From: William Gibbons
Sent: Thursday, November 22, 2018
To: 'william's email list 2018'
Greetings to each of you,
I like Thanksgiving, both the
holiday and the precept. Except for those doing the cooking (or writing
a newsletter with over a year backlog of photographs, 34,818 pictures,
staring you in the face, waiting for your attention), I think it is
lot less stressful approaching Thanksgiving than either Halloween or
Christmas in our culture. Those two high activity holidays are the ones
Thanksgiving is sandwiched between, and they tend to dwarf it to the
point of almost being an afterthought. Yet, it is one of the most important
"reminder" holidays. Having an "attitude of gratitude," as they call
it in 12 step programs, is deemed essential by those working in spiritual
fields, and also by health professionals, to help maintain good physical
and mental wellness, beyond even religious considerations. The more
I listen to people complain, the more I am thankful just for the ability
to be thankful, and that doing so can be a choice, even if it does not
come naturally to us.
I, of course, see every ability
as a gift from God. I have not always held such a belief. Not growing
up religiously, I was in my 30s before I decided I was free to seek
out the Truth for myself, wherever it lead me. Today, I am pretty firmly
in the Jesus of Nazareth camp. That journey is a complex story in and
of itself. But this thanksgiving newsletter is not about the path getting
me here. It is about thankfulness, especially in the midst of disagreement,
conflict, and the me versus you attitudes so prevalently surrounding
most of our endeavors.
The last newsletter I sent was
shortly following Independence Day this year. After God, freedom tops
my list of things to be thankful for. Real freedom is a great deal more
than just independence from oppressive governments, regimes, or terrorism.
Somewhat amazingly, I have discovered like so many others that the words
servant and freedom can walk beautifully hand in hand.
This email is your introduction
to the Thanksgiving newsletter online. If you want to continue, all
you have to do is click . . .
I am going to start this
newsletter on a complete opposite note from thanks giving by sharing
an excerpt from an email I received back at the beginning of August.
" . . . . There are choices in life, and I choose
to stand with those who believe freedom entails the freedom from control
by one over another. That flies both ways, conservative and liberal.
I have no more patience with the so called social justice warriors than
I do with religious zealots. But that is all religion is - organized
zealotry disguised as righteousness. And, while I realize it will never
happen, the entire concept of religion deserves to be consigned to the
dustbin of history. There aren’t any gays out there trying to convert
non gays. There aren’t any women having abortions who are out there
trying to convince other women to get pregnant so they can have abortions
too. There are no blacks trying to take the vote away from whites. But
the opposite of each of those is certainly true. It’s all about control
. . . ."
That is just a piece of the longer email, but it
is the section which started me thinking about what I could find in
"religion" to give thanks for. For most of my life, I was simply indifferent
to what is called "organized religion." Once I entered into a personal
relationship with God, I actually became more critical of the "church."
The dictionary on my desk defines religion as "a system of beliefs and
practices relating to the sacred and uniting its adherents in a community."
A pastor once told me religion is nothing more than what someone believes
about reality. Everyone has a religion, whether inside, or outside,
of community. But for me, as a follower and servant of Jesus, whom I
believe to be the Christ (Messiah, or Anointed One), the Son of God,
I am identified as a Christian, within a community bearing the title
Christianity. There are days when I am still happy to declare my belief
in and allegiance to Jesus, but do not wish to be associated with "Christianity."
The Christian Church has plenty of blemishes, and even huge atrocities
throughout its 2000 year history. Over my years of walking in faith,
I have told people not to look at Christians, but to look to Jesus Himself
if they are seeking to find Truth. Christians, as a body, have fallen
short all along the way. If all I had to look at was Christians, I would
not be a follower, or believer in Jesus. And yet . . . .
"Do not judge, and you
will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven . . . . Why do you look
at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention
to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself
fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take
the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove
the speck from your brother’s eye." (Luke 6:37, 41-42 NIV)
We are all just people struggling to find our way.
