Saturday, November 27, 2010

In His Steps

In my travels I have had many opportunities to meet great men. One such person was Garrett Shelton, a professor at the University of Virginia-Wise and pastor of the First Baptist church in Big Stone Gap.

He wrote What Would Jesus Do which paralleled the WWJD excitement a few years ago.

However, Garrett’s additional claim to fame is he is the great-grandson of the infamous Charles Sheldon who wrote In His Steps.

In 1889 Charles moved west to become pastor of the fledgling Central Congregational Church in Topeka, Kansas. He announced he would preach "a Christ for the common people. A Christ who belongs to the rich and poor, the ignorant and learned, the old and young, the good and the bad . . . a Christ who bids us all recognize the Brotherhood of the race, who bids throw open this room to all."

The most successful series, In His Steps, concerned the inhabitants of a town who pledged themselves to live for a year as Jesus would live. It was first published serially in 1896 and in book form in 1897. The unifying theme of these sermons was based on posing the question, "what would Jesus do?" when facing moral decisions.

In 1900 Dr. Sheldon, proposed that the local newspaper should be operated as Christ would operate them. The owner allowed Dr. Sheldon to serve as "editor" for a week in March. The "Sheldon Edition" sent circulation from 12,000 daily to 387,000. The Capital's pressroom was swamped, and other printing facilities, one in New York and one in Chicago, each printed 120,000. The Daily Capital printed the other 120,000 papers by using an extra work force.

The Advance, a Congregational weekly magazine in Chicago, purchased the story for $75.00 and published it serially in thirty-one installments beginning November 5, 1896. Sheldon offered the manuscript to three book publishers who turned it down. Finally J. C. Kilner, manager of the Advance Publishing Company, which had never before published any fiction, decided to bring out In His Steps in book form. The first printing of a few thousand copies consisted of cloth and paper bound volumes, the former priced at one dollar; the paperback, twenty-five cents. Two years later a ten cent paperback edition was published. By 1900 Advance had published nearly 600,000 copies in five editions.

Because "In His Steps" was in the public domain virtually from the beginning, companies could print copies of it without the author's permission, not owing Sheldon a cent. More than a century later, some 50 million copies had been published, making it second in sales among religious books behind only the Bible. Sheldon did not receive any royalty for his work which would have left his family well to do. But this would have run contrary to the desire he intended for man in his book.

Dr. Eric Goldman of the Saturday Literary Review singled out In His Steps as one of eight books which have changed America

Charles Monroe Sheldon was born in 1857 and grew up in the Dakota Territory, where his parents homesteaded in a log cabin he helped build. His father, Rev. Steward Shelton, was the Territory's first home missionary superintendent, founding 100 churches in 10 years. Young Sheldon "hunted with the Dakotas, fished with them, slept with them on the open prairie, and learned some of their language."

Sheldon graduated from Andover in the class of 1879.

One of the remarks I recall by my friend Garrett Sheldon was, "By the time he left home to go to school, he had heard the entire Bible read aloud five times. Now think of that!"

Besides the Bible this is one book everybody should read.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” -- Proverbs 22:1

Friday, November 19, 2010

Man's man meet The Man

Ben Johnson was a man’s man but he met more than he could handle

Behind my desk on the ledge of my bookcase is a prized photo of Ben Johnson and me. It is a constant reminder that God can take a man out of a small unknown town and will make him something. His early days were rough and his running pal’s tough, but in the end he saw a greater star.

A long tall 6' 3" western star that was born in Oklahoma was about all I knew about Ben Johnson on the day I met him. He was in his 70’s, but still a large western type.

I learned he had been a ranch hand and rodeo performer when, in 1940, Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses to California. He decided to stick around (the pay was good), and for some years was a stunt man, horse wrangler, and double for such stars as Wild Bill Elliott, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and James Stewart. His break came when John Ford noticed him and gave him a part in an upcoming film, and eventually a star part in Wagon Master in 1950.

He left Hollywood in 1953 to return to rodeo, where he won a world roping championship, but at the end of the year he had barely cleared expenses. A prize belt buckle that he won for calf roping was stolen from his car when he visited Houston in 1976; but on a repeat visit a decade later he was on radio station KIKK when a caller returned the buckle to him.

