Thoughts From The Thinking Hill

This Pilgrim's Journey

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To The Golden Shore!

Judson

They say “never judge a book by its cover” and that is so true.  I have books in my library with nice dust jackets with colorful pictures that look very nice on the library shelf, but they are like pretty, cumulous, summertime clouds.  Pretty to look at but there’s nothing of substance in them.   I also have the book in the photo above that most folks would pass over without a second glance.  It’s a paperback, 520 pages long, dog eared, yellowed with age and taped up with masking tape to keep the cover together.  It came to me in this condition as a gift from an aged friend that wanted to pass it on to someone that would enjoy reading it.  It’s titled “To The Golden Shore”  by Courtney Anderson.  When I opened its cover I stepped into the world of Adoniram Judson, a young man that struggled with faith as he was coming of age but came to embrace the Christ of the Cross.  Judson was so moved by the words “Go into all the world and  preach the gospel to every creature” he was convinced that others in this world needed to meet this same Christ.

Today is July 14, 2013 and there have been a lot of July 14’s that have come and gone but I don’t know of any that were as momentous as the one that happened 200 years ago.  July 14, 1813 was the first day that Adoniram Judson stepped off the good ship, Georgiana, onto land that was called in that day “The Golden Shores of Burma”.  What followed for the rest of this man’s life is one of the most marvelous and amazing stories of Christian witness that this world has ever experienced.

In August of 1806 five young seminarians met in a grove of maple trees for prayer and from this prayer meeting the first foreign missionaries would be sent from America to other lands.  The United States of America was a young nation and still in swaddling clothes and in the early 1800’s there was no Foreign Missions Society of any church or organization to send foreign missionaries anywhere.  These five seminarians and  their commitment to missions were instrumental in the Congregational Church establishing the American Board of  Commissioners of Foreign Missions to facilitate sending missionaries to foreign lands to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.   Shortly after the forming of the new Missions Board,  Judson undertook a voyage to the London Missionary Society in England to request assistance for financial support for the young Missions Board.  In route the British ship he was sailing on was captured by the French and he spent quite some time in a French prison.  His course of his life was being punctuated with, what can only be described as repeated moments of Divine Intervention and he was finally providentially released, made his way to London and eventually back to America.

In February 1812, after making their way through uncharted waters in forming a missions board and organizing financial support, Adoniram Judson and his new bride set sail from  the shores of America as the first of thousands of missionaries to follow, carrying the gospel message to distant lands.  They had dreams of going to India but India had all of the foreign missionaries it would allow and they were denied entry into the country.  After the delay of some time and after much prayer they agreed to go to Burma.

Oh, there had been a few missionaries in Burma, before Judson, but the language was so difficult that they had to settle for ministering to some of the European workers that lived and worked there.  Judson, after finding a Burmese man  that would teach him, set about working for hours on end, day after day,  trying to learn the Burmese language.  Painstakingly he endeavored to learn the language listening and struggling to understand the words of various items and would write them down how he understood that they were said.  He very methodically but ever so slowly, developed the first English dictionary of the Burmese language.  He knew if he could accomplish this feat that other missionaries could follow him having learned the language before arriving in Burma and minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ more effectively.

I walked with Judson in my spirit through this book but  I do not believe I would have been able to have made the same journey in the natural.  This man left home with a new bride, knowing that he would probably never see his family again with limited resources, no phones, no internet, very crude medical services.  He didn’t know the language and was a pilgrim and a stranger in a weary land.  He buried his children, buried his wife, suffered the loss of possessions, went without food and raiment, suffered fevers,  sicknesses, beatings and imprisonment, only to revive and lift up the Cross and continue on.   When we get to heaven he won’t be hard to find.  Just look for him among the group that have Faithful written on their crowns.