Sometimes we do it well. At other times we do it very badly. It is not
my place to judge another's life choices, currently or historically.
It is always ultimately between us and God individually. So, as I wrestle
with the planks in my own eyes, I was wondering what I could find in
religion, specifically in Christianity, to be thankful for.
The first thing is a no-brainer. If Scripture is
accurately recorded, then I can be most grateful that God was willing
to show His immense love for me by having His Son, Jesus, incarnate
into this world to save a sorry ass like mine. Even enduring the horrific
process of dying on a cross for me (and for you). Then dazzling us all
by emerging from the tomb victorious, and inviting us into the Family.
I do not truly understand the why God chose it to play out like this
right from the beginning, but I am thankful for His tremendous show
of love, and unbelievably generous invitation.
But what have we done? As response to His mercy and
love, what have we accomplished that I can be thankful for, even enough
to be able to say, yah, I am one of them?
I was watching a DVD about daily lives and challenges
of followers in early Christian communities in various cities around
the Roman Empire, well before the time of Constantine. Apparently, taking
care of the infirm, handicapped, disfigured, the poor, or widows, was
not commonplace in pre-Christian times. Orphans did not typically fare
well. One of the things that set the early Christians apart from others
was their compassion and caring for people in these circumstances. In
fact, in one of the cities highlighted, it was common practice to take
an unwanted baby to the dump, and simply leave it. Christians visited
the dump daily to rescue any babies left there to die. It was a bold
move that often identified them as belonging to "that sect" the surrounding
community frequently referred to as "agitators and troublemakers." Laws
that over time prohibited such casual attitudes toward the lives of
babies were most likely proposed by Christians. Even today, it is primarily
Christians who give voice to an about to be born child in a culture
that still allows it to be discarded with the trash. I am thankful for
hearts that see beyond the rhetoric that such an act is merely a matter
of protecting a freedom of choice.
Early Christians were often deemed "agitators and
troublemakers" because they would not bow down to, or enter into any
act of worship of, the man-made gods the other inhabitants of the cities
believed would grant them favor. You would most likely be expelled by
a guild (trade union) if you did not conform, and honor the god they
thought they depended on for success. This relegated early Christians
to the fringes of the culture, and often removed their livelihood, or
even got them killed as a way of showing a god that the others were
serious about punishing disobedience. In spite of their treatment, followers
of Jesus did not take up arms, but heeded His admonition not to live
by the sword.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus
said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
(Matthew 26:52 NIV)
"At no other time in the history of Christianity
did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three
centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the
Romans would exclaim, 'See how they love one another!' Justin Martyr
sketched Christian love this way: 'We who used to value the acquisition
of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we
have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used
to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people
of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together
with such people and pray for our enemies.'"
Though we have drifted
far from the instructions of Jesus, I am thankful for the example
shown by those early Christians who set the tone, and gave us
something to look back to as we try to right our paths to a genuine
response to Jesus, the Christ.
I am thankful we have a God, and a Holy Scripture,
that tells us to care for the poor, the infirm, the handicapped, the
disfigured, the widows, and the orphans. Do we always do that? Not even
close. But many of us are making exceptional efforts to do so. You might
recognize . . .
These are just a few of the more well known of many
hundreds of Christ centered organizations trying to live out the good
news of Jesus in tangible ways. Going to the Y? The organization known
simply as the YMCA is the Young Men's Christian Association. Although
a member of a Christian denomination, Clara Barton, who started the
American Red Cross, was not particularly religious. Still, the first
local chapter of the American Red Cross was established in 1881 at the
English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dansville at Dansville, New York.
Feeding America is a United States based nonprofit
organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks
that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens,
shelters, and other community based agencies. It is the third largest
U.S. charity. In the late 1960s, John van Hengel, a retired businessman
and devout Roman Catholic, began working at Immaculate Heart Church
in Phoenix where he drove the bus and coached sports. He also began
volunteering at the very busy St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen.
