Cornerstone

Don McLean is well known for writing and performing “American Pie,” a true American Classic. But a lesser known song of his, “Castles in the Air,” tells the story of a man asking his friend to tell his lady friend that he no longer wants a relationship with her. Evidently he doesn’t know how to say the right words. So he asks his friend to “tell it to her plain.” This has always fascinated me because there are so many times when we beat around the bush or speak in subtleties and the results are not what we intended. Too often, if we are not clear in our speech in an attempt to soften the point the hearer assumes we mean the worst. And the result is a terrible misunderstanding.

“Tell it to her plain” doesn’t mean harsh or without compassion. Prov 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And two verses later the writer starts with “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.” How do we do both of them? James 5:12 says “. . . but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.” If we have the right attitude (agape), first in our own heart, and then for the hearer we will be direct and gentle at the same time.

- o -

I like duets. And one of them, by Tanya Tucker and Paul Overstreet, speaks truth from start to finish:

How much do I owe you
Said the husband to the wife
For standing beside me
Through the hard years of my life
Shall I bring you diamonds
Shall I bring you furs
Say the word
And it’s yours (And the wife said)

I won’t take less than your love, sweet love
I won’t take less than your love
All the riches of the world
Could never be enough
And I won’t take less than your love

How much do I owe you
To the mother said the son
For all that you have taught me
In the days that I was young
Shall I bring expensive blankets
To cast upon your bed
And a pillow for to rest
Your weary head (and the mother said)

I won’t take less than your love, sweet love
I won’t take less than your love
All the riches of the world
Could never be enough
And I won’t take less than your love

How much do I owe you
Said the man to his Lord
For giving me this day
And every day that’s gone before
Shall I build you a temple
Shall I make a sacrifice
Tell me Lord and I
Will pay the price (and the Lord said)

I won’t take less than your love, sweet love
I won’t take less than your love
All the riches of the world
Could never be enough
And I won’t take less than your love

How many times have we substituted a gift
To our wife
To our mother
To our Lord
When only our love would do?

- o -

Randy Travis, a popular country singer of several decades ago, sang a funny song “Ants on a Log.” He sings, “We’re really just along for the ride like ants on a log, floating down a river, running around, ain’t getting anywhere, Our steering wheel just ain’t connected.”

The more I have thought about it the more I think we really are like ants on a log. So much of what we want to control is out of our hands. When we read Scripture we find that God in His sovereignty has control of everything. Yet He allows us some free will.

God’s Word instructs us to do certain things, not to do some things, what to think on and what should not be on our mind. And we have the choice to try to do all of the things that God calls us to do. While we may not have the power to do what we want, I think if our heart is in the right place it will please the Lord. Other things like the Commandment to love the Lord with all of our heart and soul, mind and strength, we may not ever reach completely but our mind can be set on it. (God does tell husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. I’m trying but I’m not there yet.)

All of this doesn’t cover but a small part of the circumstances affecting our daily lives. God is never random. He never allows happenstance. There is no such thing as luck! Nothing is casual with God. When we consider our success in any substantial endeavor, if we stop and think of things that just happened to work out, we will recognize and be amazed at how many factors were really out of our hands. But not out of our loving Lord’s hands!

Randy Travis is on the mark when he says, “Our steering wheel just ain’t connected.” I stop and think how many times I tried to do something and it just didn’t go as planned. And there are those events I didn’t plan (like the day I just happened to go to a meeting and SHE was just standing there – the woman I woke up this morning to find still here after 63 years of wedlock).

Maybe you think you are in control of a lot. I thank Jehovah Lord that my steering wheel is in His hands, not mine!

- o -

While on the subject of secular music, let me tell a story.

I was in my office working late one night. After a dismal business failure that brought me to my knees before God, He put a business in my lap and blessed it. It was such a rush, such a buzz, that my feet didn’t touch the ground for two years. But as the business got better I was drawn more and more into it, spending more and more time at work.

One late night at work, the Lord spoke to me. I didn’t hear his voice in my ears. It was God’s heart to my heart. And He said just one word: “Listen!” The radio was always on and just then Harry Chapin’s “Cat in the Cradle” began to play. “Cat in the Cradle” is a song, a poem really, about a man who was so engrossed in his work that he was too busy to play with his son when his son wanted some time with Dad. When the son grew up and the father retired the father wanted to spend time with his son. But the son, at college or married with kids, was too busy to spend time with his dad. The final line of the song was “My son grew up just like me.”

The face of one of my sons, in my mind’s eye, was looking into my face. And I was pierced to my soul. On that spot I said, “Lord, you know how much this business means to me. But my family is more important. Even if this business falls into the ocean, I will limit my work here. I’ll be the first to open. I will work through my lunchtime if necessary but I will be home for dinner. And I will not come back after dinner.” And within a week I had gotten on that schedule. Not only was I home and involved in the family when I should be but (wouldn’t you know it) the business got better! God honored my decision to simply do what I should have been doing.

Bill Castenholz

Bill is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church as a non-vocational elder.

Additional articles that might be of interest.