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.

 

 

 

The Epiphany

Okay, so here it is (O-dark-thirty) – 0226, or 2:26 AM to be exact, and here I am typing, as opposed to sleeping, on a project that was never intended – well, at least I didn’t intend on it.  God?  Now, that is a distinct possibility.  In fact, I so believe it is God inspiring me to be up at this hour, typing this message, that I am actually doing it.  Trust me, the selfish side is yearning for sleep, but I shall not cave.  What’s it called?  Obedience?  Yes, indeed.  So, I know you must be asking, “What is it that is so important it can’t wait until tomorrow?”  Well, my friends, I had an epiphany.  Epiph-a-what!?!  Epiphany!  Yes, of course, I fully intend to explain.  Why else would I be up at this Godly hour?  God said jump.  I didn’t ask “How high?”  I just started jumping.

This all started sometime last evening – yeah, let’s see, that would be Friday night, ’cause this is now Saturday.  So, I was on Twitter – I don’t remember what time it was – but I ran across this ‘retweet’ [aka re-shared, or forwarded message – for those of you who aren’t Twitter(ers)].  The original tweet was from controversial author and political commentator Ann Coulter.  I know; I know.  Haven’t we been down this road before, Kevin?  Put down the politics and back away.  Yeah, well, another epic fail was imminent.  I won’t go into the petty details.  Let’s just say, I took the bait in addressing her provocative rhetoric.  Why do I let these people get under my skin?  Why!?!

Now, again, I did not use profanity, cuss her, etc.  I didn’t attack her, per se.  HowEver… I might have suggested she was behaving in a “despicable” manner.  In fact, I can’t say for sure – it’s kind of fuzzy and all – but I might have actually called her despicable.  Yes… I… did.  But, listen, you should have read what she… no, never mind.  It doesn’t matter.  Did she write about and perpetuate a provocative and utterly ridiculous narrative?  Yes she did.  That said, she wasn’t talking to me.  She doesn’t even know me.  She was simply doing – right or wrong – what political commentators do.  She’s not responsible for how I react, or don’t.  I am responsible for my own actions.  I cannot, and will not, blame her.  Besides, at the time I tweeted my response, I was feeling rather justified.  That bully, Coulter, wasn’t going to bully people around – not if I can stop her.  Someone had to put her in her place!

Alllllll-righty-then…

So, having successfully given her – Coulter – the “What for…” I wound myself back down, went to bed, and drifted off to sleep.

Bleep, bleep… buzzerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Yeah, that would be the annoying message-received notification on my cell phone… the one I forgot to silence when I went to bed.  Oh, goody, I got a reply from Jeannie Ortega (at 12:24 AM, no less).  “Jeannie Ortega?” you ask.  Yeah, I don’t know much about her, but I know she just debuted a new song I listened to last night.  I know that I really liked it.  And, I know that I tweeter her – earlier in the evening, when people were still awake in certain parts of the world – to tell her I thought her voice, the song, and the song’s message were beautiful.  How nice of her to thank me – at 12:24 AM.  Do I sound bitter?  You know, I actually was not – am not – at all bitter.  In fact, this is where the story gets good, interesting, whatever.

Miss Ortega’s song, Never Been Hurt, really – as I shared with her – struck a chord with me.  The message is clear.  She wants to “love” like Jesus.  Despite being hurt and scarred, she wants to move beyond the pain, and love, unconditionally, like Jesus did.  She wants to know and share the same love Jesus had for us when He asked The Almighty Father to “forgive” us, as He hung there on The Cross, in our place.  It is a powerful, powerful message, indeed.  So, lying there at 12-something, my mind began to race, drifting back to that ill-advised tweet.  Why could I not just let that go?  Why could I not have met her hate with love?  What is wrong with me?  Nothing like having a pity party at O-dark-thirty!  But, seriously, it was bothering me.

I laid there, relaxed, and began to collect my thoughts.  This is important.  It’s important I resolve this, once and for all.  Why am I so tempted, feel so compelled to intervene?  Why do I have this propensity for engagement, particularly on behalf of others when I see them as being or having been wronged?  This, I must answer.  Then, out of nowhere, it hit me.  I am hurting!  This is about me!  No, no, no…  That cannot be.  After all, I am the tough, broad-shouldered, thick-skinned guy, the one who charges in to defend the innocent, the weak, the oppressed.  I’m not the one who’s hurting.  I don’t have open wounds.  What scars!?!

Wow… All these years fighting other people’s battles, and I’m the one who needs saving.  I was the one who needed to be defended.

(More on this to come – I assure you – in my Your Life Matters series.)

You know, I’ve had epiphanies before, but this light bulb was brighter than any I had ever seen.  It shone all around.  It illuminated and made clear that which had been buried in the farthest, darkest reaches of my mind.  It was troubling, but it was also liberating.  To think that while I was, my entire life, defending others, I was at the same time, exacting revenge and justice, vicariously.  To realize I had been harboring such resentment all these years.  Now, I could exhale.

Still, there is much work to be done.  While, as one of my new friends so articulately wrote, I have “named” that which ails me – now, the real trials begin.  I must now survey each of my wounds, each scar, and assess them.  I must confront my affliction.  I must ensure I have forgiven those who have injured me.  I must ensure I have forgiven myself.  If I truly want to “love” like Jesus, like I have, as Miss Ortega sings, “Never Been Hurt,” I must take up this yoke.

Friends, I apologize for this diversion from the path I asked you to accompany on.  I must admit, though I told you it was a journey and I, for one, was prepared to go wherever it might take us, I was surprised by this.  It truly was unexpected.

[Incidentally, I do recommend Miss Ortega’s song.  You can find it on YouTube.  I will attach a link later – but… I am tired.  Blessings, my friends.]

 

 

Sir John Dalberg-Acton, aka Lord Acton, famously posited, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Moreover, he added, “Great men are almost always bad men.”  To be sure, Lord Acton’s claim is bearish, even to the pessimist.  In these remarks, the baron affords us very little hope – might we call it an “eye of the needle(s)” chance – of rising to power without forsaking our virtue.  Well, if he is right, the obvious question is:  Why?  Why is it so difficult for one to attain power without succumbing to – its power?

It’s a common theme, is it not?  We rise, and we fall.  Countless authors, artists, composers, filmmakers, etc., have captured the torment, isolation, and exile that hounds the mighty, the powerful, amidst their nosedive into the abyss.  Given the fact – can we call it that? – this is so common, why have we permitted history to repeat itself?  Why do we acquiesce?  Is power simply too powerful for man to bridle?  Is it the ‘bronc that won’t be broke’?  Or, is it, perhaps, that we haven’t taken the right approach?  What do we need to control, or check power?  I submit, wisdom.  But not just any wisdom.  Source matters.

I found an answer, where I often do:  my Bible.

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  [James 3:13-18]