He started soliciting food donations for the kitchen, and ended up with
far more food than the kitchen could use in its operations. Around this
time, he spoke with one of the clients, who told him that she regularly
fed her family with discarded items from the grocery store's garbage
bins. She told him that the food quality was fine, but that there should
be a place where unwanted food could be stored and later accessed by
people who needed it, similar to how banks store money. Van Hengel began
to actively solicit this unwanted food from grocery stores, local gardens,
and nearby produce farms. His effort led to the creation of St. Mary's
Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix, the nation's first food bank. John
bought an old milk delivery truck for $150 and used it to gather gleaned
citrus fruit and other foods to bring to the soup kitchen. Every evening
John would deliver any surplus to the homeless missions in downtown
Phoenix. Searching for an efficient, less time consuming method of distributing
this food, John approached Father Ronald Colloty from St. Mary’s Basilica
about setting up a warehouse where the missions could come and pick
up the food.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, located in
Memphis, Tennessee, and founded in 1962, is a pediatric treatment and
research facility focused on children's catastrophic diseases, particularly
leukemia and other cancers. It costs about $2.4 million a day to run,
but there is no cost to the patient to be treated. St. Jude was founded
by entertainer Danny Thomas, with help from Lemuel Diggs, and Thomas'
close friend from Miami, automobile dealer Anthony Abraham. It was founded
on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." This
idea resulted from a promise that Thomas, a Maronite Catholic, had made
to a saint years before the hospital was founded.
I did not know it, but The Salvation Army is actually
considered a Protestant Christian church. An international charitable
organization, their mission statement reads: The Salvation Army, an
international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian
church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated
by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ
and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Its founders
sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting
both their "physical and spiritual needs." It is present in 131 countries,
running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless, and disaster
relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.
Samaritan's Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian
aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key
part of Christian missionary work. Bob Pierce founded Samaritan's Purse
in 1970 with a vision "to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through
existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches." Pierce
had previously founded World Vision in 1950. Franklin Graham met Pierce
in 1973. Graham became president of Samaritan's Purse in 1979 following
Pierce's death in 1978. As the organization grew, Samaritan's Purse
not only funded mission partners but also began to develop its own large-scale
relief projects: Providing medical care in the midst of conflicts in
Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, Sudan since 1997, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan
in 2002, and Iraq in 2003. Rebuilding or repairing thousands of houses
following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the El Salvador earthquakes in 2001,
the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Chartering
emergency airlifts to Indonesia and Pakistan in 2005, North Korea in
2007, and Myanmar and China in 2008. Distributing food to hundreds of
thousands of displaced people in Uganda and Darfur.
Habitat for Humanity International, generally referred
to as Habitat for Humanity or simply Habitat, is an international, non-governmental,
and nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard
Fuller. Former United States President Jimmy Carter helped bring Habitat
into the spotlight by being a volunteer worker on a number of its projects.
Habitat has been devoted to building "simple, decent, and affordable"
housing. A self-described "Christian housing ministry," it has addressed
the issues of poverty housing all over the world.
The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. Each year,
their network of some 300 rescue missions serve approximately 66 million
meals, provide more than 20 million nights of shelter and housing, assist
some 45,000 people in finding employment, provide clothing to more than
750,000 people, and graduate nearly 17,000 homeless men and women from
addiction recovery programs into productive living. Rescue missions
have been providing hospitality to impoverished people in America since
the 1870s. Rescue mission staff members provide effective care for men,
women, and children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted. AGRM
is North America’s oldest and largest network of crisis shelters and
rehabilitation centers. Our local Lansing City Rescue Mission is one
of my favorite places to contribute to. They do wonderful work.
Then there are the many denominational outreaches.
Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of
the Catholic community in the United States. Founded in 1943 by the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the agency provides assistance
to 130 million people in more than 90 countries and territories in Africa,
Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Lutheran World
Relief is an international non-governmental organization that focuses
on sustainable development projects and disaster relief and recovery.
