Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

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Spring Changes Our Song

 Ah, spring: The time of year when so many young people began to make life-changing decisions. Where to go to college? Should I enter the military? In which venue should we be married? Should I go to a trade school (make real money)? ‘Tis often a time when family prejudice toward this and that occupation arises.

It was just a few decades ago when parents disdained a working trade for their children, opting rather for a professional career. Now-a-days, however, the folks who are (and will be) making the big money of the future are people in the service sector. We pay big bucks for others to do what we don’t want to, or can’t, do.

It reminds me of an old joke where a doctor called his plumber with some prevailing emergency. The plumber arrives and in just a jiffy remedies the problem. Wiping his hands on a rag dangling out of his pocket, he presented the doctor a bill for $100.

The doctor sucked in his breath and exclaimed, “Man I am a well-known, popular, professional doctor and I don’t make $100 an hour.

The plumber grins as he says, “I didn’t either when I was a doctor. That’s why I changed careers.”

Few indeed are the decisions, however lofty, which set the course of the balance of our lives. Detours await. Dead-end roads loom. Changes, many of which are beyond our control, present themselves. How well we adapt to the unforeseen changes in life will determine our sense of self-worth, indeed our happiness at being productive in whatever labor to which we attach ourselves. With our hand in God’s, every career, every family situation, change that arises can be a blessing. We need remember that it could be that God is changing our lives, our environment and us for some more noble purpose. We don’t have to understand it.

Let me share a little story with you that might be worth repeating to your children, your grandchildren as they set out on new adventures. Wait a minute, it also has implications for the rest of us as well. I know that when I resigned from Philip Morris, USA (to begin a ministry and seminary studies) many folks, including some in the family, thought that I had lost my mind. It has been the most rewarding decision of my entire life. It also taught me a lesson: life requires flexibility. One need not fear change. We shouldn’t cling so fastidiously to the known entities of our situations.

On December 31, 1823, William Orcutt Cushing was born in Hingham, Mass. He grew up in a household of faith. As he matured he began preparation for ministry. Eventually he was ordained to a pulpit calling. It was the culmination of all for which he and his parents had hoped. He had arrived; his family was proud.

For some unknown reason, Cushing lost his ability to speak. God had stopped the voice of his own herald. Cushing dropped to his knees and prayed: “O Lord, give me something to do for thee!” When he arose and began to accept his need to depend upon God he got the inspiration to exercise a back-burner gift. Poems, hymns, tunes, began to flow from Cushing like a waterfall. Such everlasting offerings as “Follow On,” “Ring the Bells of Heaven,” “Jewels” and “Under His Wings” have been published over and over again. They have carried many a sinner to heaven’s gates. They have lifted many an ordinary earthbound worship experience to a level of the divine.

Would you imagine that William Cushing’s sermons would be so popular today? I really doubt it. It was a disappointing moment when his career changed before his very eyes. History records it as one of those precious opportunities when God reached down to make an adjustment to his world. It is his privilege, eh?

In 1896, Cushing found solace in the Psalms and applied it to his pen: “Under his wings I am safely abiding, though the night deepens and tempest are wild; still I can trust him; I know he will keep me; he has redeemed me and I am his child. Under his wings, under his wings; who from his love can sever? Under his wings, what a refuge in sorrow! How the heart yearningly turns to his rest! Often when earth has no balm for my healing, there I find comfort and there I am blest. Under his wings, oh what precious enjoyment! There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er; sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me; resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.”

I’ve sung Cushing’s songs in church, at gravesides and around the parlor upright. Each time they’ve deepened my faith.

Get your family in church this week. God has a song for you. Take those neighbor kids with you if it is not their family habit. Faith can carry us through some of the most arduous changes down life’s path. What a blessing to be equipped.

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