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Nellie Gray listened to the breaking news, not believing her ears.

How is this possible? she wondered. Surely everyone agrees that slavery was wrong, treating men, women, and children as less than human. And have we already forgotten the horrors of Nazi Germany, where revolting experiments were performed on babies?

Nellie’s thoughts transported her back to the days of World War II, when she served as a corporal in the Woman’s Army Corps. And though nearly thirty years had passed since Nazi war criminals faced a panel of judges at the Nuremberg Trials, the atrocities revealed at that time remained fresh in her mind.

Nellie bristled. How can our Supreme Court sanction another atrocity against innocent victims?

And she began to consider what might be done to reverse the decision of Roe vs. Wade, handed down on January 22, 1973.

Not long after a group from Long Island, already involved in the right-to-life movement, asked Nellie to host a meeting in her home. They desired to expand their local efforts to the national stage. “You live near the Capitol—it’s the perfect location,” the spokesperson explained.

Later Nellie would quip, “Be careful who you let into your dining room because you may wind up being the president of a corporation.”[1]

The group first met in October 1973, and someone presented the idea of a march, to be held in Washington D. C. on the first anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. They hoped to draw thousands of people, which would urge Congress to overturn the court’s decision.

Nellie was asked to arrange for speakers, because of her contacts in and around Washington as a federal lawyer. The one role she was unable to fill was emcee, so Nellie provided that function herself.

The event did raise awareness, as twenty thousand people gathered in Washington, and peacefully marched twenty-one blocks on Constitution Avenue to the steps of the Supreme Court Building.

It was supposed to be a one-time-event.

“We thought we were going to march one time and Congress would certainly pay attention to 20,000 people coming in the middle of winter to tell them to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” Nellie said.[2]

But their expectation proved erroneous. And because there were leftover funds after the ‘74 event, someone suggested holding another march the following year.

Nellie decided to retire from practicing law and established the March for Life and Education Defense Fund, dedicating the rest of her life to the pro-life cause. She and the vice-president, Terrence Scanlon, took no salaries; Nellie ran the organization from her home.

As the decades passed, support for their cause continued to grow. In recent years, well over 100,000 have participated in the March for Life, enduring the cold and even snow to draw attention to the plight of unborn babies. In 2011, fifty-three members of Congress spoke at the March for Life Rally.

Also important to the cause: neonatal research, proving fetuses develop much more rapidly than we knew in 1973. For example:

  • Within the first few weeks, the beginnings of a face become apparent.
  • The heartbeat can be heard at 6 weeks.
  • The neural tube (brain, spinal cord, and other neural tissue of the central nervous system) is well formed at 8 weeks.
  • Fingers and toes are easily distinguishable by 11 weeks.
  • Thumb-sucking has been photographed at 18 weeks.
Ultrasound of 12-week old fetus

Of course, Nellie Gray and the March for Life participants have been criticized for their stand against abortion. But she explained her position this way:

“God Almighty created man and woman in his own image, and we recognize that. The United States Constitution recognizes that human beings are endowed with a right to life. We must carry out our patriotism and our love of God through such events.”[3]

In 1998, Nellie asserted the eventual overturn of Roe vs. Wade. “I have complete, utter faith that we are going to get this,” she said.[4]

Nellie Gray led every March for Life through 2012, with undaunted enthusiasm and conviction. But in August of that year, at age 88, she died of natural causes in her home.

I’ve often wondered if good news from Earth becomes known in heaven. If so, might Nellie know what happened last week–that ten years after her arrival in heaven, a giant step has been taken here toward the right-to-life of unborn babies, that her faith is being rewarded and her conviction is becoming fact?

I’d like to think so. 

Notes    


[1]https://religionnews.com/1998/01/15/news-profile-nellie-gray-25-years-behind-the-march-for-life/

[2] https://religionnews.com/2012/08/14/march-for-life-leader-nellie-gray-dead-at-88/

[3] https://heavy.com/news/2017/01/nellie-gary-march-for-life-founder-biography-anti-abortion-pro-life-quotes-2017-date/

[4] https://religionnews.com/1998/01/15/news-profile-nellie-gray-25-years-behind-the-march-for-life/

Other Sources:

http://www.marchforlife.org

http://www.todayscatholic.org

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

Stuffed pork tenderloin, prepared by our son.

