Life well lived

silhouette walkerI have reached a time in life when I find myself trying to recapture some of the moments that flew by so unceremoniously and so quickly, but now seem so profound.  Yesterday I shared some memories of our childhood with my sister.  She started it off with a memoriam of sorts, just some random memories of her childhood, and even though I grew up in the same household, it was striking that her experiences were in some ways similar, but in others profoundly different.  But the sum of our remembrances gave me a new awareness of the preciousness of this gift called life.

We shared our perspective of our parents, both of whom have passed on, and found that there was much to hold on to, even though at the time it rarely seemed to be so.  And some of the memories came back with a flood of emotion.  Life is, as A.W. Tozer once wrote,

…a short and fevered rehearsal for a concert we cannot stay to give. Just when we appear to have attained some proficiency, we are forced to lay our instruments down. There is simply not time enough to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of our natures indicates we are capable of.

The following beautiful memoriam was written by Susannah Spurgeon after the death of her husband Charles. She reflects on life together and the Lord who gives and takes away. They are sweet and precious words.  I suggest reading and re-reading them.  Otherwise, they, like life itself, will pass too swiftly by.

I have traveled far now on life’s journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.

A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of “the land that is very far off”; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.

There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and “trees which the Lord has planted,” give shade and shelter from too great heat.

I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”

Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.

But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.

But the “goodness and mercy” which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord “lead on softly,” and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others.

Understanding Liberty

The Declaration of Independence holds that there are things about mankind that are self-evident: that they are endowed by their creator with certain rights that are “unalienable”.  What that means is that those rights cannot be given or taken away by anyone, because they were given to all men by their Creator.  The rights referred to are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That’s who we are as a people.  That’s what freedom means.  That’s what liberty is all about.  And it’s everything that Muslims would take away from us if we let them.

A point to ponder is this: What’s the difference between that and the right to LadyLibNYreligious liberty?  Wikipedia has a pretty good definition for religion: “A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe.” I would point out that by that definition, belief in the existence of a god or gods is not necessary.  And by that definition, many people who hold to a non-religious way of living, are nevertheless living by faith – faith that faith does not matter. They are the so-called “nones”, who when asked about their religion or faith answer “none”.

But ponder this: If you are a none, you are living in a governmental system that guarantees you the right to live by that.  It is your unalienable right to believe that there is no God, and the Constitution guarantees that the government will not make any laws that would take it away from you.  If you had been born in Iran, do you think you would be able to live that way? Not on your life. So whether you realize it or not, our belief in your right to have no religion is only truly possible in a system that guarantees freedom of religion.

Last Sunday on Meet the Press, Ben Carson was asked “Should a President’s faith matter? His response was that it would depend on what that faith was, and that if it was inconsistent with the principles of America, then of course it should matter. Chuck Todd followed up with this: Do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?  His answer was “No I do not.” He added that he would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.

Most Democrats and even some Republicans object to that, on the grounds that there must be no religious test which can disqualify one from running for President.  But we should remember two things: First, the Constitution does not allow one to be disqualified FROM RUNNING on the basis of religion, so a Muslim could certainly run.  But there is nothing that keeps any citizen from campaigning for or against that person on any grounds they wish, including religious ones.  So he was well within his bounds to say that he would not support a Muslim.

BarbWireSecond, we must understand that the teachings of the Muslim faith require all Muslims to fight against, and even kill Infidels.  An infidel is anyone who does not convert to Islam and live under Sharia Law.  So the Constitutional truths that are held to be self-evident are rejected by the Qur’an.  They deny that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights fundamental to being American and living under the Constitution.

Here’s a news flash.  We are at war with so-called “radical” Islam.  It is (and probably will remain) undeclared, but it is all too real.  There are plenty of cultural Muslims who do not adhere to the tenets of the faith according to the Holy Writings.  That’s true of Christianity as well.  In fact, the majority of those who identify as Christian in this country are more cultural Christians – they “believe in” Jesus, go to church most Sundays, and maybe say a prayer at dinner time, but the blend in with the culture very well, because they aren’t all that “religious” in their day-to-day living.

