9) Mumbo-Jumbo?

     Gerhard Forde (1927-2005) was a professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota for almost forty years.  He told the story of going to a social gathering at a local college several years ago.  One of the professors of that college introduced himself to Professor Forde in this way: “I am a writer of books,” he said, “and what is it that you do?”
     Professor Forde said, “Well, it just so happens that I write books as well.”
     The other man said, “What sort of books do you write?”
     Forde replied, “I mainly write about Jesus Christ.”
     And then the other man said, “Imagine that, a learned man like yourself writing about Jesus Christ.  Do you mean to say that you write about him as the Son of God, Savior of the world, raised from the dead?  You don’t really believe all that religious mumbo-jumbo, do you?”
     “Well, I suppose I do,” said Forde, and then asked, “And what is it that you believe?”
     And the other professor said, “I believe in the dignity of man.  I believe in the basic goodness of all human beings.  I believe that through reason and the power of science, we can begin to address those problems that have plagued the world from the beginning, and in the end, I believe that love will prevail.  If I did not believe this, then I would not be able to get up in the morning and write my books.”
     And Professor Forde replied, “I don’t see how a learned man could really believe all that mumbo-jumbo.”
From a sermon by Luther Seminary professor Steven Paulson at a 2006 conference.

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   I Corinthians 1:17-25 — For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel– not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 
     Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

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   I Corinthians 2:13-14 — This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 

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A PRAYER FOR ONE’S STUDY by SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-84):
     O Lord, my Maker and Protector, who hast graciously sent me into this world, to work out my salvation, enable me to drive from me all such unquiet and perplexing thoughts as may mislead or hinder me in the practice of those duties which thou hast required.  When I behold the works of thy hands and consider the course of thy providence, give me Grace always to remember that thy thoughts are not my thoughts, nor thy ways my ways.  And while it shall please Thee to continue me in this world where much is to be done and little to be known, teach me by thy Holy Spirit to withdraw my mind from unprofitable and dangerous inquiries  from difficulties vainly curious, and doubts impossible to be solved.  Let me rejoice in the light which thou hast imparted, let me serve thee with active zeal, and humble confidence, and wait with patient expectation for the time in which my soul which Thou receivest, shall be satisfied with knowledge.  Grant this, O Lord, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

8) Turning the Other Cheek

The following article entitled The Jackie Robinson Story was written by author Eric Metaxas for the April 15, 2013  Breakpoint reading ( http://www.breakpoint.org / a ministry of Prison Fellowship).

     The words are famous even among those who know little about baseball: “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.”  They were spoken by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to the man whom he’d chosen to break baseball’s color barrier: Jackie Robinson.

     We see this famous scene in the new movie, “42,” a  biopic about Robinson.  “42”—named for the number Robinson wore on his uniform—is a fine and memorable film starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as the immortal Branch Rickey.  But the film all but omits the most significant factor in Jackie Robinson’s ability to endure almost unbearable insults and physical attacks on the field: namely his strong Christian faith.

     Branch Rickey wasn’t the first person to teach Robinson that keeping his temper was more powerful than letting it blow.  As I note in my new book, Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, while he was a student at Pasadena Junior College, “Jackie met a Methodist preacher named Karl Downs.  Downs knew that Jackie was a Christian and taught him that exploding in anger was not the Christian answer to injustice.  But he explained that a life truly dedicated to Christ was not submissive; on the contrary, it was heroic… Downs eventually led Jackie to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ.  He began to see that the path to justice would be done not with fists and fury but with love and restraint.”

     As “42” opens, we see Jackie Robinson sitting in the office of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey hearing the incredible news that Rickey wants Jackie to play for the Dodgers.  Then Rickey acts out the vicious varieties of bigotry Jackie will face from white hotel managers, restaurant waiters, and fellow ballplayers—insults he will have to face with dignity.

     How much more dramatic this scene would have been had “42” told the whole story.  Rickey knew that Robinson shared his devout Christian faith, and wanted to reinforce the spiritual dimensions of the battle into which the two men were about to step.  So Rickey pulled out a copy of a book by Giovanni Papini, “Life of Christ.”  He flipped to the passage in which Papini discusses the Sermon on the Mount.  There he referred to Jesus’ call to “turn the other cheek” as “the most stupefying of Jesus’ revolutionary teachings.”

     Rickey’s faith told him that injustice had to be fought wherever it was found.  As for Jackie Robinson, he believed that God had chosen him for this noble purpose.  And he knew that if he committed himself to doing this great thing, God would give him the strength he needed to see it through.

     Day after day, Jackie Robinson’s faith fueled his ability to play great baseball.  And night after night, he got down on his knees, asking God for strength in the face of unrelenting hatred.