The movies paid better, and were less risky, so he returned to the west coast and a career that saw him in over 300 movies. Johnson's weather-beaten features made him an icon for any filmmaker chronicling the American West.

He initially turned down the role in The Last Picture Show (1971), for which he won an Academy Award, because the script contained too many curse words. He later changed his mind when with the permission of the director, Peter Bogdanovich; he rewrote his part with the offensive words removed.

Ben received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994

He died on April 8, 1996, in Mesa, Arizona, of an apparent heart attack while visiting his mother in the 'retirement community' where not only she but he himself lived. His wife of 53 years had preceded him in 1994.

"You know, I'd say that aside from Mr. Ford's help in my career, I'd lay any success I've had to not expecting too much. I never expected to become a star and was always content to stay two or three rungs down the ladder and last awhile. When I do get a little ahead, I see what I can do to help others," he had once said.

I met Ben and Carol Johnson at my former pastor’s church in Gilbert, Arizona, only a few years before they died. The Johnson’s had a beautiful home in Scottsdale but had no problems in attending the small mission church near them in Mesa where another friend, had befriended them and told them of a greater success. My young friend preached the funerals of both to a host of their Hollywood associates and friends who had watched him from his humble beginning until he became a true western star.

Many amass millions in this life only to leave it in a bank or invested away never to see it again. But what is laid up in heaven is forever. Their days were blessed on earth but they have a brighter forever.

Matthew 6:19-20

“ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: “

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Come with me to Rio

Rio de Janeiro a city of delight

I should have known better than to take a cheap airline flight from Columbus to Miami, but like many I tried to save on a self funded mission trip. As fate would have it the plane was detoured at Orlando via Fort Lauderdale instead of direct to Miami causing me to miss my plane for Brazil.

When I finally arrived at Miami the connecting plane had been gone for over four hours, but my chief worry was my friends in Brazil were to pick me up, and they had been on the road for more that seven hours to meet me. Since there was no way to contact them, I was hoping they would check on other planes coming from the states.

To farther complicate things my Varig airline tickets would not be accepted by Pan Am airlines so I had to pay dearly to get a roundtrip on the next flight which was about five hours later. Thank goodness for trip interruption insurance which later repaid me.

Finally, I was in the air and trusting nothing else would mess up this trip since I was scheduled to speak for a week at a missionary’s conclave about six hours north of Rio. My prayers were answered because my friends had checked with Pan Am and knew I was on their coming flight. Being a seasoned traveler I knew customs awaited me immediately on deplaning and hoped it would not be a problem. I was glad when I got a green light and was able to proceed without stopping to open all my luggage, etc.

Since this was a night flight my friends asked if I had ever been to the Rio (River of January) and I said no. My friends had known me for nearly 25 years and knew I was a scenery lover and suggested a few places before we headed north.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, justly bearing the nickname Cidade Maravilhosa - "the wonderful city". It was not long until we were high above the beautiful bay viewing the most familiar statue of Christ the Redeemer which stands on top of Corcovado Mountain. The statue stands 30 meters tall and is one of the worlds largest and most photographed. Then we hastened on to take the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain for a most grand view of the bay and city of Rio.

From here we could see the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Barra da Tijuca and even the Maracana Stadium which is the largest football (soccer) stadium in the world. On our return we noticed an open café across the street from the base of the cable car. Here we had my first Brazilian meal which was a large steak prepared for all of us and cut later into the size we wanted. The favor was outstanding and cooked to perfection.

Before leaving Rio I was advised that Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks sixth in the world with most living in urban cities like Rio that has a population between seven to ten million. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It was a surprise to me that Brazil has the world's fourth largest television broadcasting system.

With the morning spent and we had to leave this spectacular area. Reaching our destination late in the afternoon, we checked into the hotel where missionary families from Brazil and Uruguay had assembled. The beautiful hotel was set on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Barbacena known as the world’s largest producer of roses. You could see field after field of roses as far as you could see. From the hotel height it was breath taking. Not only did the beauty abound but the hotel is a training hotel from people who come from around the country to be trained the hotel trade in every area. Not only did we get the best treatment but the food was great and beautifully designed for our delight.

Following this week of teaching and training, I was able to stay for three more weeks speaking in many churches and visiting some of the most beautiful areas as we moved from state to state in the interior of the country. The beauty of this country is only exceeded by the wonderful people I met.

Rio is a beautiful city and so is the country, but one is yet to come that will exceed it.

