Here I Stand: Christians Only, Not the Only Christians

Accused of Being a False Teacher

Recently a brother gave me a warning, it was out of love I am sure. “Watch false teachers that want to make the Church of Christ like Denominations.” The caps are his.

This was a well meaning brother. But the irony of that statement was completely lost. I, of course, was the “false teacher,” that all needed to be on guard.

I am for being on guard for false teachers. They exist. I see many posting all over social media espousing what I see as false, everything from religious nationalism, to Marcionism, to not so subtle Gnosticism, to sectarianism. We need to watch out for these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

But what is my particular heresy? My heresy is that I think, indeed I know, that me and my group are not the only Christians on the planet. I know that my standing before God is not based on the precision of my understanding of doctrine nor the precision of my performance of commands. Nor is the standing of any I disagree with based on their precision either.

I am grateful that it is the Lord who died, and was raised again, who is “able to keep you [us] from falling, and to make you [us] stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing …” (Jude 1.24-25).

Here I Stand: The Years of Misunderstanding

The “standing” given to us in the presence of his glory is given by Jesus the Messiah. It is not given by me, nor my critic. It is not even given by a sign that says “Church of Christ” on a building.

I grew up in the Buckle of the Bible Belt, Florence, Alabama (in the very shadow of the T. B. Larimore Home). From my earliest memories of church there was, for lack of a better term, an “adversarial” relationship with other people who claimed to be Christian. In fact, I have no memory of ever thinking anyone “in the denominations” was in fact a Christian, that is a real Christian. (I apologize for the often horrible ways people with amazing faith in Jesus were often caricatured in print, in sermons, in conversations to which I was exposed growing up. I also admit that the Baptists down the street were often as sectarian as we were).

It is an ironic fact we did not use the lingo “Christian” very often at all. Rather we used “coded language” such as that a person was “a member of the church” or “they are Church of Christ.” We were the only true Christians for we were the only true church.

In fact if you were “in a denomination” it could only mean you did not love the Bible and did not want to obey it. This was also true for the various false Churches of Christ that I had a vague knowledge (the “anti’s” or those folks who were worse than Baptists, the “Christian Church”).

Here I Stand: Learning Surprising Grace in “Our” Story

I took a class in college called “The Restoration Movement.” It was a revisionist, almost a propogandist, presentation that reinforced a sectarian posture. I actually learned next to nothing about Barton Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, the “Christians,” the “Reformers,” the union of those groups, nor the incredible diversity between them.

Today, I believe, this perspective and attitude represents an absolute perversion of the what the Stone-Campbell Movement was all about. I know now that what I grew up in North Alabama is not, in fact, the vision of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

Barton Stone, Thomas & Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott did not think they were seeking the only true church. They certainly did not believe, nor teach, that they and their group were the only Christians. The first item in the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery is utter nonsense if they did hold that view.

We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink in union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is only one Body and one Spirit.

They did not think Christianity had disappeared. Christianity had become divided and they were scandalized by it. They were seeking unity of a divided church. The chasm between the former and the later is cosmic in its distance. As the Last Will and Testament calls us to the task of unity.

Let all Christians join with us, in crying to God day and night, to remove the obstacles which stand in the way of his work … We heartily unite with our Christian brethren of every name, in thanksgiving to God …”

I remember early on, late 80s, starting to read some of Stone and Alexander Campbell for myself. I was in for a shock. Campbell carried out frequent correspondence with religious folks all over the place. The Baptists were “brethren.” Campbell certainly took the Baptists to task, this is clear. But his chastisement was, ironically, over their dogmatism and narrowness. The Baptists disfellowshiped Campbell (See the Beaver Anathema), Campbell did not disfellowship the Baptists!

Campbell published the missionary reports of the famous Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) and extolled him and his work. Campbell would engage in “social worship” (that is corporate prayer, praise, breaking the bread around the table) with anyone who claimed allegiance with the Messiah even while disagreeing on particulars.

Joseph Hostetler and his Dunkards are a classic example of the spirit of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Hostetler wrote Campbell a letter asking about his “Ancient Order.” Campbell states unambiguously that the “Ancient Order” is not some kind of creedal statement in which agreement is necessary for either being a child of God nor to be in fellowship with Campbell. Hostetler’s Dunkards practiced triune immersion (baptized three times), they took the Lord’s Supper within the context of a meal (love feast), they took the Lord’s Supper not weekly but only a couple times a year, practiced foot washing as a sacrament/ordinance, and other “quaint” notions. Campbell’s reply to Hostetler explains why he disagrees on these particulars. But before he says anything he makes this bold statement.

