Thursday, December 13, 2018

Finding Hope Inside a Fence

I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy.  I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy.  I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. Reared behind the walls of fundamentalism, he has ripened as a mature, fruitful thinker. Yancy described finding God confined inside a barbed wire fence, where he met Jurgen Moltman.

As a youth, the German theologian planned a career in quantum physics, only to be drafted by the German Army at the peak of World War Two . Assigned to anti-air-craft batteries in Hamburg, Moltmann saw others incinerated by fire bombs and was long haunted by guilt. Questions pressed his mind and he wondered, “Why did I survive?”

Moltmann was surrendered to the British Army and spent three years in the prison camps of Belgium, Scotland, and England. Seeing German prisoners collapse from within, lose all hope, and become sick unto death. He experienced his own growing grief while learning the real truth about Nazi Germany. It weighed him down with a somber burden of guilt he could never pay off.

Coming from a non-Christian background, Moltmann brought two books with him into battle: Goethe’s Poems and The Philosophical Works of Nietzsche Finding no hope in either, the young prisoner of war opened an Army-issue New Testament and Psalms given him by an American Chaplain, signed by President Roosevelt.

“If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there,” he read.  Was that possible; he wondered. The words captured his desolation and disillusionment and convinced him that God “was present even behind the barbed wire—no, most of all behind the barbed wire.”

Reading sparked a tiny flame of hope. Walking the barbed-wire perimeters during the night hours for exercise, he described circling a small hill in the center of the camp, where he found a hut that served as a chapel. In that chapel, he found a symbol of the presence of God in the midst of the suffering that surrounded him.

Transferred to an educational camp in England operated by the YMCA, Moltmann experienced a warm welcome. They brought him food, taught him Christian doctrine, and never mentioned the guilt the soldiers felt over the Nazi atrocities. Moltmann described how he felt better treated there than by his own German Army.

Following the war, Moltmann began articulating this personal theology of hope and how we exist in a state of contradiction between the Cross and the Resurrection. We are surrounded by decay while we hope for restoration—a hope illuminated by the faint glow of Christ’s resurrection. Faith in that glorious future, says Yancy, can transform the present, just as Moltmann’s own hope of eventual release transformed his daily prison-life.

We find two themes: God’s presence within us in our suffering and God’s promise of a perfected future. Had Jesus lived in Europe during the War Years, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers, observes Moltmann. In Jesus, he found definitive proof that God suffers with us, as he did in the Crucified God.

Today, searching people assume from the suffering seen in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere that God is neither all-good, all-powerful, or even all-wise. Yet, faith allows us to believe God is not satisfied with this world any more than we are, and he intends to make all things new and right. Thus, Christ’s Second Coming brings the Kingdom of God to the fullness of its intended shape.

In the meantime, we establish our Kingdom Outposts and we continue using the Gospel as our template. While the Old Testament inspires a certain fear, the New Testament fills us with hope, because those authors have already come to know and trust the Lord whose Day it is.

This is
Seeing a summary of our human past, present, and future captured in the sweep of the pen that describes “from Good Friday to Easter,” and knowing as others before us have observed
“God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Saul of Tarsus was dedicated to God, heart, soul, mind and body. As a Hebrew, he was deeply entrenched in the teachings of the Master of Teachers, Gamaliel. Although a Hellenist Jew, he was thoroughly educated to the fullest degree in the heritage of his precious Hebrew faith. Pleasing God remained Saul’s primary objective in life, the pearl of great price he vigorously sought.

Saul’s choleric temperament, as one writer described him, prompted him to grasp his cup of life firmly and drink deeply while others might merely sip. Saul felt driven to empty his cup, even as others quickly fell short shy, lacking Saul’s driving passion to be a “Pharisee of Pharisees.” It was in quenching that driving thirst that Saul launched his crusade to defend The Almighty. This self-sufficient, impetuous hot-tempered law student threw down the compulsive gauntlet for his peers, driven to defend the purity of Jewish monotheism against the heretical creed of this little-known prophet called Jesus.