Our son became interested in cooking while attending university, and he’s been experimenting ever since. Now guests often say his fare is better than what many restaurants offer.

Father’s Day last Sunday was no exception. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner off the grill: perfectly-seasoned, tender steaks; thick, golden, onion slices sprinkled with bleu cheese and slivered almonds; and polenta squares topped with lightly-sauced mushrooms.

The big surprise came skewered: Brussel sprouts alternated with radishes. I’d never eaten the latter cooked, but these were amazing—nothing like their raw flavor.

Our daughter-in-law creates memorable desserts. One time she constructed a rainbow cake—six layers of jewel-toned deliciousness under a cloud of butter cream frosting. All from scratch of course.

H.’s cake looked every bit as perfect as this one.

Now what if E. and H. invited new guests unfamiliar with the stellar meals these two can produce. And what if E. shared that the menu would include onions with bleu cheese and cooked radishes.

These unaware invitees might say, “Uh, no thanks, our schedule is really tight, plus we have other plans.” Later to themselves they’d likely comment, “E. and H. actually eat that stuff?! It sounds awful!”

But they’d miss out on a memorable meal.

God offers us gourmet cuisine too, but of a different variety.

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” he says. “I would feed you with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:10, 16).

God offers fine food for our souls, found first of all in the Bible. Some people believe the Book is out-of-touch and irrelevant, containing whole sections of unintelligible gibberish.

These folks are like those invited dinner guests, turning down a marvelous opportunity because the offerings sound unappealing. If they’d only come and try the dishes new to them, they’d be more than pleasantly surprised.

God’s soul food also includes wonderful surprises: useful wisdom, uplifting encouragement, fortifying support, and sweet comfort. We miss so much if we let a busy schedule and other interests interfere with the feeding of our souls.

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

–Unknown

Just one of my father’s well-read Bibles.
Note the numerous and tiny comments he wrote in the margins.

To make time, we may have to give up something—like those long minutes on social media or watching TV. During my years as a teacher, making time meant getting up earlier than everyone else in the house. And the ten years I commuted a half-hour each way, the alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m.

But it was not a hardship; I just went to bed earlier. The feast each morning was well worth it. (For an example of one feast, you can read from an earlier post, “Down the Aisle of Your Years.” Scroll down to just below the James 1:17 image.)  

Another problem: The Bible looks like a huge buffet to some. They wonder where to start. Add all those puzzling cultural and historical references, and it’s tempting to give up before turning the first page and taking the first bite. What we may need are a few utensils.

Just like a shrimp fork or steak knife make it easier to eat those foods, certain tools help us consume God’s Word. Many are available online. For example, www.biblestudytools.com or www.studylight.org offer word definitions, cultural and historical background, commentaries, and more.

Bible study guides also help us dig into the sustenance the Bible has to offer. A few recommendations include:

  • NavPress LifeChange series, with each study focused on a book or two of the Bible. Luke is a good place to begin, with its many stories and teachings of Jesus.
  • LifeWay Press also produces worthwhile Bible studies, including an overview by Angie Smith, titled Seamless. Others I’ve enjoyed include: Believing God by Beth Moore and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. You can’t go wrong with studies by these women.
  • Another LifeWay Press classic? Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. Millions of people have already benefited from this study.
  • Harper Christian Resources offers 40 Days through the Bible from Lysa Terkehurst and her team. They provide an overview by theme, including: identity, freedom, and fulfillment.

What if, when E. and H. invited dinner guests and shared what’s on the menu, I was there to add, “Oh, you’ve GOT to come. I’ve eaten at their house numerous times, and it’s always delicious!” Might they be more likely to come? Perhaps.

In the same vein, consider this post my affirmation of what God has to offer in His Word. I’m here to say, “You’ve GOT to read it, study it, digest it. I’ve dined at God’s table of truth countless times over the decades and have never been disappointed!”