But the Muslims we call radical are the ones who actually read the Qu’ran and the Hadiths, and actively practice the rituals and practices according to them.  And because the Qu’ran is filled with commands we would be horrified by, we call them radical.  But Islam itself is what is radical.  That’s why the cultural Muslims don’t rise up in righteous indignation when they hear about their more radical brethren committing terrorist acts, maiming, killing, raping and pillaging.  They don’t consider those acts evil at all.  The Qu’ran actually calls them to do them, and the cultural Muslims are just not brave enough to obey, so staying silent keeps them from having to defend their disobedience to the Mullahs.  It’s all pretty sick by our standards, but that is the reality.

The enemy wants to convince us that they are our friends, and that they mean us no harm.  It is a lie, and their true colors will become more and more apparent as their numbers among us grow.

And they are growing!  They are making babies at a much more rapid rate than we are, and many of those who seek asylum or immigrate are adding to their number.  And many of you are asleep at the wheel, because you actually believe that religion does not matter.

A Muslim President?  Some say it could never happen.  I say that if current trends continue, it’s just a matter of time before Muslims in this country have gained such critical mass that they will change our culture.  And then a Muslim will not only run, he will win.  It will only take two or three generations for that to happen.

By then the people in my generation will have passed away, so there will be few people left to mourn the extinction of the land of the free and the home of the brave.


See Beyond the Fog

Today I am re-posting an article from BLOGOS on the overall concept of seeing beyond the fog.  I thought it captured beautifully the importance of keeping our focus on the main thing.  And as it has been said, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  It’s not yet in sight, but it is most definitely there!


By MeLissa LeFleur


It was 1952. An American woman named Florence Chadwick set out to be the first woman to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. Two years before, she had successfully swam the English Channel, setting a new record of 13 hours and 20 minutes. This trip toward California was different though. The water was numbing cold. She was flanked by small boats that carried spotters — their job was to look for sharks and scare them away. They were also available to help if Florence needed assistance. One of those boats carried Florence’s mother.

Around 15 hours into the swim, Florence was exhausted, numb from the cold, and she couldn’t go on. Thick fog had set in and she began to doubt her abilities. She cried out to her mother, telling her that she couldn’t make it any farther. Her mother encouraged her to go on and Florence continued swimming for another hour before she asked to be pulled from the water. As she sat in the boat, she learned that she had stopped swimming just a half-mile from the coastline. Devastated she said, “All I could see was fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” She said it felt like she was going nowhere and not making any progress.

Two months later, Florence tried to swim the Catalina Canal again. When the fog set in, she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind. That mental image kept her going and she knew the finish line was close. She completed the swim that day, becoming the first woman to swim the Catalina Canal. She also eclipsed the men’s record by two hours!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard numerous people bemoan the direction our country is headed. “What are we going to do?” they cry. Yes, our world is turning increasingly secular and moving further from biblical principles. We can express concerned and be in prayer, but I think we forget the end of the story. We forget who wins! Let’s read the back of the book:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

This magnificent world awaits — what a glorious day! It is just beyond the fog. Keep swimming. Don’t let the conditions of our time obscure the view and distract you from the end of the story! While swimming in the fog, set your mind on things above, not on earthly things tweet (Colossians 3:1-2). Just like Florence, we can keep the shoreline in our minds.

When it feels like you can’t swim another yard, look beyond the fog. It’s glorious!

(Inspired by a sermon by Pastor Brandon Markette.)

Marriage – Contract or Covenant?

The framers of the Constitution never imagined that the word marriage could refer to anything other than the union of one man and one woman. As a consequence of that assumption, the legal definition of marriage  was the same as the church’s definition of marriage. Marriage was marriage, and nobody saw any reason to treat marriages performed by a justice of the peace any differently than ones performed by members of the clergy. I would like to suggest, however, that the time has come to do just that.

If a couple seeks to have their marriage recognized legally, they can now do so, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite sex. And we who are aligned with a particular faith will now no longer be permitted to discriminate against them in conducting legal marriage ceremonies or recognizing them as married once the marriage is done, regardless of the couple’s relative sex. But being married in the eyes of the law and of society need not ascend to the status of marriage in the eyes of God.

Christians of all denominations, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and nearly every other faith group all hold to the view that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, to love and honor and be faithful to one another until death. It has never been possible, nor will it ever be, to consider two persons of the same sex to be married in the eyes of the God of the “Abrahamic” faiths. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, we now have no choice but to recognize same sex married couples as married in the fullest sense of the law. But a God-ordained covenant marriage can only be between one man and one woman for life.