     The reason I include Jackie Robinson in a book about some of the greatest men who ever lived is not because he played great baseball, but because he engaged in a heroic sacrifice.  Jackie Robinson followed Jesus and sacrificed his right to fight back.

     If you’ve got young baseball fans in your family or among your friends, take them to see “42,” which by the way is rated PG-13 for the evil language shouted at Robinson on the ball field.  And then I hope you’ll also consider giving them a copy of my book, Seven Men and Their Secret of Greatness (Eric Metaxas).  They’ll learn why Jackie Robinson changed America for the better.  He did it by living out, on and off the baseball field, the revolutionary words of Jesus: Turn the other cheek.

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Matthew 5:38-39  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

I Peter 3:17  —  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Matthew 6:12  —  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

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     Our Father in heaven, as we are forgiven by you, may we forgive all who wrong and offend us.  Help us remember that no one can harm us without doing himself a far greater injury in your sight, so that we may be moved to compassion for them instead of anger, moved to pity rather than a desire for revenge.  May we not be tempted to rejoice when they are troubled, nor be grieved when they prosper.  We will not benefit from the downfall of our enemies, so we pray that you have mercy on them, and then also give us the grace to forgive them from our heart.   AMEN.     –Martin Luther

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To read more see:

7) For All Ragamuffins

     Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (1990, 2000) and several other books, died last Friday just shy of his 79th birthday. His ministry was to those who were down and out, the ‘ragamuffins.’ His gift was describing to them the incredible grace of God. After serving as a marine in Korea, he became a monk– and then he quit that life. He became a priest– and then he left the priesthood. He got married– and then he got divorced. He was an alcoholic– and then he quit drinking; but then he started again; and then he quit again, and then he started again, and finally he quit for good. Manning knew what it was like to struggle with sin, and to fail again and again; and yet, he clung to God’s grace and remained faithful. And out of his experiences was able to have an incredible ministry to others like himself.
The following are some quotes from this most famous book, The Ragamuffin Gospel:

     “Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
     ‘But how?’ we ask.
     Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
     There they are. There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

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     “For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.”

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     “And Grace calls out, ‘You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.’ Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”

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     “Jesus was victorious not because he never flinched, talked back, or questioned, but having flinched, talked back, and questioned, he remained faithful.”

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     “Charles de Foucauld, the found of the Little Brothers of Jesus, wrote a single sentence that’s had a profound impact on my life. He said, “The one thing we owe absolutely to God is never to be afraid of anything.” Never to be afraid of anything, even death, which, after all, is but that final breakthrough into the open, waiting, outstretched arms of the Father.” 

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Mark 2:16-17 — When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Romans 5:6-8 — You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 25:40 — (Jesus said), “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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     Once more a new day lies before us, our Father. As we go out among others to do our work, touching the lives of our fellows, make us, we pray, friends of all the world. Save us from blighting any heart by the flare of sudden anger or secret hate. May we not bruise the rightful self-respect of anyone by contempt or malice. Help us to cheer the suffering by our sympathy, to freshen the despairing by our hopefulness, and to strengthen in all the wholesome sense of worth and the joy of life. Save us from the deadly poison of class-pride. Grant that we may look all people in the face with the eyes of a brother or a sister. If anyone needs us, make us ready to yield our help ungrudgingly, unless higher duties claim us. May we rejoice that we have been abundantly blessed by you, and are thus able to be helpful to our fellowmen. We pray in the name of Jesus. AMEN.       –Walter Rauschenbusch

6) At Peace With Growing Old

From a letter by Hannah Whithall Smith (1832-1911):
     We are in 1903 and I am nearly seventy-one years old.  I always thought I should love to grow old, and I find it even more delightful than I thought.  It is so delicious to be done with things, and to feel no need any longer to concern myself much about earthly affairs.  I seem on the verge of a most delightful journey to a place of unknown joys and pleasures, and things here seem of so little importance compared to things there, that they have lost most of their interest for me.
     I cannot describe the sort of ‘done-with-the-world’ feeling I have.  It is not that I feel as if I was going to die at all, but simply that the world seems to me nothing but a passage way to the real life beyond; and passage ways are very unimportant places.  It is of very little account what sort of things they contain, or how they are furnished.  One just hurries through them to get to the place beyond.
     My wants seem to be gradually narrowing down, my personal wants, I mean, and I often think I could be quite content in the poor-house!  I do not know whether this is piety or old age, or a little of each mixed together, but honestly the world and our life in it does seem of too little account to be worth making the least fuss over, when one has such a magnificent prospect close at hand ahead of one; and I am tremendously content to let one activity after another go, and to await quietly and happily the opening of the door at the end of the passage way, that will let me in to my real abiding place.  So you may think of me as happy and contented, surrounded with unnumbered blessings, and delighted to be 71 years old.