What Bible study materials or methods have you found nourishing to your soul? Please share in the comment section below!

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com.

Heavenly Backpacks

If you or a family member are among the 16 million people in the U.S. who suffer from COPD, you’ve no doubt checked into the pros and cons of oxygen tanks (unwieldy and weighing up to 20 pounds) vs. oxygen concentrators (small, and just 5 pounds or so).

These latter devices can be carried around, even in a backpack. That’s much easier than wheeling a cumbersome, heavy tank everywhere. Such an amazing invention.

Whichever device is chosen, the increased oxygen flow is life-giving to the patient, improving their quality of life and providing peace of mind.

As Christians, we carry something with us that is also life-giving—into eternity. It improves our quality of life in astounding ways, and provides such overwhelming peace of mind, it surpasses understanding.[1]

This entity is lighter than air even though it possesses the awesome weight of God’s glory (the infinite wonders of who he is) and the full height and depth of his love. It doesn’t have to be pulled along or carried on the hip or back; it’s carried within the spirit.

What is this invisible reality? God’s kingdom. We are Kingdom Carriers[2]—if we’ve accepted his Son Jesus into our lives. That choice leads to the abundant life he promised.[3]

Carry an oxygen concentrator and you can supply yourself with that one necessity for as long as the battery lasts, about 8 hours. But as Kingdom Carriers? Oh my!  God provides numerous necessities for a lifetime and beyond. Some come quickly to mind, such as the peace of mind mentioned above, wisdom for decision-making, and the assured hope of a glorious future.[4] 

But what else do we carry in our invisible Kingdom satchels? Here are a few examples:

  • God’s encouragement. Within the pages of his Word we find heartening promises, assuring each of us, “You’re not alone; I’m here to help you. Remember, with me all things are possible.”[5]
  • God’s equipping. He provides courage in distress, serenity in difficulty, strength under pressure, comfort in pain, and more.[6]
  • God’s faithfulness. Reflect on the numerous times God has graciously protected and provided. With King David we can affirm:
  • The truth about our identity. We are God’s children, created in his image for divine purpose.[7]
  • Joy—even in the midst of trouble. Paul is our example. “In all our troubles,” he wrote, “my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4). We can live like that too!
  • Security. “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God.”[8]

Our Kingdom backpacks even include a new wardrobe!

And what does this new wardrobe include? A long coat of humility that envelops everything else, soft gloves woven of kindness and gentleness, quiet slippers of patience (as opposed to tap-shoes of exasperation), and a large scarf of forgiveness that covers a multitude of grievances (vs. 11-13).

Now, at least several questions present themselves:  

Are we putting to good use these amazing provisions? What can we do to avail ourselves more readily?

And, as Kingdom Carriers, are we sharing the life-giving, peace-imparting contents of our invisible backpacks with those around us?

*     *     *     *     *     *      *      *     *      *

I praise You, O God for transferring us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of your beloved Son. You, the King of the universe, have made us your sons and daughters!  Now, wherever we go, we carry within us your invisible kingdom—and all its amazing qualities. May we be faithful to access what you’ve provided and generously share them with others.   

(Colossians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Luke 17:21; John 10:10; Hebrews 13:16)


[1] Psalm 145:13; John 10:10; Philippians 4:6-7

[2] A phrase coined by Elaine Olsen, Peace for the Journey, 141. (Elaine is one of my former second-grade students!)

[3] John 3:16; 3:3; 10:10

[4] James 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-6

[5] Psalm 23:4; 46:1; Matthew 19:26

[6] Psalm 27:1; Psalm 9:9-10; Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 147:3

[7] John 1:12; Ephesians 2:10

[8] Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman, p. 157; Isaiah 40:11

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com.

A nail is driven out by another nail;

habit is overcome by habit.

So said Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian of the 1500s.

Desiderius Erasmus

Research in recent times has proven his statement true.  One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

That’s why President Reagan replaced his cigarettes with jelly beans, dieters replace chips with popcorn, and late-night TV addicts forego talk shows to read calming books.

