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Steven S. Billings

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

TIME CAPSULE
 
Just A Minute

Recently our congregation opened a time capsule that had been sealed in the cornerstone of our elementary school.  Inside were many interesting items from the era, including a newspaper dated June 7, 1950, the day the building was dedicated and the capsule sealed.  Also included were a Bible, a 1943 Catechism (still in pristine condition), some coins, and a few assorted parochial documents.  Also included was this bulletin insert published by C.P.H.  It has been digitally reproduced and re-distributed to the members of our congregation.

5:43 pm edt

LOVE AND CONSTANCY

Oh, how fickle we human beings are! A man tells a woman he loves her, that he'll be faithful to her the rest of his life, and the next thing you know, his word is proved worthless. A couple have a child, accept the responsibility of caring for that child, but then their own interests begin to take precedent over that of their offspring, who is left to do far too much for himself, gets into far too much trouble, and likely grows up to continue the cycle of love and loss.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we are shown an example of what true love is: "4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." A rather daunting prescription of love ... if that's what it is. I think, however, that it is not prescriptive, but descriptive. St. Paul does not say: "Love must be patient, kind, etc.," but that love is patient, kind, etc. This is a description of what true love is, so that when these elements are missing, it's not that we're loving "wrong." It means we're not loving!

Does this surprise you? You may think: "I'm not always patient or kind. Sometimes I am envious, I boast, I'm proud. Sometimes I'm rude, selfish, irritable," and so on. Does this mean you are not always loving? Of course it does! But why should this be such a shock?

We get mixed-up about what love is in the first place. We think love is only a feeling, and only a certain kind of feeling at that. We get caught-up in the giddy, ecstatic, euphoria of the newness of love, forgetting that there's a whole lot more to it than that. We often fall in love with ideals rather than people, forgetting that people are seldom "ideal." What do we do then when reality comes crashing in like United 93? There are some very practical considerations that could be mentioned here, such as: Give reality a chance to settle-in before taking that leap, and you are likely to avoid a crash-landing in the first place. Be sure it's really love that you're experiencing, not mere infatuation. And be sure that you're loving a person for who they really are, not just who you think they are.

But apart from such practical concerns, we need also to remember that our practice of love is bound to be far from perfect, for we are far from perfect. We are sinful full of sin. There will be times when we are unloving, even cruel, though we may not intend to be. At such times we do well to recall that there is only One who is constant, only One who is truly loving, only One who loves us to death, perfectly and completely.

The love of God for us in Christ is the only constant in the universe. His love, poured out for us on the cross, works forgiveness for our lovelessness. It enables both the offender and the offended to be more accepting of each other. It empowers our commitments to one another. Husbands and wives can forgive one another, for they have been forgiven in Christ. Family bonds can be made stronger through the regular operation of forgiveness in the home.

Is this a perfect solution? Is forgiveness a magical incantation that, once spoken, removes strife and makes everything alright? Of course not. We're still imperfect people. Love in this world will always be imperfect. And sometimes our love fails to the point where it can never be repaired. Sometimes it was never really there in the first place. But Christ's love is always real, always perfect, never fails. Without His perfect love our imperfect love would never exist. With it love in this world can exist, even thrive, provided it is built on a sure and true foundation.

4:31 pm edt

Saturday, April 22, 2006

THE OTHER SHOE

Ever had that nagging sense that something isn't quite right? You don't have all the information you need. Key ingredients in the formula are omitted, or simply have yet to be discovered. A situation appears too good to be true.

You lay sleepily in your bed, about to slip into the arms of Morpheus, and the man in the apartment above kicks off a shoe. It hits the floor with a thud. Your eyes pop open; you are jolted back into the waking world.

There you lie for awhile, unwilling to give in too quickly to the sandman, because you know that sooner or later that other size eleven is going to send a sonic blast through your ceiling. But your sleep number is perfect. The covers are ever so warm and comfy. You begin, again, to succumb.

Off you drift into visions of wonder, great fantasies of joy and delight. You forget the unanswered questions; you ignore the inevitable. What was it you forgot to ask? What was that missing piece of the puzzle? Wasn't there something . . . ?

THUD

Oh. Yeah. I forgot about that.

That other shoe.

*sigh*

It gets me every time.

9:05 pm edt

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

WORDS

WORDS
April 18, 2006

Words
What are words
when they are not words?
Can they still be called "words"
if they are left unspoken?

Words left unsaid
empty and dead
lying in a shallow grave
You've lost the love
you tried to save

Condemned an infant love to death
depriving this child the milk
of thought, word and deed
What else could any baby need?

I saw
I heard
I knew
And yet
I acted not
I spoke not

I risked
a chance too great
without intention
Did I mention
how it grieves me?

Speak now
Talk now
Call now
Act now
without reservation
toward the preservation
of life, love, meaning, value, purpose

Isn't she worth it?
Aren't you?

10:18 am edt

PLAIN-SPOKEN MAN

PLAIN-SPOKEN MAN
April 16, 2006

I am a plain-spoken man;
You, an artist extraordinaire.
I draw stick-figures, bones without flesh and sinew;
Yours live and breathe, move and act, blood pulsing through syntactic veins.

I paint a sunrise; you paint the dawn.
I paint a battle; you, a revolution.
I paint a kiss; you, love, romance.
I paint the heart; you paint the soul.

My words are water;
Yours, a Cabernet, rich and full-bodied.
You prepare a banquet, a feast for the ears and mind.
I, a loaf of bread hard, crusty, difficult to chew.

I stand in awe of your beauty,
I gorge myself on the produce of your thoughts,
I drown myself in your vintage.
Still, I am thirsty; still, I am hungry.