He worked with servants and potentates, soldiers and diplomats,  beggars and kings.  Through all he endured, somehow he managed to preserve his beloved dictionary that he worked on so tirelessly to complete.   I have never been so moved and blessed of reading anything about any man’s life, aside from the Bible.  This man’s life and journey has challenged me in my on life.  We are so tied to this world and this age, how we need to become strangers and pilgrims who look for a continuing city.

My heart was quickened and rejoiced a few days ago when I was looking for a Bible App on my Iphone and to my surprise one popped up on the screen, produced by the Myanmar Bible Society!  An app that could allow the Myanmar people to read the bible in the various dialects of their country.  Myanmar, for those who don’t know was formally known as Burma!  200 years after Adoniram Judson of Massachusetts stepped foot on the Golden shores of Burma to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Burmese people, the people he lived and died to reach, there is a Myanmar Bible Society distributing a Phone App that enables the Myanmar people to read the Bible in their own tongue and various dialects.  What a testimony to one man’s life and commitment to Christ!

Few people today know who Adoniram Judson was.  There are no admirers or pilgrims that pay homage to his grave for he was gravely ill when he last left Burma to seek relief in the fresh air of the ocean.  On April 12, 1850 he uttered the words “It is done! I am going”!  A few moments later he stepped onto his final “Golden Shore”.  There was no throng of people at his funeral, no songs, no sermon and there is no marker for his grave.  Adoniram Judson was unceremoniously committed to a watery grave in the Andaman Sea at Latitude 13° North and Longitude 93° East.  Many years had passed since he first asked himself the question “How shall I so order my future being as best to please God?” 200 years later I would like to dedicate this post to Adoniram Judson and say “Well Done Thou Good and Faithful Servant”!

That’s how I see it on this Pilgrimage to that Continuing City!

 

HE SAID “NOW, WE ARE GOING TO PRAY”!!!

Praying Hands2

Walking down the short hallway to the recovery room at MDAnderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, I could see my daughter, Kristie, very visibly shaken and crying beside our grandson, Korbin’s bed.  I don’t know if it would have been possible for her to be anymore distraught.  When we stepped into the room she  said “It’s his eyes!  They aren’t working right.  They dart back and forth when he tries to open them.”  I tried to reassure her that it would clear up when he came out of the heavy anesthesia they had administered to perform the surgery on his brain.  “No” she cried, “the Doctor said he didn’t know why they were doing that.  It could be permanent or it may clear up after awhile.”  She then called my grandson’s name loudly trying to wake him from the deep sleep they induced to perform the surgery.  “Korbin, Korbin, open your eyes!” His eyelids slowly raised a little but his pupils were sunk deep in their sockets.  Fifteen years earlier when he lay in an infant warmer, the day he was born, I had looked into those same eyes.  I don’t know what infants can see but those eyes locked on mine and I felt like they were downloading all of my DNA and inner being.  No one had ever made me feel like they knew my inner self until that day his eyes locked on mine and my life has never been the same since.

Our home church had been so kind to our family and had flown our Pastor and his wife, Pastor Kevin and Kendra Akins, to Houston, Texas to be with Korbin and our family during this surgery.  They were waiting with the rest of the family not a hundred feet away in the waiting room.  My mind began to race and I thought “We are not settling for this, I’m going to get Kevin and Kendra to come in and pray that God will give us a miracle.”  I remember taking a step back and then I heard my daughter call out loudly “WE NEED HELP IN HERE!”  I realized that Kristie’s husband David had grabbed me and was trying to hold me up.  It was a small recovery room but I estimate from the sound of the voices there must have been 15-20 people that rushed into the room.  My wife says she called my name and I turned to look at her.  My face was drawn to one side and she saw a look that was telling her “Goodbye”.  Instantly I broke out in a cold sweat.  They gently lowered me to the floor and the medical staff jerked off my wet, outer shirt and began taking vital signs.  They became very agitated being unable to find a pulse and one of the nurses with the defibalator had the paddles in hand and at ready.  Just before they administered a shock to my heart someone called out “I have a faint pulse!”  A gurney was rushed into the room and together they lifted me on it and rushed me down the hall. Hurrying along, they continued to monitor my situation and quickly rushed me into an elevator.  The doors shut but the workers never stopped. Checking and rechecking my vitals they started with their list of twenty questions.  “What is your name? Do you know where you are? Do you know what year this is? etc., etc.”  I became acutely aware my daughter had followed us into the elevator.  I tried to get her to go back to be with Korbin but she knew he was being tended to by the medical team in ICU and she was intent on staying with me.  A cloud of guilt and remorse settled over me like a heavy blanket, for all of the trouble I was creating for our family  in an already extremely difficult situation.

