1176) The Mutiny on the Bounty– The Rest of the Story

Poster from the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty (movies were also made on this story in 1935,with Clark Gable; and 1984, with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins)

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By Dan Braves at http://www.Christianity.com

     On April 28, 1789, mutineers on H. M. S. Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian, dragged Lieutenant William Bligh from his bed.  They set Bligh adrift in an open launch with eighteen men.  A capable but tyrannical leader, Bligh managed to guide the little boat 3,600 miles to safety in the Dutch Indies (Indonesia).

     The mutineers, however, headed for Tubai, an island south of Tahiti.  Reception was hostile and, after a trip to Tahiti and back, in which the mutineers picked up some native women and men, and at least one child, they abandoned Tubai and sailed back to Tahiti.  Some of the sailors had not been mutineers at all and elected to stay on Tahiti.  Eight accompanied Fletcher Christian to parts unknown with the women and with six Polynesian men.  

     What became of them was not known until September, 1808, when a New England whaler, the Topaz, spotted Pitcairn Island and landed to take on water.  To Captain Folger’s surprise, he found natives who spoke a garbled English.  It turned out that the mutineers of the Bounty had settled on the uninhabited Pitcairn.  (The movies usually end here, with the brave adventurers beginning a new life on this island paradise.)

     But all was not well in paradise.  The mutineers all fought with each other, and with the native men and women (brought from Tahiti), until all the men were dead except two:  Edward Young and John Adams (also known as Alexander Smith).  

     Ashamed of the violence and horrors they had witnessed and had partaken of, the two remaining mutineers began to read the Bible (which became their textbook) and to teach it to the children who had been born to the settlement.  By the time Folger arrived, Young also had been dead several years, dying of an asthma attack.  Adams was patriarch of the clan.  Thanks to his continued efforts, the older children were able to read and write a little (Adams himself was poorly educated) and the whole community was devout.

How Christianity Came to Pitcairn Is.

John Adams/Alexander Smith, mutineer and settler/leader of Pitcairn Island  (1767-1829)

     Indeed, what impressed early visitors most was the obvious piety of the islanders, who prayed morning and evening and both before and after their meals, did not engage in the sexual promiscuity common to other islands, were able to recite the creed and parts of the Bible, and observed the “Sabbath” (as they called Sunday).  One observer wrote, “In conducting the most trivial affairs they are guided by the Scriptures, which they have read diligently, and from which they quote freely and frequently.”

     The hard conditions of the island, which could not be neglected if it were to produce enough food, and their continual grounding in the Bible stories, had made the Pitcairners a serious, although good-humored, community.  The gifts they most wanted from Topaz were books, and the whaler managed to provide them with 200 which the islanders received with the greatest delight.

     In 1887 the island’s entire population converted to Seventh Day Adventism by missionairies.

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Sir Charles Lucas, Pitcairn Island historian, describes the coming of religion to the island:

Many notable cases of religious conversion have been recorded in the history of Christianity, but it would be difficult to find an exact parallel to that of John Adams.  The facts are quite clear.  There is no question as to what he was and did after all his shipmates on the island had perished.  He had no human guide or counselor to turn him into the way of righteousness and to make him feel and shoulder responsibility for bringing up a group of boys and girls in the fear of God.  He had a Bible and a Prayer Book to be the instruments of his endeavor, so far as education, or rather lack of education, served him.  He may well have recalled to mind memories of his own childhood, but there can be only one simple and straightforward explanation of what took place, that it was the handiwork of the Almighty, whereby a sailor, seasoned to crime, came to himself in a far country, and learned and taught others to follow Christ…  

In order to fully appreciate the Pitcairn story, it is necessary to keep before the mind’s eye the contrasts which it presented.  What could be more remote from the murders and crimes of the early years upon the island, than the settlement as it developed under John Adams, in peace, godliness and comparative innocence?  Or, again, contrast the day-to-day life of this tiny, isolated group of human beings, as it flowed on in even monotony, with the wars and rumors of wars and great events which in the same years stirred the whole outside world.  Pitcairn might have been on another planet!

