Nearing Home (a book review)

Nearing Home is written by Dr. Billy Graham, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN Copyright 2011.

Graham wrote this book when he was 92 years old.  The subject, appropriately so, is on aging.  It is practical and easy to read.  The outline is sensible and easy to follow.  In my opinion, Graham, as usual, writes for the common person who seeks to gain not only information, but also inspiration.  Remarkably, I would guess that approximately one-third of the book is quoted Scripture.  Every point the writer makes is lavishly supported by Biblical position.  At the same time, it is vastly practical.

Honestly, if one has ever heard Dr. Graham preach, the reader can easily hear the voice of the writer.  Yet, the writing is not a grating or grinding sermon.  It is conversational in nature. I venture to say, the plain plan of God’s salvation for mankind is laid out in at least three places and it is not easy to miss!   Every page of the 192 pages is inspirational, yet practical information for those who are entering the “golden years” which most people over sixty years old discover is not so golden after all.

If you are planning for retirement, in your forties, or fifties, I highly recommend this book for your planning steps not only for finances, but for assessing your family legacy.  If you are over sixty, it is not too late to make use of the days ahead by reading this conversation with a great man of faith.

The Cuckoo Clock

It hung on the wall silent for fourteen months.  The weights did not budge and the pendulum hung motionless.  The door to the little cuckoo bird stood open and the silent bird sat on his perch.  Apparently something went wrong.  But what?  I called the clock repair shop in a nearby town and the lady encouraged me to investigate the location of a certain spring that sometimes catches and thus stops everything.  She kindly put my name on a waiting list and the shop would call when my name came up.  Few clock shops exist that repair cuckoo clocks.

The clock turned 43 years old last Christmas when my husband and I put our gifted monies into a common fund and finally had enough money to purchase the clock I so much wanted.  In spite of four moves over those years, the clock continued to chirp out the hours and half hour until that dreadful day 14 months ago.  Last Saturday I finally drummed up courage to take the clock down while we wait for our name to be the next on the list.  Upon handling the weights the cuckoo woke up, chirped out the remainder of the hour when he was silenced, and popped back in the house and closed the door!

The lady at the shop was right.  Something had been stuck and now was jarred loose.  I ask myself, “Why did I wait so long?”  Well, I can tell you.  I was fearful of doing even more damage by trying to repair it myself.  Leave it to the expert, I thought, was the safest remedy.

I bet you do the same, as I do, when it comes to giving out spiritual help.  We fear giving the wrong advice, or we fear being reprimanded by the “expert” that we did more damage than good.  Saturday I was reminded that the Word of God never does damage.  It does only good.  Hebrews 4:12 assures us that “The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

When speaking with others and scripture comes to mind, do not be afraid to use it.  Leave the rest to God.  Don’t wait.  While the silent cuckoo clock could wait, souls cannot.  The opportunity you waste in hesitation may be the last opportunity that person has to hear the Word of God.

Eternity awaits.

Pilgrims and Foreigners

Since I am reading a series of books that reaches forty books in length, I have become more interested than ever in the word, pilgrim.  While the English translation describes the first settlers in Plymouth Colony, that also seems to be the only definition presented in the English dictionary.  Used as a noun, the word is used for someone who takes a journey in search of religious devotion.  The fact is, there were groups of people who traveled to this new world in search of owning their own land, searching for furs, or gold, but it was the Puritans who came in search of a place to worship apart from the dictates of a monarch.

Enough martyrs had now been slain for the cause of having personal copies of the Word of God in the English language.  William Bradford and William Brewster led a group of people who went beyond the point of merely trying to purify the Church of England, to forming their own centers of worship.  There were dubbed, separatists.  Their journey to a new world was for the purpose of being able to be separated from the Church of England.  This quote cites the use of the word, pilgrim: “After the Mayflower arrived, the first baby born was a boy. His parents (William and Susannah White) named him Peregrine – a word which means travelling from far away and also means pilgrim.”  They saw themselves as pilgrims.