Some of the most stubborn bad habits are those that occur in the mind. It’s no easy task to shut down anxious, negative, or covetous thoughts—even when we know they contribute nothing to our well-being.

But if we apply Desiderius’ advice, we can retrain our brains toward healthy, even delightful thinking. For example, we can:

Replace anxiety with trust.

Worry spirals us downward into fear; trust-statements provide the way out–trust-statements such as these:

  • I can trust the One who died for me. He will thwart every plan that should be stopped and complete each one that results in his greatest glory and my highest good.[1]
  • God is with me and for me. His strength enables me, and his light guides my way.
  • Time and again I’ve witnessed God’s provision and protection, his miracles and blessings. “All that I have seen has taught me to trust him for all that I have not seen.”[2]

As other trust statements come to our attention, we can record them in our journals or in Notes on our phones. Then we’ll be prepared when the slide into worry begins.

Replace negativity with positivity and praise.

Continual praise is what changes the emotions,

lifts the darkness, offers hope, frees the mood

and blesses God so that evil is driven out.

Praise changes everything.

–Arnold Prater[3]

Throughout the day take a praise-pause now and then. Praise God for his power to keep this world on its axis, tilted just right to support life. Praise him for the proofs of his creativity in nature, for his goodness and loving mercy that prompted him to make a way to heaven for us.

Of course, the demands of the day often distract us from such thoughts. But if we post reminders here and there—around the house, on the visor of the car, at our places of work—we can jump-start this habit.

Replace covetousness with gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery;

it merely washes clean the glass you look through

so you can clearly see the colors.

–Richelle E. Goodrich

Too often our attention gravitates toward wants instead of haves, fostering discontentment and envy–emotions we’d do well to eliminate.

One helpful strategy is keeping a gratitude journal. Even brief entries can be effective. I only record one or two things each day, but discovered there’s benefit in the process of reviewing the day to glean the highlights. An added delight: rereading old entries and feeling grateful all over again.

Of course, developing good habits is not as easy as driving out a nail. What about those days when we fail? That’s the time to remember: even in failure there is progress.

Failure points to the inadequacy of striving on our own, and turns us toward greater dependence on God.

We learn, on the one hand,

that we cannot trust ourselves

even in our best moments,

and, on the other,

that we need not despair even in our worst,

for our failures are forgiven.

–C. S. Lewis[4]

We can begin our habits of trust-statements, praise, and gratitude right there!


[1] Based on a quote from J.H.M., Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, 1997) 295.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[3] Bonding with God (Marno Books, 2000) 78.

[4] Mere Christianity (MacMillan, 1952) 78.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes,

our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,

they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Quincy Adams

Many in today’s world want to believe that truth is relative. You’ll hear them say, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.”

In the case of taste, that statement may apply. You might love coconut, hard rock music, and skinny jeans ; I do not. And that should be OK. We all have our preferences.

But to understand the absolutes of reality, we must consider the facts and evidence in order to judge rightly and respond accordingly. Truth is truth. And when it comes to our eternal destiny, we cannot risk basing our hopes on untruth, no matter how well-intentioned.

Yet falsehoods frequently masquerade as truth, and have for centuries.

So how are we supposed to know what is right and true concerning our eternal destiny?

Behold the Truth

There’s no getting around the fact that every one of us will die. And though we don’t know the details of what happens next, the Bible is clear: When we trust in Jesus, who took the punishment we deserve for our sins, God graciously grants us eternal life with him in heaven (John 3:16). This is the way he’s established (John 14:6).

But why should we believe the Bible? That‘s a key question every person needs to be able to answer.

Whole books have been written on the subject; I’ve listed a few at the end of this post. But here’s a sample of categories that affirm the Bible is reliable truth, to whet your appetite. And with each I’ve provided just one example or a link to one.

So what facts and evidence prove the Bible is true?