It continues to receive high rankings from Charity Navigator, Charity
Watch, Great Nonprofits and the Better Business Bureau. Since 2000,
it has increased its emphasis on sustainable agriculture and climate
adaptation while continuing to respond to major natural disasters and
humanitarian crises around the world.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is the global
humanitarian aid and development organization of the United Methodist
Church. It works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable
agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant
concerns, global health issues, and transitional development. These
programs are categorized into three major areas: Humanitarian
Relief / Disaster Response, Sustainable Development, and Global Health
(in collaboration with UM Global Ministries). Unlike most relief organizations,
UMCOR was designed so that 100% of all donations go directly to the
intended projects. This goal was achieved by instituting the One Great
Hour of Sharing donation. This is an annual collection taken at United
Methodist churches around the world in March. UMCOR receives enough
support through OGHS each year to cover all overhead, administrative,
and operation costs for the coming year. Excess funds received are directed
to the most urgent or least funded projects. Every dollar received in
response to emergency appeals is spent on direct relief.
I am thankful for these fellow Christians, and the
thousands upon thousands of other Christians, who tirelessly try to
live out the instructions Jesus left us with.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to
me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs
to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)
Athenian law supported all orphans of those killed
in military service until the age of eighteen. Jewish law prescribed
care for the widow and the orphan. The Romans formed their first orphanages
around 400 AD, after Christianity had become a primary religion in the
Roman Empire. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphanage)
The other dynamic influencing the treatment of orphans
are adoption agencies. Among others, both the Catholic and Lutheran
denominations have huge adoption operations. Another care concept heavily
influenced by Christianity was hospitals which took care of everyone.
While some medical care systems showed up in Egypt,
China, and India, and the Romans constructed buildings called valetudinaria
for the care of sick slaves, gladiators, and soldiers around 100 BCE,
the declaration of Christianity as an accepted religion in the Roman
Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. Following First
Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, construction of a hospital in every cathedral
town was begun. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hospitals)
I am thankful that we have a God, and a Bible, that
tells us to welcome, and provide hospitality, to the stranger in our
Land. Have we failed to do this? Often incredibly so! Still, a search
I did on Wikipedia using the words "Christian refugee service" told
me a single page does not exist, "but consider checking the search results
below to see whether the topic is already covered." With page after
page of listings available, you could choose whether to view 20, 50,
100, 250, or 500 per page. I chose not to continue reviewing them at
all, already knowing once again that among others, both the Catholic
and Lutheran Churches have branches of "Immigration and Refugee Service"
which handle and help an enormous amount of immigrants coming into our
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble.
(1 Peter 3:8 NIV)
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be
no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
(1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive
for full restoration,
encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV)
Sitting down, Jesus called
the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last,
and the servant of all.”
(Mark 9:35 NIV)
Be of one heart and mind? I suspect unity is the
one thing we fail at the most as followers of Jesus these days. Although,
I personally am thankful for the diversity found within Christianity.
Much as the parts of our body have different functions, I see denominations
each having special gifts and contributions they might bring to the
Christian table. But, ecumenical efforts aside, there is still much
division among churches. I once used Mark 9:35 (above) to tell Mormon
missionaries visiting the Center, whose church believes themselves to
be the true remnant of Christian believers, that there was one simple
reason I did not believe them to be the one true church. While they
do an exceptional job trying to live what they say they believe, they
do not put themselves last. Almost all denominations who claim they
are the one, exalt only themselves. Instead of being the servant of
all, and trying to help build up the entire body of Christ across denominational
lines, they try to draw people to their own denomination. Our Christian
history, especially in this present time, is filled with examples of
how Christians have done the exact opposite of how our Christ said we
should behave if we were truly his disciples. Seeing the poor, the homeless,
the disabled, the disfigured, and the disenfranchised as equals through
the eyes of God, and that they need to be treated as equals in the body
of believers, is but one small piece in the Christian life. At the end
of my emails, I have two quotes of Francis of Assisi. “You can show
your love to others by not wishing that they should be better Christians,”
and “We must bear patiently not being good . . . and not being thought
As I work on the planks in my own eyes, I am thankful
for the wisdom and examples of historical Christians like St. Francis.