One such mission saw Saul head for Damascus, filled with divine vengeance, only to make a life-changing discovery. It came as a revelation from heaven itself, and Saul abruptly discovered his life did not center in his own values and beliefs; he was in a state of dissociation from life’s center.  Saul suddenly saw his life as it really was—an engine stalled on the disconnected sideline of an abandoned railroad track.

Seemingly, this prophet-from-nowhere called Jesus took on a new dimension of life and meaning for the fire-breathing exponent of Jewish Legalism. For the first time, Saul was recognizing a dimension of life with a totally new and different perspective  on life and values! No longer able to look upon his own humanity, or that of others, “according to the flesh”, Saul now discovered new flashes of human insight and divine inspiration: “God was in Christ, reconciling us to Himself.”

Shook to the core, Saul caught a whole new vision of life, that brought a new and different set of values from those that been his, and he began a several-year-transition that saw him become a new and totally transformed man. With the demise of Saul’s selfhood, there arose a transformed Messenger, an Apostle of God, that history recognizes as Saint Paul. As God’s Ambassador to the Gentile nations, Paul became the personal Emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16; Romans 1:16-18).

In the cross of Christ, Saul of Tarsus experienced death to himself and a resurrection in the Lord that empowered him to live a new life: “And I, “said Jesus, “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32 NASV). Death came to Jesus, “that men … should cease to live for themselves,” and “live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NEB). Thus; Saul of Tarsus, this Hellenist Jew with a Pharisee’s pedigree as long as his arm, experienced a personal metamorphosis when he personally encountered the Prophet Jesus he had sought to exterminate.

This encounter transfigured an arrogant Pharisee into a humble follower, a self-described “doulos” (servant) of Jesus, the Christ. The “terrorist from Tarsus,” now became forever remembered by posterity as the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles, aka Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ.    

This message of the cross so transformed Saul that it enabled him to disengage himself from the racism, culturalism, and creedalism of his time, and be metamorphosed into Paul, the zealous Christian Apostle, launched into the Gentile World as God’s Messenger.

Through the Calvary Cross, God empowered Jesus to overcome sin and death and experience the kind of resurrection that enabled Christ‘s Devoted Disciples to live like their Master and be known throughout history as “little Christ’s. Paul conse-quently confessed, “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.”

Through this inspired reasoning, Paul concluded, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20, NASV).

It was through the cross that made Jesus his Lord, that Saul found the power to become Paul, a new man with a new vision and a new hope for a potentially-new humanity. Saul went into this spiritual cocoon a sinful worm, but he came out a full-of-grace Butterfly, enjoying…
G od’s
R ichest
A t
C hrist‘s
E xpense.

            From then on, Paul no longer regarded any man, woman, boy, or girl from a worldly point of view. Instead; Paul saw the cross of Christ as God’s divinely-inspired invitation personally delivered to people of all colors, people, of all cultures, and people of all times and all creeds, whatever their need.

For this reason, worshippers continued to gather throughout the span of history and today we sing with the poet,            
Beneath the cross of Jesus [I] gladly take my stand  . . .
            The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
            And from my smitten heart with tears, Two wonders I confess--
            The wonders of His glorious love And my unworthiness.            --Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1872

The church, concluded German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is “our hope for the present and the future.”  Bonhoeffer followed in the wake of history’s Ancient Fathers who agreed, “God [is] our Father, the Church our Mother, Jesus Christ our Lord, [and] that is our Faith.  Amen.”1   

I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com, 
reminding you in this Advent Season, of EMMANUEL! (which means God with us)” (Matthew 1:23 RSV). May God be in your heart as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.
            1 Mary Bosanquet, The Life And Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  (New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968), p. 65.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Two men stand high above Casco Bay on the coast of Puritan Massachusetts. The two are in deep discussion about the floundering relationship that threatens Great Britain and the American colonies. It is a warm July day in New England and the year is 1774.

The newly elected Massachusetts delegate to the first Continental Congress, John Adams, listens intently as Jonathan Sewell begs Adams to stay away from the approaching session of Congress. Britain is “irritable;” she will destroy all opposition.

Britain has “determination on her system,” admits Adams. It is “swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish,” he concludes, but “I am with my country. You may depend upon it.”