  • Thousands of archaeological discoveries verify names and places mentioned in the Bible. Nothing has been found to repudiate any scripture. (One amazing example: When Truth Unfolds.)
  • Over 5,000 ancient manuscripts or fragments corroborate the Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include 800-900 manuscripts representing every Old Testament book except Esther. They date from about 225 B.C. to 50 A.D.
  • Hundreds of prophecies have come true with 100% accuracy. (Compelling Evidence offers just one set of prophecies concerning one city–all of them fulfilled with mind-boggling perfection.)
  • A number of scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible have also been proven accurate. One example:
  • Over the centuries, millions of lives have been transformed because of Christ’s work within them. (When Love Drove Out Hate tells just one miraculous story.)

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself “the state of facts and evidence.”

Study the photos of archaeological finds. Many are available online.

Learn about fulfilled, biblical prophecies and why the argument that they were written after the fact is provably false. (Read Is the Bible True?/ Fulfilled Prophecy as a good starting point.)

Consider all the scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible and how unfolding knowledge over the ensuing centuries has verified their accuracy.

Read biographies of those who hit rock bottom in their lives and how God lifted them up, often in miraculous ways.    

We begin to recognize lies

when we know the truth.

Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word, 76

And if we truly seek after God, he has promised, we will find him (Proverbs 8:17).

Believe in the Truth

Many people believe that heaven is earned. If our good deeds outweigh the bad, God will allow us to enter. But that teaching is not in the Bible. And if we’re going to assert the veracity of scripture (which we must, given the overwhelming evidence), then we have to accept:

This is not a matter of taste, choosing our beliefs depending on what we like, as with food, music, or clothing.

This is a matter of life and death.

Now is the time to behold the Truth, believe in the Truth, and belong to the Truth, if you haven’t made that choice before.

You’ll be so glad you did!

If you’re already a Christian, please share in the comment section below about what brought you to accept the Bible as truth and Jesus Christ as the Way to eternal life.

For further reading: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both by Lee Strobel, and Why Should I Trust the Bible by William D. Mounce.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.jenikirbyhistory.getarchive.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com.

True Satisfaction

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV).

Many of us memorized those words as children. And some of us may have thought, “Wow! That means God will give me whatever I want!”

So we prayed for new bicycles, the latest gadgets, and swimming pools in our backyards—absolutely certain that if God gave us these hearts’ desires, we’d be truly satisfied.

Some of our prayers were answered affirmatively. A new bicycle with sparkling spokes actually materialized by the Christmas tree. Or Aunt Kate heard the pleas for Mattell’s Magical Music Thing, and sent it as a birthday gift.

But as the years went by, the wise and introspective among us realized:

1. When one desire is fulfilled, another quickly takes its place.

Years ago I heard that a famous actress had accumulated seven houses, each one a different style from the others. Why? Because moving from one to another eased her boredom. (I wonder how long it took to become discontented with House #4, or #5, or #6, before she hired an architect to start the next?)

2. God isn’t in the business of making wishes come true.

Psalm 23:1 doesn’t mean: “I’m one of God’s flock! I’m gonna live on Easy Street!”

If he did grant every whim, we’d soon become self-centered and spoiled.

Perhaps a clarifying interpretation of the opening scripture would be: “God is my loving Care-Giver. All that I enjoy in my relationship with him far outweighs anything this world has to offer. I really don’t need another single thing.”

Ah, to be as soul-satisfied as King David, the author of this psalm!  How can we become that contented?

One place to begin is with gratitude and praise.

Think of all we enjoy as a result of our relationship with God.  Peace, joy, and provision quickly come to mind.

Here are a few more:

  • Companionship with a perfect Friend—every moment of every day–into eternity.  He is always listening, always watchful, always diligent.
  • Hope. No situation is beyond the control of our Almighty God.
  • Settledness, because he is in control, and “makes good things even out of hard times” (Erica Hale).
  • Truth. We don’t have to muddle through life like a do-it-yourselfer with no instruction manual. “The unfolding of [God’s] words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

The bottom-line is this: No possession or position, no place or person on earth can fill our hearts with contentment.

3. True satisfaction flourishes when we affirm that in God we have all we need.

Remember Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28?

Are you weary of the dissatisfaction that results from striving for the next desire?  Are you burdened by unfulfilled wishes and dreams?