And I am similarly thankful for contemporary Christians like Dr. Martin
Luther King, so instrumental in the civil rights movement. I am thankful
for American icons like Abraham Lincoln who was a man of great faith
and focus, with a wisdom that did not claim God was on our side, but
prayed that we were on God's side. I am thankful for exceptional recent
"religious" people outside of Christianity, and their living examples,
like Peace Pilgrim, and Gandhi, and the still with us Dalai Lama. And,
for every one of them, there are hundreds whose lives are less known,
but just as exemplary. I am especially thankful for those unsung heroes
of religious faith.
“Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and
hatred with love.”
- Peace Pilgrim
Each of us gets to live the consequences of our personal
beliefs, choices, and actions. I am thankful for a God, and a book filled
with His Guidance, that offers beliefs, choices, and actions which not
only increase the likelihood of better consequences in this life, but
grants us exceptional eternal outcomes as well. Finally, I am thankful
for a God who is longsuffering in patience with my inability to grasp,
embrace, respond, behave, and rest in His absolute love for me. And,
I am thankful I am not the only one He does this for. He is indeed that
patient with every one of us, including you.
“Do not store up for yourselves
treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves
break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break
in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“No one can serve two masters . . . . You cannot serve
both God and money.”
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at
the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable
than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your
life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the
field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even
Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is
how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow
is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little
faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall
we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these
things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek
first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be
given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow
will worry about itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for
(Matthew 6:19-34 Excerpts)
The above passage appeared in
my last newsletter as well. It is, however, one of the reasons there
is a william's works at all. In the spirit of thankfulness, I
am very grateful for a God and the Book of His Instruction which includes
Matthew 6. It told me how to put money into its proper perspective,
and not to worry about the things I would need to live on when I turned
my life over to Him. Most of the people I know, consider Matthew 6 to
be very radical, and highly unrealistic. I find Matthew 6 to be very
comforting, totally realistic, and a remover of an immobilizing barrier
From: Elaine Holistic
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 8:23 PM
Subject: Gratitude List
Is it time for another gratitude list? Every now
and then we need to deliberately sit down and contemplate all the blessings
in our lives. Our very first lists probably had a lot of material things
on them: homes and families and jobs and friends. As the years go by
we hopefully can see other more elusive traits to be added to that list.
Was there a time you could have gotten angry and instead you let
Was there a time you could have given in to despair and instead found
a little hope to hang on to?
Was there a time when you forgave yourself?
Was there a time when you picked yourself up and started over?
Was there a time when you were frustrated and you stepped back and
took a few deep breaths?
All those and more deserve to be on your gratitude
list. When your list is front and center in your mind, you will find
a lot of peace.
This is an email story received
February 10, 2017. It is possible I have shared it before, but even
if I have, it is worth repeating. Whether it is true, or total fiction,
matters not. It is a story which should be true in every person's life
who deems themselves to be Christian. I am thankful for stories like
this, which bring a ray of light to a communications system often filled
with unimportant clutter.
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU GATHER, BUT WHAT YOU SCATTER
THAT TELLS WHAT KIND OF LIFE YOU HAVE LIVED
"I was at the corner grocery store buying some early
potatoes . . . I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature,
ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green
I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the
display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new
Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing
the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged
boy next to me.
'Hello Barry, how are you today?'
'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They
sure look good.'
'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?'
'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'
'Good. Anything I can help you with?'
'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'
'Would you like to take some home?' Asked Mr. Miller.
'No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'
'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'
'All I got's my prize marble here.'
'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller.
'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'
'I can see that. Hmm mmm, only thing is this one
is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at
home?' the store owner asked.
'Not zackley but almost.'
'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with
you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble'. Mr. Miller
told the boy.
