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Archive for the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ Category

 

 

“His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning:

Great is thy faithfulness.”

–Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV

 

Thomas read the familiar words from his worn Bible.

Oh Father, he prayed. You have been generously compassionate to me all fifty-seven years of my life– through trial and disappointment, joys and sorrows.

Thomas allowed his thoughts to take him back in time, first to his boyhood home, a log cabin on a small farm in Franklin, Kentucky, where he and his older brother helped their father in the fields and attended a small country school. Neither boy received an education beyond the elementary level.

 

(Typical log cabin school,

this one in the Hensley Settlement of Kentucky)

 

Yet, in 1882 when Thomas was only sixteen, the school board hired him as the new teacher.

Imagine me—just a kid myself—a school teacher, thought Thomas.

He smiled, remembering his favorite part of the school day: reading stories and poems to his students, enriching all of their lives, his included. Thomas puttered at writing poetry himself—an avocation he would enjoy the rest of his life.

Six years later, Thomas’ proficiency with language led to the position of associate editor of his hometown newspaper.

 

(Thomas Obadiah Chisholm)

 

I enjoyed that work and being a contributing member of the community. But you and I both know, Lord, 1893 was when I really began living.

That was the year, at age twenty-seven, Thomas accepted Jesus into his life, through the ministry of Henry Clay Morrison, the founder of Asbury College and Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

 

(Henry Clay Morrison)

 

Again, Thomas smiled, remembering the day when Dr. Morrison came to him with a surprising proposition: become the editor for his publication, The Pentecostal Herald. Thomas’ mind reeled at the idea of leaving his country community and living in the noise and crowds of Louisville, but in his heart Thomas felt led by God to accept Morrison’s offer.

I thought for sure I would spend the rest of my life in Louisville, but you, Lord, had other plans.

 

(Louisville, KY, ca 1900)

 

As Thomas worked at The Pentecostal Herald, he felt drawn to the pastorate. In 1903, at age thirty-seven, he was appointed to a small church in Scottsville, Kentucky. Thomas not only transitioned into parish life but married life as well, taking Catherine Vandervere as his wife.

 

 

I remember thinking, Well, God, you’ve finally planted me in the work you’ve prepared me to do.

But one year later ill-health demanded Thomas give up the ministry.

Catherine and I were heartbroken, weren’t we, Lord. No sooner had we settled into the Scottsville ministry, than it was over. But you, O God, provided that little farm in Winona Lake, Indiana, and employment with an insurance agency. And just as the scripture says here in Lamentations, your compassions failed not. The Christian community of Winona Lake warmly welcomed us, and you blessed us with the births of our girls, Ruth and Dorothy.

 

 

Then, twelve years later in 1916, God once again led the family to move—this time to New Jersey, where another position with an insurance agency awaited. Very quickly seven more years passed, and now Thomas was fifty-seven years old.

From Kentucky to Indiana to New Jersey you have cared for us, Lord.

Thank you for your great faithfulness, O God, my Father. Never have you forsaken or failed us. Day after day by your hand, everything we have needed you have provided.

And Thomas began to write:

 

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 wilt be.

 

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!

 

________________________________

 

In his later years, Thomas sometimes described himself as an old shoe. But look what God did:

Shortly after Thomas wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (in 1923), he sent a collection of his poems to his good friend, William Runyan, who worked for a Christian music publisher. William was also associated with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This poem in particular caught his attention and William prayerfully sought to compose a worthy melody.

 

(William H. Runyan)

 

The resulting hymn became a favorite of Dr. Houghton, president of Moody Bible Institute. When he asked a young soloist, George Beverly Shea, to sing a selection of hymns on the Moody radio station. George included Dr. Houghton’s favorite, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Some years later, the great evangelist, Billy Graham, invited George to join his ministry. In city after city, Billy preached and George Beverly Shea sang, frequently choosing Thomas Chisholm’s hymn.

It quickly grew in popularity. To this day, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a favorite hymn of many.  (Hear Chris Rice sing it by clicking here.)

