Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Contentment in Conflict

There are monotonous, busy days in life when we are serving God, but we await another door to open. We have a vision that life could be better and that we could be doing more for God than we are now. Sometimes it is at that point that things worsen.

In the book of Philippians Paul wrote, “...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” At the time he was in jail for spreading God's Word. Not only life could be better, but could he not do more for God somewhere else also? No. God planned Paul's imprisonment so that Paul could learn what God wanted him to know to fulfill what would be Paul's greatest ministry. Remember that in conflict you can question purpose or you can confirm purpose. While in chains, Paul wrote letters to the churches that he no doubt wanted to be with. His letters were effective in the churches are still are in hearts today. You can be content in any circumstance, whether you caused the conflict or something else did. It may not have been a sinful action. Miscarriages, car accidents, divorced parents, hurricanes, cancer, unemployment, persecution of righteousness –these are of few of the conflicts we face in a sin-cursed world. There are many things that we do not understand, but it is not always God's choice for humans to understand. It is in our loss of understanding that we can finally learn trust Him and discover a deeper need of faith and forgiveness in God.

Contentment is not being comfortable, agreeable, or even understood. Contentment in this text is translated as sufficient. You see, conflicts in the Christian's life are not really conflicts. They are vital in God's plan. They are stepping stones to destiny. They are the circumstances in which God protects us, teaches us, and uses us to the greatest of His glory. We should expect trials in life; for, we have a lot to learn in this earth which is sin-bound without Christ.
Many Christians quote the end of Paul's letter, saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strength strengtheneth me.” We do not have the ability or permission to do anything we want. We have access to Christ's power to respond righteously in circumstances that God allows. This is what we need strength for: to learn contentment. Learn God's sufficiency. God does not want to display human strength (although His design of creation is indescribable). He desires that His power be displayed. We need strength only to accept that. Do not walk through life wishing you could do more for God somewhere else. Be still and know that He is God right where you are. Learn contentment and He will reveal to you His next move. When Paul confirms, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” he did not say what the needs were. It may be that you need another lesson in trust, joy, self-control, peace, or surrender. God surely has a purpose for His children, but it will not be through our strength or understanding. We may do our best to love and obey God, but we will fail even in that. Painful things will still happen. God's will in everything is for us to know that He is God. Choose to learn, to seek His face, and to accept His sufficiency –and then abound in it.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:11-13

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Prison Camp Violin

Guidepost Magazine - January 1997
by Clair Cline, Tacoma, Washington
Stalag Luft I Prisoner of War

He carved it of rough-hewn bed slats with a penknife traded for Red Cross rations. But would it play?

In February 1944 I was a U.S. Air Corps pilot flying a B-24 bomber over Germany when antiaircraft fire hit our tail section and we lost all controls. We bailed out and on landing I found myself in a field in occupied Holland, just across the border from Germany. We were surrounded by villagers asking for chocolate and cigarettes. Then an elderly uniformed German with a pistol in an unsteady hand marched me to an interrogation center. From there I and other prisoners were shipped to Stalag Luft I, a prison camp for captured Allied airmen.

The camp was a dismal place. We lived in rough wooden barracks, sleeping on bunks with straw-filled burlap sacks on wooden slats. Rations were meager; if it hadn't been for the Red Cross care packages, we would have starved. But the worst affliction was our uncertainty. Not knowing when the war would end or what would happen (we had heard rumors of prisoners being killed) left us with a constant gnawing worry. And since the Geneva Convention ruled that officers were not allowed to be used for labor, we had little to keep us occupied. What resulted was a wearying combination of apprehension and boredom. Men coped in various ways: Some played bridge all day, others dug escape tunnels (to no avail), some read tattered paperbacks. I wrote letters to my wife and carved models of B-24s.

The long dreary months dragged on. One day early in the fall of 1944, I found myself unable to stand airplane carving any longer. I tossed aside a half-finished model, looked out a barracks window at a leaden sky and prayed in desperation, "Oh, Lord, please help me find something constructive to do."

There seemed to be no answer as I slumped amid the dull slap of playing cards and the mutter of conversation. Then someone started whistling "Red Wing" and my heart lifted. Once again I was seven years old in rural Minnesota listening to a fiddler sweep out the old melody. As a child I loved the violin and when a grizzled uncle handed his to me I couldn't believe it. "It's yours, Red," he said, smiling. "I never could play the thing, but maybe you can make music with it." There were no music teachers around our parts, but some of the old-timers who played at local dances in homes and barns patiently gave me tips. Soon I accompanied them while heavy-booted farmers and their long-gowned wives whirled and stomped to schottisches and polkas.

I thought how wonderful it would be to hold a violin again. But finding one in this place would be impossible. Just then I glanced at my cast-aside model, and a thought came to me: I can make one! Why not? I had done a little woodworking before I was in the service. But with what? And how? Where could I find the wood? The tools? I shook my head. I was about to forget the whole preposterous idea when something caught me. You can do it. The words hung there, almost as if Someone had challenged me. I grew up on a farm during the Depression, and had learned about resourcefulness. I remembered my father doggedly repairing hopelessly broken farm equipment. "You can make something out of nothing, Son," he said, looking up from the frayed harness he was riveting. "All you've got to do is find a way . . . and there always is one."