I was rushed to the bottom of MD Anderson hospital to the emergency room. Once the elevator doors opened they rushed me into a small room and closed the doors.  I never opened my eyes during all of this time.  The team of staff seemed to have swelled to 20 or 30 voices now.  My clothes were soaking wet and they stripped off my wet undershirt, still taking my vitals.  Everyone was talking at the same time and I was wondering “Who’s listening?”  The staccato of their voices all sounded like a flock of black birds.  All of a sudden they all stopped, turned and walked out of the room together.  Kendra had brought my wife down in a wheel chair and had pushed her up  beside the gurney, turned and walked out with all of the medical team.  This was one of those surreal moments when I seemed to be an observer instead of a participant.   I wasn’t worried about dying but as I lay there realizing they were all leaving at once, I thought how strange they would all stop what they were doing, leave without hooking me up to some monitor or leaving someone to monitor my condition?  One minute they are frantically trying to keep me alive and the next minute they all walk out of the room.  No monitor and no one left behind to watch me!

Once the doors closed the room changed from all of those voices talking at once to just deathly quiet.  I mean really, really quiet!   My wife was on my right and we clasped our right hands together and were both praying quietly.  I was praying for Korbin and her heart was broken but I knew she was praying.  On this eventful day, forty-nine years earlier we had our first date and have been walking lock-step on the same path ever since.  To her, it seemed our world was caving in.  A husband that appeared to be slipping out of this world in the ER and a grandson upstairs in ICU trying to  come back to us from brain surgery brought on by an inoperable brain tumor that had been causing complications in his brain.  How many ways can a heart be torn at once?

That very brief quiet moment was quickly interrupted.  What was this?  The door opened again and for the first time since they had laid me on the floor in Korbin’s room, I opened my eyes ever so little to see a tall, black man in blue scrubs come striding in.  I closed my eyes again.  He walked straight to my gurney, leaned over and placed his large black hands over ours and said,  “Now, we are going to pray!”  He didn’t ask if he might pray for us or even if we were  believers.  He just said “Now, we are going to pray!” Then he began to pray! He prayed  for me, for my wife, Jean, for our situation of why we were at MD Anderson…. and he prayed….. and how he prayed!  It was not a short prayer and this was not the first time this man had prayed.  You could tell from the flow of the words from his heart that praying was as natural with him as breathing.  There was no stammering or struggle to find words for his petitions.  They flowed as freely as the waters of an artisan spring.  I did not know this man but I  am confident that this man was well known around the throne of God.

Once he had finished praying he turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.  For a very brief moment the quiet started to settle over the room but only for a very brief moment.  The door swung open again and in came the 15-20 medical people all chattering and calling out orders at one time, just as if they had never left the room.  For a few minutes it was as if we were in the eye of the storm and God’s messenger stepped into our presence to minister to us and confirm that we were not alone!

There were medical personel that were concerned that I was dying just a few seconds before, but as one man they had turned and walked out of the room closing the door behind them.  From the time this messenger of God stepped into my room and until he left and shut the door behind him, that door never opened!  I don’t know where everyone went or what they were doing to have all left at once but no one touched that door handle or interrupted us while this brother was praying for me.

