Abram V Leonardson
Of all the books in my bookcases, one has a treasured place in my heart. It is called Bible Biographies, edited by Robert Sears and published in 1848. It belonged to Rev. Abraham V Leonardson, my grandmother’s grandfather on my mother’s side. He received it as a gift of appreciation in 1880. Abram Leonardson, as he called himself, was a Methodist circuit-riding pastor between the Civil War and World War 1. I have a couple of his Bibles, a small number of scrapbooks and this volume on the lives of the people of the Bible that is illustrated with hundreds of engravings. He and I are living about 100 years apart. He was licensed to the Gospel ministry in 1867 and I was licensed in 1966.
My great-great grandfather served churches in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He would pastor as many as four churches at a time, preaching one Sunday a month at each, taking his wagon, later his buggy, to the next church. He is remembered fondly in some of the local church histories. He was also a writer and turned many of his thoughts into newspaper articles, which he kept in his scrapbooks. Many of the scrapbooks were lost to time but of the few that I possess I can say he focused his articles on holy living, temperance, and prayer. His Bibles are filled with sermon notes and outlines, and even the occasional illustration.
In many of his sermons he cried out against worldliness. He longed for people to find holiness. To him worldliness was another word for materialism. For our day materialism has been dressed up and passed off as consumerism. Move out of the way Thanksgiving, the world of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and consumer greed is heading for Christmas. Same old sin, just way more costly than ever.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Seek holiness this holiday season. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Like everyone from my generation, I remember where I was fifty years ago today. As a charter member of the Baby Boomers, I was sitting in the school auditorium with a hundred or so classmates in our history class. Televisions were placed throughout the auditorium for a class with a public educational broadcast. As the TV host was talking about the violent nature of mankind, the camera focused on a model of a caveman with a club. Then the narrator stopped mid-sentence. The camera did not move. After a long pause he announced that a bulletin reported that the President had been shot. Immediately one of our teachers turned the channel to hear the report. We sat in disbelief. Finally the class bell rang and I went to last period, Latin. We talked about what was unfolding and waited together. Later the principal’s voice announced that President Kennedy had died in an assassination in Dallas. Class ended and we all went home to a very surreal weekend.
Like the generation before me who knew where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor, or the generation after me of students watching with great expectancy the launch of the space shuttle Challenger carrying a school teacher into space, or this generation’s horror we call 9.11, we can close our eyes and still see the events unfold as if they were yesterday. This week we are rummaging around in our memories of November 22, 1963. We are reflecting on the unanswered questions of that day and the
“what if’s” of shattered lives. Walter Cronkite, wiping his eyes with the telling of the news, mirrors our own grief in the retelling of these events.
Now Thanksgiving Day is before us. The holiday season is already in full swing. For too many there is an empty chair at the table this year where once there was a love. We remember our own turning points of shattered dreams and anniversaries of pain that time really has not taken away. Dying is a part of living, but our stories do not stop with the tears. Living is hard on us, yet we are a people of hope and faith. We are loved with an everlasting love. No matter what has come, or what may come, God is always with us!
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Joy comes in the morning. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I was wandering around the Army Navy surplus store looking for a good deal on something. I was open to what that might be. They tried to interest me in some body armor—a bullet-proof vest. It was a camouflaged vest with multiple pockets and places to attach my survival gear. Wearing that vest, I could face down the bad guys when all of the bad stuff starts to happen. What stuff? You know robbers, looters, zombies, that kind of stuff. Here, try it on. It’s only $140.00. It’s like new. I looked it over. They were right. I did not see any bullet holes anywhere on it. Of course, this particular vest must have been worn by someone bigger and probably in better shape than I am. It reminded me of a Bible story.
You remember the story of David and Goliath. David volunteers to challenge the giant Goliath in a death match. Everyone stops laughing when they realize that David is deadly serious. The well-intentioned king decides that David needs to wear the best armor available, so David puts on the king’s armor. It’s too much, too big and too heavy. “David tried walking around, because he was not used to them. …I cannot go in these. . . So he took them off.” (1 Samuel 17) David used his own armor: faith in God, a slingshot and a stone. I remembered the lesson, be true to who you are; do not wear someone else’s armor.
God provides the custom-fitting armor that each of us needs for the spiritual battles that we face every day. “Put on the whole armor of God,” admonishes Paul in Ephesians chapter 6. Hiding behind someone else’s armor will never work. Face the day ready to meet the test, not with bullets, guns or even body armor, but with the grace and strength of God’s love and power. When all the bad stuff starts to happen do not be afraid, for our God is with us.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Wear your own armor. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
When the conversation turned to yurts, I was at a disadvantage. My concept of a yurt was vague and sketchy at best. A yurt is a name for a portable house used by nomadic shepherds and others across central Asia. It is a shorter, wider, heavier cousin to a teepee. To Mongolians, the word for “home” is “yurt.” Recent severe flooding in Inner Mongolia destroyed dozens of yurts. Our son-in-law Kevin was asked by the Chinese Red Cross to help assess the situation to see if his charitable organization could help the affected people. He and his friend Samuel traveled the 22 hours by train and bus to the region, located near the Russian border with north central China. They determined that yurts, wheelchairs and medical personnel were the primary way his organization could help.
