Have you ever had a Christmas gift that was a complete and unexpected surprise? I’m sure that has happened to all of us a time or two. However, with Christmas wish lists, we often have some idea about what we will receive.
My wife, Donna, tends to be a real expert at knowing what gifts to give people. This last Christmas, she gave me a gift I already owned but had forgotten about. When I rediscovered it, it brought a depth of experience and opportunity that I had not realized was possible.
When I was in 8th grade at Adelphian Junior Academy (AJA), Carolyn Adams started a school band. I don’t remember how it happened, but I wanted, or was assigned, the saxophone. The school had an alto sax that I was trying to figure out. One young lady had an old, beat-up tenor saxophone that was too big for her to play comfortably. Mrs. Adams asked if I would be interested in switching to the tenor sax and have the other student play alto because the size was smaller. I agreed to the change, and my Dad purchased the old tenor for $95.The rest is history—sort of.
I only played the tenor saxophone during my time at AJA. When I went to Great Lakes Adventist Academy (GLAA) my junior year, I played the baritone saxophone. After that, I never picked it up again, and hadn’t planned on playing it again, frankly. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy playing. I just lost interest, and other things took priority.
I pursued vocal music and a little bit of guitar, but my old tenor saxophone sat dormant and unused—decaying, smelling badly, and collecting dust. Until Christmas 2021, when my wife sat me down on the couch and gave me back my old tenor sax, completely refurbished, in a brand-new case!
It’s hard to describe my racing thoughts when I opened that brand new case and saw my old, neglected sax. Honestly, I wasn’t very excited. Life is busy, and I wasn’t sure I would even enjoy playing it again, since it had been nearly 30 years.
Our friend, Sarah Jacokes, plays beautifully at church, and I enjoy listening to her music. Before I received my Christmas gift, I mentioned to her that I still had my old tenor saxophone. She and Pastor Jeff Dowell, who also plays, asked to take a look at it. Notwithstanding their encouragement, I just didn’t have the desire to bring it out. It wasn’t a priority for me anymore and I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be one again. It almost felt like I had never played at all. And besides, it really wasn’t in “playing” shape.
Now here it was in front of me and functionally brand new again. For those of you who know instruments, getting one completely refurbished is a very expensive venture. All these thoughts played in my head as I examined my old, neglected friend.
As a teenager I didn’t care much about the history of my saxophone. Now I have been fascinated to discover that my vintage sax was probably made in the late 1930’s, has a unique tone because of the era, and is actually a quality instrument made from that time. My mouthpiece is also very rare, having only been made from 1939-1944. All these years, I didn’t realize what I had.
A few months have passed since I received this special gift, and what can I say? During the 25 years, we have been married, this is the greatest Christmas gift my wife has ever given me. I enjoy playing my saxophone again when time allows, and I have come to realize what a special gift it really is. Music is such a beautiful thing and, in the stresses of life, playing my sax has been a therapeutic experience. What used to be a beat-up old saxophone is now rejuvenated and alive.
Why am I sharing all of this? Because I have not been able to ignore the powerful spiritual lesson that has come to me through this journey of rediscovery, and yes, even regret.
I have been rebuked by the realization that, just like my old tenor saxophone, I have, to a degree, taken for granted the beautiful truths we hold as Seventh-day Adventists. I think many others could say the same. Of course, I haven’t completely abandoned our spiritual pillars. It is not like I ever got rid of my old, musty saxophone. I kept it in my basement through all the moves we have made over the years. My mom (Thanks, Mom!) never got rid of it when I was away at college. Though it was still part of me, somehow it had lost its appeal. It was important enough, though, that I did not get rid of it.
That sounds a lot like the Laodicean condition to me: lukewarm. Isn’t that the prophetic position we are in right now as God’s remnant people? In the church by name, keeping our membership, having the doctrines encased somewhere safe, never getting rid of them, when they are actually lying dead and unused. The words of Jesus in Revelation 3 are clear; He would rather that we were cold than lukewarm. It is so true. When we’re thirsty there is nothing worse than a lukewarm drink. When it is hot we need something cool and when it is cold we need something hot!
I am struck even as I write these words that it would have been better to have given my sax to someone else who would have used it, than to selfishly let it sit unused and broken in my basement for nearly 30 years! Thank God for second, third, fourth…even seventy times seven chances!
What are we doing with the beautiful gifts God has us for these last days? We are the Laodicean church, His Remnant, and we are struggling with this condition. Currently, God is blessing the Michigan Conference with a wonderful tithe increase. The challenge is that overall participation in relation to church ministry since COVID began has plummeted! Lord, help us!
We need to be shaken awake to raise our individual temperatures. Individual heat will swell to corporate flames that will finish this work and hasten Jesus’ coming. Now is the time to reach out to our friends and co-workers and share Jesus with them. We need to ask God to open opportunities to share the gospel and spend the relational capital we have built with our colleagues.
During a time when so many are questioning what is being taught in the public schools, Adventist Education is an amazing and powerful outreach ministry that can reach families for Christ and keep our churches young and vibrant. We, as a church, need to follow the counsel God gave through Ellen White: “Where there are those who assemble to worship God, let there be schools for the children.” (Review and Herald, July 2, 1908)
In a world filled with warped and satanic views of God’s creation, there is a system of education that holds the biblical standard high. Even closer to home we, as individuals, need to rediscover Adventist Education as a choice for our own children. We need to pull Adventist Education back to the forefront of our mission, rather than taking it for granted, or letting it lay dormant.
We have amazing institutions, from one room schools, multi-teacher elementary schools, and day academies, to Great Lakes Adventist Academy, our senior boarding academy. Now with our technology facilitated school, A.S.P.I.R.E. Academy, there is no boundary or geographical limitation to prohibit young people from being a part of Adventist Education. There are choices available, and our schools offer something unique to fit the needs of each child.
If we want leaders to replace us, should time last, we desperately need our schools to survive. Were it not for my experience at AJA, and later at GLAA, I would not be where I am today. Adventist Education still works.
I am grateful that, thanks to my dear wife and the encouragement of others, I rediscovered my saxophone and can play it again. Unfortunately, I will never be able to play as well as I could have if I had not let it sit for so long. I can start anew, however, and that is the beauty of the Gospel and the forgiveness of Christ. There is also still an opportunity for us to truly awaken from our Laodicean condition and take advantage of the beautiful truths we find reflected in God’s Word. We must not let them lie dormant—not only because there is a world to save, but because we need saving. The Adventist Church is not a club, it is a commission, and a great one.