The Colonists endured Bunker Hill as that year slowly unfolded. The people watched warily as Sewell relocated back to England. On the other hand, the Colonialists watched the venerable John Adams grow with the changing circumstances and slowly evolve into one of the founding fathers of their emerging nation. 1 Perhaps better than most, John Adams understood that persistence was more about consistently doing and being one’s best, than in trying to succeed.

Genuine faith calls for more than making noise while achieving nothing. John Adams understood that. Armed with his deep puritan faith, he reviewed his options, and making his choice, he planted his feet. Standing firm in his fixed belief that persistence promised the best dividends on his investment; Adams stood where planted.

I began learning the values found in a persistent faith when I was but a small child. When the church doors opened for worship. I joined my childish voice to that of others in the small congregation that gathered to faithfully participate in the familiar hymns of our worshipping congregation. One of those hymns I have continued to sing across the long years of my adulthood.

The lyrics come from the pen of a minister as he struggled with his own personal tragedy of disablement, loss of career and the resulting suffering of a lifetime. His words describe the persistence and spiritual fortitude required of any of us; if we, like John Adams, successfully complete our life’s journey.             

The hymn-writer, Charles Wesley Naylor, was a largely unknown nineteenth century Protestant evangelist of a small revivalist community of reformers who suffered a career-ending accident. It came totally unexpected; he was blindsided. Nevertheless, it terminated his life as an itinerant tent evangelist and left him in doubt about his Calling, not to mention his standing before God. 

By the grace of God, Naylor eventually discovered a larger-than-life ministry writing from his bed of affliction. God’s gift of divine grace resulted in Naylor authoring  numerous books and hymns and touching multitudes of anonymous readers that needed the fortifying uplift of his encouragement and inspiration.

Out of Naylor’s personal journey on his own bed of anguish and pain, he wrote inspirational books like The Secret of the Singing Heart (Warner Press/Anderson, IN/1954). This proved to be a perennial best-seller in inspirational reading. The lyrical writings of C. W. Naylor lifted readers out of their discouraging periods of defeat, enabling them to sing Naylor’s words of victorious faith that declare,

            I mean to go right on
                        Until the crown is won,
            I mean to fight the fight of faith
                        Till life on earth is done,
            I’ll never more turn back,
                        Defeat I shall not know,
            For God will give me victory
                        If onward I shall go. 2

            Not unlike Naylor. the Apostle Paul persistently pursued missionary journeys that resulted in similar struggles at every turn. As Naylor discovered years later, persistence would win the day, but Paul would face hard places. Keeping his eyes fixed on Christ, and refusing to surrender. Paul saw the stage lights of his life dim, the curtain slowly close off his stage of action, and we hear him conclude, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASV).

I am
reminding you that if ever there lived a persevering saint, it must have been Paul! In like manner, may those who come behind me, find me singing persistently and faithfully C. W. Naylor’s word of persistence – I mean to go right on!
            1 David McCullough, John Adams. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), p. 71.
            2 C. W. Naylor, “I’m Going On,” Worship the Lord (Anderson, IN: Warner Press, Inc., 1989), pp. 685-686.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Those who subscribe to libertarian humanism philosophy believe the only legitimate role of government is to ensure the rule of law, guarantee social order, and provide for the national defense. I’ve heard it over and over. That is THE reason they have long intentionally opposed programs like Medicare, Medicaid for the poor, and more recently Obamacare. It is another reason my conservative friends openly oppose me as being an okay Christian but too liberal.

Hear R- House Budget ChairMAN, Paul Ryan explain this public provision for a popular need, and how he interprets it to violate (1) the liberty of tax payers whose earnings are transferred to others for their health purposes, and (2) it violates the recipient’s spiritual need to earn his/her own sustenance. Walker told one audience that our nation’s school lunch program leaves poor children with “a full stomach—and an empty soul.” Can you imagine the shallow crassness and inhumanity of that statement??? What did Jesus say about feeding the hungry?

Less well understood is the obvious truth that these self-admitted zealots do NOT BELIEVE the government should involve itself in promoting good public health measures. I am NOT talking about subsidized joint replacements, not even birth control! WE are talking basics--things like SANITATION, which became a public health issue calling for the government to step in to protect public health from the time of the so-called Progressive Era, when the single most important issue became that of stopping waterborne epidemics such as cholera and typhoid.