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For more on this story go to:

https://library.puc.edu/pitcairn/pitcairn/religion.shtml

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Pitcairn Isalnd today, population 50:

The island features beautiful scenery and wildlife but that doesn't seem to be enough to attract new residents

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Luke 15:13…17-18  —  The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living…  When he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.”

Zechariah 1:2-4 (portions)  —  This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “Return to me… and I will return to you…  Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.”

Galatians 5:19-25  —  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Isaiah 42:10, 12a  —  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earthyou who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them…  Let them give glory to the Lord.

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Merciful Father, your kindness caused the light of the Gospel to shine among us.  Extend your mercy now, we pray, to all the people of the world who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, that your salvation may be made known to them also and that all hearts would turn to you; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, page 45

1175) She’s Perfect

One year after her baby Emeryson was born, Courtney Baker wrote a letter to her prenatal specialist who suggested repeatedly that she should have an abortion.  Emeryson was diagnosed prenatally with Down Syndrome, and the doctor said her quality of life would be ‘horrible.’  The picture below is of Emeryson getting ready to put her mother’s letter in the mailbox.  Emeryson’s mother sent the contents of the letter and this photo to ParkerMyles.com, a website that educates about what it is like to raise a child with Down Syndrome.  

To read the many responses Courtney’s post received, and for more stories of kids like Emmy go to:

http://parkermyles.com/…/girl-with-down-syndrome-posts-let…/

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This is Courtney’s letter to the Parker Myles website:

This is Emmy, mailing our letter to the prenatal specialist who didn’t want her to live.  He repeatedly suggested we abort.  He said her and our quality of life would be horrible.  He was so unbelievably wrong.  I want to do something to advocate, but other than my letter to him, I don’t know what yet.  Can you please share my photo?  –Courtney Williams Baker

The letter Emmy is holding says:

Dear Doctor,

     A friend recently told me of when her prenatal specialist would see her child during her sonograms, he would comment, “He’s perfect.”  Once her son was born with Down syndrome, she visited that same doctor.  He looked at her little boy and said, “I told you.  He’s perfect.”

     Her story tore me apart.  While I was so grateful for my friend’s experience, it filled me with such sorrow because of what I should have had.  I wish you would have been that doctor.

     I came to you during the most difficult time in my life.  I was terrified, anxious and in complete despair.  I didn’t know the truth yet about my baby, and that’s what I desperately needed from you.  But instead of support and encouragement, you suggested we terminate our child.  I told you her name, and you asked us again if we understood how low our quality of life would be with a child with Down syndrome.  You suggested we reconsider our decision to continue the pregnancy.

     From that first visit, we dreaded our appointments.  The most difficult time in my life was made nearly unbearable because you never told me the truth.

     My child was perfect.

     I’m not angry.  I’m not bitter.  I’m really just sad.  I’m sad the tiny beating hearts you see every day don’t fill you with a perpetual awe.  I’m sad the intricate details and the miracle of those sweet little fingers and toes, lungs and eyes and ears don’t always give you pause.  I’m sad you were so very wrong to say a baby with Down syndrome would decrease our quality of life.  And I’m heartbroken you might have said that to a mommy even today.  But I’m mostly sad you’ll never have the privilege of knowing my daughter, Emersyn.

     Because, you see, Emersyn has not only added to our quality of life, she’s touched the hearts of thousands.  She’s given us a purpose and a joy that is impossible to express.  She’s given us bigger smiles, more laughter and sweeter kisses than we’ve ever known.  She’s opened our eyes to true beauty and pure love.

     So my prayer is that no other mommy will have to go through what I did.  My prayer is that you, too, will now see true beauty and pure love with every sonogram.  And my prayer is when you see that next baby with Down syndrome lovingly tucked in her mother’s womb, you will look at that mommy and see me then tell her the truth:  “Your child is absolutely perfect.

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James 1:16-18  —  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

II Corinthians 12:9-10  —  (The Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I John 4:15-18  —  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

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PSALM 139:13-17:

You created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!

1174) Ordinary Moms, Everyday Heroes

Ordinary Moms, Everyday Heroes

By Amy Julia Becker, author of Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters Most, Zondervan, 2014.  This article was posted at http://www.christianitytoday.com on Mother’s Day, 2015.

