Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Keep My Memory Green

As he broke the bread, Jesus said,
"This is my body, which is for you; do this in
remembrance of me " 1 Corinthians 11:24

"Oh Lord keep my memory green."  What an interesting epitaph to be carved on a tombstone.  Charles H. Kerr had turned 23 years old just two days after Christmas -- an age one would think to be young and full of promise.  Then, only six weeks later, he died in Charleston, South Carolina, where I recently found his tombstone in a graveyard at the Unitarian Church.

When I snapped this intriguing picture, all I knew was what we see on this stone that's 149 years old this month.  I did an internet search on the name and also the quotation.  I was surprised at the information it turned up.  First of all, the name brought up a considerable amount of information about a man named Charles Hope Kerr who was born in 1860 and was a Unitarian who began a successful, and I might add, subversive, publishing company in 1886.

At first I thought, well, this publisher must be the son of the erstwhile Charles H. Kerr who would have died five years after his son was born.  They share the same name and the same Unitarian beliefs.  Alas, after more investigation, the publisher's father is listed as Alexander Kerr, an abolitionist from LaGrange, Georgia, where Charles Hope was born.  Around the time the Civil War began in 1861, the Kerr's took their baby and fled to the north where Charles grew up.

In the meantime, the Charles H. Kerr listed on the tombstone became a soldier in the Confederate army during the Civil War and was killed in battle on James Island defending Charleston only two months before the end of the war.  I have tried to discover more about this young man to see if there might be a connection, but I've found nothing.

Here's what I think might be the story (as of now, this is fiction):  Charles H. and Alexander Kerr were brothers, born in Charleston, South Carolina, to parents who believed in the Unitarian way (a way that rejects Christ as Savior and is, therefore, not Christian).  Alexander, the elder of the two, had strong views on slavery which probably didn't coincide with those of his southern family.  He moved to Georgia and somewhere along the way, became an abolitionist, helping to free slaves through the underground railroad.  Because Alexander loved his brother, even though he did not share his beliefs, he named his son Charles Hope in honor of the younger brother he missed.

When the Civil War began, Alexander may have been in contact with his family and may have learned that his younger brother would be fighting in a war that he objected to.  Alexander, his wife and baby fled to the north where he became a professor at the University of Wisconsin, and his son Charles Hope later became publisher of a radical publication called Unity.  The publishing company he founded, Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, is still in business and advertises itself as offering, "Subversive literature for the whole family since 1886."

I will refrain from further fleshing out this fictionalized story of the Kerr family.  I've probably confused you enough already.  Suffice it to say, the young soldier Charles H. Kerr appears to have been an honorable man who gave his life for his country and his beliefs.

Second of all we have the unusual quote on the tombstone.  The quote is from a book written by Charles Dickens in 1848.  "Lord, keep my memory green" is the last line in the story, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.  I will not go into trying to figure out why the main character uttered these words or why Charles H. Kerr has it on his tombstone, but instead, we'll ponder what this phrase might mean to we who are Christians.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you" 11:2.  Paul's memory has been kept green -- not only among these Corinthian Christians he was writing to, but for 2,000 years among all Christians who study God's word.  Paul's life and dedication to God have been an inspiration and challenge.  We not only feel we know Paul through these writings, but more importantly, we see God more clearly and His matchless name is glorified -- even through the memory of Paul.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, saying, "I thank my God every time I remember you" Philippians 1:3.  In this case, the memory of the Philippian Christians was kept green in the heart of Paul.  As long as he lived, he never forgot their love for him and for the Savior.  Even now, as they are together in heaven, their memory remains green, growing and vibrant.

Our Lord will always keep the memory of His children green.  He will never forget us, but always care for us as for a tender, young green plant.  May we ever grow in His grace and remain green and vibrant for His glory!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pleasant Paths

"The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places;
yea, I have a goodly heritage" Psalm 16:6

This is a lovely walkway in the resort where we stayed on the Costa del Sol in Spain some years ago.  The tiles provide a level, smooth path, while the white walls and iron grilled window offers safety from harmful outside elements.  Add to that the beautiful, colorful flowers and greenery and you have a pleasant place to walk and enjoy the day.

This pathway is in great contrast to dirty, dangerous roads that many in this world must trod -- yet, this is the sort of pathway that we are sometimes privileged to traverse.  Should we feel guilty because our pathways are easier and more desirable than many others?  Or, should we spurn this pathway on which God has placed us because it is too beautiful?

