The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The most beautiful prayer I’ve ever read concerning peace came from the pen of St. Francis of Assisi, who is one of the Church’s most revered saints, even though he lived over 800 years ago and died when he was only 44. St. Francis truly tried to life his life in imitation of Christ!

Painting of St. Francis in the Louvre Museum, Paris

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love.
Where there is Injury, Pardon.
Where there is Doubt, Faith.
Where there is Despair, Hope.
Where there is Darkness, Light, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.

“O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

Stained glass windows in Notre Dame, Paris
(tragically destroyed by fire last year)

The most profound explanation of how to be an instrument of peace comes from the heart of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:9,43-45).

Sunshine streaming down on a bouquet at Chateau De Villandry, France

Fact v Fiction in Ford v Ferrari

Probably not everybody is as geeked by hot cars as my husband is . . .

but even if you’re not into speed and racing, I think you might find the 2019 Ford v Ferrari fascinating. At least—I sure did! (“Terrifying” also comes to mind.)

It’s based on the true story of Ford Motor Company’s frenetic battle to develop a car that could beat Ferrari in the world’s premiere 24-hour Le Mans race.

Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles

Like the Le Mans itself, the movie is a grueling 2.5 hour heart-clutching experience, but the acting was superb and the story gripping.

This 2019 masterpiece (IMBd 8.2, PG-13) left me amazed and elated as well as angry and sad.

Like all of the world’s best true stories, there was triumph—

but also tragedy.

Ford v Ferrari had such an emotional impact on me that I had to do some research to figure out what really happened versus what was scripted to make for more tension in the movie.

Although Henry Ford II and Leo Beebe were ruthless, it appears they weren’t quite as despicable as portrayed in the movie.

It sounds like the close relationship between the Texan designing maven, Carroll Shelby, and his British-born driver, Ken Miles was real. (Ken was a mechanic by trade but had nerves of steel . . . he really had driven a tank onto the beach of Normandy in 1944.)

Catriona Balfe as Mollie Miles

Also authentic was the beautiful love relationship between Ken Miles and his sweet wife, Mollie.

Ditto for the love and devotion that existed between Ken and his son, Peter. (In fact, it sounds like Ken truly was an awesome person and highly respected by all who knew him . . . even if they did tease him about being “Teabag Teddy” for loving his English tea!)

One of the most amazing things about the movie (for me personally) was learning that all the super intense racing sequences were 100% real without any computer generated effects! Since all the original cars are now worth millions of dollars, they didn’t try to use originals but went to great pains to build authentic-looking replicas.

The only computer-generated visual effects were the crowds! Can you imagine how many extras they’d need to portray the thousands of spectators attending the 1966 Le Mans race?!

The movie failed to give full credit where credit was due for the development of the Ford GT40. Although Shelby and Miles were perhaps the most invested, there was an entire team of Ford engineers scrambling to analyze and perfect their company’s entry for the 1966 Le Mans race.

The “Real” Ken Miles on the left superimposed with Christian Bale from https://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/ford-v-ferrari/

However, for better and worse, the story’s major triumphs and tragedies were real and powerfully portrayed. It’s a story that made me really admire the life and legacy of Ken Miles.

I want to be as determined and tough as he was.

I want to be as brave and steady as he was under pressure.

I want to endure like he did.

I want to be willing to run the race of life with everything I’ve got!

And, I want to remember at all times that doing my best and being my best are even more important than winning the world’s acclaim.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

(P.S.— I wrote this post just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and then it seemed superficial to be thinking about cars and crowds for a while, but the sentiment is so true that I’m now ready to share it with you. Amidst all the suffering and destruction, I believe we need encouragement to persevere!

Adjusting our Attitudes: A Testimony by Charles Spurgeon

Although this Covid crisis is the greatest global challenge of my lifetime, I think it helps to remember that our world has suffered more deeply—and recovered. It’s just that we weren’t around during the Spanish Flu of 1917-18. We didn’t personally survive World War 1—or the Great Depression at the end of the 30’s, nor did we live through the horrors of World War 2. Now we are facing the possibility of our world—as we’ve known it for our lifetime—coming to an end.