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     It was religion scholar Joseph Campbell who pulled back the curtain on more or less every book and movie in the Western canon.  Campbell demonstrated the common shapes and themes of our great stories, from Star Wars to Great Expectations to Paddington Bear.

     In Campbell’s “hero’s journey,” an unlikely suspect gets called on some sort of mission.  After some equivocation, he agrees to the task, endures a series of setbacks, and ultimately achieves his goal.  Along the way, the experience transforms him; he grows up and becomes a hero.

     We see the same narrative at work in real life.  It’s what we suspect when we hear that someone has survived cancer.  It’s what we hope for in the face of tragedy.  It’s the narrative that pops up on the evening news.

     Yet I wonder how many young women realized they are also embarking on a hero’s journey when they become mothers.

     Not just mothers with exceptional challenges— I’m talking about run-of-the-mill mothers with typical children, the soccer moms and stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms alike.  Every one of them has the makings of a hero.

     For a long time, I didn’t believe it.  I had lived the dramatic version of the hero story.  Our oldest daughter Penny was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth, and it took me a year to wrestle through my doubt and fear and sadness.  And yes, I came out on the other side transformed, with a deeper appreciation of the gift of each human life and with a deeper recognition that intellect does not determine human value.

     Then our son William was born, and a few years later his sister Marilee, and ordinary parenting posed challenges of its own.  Moreover, the doubt and fear and sadness I experienced from parenting typical kids seemed shameful.  After Penny’s birth, people brought meals and prayed for us and they understood if I didn’t return their phone calls or failed to show up at church on Sunday morning.  With typical kids, no one was going to bring me a baked chicken just because my son wouldn’t sleep through the night.  I worried no one would understand if I couldn’t manage to volunteer at preschool or reply to an email or meet a writing deadline.

     But now that our kids are out of the early years of diapers and naptimes, out of the constant cycle of ear infections and throw-up bugs, out of car seats and high chairs and strollers— I see that the journey into typical motherhood offered its own narrative of change and growth, of breaking me apart, only to transform me yet again.  It offered a call to sacrifice, even if it was simply a sacrifice of time and physical endurance.  Sacrifice is always a form of hardship, and yet when it emerges out of love, it has the power to make us new.

     In the beginning of my life as the mom of three, I tried to keep going as though nothing had changed.  I tried to keep up my workout routine and volunteer activities.  I tried to work for four scheduled hours every day.  I tried to pray regularly and systematically.  I tried to ignore the words I heard from older moms, that there were seasons of life, and perhaps this season of early childhood was a time for slowing down, for not trying so hard.  I guess I saw slowing down as a sign of defeat, as anything but heroic, as the opposite of “leaning in” to the opportunities I had been given as an educated American with financial and marital stability.  I guess I had a hard time believing that the gifts God was asking me to steward could be limited to these three kids.

     I tried to hold on to it all— professional goals, physical and spiritual discipline, community participation.  Finally, between snow days and sick days and sleepless nights, in the midst of the very ordinary demands of very ordinary parenting, I had to let go.  It wasn’t the letting go of joyful release, of opening a handful of dandelion seeds and watching them glint and scatter in the wind with music playing in the background.  It was the letting go of collapse, of buckling under the weight of it all and watching as everything crashed to the ground and bounced haphazardly around me.  Still, once I had finally let go of all that trying, I found myself with my hands open.

     The ordinary hardships that don’t make for a dramatic story-line— of changing wet sheets and watching yet another episode of Caillou with a sick kid, of listening to belabored piano practice and cajoling yet another hour of soccer playing— helped me understand the nature of love, the nature of grace.

     In the Gospels, Jesus keeps insisting that his disciples turn to God as their Father.  It’s not just the Lord’s Prayer— it’s in Jesus’ parables and his one-liners.  This familial language shows up when he calls the bleeding woman “daughter” (Mark 5:34) and his disciples “little ones” as he sends them out to minister to others (Matthew 18).  He wants his followers to understand God as their Father, and also understand themselves as little kids.  He even makes the arresting statement:  “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

     Funnily enough, it’s having kids that’s helped me know myself as a child of God.  When I couldn’t hold it all together, when I needed help in the midst of ordinary and tedious daily hardships, I began to understand God’s compassion and care for me:  like a father who cheers for his child’s attempt to take her first step without any condemnation when she topples over; like a mother who says no out of love, not out of disappointment with the request; like a good parent whose love knows no bounds.

