Is it Well?

Until recently, I knew nothing of the events serving as impetus for the penning of one of history’s most influential Christian hymns – It Is Well With My Soul.  I have sung this uplifting anthem countless times, from pew and choir loft, ever inspired by author Horatio Spafford’s message of peace, hope, and gratitude.  While thanking, honoring, and glorifying his Savior, Jesus Christ, the author also sought to encourage the weary and heavy-laden, the troubled.  Indeed, I am quite certain Spafford’s words have soothed many a soul the last century-and-a-half.  Still, for those familiar with Spafford’s personal story, those words take on even greater meaning.

horatio_spaffordHoratio Spafford is believed to have written this historic hymn during a period of personal tragedy the likes of which most of us will never experience. Spafford, a successful Chicago attorney and real estate investor saw his life torn asunder in the span of about two years; ironically, at a time the nation in which he and his family lived was healing – from the Civil War. In 1871, Spafford and his wife, Anna, would lose their two-year-old son to scarlet fever, then see much of Horatio’s investments destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

In the wake of the fire, Spafford struggled to recover financially.  He had planned a getaway for his family and was set to embark for England with Anna and the couple’s four daughters late in 1873 but, held up on business, he sent them on ahead. Unbeknownst to Spafford, his daughters were lost at sea during the transatlantic voyage, when their steamship, Ville Du Havre, collided with a Scottish Clipper, the Loch Earn, and sank.  Upon reaching England, Anna sent a telegram to her husband who subsequently made the same voyage and joined his wife in England.

According to his daughter, Bertha – born in 1878 – it was along this journey her grieving father penned the hymn.  Hence, amid his sorrows, Spafford demonstrated profound faith in Christ, finding solace in He who loved and ultimately gave His life for – the sinner.

Incidentally, the Spaffords would lose yet another son, Horatio, in 1880.  He, too, fell victim to scarlet fever.  Yet, by all accounts, the Spaffords remained strong in their faith and, after moving to Jerusalem, engaged in philanthropy.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford. Indeed, I am reminded of Job, of Lot.  I recall numerous Biblical accounts of trials befalling one after another.  I am also reminded of members of my own family, many of my friends and acquaintances who have lost loved ones, careers, relationships, their health. When we face crises, regardless of magnitude, is it not difficult to find peace?  Hope?  Is it not a challenge, at times, to recognize those things for which we have to be thankful?

I, for one, have experienced heartache the likes of which seemed unbearable at the time. Even now, I would more describe my life circumstances as nearer the bottom than the crest of the valley.  Yet, even now, I find plenty for which to be thankful.  Oh, make no mistake, my feelings of gratitude for blessings – seen, and unseen – are challenged by my feelings of despair.  But when I read the words written by and recall the story of Horatio Spafford, a man who would otherwise have been crushed by the weight of his despair, I am inspired. I, for one, aspire to be ever more faithful, ever more grateful, ever more at peace in the love of Christ.

For me, it is well… And, in His mercy, love, and grace, you too shall find hope. You, too, will find all is well… It is well, with your soul.

From me, to you, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Yellow Footprints

Twenty-eight years ago, I made a commitment – my first – when I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. It is easy for me to remember the date, because I enlisted on my eighteenth birthday.  Who does that?  Anyway, the following summer, I took the first step toward honoring that commitment, stepping off a bus and placing my feet squarely upon a set of yellow footprints.  I didn’t think much about the significance of those yellow footprints at the time – wasn’t exactly the yellow brick road – but I later realized they represented the beginning of a new path, a new course in my life.  Thirteen weeks later, I had earned the title – Marine.  Was I proud?  You bet!  But, more importantly, I was changed forever.  A new man.  More disciplined.  More honorable.  More principled.  Readied for whatever was just around the corner.  And, though I was discharged – honorably – in 1996, I never truly left The Corps, and The Corps certainly never left me.

Today, Marines around the globe celebrate “our” 241st birthday.  Every Marine knows the birthday and birthplace of our beloved Corps.  10 November 1775.  Tun Tavern.  The rest, is history.  And, what history we’ve made!

I love you all, my brothers and sisters, leathernecks, devil dogs, Marines one and all.  I salute those who have gone before us, those who are serving as I write this, and those who served and are still among us today.  I am honored to have stood with you on those yellow footprints.  I will never forget them.  I will never forget you.

Once, and Always!  Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday Marines!