If pedantry is all I can muster,
And hieroglyphics my highest art,
I pray you can yet decipher my primitive tongue,
And interpret the hidden eloquence
of this plain-spoken man.

9:39 am edt

Monday, April 10, 2006

HEART'S DESIRE

When you suffer a traumatic loss, you begin to take stock of what you had, what you have, and what you want. Over time and with careful consideration you begin to formulate a fairly clear picture of what it is that would bring great joy to your heart. And then, with carefully measured steps and unceasing prayer, you start to venture out into the world again, seeking to fulfil that desire in a God-pleasing way.

It's like a police search for a missing person. A photograph is carried in hopes that someone will recognize the person in the picture and point you in the direction of that which you seek.

Imagine now the detective scanning a busy street, holding up the photo, comparing it to the faces that he sees. No one matches. Not in the street, not in the alleys, not in the storefronts. No one.

And then, seemingly from out of nowhere, a voice comes from behind: "Excuse me, sir ..." And in an instant the missing one is found!

What do you do when the exact match for the search presents itself? What else can you do? The Children of Israel waited centuries for the Messiah. John leapt for joy in his mother's womb when she stood in His unborn presence. When you are confronted with your heart's desire enfleshed, living and breathing, what else can you do?

You fall in love.

5:09 pm edt

Sunday, April 2, 2006

AT LEAST A THOUSAND REASONS

A new month means the posting of another song demo.  This one came out of a very productive two weeks of vacation last Fall.  Having written some fairly serious material, it felt like time to write some fun ones.  The first one I wrote on that sojourn was "The Puzzle Master," followed by "Big Little Man."  "My Home Is You" was next (another serious one ... yet to be posted), and then came this one.  As "Puzzle Master" was written on the trip out, "At Least a Thousand Reasons" was written on the trip home.  To me, it's a delightful romp, just sort-of reveling in the idea that we don't have to solve every possible problem a loving relationship might encounter if that relationship is centered in Christ.  If it's God's will that you come together, He will take care of all the nitty-gritties.

As always, you can download this demo on the "Music & Me" page.  Enjoy!

AT LEAST A THOUSAND REASONS
(My Heart Don't Wanna Know)
by Steven S. Billings
September 8, 2005

Verse 1

There's at least a thousand reasons, girl,
To give up on your love
But I don't want to.
We're a thousand miles apart,
But you still own a piece of my heart
Because I love you (yeah, I do).

Sometimes I really wonder
What has gotten hold of me
I'm so much better off to be free!

Chorus 1

But my heart don't wanna know
No, no, no!
Yeah, my heart don't wanna know
It can't let you go.

Verse 2

There's a thousand different methods
To a thousand different tasks
That you and me do.
There's a thousand different things
That I don't know about your past
But I don't need to (no, I don't).

You might steal the covers,
Make strange noises in your sleep
Baby, that don't matter to me!

Chorus 2

'Cause my heart don't wanna know
No, no, no!
Yeah, my heart don't wanna know
It just loves you so.

Bridge

What I know is that I can see
Jesus in your heart
What I know is I think that's
The perfect place to start

There's a firm foundation
To the faith we both express
A thousand reasons left?
Let God take care of the rest!

Chorus 3

'Cause my heart don't wanna know
No, no, no!
Yeah, my heart don't wanna know
My love wants to grow.

10:48 pm edt

INHERITANCE

It felt quite strange recently finally to sit down and begin making out checks to the inheritors of my mother's estate.  It was barely a year ago that she made me her executor.  Who knew in January 2005 that she would be dead inside of six months?

After she died I had the usual stack of papers to work through applications to file to close various accounts, outstanding bills that needed to be paid, legal documents needed to establish the estate, etc.  The mountain seemed daunting.  But I don't think it was merely the amount of work that gave me pause.  Somehow, I felt that if my mother's accounts remained open and "she" retained her assets, I could avoid admitting that she was gone.  But writing those checks, especially that one to myself, made that charade impossible to maintain.  Mom was gone.  The bank said so.

In an odd sort of way I felt guilty at first, benefitting from my mother's death.  But then, this is why she scrimped and saved, stockpiling every penny she could afford; she wanted to grant her inheritors such a blessing.  So ... what now?  The question arises: How may I spend my inheritance in a way that reflects my mother's life?  How can I apply those funds in ways that would please her?  I suppose I could fritter-away my inheritance ... you know, squander it on riotous living, so to speak ... but her love for me has inspired me to do something special with the gifts she has bestowed.

I don't know ... is the spiritual parallel here obvious?  The Lord Jesus died a gruesome death for us and has bequeathed to us a great blessing.  How strange that we should benefit so from the death of the Son of God!  And yet, this is what He came for; this was His purpose in eternity and what He worked toward here in time. He desired to give us and has indeed given us! an inheritance that far surpasses any earthly estate.

And I suppose we could receive the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation without much thought as to what it took to earn them.  But I also think that Lent provides a good opportunity for us to ask ourselves this question: How shall I spend my spiritual inheritance in a way that reflects the image of Christ?  How may I utilize His gifts in ways that please Him?

Nobody has given me restrictions or dictates that govern my use of the inheritance I have received from my mom.  I choose to honor her by my use of what she has given me.  And though God's Law provides very strict guidelines concerning our use of His gifts, it gives no empowerment for us to do so.  Only the Gospel the power of His love working in us enables and inspires us to honor Him with our lives.  And only through this Gospel do we come to understand that our gratitude and thankfulness are part of the inheritance.  How in keeping with His nature not only to give the gifts and the desire to please Him, but through these same gifts to enable us so to live.

9:14 pm edt

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For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21)

Be sure to get in touch so I know you're out there!