 

 

All told, Thomas wrote over 1200 poems over his lifetime, 800 of which were published—poems written by a man with only an elementary education. Among them were more beloved hymns such as “I Want to Be Like Jesus,” “O to Be like Thee!” and “Living for Jesus.”

 

(Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, 1866-1960)

 

His story proves: God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)—even with an old shoe.

 

(Sources: www.sharefaith.com; www.umcdiscipleship.org; www.lifeway.com; www.sermonwriter.com; www.worshipmatters.com; www.zianet.com.)

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.hymnary.org; http://www.hymtime.com; http://www.oldlouisville.com; http://www.digging-history.com; http://www.hippostcard.com; http://www.cyberhymnal.org; Nancy Ruegg; hymntime.com.)

 

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof

that there have lived people before the present time

whom it is important to meet.”

–Eugene Rosenstock Huessy

 

Betty Greene (1920-1997) is one of them.

 

Eight year-old Betty sat close to the radio, listening intently to the news all America wanted to hear on May 21, 1927: Charles Lindbergh had landed his tiny plane safely in Paris. He had flown nonstop for thirty-three hours and thirty minutes  to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He was the first person to do so. As a result, Charles Lindbergh became a hero to many Americans, including young Betty.

 

 

The next year, she followed the exploits of Amelia Earhart. In June of 1928, Ms. Earhart also flew nonstop across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Wales.

 

 

“That’s what I want to do someday—fly airplanes!” Betty asserted. And she began to dream of her own adventures in the sky.

By the time Betty was old enough for flying lessons, however, the Great Depression had settled over the country. Her mom and dad needed every dime to provide necessities for their family of six. Flying lessons were an unaffordable luxury.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Betty received an envelope from one of her uncles. Inside was one hundred dollars—a small fortune at that time. Betty immediately made arrangements for flying lessons.

Not that she could expect to become a commercial pilot. That career was reserved for men in the 1930s. Unless Betty took up stunt aviation, she would have to be content to fly as a hobby—if she could afford access to a plane.

An elderly family friend suggested a creative possibility. Betty might be able to serve as a missionary pilot. “Think of all the time—and sometimes lives—that could be saved if missionaries didn’t have to spend weeks hacking their way through jungles,” she said.

Immediately Betty knew. This is what God wanted her to do.

Before Betty had a chance to pursue such a radical idea, World War II began. Early in the conflict, it became apparent the number of Air Force pilots was inadequate. It was determined that women could be trained to handle some tasks, freeing up men for combat assignments.

Betty was perfectly suited to become a WASP in the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and she was readily accepted into the program.

 

 

Soon she was flying planes from the manufacturing site to military bases and departure points for overseas. She towed aerial targets for soldiers to gain artillery practice—with live ammunition (so say some sources).  And Betty flew missions at high-altitudes, to assist in the development of needed technology for such flights.

Betty’s dream to be a missionary pilot seemed to be on hold as the war continued, but God was about to do immeasurably more than all she could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

While serving as a WASP, Betty wrote two articles for two different Christian magazines about using planes to help missionaries. Three American pilots read the articles and wrote to Betty about their idea to start just such an organization, once the war ended.

On May 20, 1945, the Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship began operation in Los Angeles. Later the name was changed to Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF)—perhaps because their first pilot was not an airman at all. It was Betty.

 

(Preparing for the inaugural flight, February, 1946)

 

That first flight included two women missionaries in need of transportation from southern California to Mexico City, a three-day trip.

On the first leg Betty noticed something coming off the engine, so she made an unscheduled landing at Tuxpan, Mexico to have the plane inspected. The debris turned out to be just flaking paint. Meanwhile the two missionaries made their way to Mexico City on a commercial flight.

Betty and a new passenger, Cameron Townsend (founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators) left Tuxpan for Tuxla Gutierrez, near the Wycliffe Jungle Camp. Along the route Betty stopped in Minatitlan to refuel and then they were off again. However, a heavy storm developed, and they were forced to turn back.