DEAR BROTHER — For such I recognize you, notwithstanding the varieties of opinion which you express on some topics, on which we might NEVER agree. But if we should not, as not unity of opinion, but unity of faith, is the only true bond of Christian union, I will esteem and love you as I do every man, of whatever name, who believes sincerely that Jesus is the Messiah, and hope in his salvation. And as to the evidence of this belief and hope, I know of none more decisive than an unfeigned obedience, and willingness to submit to the authority of the Great King” (Alexander Campbell, “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things, No. XI,” Christian Baptist, 1825, p. 223. Campbell’s emphasis)

Certainly, Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott wanted nothing to do with “sectarianism.” But because they had meditated on numerous passages in the Bible like 2 Peter 2; 2 Timothy 2.14-28; 3.1-3, etc.

They realized that a false teacher is not primarily recognized by what is taught. A person can be incorrect and not be a false teacher. A false teacher is known primarily in the New Testament by his/her arrogant self-righteousness, harshness, eagerness to fight, lack of gentleness, love, and greed, etc. Barton Stone hit the nail on the head when he called certain over zealous and convinced of their own rightness brothers, “anti-sectarian sectarians.” What a wonderful phrase. Here is the quote.

The scriptures [sic] will never keep together in union, and fellowship members not in the spirit of the scriptures, which spirit is love, peace, unity, forbearance, and cheerful obedience. This is the spirit of the great Head of the body. I blush for my fellows, who hold up the Bible as the bond of union yet make their opinions of it tests of fellowship; who plead for union of all christians; yet refuse fellowship with such as dissent from their notions. Vain men! Their zeal is not according to knowledge, nor is their spirit that of Christ. There is a day not far ahead which will declare it. Such antisectarian sectarians are doing more mischief to the cause, and advancement of truth, the unity of christians, and the salvation of the world, than all the skeptics in the world. In fact, they make skeptics.” (Barton W. Stone, “Remarks,” [Christian Messenger August 1835], 180)

Can Brother Stone get an “Amen?”

Even the Gospel Advocate, throughout the life time of David Lipscomb, recognized those immersed in the name of Jesus as genuine Christians. Lipscomb noted the cancer of sectarianism that was growing among members of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

A sectarian is one who defends everything his party holds or that will help his party, and opposes all that his party opposes. This partisan takes it for granted that everything his party holds is right, and everything the other party holds to be wrong and is to be opposed. Hence the party line defines his faith and teaching. He sees no good in the other party. He sees no wrong in his own party . . .

A truth lover and seeker always looks into whatever party he comes in contact with, and will first look to see what truth the party holds … The love of truth is a spirit of kindness and love toward all, even to the holder of error. He loves the holder of truth because he receives truth and strength from him” (David Lipscomb, “A Sectarian and a Truth Seeker,” Gospel Advocate. June 27, 1907, p. 409.)

Can Brother Lipscomb get an “Amen?”

Our Fathers and Mothers in the Stone-Campbell Movement did not claim all love, loyalty, honesty and devotion to God’s truth was found only among “us.” They recognized most (yes most) of the ultimate devotion to Christ comes from the centuries of Christianity that had nothing to do with “us.”

They preserved the Bible (often on pain of death). They translated the Bible. They sacrificed life and limb for the Lord. They gave us the songs we sing. The prayers we pray come from them. As the Hebrews Preacher says of the Maccabees, “the world was not worthy of them.

It is the cursed sectarian spirit that produces the ugly fruit I grew up in and what is still thriving all over. Anti-sectarian sectarians are harsh and, as Stone pointed out, do more to hurt the cause of Jesus Christ than all the atheists combined … they make atheists. They make unbelievers of their own children! Why because, as Lipscomb said, they believe they already have all the truth and cannot learn a thing from anyone. They have no reason to grow or to change. They have no sin of which to repent, and yet live in abject fear.

Here I Stand: Disciples are Seekers on a Journey

But the genuine disciple of Christ is a seeker.

I can, and do, disagree on matters with other disciples of Jesus. I can, and do, press the case for what I think the Bible teaches on this or that with other disciples of Christ. But they are still disciples!

The wonderful vision of the Stone-Campbell Movement was that we are Christians Only. We are not the Only Christians. I do not have to “paganize” fellow believers and, like Campbell, I refuse to do so. If that makes me a false teacher in the eyes of a few then I am in good and holy company.

