers to aim, not even any sparkly boots to put on! Just me, a small projector screen and Matt’s story.
After a week of off and on wondering “Does what I do really matter?”, I would finally get my answer. On this Sunday morning at this tiny church beside that out of the way road, a precious mom and her two teen age boys sat on a pew only a few rows back, right in front of the Piano. For you see, although scheduled some three months earlier, this church lost their music director, and this family lost their Husband and Father to a heart attack only 3 days earlier.
You may be struggling today. You may be “enduring” your existence at a wide spot in the road or in the middle of a busy city. You can experience loneliness and discouragement in either place. Perhaps you feel like your faithful, genuine service for God is carried out in obscurity and with little appreciation. Maybe some days you too feel like meeting me on the front porch at the Cracker Barrel. I understand your struggle, I guess I will deal with it from time to time as long as I live. However, today I move forward peering through the windshield, not the rearview, emboldened by that little church. I move forward reminded that success and fulfillment are not to be defined by earthly terms and standards, but rather with an eye to the Greater Journey. So with that, after a couple Sundays and with a restored heart, we soon head west once again to share in the lives of hurting moms at our first conference of the year.
In Luke 9, a man with a child in need of healing approached Jesus. Jesus responded that the child could be healed if the Father believed. That Father replied: “I Believe, please help my unbelief.” Is this a biblical example of doublespeak, or a profound expression of the difficulty of living a genuine, faith led life, and living it consistently? I think it is the latter as once again words written thousands of years earlier ring true in our crazy world of today…attesting to the ever relevant power of God’s word.
Will you live hypnotized and discouraged by the flashing images on the video screens beside the busy road? The ones screaming "what might have been". Or will you choose to see the mom and her sons in the small church beside the quiet road? I choose to focus beyond my earthly Journey and strive to see the “Greater Journey”. It’s the Journey that promises there is more to this life that we see on the shiny surface. This is the Journey that dares you to look deeper. And this is the Journey that answers the question many of us struggle with far too often.
Yes… what I do can truly matter.