Coffee Stains: Christmas in ParisAuthor: David Porter
We happened on the little shop accidentally. Friends were visiting for a couple of days and we had decided to see the city of Paris, all decked out for Christmas.
By late that afternoon, between muttering to ourselves and squinting at the map trying to find where we were and where we wanted to go, we hadn’t seen too much aside from the Bastille monument and lots of nice window displays.
Wandering around the side streets near the Place des Vosges, though, we came on a shop window that brought us up short.
Musical instruments, some strange, some familiar, beckoned from the dusky interior drawing us inside. I felt like I had stumbled onto an old-growth forest after having wandered around all day in the conformity of woods that had been clear-cut and replanted with only commercially profitable trees.
It seemed as if one of those old English shops you read about in Victorian novels had magically come to life. This one came complete with a unique owner–greasy apron, unruly hair, and an obvious love for his wares–all included in the price.
It didn’t take much urging to get him to demonstrate a strange contraption which looked like the result of a collision between a violin and a gramophone.
If I got the story straight, that instrument had been constructed for a specific task, so that a well-known violinist could make a recording way back in the time when recording music was less than easy. We listened as the owner/musician poured his soul into a rendition that bought the strange violin to life.
Turns out that this man has been selling his instruments from that shop for 38 years. His nondescript collection came from all over the world” “hundreds of musical devices populated the cluttered room. You could imagine that they all came alive and danced around singing at night when the humans left.
My wife asked, ‘Can you play all these instruments?’ Yup! According to him there are only three major groups of musical instruments and if you understand the basic principles of each, you can play any instrument in that group.
I really couldn’t tell you. The only instruments I play are the radio and the CD player. Oh, yeah. I forgot the MP3 player” “I extract music from it too.
I thought a lot about the music man in the days that followed. His shop had instruments as varied as the creatures at the bottom of the ocean–and he can play them all?
Kind of like the Lord, isn’t it? We’re all pretty sure that at times He doesn’t understand us and worse we want to question Him about some of his actions and decisions. Do you really know us? Are you ‘playing’ us correctly.
What about that Christian who died at 35 years of age? Was that fair?
I thought about the gramophone/violin. That instrument was made to respond to a specific need and a specific situation. After the musician was done with it, it simply slept on an old collector’s shelf. Was that fair? I suspect that if the instrument could talk she would say, ‘I served my maker well. I was created for that. What more could I ask?’
God made that 35-year old for a reason. It hurts us to lose him but if he loved the Lord, he has an eternity to rejoice. I strongly suspect that a lot of things we call tragedies are just simply stories of ‘instruments’ that God created for a reason, then afterwards took them home to be with Him.
And as the old collector knows how to play each one of those unusual instruments, so the Lord knows how to ‘play’ us. He even knows how to make music from the ‘weirdos’ among us. Under His hands Bach and Beethoven (and the Beatles) would be jealous to hear the music of our lives.
‘And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.’ (2 Chron. 7:6 KJV)
If beautiful music comes from our life as the Master plays, should we gripe if it lasts a long time or a brief instant? God creates us and He uses us for the purpose for which we were created.
In the eternal scheme of things, nothing matters any more that that. Here’s wishing you the most blessed Christmas and New Year that you’ve ever had (to this point in your life)–David
He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone – “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” (Itzhak Perlman, after masterfully finishing a concert with three strings when one of his violin strings broke)