     Every parent who loves a child with sacrificial love will be broken.  And in the midst of that brokenness, we can be built back up, like the classic hero of Joseph Campbell’s journey, encountering one obstacle after another, doubting ourselves and the one who had commissioned us for this adventure, falling apart, and, ultimately, learning something entirely new about life and love, being made new along the way.

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Luke 18:16  —  Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Romans 8:16-17  —  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I John 3:1a  —  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

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God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:  strengthen us in our daily living, that in joy and in sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

1173) Do You Really “Get It?”

God Is Not That Holy I Am Not That Bad

By Tim Challlies, November 9, 2015 article at:  www.challies.com

     How do you know that you really get the gospel, that you really understand and believe it?  Or perhaps better said, how do you know that the gospel has really gotten you, that it has taken hold of you and begun to permanently transform you?…

     You know that you really get the gospel when it is God’s grace rather than God’s wrath that amazes you.  I often hear people express their amazement and even their disgust at the very notion of a wrathful God.  But when I hear true believers, I hear them express amazement at the reality of a gracious God.  It is grace, not wrath, that baffles them.  “Why?  Why me?  Why would God extend such grace to me?”

     This is, I think, why John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” has remained such a popular and powerful hymn.  Newton’s cry was “amazing grace.”  Wrath did not surprise or offend him.  He knew of his wretchedness, his own deep depravity.  He was already convicted that he was fully deserving of God’s justice.  So it was grace that shocked him.  It was grace that seemed so out-of-place.  If there was any offense to the gospel it was that God would take the sin of a very bad man like John Newton and place it on the perfect man Jesus Christ.

     You know that you really get it when the shocking thing about the gospel is not that God extends wrath to sinners, but that he extends grace.  And here’s why:  The basic human condition is to believe that God isn’t really all that holy and that I’m not really that bad.  God is lenient toward sin, and, as it happens, I am not really all that deeply sinful anyway.  So we are a good match, God and I.  It takes no faith to believe that.  It takes no great change of mind and heart.

     But the gospel unmasks that kind of delusion.  The gospel helps us see things as they really are.  The gospel says that God really is far holier than I dared even imagine and that I am far more sinful than I ever could have guessed.  And, right there— with the right assessment of both God and me— right there the gospel blazes forth.  Right there the gospel gives hope.

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Romans 7:15…18…21b-25  —  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 6:23  —  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 2:12-13  —  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Romans 5:1-5…8-9  —  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.   And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us…  God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

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Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

–John Newton

1172) Great is Thy Faithfulness

By Bob Kauflin, September 22, 2010 blog at:  www.worshipmatters.com

     The story behind “Great is Thy Faithfulness” should encourage every Christian who thinks of their life as ordinary.  There’s no tragic story (think “It Is Well” by Horatio Spafford) associated with this hymn.  It’s just the fruit of a faithful man with a simple faith in a faithful God.

     Thomas Chisholm, who sometimes described himself as “just an old shoe,” was born in a Kentucky log cabin in 1866.  He was converted when he was 27, became a pastor at 36, but had to retire one year later due to poor health.  He spent the majority of the rest of his life as a life insurance agent in New Jersey.  He died in 1960 at the age of 93.  During his life he wrote over 1200 poems, most of which no one will ever hear.

Thomas Obediah Chisholm  (1866-1960)

     But back in 1923, at the “beyond his prime” age of 57, Thomas Chisholm sent a few of his poems to William Runyan at the Hope Publishing Company.  One of them was “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” based on Lamentations 3:22-23:  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

     Runyan was particularly moved by “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and sought to set it to a melody that would reflect the response of wonder and gratefulness to God’s faithfulness conveyed in the lyrics.  Apparently, he succeeded.

     The song quickly became a favorite at Moody Bible Institute, and later George Beverly Shea sang it at Billy Graham crusades.  Now it’s known all over the world and has been used to encourage millions of Christians to trust in a faithful God.