I am grateful for our heritage. I am equally grateful that I have rediscovered what it really is. May we all be brave enough to be like Stone and Campbell, brave enough to go to the Bible and say, “upon further study I think you were right and I was wrong.” Confessing that I misunderstood does not mean that I was previously lost but now I am ok. When God, in God’s grace, throws light on our eyes and we see afresh this is reason to praise and thank God that in the Spirit’s grace we were allowed to grow.

Shalom.

My Son’s Name

My year old son’s name is Sawyer.

Although often asked, he is not named after the slick-tongued con man on LOST.  He is named in honor of a couple that, besides my parents, was essential to my development as a Christ-following young man.

I grew up in Dyersburg, a rolling-hilled West Tennessee farm town. Those of us who went through our congregation’s youth group during the 90s experienced youth ministry as “Jerry’s Kids.” That is, Jerry and Kathy Sawyer, who were our youth group leaders.

What made the Sawyers such a draw for me was not the keen sweater vests trending in the 90s youth ministry circles. Jerry had his own style, opting out of the trends, wearing SAS shoes instead. As I arrive into my mid to late thirties, those shoes look more and more appealing!

His mode of transportation was also not the attraction. In fact, true story. Jerry had a 19-something-or-other model Ford pick-up fueled by hopes and prayers that miraculously helped it arrive at its destination. It was accessorized with bullet holes and a moderately rusted exterior. My friend, Chris, who was also in the youth group, once drove the truck around the neighborhood. While driving down the road the stick shift stuck, the glove compartment blew open, and green fluid poured into the floorboard. A legendary youth group occurrence.

As a young guy who grew up on a struggling farm, this was more important for me to experience than I could know at the time.  Embedded within that season of my life was a desire to serve in ministry and also a desire to pursue a steadier financial life for myself. As you could guess, those two goals may at times be at odds.

Now I’m a minister who influences my family, college students, and others whom I am probably not aware. For better or worse, college students and my family follow me as I follow Christ.  This seemed to be the way of Paul’s ministry. We all follow someone as they follow Christ. We must choose our trail leaders wisely. I’m confident my teenage self did so. Jerry and Kathy constantly lived out Philippians 2 for me. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Paul requests.

My wife and I now have two children and realize the challenge of balancing church with family.  Jerry and Kathy have four children and at that point in my life frequently opened their home to a significant number of energetic teens in their lives. We needed their spiritual space and time and time again they provided it. Jerry and Kathy bent low in service to us. They could have made more money and had nicer things but they committed to loving, teaching, and serving our youth group.

I also remember drilling Jerry with questions about faith and relationships in class and on youth trips. I was so thirsty for answers.  Jerry made me feel like questioning our faith was a strength, not a weakness.

Kathy always asked how my life was going. When I talked with her I knew I mattered. This was and is important for someone who has and does doubt himself at times.

I don’t recall all the answers Jerry gave me or all the questions Kathy asked about my week, but when I think of them the Maya Angelou quote rings true, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When I think back about them, I feel I was with a couple that was with Jesus.

The Sawyer’s influence abides in the faith of “Jerry’s Kids” as well as in the name of my son, Sawyer, whom I pray loves God as much as these mentors did.

To read more of Rusty’s writing visit his blog at www.rustywoods.com

Rusty is husband to Rachel; father to Elliot and Sawyer; Scooby Snack provider to their dog, Samwise Barkley Woods.

He loves this world because he believes God made it worth loving. He loves its vivid colors, its vast and various terrains, its grandeur. Therefore you’ll find him jogging its Memphis, TN trails, snap-shotting its scenery, or eating its delicious Buffalo Chicken Quessadillas when he can.

He studied some books heavy in weight and theology at Harding School of Theology and is now a Master of Divinity from that great place. This degree title sounds like one from Hogwarts, but he assures you, he is no wizard with awesome powers…yet.

Unsung Heroes in the Christian Faith

Young men and women are looking for heroes. The same is true for Christian young men and women.

We need heroes to admire and look up to. We need heroes who can inspire us . . . people who have gone ahead of us.

We need men and women of God upon whose shoulders we can stand. And in God’s mercy, perhaps see further than they did.

If you were to ask the average 20- or 30-something Christian today who their heroes are, they will most likely rattle off a few celebrity-pop-mega-church pastors. None of whom they know personally.