I confess, I've sometimes felt guilt over the pleasant lines God has blessed me with (and no, my life is far from perfect, just often very good).  Have you ever experienced such guilt?  We don't understand our comfortable circumstances because in no way are we more deserving than others -- yet -- He has done this thing (for which we should be most thankful!) and it would be as wrong for us to spurn the good He gives to us as it would to spurn the hardships He places on us. 

When David wrote Psalm 16, I can only assume that he too may have questioned the great blessings God had bestowed on him and in so doing, found that assurance from our dear Father that David had God's permission to enjoy those blessings and be thankful to the great Giver of all things.  While we are often admonished to take the bad with the good, sometimes we need to be reminded to take the good with the bad.

Just before the verse I wrote under the picture, David said, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure" 16:5.  God chose David to be king and He assigned his portion in life with all its ups and downs and great blessings.  It was not David who chose this portion, but Almighty God Himself.  This reminds me of what Jesus said to Peter after the Lord had revealed to Peter that he would endure a violent death in God's service.  Peter pointed to the young disciple John and asked Jesus, "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus lovingly, but firmly answered Peter, saying, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow me" John 21:22.  Anytime we might question our circumstances, whether easy or hard, beautiful or ugly -- we need only read these verses and remind ourselves that it is God who ultimately chooses our path.  Yes, we have choices we make for good or evil and whether to follow or rebel, but His is the ultimate choice for our portion in life.  As He said to Peter, He says to us:  "What is that to you...You must follow me."

While I have had numbers of heartaches and sorrows and difficulties, I hesitate to write the words, "my share," because I often feel they are less than "my share."  But, when Satan's servants seek to pummel me with notions of guilt for God's blessings, I choose to trust my Father and His amazing mercy and grace.  I desire that He would work through me His plan for my life and I well know that He is the One in control of assigning my portion.  With joy and thanksgiving, I echo the words of David: "You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand" 16:11.  And -- I give Him all the glory -- praise His holy name!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our Rock of Salvation

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help
in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging" Psalm 46:1-3
I'm quite drawn to beautiful and/or unique stained glass.  As soon as I saw this brilliant window, I knew I'd never seen one quite like it and I could see it has a vivid spiritual message.  This beautiful glass graces a window in the First Protestant Evangelical and Reformed Church in New Braunfels, Texas.  The handsome white stone church building was erected in 1875.

I see a number of elements in this picture that speak to my own heart.  Sometimes I feel I'm adrift on a storm-tossed sea and I'm about to go down for the count.  This young woman has just survived a shipwreck as evidenced by the split mast off to her left.  The crashing waves are white-capped and powerful, but her grip on the Rock has lifted her from the dashing waves and she suddenly finds herself on a small rocky shelf of safety.

Notice that this Rock of safety stands apart from the rocky shoreline of the land just beyond.  What Jesus offers is not a part of the world system.  He says, "Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" John 14:27.  God offers us peace in spite of our circumstances -- peace in the midst of pain.

While there are many things I could say about Jesus being our Rock, the one I want to focus on is that this rock is in the shape of a cross and it is the cross of Christ that is the Rock we need to cling to for our eternal salvation.  Jesus said, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes" Mark 12:10.  As the song says, "Jesus is the rock of our salvation..."

The red cape we see draped under the woman's body, I believe, represents the blood of Christ which flowed from the cross and even now offers us salvation and protection.  Paul said, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace" Ephesians 1:7.

I'm so thankful God offers us hope and peace and protection and salvation.  I'm so thankful that He is our rock in the midst of this raging sea we call life.  "Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress" Psalm 71:3.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Little Prince