Not long ago, I memorized Psalm 91, and in the process, I came across this reassuring story by Charles Spurgeon (known as “The Prince of Preachers” among western European Protestants):

“In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words: ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.’ The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passages as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.” (The Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 91:9-10.)

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10.)

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Speaking of loving your neighbor as yourself, the 2019 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is so much more than simply a true life recounting of the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod!

It’s a story about learning to love and forgive.

Of love lost and love found.

Of reconciliation after injury.

Of Hope.

The real journalist, Tom Junod, with the real Fred Rogers

It’s a wonderful example of how a modern-day saint (Fred Rogers) loved a cynical stranger (magazine journalist) and turned him into a lifelong friend.

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This beautiful day in the movie world is G-rated and perfectly appropriate for young kids.

But, like the true classic it is, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has a deeply personal message for adults on emotional wholeness and healing.

I was also blown away by Fred’s genuine love for people (all people—great and small) and his gentle wisdom in living out what it looks like to be a good neighbor.

Matthew Rhys as “Larry Vogel” (script name for Tom Junod)

At one point “Larry Vogel” asked Fred’s wife what he did to keep being such a genuinely good person. Among other healthy habits, she mentioned that he read the scriptures every day and prayed for people by name. In an interview that I read after watching the movie, I found this quote by Tom Junod: “He clearly wanted me to pray. He clearly believed in prayer as a way of life. He prayed every day of his life. He woke up in the morning and prayed, and wrote, and prayed for people. And so I wrote that. The answer to: What did Fred want? He wanted us to pray. I have actually tried, since that moment, I’ve tried to pray.”

A generation of children (and adults) singing to Mr. Rogers on the subway

What a legacy to leave: A life of living like Jesus, loving your neighbors, meditating on the scriptures daily, praying constantly, and encouraging others to pray!

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood ran for thirty-three years, beginning in 1968—the year I graduated from high school. His lifetime commitment to helping children earned him more than 40 honorary degrees and international fame, but he remained steady, kind, and humble throughout . . . using his life to serve others in love. What a beautiful legacy! I am sorry that I was “just the wrong age” to profit from his gentle teaching, but I am very thankful to Lion’s Gate for producing this inspiring story for all of us to enjoy!

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).

(For more information on Fred Roger’s life and legacy, I reviewed the 2018 documentary about him, with some additional quotes, which can be found here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/wont-you-be-my-neighbor-would-you-have-liked-mr-rogers-for-your-neighbor/

Also, I’ve noticed that you can get dozens (hundreds?) of half-hour episodes from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for free on Amazon Prime and can probably see most of his programs for free on Netflix or YouTube. My guess is that these gentle shows about life, our world, and learning how to deal with our emotions would still be helpful for small children today.

Harriet and Slavery . . . Past and Present

It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman

However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.

Leslie Odom Jr. as Abolitionist William Still

Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.

Harriet was helped by Quakers

We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?

Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.

Harriet Tubman’s Last Words

Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!

Photo of the notice run in the newspaper offering a $100 reward for the capture of “Minty” (Harriet) and her brothers after they escaped in 1849. (Wiki)

Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).

It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.

She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.

Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)

Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).

During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.

She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.

“Unidentified photographer, A large albumen photograph of Harriet Tubman by Tabby Studios in Auburn, NY. Enlarged from an older print.” Public Domain (Wiki)

As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!

In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Same-Sex Attraction and Homosexuality

Some topics are a joy; others are painfully difficult. This is one of the latter, but the subject of same-sex attraction has become one of the most prominent issues in our culture today, and it’s beginning to touch the lives of so many both in and out of the church that I feel led to address it. I’ve actually read a lot of books on the topic over the past couple of years, and rather than individually reviewing them, I would like to recommend a few of the ones I’ve found most helpful for trying to understand what’s going on.

Frankly, facing questions about same-sex attraction have almost become routine for our young people today, although it was virtually non-existent (as an issue) just one generation ago. (Both Alan and I first learned about homosexuality in college at the end of the 1960’s but we never even heard the term “same-sex attraction” until post 2000.) Today it’s an in-your-face everywhere issue that all young people have to negotiate. If you have children growing up in the public schools, you can be sure they will be exposed to the opportunity to consider whether or not they prefer the possibility of sexual interaction with their own sex over that of the opposite sex. Even children with robust heterosexual inclinations will be asked the question and have to consider it. So, “same-sex-attraction” is going to be on their radar, and many children and young people will find it confusing.