Some will mention Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Jonathan Edwards or Spurgeon.

Well, I’d like to introduce you to five people who served as my heroes when I was in my 20s and they still are today.

With the exception of one of them, these servants of God are unfamiliar to most Christians today. This is a travesty in my opinion because in my humble (but accurate) opinion 🙂 . . . each of them had more insight into Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, and God’s Ultimate Purpose than Calvin, Luther, Wesley, J. Edwards, and Spurgeon combined.

So much so that they are still my heroes.

If some of you who read this article will pick up some of the books I mention written by these choice vessels of the Lord, I’m confident that you will agree with me.

T. Austin-Sparks

This man’s book, The School of Christ, turned the late David Wilkerson’s life upside down.

Sparks was the man whom God used to recover the revelation of God’s Eternal Purpose to the body of Christ.

In all of church history, no one had talked about it in as much depth before Sparks.

His books The School of Christ, The Stewardship of the Mystery, God’s Spiritual House, and Prophetic Ministry are classics. You can get them all on discount here.

Watchman Nee

Nee was a contemporary of Sparks. In fact, Nee saw Sparks as his spiritual mentor. (Sparks was Scottish and Nee was a Chinaman.)

Some people have wrongly confused Watchman Nee with Witness Lee, but the two were very different and so were their views.

Nee was the Chinese version of Bonhoeffer, although his writings are much easier to read and less academic.

You can read this post for a biography Nee and the Box Set of his best work that I’ve put together on discount.

Nee’s ministry gave me a rock solid foundation in Christ and the Church.

Ruth Paxson

This missionary to China in the early 20th century had keen insight into the Scriptures.

Her books Life on the Highest Plane and The Wealth, Walk, and Warfare of the Christian are classics that few contemporary Christians know about.

You can check them out here on discount.

DeVern Fromke

Unlike the rest of the people on my list, Fromke is still alive. He used to minister with T. Austin-Sparks in the 1960s.

I have spent time with Fromke in his home and have had numerous conversations with him via phone and email.

In many ways, he’s been a mentor to me.

Because I want contemporary Christians to profit from his ministry, I’ve created a Box Set of his three best books: Ultimate Intention, Unto Full Stature, and Life’s Ultimate Privilege. Go here to get the Devern Fromke box set on discount.

A.W. Tozer

Tozer is the most well-known among the spiritual giants I’ve listed.

Tozer drew from some of the names I’ve mentioned above. His ministry was prophetic, challenging, and incisive.

Some of my favorite Tozer books can be found here.

My ministry is called The Deeper Journey. That title owes much to the aforementioned people. It’s dedicated to digging below the surface and moving beyond the shallows in today’s Christianity.

FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including God’s Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. He blogs regularly at frankviola.org.

On Keith Brenton and New Wineskins

KeithBrentonIt’s remarkable to me that, when the original editors of New Wineskins decided to move on to other projects, Keith asked to take over as publisher of the E-zine. At the time, the Churches of Christ had hardly any Internet presence at all. Cecil Hook and few other intrepid progressives were making some headway. A few congregations had websites, but not many. And a few conservatives copied their print magazine materials to the Internet, but most saw the Internet merely as a place to take orders for new subscriptions.

Moreover, New Wineskins had attempted to make a go of it as a paid-subscription service, while nearly all the rest of the Internet was providing content for free. That’s a model that doesn’t work for many even today, and there were far fewer potential subscribers back then. I’ve not seen the books, but I’m sure the E-zine was bleeding red ink by the barrel.

Nearly singlehandedly, Keith kept New Wineskins alive for many years — long enough to convert to a free-subscription model and to build up its readership.

Why does this matter? Well, I’m no religious sociologist, but it seems to me that movements and denominations are largely defined by their institutions. Today, the more progressive Churches of Christ aren’t held together by editors and personalities but by loyalty to the affiliated colleges and universities, by attendance at the lectureships, and by shared para-church organizations, such as MRN and Kairos.

You see, as a non-denominational denomination, we have no headquarters, no one to whom we owe dues, and no official publishing house. We have the Christian Chronicle to report “our” news, even though we are increasingly unsure just who “we” are.

Ask one of our more prominent preachers or authors what it would mean to “leave the Churches of Christ,” and you’ll get a bemused, uncertain look — because you can’t leave what you never really joined. You can only stop going to the lectureships and cooperating through joint mission and benevolence programs. Indeed, we’re held together with little more than “strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff” — and memories of a common heritage.

