Straight Paths

I’m revisiting my friend and brother in Christ, Jim, this week. A few months ago I wrote a two-part series about Jim. Jim was 88 when he enrolled in hospice with end-stage heart failure. One day I asked Jim how he was doing and he replied, “My case is cracked, my strings are broken and I’m out of tune, but I’m fit as a fiddle.”

Jim was born and raised in the area of Portsmouth historically known as “Funks Gut”. After graduating high school Jim enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Korea and placed on the front lines as a sharpshooter.

Jim’s daughters reflected, “Mom said, ‘Your dad made a career out of being a student.’” Jim explained, “I was called to preach when I was 18, but there were things that I needed to know.” Jim attended Bob Jones University in South Carolina, Morehead State University and Lexington Baptist College and earned a Master’s Degree in education and a Doctorate of Divinity.

Jim worked over 20 years as a local educator and coordinator. He developed the first Head Start Program at McKell Elementary. He taught special education for over 20 years in Scioto County and became the county Work Study coordinator, finding jobs for special education students. He traveled to Columbus for several years and met with other educators to develop the first state guidelines for special education. He was instrumental in organizing the first Special Olympics in Scioto County. And Jim did all these things while preaching and teaching at Bible Conferences and small churches all over the country, and serving as pastor of the Kings Addition Baptist Church for over 40 years.

The girls reflected, “Mom and dad were servants. If dad got a call that someone needed him we knew that he was going no matter what. He wouldn’t say ‘I’ll check on you in the morning’. He would say to us, ‘Well kids, the ox is in the ditch’, and he went right then.”

A few weeks ago I sat with Jim and his daughters reflecting on his accomplishments and years of service. I suggested to Jim that if I were to write his biography it would be titled, “Broken Bread and Poured out Wine”. The Apostle Paul wrote, “…if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” (Philippians 2:17). Oswald Chambers wrote, “Paul was overwhelmed with a sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent himself to express it … I am not to be a superior person amongst men, but a bond slave of the Lord Jesus… Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others … that is the meaning of being broken bread and poured out wine…,” (“My Utmost for His Highest”, July 15th).

Jim reflected, “It’s not me; it’s the Lord. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t me doing a good job, it was God using me to do a good job. When He picks you to do something all you can do is praise His name.” I told Jim that his testimony reminded me of the poem, “The Touch of the Master’s Hands”:

“ ‘Twas battered and scarred,

And the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while

To waste his time on the old violin,

but he held it up with a smile.

‘What am I bid, good people’, he cried,

‘Who starts the bidding for me?’

‘One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?’

‘Two dollars, who makes it three?’…

From the room far back a gray bearded man

Came forward and picked up the bow,

Then wiping the dust from the old violin

And tightening up the strings,

He played a melody, pure and sweet

As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer

With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said ‘What now am I bid for this old violin?’

As he held it aloft with its bow.

‘One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?’

‘Two thousand, Who makes it three?’

‘Three thousand once, three thousand twice,’

‘Going and gone’, said he….

The audience cheered,

But some of them cried,

‘We just don’t understand.’

‘What changed its’ worth?’

Swift came the reply.

‘The Touch of the Masters Hand.’

And many a man with life out of tune

All battered and bruised with hardship

Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd

Much like that old violin…

And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,

The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought

By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.”

Now what Jim said at the beginning of this story makes better sense, “My case is cracked, my strings are broken and I’m out of tune, but I’m fit as a fiddle.” After all Jim’s soul has been touched by the Master’s hands.

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com . You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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