My apologies to any who might have been following these blog entries, but I note that I left you on August 26 and there was a very good reason. My sister, Shirlee, my beloved sister and my only sister, was on her way to celebrate my 85th birthday on the 28th. What a joy that has been. Not just that she was here - all the way from California, but it was good to be together here as the fact of the matter is this, we have been separated for most of our lives.
I say that to say this, life - real life, is what we make of it. For Shirlee and I to be born on the eve of and in the midst of the truly Great Depression, it has not always been easy. Our father passed away a few years after Shirlee was born and while I had it relatively easy living on the farm with our grand parents, Shirlee was passed from one home to another - several times, and I find it amazing that she has become the grand person that she is and has been for years. We both have learned the value of perseverance. Yes, there were times when it wasn't easy, but perhaps that instilled in us the need to take each day as it appears and make the most of the hours that it provides.
My birthday celebration was proof that we had learned our lessons well. In all of my years I have never ever been so warmly welcomed by people I had known for less than a year. They were there as I shared the pain that followed my wife's death and have gone out of their way to bless me.
Life IS what we make of it. It definitely is NOT what others have seemed eager to make of ours.
Life moves on - hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year.
Some prefer to live by what they "see" today, apparently ignoring the fact that life has been at work in all of our yesterdays. We are only as prepared to deal with the issues of this hour, as we have been by the lessons we have learned in the past. The "good news" is, we can reflect on our past lives and discover there are two definite choices. We can either ignore our errors or take steps to rectify our mistakes.
I tried that for almost forty five years and came away with the realization that the only way you can improve on the errors a person has made in the past is by, living today to its fullest. But how?
I had come to the so-called end of my road. Life had become unbearable. So, I went to a gun store and bought a pistol, believing that a well placed shot might end my misery. I had no idea that I would not be able to pull the trigger. Suddenly, it seemed, there has to be a better way.
I tried talking with counselors, people I had known from my "church going" days and came away with nothing that could point me in a new direction. For some reason, a name from my past came to mind and I called him, even though I knew he lived halfway across our great nation. His secretary took my call and suggested that I could see him whenever I was in his city.
I headed that way, but knowing that he was a nationally known Christian evangelist, I decided it was time for me to get serious about the Bible I had heard so much about, for so many years.
As I opened it, I discovered Jesus saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repent? I was a college graduate and yet, I had no idea what that meant. I started to reflect on the word in my mind and it wasn't long before I began to think of the various ways I had attempted to deal with life as I knew it to be and - to my amazement, I began to realize how wrong I had been. If I was ever to see the "kingdom of heaven" it was - in fact, time to repent and I did.
That was on May 12, 1975 and I shall never forget that date, going on forty years ago as I write.
The only way I can explain the events of what was about to happen in my life is to refer to a Bible verse (John 3:3) where Jesus instructed Nicodemus - a religious man, "You must be born again."
As my life began to take on new meaning, I became aware of all of the secular claims of merchants that they were - for example, .."born again".. car dealers and similar claims were all over the place, it seemed to me. I began to take that Bible phrase, seriously.
My wife and I had four children and the birthing process had become very familiar. Those little darlings came into this world with but two thoughts on their minds, how did they get fed and how did they dispose of the waste that followed. It was our responsibility to teach them these things. The first was not that difficult, warm the milk and put the nipple into their mouths. Dealing with the second was - for many of the people I have known over the years, the worst part of the birth experience.
Here was another experience I suddenly realized I needed to be taken more seriously.
The "world" seemed to realize this as well when someone coined the phrase, "garbage in, garbage
out" as it took on a life of its own. That was years ago, it still is popular today.
The years have passed along and while I have attended more Bible "studies" that I could possibly recall, I have yet to hear anyone dwell on these critical aspects of life. Today, there are thousands of churches across our land, so many in fact that many are readily rejected by people who would never think of listening to what they have to say. Such an attitude is so prevalent that - if you look closely, you will soon discover than many of even some of the larger denominations have become anathema to the rank and file of others "belonging" to those that are lesser known in other regions of our nation.
And yet, there are many who would claim that we are a Christian nation.
I don't know anything about any of that. I don't care to. What I want to know, are you "born" again? Do you hesitate to call God, "our" Father? Who was the one - or ones, that cleaned up the messes in your life as you began your walk with our Lord, Jesus Christ?
Some say, if you are "born again" - that is all that is required. You won't be sent to Hell when you die, Have you ever heard of the term, "easy believism"? If the only reason Jesus came to earth, died on a cross for our salvation and taught us a new way of living, was to keep us out of Hell, why did He say, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10b)
He warned us, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:27)
We are truly Christian when we have decided to become His disciple. The word - disciple, came from the Latin discipulus - learner. After nearly forty years, attempting to walk in His footsteps, learning how to learn from Him, I can assure you, it isn't easy, especially in the times in which we live.
But He made it a lot easier when He taught us, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34)
Or did He? How easy is it to love one another? Those we know, no problem. Those we have yet to know? There IS the problem.
But then, who was it that actually taught us how to love?
It was on a cross at a place we call Calvary where He died that we might live. That is Christianity 101. You start there by examining your own life and asking yourself, is it possible that I could lay down my life for others? I didn't think so, the first time I considered that thought. Then, I realized I had joined the U.S. Army and volunteered to do so. With that I realized the cost that had been paid for others as He taught, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends."