Friday, September 18, 2009

Unexpected and Amazing

Every night I "power-walk" around the school gymnasium for a half hour to keep the old ticker going. One of the things I enjoy while walking is listening to a Podcast of some of my favorite speakers.

Last night I was listening to one of Charles Swindoll's better broadcasts where he tells the story of Mephibosheth. This incident is embedded in the story of King David's life in the Bible. "M" was a handicapped son of a royal rival family which had earlier fled the palace, fearing assasination. There are literally dozens of analogies between this man's story and the story of a gracious God who helps people who have no hope. A perfect picture of "grace."

Swindoll was at his most eloquent in his teaching of this point, and just as he reached a climax, I heard the strong melody and harmony--then the words in English-- of "Amazing Grace." But it was not on my earphones. It was being boomed over the loudspeaker in the gymnasium area, where hundreds of Thai kids were noisily enjoying evening sports and exercise.

The music was even louder than my little iPod earphones, and I stopped in my tracks. The combination of hearing 'M's' story and this traditional gospel hymn being publicly broadcast--in remote northeast Thailand, no less--left me a bit stunned.

I felt like shouting to the crowd: "Hey everybody! Stop and listen! Do you know what those words are all about??" I wanted to tell them about John Newton, the composer, who had once commanded England's slave ships filled with hopeless souls bound for a life of servitude in the New World--until God changed his heart and turned him 180 degrees. I wanted to tell them about a shepherd Who looks for lost sheep on the dark mountain when all hope of rescue is gone.

I will, in time, one by one...

The throngs of students unwittingly carried on with their basketball, volleyball, weightlifting, breakdancing and fencing practice throughout the song, no one lifting an ear nor eyebrow to the profound words and music that permeated the air around them. I have no idea who or for what reason the hymn was sent over the university campus P.A. system.

Regardless, I know at least one person caught the full impact.


Below, watch and listen to the history and words of "Amazing Grace,"
as told and sung by a possible descendant of John Newton's slave-prisoners...

You can read the about Mephibosheth and his story here.

The Spirit vs. the Letter of the "Law"

From the back, it's a photo of my Thai barber doing his
"law" magic on the customer seated in front of him.

Interestingly, the word for "handsome" in the Thai language is pronounced "law." When I first started going to this guy for haircuts six years ago, I noticed after every haircut, he pronounced "law" with a big smile as I stepped down from the barber chair. After a couple times I went home and checked my dictionary and immediately decided this guy was a GOOD barber. You don't get compliments like that every day, so might as well soak it in once a month at haircut time. It was a good working relationship. The more energetic the "law" sounded, the bigger the tip.


About six months into my new customer-barber mutual appreciation sessions, I showed up at the shop to get my mane trimmed, and took notice of another customer already in the chair. He was about 80 years old, very thin--almost emaciated, a dark wrinkled face that that would make a Chinese Shar-Pei jealous, hardly a tooth in his head, and a few whisps of white hair on a mostly bald head--which, for some reason, he was having trimmed.

Sure enough, at the end of his haircut, this shriveled geriatric hobbled down from the chair, and the barber started beaming. Instinctively, I knew what was coming next. He would utter....that....word....

I can barely think about it now. It was like watching a slow-motion slasher movie. I stared in horror at my barber brandishing a straight razor in the air and slowly opening his cavernous maw. The slow-motion "Nooooooooo" reeled through my mind as I imagined myself, arms outstretched and flailing, lunging at the barber to shut his mouth.

But before my thoughts could turn to deeds, that guttural sound slowly spilled out like a river of lukewarm lava-- "LAW."

Adding insult to injury, he gushed it out twice. "LAW, LAW."

Soaking it all in, of course, the near-toothless farmer grinned and paid his 50 baht, plus a generous tip. Bigger than my tips. Of course they were bigger. He had more reason show his gratitude.

Yeah, I still get my haircuts there, but no more do I trust a single word from this traitor, particularly his discourses on the "law."


P.S. After my epiphany, I then started asking other questions to myself, such as: "If I was 'law' AFTER the haircut, what was I BEFORE the haircut?" The suspicion about The Truth continues to mount.
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