In that light, consider the Republican majority in Georgia, systematically cutting public health benefits addressing Zika, Ebola and other such issues, according to columnist Nicholas Kristof. This explains why Thom Tillis, the NC Senator backed by the Koch Organization, claimed restaurants should be able "to opt out” of those laws requiring employees to wash their hands after using the toilet, “AS LONG AS THEY POST A SIGN THAT SAYS, ‘WE DON’T REQUIRE OUR EMPLOYEES TO WASH THEIR HANDS AFTER LEAVING THE RESTROOM’” (EMPHASIS MINE).  

The market will take care of that, he added. Never mind the unsanitary health practice of so many American males that I observe almost every time I step into a men’s restroom. The sense of all of this is further clarified when we remember how the largely Afro-American population of Flint, MI was forced by a dictatorial –Governor-appointed Operative to take over the local City Management and dictate terms that were poisoning literally thousands of families, until a Medical Researcher gained outside absolute proof and brought the issue to public attention, only to discover worse in Washington, D.C.

This was NOT A CASE OF GOVERNMENT INCOMPETENCE but a direct result of the prodding of the Mackinac Center assisting in Michigan, of which John Engler  and in 1994, “When Mackinac  Center speaks, we listen, as did Governor Snyder et al. I now understand why Engler spent 20 years leading Michigan Republicans in ignoring repair and upkeep of public highways. It was not that way when I was growing up there, I can tell you that; we were all proud of our Hwy system in those days.

And for a host of you who hoot at the idea of 5th column conspiracy, consider the FACT that the Mackinac Center was one of the first of what is now a long list of Koch-funded, often Koch-Staffed State level “think and do” tanks that now operate in all fifty states and are affiliated with the STATE POLICYNETWORK (SPN) also a Koch Org, that coordinate efforts ’TO PREVENT STATE GOVERNMENTS FROM RESPONDING TO THE DEMANDS OF THE ‘taker’” (again emphasis mine).

For resourcing see Kelly R. Young to Roy Childs, March 4, 1992, box 5, Roy A. Childs Papers, Hoover Library; Mackinac Center “Accomplishments: 1988-2013,” http://web/

Also see Center for Media and Democracy, “Exposed: The State Policy Network,” November 2013, …

What I am seeing today in America is a downward deviancy that I never I ever expected to live long enough to see, but I am looking at nine decades of up and down on this rollercoaster and the deviation is definitely downward from where I view it today. Because I have committed my life to a political persuasion framed in by the teachings of Jesus, I quiet my soul and I pray:
Lord God, create within me a clean heart and enable me to walk close to the side of Jesus, 
to LOVE as He loved, 
to LIVE as he lived, 
AND TO LIFT as he lifted men, women, boys, and girls everywhere and offered them an abundant life of equal opportunity.  
I am,

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How Is Your Communication?

Back in the early nineties, Pastor Harold Davis sent me his newsletter reporting this story of a delicate, rather elegant and old fashioned lady, who was a tad like the rest of us. She and her hubby planned a vacation in Florida, so she wrote a potential campground asking about reservations.

Wanting to be sure the camp was fully serviced, she inquired awkwardly about the restroom facilities, but did not know how to verbalize herself and avoid using the word “toilet.” With na├»ve simplicity; she finally asked, “Does the campground have its own B. C.?” — bathroom commode?

The camp Manager was far less old fashioned but he was stumped by her term “its own B.C.” After considerable searching about, including asking some of his clients, he concluded his potential customer must be asking about a local Baptist Church.

"Dear Madam,” he wrote, “I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take the pleasure of informing you that there is a B.C. just nine miles from the campground and it is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is a considerable distance if you are in the habit of going regularly, but you will no doubt be pleased to know a number of people take their lunches along and make a day out of it. They usually arrive early and stay late.

"The last time my wife and I attended was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the entire time there. It may interest you to know that there is presently a supper being planned for the purpose of raising money to buy more seats and it will be held in the basement of the B.C.