Come to Jesus.  Count the scores of blessings he’s already provided in the past, is currently providing this very moment, and has already prepared in the glory of heaven yet to come.

Cultivate true satisfaction in your heart with gratitude and praise!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What helps you cultivate true satisfaction?  Please share in the Comments section below!

Art & photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

(Revised and reblogged from 7-10-14 while we enjoy house guests.)

Hidden in God

Play hide-and-seek with a two-year old and chances are, when it’s your turn to do the seeking, you won’t be looking for long. Their under- standing of true concealment is limited.

Some people play hide-and-seek in life. They’re looking for places to hide from such situations as financial ruin, hurtful relationships, and danger. But their understanding of true concealment is limited.

They may build up a hefty bank account, move from one relationship to another when the first difficulty arises, and purchase every means of protection against physical harm.

But these hiding places still leave a person exposed. Not all problems can be solved with money. Shallow relationships don’t satisfy in the long term, and physical protection can fail.

Just as our granddaughter in the first picture needed something bigger to cover her, we need something bigger than bank accounts, a few casual friends, and state-of-the-art alarm systems to cover us.

In addition, we face a number of monumental problems in America that leave all of us greatly exposed: rising drug addiction, increased violent crime, failing schools, the demise of Judeo-Christian values, inflation, supply chain failures, the national debt, and more.

There is only one place where we’re completely hidden and protected: in God himself.

Not that we’re shielded from every difficulty in this life. God hasn’t promised to prevent all trouble. But he is the One who can provide complete coverage no matter what we face, including the security of eternal life and blessings in the midst of trouble.

When God is our Hiding Place, he makes available to us his:

  • Strength

When tumult rages,

We have in him a strong citadel of calm.

–Herman  Lockyer (1)

  • Peace

The very act of breathing in his presence [is] balm.

Jan Karon (2)

  • Help

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him

and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.

–George Mueller

  • Truth, including his unfailing promises

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word.

–Unknown

  • Hope

God has given no pledge that he will not redeem

And encouraged no hope that he will not fulfill.

–Charles Spurgeon

Rest assured, my friends, once we’ve placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are completely covered—hidden in God. He is our steadfast and reliable Rock of refuge (Psalm 31:3).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for sheltering me in the Rock-cave of your refuge. I’m surrounded by your unfailing love and compassion, your all-sufficiency in all situations, and your empowering presence.

I also take refuge in the truth of your Word that affirms you will put all things right when the time is right. In the meantime, I nestle into the protective shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 32:10b; Psalm 116:5; Philippians 4:1; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; Psalm 17:8b)

Notes:

  1. Seasons of the Lord, 252.
  2. A Common Life, 116.

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.fox19.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.

Eliza strained forward as her legs churned beneath her, the underbrush tearing at her long skirts. The small boy in her aching arms whimpered, sensing a danger he couldn’t see.

“Hush, chile,” she gasped in a whisper. “Mama’s gone keep you safe.”

Eliza dared a quick glance behind her. She could see nothing of the slave catchers who’d found her hiding place, a house near the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.  She’d slipped out the back door and into the woods as they approached the front. But they would surely guess her run for freedom, and their long legs, unencumbered by skirts, would quickly bring them close.

Runaways like Eliza Harris

Eliza dared not slow her pace toward the northern side of the river, where she and her baby had a chance to be together. Though her master had been kind, he was planning to sell her son. Eliza could not let that happen; her two older children had already died.

Finally, Eliza could see glimmering flecks through the trees as morning light danced on the water. But this was not what she’d planned. Eliza had expected to walk across the mile-wide river on ice, given the winter season. Instead she found the ice broken up into mammoth chunks, drifting slowly on the current.

With a prayer on her lips, Eliza made the choice to cross anyway, jumping from ice cake to ice cake. Sometimes the cake on which she stood sunk beneath the surface of the water. Then Eliza would slide her baby onto the next cake and pull herself on with her hands. Soon her skirts were soaked and her hands numb with cold. But Eliza felt God upholding her; she was confident he’d keep them safe.

