Friday, January 14, 2011

A Life Lost in Christ

This past Sunday the pastor of my church preached a message on how God builds advantages from life’s adverse circumstances. His text was Philippians 1:12-18. During his sermon he illustrated how God can take a life that would appear to be broken and worthless and use it for His glory. He referenced the classic poem “The Touch of the Masters Hand” by Myra Brooks Welch to further illustrate his point.

Although I had heard of the poem, I had never read it and was so moved by its message that I decided to do some research on Welch and her writings. Welch was a prolific poet who had three volumes of her poetry published by the Brethren Publishing House. She was called “The poet with the singing soul.” Her faith and courageous optimism, as reflected in her poetry, are not shallow and untested phases of a life outlook. She achieved them despite or rather perhaps in part because of severe arthritis that confined her to a wheel chair for twenty years. Writing from her own personal experience and faith, she brought inspiration and courage to thousands of people.

Welch came from a very musical family and as a young woman, her special love was playing the organ. In 1921, she heard a speaker address a group of students. She said she became filled with light, and her most famous poem “Touch of the Master's Hand” wrote itself in just 30 minutes! She sent it anonymously to her church news bulletin. She felt it was a gift from God, and didn't need her name on it. Its popularity spread like magic. Finally, several years later, the poem was read at a religious international convention and it was announced that the author was unknown. A young man stood up and said, “I know the author, and it's time the world did too. It was written by my mother, Myra Welch.” Then her name, as well her other beautiful works of poetry became known worldwide.

All of her poetry relfected her own rejoicing because of God's great love. What the world did not see, was the woman who created these masterpieces: Myra in her wheelchair, battered and scarred from the severe arthritis, which had taken away her ability to make music. Instead, her musical soul spoke through her poetry. She took one pencil in each of her badly deformed hands. Using the eraser end, she would slowly type the words, the joy of them outweighing the pain of her efforts. Her words, a joyous expression of the wonders of life, as seen by a singing soul that was touched by the Master’s Hand. It has been said that when a friend one day turned to leave her home, Myra patted the arm of her wheelchair and said, “And I thank God for this!” Imagine being grateful for a wheelchair. But her talent lay undiscovered prior to her wheelchair days. Rather than becoming bitter, she chose a new path in life through her writing and a wonderful door opened allowing her to glorify God in an unexpected way.

So, without further delay, here is “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” in its entirety. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.

The Touch of the Master's Hand

 It was 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?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,
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 with bourbon and gin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
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.

- Myra Brooks Welch

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