     When Chisholm was 75, he wrote in a letter:  “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.  But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

     The hymn has three verses and a chorus.  Verse 1 speaks of God’s faithfulness revealed in His Word, and is adapted from James 1:17:  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

     Verse 2 tells us of God’s faithfulness revealed in creation.  The seasons, the sun, moon, and stars all continue on their courses perfectly, orderly, quietly— guided by God’s faithful hand, without any help from us.

     Verse 3 reminds us of God’s faithfulness revealed in our lives.  He pardons all our sins, fills us with his peace, assures us of his presence, gives us strength, hope, and blessings too numerous to count!

     Whatever challenge, trials, or disappointments you might be facing right now, this hymn reminds us that God’s promises are true, that He never changes, that His compassions never fail, and that His faithfulness to us in Christ Jesus is more than good— it’s GREAT!

     God doesn’t need incredibly gifted or wildly famous people to proclaim those truths from his Word.

     Just faithful ones.

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Lamentations 3:19-26  —  I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

James 1:17  —  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Matthew 25:21  —  (Jesus said), “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

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GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS; performed on ‘The Voice’ competition by 2015 winner Jordan Smith:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm-KsLytcW0

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Refrain:  Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.  Refrain

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!  Refrain

1171) Go Ask Dad

By Eric Metaxas, June 22, 2016 blog at:

http://www.breakpoint.org

     John Stonestreet and I talk quite often on BreakPoint about the importance of fathers.  And when we do, we usually point to statistics that reveal that in terms of education, delinquency, drug abuse, and sex and pregnancy, young people who have no father fare worse than those who do.

     And that’s all true.  But there are a few problems with relying solely on statistics.  The person you’re debating can come up with stats to counter yours.  And many statistics need interpretation.  But most importantly, simply telling someone something rarely convinces them of anything.  Facts, statistics, moral assertions:  They speak to the head, not to the heart.

     There’s a rule that good writers and debaters try to observe, and you may have heard it before:  Show, don’t tell.  In other words, don’t lecture your readers to make a point.  Show them what you’re talking about.  Tell a story.  Provide illustrations.  Aim at the heart.

     And that’s exactly what one major company, Gillette (you know, the guys who maker razors), did this Fathers’ Day with a commercial called “Go Ask Dad.”  It presents in such a heart-warming, simple, and convincing way just how important it is for— in this case— young men to turn to dad for advice and help.

     Here’s the gist:  Procter and Gamble, Gillette’s parent company, says that “in a world where screen time tends to outweigh actual face time, the internet often replaces dad as the go-to source for ‘how to’ information.”   Some 94 percent of teenagers, they claim “ask the internet for advice before their dads.”

     So Gillette devises a contest between the Web and fathers.  They bring in teenage boys from different countries and put them in a room with a computer.  Then they tell the boys they need to figure out how to do a few simple tasks.  Learn how to tie a tie.  Learn how to ask a girl out on a date.  Fry an egg.  And of course, learn how to shave.

     The kids are not daunted.  They’re used to going to the Web to learn about all kinds of things.  But they soon find out that instructional videos and Web forums aren’t much help.  And we get to watch their comical failures.

     So as one young man struggles with his knot or another burns the eggs. . . in walks dad.

     And the teaching begins.  When it comes to asking out a girl, “You’ve got to make eye contact,” one dad demonstrates as he looks into the eyes of his son (although I’d say the old man’s dance moves leave a bit to be desired— but the son doesn’t mind.)

     Holding a tie in his hands, another dad advises his son, “You’ll have to go around twice because of your size.”  Hands join on the slip knot as dad shows him how.

     “This is how I do it,” one dad says to his son, whose face is smeared with shaving cream.  “Hey, that’s pretty good,” he encourages the boy.  “There.  Your first shave.”

     At the end, the boys are asked, “So, who did better.  The computer or dad?”

     “The better teacher was my dad,” says one.  “Mi Papa” says another.  “He’s more personal with his information,” a French-speaking boy concludes.