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John 16:22  —  (Jesus said),  “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Hebrews 11:1  —  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Philippians 1:21-23  —  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.   If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…  (NIV)

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The peace of God be with you;
The peace of Christ be with you;
The peace of the Spirit be with you;
And with your children;
From the day that we have here today,
Until the day of the end of your lives.
–Celtic blessing

5) Memento Mori

     A few weeks ago my wife and I went to a Saturday evening worship service at a Roman Catholic church near where we live. The church building was well over a hundred years old and was built in the traditional, ornate style. It was a beautiful sanctuary with an elaborate, huge altar in the center, a smaller altar on each side, and statues of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and several other apostles and saints positioned in various places on those altars. On one of the smaller statues off to the side was what appeared to be a monk, and in his hand he held a human skull. After the service, my wife asked me about that. “Did you see the statue of the man holding a skull? What was that all about?,” she asked.

     I told her I did not know who the monk was, but I thought that the skull might be a ‘memento mori.’ Memento mori is a Latin phrase which means “remember your mortality,” or, “remember you must die.” The term came to refer to a type of artwork that served to remind people of their mortality. It might be a painting of the Grim Reaper at the bed of one dying, it might be a carving of a skull kept on one’s desk, or it might be a skull shaped ring, pendant, or clock. This style of art goes back to antiquity, and it reached its greatest popularity in the Middle Ages, present at that time in many churches and even homes. The intent of the memento mori was very different from the cartoon-type skeletons we see all over the place at Halloween. The old memento mori served as an ever present reminder of approaching death and judgment. 

     So that skull high upon that altar in the front of that church has a message for all who see it. “This skull,” it means to say, “was once a living, breathing, speaking human being, but now that person is dead and all that is left of him is this skull. Pay attention, therefore, to what you hear in this sanctuary, because someday soon that is what you will be, and when that time comes, your only hope will be in Jesus Christ who is worshiped here. So listen close, and do not disregard or disrespect what is spoken in this place.”

     The Season of Lent always begins with another sort of memento mori, another ‘reminder of death.’ At Ash Wednesday services in many churches, ashes are put on everyone’s forehead as they hear the words, “Remember that you are dust, and unto the dust you shall return.” This is a most unpleasant thought to be sure, but it is a most necessary reminder. The biggest mistake in life would be to forget that fact, and in forgetting, not make the necessary preparation for that inevitable end. But when you come to church, you hear a more hopeful message, and if you keep coming, you will give that hope the opportunity to sink in and take hold in your heart and mind, giving you courage and confidence even in the face of death.

     Lent moves toward Easter Sunday, and on that day we hear the words of the angels in the tomb to those looking for Jesus. “He is not here,” they said, “HE IS RISEN!” And so not only during Lent, but all year, do remember that you will die (‘memento mori’) but then also remember the words of Jesus to you in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.”

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Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Genesis 3:19  —  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

John 11:25  —  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”

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Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.  Abide with us, for the days are hastening on, and we hasten with them, and our life is  short  and transient as a dream. Abide with us, for we are weak And helpless, and if thou abide not with us, we perish by the way. Abide with us until the Daystar ariseth, and the morning light appeareth, when we shall abide forever with thee. Amen. –James Burns

4) Can You Afford to Be Generous?

From No Greater Love, by Mother Teresa, 1997:

     One night a man came to our house and told me, “There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days.” I took some food with me and went.

     When I finally came to that family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger.  I gave the rice to the mother. She divided the rice in two, and went out, carrying half the rice. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She gave me this simple answer, “To my neighbors– they are hungry also!”

     I was not surprised that she gave, because poor people are often very generous. But I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves we have no time for others. 

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     An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bid us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough to make a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear.

     To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize that it wasn’t alcohol, but cataracts, that marbleized his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing shabby old clothes and two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion.
On one visit, he exclaimed, “The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.”    

    “That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth,” we said. “We’re happy for you.” 

     “You know what’s even more wonderful?” he asked. “Just yesterday I met some people that could use them.”     –Author unknown 

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Proverbs 11:25 — A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. 

Proverbs 19:17 — He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.

Luke 12:48b — From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  (NIV)

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Guide us, teach us, and strengthen us, O Lord, we beseech thee, until we become such as thou wouldst have us be: pure, gentle, truthful, high-minded, courteous, generous, able, dutiful, and useful; for thy honor and glory. Amen. –Charles Kingsley

3) Faith in Training

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
    Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.  I know that by experience.  Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.  This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come either way.
    That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue.  Unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.  Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.
 