“I would like to add that it pains me greatly not to go more regularly but it is for no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather. If you should decide to use our campground,  perhaps I could go with you the first time and sit with you, and introduce you to the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community.”

Is this a hysterical miscommunication? Obviously, it is. 
BUT, it comes with a point most of us readily understand – how are we communicating our daily walk with God? What does our lifestyle say to our friends and neighbors? Is God of any real importance to me, based on how I care about people? What attitude do I show about reaching out to others? What does my lifestyle, my political practice, and my behavior-in-word-and-deed actually communicate to others? Are my beliefs and behaviors  integrated enough that they truly reveal what I want to communicate to others?

This is …

… are we a little like the elegant little lady who failed to be clear about what she was trying to communicate, simply because she could not bring herself to use the more direct word?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Most communities have a certain cross-section of citizens that try to protect a family-oriented lifestyle in both urban and rural settings. While I would like to protect that, Sunday liquor sales have been bandied about  for many years. I served numerous years on the Substance Abuse Council in one southern Michigan county. More recently, I took note of a County here in Kentucky subjected to a testing of their Sunday Liquor Law.

Proponents of such sales argue “right of choice.” I defend that right to choice. up to a point, until our right becomes someone else’s risk. Of course, there are always limitations to personal rights. That is why we are a nation of law and order, governed by a Constitution. Without our passing a Law demanding we drive on the right side of the road, there would be no safety on the highway. If we did not have stringent laws against murder, there would be no such thing as living in security. 
Most of us understand such reasoning.

By the same token, some ambivalent public officials  sweetly suggest that “morality cannot be legislated.” We all know that. Thus, history gives us the legal security of such moral protections as the Ten Commandments and the current legal system that gives us the safety of a reasonable legal system.

As we approach our holiday season, many communities nationwide will celebrate Thanksgiving to New Year’s day as an opportunity to: Tie One On.” Across the years, I have also assisted Mothers Against Drunk Driving, using the slogan “Tie One On … For Safety” and I distributed my shared of Red Ribbons.

I don’t know whether such efforts are even recognized in my relocated home in Kentucky, but I would offer this suggestion: Community liquor sales, weekend or otherwise, are inconsistent with a family-oriented lifestyle. This is especially true, in regions that place great public value on the Christian lifestyle, as does Kentucky. I also recognize there is a great debate over this theme within the Christian political camp.

That being said, here are three reasons why I would if I could refrain from eating out in a restaurant that maintains a bar and why I would buy my groceries where alcoholic beverages were not sold.


`Many communities celebrate efforts like “Tie One On … For Safety!” Police Agencies in most communities work with the children throughout the school year, teaching them “It is all right to say NO!” 

Refusing to recognize the epidemic proportions of our current drug abuse and nationwide “Opioid Epidemic” only makes our approval of public sales, weekend or otherwise, utterly inconsistent with what we are trying to teach those coming behind us.


Alcohol is a known depressant; legal, yes, but lethal when indulged. Alcohol manufacturers often support substance abuse education while claiming rigid drug enforcement would eliminate the problem. This denies statistical information and ignores the experience of perhaps seventy-five million Americans suffering with alcoholic family members.

Alcohol alters judgement, slows reaction time, dulls one’s senses and destroys brain cells. Many choose to deny these facts; others live with the horrors of people with buzzed brains. By itself alcohol, at the last count I had, accounted for $140-billion dollars of America’s $205 billion dollar substance abuse bill. This did not account for the 18-million problem drinkers, 28-million Americans under twenty with an alcoholic parent, or the abuse of alcohol in one-half of all motor fatalities, one-half of all homicides and one-fourth of all suicides.

Social acceptance and public denial make it the most, as Linda Ellerbe once suggested, “baffling, cunning, and powerful of all” drugs. “Bud Lite” may the worst of all offenders simply  because “it is perfectly harmless.” My rebuttal to that is simple: we live with it at our house.


I would be criminally negligent if I insisted on my right to choose to drive on the left lane of the highway. In that case, Sheriff Perdue would grant me guest privileges at the Clark County Detention Center. Never mind that we knew him as a rooky officer with the Winchester PD. Never mind that he ate many freebies at our daughter’s dinner table and that he and her husband came by at all hours raiding the ‘Frig”. Never mind those wholesome down-home conversations he had with my deceased companion.