The books I mentioned in the opening lines are called, The House of Winslow It is historical fiction.  Indeed the Winslow name is on the Mayflower Compact but it is Edward.  There was a Gilbert Winslow who returned to England.  But I digress.  Back to the word, pilgrim.  I find that believing Christians are pilgrims.  The writer of Hebrews states it as such in 11:13 as those who had lived in the Old Testament were simply pilgrims.  They saw from afar the fruits of faith and kept pressing toward that mark of the Heavenly home.  Likewise, Peter mentions in I Peter 2:11 that since we are strangers and pilgrims here on earth, we should put off worldly lusts which war against the soul.

It has been a long journey since 1620 when the Separatists landed on the New England shores to find freedom from a government established religion to freedom to proclaim Christ with liberty.  Still, we are pilgrims on this earth.  The only perfect place is in Heaven.  Let’s just keep plodding on with the message of salvation by grace through faith so that we can grow our Heaven-bound number. Those early pilgrims risked all they had of earthly possessions.  Should we do any less if called upon to do so?

For further reading:  http://www.gotquestions.org/Puritans-Puritanism.html

http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1601-1700/who-were-the-puritans-11630087.html

The quoted material in the weblog is from: http://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/who-were-pilgrims

Herbert Hoover (Book Review)

Herbert Hoover  by David Holford, Eslow Publishers, Berleley Heights, NJ, Copyright 1999, 128 pages

Once again, rather than slog my way through an expensive 400 page length book to learn about Herbert Hoover, I selected a book of 128 pages from the juvenile section of the library.  It is written in 6th grade level.  All I really knew about Hoover was that he was President when the stock market crashed and that when one diligently cleans out all of the contents of an egg (wasting none of the white) is to “Hooverize” the egg.  It was a popular stigma that at one time, Hoover was the most hated man in America.  I wanted to know why.

Holford begins the book with a chapter on the Bonus Army.  This was a large group of World War I veterans who held certificates that would collect one thousand dollars in 1945.  They loudly demanded that the bonus money be paid in 1932 when the Depression was about at the lowest point.  Somehow they found the resources to come to Washington D.C. and camp outside the capitol leaving decay and destruction in their wake.  When Congress voted no on their demands, they refused to leave. The U.S. Army in an attempt to push the protestors off the capitol grounds set the camp on fire.  Hoover took the blame once more although he did not order the extreme measure.

Then Holford starts at the beginning of Hoover’s life in West Branch, Iowa.  “Bert” was a sickly child and at one time believed to be dead; the family left him, a two-year old lying on the table with a blanket over his head.  When someone saw movement and just then the doctor arrived Hoover survived.  One family member prophetically said, “He will do great things some day.”  Hoover was orphaned when both parents died.  He was 11 years old when he was sent to live with an uncle in Oregon.

He enrolled in Stanford University in its first year open.  With scanty education, he took the enrollment test twice to pass.  His English composition scores were the blame. He graduated with a degree in geology and entered the field of mining.  Although he had a college degree, he was forced to start from the ground up.  From that beginning, Hoover learned to be resourceful and respectful of the average working man.  Although he prospered in the mining business eventually working in several foreign countries; his beginning was meager.  Before becoming President, he was independently wealthy.  He was forced to receive pay for serving as President, but he donated all of the money to charities.  Only one other President has done that:  John F. Kennedy.

Hoover never yearned to be active in government.  Woodrow Wilson asked Hoover to go to Europe after World War I to run a relief program to feed those who were left in dire poverty after the War.  Harding appointed Hoover as Commerce Secretary and Coolidge left Hoover in place in that cabinet office.  During the 1920’s America prospered and the economy boomed.  It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the stock market.  The policies of the Coolidge administration helped the economy to thrive.

Overconfident, banks loaned money to people in order for them to buy stock.  The loans were unsecured.  When the stock market crashed, so did the banks.  The Depression was not Hoover’s fault.  It was caused by greed, Holford explains.

Hoover went on after his four years as President to continue humanitarian efforts.  Truman asked him to go to Europe again after World War II.  Truman and Hoover enjoyed a long time friendship as unlikely as that would seem.  The book shows a picture of a telegram that Truman sent thanking Hoover for a birthday greeting.

