Friday, May 11, 2018

What Was Under Ita’s Bed?

(submitted by Kerry Patton)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16 

Meet Ita Nole
I came to know Ita (pronounced: “Eye-ta”)Nole in 1987 when I became pastor of a little church in Avoca, Texas.  Ita was the Post Master of the little rural U.S. Post office there in Avoca. As a new member of the community, I’d gone to the post office to notify them about my taking over the pastor’s postal address.  There, I was delighted to meet Ita and learn that she was also a faithful member of the church I had just taken charge of.  
As it turned out, Ita’s home was just behind the parsonage I lived in, but just across the street.  I don’t think I had been in the church parsonage but a week or two when I looked out the kitchen window one morning and walking across my back yard from her own home came Ita Nole carrying a plate of her still warm, fresh baked, sour dough rolls… rolls that would become known to us as “Ita Rolls” and to anyone who ever tasted them, as “heavenly.”  During the year or so I lived in Avoca, Ita made deliveries of her dinner rolls many times, and she would always spend time with us sharing stories of growing up there in Jones County in the years well before World War II.  
On one such visit, almost in passing, Ita mentioned that she had a violin.  As a musician myself, she captured my attention.  “Oh? Tell me about your violin!” She said that it had belonged to her father…that he had given it to her, but that she had never taken to it.  I asked her what make of instrument it was.  She struggled to remember for a moment.  “Oh…you would ask me that, wouldn’t you?  I think it’s supposed to be a nice one. St..Stradi-something…”  “Stradivarius??” I enquired disbelievingly. “Yes. That’s it!” and then she continued telling her story. I had to stop her and learn more… “Wait. Wait… You have a Stradivarius violin…in your house?” “Yes,” Ita replied. “It’s in its case under the bed in the front room.  I haven’t taken it out in what must be twenty years…Remind me next time you are over and I’ll show it to you.”  …and then she finished her story and had to go.  
Unbelievably, I was a guest in Ita’s home on multiple occasions thereafter, but never thought to ask about seeing her Stradivarius.  I have no particular reason for that.  It just became a part of the whole picture…This is our good friend Ita.  This is her home.  She has a what might be a priceless violin under the bed in her front bedroom. And that was that.  I always figured I would remember to ask her next time.  And then I moved away…and several years later in 2004 at the age of 91, Ita passed away. 

Was It Real?  
If you do an internet search on Stradivarian violins, you’ll read that there are many…many…many fakes.  Likely, the violin under Ita’s front bed was just one among thousands of copy-cat violins made over the last two hundred years that the instrument maker labeled “Stradivarius” as a tribute, or to increase his own sales.  But then again…it seems to be the nature of Stradivarian violins that they keep popping up in bizarre places.  Discovered hidden in an enclosure in a barn wall in Germany as it is being torn down, or found buried in the closet of a deceased 104 year old New York copper heiress… It would not be entirely out of the realm of possibility for Ita’s violin to be just yet another amazing discovery story.
Whether or not Ita’s “Stradivarius” was real, and thereby exceedingly precious, I do not know.  But I do know this much for certain:  I know that our God is real.  I know that Jesus Christ is real.  I know that the Holy Spirit is real.  This faith that we each possess is real, and it is relevant, and it is absolutely potent to not only effect, but to save forever and transform this world we live in.  There is, however a danger…in fact, it is almost a pattern tendency among those who possess the Christian faith: to keep it hidden when it should be forever shining. Not unlike Ita’s violin, which she treasured since it came from her father, and she protected by keeping it hidden among other items and keepsakes beneath the bed of her front bedroom.
Among the greater tragedy of perhaps a violin worth millions of dollars being lost to obscurity, is the fact of Ita’s father investing the gift of the violin in her life, only to have it forever stored away beneath her bed.  She never really took ownership of it.  Never learned to play it.  It was effectively lost…lost to serving its purpose in having ever been made in the first place.  Violins are not simply to be owned…but played!  Similarly, the Gospel of Christ Jesus that we carry in our hearts and minds, that our Father has invested in us…is not merely to be possessed, but shared…lived in such a way that any and all who witness us might see the love and example of Christ Jesus alive in us!
This week, I was thinking about Ita’s violin…and my own faith.  Is my faith real or facsimile?  If indeed it is real, then it ought to be lived out-loud…without pretension; to the glory of the Lord Jesus, and for the benefit of those around me.  Hide not your violin…er…your Light, but let it so shine that all might see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Amen.

Father?  Have I been hiding my love for you under Ita’s bed?  Is my testimony treasured, but covered in dust? Embolden me that I might take out your love, tune it up, and play of your mighty deeds!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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