As parents, I think it’s important to be able to listen, guide, counsel, and give our children space to make wise decisions without responding with revulsion. I don’t think same-sex-attraction is any different from any other temptation, and as human beings, we all have to face and deal with the temptations in our lives. Our sexuality is ingrained in every cell in our body (literally), and controlling our physical appetites for food and sex are among the most difficult lifetime challenges all of us face. There’s no shame in this; it’s just acknowledging the reality of our human natures. However, how we respond to those challenges makes a huge difference in our lives and can deeply effect our wholeness and holiness.

If you are a parent with a child (or adult offspring) who is struggling with same-sex-attraction, I would like to recommend Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story, by Dr. Christopher Yuan. This 2018 book is up to date with the latest research while maintaining a balanced, sensitive approach, written by a professor at Moody who himself struggles with same-sex attraction but is living a vibrant, holy life of faith. Two other excellent resources for parents (or mature young adults, as they are heavy reading—can you tell by the covers? 🙂 ) are:

Kevin DeYoung. What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.

Robert Gagnon. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.

If you have a young person who has taken a firm stand that he/she has committed to a gay lifestyle, then I highly recommend two more books for your own mental and emotional health:

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. This 2011 book was co-written by Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela and gives insight into the problems and pains of both the parent and “child” (offspring), with a lot of opportunities to think through what was and was not helpful to them, and what might be most beneficial as you pray for and continue learning to love your own son or daughter.

Another excellent resource is When Homosexuality Hits Home, published by Joe Dallas in 2015 through Harvest House Publishers. This book definitely tackles the arguments from both sides (with talking points), but it also gives some really practical advice on topics like how to negotiate family boundaries, whether or not to attend same-sex weddings, and what does love look like in the face of grief?

This Thursday, I’ll be discussing the arguments found in Karen R. Keen’s book, Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships, recommended to me by a young friend who was studying for the ministry before recently deciding that it’s okay to be gay. The author of this 2018 book describes herself as someone who was a celibate gay for sixteen years but is now reconsidering her position. I’ll let you know if her deliberations change my opinion on what the scripture teaches, but meanwhile, I would also like to hear your thoughts! Thanks! I’d also appreciate your prayers, as this is one of those hot topics that’s sure to discourage some of my followers, more than a handful of whom self-identify as homosexuals. Blessings on you all as you seek to walk in the Light!

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

If you’re more apt to listen than buy a book just now, here’s a link to a very helpful and insightful discussion with Dr. Christopher Yuan on his latest book, Holy Sexuality. (Dr. Jonathan Armstrong, the interviewer, also teaches at Moody and is my son, so this conversation was especially interesting to me! 🙂 )

Dear Judy

Dear Judy,

Alan and I watched the new movie about your life, and the acting was brilliant, but it broke our hearts.

How dare anyone force a child to work 18-hour days? Where were your parents, and why didn’t they protect you from all the oppression and intimidation you suffered while growing up as a child star?

Getting you hooked on prescription medications as a child was criminal. I think today such injustice would be grounds for jail sentences . . . if people found out and cared enough.

Meanwhile, your greedy “handlers,” who were getting rich from your beauty and talent, continued to oppress you, robbing you of the pleasures of a normal childhood.

And, it didn’t stop when you grew up.

Hooked and confused, you continued to sing and dance to the tunes of the world that made you rich and famous . . . and continued your misery.

You couldn’t resist the roar of applause and approval. (Who could?) Always looking for love— but finding no one who truly cared for you as much as they cared for your glamour.

And, who could resist the temptation to want you for your face and fortune?

No, you couldn’t resist the lure of fame and fortune, even though it destroyed you and your attempts at marriage.

Five husbands and three children later, you discovered to your horror that you had given up—not only your childhood, but your adulthood, your marriages, your hope of family and love—and even your personhood.

What a tragic end for someone who started out with so much greatness and potential!