Children were always important to Hoover, and for more than 25 years he was chairman of the Boy’s Club of America that strove to keep boys occupied with good things rather than roam the streets in gangs.  He hand wrote thousands of letters to children in reply if they sent him a letter.  That practice continued right up to his death in 1964.  He was 90 years old.  He is buried in the town of his birthplace in West Branch, Iowa.  It is also the site of his Presidential Library.

Holford’s presentation of Hoover is a very healthy, honest approach for the fifth or sixth grade reader.  I’d recommend his book and other biographies to this age group as well.  Holford also incorporates Mrs. Hoover into the biography very well.  Like “Bert” she also donated, perhaps millions of dollars, to groups because she never cashed any of the checks she received in speaker fees.  I applaud the Hoovers for all they did for our nation.

 

“Merchant of Death Dies”

Just suppose that you are a successful inventor and businessman living in the late 1890’s.  You are a bachelor sitting down in a café for your breakfast.  While you sip your morning beverage you also open the newspaper that you purchased on the corner.  Hastily you skim the front page contents, turn to the inside pages, and out of curiosity, you turn to the obituary section.

What?

The headline in the obituary section reads, “Merchant of Death Dies” and attached to the obituary is his name.  While he was expecting to find the obituary of his brother, Ludwig, instead he saw his own name, Alfred Nobel.

Ludwig, the man whose name was supposed to have been on the obituary, was no merchant of death, but neither was Alfred!  Yes, Alfred did patent the invention of the explosive which he named, dynamite, but he never intended it to be a merchant of death.  To his credit, Nobel invented the product to aid in clearing tunnels, and blasting through mountains for ease of transportation.  In the wrong hands, now his name would be muddied.

Ten years later Alfred met with colleagues to pen his last will and testament.  He never quite got past the shock of seeing his name in print as a “merchant of death.”In his will he left 94% of his earthly assets to be set aside for awards to be given to those who benefited mankind in the past year.  The awards go to five different areas:  physics, chemistry, (his preferred field of study) medicine, literature, and peace.

The first awards were given on December 10, 1901 and are given from Stockholm, Sweden, his home country, each year on December 10.  The principle of his money has never been touched.  Interest on the principle is divided among the five awards.

Nobel is no longer known for his invention of dynamite, or for that matter, little known either for his 355 registered patents.  He is known for his beneficent awards to those who work diligently for the betterment of society worldwide.

What headline will your obituary bear?  What is your legacy among your family, friends, and community?

Majority and Minority

Jeremiah is a fascinating book in the Old Testament.  It is packed with accounts of Jewish history from the time of King Josiah until the return from Captivity.  In a nutshell, for those of you who may not read the Old Testament through, God chose Israel for a special blessing and the nation grew from fledgling to mighty but had its shortcomings as well as victories.  Much of the nation’s history is after the crossing of the Red Sea in the flight from Egypt.  They survived the years of leadership victories and failings as well.  During the whole history, God always provided the voices of prophets (whom we would call preachers) to issue warnings and provided spiritual leadership.

Jeremiah endured hardship after hardship as a prophet, but he could not be quiet.  He saw the coming Seventy Year Captivity, and he even survived the years of Captivity.  When the Israelites were released from Persian rule to return to Judah where the capital city of Jerusalem lay in ruins, I find it odd that a majority of those freed to return decided instead to go to Egypt!  Those who wanted Egypt were reared to hate their own homeland and reject the God who wanted only to bestow blessings upon loving, obedient behavior.

It is a mystery to me, but not to them.  You see, they had not been taught their heritage over that time of seventy years—that is obvious.  Why would they want to go to the country that had held their ancestors in slavery for 430 years?  Jeremiah sets out to warn them in chapters 41-44.

Jeremiah was not a harsh, brow-beating preacher.  He had a tender heart not only for God, but also for God’s people.  So, why didn’t the rabble rousers want to listen?  The finger must be pointed at the parents.  It was likely the parents who had been carried away live captives by the Babylonians 70 years prior.  They had been worshipping idols and doing horrid, wretched sinful things.  Instead of repentance, bitterness set in.  They didn’t teach their offspring the blessings of being a nation especially chosen by God.  Instead they instilled bitterness.  Bitterness breeds bitterness.