As they headed toward Minatitlan, another setback occurred:  the engine died. Betty kept her head and switched gas tanks, then re-fired the engine. The tactic worked. She and Mr. Townsend safely returned to Minatitlan. Later she discovered that water in the fuel tank had caused the engine to fail.

The next morning, they finally reached Tuxtla. The three-day flight had taken one week. But the troublesome beginnings did not discourage Betty.

She went on to serve as an MAF pilot for sixteen years–in spite of more mishaps, emergency landings on rivers and at least one crash.  She completed 4,640 flights, served in twelve countries, and touched down in another twenty.

Her responsibilities included ferrying aircraft and delivering missionaries, dignitaries, and cargo to remote areas. She also saved lives by transporting ill or injured patients from inaccessible locations back to civilization and medical care.

 

(Betty, center left, in Papua, Indonesia)

 

In 1962 Betty transitioned from pilot-in-the-field to representative-and-recruiter for MAF, serving as an advocate for the organization until her death in 1997.

Today, MAF operates 132 aircraft in more than 25 countries worldwide.

 

(Sites of MAF Bases)

 

 

And it all began with a little girl who dreamed of flying.

 

Sources:  www.dianawaring.com; http://www.footprintsintoafrica.com; http://www.maf.org; http://www.maf-uk.org; http://www.mnnonline.org.

 

Photo credits:  www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.maf.org (3).

 

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the dark night. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

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(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before Onward sailors began to fire at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

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(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

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From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

robert_smalls_house_beaufort_south_carolina

(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.  A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:  Black Self-Genocide by Bishop Wellington Boone, APPTE Publishing, 2016; http://www.biography.com/people/robert-smalls; http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/138685.aspx; http://www.historynet.com/robertsmalls; http://www.robertsmalls.com; www.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

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Isaac closed his eyes for a moment and pondered the scripture he had just read:

 

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,

all the earth:

Make a loud noise,

And rejoice, and sing praise.”

–Psalm 98:4 KJV

 

A poem began to take shape in his mind, and he picked up his quill to write.

Poetry came as naturally to Isaac Watts as regular conversation to others. Ever since he was a boy he’d taken great pleasure in rhyme and rhythm.

He also appreciated a heart-stirring tune, which is why, as a young man, he found the chanted church music of the day uninspiring and ponderous. At the urging of his father (also a nonconformist), young Isaac set out to write new hymns. In fact, he may have been among the first composers of contemporary Christian music—contemporary for the late 1600s, that is.

As could be expected, his first songs were rejected by some as unworthy for congregational singing. They even called Isaac a heretic because his lyrics were not direct quotes from scripture.  Despite the critics, however, his first volume of Hymns and Spiritual Songs was published in 1707.

 

page-of-watts-first-hymnal

 

Even today, some of his hymn-titles are familiar, including: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “We’re Marching to Zion,” and “At the Cross.” In all, Isaac Watts wrote more than six hundred hymns.

In 1716 Isaac was hired as an assistant to the minister of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London, and less than three years later, became the minister. He worked tirelessly and creatively; the congregation grew.

 

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It was one day during that same year of 1719 Isaac chose to meditate on Psalm 98 and was particularly inspired by verse four (quoted above).

Perhaps Isaac pondered the “joyful noise” all the earth would make—if fields, hills, rocks, and plains joined mankind in praise of the Lord, the King. And the words began to flow:

 

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“Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King:

Let every heart prepare Him room.

And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy.

 

The four-stanza poem was published in 1719—without benefit of tune.

More than one hundred years later in Boston, Massachusetts, Christian composer, Lowell Mason, was inspired to write an upbeat melody he titled, “Antioch.”

 

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This tune needs to be sung, he thought. But finding lyrics with the correct rhythm and a suitable theme proved difficult. Not until three years later, in 1839, did Mason come across the perfect lyrics in Isaac Watt’s Modern Psalmist: “Joy to the World.”