Therefore, I propose that churches continue to perform marriage ceremonies that are legal under law, and they include those of same-sex couples.  However, couples would be asked whether they would like their marriage to be merely legal in the eyes of the law, or would they prefer a covenant marriage, which of course has no preferential status under law, and would be seen by the law and society as no different than a legal marriage.  It would only matter to them if they would want their marriage to matter to the God in whom they place their trust.  In other words for example, if the God of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who is God in the three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – if they want their marriage to be Holy in the eyes of that God – the One whom they by conviction of their own hearts follow as Lord of their lives, then the Holy Bible must of necessity be the sole authority in determining whether it is.

So we have before us a historic opportunity:  Covenant marriage would be legal in the eyes of the law if it in all other respects met the legal definition of marriage under the law.  All marriages performed by a particular church or clergyman would be legal marriages.  On the other hand, only a Covenant Marriage would be pleasing in the sight of the God to whom the couple swears allegiance.

The opportunity that is being presented to us is to discuss openly and bear witness to all that marriage is.  When we are asked about it, we can refer to Ephesians 5:25-27 – “ Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”  And of course as a part of that discussion, we can explain that the popular definition of love as something you “fall into”, is a far cry from the kind of love God had in mind when he first mentioned the idea of marriage.  That was some six millennia ago, when He said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

My Testimony

This is the story of my life – or rather my lives.  The first one began in about January of 1943, and will end at some point as yet unknown to me.  The second began in April, 1999, and will never end. 

You may have heard the saying that life begins at 40. In a lot of ways, that was true for me, because I didn’t figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up until then. The reality, though, is that my life really began at 57. That’s when I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and committed to follow him as my personal Lord and Savior for the rest of my life.

I’ve always been kind of a slow learner. I have a need to think more deeply about things than most people do, and in my early years, things just happened too fast for me to process. School was hard, because the teachers and the textbooks were beyond boring. Nobody seemed able to get my brain turned on. The teachers would tell my parents that I had a perfectly good mind, but that I just didn’t seem to want to do the work. They were right. It was insufferably boring.

Dad was a drinker, and loved to party. He accepted his role as provider, so he worked and Mom stayed home. But he was always looking to have some fun, and he just didn’t think the day was complete until he “had a little snort”. I didn’t realize it until I was an adult, but the Dad I grew up with was a kind of a caricature of the real man. The real man had suffered some pretty deep wounds during his own formative years, and never learned how to put them behind himself. So he “medicated” them away every night, and dealt with the world behind a self-made dream state. It wasn’t real, but it didn’t hurt as much as real life.

I just wanted to have a Dad who loved me for me. I wanted to hear him say that he loved me, and that he was proud of me. What I usually got was a detached but stern disciplinarian. He did tell me he loved me once. But I was in my 30s by then, and it just didn’t seem so important anymore. And until much later, I thought I had outgrown my need to feel loved by him. And in reality, I never really came to terms with our strained relationship until years after he died. I discovered that in failing to affirm me as one he loved unconditionally, he put a wound on my heart that I struggled to recover from for the better part of my life.

The discovery came as a result of a men’s Christian group I was in, and the study of a book called “The Blessing” we were doing. The premise of the book was that every child needs the gift of being blessed by his parents. He needs to arrive at the threshold of adulthood with the firm knowledge that he has learned well, has become a man his parents are proud of, and that it is now time to go and build a life with their blessing.   If a child leaves home without ever having felt affirmed and blessed in this way, the emotional baggage he carries is insidious and nearly insurmountable. I was 62 years old when I learned about the baggage I had carried all those years.

By then of course, my Dad was already gone, and I could not go to him to reconcile, as the authors had recommended. What they eventually said was that I should write him a letter. I decided that was a pretty good idea, even though I thought I was fine by then. I had no idea that doing so would unleash a torrent of emotion the likes of which I had not experienced ever before. I sobbed – literally out loud and uncontrollably – as I told him that I missed him, that I had always felt that something was missing in our relationship, but that I understood, and that I forgave him. To say that a burden was lifted would be a huge understatement.

But it was also hugely cathartic. I finally realized that although I had not gotten the affirmation I felt I needed so deeply, I at least had had a Dad – a Dad who was there physically, if not emotionally, and who did love me, even though he didn’t know how to show it too well. And he had lost his own Dad before he was done growing up. How could I have been so insensitive to that?