On the northern bank stood William Lacey, one of those who watched the river for escaping slaves in order to help them. Time and again he thought the river would take the woman and child, but she miraculously reached the bank, heaving for breath and weak from cold and exhaustion.

When she’d rested for a few moments, the man helped her to a house on the edge of town. There she received food and dry clothing before being taken to another home and then another, along the Underground Railroad. Finally she reached the home of Quakers, Levi and Catherine Coffin, in Newport, Indiana.[1]

Note the mention of Levi Coffin

By the time Eliza arrived on their doorstep in 1838, the Coffins had been helping escaped slaves for more than a decade. In fact, the following year they would build a house specifically designed for their work as station masters on the Underground Railroad.

A Federalist-style house, similar to the Coffins’ home

In the basement they constructed a spring-fed well, to conceal the enormous amount of water needed for their many guests. On the second floor, they built a secret room between bedroom walls, just four feet wide. Up to fourteen people could hide in the long, narrow room.

Eliza Harris was only one of more than a thousand slaves (some say 3,000) that stayed in the Coffin home on their way to Canada. Had the Coffins (or others) been caught helping runaway slaves, they would have owed a $1000 fine (which few could afford) and would have spent six months in jail (which meant no income for the family during that time). Slave hunters were known to issue death threats as well.

But the Coffins held strong convictions concerning slavery. In the 1870s Levi wrote in his memoirs, “I . . .  risked everything in the work—life, property, and reputation—and did not feel bound to respect human laws that came in direct contact with the law of God.”[2]

For the introduction of Coffin’s book, William Brisbane[3] wrote the following about Levi and two other abolitionists:

“In Christian love they bowed themselves before their Heavenly Father and prayed together for the oppressed race; with a faith that knew no wavering they worked in fraternal union for the enfranchisement of their despised colored brethren, and shared together the odium attached to the name of abolitionist, and finally they rejoiced together and gave thanks to God for the glorious results of those years of persevering effort.”[4]

Should we face such hatred and endangerment in our day, may we stand in the midst of it like Levi and Catherine Coffin—steadfast and unmovable in the power of God.

Addendum:

In 1854 the Coffins visited Canada and happened to encounter a number of former slaves they’d helped. Eliza Harris was one of them–settled in her own home, comfortable and contented.

Her story may sound familiar because Harriet Beecher Stowe, a friend of the Coffins, included the slave’s harrowing escape in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


[1] Now called Fountain City

[2] https://www.indianamuseum.org/historic-sites/levi-catharine-coffin-house/

[3] a doctor, minister, author, and South Carolina slaveholder who turned abolitionist and moved north where he freed his slaves

[4]https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/coffin/coffin.html

Other sources:

http://www.womenhistoryblog.com

http://www.rialto.k12.ca.us/rhs/planetwhited/AP%20PDF%20Docs/Unit%206/COFFIN1.PDF

https://mrlinfo.org/famous-visitors/Eliza-Harris.htm

Art & photo credits: http://www.nypl.getarchive.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.slr-a.org.uk; http://www.wikimedia.org.

Inside Me

(in celebration of Poetry Month)

Inside us all exists a place

unique in space and size.

Just one thing can fill this space;

it’s nothing money buys.

Some people try to fill the void

with work and busy-ness.

They think that to be well-employed

will bring true happiness.

Others try a different route—

they seek recognition.

But all too soon they learn about

the failings of ambition.

But inside me there is no void—

it’s a marvelous sensation!

Inside me grows peace and joy,

defying explanation.

The future holds no fear for me,

sleepless nights I don’t endure.

There’s no need to fret continually,

because my destiny is secure.

Even when problems come my way,

a sense of joy pervades.

From an inner strength, fears are allayed,

and anxiety begins to fade.

This peace and joy inside me

come from one amazing Source.

It’s Jesus Christ—he’s the key,

the almighty, empowering force!

The Lord alone can fit that space;

nothing else will ever do.

While following his excellent ways,

I experience his blessings too!

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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I'm Patty, and my husband and I are living with our adult son who has autism and epilepsy. I love sharing lessons learned from life around me, especially life with Aaron.

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