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, “-- Revelation. 21:10

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Other Lexington

The Other Lexington
There are so many things to see in Lexington, Virginia. I will list only a few of them. First, you will find a Virginia military Academy, which was the first public, all military Academy in the country; a cemetery where Stonewall said he is buried; and beautiful Washington, and Lee University, where Robert E. Lee is buried in the campus chapel.
Being an avid Civil War student, always a background searches on a specially the famous general’s. Since, I had already been a number of years ago to Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, where Robert E. Lee was born; I sought for more information on him at the visitor’s center. He was the son of Major General Henry Lee III "Light Horse Harry" (1756–1818), Governor of Virginia, and his second wife, Anne Hill Carter (1773–1829). One of Lee's great great grandparents Henry Lee I was a prominent Virginian colonist of English descent. His mother grew up at Shirley Plantation, one of the most elegant homes in Virginia. Lee's father, a tobacco planter, suffered severe financial reverses from failed investments.
Little is known of Lee as a child; he rarely spoke of his boyhood as an adult. Nothing is known of his relationship with his father, who, after leaving his family, only mentioned Robert once in a letter. When given the opportunity to visit his father's Georgia grave, he remained there only briefly, yet while president of Washington College, defended his father in a biographical sketch while editing Light Horse Harry's memoirs. In 1809, Harry Lee was put in debtors prison; soon after his release the following year, Harry and Anne Lee and their five children moved to a small house on Cameron Street in Alexandria, Virginia, both because there were then good local schools there, as well as several members of her extended family. In 1811, the family, including the newly-born sixth child, Mildred, moved to a house on Oronoco Street, still close to the center of town and with the houses of a number of Lee relatives close by. In 1812, Harry Lee was badly injured in a political riot in Baltimore, and Secretary of State James Madison arranged for Harry Lee to travel to the West Indies. He would never return, dying when his son Robert was 11. Left to raise six children alone in straitened circumstances, Anne Lee and her family often paid extended visits to relatives and family friends. Robert Lee attended school at Eastern View, a school for young gentlemen, in Fauquier County, and then at the Alexandria Academy, free for local boys, where he showed an aptitude for mathematics. Although brought up to be a practicing Christian, he was not confirmed in the Episcopal Church until age 46.
While traveling through Lexington, we passed by here’s home and the Episcopal Church where Robert E. Lee was a devoted member.
Lee entered West Point in the summer of 1825. At the time, the focus of the curriculum was engineering; the head of the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the school and the superintendent was an engineering officer. Cadets were not permitted leave until they had finished two years of study, and were rarely permitted to leave the grounds of the Academy. Lee graduated second in his class and did not incur any demerits during his four-year course of study. Lee was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.
One of the highlights four may wish to be able to visit the Chapel at Washington and Lee and to view the tomb were Robert E. Lee is buried just behind the pulpit area. In the basement of the Chapel is the Museum of many of the historical items of Lee’s. Also, there is a bookstore where one could buy books on the life of Lee and other related material. Just outside of the Chapel is the gravesite of “Traveler” Robert E. Lee’s horse.
Washington and Lee University is a great now school whose curriculum is well respected. The school is named after George Washington, who donated to keep you from ceasing to exist, and Robert E. Lee to after the Civil War came as its president.
As we continue to drive to the city we came to the cemetery where Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was buried with a large statue stone above his grave. He was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and probably the most well-known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee. His military career includes the Valley Campaign of 1862 and his service as a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee. Confederate pickets accidentally shot him at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, which the general survived, albeit with the loss of an arm to amputation. However, he died of complications of pneumonia eight days later. His death was a severe setback for the Confederacy, affecting not only its military prospects, but also the morale of its army and of the general public.
The Virginia Military Academy, while it is an old-school, has many beautiful buildings and adds to the beauty of the city and is worth the visit.
Since there are sure many historical places in the city we decided to take a carriage ride, which lasted nearly 2 hours. We agreed to later that this was the way to go.
Afterwards, we went to a coffee nook for a delightful lunch before leaving.
Just north of the city are the birthplace of Sam Houston, of Texas fame, and the home of McCormick, the inventor of the McCormick reaper.
No one should visit this part of the Virginia without a stop in Lexington.
“And there was great joy in that city. “ -- Acts 8:8 (NKJV)