Sing through the hymn and you’ll find no mention of Jesus’ birth—nothing about Mary, Joseph or Bethlehem, nothing about angels, shepherds, or wise men. So how did it become a traditional Christmas carol?

Perhaps pastors and music ministers began choosing the song because it celebrated the impact of Jesus’ birth—the advent of his Spirit to all who believe, and the final advent when Jesus will return to earth and begin his reign as King of kings.

When we sing this well-loved carol, we’re celebrating:

  • The past. “The Lord is come” (stanza one). Two thousand years ago Almighty God became flesh and lived among humanity, to win our hearts and transform our lives.

 

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  • The present. “The Savior reigns” within those of us who make room for him, filling our spirits with the joy of his presence (stanza two).

 

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  • The future. The day is coming when sin and sorrow will cease, God’s blessings will flow forever (stanza three), and he will “rule the world with truth and grace” (stanza four).

 

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The “wonders of his love” (also from stanza four) include all these truths and more.

 

So…

 

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“Shout your praises to God, everybody!

Let loose and sing!”

–Psalm 98:4, MSG

 

JOY TO THE WORLD!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest; http://www.yourworshiptools.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest; http://www.wikipedia.org (2); http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.tumbr.com.)

 

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Lots of folks will be trekking to the grocery store today or tomorrow, picking up ingredients for their traditional Thanksgiving feast: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and more.

But that’s probably not what the Pilgrims and their Indian guests ate in 1621. According to the two primary sources that survive, their feast included wildfowl (wild turkey among them, for sure, but those taste nothing like a Butterball), waterfowl, cornbread or corn porridge, and venison. Perhaps vegetables from their gardens were also on the menu, but they received no mention.

Soon after that first Thanksgiving, our American forefathers added a custom to the meal: putting five grains of corn at each place around the table as a memorial to those first Pilgrims—a people of strong faith who had faced persecution and even imprisonment in England.

So the small band left everything—extended family and friends, jobs, homes, and goods—to establish a colony for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith (according to the Mayflower Compact).

 

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“Embarkation of the Pilgrims”

by Robert Walter Weir

 

You may remember a late departure from England delayed their arrival in America by two months. To complicate matters further, they were blown off course by a storm. Instead of arriving at Jamestown, Virginia where other colonists already lived, they landed at present-day Massachusetts.

In numbing cold and deep snow the Pilgrims began the overwhelming task of building a colony from scratch. Shelter was their highest priority, and construction of a common house began immediately.

At night the men stayed on land while the women and children returned to the Mayflower, thanks to the captain, Christopher Jones, who anchored the ship a mile offshore. Jones knew that if he left, they would all die.

But even the ship offered little relief from the frigid temperatures. To keep their children warm, the mothers would actually sleep on them.

 

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“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor”

by William Halsall

 

It’s no wonder that severe illness decimated the Pilgrims. At one point, only seven colonists were strong enough to care for the others. Half of the original 102 colonists died, many of them the women who had protected their children from the bitter cold. Most of the children survived.

The trial of rampant illness was compounded by the lack of food. During that first dreadful winter in America, corn had to be carefully rationed. Each person received just five grains at a time.

And thus began the custom among early settlers to put corn kernels at each place for Thanksgiving—in memory of those resolute and persevering men and women who suffered so much to live for the glory of God and share the good news of Jesus with the American Indians.

 

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William Bradford

 

Sometime later, Governor William Bradford of the Massachusetts colony wrote, “We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Forgive me, Lord God. I do forget these things and become focused on the delight of gathering with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day. I neglect to soberly note the worth of the Pilgrims’ sacrifices, that they might live for your glory. Their perseverance, courage, and passion put me to shame.

Help me to be a voice of remembrance to those around me. May we not negligently lose what the Pilgrims and other heroes/heroines have obtained for us with so much hardship.

 

Sources:

 

The Higher Happiness by Ralph W. Sockman (1950), p. 45.

The Founders’ Bible by Shiloh Road Publishers, pp. 95-104.

http://www.eagleforum.org; “Thanks-living Time–The Extraordinary Example of the Pilgrims.”