And, Tomorrow…

Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  Election Day.  Tens of millions of votes will be cast by days end – most, by living, breathing American citizens – and those votes, along with a myriad vote-2016of votes already cast, will ultimately reveal the president-elect who will succeed Barack Obama and be sworn in as 45th President of the United States this January.  It is indeed a big day – election day – and, though it may seem every general election is deemed the most significant in our nation’s history, the choices we make in electing our duly sworn representatives are not to be taken lightly.

Regardless of whether or not we believe this election bears any more significance than the last, we vote.  We vote because we are able.  We vote because we feel it is our duty. We vote to exercise our right, to stand and be counted.  Knowing we have a stake in the future of this nation, we vote.  We vote for any number of reasons.  Today… we vote. Then we wait.

We wait with bated breath, perhaps wringing our hands, in great anticipation of the results.  Tantalized throughout the day by exit polling data, the analysis of experts, we wait.  For some, perhaps many, varying degrees of anxiety may set in.  This anxiety is a symptom of one’s perception or true understanding of that which is “at stake” in a given election.  Our very way of life may indeed hang in the balance.

For others, there is no anxiety.  In fact, they may believe the results of the election are of little consequence.  Some would argue it makes little to no difference who is president, nor which senator or state representative is elected.  They are all corrupt.  They all seek power and would sell their respective souls to retain it.

So, what about you?  Do you believe this is a particularly critical election?  Do you feel there is much at stake?  Do you feel you have voted for the man or woman who would lead this nation in the direction of your liking?  You know what I think?  I would submit to you this is the single most consequential election since that of 1860.  Now, you may be nodding in agreement or shrugging in amusement, but before you presume we are kindred spirits or nothing of the like, let me explain how I arrived at such a bold conclusion.

Though the final results of this election are not yet known, one thing is certain:  This has been an extraordinary election cycle, the likes of which I have never experienced.  Think about it.  While every election comes with its share of allegations, mudslinging, punditry, etc., all “accepted” by many as “just politics,” have we ever seen anything like this?  Ever? I honestly cannot think of a conversation I have had with anyone regarding this election cycle that didn’t leave us both shaking our heads, bewildered.  I, for one, am exhausted, embarrassed – heck – horrified by what I have seen an heard.

If we’re being honest, and in spite of what President Obama claims, we were a deeply divided people entering this election cycle.  Ask yourself.  Have things gotten better, or worse, since we started this process?  In my opinion, the wedge was driven deeper during the primaries, and it’s only gotten worse.  This has brought out the very worst in us.  I have had to bite my tongue time and time again.  It hasn’t been easy.  I don’t like having to apologize for my behavior, but I have had my weak moments, indeed.  My weakness stems from my inclination to be prideful, and when I have been attacked – even by people with whom I would otherwise agree on most issues – I have wanted to counter. Now, I have gotten much better – I pray daily for humility – but, admittedly, I’ve wanted to ring some people’s necks, figuratively speaking, of course.

Friends… This isn’t us.  This isn’t who we are.  This isn’t America.  If it is, why in the world would anyone want to live here?  We are not a nation of vile, foul-mouthed, bully-ish heathens, are we?  If we are, is that truly who we want to be?  Christians attacking Christians?  Conservatives attacking conservatives.  Democrats hating their Republican neighbor, and vice versa?  Are we to be a nation with no moral compass?  Are we to fear our fellow citizen?  Trust no one?  Are we now a nation of selfish, prideful, contemptible fools, hellbent on looking only after ourselves, forsaking all others?  And, I might ask, where do we get off asking God to bless America, when we thank Him for nothing, demand He answer our prayers as we see fit, and refuse to do His bidding?  (Food for thought.)

Okay, so we voted.  We voted, and we await the results.  But… What about tomorrow?  If your candidate loses, what then?  Will you be filled with rage, ready to march on D.C. or your state capital with torches and pitchforks?  Say your candidate wins.  Will you gloat and mock your “enemy” (aka your neighbor, relative, spouse?)  Will you shamelessly patronize the losers and “encourage” them to find common ground – that ground, higher ground, on which you stand?

Have we burned too many bridges, this time?  I fear we have.  I fear there may be no coming back from this.  And, if so, that is truly a shame.  Then again, we were perhaps never more divided than we were during the Civil War.  We came back from that.  America, the thought of America, the idea of America, the American Dream… all these are contingent on We, The People.  If America indeed falls, it is because we are a fallen people.

My friends, please join me in taking a long hard look in the mirror, doing some legitimate soul-searching, because no matter what happens today – tomorrow is coming.

[In tribute to Walter Cronkite, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday, today.]

“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.” — Walter Cronkite