Government sets the limits of morality it will enforce. Yet,, no society exists without enforcement of some “moral” code (Granted: government benefits from taxing beverage sales while leaving the John Q Public to pick up the tab at a rate of $3 of cost for every $1 of tax revenue).

The one freedom of choice for the drink-and-drive citizen is the freedom to enjoy the consequences. The alternative is to accept personal responsibility for behavior that results in addiction, abuse, or alcoholism, but few willingly accept that responsibility. Thus; more states are passing laws against “drunkenness”  as a legal defense.

I am
suggesting the real problem is not alcohol but personal rejection of accountability.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Infectious Faith

Nehemiah’s faith in God prompted him to allow God to use him in leading Israel’s exiles home to Jerusalem. Once there; Nehemiah instructed them, diligently and faithfully. Exercising prudent wisdom, he taught the people to secure their work site and place armed guards “from each family in the cleared spaces behind the walls” in order to achieve their goal of rebuilding the city (Nehemiah 4:13: LB, emphasis added).

“Don’t be afraid!” Nehemiah insisted, as he charged them to “remember the Lord who is great and glorious; fight for your friends, your families, and your homes!” (v. 14).

After I married my Irish Cherokee, we counted seventy celebrations and were well on our way to another celebration when the Lord called her home. Someone asked me once why I called her my Irish Cherokee. I explained: “She’s Irish and from Oklahoma (above is a very early OK Camp Meet-ing), and she has enough Cherokee to register as Native American.” When I met her, she lived in the High Street Dorm across from her friend Dean Olt. One of my most cherished pictures shows her sitting on the porch at High Street in a splendid white gown capped with shoe-polish-black hair. She had the deepest blue-black hair I had ever seen and I was impressed. However, she also had a temperament that alerted me to avoid sending her on the warpath.

I met her at the historic basketball game when AC’s Johnny Wilson pushed a top-ranked NC State into three overtimes before losing by one point. She sat behind the bench that night because she tutored Johnny in English and knew both Johnny and brother Ray well.  I had stopped to visit the AC/AU campus where I had been a student earlier, and was en route to Michigan to spend fifteen day of furlough time from the Air Force with my parents.

She was a transfer from Tulsa University where he was preparing to follow her father into medicine, but she arrived In Anderson fresh out of Houston, Texas after her father pulled her out of Tulsa University to escape an older, wealthy suitor that would have disrupted her education. She and I got off to a less-than-steller start! But after a few encounters, we found some mutual connections and drifted closer together. Simultaneously, I discovered she was experiencing significant illness that temporarily derailed her education and changed the course of her life from Medicine to Ministry. 

Beyond our youthful beginnings, we shared a common faith that led each of us to the same church college. We were each nurtured by strong family values. In addition; I found a compelling strength in her sharp intellect and quick wit that I deeply valued and was attracted to. Her illness proved life threatening; thus disruptive, forcing her to temporarily put aside her plans to complete her edu-cation. Nonetheless, she faced it with an admirable faith and fortitude that bonded us together. In the short time it took us to realize we were both serious about our relationship, we mutually agreed to commit to each other and sacrifice together, knowing I was scheduled for overseas duty in the near future. We determined to marry and make-do together rather than live apart and await my return from overseas.

We married at the conclusion of a Sunday morning Worship Service at the old Northside Church of God in St Louis, MO. My pastor, Dr. Harold Boyer, preached a sermon on the Church as the Bride of Christ. As his conclusion that day, he called us to the front of the Sanctuary and read our vows. Although we were both away from home, with neither of our families present, we were married and launched by the 350 worshippers present that cold February day of 1947. Following the service, the Associate Pastor, Sister Patton took us to her home and we celebrated our wedding with her daughter in real style.

Both of our families had participated actively in local church life, although we grew up a thousand miles apart. Through it all, the church provided us many opportunities for discovering ourselves, for finding purpose in life, and provided us opportunities to add a church-sponsored college education where we could further enhance our creative skills and cultivate our abilities for meaningful service.

