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LES WAS A FOSSIKER

 

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The brooch above is opal and zircon. Jesus told a story about the Kingdom of Heaven how it was like a pearl – very valuable – and anyone discovering the Kingdom valued it so much they gave up everything else to gain a place in the Kingdom. To me Jesus is like a perfect pearl – when I found him I was more than happy to follow him at the expense of everything else.

 

Les was a fossicker.  He had spent the day digging fruitlessly among the rocks for amethysts. The clang of spades on rocks sounded loud in the drowsy somnolence hanging over the scrub.

‘I might be onto something here,’ Les’s voice broke the quiet afternoon

Carefully he scraped and brushed away the dirt and was able to lift a huge crystal from its hiding place. It lay in his hand winking at him. His joy knew no bounds.

Somewhere in the long ago, the crystal had formed in a cataclysmic upheaval.  It had lain hidden for countless eons, a treasure formed in the dark until Les found it.

Isaiah recorded the word of the Lord to Cyrus, ‘I will give you the treasures hidden in the darkness, secret riches; you will know that I am doing this – I the Lord God of Israel, The Lord found me the one who calls you by your name.’

I often wondered what this verse meant.  It has slowly dawned over time that the treasure spoken of was learning to praise the Lord in all situations.  Learning the power of intercessory prayer, learning to believe in God in the face of opposition, leaving behind grudges, forsaking pride embracing the humility of obedience.  These attributes were formed, like the crystal,  in dark times.

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Prospecting can become a consuming obsession.  God has prospected for each one of us, he has called us by name. To him, we are beautiful gems.  Why reject such love and esteem? Why not embrace Jesus by faith and live for eternity.

Milton, the great poet of his time, lived in a world of darkness, he was blind.Despite that darkness he wrote immortal poetry.  Likewise Fanny Crosby, also blind, wrote hundreds of hymns that are still sung today, precious crystals of praise and insights about the Lord. They learnt that in times of physical darkness and the darkness of circumstance, the person of the Lord is formed in them.

C.S. Lewis was devastated by the death of his wife.  He described his feelings as though God had slammed a door in his face and double locked the door from the inside.  Later, when his grief subsided he recognised that his walk with God plumbed new depths.  Out of the darkness of grief he was able to write a book that gave hope and life to its readers – a treasure from a secret place.

Paul the apostle was no stranger to the dark places.  From those places he wrote most of the New Testament.  His writings have spanned 2000 years and are treasured and enriched by all who read.

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In Australia, precious opal is found in Cretaceous age sandstones and mudstones. These sedimentary rocks were deeply weathered and this weathering released silica into the groundwater. Small faults and joints in the rocks formed pathways for movement of the groundwater as it penetrated downwards.

I may have been formed in the kingdom of darkness but I thank God that he searched for me and brought me out of that kingdom into the kingdom of light as Les the fossicker exposed his crystal to the light. I also praise God that he has taken me through the dark times so that I found the secret richness of him in my life. More and more over the years I can say with Paul, ‘We rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us – they help us to learn to be patient.’

 

 

 

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THREE STRINGS

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A free image of guitar strings. String instruments are disadvantaged when a string breaks.  You and I are disadvantaged by our imperfections.  God took us and through his Son Jesus, made us beautiful people.  We are no longer disadvantaged by sin.

 

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Centre in New York City. 

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

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Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD
…Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dancing; praise Him with the stringsand flute. Praise Him with clashing cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals…

BROKEN STRING

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signalled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing; re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

WORKING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering; doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone – “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

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Psalm 144:9 (ESV)
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

Author unknown