     And finally, here’s the clincher:  My dad “knows me and who I am,” says a fourth.  Hugs and “I love you’s” ensue, and I’m wiping a tear away from my eye.

     Hats off to Gillette.  Oh, sure, they may make some extra razor sales for that first shave.  But they did a wonderful job of showing us just how important dads are in the lives of their children.

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View the commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmWRODY0ing

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“When I was a boy of sixteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in five years.”  

–Always attributed to Mark Twain (But probably not said by him.  It cannot be found in his writings, and Twain’s father died when he was eleven.  Still a great line, whoever said it!)

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Proverbs 1:7-8  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 4:1  —  Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

I Thessalonians 2:11-12  —  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Ephesians 6:4  —  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Exodus 20:12a  —  Honor your father and your mother.

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1170) Resisting Temptation

C. S. Lewis on resisting temptation in Mere Christianity:

     You may remember I said that the first step towards humility was to realize that one is proud.  I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues.  A week is not enough.  Things often go swimmingly for the first week.  Try six weeks.  By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself.  No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of an army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it:  and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means— the only complete realist.

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Galatians 5:22-23a  —   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Philippians 2:12-13  —   Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Mark 14:38  —  (Jesus said), “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

James 1:12-15  —  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Hebrews 2:18  —  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

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Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

–Jesus, Matthew 6:13

1169) Seeing Deeper Than Our Differences

From What the Confederate Stranger and A Small Town in Maine Can Teach Us About Human Decency, By Christine Rousselle, June 21, 2016 blog at http://www.townhall.com

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     In 1862, a man named Lt. Charles H. Colley of Gray, Maine, was killed during the Battle of Cedar Mountain.  When his grieving family opened up the casket that was supposed to contain their son, they were stunned to discover that a fully uniformed Confederate soldier had been shipped to them instead.  Having no way to identify the soldier, and also lacking the means to ship him back to Virginia, Lt. Colley’s family decided to bury him in Gray Village Cemetery alongside the Union soldiers who had been killed in the war.  They figured that this unknown Confederate’s family would appreciate the gesture, even though they’d never find out about it.  The Ladies of Gray, a group of mothers whose sons were either missing, injured, or killed in the war, paid to put up a headstone for this unknown Confederate.

     The headstone’s inscription is simple and gut-wrenching:  “Stranger.  A soldier of the late war.  Erected by the Ladies of Gray.”

     For the first 90-something years after Stranger’s most unexpected arrival in Maine, his headstone was treated the same as all of the other veterans buried at the cemetery.  Since 1956, however, a Confederate battle flag has been placed next to Stranger’s grave-site each Memorial Day– a pop of solid red amidst a sea of American flags.

     This past Father’s Day, while visiting family back in my home state of Maine, I had the chance to pay a visit to the Confederate Stranger’s grave, and seeing the stone was a very sobering experience.  Gray sent more people to fight for the Union Army per capita than any small town in Maine, and nearly 200 of them didn’t get to come home.  The people of Gray, especially mothers whose sons could have been shot at or killed by Stranger, had every right to have simply buried Stranger in an unmarked grave in a field somewhere in the town.  It would have been completely understandable– this person was, after all, an enemy soldier during a time of war.  Instead, they recognized their shared humanity with this unknown man, and buried him alongside local heroes and treated him like one of their own.

     Which brings me to today.  While the nation certainly isn’t as polarized as it was during the 1860s, the situation is pretty bad.  People are going out of their way to isolate themselves in a bubble of only their own views.  Take a look at what people are saying on Facebook about people they once called their friends: (language warning).  (Here, the writer inserted a Facebook exchange of two friends ‘unfriending’ each other because of their political differences.) 

     We’ve come a long way from 1862, but not entirely in a good way.  People are quick to use a person’s political beliefs to define them as a person, when in reality, politics are just a piece of the puzzle that makes people, people.  We’re all different, and somehow in the last 150 years it has become acceptable to completely remove someone from your life (or ask them to remove themselves) because of political differences.  That’s insane.

     As a society, we should look to the actions of the Ladies of Gray for inspiration on how to behave with decency and respect in times of fighting and conflict.  In 1862, America was at a war with itself– it doesn’t get more polarized than that.  If the Ladies of Gray could find it within themselves to create and maintain a dignified memorial to a man who was quite literally trying to kill their sons before he died, there’s no excuse for the rest of us to not get along.