I looked around our barracks. The bunks. They had slats! Each was about four inches wide, three-quarters of an inch thick and 30 inches long. A few wouldn't be missed. Just maybe, I thought, just maybe I could. I already had a penknife gained by trading care-package tobacco rations with camp guards who delighted in amerikanische Zigaretten. Glue? It was essential. But glue was practically nonexistent in a war-ravaged country. "There's always a way," echoed Dad's words.

One day I happened to feel small, hard droplets around the rungs of my chair. Dried carpenter's glue! I carefully scraped off the brown residue from a few chairs, ground it to powder, mixed it with water and heated it on a stove. It would work. I cut the beech bed slats to the length of a violin body and glued them together. Then I began shaping the back panel. A sharp piece of broken glass came in handy for carving. Other men watched with interest, and some helped scrape glue from chairs for me.

Weeks went by in a flash. I shaped the curved sides of the body by bending water-soaked thin wood and heating it over the stove. My humdrum existence became exciting. I woke up every morning and could hardly wait to get back to work. When I needed tools, I improvised, even grinding an old kitchen knife on a rock to form a chisel. Slowly the instrument took shape. I glued several bed slats together to form the instrument's neck.

In three months the body was finished, including the delicate f-shaped holes on the violin's front. After carefully sanding the wood, I varnished the instrument (that cost me more cigarettes) and polished it with pumice and paraffin oil until it shone with a golden glow.

A guard came up with some catgut for the strings, and one day I was astonished to be handed a real violin bow. American cigarettes were valuable currency, and I was glad I hadn't smoked mine.

Finally there came the day I lifted the finished instrument to my chin. Would it really play? Or would it be a croaking catastrophe? I drew the bow across the strings and my heart leaped as a pure resonant sound echoed through the air.

My fellow prisoners banished me to the latrine until I had regained my old skills. But from then on they clapped, sang, and even danced as I played "Red Wing," "Home on the Range" and "Red River Valley."

My most memorable moment was Christmas Eve. As my buddies brooded about home and families, I began playing "Silent Night." As the notes drifted through the barracks a voice chimed in, then others. Amid the harmony I heard a different language. "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schläft, Einsam wacht . . . " An elderly white-haired guard stood in the shadows, his eyes wet with tears.

The following May we were liberated by U.S. troops. Through the years, the violin hung proudly in a display cabinet at home. As my four children and six grandchildren grew, it became an object lesson for escaping the narcosis of boredom.

"Find something you love to do," I urged, "and you'll find your work a gift from God." I'm happy to say all of them did. In the fall of 1995 I was invited to contribute the violin to the World War II museum aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York. I sent it hoping it would become an object lesson for others. But I was not prepared for the surprise that followed. I was told the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic would play it at the museum's opening. Afterward he called me. "I expected a jalopy of a violin," said maestro Dicterow, "and instead it was something looking very good and sounding quite wonderful. It was an amazing achievement."

Not really, I thought. More like a gift from God.

Since CLAIR CLINE returned from World War II, The Prison Camp Violin he made has been heard in concert halls across the United States. Most recently it was played by Glenn Dicterow of the New York Philharmonic during a ceremony at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. "Violins have to be used if they are going to remain effective," says Clair. "I believe I need to stay active too." Now that he has retired from cabinetmaking and construction work, Clair and his wife, Anne, stay busy growing fruit, flowers and vegetables in their garden. The couple recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary, and their four children and six grandchildren are the joy of their lives. Music has remained important, and oldest son Roger, granddaughter Jennifer, and grandson Daniel, play in the Chicago, National, and Arkansas symphony orchestras, respectively.

As their children grew up, the violin rested in a display case in the Clines’ home. Each child was told the violin’s story as a lesson in resourcefulness. But its value goes far beyond that.

Clair Cline died September 19, 2010.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

T h e T e n C o m m a n d m e n t s o f H u m a n A n a t o m y

Over this Christmas break I have been studying certain body systems in Anatomy & Physiology. By time I have finished school, I have a hard time thinking about anything else... and that is when The Ten Commandments of Human Anatomy were established.

1. God gave us two ears and one mouth; listen twice as much as you talk.

2. God gave us one face and one brain; do not be two-faced or double-minded.

3. God gave us more hairs than we can number; do not count them or color code them.

4. God gave us one throat; do not talk with your mouth full.

5. God has allowed various assortments of freckles and moles; do not be ashamed of them.

6. God gave us two arms and two legs; work together and lend others a hand.

7. God gave us one stomach and two kidneys; drink twice as much as you eat.

8. God gave us eye lids; close your eyes before you see too much.

9. God gave us knees so we could kneel in prayer; talk with Him.

10. God gave us one heart that pumps blood to the furthest parts of our bodies; do not be halfhearted.