I admit that I own several guitars. Some people don’t understand this. I have guitar-playing friends whose wives tell them, “You can only play one at a time!” But they don’t understand that each guitar has its own sound and feel, and they are like different tools in your tool box. I suggest that they respond to their wives in kind: “Honey, why do you have so many pairs of shoes? You can only wear one pair at a time!” So far none of them has taken my advice.
My wife has always been incredibly understanding about my guitars. When we met in high school, my guitar playing was one of the things that attracted her to me. (A guy needs all the help he can get.) My wife is a musician, too, and she loves music as much as I do. And besides, she says it keeps me off the streets.
But the truth is I don’t like to keep an instrument I don’t play. And as my tastes or needs have changed, I have sometimes “thinned the herd” and either traded a guitar for something else, or found a new home for it.
Years ago I ran across a nice used acoustic guitar in Fred Markle’s music store. It wasn’t very expensive, but it sounded good, played well and was in good shape. It didn’t even have a case, but I thought, “I can always use a good ‘campfire’ guitar.” (A “campfire” guitar is one you don’t mind taking to a campfire and one you won’t get too upset about if something happens to it.) So I bought it and took it home.
Not long after my wife and I went to visit some friends in Bloomington. Their names were Brian and Leslie Bean. Brian had been a friend since high school, and we met his wife Leslie after they moved to Bloomington. Brian played a little guitar, too, though he was left-handed, and he also played harmonica. I brought my new “campfire” guitar to show him. To my surprise, he had one very nearly like it, even the same brand, only left-handed.
He pointed out to me that the guitar had a solid wood top (which gives an acoustic guitar better tone), and he showed me several other things about the guitar which made me realize it was a better instrument than I had originally thought. He handed it back to me and said, “You need to get a good case for this guitar, Dave. It’s a keeper!”
A few days later Brian was hit and killed while driving in his car. He was “T-boned” by another driver who was either drunk or high. The other driver had so many things in his bloodstream they weren’t sure how he was able to drive at all. He hit and killed Brian less than a mile from Brian’s home.
The next day I went back to Fred Markle’s and bought a nice hard-shell case for that guitar. I was crying the whole time. I’m choked up again as I write this, even after all these years.
I’ve kept that guitar and often thought of Brian when I looked at it. I’ve played it in coffee shops, church services, nursing homes, and yes, at campfires. It’s been a good guitar.
After my Dad died last year, to the surprise of my brothers and I, there was actually something left of my Dad’s estate to divide between the three of us. An idea kept coming to me: to use part of my Dad’s bequest to buy a guitar to remember him by. I thought this might be kind of selfish, so I asked three people about it: my wife, a pastor friend, and a friend of our family. To my astonishment they all said, “That’s a great idea! You should do that!” So I did. The guitar was made the year Dad died, and it looks beautiful and sounds great. It even smells good. And I think it may be the only guitar I’ve ever had that my Dad has never heard. I play it nearly every day.
As the weeks went by, though, I noticed that I wasn’t playing my “campfire” guitar much at all. Despite the fact that it was a good instrument, it wasn’t a guitar that would have a lot of resale value. But it did have a lot of sentimental value to me because of my friend Brian. Sometimes I could almost hear him say, “Dave, that guitar needs to be played.” So to honor Brian’s memory, rather than sell or trade it, I decided to see if I could find a new home for my old guitar. I began asking God to help me find some young person who maybe led worship music at their church or for a Christian campus group, who might benefit from a better instrument.
After several weeks passed, I found myself having lunch with a young friend who is involved in campus ministry. He mentioned that he had recently led worship at his church. My ears pricked up. I asked him what kind of guitar he played. He told me, but then added that it was no longer working and was in need of repairs. That’s when I felt like God was tapping me on the shoulder. I told him about my friend Brian, and about the guitar that Brian had told me was a “keeper.” Then I told him I thought it might honor Brian’s memory if I passed the guitar on to him, so he could use it at church and in his campus ministry. The look on his face was fantastic. He was overjoyed, and so surprised. And I knew I’d found a home for this guitar that would make Brian grin from ear to ear.
I was able to put the guitar into my young friend’s hands a week later. The first thing he did with it was take it to a Christian camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to play it in various situations, including… campfires! I love it.
I have mixed emotions in telling you about all this. It kind of seems like what we used to call “get your glory now” back in college. But I wanted you to know about my friend Brian. And I felt such joy in passing that guitar on to my young friend. It’s gratifying to me to know that the guitar is being played, and played for Kingdom purposes.
What do you have that you could pass on? It doesn’t need to be an instrument, or even a material thing. The concept of passing on encouragement to a younger person is called a “blessing” in the Bible. The next generation is facing things we couldn’t have imagined when we were their age. I think it’s a shame if we’re so focused on ourselves and our own generation that we neglect to encourage the generations coming behind us. It might even be a sin.
For all the differences in style, manners and music, there are still a significant number of young people out there who are trying to live for God. They need our encouragement. They need our blessing. They need to know that we look at them and think, “You’re a ‘keeper’!”
As another friend of mine would say, “You think about that!”
Soli Deo Gloria!