     This election cycle has been a doozy, there’s no denying that.  The rhetoric being spewed by both sides is borderline nasty, and we’re a nation divided once again.  Despite this, it’s important to remember that we have more commonalities than differences– and that through it all, we’re all still human beings… regardless of who receives our vote in November.

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Be kind.  Be kind.  Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

–An old quote, attributed to many different people

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Romans 14:19-20a  —  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food (or politics).

III John 1:5  —  Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.

Job 29:16  —  I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger.

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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 

1168) Depression in the Bible (b)

Elijah Fed by an Angel, Ferdinand Bol  (1616-1680)

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     (continued…)  In I Kings 19 Elijah is depressed.  

     Elijah stood almost alone as a true prophet of the Lord during some of Israel’s worst times.  The nation was ruled by the wicked King Ahab, and the temple was dominated by priests and prophets who worshiped the false god Baal.  Israel was in a severe drought, without rain for three years.  God told Elijah to proclaim to all that the drought was the judgement of God, punishment for their unfaithfulness.  However, King Ahab, in his wickedness, blamed Elijah for the famine.  So Elijah was a hunted man and had been hiding out in the wilderness.

     I Kings 18 tells the story of Elijah’s most spectacular testimony to the power of God.  He had come out of hiding to issue a challenge to King Ahab and all his priests. He would meet them on Mt. Carmel, and there, Elijah would single-handedly take on the false priests of Israel in a winner-take-all battle. It would be 400 to one, and all would pray to their own God to send fire down from heaven to ignite and burn the sacrifices each had prepared. All day long the 400 priests of Baal prayed– but there was no response from their god.  Elijah then soaked his sacrifice with water and offered one brief prayer.  Immediately a fire came down from heaven so intense that it burned up not only the sacrifice, but even the very stones of the altar and all the soil around it.  Seeing the miracle, the people immediately returned to the true God.  To further vindicate Elijah, it finally rained and the long drought ended.  It should have been a time of great joy for Elijah.

     However, in the very next chapter that we find Elijah so depressed that he prays to God that his life may be ended.  One of the many things that can be said about depression is that it can come at the strangest times.  In fact sometimes, like for Elijah, it comes at the times that should bring the greatest happiness.  I recall the story of former football and baseball great Deion Sanders, and how he came to faith in Jesus Christ.  An All-Star in both sports, Sanders helped lead his football team to the very pinnacle of success, a Super Bowl victory.  But on the very night of that triumph, Sanders found himself in such a deep despair that he tried to commit suicide.  As a young man he had already achieved everything he could have hoped for– money, fame, and success, and still it wasn’t enough to fill his life.  Elijah, like Deion Sanders, seemed to do better when he was struggling than when he was succeeding.  One cannot begin to figure all this out, but we can do what the Bible does, and say ‘this is what happened to that person at that time,’ and then see where it goes from there.

     An angel of the Lord appeared and helped Elijah in some simple and basic ways.  The angel allowed Elijah to rest, then brought him some food, and then he allowed him to rest some more.  Finally, God spoke to Elijah.  Elijah had come to the conclusion that he was all alone in his faithfulness, but God encouraged him with news of 7,000 other faithful people in the Israel.  And then God gave him another job to do.

    The New Testament reveals a deeper comfort, one based on an eternal hope.  There are more examples of people in despair, but in the New Testament, this despair is always seen in the context of Jesus, who said, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly,” and, “Whoever believes in the Son of God shall have eternal life.”

     In II Corinthians (chapters one and four) the Apostle Paul gives a profound description of the move from despair to hope in his experience.  Paul begins with a word of praise to God who has brought him through some rough times, both physically and spiritually: “Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (1:3-4).  Paul then goes on to describe the troubles he has been having:  “We do not want you to uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life itself” (1:8)(He sounds like Elijah there– he has had enough, even of life).  Going on, he tells the Corinthians, “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a peril, and he will deliver us again.  On Him we have set out hope” (1:9-10) “And so we are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body…  And so with the spirit of faith we believe and we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (from 4:8-14).