My journey had begun in a small Sunday school my father helped organize as a teenager. It was there he became a teacher and church leader. It was also there that he met the fifteen-year-old girl that later became my mother. That small family of faith nurtured my expanding family and me through my critical childhood years. By the time I laid dad to rest at age eighty-five; he and mother had supported that church for the span of their marriage – 4-1926 12-1990. Mother gave eight more years of exemplary service that prompted Pastor Davis to enroll her as his first recipient of his all-church Honor Roll.

My Irish Cherokee’s journey began when her parents came to Christ through a personal conversion in rural Oklahoma under the ministry of a local pioneer, David Ladd. This launched the young couple into church life for the first time and led to her father doing revival preaching for some three years, before turning back to his Medical practice. One of the more significant twists in her life came years after our marriage, when she received a call to rendezvous with her family at a Tulsa hospital.

Early the following morning, she and her weary siblings quickly discovered their mother, long reverenced as Granny by the family, had left them. Mary Woodard Stiles, the girl who travelled by Covered Wagon from New England to Kansas, had gone home to her eternal reward. She made the cross-country venture protected by her two brothers, Billy and Dutch, after their father died. They later sojourned in Oklahoma Territory where Billy and Dutch prospered as Cattlemen while teen-aged Mary married a widower and Medical Doctor. Now, “Granny,” was gently lifted into the arms of Jesus.

Throughout that day, Hospital Ward Personnel slowly unfolded a jubilant story for the grieving family, detail by detail. Different workers and Staff personnel had overheard their patient praying aloud--not realizing it was her lifelong custom to pray aloud out behind the house at 5:00 a.m. daily. Dutifully, they watched the drama unfold. Shedding compassionate tears, various of the doctors and nurses quietly shared their individual stories.

"Granny," praying aloud in the privacy of her room, had named each one of her large brood for one last petition to “The Father.” She did as she had done for more than half-a-century at home in her private place, talking “to her father” about the peace and spiritual prosperity of her large brood. Soon thereafter, she rested … quietly … peacefully … and silently winged her departure.

The siblings all remembered her 5:00 a.m. daily ritual, begun before some of the younger ones were born.  Some knew the story of how older brother “Gib” had been struck by flack on a SE Pacific Bombing Mission during the taking of Rabaul et al. Gilbert (G.S. Jr), a wounded pilot, was lost returning to home base, and they knew the story of how he had heard his mother praying and had guided his craft by the sound of her voice back to a place of safe landing behind enemy  lines. They knew the story from the San Antonio Evening Light and they saw him return home and give his Mom his witness to her prayers.

Comforted; they experienced God’s grace-filled days each day thereafter. Their tears were “filled with joy” (Ps. 126:3-5 NIV) as they rested in the assurance that Granny had been preparing for that day for seventy long years!

My circumstances led me later to visit my eighty-seven year-old mother and visit over lunch. We chatted about the little church that nurtured me in my early years. Somewhat incidentally, she mentioned her prayer list. That was the day I discovered she had a prayer list that included more than one hundred fifty personal and congregational concerns.

That revelation painted a new portrait of the quiet little woman I knew only as my “mother.” I saw her as never before revealed, until that belated moment. The memory of that day sustained me two years later when I laid her to rest at the age of 90 and it comforts me now that I have outlived her by another eighteen years .

Such grace-filled memories reaffirm personal core values of faith that she and I began learning in childhood. They affirm the values we claimed as our own. They continued to increase their worth across more than six decades of joint-ministry. Now wrinkled, bent and crowned with silver, I well remember the times our adult children returned home for church events that were longstanding traditions for them.

But, that comes as no surprise. 
Such experiences enable families to draw from that same deep well of faith-and-family values that we discovered in our seventy years together. THAT IS AS IT SHOULD BE. Faith is a family affair! Faith fortifies families. Faith sustain a nation when people struggle.

From Warner's World, this is 
suggesting that an infectious faith keeps hope alive and offers light at the end of life's darkest tunnel. When everything else fails, faith sustains as nothing else can. Faith reaps a harvest of wholesome living that is easier caught than taught. When shared as a family, faith infects as well as sustain.