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the  increase of his
government and peace there will be no end" Isaiah 9:6-7
When I saw this statue in Barcelona, Spain, I thought how very unusual -- to see a queen holding her baby up on display in such a manner.  Isabella II was Queen of Spain in 1857 when her son Alfonso XII was born.  She seems to be quite proud of this little prince who is just beginning a life of royalty and great promise of a bright future as king.
What a contrast to the infancy of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Instead of being dressed in fine clothing, living in a grand palace and being held up for the world to applaud his introduction to the world, the birth of Jesus by way of a young Jewish girl was humble in every sense of the word.  A simple stable, straw-filled manger and homemade swaddling clothes greeted this little guy. 
As to "applauding his introduction to the world" -- well now, that was special indeed.  The fanfare produced by heaven to announce Jesus' birth eclipsed the greatest display of fireworks you could imagine.  Scripture gives us a scant two-verse description to whet our imagination:  "Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'" Luke 2:13-14.  And while this is an amazing introduction, it was very contained -- only experienced by a small number of shepherds.  The "world" was totally unaware of what had just happened to planet earth.
How about the "life of royalty" enjoyed by little Alfonso from the moment he arrived on the scene -- how does that compare?  Jesus grew up in the simple home of a carpenter, a stay-at-home mom and a number of brothers and sisters -- all together in a small house.  There was nothing royal about Jesus' surroundings, but royalty resided within Him in a way that no prince or king or queen of this earth could ever hope to achieve.  It reminds me a bit of the story of "The Prince and the Pauper," where the true prince is living in squalor, while the pauper is living in the palace.  The deeper message of that story fits this situation well. 
Then we have that "great promise of a bright future as king" that surrounded little Alfonso as he was held up in his Mother's arms.  At the young age of 17 years, Alfonso became King of Spain.  He was considered a good king who cared about the needs of his people, but he died of an illness at only 28 years old.  His was a short life and a short reign.
While Jesus was rejected by the people during His earthly sojourn, His bright future as King is assured and of His kingdom there will be no end.  Revelation tells us:  "...He is Lord of lords and King of Kings..." and "On His robe and His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
No statues were erected to celebrate and memorialize Jesus' birth 2,000 years ago.  Instead, a cross was erected and used to sacrifice His perfect Self as a payment for the world's sins.  On the arms of that cross, Jesus was held up for the world to see and the amazing gift He offered to each of us on that day will only be fully realized when we see Him again in heaven some day.
As benevolent a king as Alfonso appeared to be, most people have never even heard of him.  His life began with such bright promise, but ended with barely a blip on the world's timeline.  Yet, the life of a little Jewish baby that began in poor circumstances, is the pivotal event on the timeline of the entire world.  The gospel record of His life and teaching within the pages of the Holy Bible have made more impact on the peoples of this earth than any words or statues or teachings of any monarch who ever lived.
I like the song we sing at Christmas that says, "All hail King Jesus, all hail Emmanuel.  King of Kings, Lord of Lords, bright Morning Star...."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Beware These Guys

    "A gentle answer turns away
    wrath, but a harsh word stirs
       up anger" Proverbs 15:1

Micah 7:4 describes a people who are prickly and hard to deal with:  "The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge."  For some reason, this verse reminds me of these reptilian Green Iguanas.  While these creatures are fascinating to look at, they are also a bit scary to me.  In fact, the guide who took us to this Iguana Farm on St. Maarten Island in the Caribbean warned us not to get too close to these green boys.  He threw out some fruit to draw them onto the sidewalk so we could take pictures, but just know -- I'm using a zoom to get these shots.

Even though people commonly have iguanas for pets, they can never truly be tamed.  They remain a wild animal and can produce a painful, damaging bite with no provocation or warning.  That long tail you see above can also cause damage when it whips around in a stinging slap.  This green lizard is obviously not a warm, cuddly pet -- although it certainly is an exotic one.

Thinking about how volatile and prickly these iguanas can be reminds me of how some people can also be volatile and prickly.  The scripture in Micah describes such people well when it compares them to briers and thorns -- sharp little suckers that can unexpectedly prick your finger, drawing blood and leaving a painful cut.  Thorns are small, but they can do some damage -- sort of like those small, yet very sharp teeth in the mouth of an iguana.  Words from the mouth of a prickly person can do damage as well.  That old saying, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you," is so far off the mark, it should be thrown out the window.  Words can hurt -- badly.

Proverbs has numerous verses about hurtful words: "...a harsh word stirs up anger" 15:1; "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" 12:18; "With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor..." 11:9; "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit" 18:21.

So, how can we as believers make sure we control our prickly side?  I think the more we can cultivate the fruits of the Spirit - through the power of the Spirit working in our lives, the more we can enjoy a sweet spirit and a non-iguana personality.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law" Galatians 5:22-23.

I recently read something I think goes well with this subject:  "Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them."


Tuesday, February 4, 2014


The Aliens have landed!

Do you recognize these four strange looking guys?  I'm guessing that Lou Ann will know where these bad boys come from -- and it's not some faraway planet!

Believe it or not, they are merely chimneys on top of a vast townhouse in downtown Barcelona, Spain.  I say merely, when I should say they are actually works-of-art chimneys sitting atop an amazing apartment building designed by Antonio Gaudi for the Mila family in 1910.  Called, La Pedrera, the massive building is full of incredibly creative elements.  We very much enjoyed a tour of parts of the interior as well as a fascinating walk around the rooftop and these cool chimneys.