     “Therefore,” Paul concludes, “we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  And so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:16-18).

     Knowing and believing in this hope does not guarantee that despair will never come over us.  Despair came in the midst of faith for Elijah, Paul, Jeremiah, David, Habakkuk, and many more, including Jesus himself who wept over Jerusalem and despaired in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Faith does not guarantee that despair will not come, but that it will not last; and that even in the midst of it, God will hold us in him arms, and will carry us through.

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O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.

–Saint Ignatius of Loyola  (1491-1556)

1167) Depression in the Bible (a)

I Kings 19:4 — (Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

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     “I have had enough,” Elijah said.

     Have you ever ‘had enough?’  Enough of conflict, enough work, enough of your career, enough of dealing with people, enough stress, enough illness, enough of kids, enough of _______.  I am sure you have something you could fill in that blank.  Sometimes, we may even get enough of everything, enough of life itself, and feel like Elijah who said, “I have had enough, Lord, take my life.”  Elijah, you remember, was one of the most faithful and courageous people in the whole Bible.  If even a strong man of faith like Elijah could get such feelings, anyone can.

     The Bible never uses the word ‘depression,’ but today we would say that Elijah was most certainly depressed.  If his despair was related to his work, which does seem to be the case here, we might say he was suffering from that form of depression we call ‘job-burnout.’  Everyone has an occasional bout with depression; a few are depressed much of the time; and at any given time, in any group, there will be a significant number of people struggling with depression.  Sometimes, such depression is deep and severe.

     How can one say anything of value in a short meditation about a topic so broadly defined, so varied, and so complex?  For example, think of the wide variety of conditions which can cause depression.  There is big a difference between the despair of a 23 year old who is depressed because she cannot find the right shoes to wear to her friend’s wedding, and the despair of a woman whose husband of 49 years was just killed in a car accident.  There is no way one can briefly describe depression in all its forms, and then briefly outline the steps to cure it.  It is just too big, too varied, and far too complex for simple descriptions and solutions.  All I can do here is say a couple things about it.

     One way to say something about depression is to do what the Bible does, which is to simply tell stories of individuals who have who have been depressed, and see how they dealt with it.  Though the Bible never described anyone as ‘depressed,’ it contains many stories of people who are what the Bible sometimes calls ‘troubled in spirit.’  

–There is Job who loses everything, and who desperately, angrily, and despairingly questions God’s justice.  But Job does keep talking to God, standing firm in his faith; and in the end, God blesses him for his faithfulness.  

–On the other hand, there is Saul, a man often troubled in spirit, but who responded not in faith, but in jealousy and anger and unfaithfulness.  His rebellion and disobedience took him farther and farther away from God, and in the end, Saul did not receive God’s blessings.  

–There is also Jeremiah, nicknamed the ‘weeping prophet,’ who filled an entire book of the Bible with his despairing observations called ‘Lamentations.’  But Jeremiah also had the faith to write some of the Old Testament’s most wonderful descriptions of God’s grace, love, forgiveness, and future hope.

–Habakkuk began his Old Testament book by asking, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?;” and ended the book still without the help he had prayed for, but declaring that no matter what happens, he would trust in, wait for, and rejoice in his Savior God.  

–And, there are the Psalms, filled with cries for help in the midst of despair, and also filled with expressions of gratitude, trust, and hope.  To give just one example, Psalm 34 says: “I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me out of all my terror…  I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me and saved me from my troubles…  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed…  I will glory in the Lord, and his praise shall ever be in my mouth.”  In the 22nd Psalm David began his prayer with these words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”  It sounds like David is depressed.  

–Even Jesus felt that way, and quoted those very words from the cross in his time of despair and suffering.  (continued…)

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Daniel 7:15  —  I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.

John 13:21b  —  …Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

Habakkuk 1:2a…3:16b-18  —  How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?…  Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior.

Psalm 119:25  —  I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.

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 PSALM 30:1a…2-3…5b…11-12:

I will exalt you, Lordfor you lifted me out of the depths…

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.  You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit…

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning…

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  Lord my God, I will praise you forever.