 

(Photo & art credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org (2); http://www.biography.com.)

 

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Between the putrid odors and stale air below decks, Francis Asbury chose to spend most of his time on the top deck, often taking his journal and pencils with him. The rolling of the ship caused unsteady handwriting, but recording his thoughts passed the time and focused his heart on what lay ahead.

Twenty-six year old Francis had left home in England, September 4,1771, at the invitation of John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist. The growing colonies in America needed ministers, and Francis accepted the challenge. Nine years of experience in the pulpit had prepared him for the preaching; what else might be required only God knew.

 

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Francis put pencil to page. “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No, I am going to live to God and to bring others to do so.”

Upon his arrival in America, Francis soon discovered colonial life was drastically different from that of England. Centuries of development and culture in Britain had created a civilized society. America was rough and raw by comparison, although the towns exhibited more refinement than outlying settlements.

 

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(Asbury disembarked at Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall.)

 

To make his home in one of these towns must have crossed his mind, but Francis was compelled to take his message of hope and peace to the villages and pioneers. He began twenty miles outside of New York in Westchester, and then visited other small hamlets as well. Soon he developed a “preaching circuit.” Other Methodist ministers followed his example. These circuit riders were so willing to travel in all sorts of weather, a saying became popularized: “Nobody out today but the crows and the Methodists.”

In 1775, several of his colleagues decided to return to England, as war between the colonies and Britain seemed imminent. But Francis chose to stay, impassioned as always to continue preaching about Jesus no matter the dangers.

Other perils included sickness, exposed as he was to inclement weather of all sorts. He preached numerous times with an ulcerated throat and high fever. Sometimes Francis was so weak, men would have to lift him onto his horse and tie him in the saddle. In later years, he resorted to a carriage due to rheumatism. Yet he preached on.

 

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(“Francis Asbury Preaching by Lamplight”

by Richard Douglas)

 

Francis also continued to journal about his experiences:

“Near midnight we stopped at A.’s…Our supper was tea…I lay along the floor on a few deerskins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela.

“The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable” (West Virginia, July 10, 1788).

For 45 years Francis traveled throughout the colonies, from Georgia to Maine, and even into Canada. He covered an estimated 300,000 miles, delivered some 16,500 sermons, ordained nearly 700 preachers, and added well over 200,000 members to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

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Francis became so well-known, he received mail addressed simply, “Bishop Asbury, United States of America.”

Yet even as a bishop he earned only $80 per year, and that he mostly gave away. He also gave away the coats and shirts from his own back to anyone more destitute than himself.

On March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He was seventy years old.

A week later, he finally succumbed to yet another bout of illness. The well-known bishop died penniless but “rich in souls” (Dan Graves), a tireless participant in the growth of Christian faith across the colonies that included the building of numerous churches and institutions of learning, impacting future generations to this day.

A little more than a century after his death, a statue of Asbury was erected in Washington, D.C. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication address at the unveiling.

 

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

 

His commendations included:

“He never had any of the luxuries of this life. Even its absolute necessities he had a scanty share…yet his great spirit pressed on to the end, always toward the mark of his high calling.”

Though Asbury is not listed among the founding fathers, President Coolidge affirmed during his address: “He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

Truly, Francis Asbury could say with the apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB). And Asbury’s example was as powerful as his preaching—his self-sacrifice, passion, and purpose recorded in his ship journal in 1771—a purpose from which he never wavered:

 

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“I am going to live to God and bring others to do so.”

 

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Lord, guide me to fulfill that same purpose! Keep me mindful that nothing else will provide such satisfaction and contentment as a life lived for you.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.christianity.com, “Francis Asbury” by Dan Graves.
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com.
  3. Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, Seedbed Publishing, 2015-2016.
  4. http://www.wesleycenter.nnu.edu.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaperbeautiful.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.place.asburyseminary.edu; http://www.fggam.org; http://www.bibleteachingresources.org.)