We hear and read a lot about aliens today.  They seem to have steadily gained in popularity ever since those infamous words, "They have landed!" spoken by Orson Welles in 1938 during the airing of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  Two of my favorite alien movies are the intense, frightening type with really big alien ships and takeover the world creatures - War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise and Independence Day with Will Smith.  Then there is the more thoughtful, but suspenseful Signs with Mel Gibson where the aliens are still evil.  A more recent movie, I Am Number Four, offers a mixture of really nice aliens with evil aliens following to destroy them and anyone who gets in their way.

What is your belief about the possibility of life on other planets?  While we are all intrigued by the thought of such possibilities and fascinated by the many arguments and "proofs" of their existence, what is the most likely truth to all these suppositions?

Before I offer my opinion, here are a few things to consider:  (1)  God created the earth before He created any of the other planetary objects, which would point to those objects, such as stars, moon, sun and other planets, as being subsequent and of lesser importance than the earth.  (2)  As pointed out in Psalm 19:1-4, the vast array of stars and planetary objects were all created to showcase the power and glory of God and to help us (earthlings) worship Him more fully.  (3)  Earthly humans were created in the image of God, a God who sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins.  Would Jesus be required to die over and over for other peoples on other planets if they existed?

I believe that there is alien activity, but those aliens are not from other planets.  They are from right here on earth and are actually demons disguised to appear as some planetary visitor specifically to confuse and frighten men and women in these last days.  I Peter 5:8 says, "...your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour."  I'd say he's devoured a lot of people with the belief that there are powerful aliens and frightening creatures ready to take over our planet -- or even that there are benevolent terrestrial beings who wish to help us.

The truth is - our only help comes from the Lord and as always Satan and his minions try every way possible to offer a counterfeit option to unbelievers and even believers.  They offer the hope that there is a greater power from another planet that might help bring peace and plenty to our own planet earth.  While other times, his plan is distraction by way of spreading fear of the unknown.  In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul writes, "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing."

Our enemy Satan knows how to play the game -- and he knows how to play it well -- "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" Ephesians 6:12.

Lest such reality frighten you, always remember that "Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world" and as Paul goes on to say in Ephesians, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."  As believers, we don't need to fear Satan nor his minions masquerading as some powerful aliens.  We only need to be aware of their game and know that God has already made the winning move for us.

I have fun watching Alien movies and I sure enjoy seeing these alien-looking chimneys, but in all these situations, I know what is real and what is fiction, and what is real and true is this:  "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth...the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" Psalm 121.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bear With Me


This powerful mural of three bears at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida makes a neat backdrop for Larry to check out how tall he is -- a mere 6 feet compared to these big guys.  I was really surprised how tall the polar bear stands.  At nearly 11 feet, he is HUGE! 
The black bear might not look so big, but he could do some major damage, and if the 8-foot Grizzly was coming at you in the forest, he would be one hulking bundle of fur and claws and teeth that you would totally want to avoid.  These bears are beautiful animals, but they're also very dangerous.  We've probably all read horror stories of people being attacked by one of these bears and the horrible wounds they received -- and in some cases, death was the result.
While this fierce, deadly behavior is the nature of the beast, there will come a day when that wild nature will be removed and these massive beasts will become like the beloved Teddy bear -- soft, furry creatures that will be our friends.  Can you imagine these three bears surrounding Larry in a real life situation that looks like the picture above?  Some day it will happen.
Are you living in a fairy tale, you might ask?  Actually, God wrote about these bears in scripture and He's the one who tells us about their future "Teddy bear" behavior:  "The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox...They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord..." Isaiah 11:7 & 9.

God is the only one who knows when this new and improved behavior will begin.  It's slated to happen shortly after His Son, Jesus, returns to Earth for the final showdown.  If any doubt this will happen, you have only to read the Holy Bible and believe the Word God has inspired men to write to know that it will indeed come to pass.  "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him..." Revelation 1:7.

Numerous verses also speak of the new heaven and the new earth that God will provide for those of us who love Him.  Here's just one of those passages in Revelation 21:  "Now, I saw new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea...Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes...."

Until that day when I can bury my face in the thick, soft fur of these magnificent creatures, I'll just admire them from afar.  It won't be long -- I will wait upon the Lord and await His return with anticipation.