My heart grieves for you,
Kathi

. . . You know, the world isn’t kind. People are selfish by nature. I’m sure all of us could relate story after story of heartache and ruin happening today in the lives of those around us. Not just “somewhere over the rainbow” or “out there,” but right here, close in our hearts and in the lives of our loved ones and neighbors. God has given each of us the freedom to choose how we will live, but—just like Judy—we often choose very destructive habits and passions over what we know to be right and good. Yes, many are abused as children which causes disabilities and confusion, but the choices we make as adults are our own, and we are responsible for those decisions.

Don’t ever buy the line that God will never give us more than we can take. That’s not in the Bible, and it’s patently untrue. We do get into situations that we can’t handle on our own. But, I believe God allows the overwhelming circumstances so that we will be driven to Him for help, and He promises that He will rescue those who seek him with all their hearts.

Was there never a time in Judy’s life when she heard the gospel? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God promises that those who trust in Him will be provided a way of escape, but it’s up to us to take it!

Do you feel overwhelmed, and like your life is so messed up that there’s no hope of recovery? Do you find yourself not believing it possible to overcome all the pain and suffering you’re been facing everyday? “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6a). I have been really struck by this verse of late. There is so much trouble in the world that it’s tempting to look at the evil and miss all the good! But, then the psalmist goes on with a request: “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” And, when we ask, He answers.

For instance, I know another Judy. This lady’s husband and only son are alcoholics, but she is radiant and happy. Truly, I sometimes wonder how she does it, but I know it’s supernatural grace! I know someone who was badly abused by her step-father as a child but now is a vibrant and deeply compassionate young woman, walking in freedom and light. She has experienced the reality of “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). I knew a woman whose mother died when she was a toddler. She grew up in abject poverty, was raped while serving in the military as a nurse, and married a man who was repeatedly unfaithful. Still, this magnificent woman chose over and over again to trust the Lord, to obey His Word, and to walk in love. She has been a source of inspiration and blessing to all who knew her.

No matter what our background or our present circumstances, we can choose to do what is right and good. We can choose—one choice at a time, one day at a time—to beg God for grace to make the right choice and to “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:1-8)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
(—Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, Public Domain)

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!
    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

Traveling with Togo

Want to snuggle up and watch a heart-warming true story about an incredible dog who was named the most heroic dog in history by Time magazine in 2011? This cold winter weather is perfect for staying inside and being glad we’re not actually out in the blizzards of Alaska back in the winter of 1925, when the event actually occurred.

Togo was released at the end of 2019 and has all the dog prints of a true Disney classic: a PG rating, 8.2 on IMDb, great acting, stunning cinematography from Alaska, and full of suspense, courage, and love.

It’s a remarkable story about Togo, a sickly, undersized husky pup with an oversized ability to get into mischief, the heart of a true survivor, and a passion for his master. Willem Dafoe does a masterful job portraying Leonhard Seppala, the stubborn Norwegian who had to balance love for his wife with his professional wisdom as a musher, where wrong decisions can end in death for both the master and his dogs.

The challenge? To bring serum from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska during the worst winter in twenty years during weather too dangerous for flights. Why? Because a diphtheria epidemic was threatening to wipe out most of the area’s people.

Leonard Seppela and his team of huskies crossing Norton Sound of the Bering Sea

Nome, Alaska, is just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle and is located on the southern coast of Seward Peninsula at Norton Sound along the Bering Sea. Today, there are fewer than 4,000 living in Nome, but due to people lingering after the gold rush at the turn of the century, in 1925 the little outpost of Nome was the largest town in Northern Alaska.

In order to carry the serum across 674 miles from Nenana (where the serum had been transported via train from Anchorage) to Nome, more than twenty teams using over 100 huskies were organized, and the event was widely broadcast as the “Great Race of Mercy.”

Many of us have watched the movie Balto. This movie immortalized the lead dog who ran the last 31 miles to bring the serum into Nome, but Leonhard (which means “lion-heart”) Seppala and his faithful dog Togo ran the penultimate race: 264 miles, sometimes enduring temperatures of —30°F. with wind chills making it feel like —85°F.!! Until this movie came out, Leonhard and Togo were pretty much the unsung and forgotten heroes.