I later asked Kendra why everyone left and why she left the room.  She said “I don’t really know.  Everyone walked out at once and I walked out with them”.  I asked her if she saw this man come into the room.  She replied, “Yes, he walked into the your room with authority  and closed the door with authority.  I thought he was going to perform some type of exam”.   All the time I remained in this hospital we never saw this brother again.  Who he was and where he came from I will never know in this life time but I am confident of Who sent him.  Like the prophet Elijah, dwelling by the brook Cherith, in a weary land and in a desperate  time where God by His Grace,  commanded ravens to seek him out and minister bread and meat to him on a daily basis, God sent this dear brother to my bedside to pray for me.  How awesome to be so in tune with God’s voice and walk in His presence that one could be picked to minister to a brother or sister in Christ after this fashion.

Many have told me this was an angel and I do believe that we are sometimes visited by angels unawares but I am convinced that this was a beloved brother in Christ fulfilling the bidding of His Lord that day.  This brother’s prayers were filled with themes the angels can only “desire to look into”.   This brother had experiential knowledge in the ways and walk in Christ and was no stranger in Heaven’s courts.

I was later transferred to St. Luke’s hospital and through my time at both hospitals I had two EKG’s, two complete blood work-ups, an ultra-sound of my heart, a CAT scan, an MRI and an MRV, and saw eight Doctors.  The last Doctor reported that all my tests came back good, they could find nothing wrong with me and dismissed me with a  clean bill of health.

Later that day, after I had returned to my motel room and retrieved my iPhone, I went to the Facebook site “Pray for Korbin” that was set up by my daughter for Korbin’s encouragement and support.  I saw that within seconds of me collapsing in the hospital that she had posted my condition and that they were not able to find a pulse.  Within moments people were praying for me everywhere, friends, family and total strangers from all over the United States that were following Korbin’s journey.  Many of these I have been able to thank personally for their prayers and some I am thanking here and now.  I am so thankful for the family of God that knows distance and location are not barriers to our prayers.  To all of you that have prayed for me and my family I say,  “THANK YOU”.

We are still on this journey with Korbin and I ask your continued prayers for his recovery. The events as told above are one of those “God moments” that have doted my journey through this life.  When they happen, it is like I am an observer watching the wondrous workings of God’s hand!  These are awesome moments and very personal to me. I send this story forth today to reaffirm to you the reader, that if you are “in Him”, you can live today “Casting all your care on Him; for He cares for you”!  And if you are not “in Him” please seek His face to know Him and His Grace for “In Him we live, ….and move,….. and have our being”.

That’s how I see it on this Pilgrimage to that Continuing City!

He Said “Awesome, Just Awesome!”

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THOUGHTS ON MY BIRTHDAY!

Glad you stopped by this evening.  It’s always good to sit out here on this hill after a thunderstorm has passed by.   The air is crisp and clean and the grass always smells so good in the evening.  Have a seat here I’d like to tell you about some things the Lord has been teaching me.  His visits with me out here are so special and enlightening to me.   I have a story to tell you while we sit here and look at this great night sky.  Some day I hope to tell you about the five brothers and their sister that use to me come sit with me here but that’s a story for another time.

I was born on a Wednesday morning on September the 4th many, many, many years ago.  That morning in that little red brick hospital in Western Oklahoma there were three babies born all within a short time of each other.  Two were boys and the other a girl.  Over the years I have visited from time to time with the other boy and know of his faith in Christ as well as his ministry for the Lord.  I know the direction of my life and of his but have often wondered how the life of the young lady went.

I suppose having known the events of that day led me to contemplate them all in more detail while visiting this hilltop.  When I was thirteen I would sit on this hilltop and meditate about the awesomeness of life.   I knew that undoubtedly there were other babies born around the world on that same September day.  Some, I don’t doubt were born deep in the jungles of Africa.  I thought about our positions and places in life for all babies born on that September day.  Why was I born in the land of freedom with the liberty to attend a Christian church, attend Sunday School to hear the Bible stories taught there and most of all hear the Gospel of Christ preached?  I could count the number of bibles we had  in our home and I would think about how my brother and I would listen to the radio preachers on the radio late at night on the powerful Mexican radio stations along the Rio Grande River.  Why was I afforded all of these opportunities of Grace and others were not?

