Master’s Hand

Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet; and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement. William Sloane Coffin

   As “Music City,” Nashville draws musicians from all over the country. There are so many talented musicians in Nashville that when asked if I play the guitar, I always say, “No.” Playing a guitar means something different in Nashville than in my home state of South Carolina.
   I’ve been fortunate to watch Bob Britt play the guitar in many venues on many occasions for the almost fifteen years of our friendship. When I saw Bob play with John Fogerty at The Ryman, I watched Tom Spaulding, his guitar tech, bring him guitar, after guitar, after guitar. Tom brought so many instruments out for the different songs I commented to Carrie there was nothing left for Tom to bring other than a chair to see if Bob could play it. Tom would later say of Bob in contrast to other premier guitar players, “Bob has a way of seeing the whole and finding his place on stage making room for himself and making the music better at the same time.”
Having watched Bob for so many years, from a distance and up close, I finally figured out what amazes me most about him. There are many great guitar players who have created their own particularly distinct and recognizable sounds like B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, or Eddie Van Halen. Bob does something even more miraculous. At one particular Moment Service, Bob took out his guitar for the night, a Stella he had purchased for fifteen dollars at a Good Will. With a slide and pic, he brought out not Bob’s sound from the guitar, but the guitar’s sound. The Stella sounded cheap and tinny when I touched it resonated with life at Bob’s touch. In his hands, the Stella reached its full potential. Watching Bob, I remembered this poem by Myra Brooks Welch, The Touch of the Master’s Hand,

Twas battered and scarred and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,

But he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good folk?” he cried.
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar … now two … only two …
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?

“Three dollars once, three dollars twice,
Going for three” … but no!
From the room far back a gray-haired 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 an angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
As he held it up with the bow.

“A thousand dollars … and who’ll make it two?
Two…two thousand, and who’ll make it three?
Three thousand once and three thousand twice …
Three thousand and gone!” said he.

The people cheered, but some exclaimed
“We do not quite understand …
What changed it’s worth?” and the answer came:
‘Twas the touch of the master’s hand.”

And many a man with soul out of tune
And battered and scarred by sin
Is auctioned cheap by the thoughtless crowd
Just like the old violin.

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 master’s hand.

O Master! I am the tuneless one
Lay, lay Thy hand on me,
Transform me now, put a song in my heart
Of melody, Lord, to Thee!

   The author of this poem, Myra Brooks Welch, was born into a family of musicians, though she loved music and playing the organ, she was limited by debilitating arthritis and a condition which confined her to a wheelchair. Unable to play music, she put her creative energy into writing poetry. Her friends called her, “The poet with the singing soul.” She typed her poetry with two pencils, one grasped in each hand, using the erasers to hit the keys.
Many in Nashville rate a guitarist by the expensive nature of the instrument they play, some with even a model named after them. For those who look close enough, we can see the true masters of the art who can bring life from whatever instrument they touch. So, too, with human life, God is the master who can bring out our potential making us priceless.
   When your mind is still, when you are in the present moment free from past valuations or devaluations, be with God, seek out the touch of the master’s hand in your life. Pray this practice opening yourself to the touch of God using Frances Ridley Havergal’s hymn, Take My Life.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee.

(For more on Bob Britt, check out the following videos…)