'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over
to help me. With a smile she said, 'There are two other boys like him
in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just
loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever.
When they come back with their red marbles, and they
always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them
home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when
they come on their next trip to the store.'
I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with
this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot
the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.
Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous
one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that
Idaho community, and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.
They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends
wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.
Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to
meet the relatives of the deceased, and to offer whatever words of comfort
Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was
in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits
and white shirts . . . all very professional looking. They approached
Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket.
Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the
cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.
Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by
one; each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over
the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly,
wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who
I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago, and what
she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles. With her
eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.
'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.
They just told me how they appreciated the things
Jim 'traded' them . . . Now, at last, when Jim could not change his
mind about color or size . . . they came to pay their debt.'
'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this
world,' she confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the
richest man in Idaho.'
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers
of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined
The Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind
In late September we (the T&SC organization) entered
into an agreement to purchase the Sharing in Christ building (417 South
Bridge Street in Grand Ledge) effective October 1, 2018. The mortgage
is privately held by the Trust which sold us the property, and has very
favorable terms with a low monthly payment. It also provides total interest
forgiveness if we are still operating as a spiritual resource center
when we pay the mortgage off. If you would like to help us reach
this goal, you may designate your contributions by simply noting them
as for the “mortgage.” Thank you.
I read a couple of books, and parts of others, these
past several months. One given to me by a Seventh Day Adventist is called
The Great Controversy. It is a select history of the Christian
Church, and the Protestant Reformation in particular, from an Adventist
perspective. Part of my role at the Center is trying to learn
directly from their own materials about various denominations, and
other religions. I tagged a few spots as I read along. I thought I would
share those with you here.
(Page 191) "The freedom which they [protestant
reformers] sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were
not equally ready to grant to others. 'Very few, even of the
foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any
just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New
Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.'
The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to
control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of
the most deeply rooted of papal errors. While the reformers rejected
the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of
intolerance. The dense darkness in which, through the long ages of
her rule, popery had enveloped all Christendom, had not even yet
been wholly dissipated. Said one of the leading ministers in the
colony of Massachusetts Bay: 'It was toleration that made the world
antichristian; and the church never took harm by the punishment of
heretics.' The regulation was adopted by the colonists that only
church members should have a voice in the civil government. A kind
of state church was formed, all the people being required to
contribute to the support of the clergy, and the magistrates being
authorized to suppress heresy. Thus the secular power was in the
hands of the church. It was not long before these measures led to
the inevitable result -- persecution.
(Page 194) Though a few faithful men arose, from
time to time, to proclaim new truth and expose long-cherished error,
the majority, like the Jews in Christ's day or the papists in the
time of Luther, were content to believe as their fathers had
believed and to live as they had lived. Therefore religion again
degenerated into formalism; and errors and superstitions which would
have been cast aside had the church continued to walk in the light
of God's word, were retained and cherished. Thus the spirit inspired
by the Reformation gradually died out, until there was almost as
great a need of reform in the Protestant churches as in the Roman
Church in the time of Luther. There was the same worldliness and
spiritual stupor, a similar reverence for the opinions of men, and
substitution of human theories for the teachings of God's word.
(Page 324) Could the veil which separates the
visible from the invisible world be swept back, and the children of
men behold an angel recording every word and deed, which they must
meet again in the judgment, how many words that are daily uttered
would remain unspoken, how many deeds would remain undone.
It is very likely I have shared
this next piece before. But I reread the In His Steps book this
summer between my two newsletters, as a way of coming back to the basics,
and part of the the foundation upon which the Teaching & Sharing Centers,
and all my work, stands. I am very thankful for this book, and the honest
message it relates to us about the challenges in real discipleship.
I did not edit, or update, this article for inclusion here. It appears
as I found it in my files.
Other than the four Gospels
of the Bible, the books “In His Steps” and “Peace Pilgrim” have had
the most significant influence on the development of all I have done,
and the choices I have made, since 1994 when I left a twenty year business
career, to pursue the path I felt God calling me to. I give away
copies of both of these books (as well as Bibles to anyone who does
not have one) at the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge.