An effort was launched to provide new yurts for the area. A modern yurt costs about $1,000 US dollars. Kevin had already been in contact with a team of believing American doctors and dentists who wanted to serve for a rural area. Arrangements were made with the doctors and the Chinese authorities for a trip October 13-23 to set up a medical clinic. Winter temperatures have already set in and light snows are not unusual in the part of Mongolia where they will be working. There is strong spiritual opposition in this region of the world and I know Kevin and the team would appreciate your continued prayers for their efforts to reach the people with needed Good News. You can see pictures of the area and read some of Kevin’s report on the web at, http://servepraylove.blogspot.com/
Disaster relief is an on-going reality of our times. So many disasters, far and near, can lead to an emotional fatigue as we wrestle with our part in helping others. So many are living crisis to crisis, day after day; our assignment is to be the presence of Christ pointing the way. “Do not grow weary in well doing,” says Paul, “for in due time the harvest will be ready.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. There’s no place like yurt. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
It was nearly midnight on October 1. Dorothy and I felt a bit like Mary and Joseph after being turned away by all the old Route 66 motels on Tulsa’s 11th Street. Our baby was six weeks old. We had spent the whole day helping movers load the moving van and then we unexpectedly learned that they were going to drive overnight to Tulsa to unload the van at our little duplex first thing in the morning. That’s when the scrambling began. We filled our trusty ’64 Rambler with the baby and the rest of our worldly goods and left Ft. Worth behind. But now it was midnight. We stopped at the Desert Hills Motel, where we had stayed before, but something called the Tulsa State Fair (not Tulsa County Fair, I learned) was in full swing less than a mile away, so every room was taken. We eventually found a room on the seventh floor of the downtown Holiday Inn. What a short night!
Very early the next morning we had to load everything back into the car and get across town to the new place. The moving van was already waiting. We spent the morning unloading and setting up the place. Eventually Dorothy said that we needed to go shopping right then. Why? We had this little baby and our place had no washer, dryer or refrigerator, and there was something about babies and laundry and eating that need tending to. So on our first full day in Tulsa – it was a Tuesday – we bought the appliances and had them delivered the next day. Wednesday night I was welcomed by Dr. Bob Willets and the church people to the evening prayer service. I delivered my first sermon as a minister of our church on the first Sunday morning of October 1973. The Scripture was from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. That day I began a verse-by-verse study of that book which lasted into the following February.
So I have been in a reflective mood this week about these 40 years together. Thank you for inviting me and allowing me into some of the most sacred moments of your family’s life. Thank you for welcoming us and giving us room to mature as a pastor and as a family. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for ministering to us and helping us raise and teach our children and their children the holy things of God. You are loved, and I am so blessed.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. And let’s continue to experience the love and power of God together.
To the bookkeeper, there was a 20-cent difference between the two. To the preacher, one gave something and the other gave nothing. To the teacher, it was a teachable moment for the students. To the rich man, it was loose change. To the widow, it was all she had.
On one hand, we are talking about money, on the other hand, point of view. You know the biblical stories. One is called the Widow’s Mite; the other the Rich Young Ruler. Both are examples to us about the priorities of a spiritual life. The widow’s story reveals the pride of the religious legalists counting out their offerings in front of the crowds, laughing at the poor, and congratulating themselves for being so good. Her story reveals her heart as one who sincerely gave as much as she had to God, in spite of the haughty onlookers and the meagerness of her offering.
The rich man’s story reveals the dilemma of a morally good person confronted by the fear of financial insecurity, the priority of stuff over relationships, and the expensive cost of discipleship. About the widow Jesus says, “They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything.” (Mark 12:44). About the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10, we see these powerful, descriptive words as Jesus clarifies the man’s choice, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (The only time this is said about Jesus as he speaks with anyone else in the Gospels!) In response to the man’s decision to turn away from sacrifice and commitment, Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I struggle with these stories. Where do I fall on the scale between the widow and the rich man, the disciple and the Pharisee? I believe that tithing is the clearest starting point for the offerings to the Lord. It’s proportional. I believe that the tithe goes to the Lord’s work through the local church and that gifts and offerings to other good causes and ministries are over and above the tithe. What do you believe? What is your commitment? What is your point of view?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Give the Lord your best. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
In the late 1950’s the price of a gallon of gasoline jumped from about 19 to 26 cents. That was a big increase—about 37%. There was a crisis in the Middle East. Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, the free shipment of oil was threatened and then Israel and Egypt went to war. The U.S. and some of our European allies got involved. Eventually that Mid-east Crisis was resolved, but the price of gas never went back to 19 cents. Nearly every time there is a crisis in the Middle East the price of gas goes up. Sometimes it makes us more cautious about how much we drive. Sometimes we just get mad. Soon we take a better path.
Around 1959 a man in our Florida church discovered someone was stealing gas from his car. His indignation, his pride and his anger led him astray. Ordinarily he was the funny one in my parents’ Sunday School class. He and his wife loved to host backyard cookouts and were first to arrive with food when the need arose. They had two or three children a little younger than we were. He was the joke-teller and life of every party. Then someone started siphoning gas from his car. His house had an open carport so he could not put his car in the garage. He finally settled on a way to deter his robber. This became war.
One evening after dinner he set his trap. He stripped apart the end of a long extension cord and attached the bare wires to the bumper of his car. (In those days cars were made of metal.) He was going to teach that thief a shocking lesson. He thought of one more touch—water. He got out the garden hose and wet down the car and driveway. He plugged in the extension cord and walked around the car to survey his work. As he neared again the front of the car he slipped, or tripped, but caught himself with both hands on the hood. His wife ran to unplug the cord but it was too late. A family lost a husband and father. My parents lost a good friend. I learned a tragic lesson about anger and the high price of revenge. There is a better path to handle wrongs.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Seek justice, not revenge. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.