Julianne Nicholson as Constance Seppela in Togo

The race was not for glory, it was for good, and the most magnificent message for me was watching the love, resolve, and reward for the couple who risked everything to save their community. It was unbelievable to me that they didn’t get the praise and glory they deserved, but I think that is more often true in this life than we will ever know. I am reminded of Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9:11, where he laments: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

In our personal pilgrimages through life, few of us are asked to do terribly dangerous and risky things, but all of us are asked to run our race faithfully, for good, and not for glory! But, there is a promise in the example of Jesus, who ran the race before us for joy and for love of God.

May we run our races as doggedly as Togo . . . and like Togo, to please the One we love!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

(Disney’s version of the story runs very close to the reality, although they had a somewhat abbreviated, “happily-ever-after” style ending. If you want to read more of the thrilling [scary] details, there’s an excellent Wikipedia article listed below.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonhard_Seppala

Storms and Sand

Ever hear the story of the schooner Ben Flint? Well, it’s just one of many inspiring tales of heroism and heartache recounted in the Trumans’ book about the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, not too far from where we live. I’ll share the story of the Ben Flint, and if you’re interested in curling up on a cold winter’s night to read more remarkable accounts of bravery and self-sacrifice, details are at the end. Here’s their first tale:

Back in the autumn of 1870, the two-masted ship Ben Flint left Manistee, Michigan, bound for Chicago, fully loaded with lumber.  Ten miles off shore, the Ben Flint was caught in a gale and started taking on water.  Around ten p.m. the schooner filled with water and rolled over on its side. As the vessel went over, a passenger, Patrick McCuin, fell overboard and drowned.  Captain Thomas Roberts and his crew of eight clung desperately to the portion of the rigging above water.

The ship drifted until about one a.m., when the vessel ran aground approximately four miles north of Grande Pointe au Sable Lighthouse.  As the Ben Flint struck the lake bottom, it righted, but split open.  All of the men then tried to make themselves secure in the rigging, but they remained exposed to the bitterly cold wind and frigid drenching of the waves.  At the beginning of the storm, Captain Roberts had thrown off his coat in order to work more easily, and he died from hypothermia at daylight.

When the Grande Pointe au Sable lighthouse keeper, Alonzo W. Hyde, spotted the wreck from the tower, he recognized the dire need.  In their frozen and exhausted state, the crew could not survive a swim to shore through the tumultuous waves.  The telephone had not yet been invented, and going for help would take too long.  Keeper Hyde knew that he and the assistant light-keeper, his wife Elsa, were the only hope of rescue for the Ben Flint’s crew.  They quickly loaded the lighthouse’s small boat onto a wagon, along with blankets and other supplies, and set off up the beach.  Upon reaching the site of the wreck, the two of them launched their boat and managed to reach the stranded schooner.  After multiple trips, they succeeded in bringing all of the men safely to shore.

The crew reached Manistee by wagon that evening.  The account of the disaster in the Manistee Times said, “All unite in praise of the kindness and heroism of the lighthouse keeper and his lady.  But for their efforts, others and perhaps all would have perished.”

(My friend Grace Truman serves as president of S.O.S. Vermilion, a nonprofit organization working to preserve an 1876 U.S. Life-Saving Service station on Lake Superior near Whitefish Point.  If you are interested in what they’re doing, the website is sosvermilion.org. Grace, her husband, and their son also wrote the book Storms and Sand: A Story of Shipwrecks and the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station.  It tells the true stories of rescues made by the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard at the Big Sable Point station near Ludington. If anyone wants to order a copy, email info@pinewoodspress.com.  The list price is $29.95, but you can get a special price of $20.00 with free shipping and tax included, if you mention “Summer Setting.” Thank you, Grace, for sharing this record of courage and valor! May we be inspired to respond as bravely in emergencies should the need arise, and may we be quick to share with others that Jesus can save!)

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).

The Lighthouse
(—Ronny and Kenny Hinson, 1970)

There’s a lighthouse on a hillside
That overlooks life’s sea
When I’m tossed, it sends out
A light that I might see
And the light that shines in darkness now
Will safely lead me thru the night
If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse
My ship would sail no more.