When the book “In His Steps” was first published
(as a series of sermons in 1896), the publisher made an error that threw
it into the “public domain” unprotected by copyright law. As a
result, because of the great number of publishers who picked it up,
the book has had a larger circulation than any other book except the
Bible. As well as the many print options, you can find various
e-versions of it online.
Right from the start in 1995, the sign in front of
the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge has asked the question
“What would Jesus do?” I almost removed it when the WWJD craze
seemed to trivialize the question by making it trendy. Since it
remains at the core of my choices, the sign remained. Each Christian
must decide for themselves what Jesus would do in their place, but if
you are not asking the question . . . well, that is between you and
Him. I offer up this excerpt from Charles M Sheldon’s classic
for whatever inspiration it might have.
Keep in mind the book was written in 1896.
The issues of those days are voiced in the vocabulary of the day, but
they are not so different than our times, and with very little adaptation
can still be seen as contemporary.
Excerpt from chapter thirty-one (the last chapter
of “In His Steps”)
. . . . “Is it true,” continued Henry Maxwell, and
his fine, thoughtful face glowed with a passion of appeal that stirred
the people as they had seldom been stirred, “is it true that the church
of today, the church that is called after Christ's own name, would refuse
to follow Him at the expense of suffering, of physical loss, of temporary
gain? The statement was made at a large gathering in the Settlement
last week by a leader of workingmen that it was hopeless to look to
the church for any reform or redemption of society. On what was
that statement based? Plainly on the assumption that the church
contains for the most part men and women who think more ‘of their own
ease and luxury’ than of the sufferings and needs and sins of humanity.
How far is that true? Are the Christians of America ready to have
their discipleship tested? How about the men who possess large
wealth? Are they ready to take that wealth and use it as Jesus
would? How about the men and women of great talent? Are
they ready to consecrate that talent to humanity as Jesus undoubtedly
“Is it not true that the call has come in this age
for a new exhibition of Christian discipleship? You who live in
this great sinful city must know that better than I do. Is it
possible you can go your ways careless or thoughtless of the awful condition
of men and women and children who are dying, body and soul, for need
of Christian help? Is it not a matter of concern to you personally
that the saloon kills its thousands more surely than war? Is it
not a matter of personal suffering in some form for you that thousands
of able-bodied, willing men tramp the streets of this city and all cities,
crying for work and drifting into crime and suicide because they cannot
find it? Can you say that this is none of your business?
Let each man look after himself? Would it not be true, think you,
that if every Christian in America did as Jesus would do, society itself,
the business world, yes, the very political system under which our commercial
and governmental activity is carried on, would be so changed that human
suffering would be reduced to a minimum?
“What would be the result if all the church members
of this city tried to do as Jesus would do? It is not possible
to say in detail what the effect would be. But it is easy to say,
and it is true, that instantly the human problem would begin to find
an adequate answer.
“What is the test of Christian discipleship?
Is it not the same as in Christ's own time? Have our surroundings
modified or changed the test? If Jesus were here today would He
not call some of the members of this very church to do just what He
commanded the young man, and ask them to give up their wealth and literally
follow Him? I believe He would do that if He felt certain that
any church member thought more of his possessions than of the Savior.
The test would be the same today as then. I believe Jesus would demand
— He does demand now — as close a following, as much suffering, as great
self-denial as when He lived in person on the earth and said, ‘Except
a man renounce all that he hath he cannot be my disciple.’ That
is, unless he is willing to do it for my sake, he cannot be my disciple.
“What would be the result if in this city every church
member should begin to do as Jesus would do? It is not easy to
go into details of the result. But we all know that certain things
would be impossible that are now practiced by church members.
“What would Jesus do in the matter of wealth?