Then my thoughts would turn to those other kids that were possibly born on the same day yet in a different land and growing up with far less privileges in hearing the Gospel preached or even having access to any bible.  What was the difference. Why was I here on this hilltop with the knowledge of God in my heart and being a believer in Jesus the Christ as the Savior of this world and others had never heard His name? This was not easy for me to understand and I struggled to know some real answers to these issues.

One doesn’t live long in this world before they understand that there are real differences in people.  The way they look, think and act.  The color of their skin, whether they are rich or poor, lovely to look at  or lacking any attractiveness at all.  There is an element in my extended family that is very racist.  I never understood the racist attitude and could never figure out why they hated someone else because of the color of their skin.  Why was the soul looking out through the eyes of my physical body born in the particular race that I am?  I thought about why some are born into wealth and others are born into poverty.  Why are some born and grow to be very beautiful and others have nothing physically attractive about them?  Why are some born with deformatives and others appear to be the perfect specimen of health?  I wondered why some were smarter and their schooling came so easy to them and I had to work at my studies so hard?  When we would bring our school report cards home my little mother would say “I wish you were more like your brother and get better grades!”   I never understood why math and the sciences came so easy to him but trust me, I was with my mother on this one.  I wished it was easier for me too.

God would visit me as I would think on these things and helped me work through these issues in those early years.  One can take the position that this is all left up to fickle chance, the luck of the draw or that which they call fate.  As I studied the vastness of the heavens above I knew that He who created all things had not left them or us to our own devices.  The deists believe that God created this universe but then backed away and left it alone.  God visiting me on this hilltop made me to know His presence, that He was still here and His love was toward me.  In these night sessions He taught me that there wasn’t anything in me that caused me be to be born the with the color of my skin, the financial rank of my family or whether I was to be smart or good looking.  There was nothing in me that gave me bragging rights or complaining rights. I accepted His teaching and incorporated it into my life.

It was many years later that I heard the Apostle in teaching the great treatise on salvation, to the church in Rome, say “Nay but, O man who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing say to  him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?”   The Apostle Peter wrote of the complexity of Paul’s writings “in which are some things hard to be understood…” and his treatise on salvation in the book of Romans is by no means an exception.  It has been a battleground for theologians over the years. However it is very clear in this book that God is the potter over the clay to make these earthen vessels we inhabit and He is very clear that we are  in no position to rail on Him for His work.   God led me in these paths while I was very young and latter verified them by unfolding His written word teaching me that He is still here and working in our lives everyday.  Yes, even today.  Even the Apostle James verified this when he said “Go to now, ye that say To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”

Think about it the next time you are tempted to look down on others because of their looks, their financial level, their intellect or even their race.  Not only is it wrong but they that do so are guilty of mocking the handiwork of God.  I speak of the way God created us… not of men’s works as whether they are sinful or not.  What do you and I have that we brought into this world?  What shall we take with us when we leave?  One song writer wrote “The last suit you wear won’t need any pockets”.  That next breath we breathe is God given, the providence of your next meal is God given.  The steps you take this day are ordered of Him.  The Grace just to make it through this day is God given.   Today and everyday may we acknowledge Him in all of our lives and live life as pleasing to Him, being thankful to Him and offering unto Him the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, yes to Him who has called us into this Glorious Kingdom of Grace.  Looking  back let’s Thank Him!…Looking around let’s Praise Him!…Looking ahead let’s Trust Him!…Looking up let”s Expect Him!

That’s how I see it on this Pilgrimage to that Continuing City!

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