Anthropologists like to speak of “culture” being defined by “artifacts.” That is, a culture creates long-lasting things that help define what that culture is all about — the culture creates the artifacts and the artifacts create the culture. Well, religious movements are defined by their institutions — their means of sharing ideas, of doing Bible study as a group, and of doing ministry together when the job is too big for a single congregation. And these institutions tell us what’s important to that religious group.

Wineskins is not a means for doing benevolence or mission work, although we hope to find ourselves helping out more and more in those areas. But it is a means of doing Bible study together. It’s a way to share (and not impose) ideas. It’s even conservative, in the sense that it reminds us of our Restoration roots and sometimes asks us to think long and hard before abandoning the good and holy within the Restoration Movement.

Wineskins has never had a huge subscriber base. It doesn’t command a massive readership. But it does serve as one of the very few things that remain that allow many of us with deep roots in the Churches of Christ to identify with our beloved nondenominational denomination, to remind us that we are a movement and not a museum, and to push us to continue talk to each other — because there’s something in the Church of Christ as a community worth preserving.

Keith carried the ball for years, paying most of the costs out of his own pocket, and doing much of the writing himself. And it’s thanks to Keith that this precious institution still exists and continues to provide a subtle but extremely important influence on us all.

He carried the ball too long and too alone, and it’s time for Keith to bask in the gratitude and applause of those he served so well and so long.

Thanks.

Note from Matt: As many of you know Wineskins has undergone some recent transitions. As we have discussed the future of Wineskins one of the things that has come up is the need to appreciate where we have come from. One of the great difficulties of the last year with Wineskins was the passing of Angie Brenton and the subsequent decision by Keith Brenton to stop editing Wineskins. We have decided to dedicate this issue to him and to her legacy as a token of our appreciation as Keith enters a new season of life.

Here are a few words of encouragement as we dedicate this issue to Keith Brenton, former editor of Wineskins.

Keith, for years you served the Churches of Christ quietly and behind the scenes, you pestered and dreamed and cared and recruited and prodded and helped and edited people who you thought might have a word for God’s people.  You had a thankless job, but I’m very thankful you did it.

God spoke the world through words, I have no idea how many world were created or changed by your thoughtful prayer and consistent vision for what the Restoration Movement was and could be.

Thank you for your service and your humility,

Jonathan Storment

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Keith: For your years of faithful service – in time, in money, and in leadership – to the continuation of Wineskins magazine, many readers are thankful. For the hours spent commenting on blogs and articles, curbing less productive directions and encouraging more fruitful conversation, many writers are thankful. It is fitting that the issue whose theme is faith-shapers would be dedicated to you, since you have done just that for so many by helping to provide faithful and critical Wineskins content. Having passed the baton to the next runner, I pray that you have time to breathe, grieve, think, play, write, read, drink coffee, parent, walk the dog, laugh, cry, marathon-watch TV, or whatever else will bring you life. ~ Naomi Walters

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“Keith, through hell and high water, you’ve kept a passion for Churches of Christ to be a relevant part of the kingdom conversations happening in North America.” – Josh Graves

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Keith,  I’m thankful God allowed our paths to cross. I remember your zeal to continue Wineskins years ago and grateful you allowed me to be a very small part of that. Thank you for your encouragement and for showing us all that pain and heartache don’t define us but our love for the Lord and his Kingdom do. Proud to be able to call you friend and brother.

In Christ,

Paula Harrington

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Everyone who has enjoyed Wineskins these last several months and who anticipates a great future for Wineskins owes a debt of gratitude to my friend W. Keith Brenton. Owing completely to his selfless devotion to keeping the online magazine alive and thriving, we readers and contributors have been able to benefit from Keith’s untiring work.

Having observed brother Keith over time, he has earned my utmost respect. The way he dispatched himself as a webservant, the way he has dealt with the death of his dear wife, and his continuing ministry with his local church in North Carolina, make me happy to call W Keith Brenton my Christian brother and honored friend. I anticipate great things ahead for this good man.

Royce Ogle

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When Keith responded to my first query with interest, I was ecstatic — no actually, I was like, jumping up and down with excitement. Keith was always appreciative of each article I submitted, and he was never critical. I felt blessed contributing to Wineskins because Keith made me feel like I could write well and like I was his friend. I will be eternally grateful for Keith letting me write for Wineskins. I was deeply saddened during Angi’s illness and by her passing, and my heart still goes out to Keith.