Chorus: And I thank God for The Lighthouse
Well, I owe my life to Him
For Jesus is The Lighthouse
And from the rocks I’ve seen
He has shown a light all around me
That I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse
Tell me where would this ship be.

Ev’rybody that lives about me
They said tear that lighthouse down
‘Cause the big ships they don’t sail this way anymore
There’s no use of it standing ’round
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night
When just in time, I saw that light
Yes that light from that old lighthouse
That stands up there on the hill.


Genius and Insanity

One of the most fascinating movies I saw in 2019 was The Professor and the Madman, a biographical drama colored by mystery and murder . . . but most of all—pathos.

This moving drama records the appointment and passion of James Murray, who was hired to finish compiling and editing the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, known today as The Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray, a brilliant, self-taught linguist who spoke six languages and had a working understanding of at least fourteen more, became obsessed with the project, which burgeoned into a phenomenally difficult (and practically speaking, virtually impossible) job.

The project was begun in 1857; Murray was hired for ten years starting in 1879; but, in reality, the dictionary was not printed in its complete form until 1928, more than seventy years after the project was first envisioned!

First, I want to share a few “fun facts” about languages I’ve learned through studying, and then I want to share a few thoughts about the movie. There are more than 6,500 languages spoken throughout the world, but almost half the world’s people speak primarily 10 of them: English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French, Standard Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, and Indonesian. Among these languages, English is the most spoken language in the world, and it’s also the Number One trade language around the world, so it’s worth learning! English is “the language of the sky,” and every pilot must be able to identify themselves and communicate in English.

Jennifer Ehle as Mrs. Ada Murray, Dr. Murray’s wife

Interestingly enough, English is also considered by many to be the language with the most words/meanings, although that’s hard to define. English has over a million words if you count the various meanings of each given word. For instance, the newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary takes 60,000 words to define the 430 various usages of “set.” Also, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) defines 616,500 words, but there are hundreds of thousands of words that are not included, many scientific or borrowed from other languages but not in common enough use to be considered uniquely English, various forms of slang, compound words, and on and on! If you count tenses, plurals, etc, the list goes on seemingly ad infinitum (or at least ad nauseam).

Hope you didn’t mind that rabbit trail, but all this to highlight both the importance and the difficulty of the task assigned to Professor James Murray!

As another side light, the movie had an exceptionally gifted cast, including Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, and the film was done with painstaking care to detailing the truth (except concerning the madman’s romance), stunning cinematography, artistic sensitivity while retaining historical integrity, and a deeply moving theme of seeking redemption.

The movie was the brainchild of Mel Gibson, and he took more than twenty years in research and development, but it ended as a painful disappointment to him, which seems tragic but almost fitting, since Professor Murray never saw the completion of his beloved dictionary.

I don’t want to spoil the story and suspense, but the underlying pathos of the movie concerns the brilliant help that Professor Murray receives from Dr. William Minor, a retired American army surgeon who helped with the completion of over 10,000 entries but was in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum and considered criminally insane. Among other provocative themes, The Professor and the Madman has stirred me to even greater compassion for the mentally ill.

The “Madman” is haunted by the need to somehow redeem himself and find forgiveness for sins. What he does in the movie is beautiful, and I loved learning the story, but there was also a deep sadness that I don’t think God intends. Sin is terrible, and terribly wrong, but there is no sin beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Although we have to live with the regrets and scars from our sins, God invites us to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. When it comes to giving and receiving forgiveness, we can extend forgiveness to those who’ve hurt us, but we can only humbly accept forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. Most of the time, no amount of effort can take away the pain and loss (although we should do everything we can to restore and make right the wrongs we’ve committed).

In the final analysis, our sins can only be atoned for by the blood of Christ, who died to pay the penalty of death we deserve. By accepting his sacrificial death in our place, we receive eternal life through Him. That will not “settle the score” between ourselves and those we’ve hurt in this life, but that will grant us forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. It should also make us humble and able to forgive those who sin against us . . . passing forward the gift of mercy and forgiveness to others.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God
is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

There is a Redeemer
—Keith Green

There is a redeemer
Jesus, God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done

When I stand in Glory
I will see His face
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that Holy Place

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done