How would He spend it? What principle would regulate His use of
money? Would He be likely to live in great luxury and spend ten
times as much on personal adornment and entertainment as He spent to
relieve the needs of suffering humanity? How would Jesus be governed
in the making of money? Would He take rentals from saloons and
other disreputable property, or even from tenement property that was
so constructed that the inmates had no such things as a home and no
such possibility as privacy or cleanliness?
“What would Jesus do about the great army of unemployed
and desperate who tramp the streets and curse the church, or are indifferent
to it, lost in the bitter struggle for the bread that tastes bitter
when it is earned on account of the desperate conflict to get it?
Would Jesus care nothing for them? Would He go His way in comparative
ease and comfort? Would He say that it was none of His business?
Would He excuse Himself from all responsibility to remove the causes
of such a condition?
“What would Jesus do in the center of a civilization
that hurries so fast after money that the very girls employed in great
business houses are not paid enough to keep soul and body together without
fearful temptations so great that scores of them fall and are swept
over the great boiling abyss; where the demands of trade sacrifice hundreds
of lads in a business that ignores all Christian duties toward them
in the way of education and moral training and personal affection?
Would Jesus, if He were here today as a part of our age and commercial
industry, feel nothing, do nothing, say nothing, in the face of these
facts which every business man knows?
“What would Jesus do? Is not that what the
disciple ought to do? Is he not commanded to follow in His steps?
How much is the Christianity of the age suffering for Him? Is
it denying itself at the cost of ease, comfort, luxury, elegance of
living? What does the age need more than personal sacrifice?
Does the church do its duty in following Jesus when it gives a little
money to establish missions or relieve extreme cases of want?
Is it any sacrifice for a man who is worth ten million dollars simply
to give ten thousand dollars for some benevolent work? Is he not
giving something that cost him practically nothing so far as any personal
suffering goes? Is it true that the Christian disciples today
in most of our churches are living soft, easy, selfish lives, very far
from any sacrifice that can be called sacrifice? What would Jesus
“It is the personal element that Christian discipleship
needs to emphasize. ‘The gift without the giver is bare.’ The
Christianity that attempts to suffer by proxy is not the Christianity
of Christ. Each individual Christian business man, citizen, needs
to follow in His steps along the path of personal sacrifice to Him.
There is not a different path today from that of Jesus' own times.
It is the same path. The call of this dying century and of the
new one soon to be, is a call for a new discipleship, a new following
of Jesus, more like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity, when
the disciples left all and literally followed the Master. Nothing
but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive selfishness
of the age with any hope of overcoming it. There is a great quantity
of nominal Christianity today. There is need of more of the real
kind. We need revival of the Christianity of Christ. We
have, unconsciously, lazily, selfishly, formally grown into a discipleship
that Jesus himself would not acknowledge. He would say to many
of us when we cry, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ‘I never knew you!’ Are we ready
to take up the cross?
Is it possible for this church to sing with exact truth
. . .
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee?
If we can sing that truly, then we may claim discipleship.
But if our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges
of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good, easy
time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live
respectably and at the same time avoid the world's great stress of sin
and trouble because it is too much pain to bear it — if this is our
definition of Christianity, surely we are a long way from following
the steps of Him who trod the way with groans and tears and sobs of
anguish for a lost humanity; who sweat, as it were, great drops of blood,
who cried out on the up reared cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou
“Are we ready to make and live a new discipleship?
Are we ready to reconsider our definition of a Christian? What
is it to be a Christian? It is to imitate Jesus. It is to
do as He would do. It is to walk in His steps.”
When Henry Maxwell finished his sermon, he paused
and looked at the people with a look they never forgot and, at the moment,
did not understand. Crowded into that fashionable church that
day were hundreds of men and women who had for years lived the easy,
satisfied life of a nominal Christianity. A great silence fell
over the congregation. Through the silence there came to the consciousness
of all the souls there present a knowledge, stranger to them now for
years, of a Divine Power. Every one expected the preacher to call
for volunteers who would do as Jesus would do. But Maxwell had been
led by the Spirit to deliver his message this time and wait for results
to come . . .