Craig Cottongim

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“Keith, I am deeply grateful for your untiring devotion to Wineskins. I have especially appreciated your dedication to the inclusion of women’s voices on the pages of Wineskins.” – Sara Barton

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Keith, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you brother. You have been selfless, a visionary and a leader in helping to guide the conversation via New Wineskins over the last several years. You are in my thoughts and prayers and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you next.

Blessings,

Matt Dabbs

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Thank you, Keith, for the selfless nature of giving yourself to the ministry of the written word. For enabling and fostering encouragement, discernment, learning, and growth. You have worn your new wineskin well. – Les Ferguson, Jr.

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In the magical kingdom called Internet one encounters all types of people. Over time you start to feel like you are ‘friends’ with these folks whom you’ve never met. Like the anonymous ‘pen pals’ of yesteryear (except much swifter) one comes to be known by their words and attitudes. I think it is fairly rare to find someone with such a genuine spirit that it shines through their posts and responses in such a consistently beautiful way. Keith Brenton is one of those rare finds. What good fortune (or blessing!) has been mine to become acquainted with this man of wisdom. I’m afraid he is a man of sorrows. He is a man of prayer; his tweets at the 3:00 hour reminding us to pray. He is also a man of humility who will eschew these words. His calmness when under fire reminds us to be patient. His self awareness in grief reminds us to hold our loved ones tightly. In many ways he reminds me of Jesus. His influence extends far, and that is a good thing for all of us. Through his tears and brokenness he continues to present to the electronic world, through which we are all connected, a peace that expresses the truth that this man has been with Jesus. And we all benefit from his faith. Thank you Keith. – John Dobbs

Vibrating With Whatever Song He Sings

I have a lot of guitars. I’m at that awkward stage – more than I need but less than I want. When people see them they often ask “Which one is your favorite?” The fact is that I have a different favorite for each kind of music I want to play. They all have their own voices and I seek out the voice I need for the song of the moment. Truth be told, though, I do have a favorite.

My first guitar was a 12 string handmade by a master luthier named Yairi who crafted guitars on a mountain in Japan for Alvarez. You can still buy Alvarez-Yairi guitars – and they command a premium – but the master has passed on his craft to a team who carry on his traditions. The top is spruce that has aged to a deep honey brown and the rosewood back and sides have a hint of ruby showing through. Guitars, when played regularly, get better with age. The pores of the wood open up, the top gets more sensitive, and the wood finds its voice. This sounds like Zen or nonsense to anyone who doesn’t play an acoustic instrument but those of us who do know it to be true. A lot of science goes into choosing the wood, glue, bracing, and how it goes together.

My guitar was signed by Yairi in December 1977 and I bought it a few months later. I’ve only met one other guitarist who learned on a 12 string – it isn’t advisable. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was playing that guitar around a campfire in the Rocky Mountains in 1978 when some other families pulled into the remote, “no facilities” area. A beautiful young girl came out of one of the pop-up campers and sat down by the fire to listen. Her name was Kami and I married her just over a year later. Many of our early dates were her sitting at her dining room table doing homework while I played across from her. She doesn’t play but she loves that guitar as much as I do.

So why is this in Wineskins? For those who don’t play – you are going to have to just take my word on this next part. Those who play, know. Sometimes I will be playing a classical guitar or my Taylor 8 string or even a regular old six string guitar and I will look up and see the 12 string sitting there. I then set the guitar I’m playing aside and go over to the old guitar and lean close…and hear it already vibrating with the chords I was playing. With daily work, play, and companionship that guitar has opened up so much that it vibrates with whatever music is in the area. It is as if it is ready to sing along, happy to join in with whatever I am doing.

I have often prayed that my heart will be like that with God. I want to be God’s 12 string guitar, ready to vibrate with whatever song He wants to sing in my life. I think of that when I wake in the morning and ask God what He wants to do that day. I think of that when I enter a room and wonder what song He would sing there, who He would bless, who He would listen to, who He would touch.

Unplayed, a guitar will slowly harden and close. You can still play it but it won’t sound very full or sweet. It needs close, frequent contact with the master or it becomes just wood and steel and bits of ivory or plastic locked away in a cardboard case. But played…it becomes something magical and wonderful. I know I have the tendency to be “me” centered, withdrawn into my own corner but deep down my heart wants to be picked up by God…and already singing whatever song He wants to sing in that place, in that time.

PatrickMead12String