Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Magic Wires

It was a brilliantly beautiful morning. The sun was shinning in a cloudless sky and the air was crisp. And I knew there would be fun today.

A few years ago I was working in a district position for our denomination as director of maintenance for the District Camp and Conference Center near Marshall, Texas. The facility was an old campground with a rich spiritual history. Some of the best evangelists of the 20th century preached there. Countless souls, young and old, have been won to Christ there. And it was a great place to wake up in the morning as a staff member.

A part of my job was working with volunteers that gave their time and hearts to help maintain the 35 acre campus with its more than 30 structures including a beautiful 20 room lodge. Each month I had between 3 and 12 couples who stayed on the campground and worked for 3 weeks at a time. And then there was Jerry and Cindy.

Jerry and Cindy were not actually family members, but it sure felt like it.  Nevertheless, they were also volunteers, but they signed on for more like 6 or 8 months solid. 

So, the other volunteers would come and go in their cycles, but not Jerry and Cindy. It seemed they were always there.  And, we became fast friends.  And, even though we are separated by a significant geographic distance now, yet we all still fondly cherish the memory that follows... 

When we were in the off week between the cycles of the other volunteers, Jerry and I would meet in the Dinning Hall to have some of the best coffee in the world and lay out our maintenance strategy for the day. This day was one of those days. I could hardly wait for Jerry to arrive because today I had a plan to introduce him to the magic wires.

You had to know Jerry. He was a thoughtful, loving, gentle guy. But, his default setting was Intense. Yet, even though that was true, you could easily push his Fun button about any time. 
It was a real hoot to watch Mr. Serious shifting gears between those two settings all day long. 

At any rate, on this bright morning, I knew the fun would start early. Finally, the boy arrived and we sat down in the sun drenched dinning hall for our coffee and prayer time together. 

Eventually, I said, "Jerry, we've got a leak in that 2" inch water line that runs across the ball field to the director's home. How about if we start with that today? We have about a ½ acre wet spot out there, and somewhere within that is the line and the leak."

Jerry immediately asked the obvious question that I knew his searing intellect (and my funny bone) would require. He said, "Brother Larry, how are we going to locate the line?" I said, "Well, I think we'll use the magic wires."

I wish you could have seen the fast moving flood of expressions on the face of Mr. Intense. It was like his emotional transmission was bumping back and forth between two gears without being able to fully engage either one. He didn't know whether to do the fun gear or stay in the serious gear.

He tried a smile, but then he obviously thought, "Is he serious?" So, the smile abruptly faded. Then he knew I couldn't possibly be, so it came back again.  And, all the while he was search my stone face looking for a clue.  

All of this happened very fast.  And, it quickly became one of those priceless moments which can't be bought, even with American Express.

Finally it was just too rich; and my own face cracked into a big smile. I had to "fess up"  to a trick that another friend had shown me years before. You can take two wires (as in metal coat hangers etc.) and bend them into an "L". Then, holding one lightly in each hand, when you cross directly over a water line the wires will cross and then align themselves with each other, thus pinpointing the waterline directly beneath them.

Now, you really just had to be there to see the boy's face. When I finished that explanation, we couldn't mount up fast enough for him to see if that "nonsense" would really work. So we piled into the maintenance Kubota ATV (the "Campground Cadillac") and off we went to the ball field.

When we arrived at the large wet spot in the grass, I popped out and somewhat ceremoniously removed (cradling them carefully in my hands) the magic wires (the a'fore mentioned bent coat hangers) from our rusty tool box. Safe to say, I was Mr. Confidence and Jerry was Mr. Skeptical.

Just as I predicted, the long leg of the 'L' shaped wires gradually moved toward each other as I move across the nondescript wet spot. And finally, with that last slow step, they crossed and lay parallel to each other in my hands giving a perfect indication of where the line was.

But, Mr. Skeptical said, with wide eyes, a disbelieving smile, and a wagging head, "Oh, no way! You did that, Brother Larry."

I said, "Well the proof is in the shovel." So, we got the shovel to dig. As soon as it penetrated the grass (sadly, the line was only about 3" deep) we heard this little, "clink."

Now, amazement and disbelief were flowing together like a flood tide. As I remember, and I do fondly remember, Jerry accused me at this point of knowing where the line was all along.

To dispel that notion, he made me go out into the field, close my eyes, turn around backward and repeat the discovery process.  You guessed it. They crossed right over the water line.

Nope! Still not enough.  Jerry's next insistence: "Let me try it!" 

So, with a few words of instructions from me on how to hold the wires loosely and balanced (and the pronouncement of the magic word under my breath) Jerry boy ran his own, certified clinical test on the process - and got exactly the same result.

At that point Jerry looked at me, smiled, and said, "Brother Larry, you have entangled me in witchcraft!" And then we both fell out laughing.

We ran the test about a hundred more times (I think the boy is from Missouri).  Finally, though, he was satisfied. 

And we did, eventually, get around to actually fixing the water line. When we were finished, Jerry carefully picked up the magic wires, walked out a few paces from our ATV and pushed the long end of each into the ground a couple of inches.

I said, "What are you doing Brother?" 

He said, "I'm charging the magic wires. You don't want them to run down do you?" Then the laughter was on again - and it pretty well hung around for the rest of the day (and somewhat for the rest of the week) concerning the magic wires. I'll never forget that morning. It is a cherished personal memory.

I must admit, I don't actually know the science behind "the magic wires," though obviously there is some. I have ask several knowledgeable people over the years if they could explain. As yet, no one that I have talked to has been able to do so.

But, the process works, so I just enjoy the benefit and take it at face value. And, in that way, the process is not so unlike redemptive faith, really. 

Many in our world reject the faith aspect of life simply because they cannot explain the "science" behind it.  So, absent that intricate explanation of God's processes up front, they choose to reject the efficacy of faith altogether.  And, because they can't immediately grasp the "science" behind faith, they assume there is none.

So, to the intellectually arrogant, the life changing faith which operates through Christ remains only "the delusional crutch of the unenlightened."   But again, because we cannot immediately grasp the intricate dynamics behind faith, does not mean that such does not exist.

Indeed, faith involves what might be called a "more sophisticated science."   And, not unlike the natural sciences, this science also requires very specialized equipment to unlock its mysteries - namely, a humble heart. 

That is why only those who are willing to respond to God, through Christ, without demanding that He reveal all of His secrets to them upfront, are successful in eventually understanding  faith's workings.  Faith, by nature, is about accepting the benefits at face value, and leaving the later revelations of its workings to God's discretion - again, pretty much like the magic wires

 "I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." - Jesus