I remember the first day of school. It was a tiny classroom in a little parochial school in my little hometown of Columbus, Indiana. I remember the first song I learned at 6 years old.
“God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in Him”
That is a different narrative than most children will have about their first day of school I think. Back in the sixties, growing up Catholic was a lot different than it is today. Yes, I mean it was much more God centered. In fact, I credit the Catholics for planting the seed of love for God in my heart.
As far back as fifth grade, I remember a priest visited our classroom with a filmstrip, (See antiques and ancient machines for the meaning of “filmstrip”) with background music of The Fifth Dimension’s song, “Up, Up and Away” playing telling about a group of people going to far away countries sharing the gospel with them. They were called Trinity Missions. On that day, in my fifth grade heart, I remember saying to myself, “That’s it! I’m going to become a priest and become a Trinity Missionary!”
Then there was a young priest whose name I forget, who came to our religion class in sixth grade trying to tell us about this thing called “Christian Music” that he listened to. He brought a record, (see vinyl record to understand on “Bing” to understand what a vinyl record is) and while it played he furiously scribbled the words on the blackboard, (See oldtime methods for teaching for “Blackboards). I can remember to this day how unique it was that someone had written a song and it wasn’t a hymn or a Catholic song.
“Sunday morning, very bright I read your book by colored light
That came in through the pretty window pictures.
I visited some houses where they said that you were living,
And they spoke a lot about you and they talked about you giving,
They passed around a basket with some envelopes
I just had time to write a note,
But all it said was, “I believe in you.” Hymn by Songwriters: James Mason / Karen Gold / Noel Paul Stookey
Hymn lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc
This was a song performed by a modern folk group Peter, Paul and Mary and it so impressed me that I got something in my throat and my eyes began to well up with tears and I didn’t know why. I quickly tried to stifle the feeling and to keep my eyes from watering but there in that room in that early bud of my life, God reached into a classroom and stamped his name on my heart and staked His claim for this real estate.
This narrative is stuff and nonsense to anyone who really understands “grown up” eschatology. (See “speculative arguments among “learned” Christians about what God says about the end days”.) Of course, God wouldn’t speak to a little Catholic boy. How much blasphemy is that! Fact is, God has been after me ever since I was in the womb and on good days and bad days, He is still using any method to get my attention and He is doing the same thing with you.
Have you ever heard that special song that plays at the perfect time, maybe when you are sad, or when you needed to hear it, and it lifts you up and you say to yourself, “Wow, what a coincidence! I really didn’t know what I needed and that song played at the perfect time!” How about when you hear someone speak and you feel inspired and begin to tear up and you say, “Man, that moved me!” Those “Aha” moments are exactly what those early memories did in me.
As I was placing price tags on merchandise at my favorite Big Box store yesterday, I was surprised when something came to my mind and all I can say is I litereally felt the presence of God down on that floor with me while I was peeling stickers. He got right down with me, and made me to remember how He had gone to so many lengths to show me His love, to show me who He is and what He thinks of me.
Again, tears flowed on that cement floor in this hardware store in Brentwood Tennessee. I am not the most holy person. Not at all. I cuss when I hit my finger, I get impatient when the fast food line doesn’t move fast enough and I get tired of endless political chatter on television. But that doesn’t stop the Lord. He just insists on showing this former Catholic boy filmstrips in my mind about how He has clothed and fed and housed me for 62 years and I just don’t understand why He would waste so much time on a mediocre believer!
In church on Sunday, my pal Mike Spencer; a bass player who doesn’t even live here in Tennessee says during worship he tears up and it so touched me because that happens to me all the time. I think something inside of us as humans feels the atmosphere of heaven at times and it so moves us that we long for the completion of it. We long to enter fully into God’s presence. It reminds me of the words of a different Catholic song I learned as a child,
“I saw raindrops on my window,
Joy is like the rain.
Laughter runs across my pain,
Slips away and comes again,
Joy is like the rain.”
Sometimes, I have to admit the pain of separation from God is deeper than that of a child who is stolen away from his mother at birth but carries with him a sense of loss that he can’t name. I know what that is like. We have been stolen from our mother…all of us, and carried into an evil country. But somehow, someway, she continues to send us messages in our lunchboxes that say, “I’m here, and I’m watching you…I love you…here’s a special song for you today…here is your favorite sandwich.” We look around but we can’t see her, but she sees us.
That is what it is like for God. He is sending you signals secretly into this world so you will know you are not alone. He will bring you through a friend your favorite ice cream, or make you your favorite meal, JUST FOR YOU, as you go through your day. His joy is like the rain…it falls and waters your life, and then, it’s gone, only to fall again on another day. Joy is like the rain. And while this little foolish blog may not mean much to you today, it is proof that the reason God has given me a good memory is to recall all of his lunchbox messages over the years that I have tucked away for that day, when; I finally see my mom coming for me in our family car, to reveal to me for the first time her lovely face and to say, “Here I am!!!” On that day I get to hug her for the first time and thank her for all of the lunchbox messages.
I love lunch box messages.