I do feel blessed now – not just in the sense that I have built a life I know my parents would be proud of, but because I now know that all of my early struggles were part of who I am today, and that there was a reason for the struggle. And most of all, I feel blessed because I now know that I do have a Father. And he’s been with me from the beginning. And he does love me unconditionally. In fact, He loves me so much that he gave up his own eternal Son to pay the ransom for my soul. Without Jesus – the firstborn of all creation – I would have no hope and no future.

What kind of love could cause a father to give up his only son to pay the ransom for one he wanted to adopt? Yes, Jesus is alive today, so the Father never really lost him. But he did suffer, and in his humanity, he did die. These lines from a favorite song express it well:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I have also learned that although nobody likes to suffer, it comes to every member of the human race. To paraphrase Job 5:17, ‘Man is born for suffering, as surely as sparks fly up from a fire.’ And suffering is necessary! There are things we really need to know viscerally that cannot really be learned without it. It’s not enough to just have an awareness of some things – we need to know in our bones that they are true.

Now that I have been ‘born again’, that’s how I feel about the big questions in life. Those questions fall into four categories. They are of our origin, of life’s meaning and purpose, of morality and how it is determined, and of our destiny. I know that the universe was created by God, whose power and genius and creativity are beyond measure or understanding. He spoke, and all of creation sprang into being. I know that His purpose in creation was to bring into existence beings created in his own image, in order to love them, nurture them, and to give them the priceless gift of life. I know that God is the origin of all morality, all right and wrong. Anything that is pleasing to him is good, and anything that is not is evil. And I know that death is just a door through which we must pass in order to arrive at our destination, our eternal home.

I know these things in my heart. I know them in my soul. I know them viscerally. I know them because I remember much of the 57 years I lived with a false paradigm. And my testimony is that those 57 years were lived in a way that was out of synch with what I now know to be true.

I thought that life just was. I had no idea where it came from, what its purpose was or why it existed at all. I thought that Darwin was right about the origin of the species, and that Carl Sagan was right about the cosmos being all there is, ever was or ever will be. I thought that life was about feeling good, not doing good. I thought that God was something they talked about in church, and almost nowhere else. And I thought that church was even more boring than school. My victories were few and far between, and seemed shallow and worthless. My defeats seemed huge and frequent, and each one heaped up upon the ones before and added to my overall sense of frustration that no amount of effort or talent or striving ever seemed to be enough to get me what I wanted. I didn’t agree with those teachers who said I was not living up to my potential, because I was trying – really, really hard. Yet the results simply didn’t square with what I should have accomplished, given my obvious talent and intellect.

For most of that time, Christianity was not even on my radar. It seems strange in retrospect, but I had never met a Christian I admired and respected. They all seemed like goofballs to me. Finally, though, I came face to face with a few tragedies that removed every shred of hope that I would ever become a rich man, so I gave up trying. It was only after all of that that God started putting some people in my life who were real, authentic Christians. To my amazement, these Christians were not goofballs. In fact, I found myself drawn to them, and wondering what I had missed.

Today I know that it was this: I mistakenly thought that faith in God required that I leave my brain at the door, and accept the totality of Christianity by blind faith. The truth was contained in two little passages from the Bible:

  1. Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  2. Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

I did become more open to learning about Christianity, and did start to ask questions, and I did open myself up to at least the possibility that He existed, although at first I neither sought Him above all things, nor believed with my heart that He was truly God of all. But those two little shifts in my mindset proved to be all that were required. God says ‘come to me, and I will give you rest’. What I discovered is that those small steps were all God needed to start me on a path to salvation.

My surrender didn’t come right away, but little by little, the more I sought, the more he gave, and the more I received, the more my faith grew.

I cannot tell you that every question had been answered by the time I stepped across the line. There were still a few biggies. But what I did know, I knew in my bones, and I knew that what was being revealed to me was so much more appealing than what I had experienced before, that all of my pragmatism simply melted away, and I surrendered heart and soul, knowing that this is what I had been seeking all my life.

So, what about you? Have you really given faith in Jesus Christ a chance? Has the price seemed too high? There’s no question that it can be high. Some Christians, even today are martyred for their faith. But as GK Chesterton put it, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Try it. You’ll like it.

Caveat: I have used the male pronoun here merely for convenience, and brevity of words. Every time it is used, I could as easily used the female. I am a male, however, and have always related as one. My apologies to those who might otherwise be offended. No offense is intended.