    The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change.  The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day.  That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life.  We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.  Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind.  It must be fed.  And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?    
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Hebrews 2:1  —  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  (NIV)
I Timothy 4:7-8  —  Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.   (NIV)
II Timothy 3:14-17  —  …Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (NIV) 

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    Grant us, Lord, we beseech thee, not to mind earthly things, but to seek things heavenly; so that though we are set among scenes that pass away, our heart and affection may steadfastly cleave to the things that endure forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.              –Leonine Sacramentary

2) Precious Lord, Take My Hand

By Thomas Dorsey (1899-1993); Guideposts magazine, October 1987

    Back in 1932 I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband.  My wife, Nettie, and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s South-side.  One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting.  I didn’t want to go.  Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child.  But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis.  I kissed Nettie good-bye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.
    However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case.  I wheeled around and headed back.  I found Nettie sleeping peacefully.  I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay.  But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.
    The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again.  When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram.  I ripped open the envelope.  Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.  People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out.  I rushed to a phone and called home.  All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead.  Nettie is dead.”
    When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy.  I swung between grief and joy.  Yet that night, the baby died.  I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket.  Then I fell apart.  For days I closeted myself.  I felt that God had done me an injustice.  I didn’t want to serve Him any more or write gospel songs.  I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. 
    But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis.  Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie.  Was that something God?  Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.  From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.  But still I was lost in grief.
    Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Fry, who seemed to know what I needed.  On the following Saturday evening he took me up to Malone’s College, a neighborhood music school.  It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.  I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys.  Something happened to me then.  I felt at peace.  I felt as though I could reach out and touch God.  I found myself playing a melody, one I’d never heard or played before, and the words– they came into my head and just seemed to fall into place:
        Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand! I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
        Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light.  Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home…
    As the Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit.  I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.  And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.
   NOTE:  Thomas Andrew Dorsey was an African-American blues band leader, but after becoming a Christian, he turned to writing Gospel music.  He wrote more than a thousand Gospel hymns, including the “Peace in the Valley.”  He is not to be confused with Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956), a Caucasian jazz musician and big band leader of that same time period.  “Precious Lord” has been translated into 32 languages and was the favorite of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was sung at King’s funeral.
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Isaiah 41:13  —  For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you.  Do not fear; I will help you.   (NIV)
Psalm 73:21-26 —  When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
   I was senseless and ignorant: I was a brute beast before you.
   Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
   You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory
   Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
   My flesh and my heart may fail,
   But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 139:8-10  —  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide, your right hand will hold me fast.
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Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

When my way grows drear
Precious Lord linger near
When my life is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

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This great hymn can also make a great prayer.  Print it and keep it in your Bible.  It can be a comfort “when the darkness appears” in your life.

Use this link to learn more about Thomas Dorsey and to hear him tell the story behind the song “Precious Lord.”       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEosw5GUCzQ

To hear it sung by Elvis Presley go to:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMbxg5jh0Fo

1) How Do You Know? –an old story

     There once was a farmer. One day the farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, “Oh, what bad luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is bad?”

     About a week later, the horse returned, bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is good?”

     A couple of weeks later, the farmer’s son’s leg was badly broken when he was thrown from one the their new wild horses that he was trying to tame. A few days later the broken leg became infected and the son became delirious with fever. The neighbors, all hearing of the incident, came to see the son.  As they stood there, the neighbors said, “Oh what bad luck!”  The farmer replied, “How do you know this is bad?”

     At that same time in China, a war broke out between two rival warlords. In need of more soldiers, a captain came to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the farmer’s son, he found the young man with a broken leg, delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each onesaid, “Oh what good luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is good?”

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Isaiah 55:8-9 — “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither
are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are
higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and
my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 9:12 — What man is wise enough to understand this?
Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it? Why
has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one
can cross? (NIV)

Romans 8:28 — We know that in all things God works for the
good of those who love him,who have been called according to
his purpose. (NIV)

Isaiah 5:20-21 — Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil, who put darkness for light and
light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight. (NIV)

I Corinthians 1:25 — For the foolishness of God is wiser
than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God
is stronger than man’s strength. (NIV)

Jonah 3:9a — “Who knows?…”

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     O Father of all mercy and God of all comfort, strengthen and uphold me by your Spirit, until you reveal to me the purpose of my tribulations. For it is your will that we, at times, be troubled and grieved. Indeed, you do not permit any evil to be done, unless you can make it serve a good purpose. You see my distress and weakness. I pray that you help and deliver me. Amen.  –Martin Luther