There is a glimmer of hope, however, to those, the minority, who remained faithful because the parents had remained faithful through it all.  Verse 28 of chapter 44 tells of the blessings reserved for those who return to Jerusalem.  God keeps His promises.  That faithful group returned to Jerusalem, and although they faced enormous challenges financially, they rebuilt the city and the city walls.  Ezra and Nehemiah record those strivings for restoration victories.

The point here is:  parents beware.  Your attitude whether positive or indifferent affects your children and it affects them far into their adult years. If you are teaching your children how to face the challenges of sinful living and come out victorious, you are preserving a remnant for righteousness.  Good for you.  If you are entertaining sinful lifestyles in word and deed, shame on you.

Picnic or Poison?

Each spring one of the signs that the warm up is becoming consistent is the appearance of ants in my kitchen.  Needless to say, they are frustrating.  I have absolutely no objection to the ant as long as the ant stays outside.  The Bible tells us to observe the ant, in fact.  We are supposed to consider his ways.

I see them around the sink and I suppose they are thirsty.  While there is plenty of water outside in the grass each morning, they seem to find something appealing around my sink.  The smallest droplet of water is a spring of refreshment to them.

Yesterday I put out some ant poison.  It is little sticky droplets of clear substance that appears to be water.  It is a cruel deception.  My soft heart really did feel sorry for them as they parked along the little drinking places imbibing to their delight.

So, “consider the ant” and be aware.  Not everything that looks like a picnic is a picnic.  It may well poison you instead.  “Flee youthful lusts,” the apostle Paul warns Timothy.  Regretfully, even we oldsters are sometimes attracted to youthful lusts too.  Stop, consider the ant, and ask, “Is it a picnic or poison?”

Unshakable Faith

Power is used in two suggested ways:  authority, and dynamite.  This hunger for power is evident in so many ways in our world.  From the little dog marking territory to the Oval Office of our nation someone strives to be the most powerful.  The person who seeks power wants to make decisions for others.  The one wanting the head seat in any organization feels the pressure of power.  Used wisely, a position of authority is a good thing; used unwisely it produces playground bullies and thugs.

At the beginning of each school year it was interesting to me to observe.  Each class had its own personality and there was always one at the top and one at the bottom.  By the end of the first week, I knew who was going to challenge my authority.  Weak teachers can be run right over by this system. The exercise of love and control in a classroom is essential.

Nations have personalities too.  The truth is one country would love to have world domination.  For the years of the cold war, Communism was a very threat to both explosive power as well as authority.  The Cuban Missile Crisis was a very real threat to our country.  Recently, relations with Cuba have relaxed, but we must remain vigilant.  It could happen again.

Within each Believer lies authority.  It comes from Jesus and is held in control by the Holy Spirit.  That authority that Jesus used in directing those early church Believers is critical.  Jesus directs Believers to go into all the world and teach all nations is not just a passing thought.  It is a command.  It comes with a promise:  “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

It is with dismay that I see the ranks of Believers declining.  Lines are blurred.  The stand-out Christian is ridiculed instead of respected.  Why?  Think about it.  Is the gospel absolutely central or is it taken for granted?  Once taken for granted, the strength of truth can even be doubted.  Where do we stand?  I am standing on the authority of Scriptures even if I must stand alone.  The Bible is my bulwark of power.

Furthermore, it is one of those inalienable rights in our American Constitution.  Let’s see that it stays that way by living out our faith, not in pretense, but on the authority vested to us in Christ.

After Easter

Jesus made several appearances during the forty days He was on earth after the resurrection. This week I used some of these post resurrection events in the weekly devotional I deliver to groups.  I always taught similar lessons to my Children’s Church groups in all the years I taught them.  So many teachers fail to follow through on these post resurrection events.