 

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Sam leaned in close toward the center of the table, in order to be heard over the rowdy group nearby. In spite of the noise, the Green Dragon Tavern was a perfect place for Sam and his comrades to meet. No one paid much attention to them or their topic of conversation: resisting British tyranny.

“What we need,” Sam announced firmly but quietly, “are committees of correspondence in every town of Massachusetts, ready to pass on communication quickly from one to another, keep each other informed, and coordinate our efforts—in spite of the Brits’ nosy presence.”

Others at the table nodded in agreement. Almost all Bostonians longed for the removal of British soldiers, encamped in their harbor town since 1768. The men at table with Sam weren’t surprised by his idea for subterfuge. For eight years he had been writing newspaper articles in criticism of Britain’s oppressive policies and harsh taxation of the colonists.

Now it was 1772.  Samuel Adams and many others felt the colonies had endured enough. It was time for action. He began to organize Committees of Correspondence in Massachusetts, and soon more than 300 developed throughout the colonies.

Sam also helped organize protests and boycotts. The most famous was the Boston Tea Party of 1773. He led fifty-some patriots to dump tea into the harbor, thus avoiding the high import duties, and sending Britain a clear message.

 

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In 1774, Samuel Adams represented Massachusetts in the First Continental Congress. Their objective: to determine how best to deal with their grievances against Britain. The delegates readily agreed their first course of action should be prayer, but a disagreement ensued. Which clergyman from which denomination should be invited?

Samuel Adams told the congress he was “no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend of his country (1).” He nominated an Episcopalian clergyman, Mr. Duche. Sam did not know him, but the minister had been highly recommended. The motion passed.

From communicator to leader to unifier, Samuel Adams distinguished himself as a worthy patriot for the history books. But his character out shown his considerable abilities.

 

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Sam’s distinguishing traits included:

  • Courage.  He continually spoke out against the British crown. At least once, Sam narrowly escaped capture. In 1776, Adams (and fifty-five others) signed the Declaration of Independence. They knew it could likely be their death warrants. For some, it was.
  • “Incorruptible Integrity” (as described by one biographer (2).  For the eight years Sam served in the Continental Congress, he was known for his stamina, realism, and commitment, working tirelessly on numerous committees.
  • Wisdom.  Adams knew that devotion to God would strengthen the new nation (Proverbs 14:34). “Communities are dealt with in this world by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe,” Sam wrote in 1776. “He rewards or punishes them according to their general character (3).”

Samuel Adams was indeed a man of strong Christian faith, evidenced frequently in his writings:

“The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better (4).

 

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Following the signing of the Declaration, Sam said, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come (5).

In his last will and testament Sam wrote: “I…[rely] on the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins (6).”

He was also a visionary, speaking wisdom for the generations to come. His statements ring true today, especially as we approach our presidential election:

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that…he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country” (7).

 

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“He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard of his country…The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men” (8).

“Those who are to have a share in making as well as in judging and executing the laws should be men of singular wisdom and integrity” (9).

Samuel Adams:  Born 294 years ago tomorrow, on September 27, 1722–a man who lived what he believed.

Lord, help me to do the same.  And may I remember:

The privilege to vote is a solemn trust for which I am accountable to God.

 

Notes:

  1. http://www.renewamerica.com, “Continental Congress:  America Founded on Prayer,” Brian Fischer, May 2, 2007.
  2. http://www.belcherfoundation, “Samuel Adams.”
  3. From a letter to John Scollay, April 30, 1776.
  4. http://www.usa.church.
  5. http://www.faithofourfathers.net
  6. Founders’ Bible, ed. Brad Cummings & Lance Wubbels, p. 1732.
  7. From an article in the Boston Gazette, April 2, 1781.
  8. From The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry A. Cushing, 1907.
  9. From the Boston Gazette article, April 2, 1781.

Sources:

  1. http://www.belcherfoundation.org
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com
  3. Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers
  4. http://www.history.com
  5. http://www.notablebiographies.com

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.history.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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