During those forty days Jesus spent clarifying his purpose of coming to be the payment for man’s sins and He also clarified that He indeed is the Son of God and no ordinary man.  With his resurrection body he came and went at will without the use of doors.  He left in an instant as well.  When the two disciples in Emmaus invited Jesus (not recognizing Him) to “Abide with us” (Luke 24:29) they recognized Jesus only when he broke the bread.  It seems to me that they must have been part of either the feeding of the five thousand, or the four thousand.  Why didn’t they recognize Jesus as He walked with them along on the road to their home?  Their hearts were clouded with dismay and disappointment.  The tomb was empty but they didn’t know where Jesus had disappeared.  Frankly, they were not looking for Jesus so they didn’t recognize Him.

How many times have I, you, we, failed to recognize the hand of God because we were not looking for the hand of God?  We tend to look in the wrong places.  We read tons of self-help books, entertain psychology, investigate circumstances, and all the while the Word of God sits idly on a shelf.  The answers are there, but we have to read it.  It is good to hear it from a pulpit, from a radio broadcast, or a television production, but to really know what God is doing; we must read the Word of God.

Until I came to know Christ as my personal Savior, I looked at the Bible as just another book.  It is not just another book.  Once I came to Christ in surrender to His plans, the book became to me what His Word says, “quick, and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  Quick, bears the connotation of alive.  The Bible is not just any book.  It is the living Words of God for our direction in life.  In those pages, we can know Christ which is the theme of last week’s devotional, “This Easter.”  Know Jesus.

 

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell

Do you have a favorite Rockwell painting?  They all seem to tell a story and I admit that when I was growing up, the Saturday Evening Post covers were fascinating to me.  This book gave me the reason why I was so fascinated.  

I borrowed this audio book from my local library so I am giving those credits.  The author is Deborah Solomon and is published by Recorded Books.  It is narrated by Andrea Gallo.  The books is 17 discs in length and unabridged.

It is my understanding that the author is an established art critic so at times I felt that she read the pictures with more than the normal eye would have seen.  Even after listening to the book, I still prefer to see art with my own perspective since I enjoy art only as an ordinary person.  So many of us are just that:  ordinary.  Perhaps it is other art critics that Solomon had in mind during the writing. At times I just wanted to quit the book because of the laborious details of every move Rockwell seemed to make.  Instead, I tried to appreciate the hours and hours of research that went into the writing.  That, indeed, is admirable.

The book starts with Rockwell’s youth, education, and of course art education.  He began being paid for his illustrations by the time he was 17 years old.  He enjoyed a long career with Saturday Evening Post, for which most of my generation remembers most.  I do recall going to the mailbox and stumbling along up the driveway, head down, already reading the pages before I hit the doorstep.  The book introduced me to other companies for whom Rockwell worked, particularly the Boy Scouts of America.  He had a long-term contract with them to paint the calendar each year.  Details like that throughout the book kept me listening.  Just when I was bogged down, one of these facts would pop up.

What annoyed me most about the book was the author’s determination to turn Rockwell into a homosexual.  Repeatedly she had to include information about things that made her tend to think he was of abnormal sexual behavior.  She never convinced me.  Also annoying was the repetition of facts already mentioned.  I thought to myself, “You have said that now at least three times.”  In a paper and ink or even eBook edition, those are places I would have glided right over.

I noticed on the Amazon.com site that of 133 reviews, the book, published in Kindle format in 2014 (first paper and ink format in 2013) the readers gave in an average of two and one half stars.  I would award it a three just on all of the amazing research that went into the writing.  If you grew up, as I did, in the 1950’s, you might enjoy the book.  I do know that if I were to travel to Vermont or Massachusetts I would want to visit some of the Rockwell museums.  The end of the book was worth the whole reading.  Rockwell lived a long life and toward the end was unusually rewarded.  However, he did suffer dementia.  He had worked tirelessly in his art studio and there were days when his wife would finally succumb to taking him to the studio where he would sit and do nothing.  He just wanted to see it.  In that respect, I found admiration for the one who depicted ordinary Americans doing what ordinary folks do. American Mirror is certainly an appropriate title.

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