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Measuring My Days

January 2009
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“Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain;  meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure. “

                                                     G. K. Chesterton.

 “There is only one relationship that really matters, and that is your personal relationship to your personal Redeemer and Lord.  If you maintain that at all costs, letting everything else go, God will fulfill His purpose through your life.  One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.”         Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

 

          It is Christmas day in Kentucky where I have come to spend the holidays with the remnants of my family and my only surviving sibling and twin brother.  These are my “roots”, long ago planted here before I left this land of Blue Grass and the town that now boasts the title of Saddlebred Horse Capital of the World.  Back then a half century ago this place was the third largest burley tobacco market of the world.   

          In my quieter moments here, I have been pondering the rapidly closing hours of another year and anticipating all the changes in my life and world for the new year.  Seeking wisdom for living in and through the days ahead, I have been reading sermons with the wonders of the internet.  Among all the blessings that have been mine this year, I give thanks for the marvels of cyberspace, whatever evils lurk in this new world of having all the resources of all the libraries around the globe at my instant recall.  And I fervently pray for discernment in knowing what is true and false, good and evil.   Anticpating a day when I may not always be able to access this electronic world, I print to hard copy those nuggets of wisdom I find for living a more abundant life.  To that end, I found the story that accompanies this journal page in another sermon from Gilbert Bowen.  Perhaps it was serendipity that I should be reading here of another native born Kentuckian who sought wisdom for living in the pages of the Bible, one who came to live in my Blue Grass neighborhood and found fortune and fame in his final years.  Traveling the world, I found his famous picture and Kentucky Fried Chicken everywhere, even in third world places where his franchised name was bogus (and the recipe too!)  The stories about Colonel Harlan Sanders are legendary and not all of them are complimentary.  However, this story relates how he found inspiration to face the future in times like those many Americans face as this New Year begins.  This is the story of how he chose Life, the only true Life (with a capital “L”...and of how he made the Lord of Life also his Commanding General in Chief.

          Choosing Life

How do we learn abundant life? By choosing again this day to embrace who we are and where we are, the relationships and duties, the circumstances and tasks which are there for us, as God’s will for us insofar as we can tell, for now. But this is not stoic passivity. Jesus does not simply acquiesce in what comes His way. He meets what comes His way with faith and courage and thus transforms the duties and relationships that are there for Him. Choosing life means both acceptance of who and where we are and the course to seek to transform who and where we are.

(This is)….a true story about choosing life. The man was born in Kentucky. He was able to go only through seventh grade because, as he later said, he “couldn’t figure algebra.” During his succeeding years he was a streetcar conductor, a fireman on the railroad, an insurance agent, and finally a restaurant owner. It was called Sanders’ Cafe in Corbin, Kentucky. When he was over sixty he was offered $200,000 for his restaurant, but he turned it down because he loved the business and wasn’t ready to retire. A few years later at age sixty-five he had lost everything. The rerouting of an interstate had put him out of business.  All he had was a Social Security check each month. Many would have been crushed by this turn of events and would have hunkered down to ride out the rest of the years. But this man got to thinking about his mother who had been a widow for many years. She peeled tomatoes in a tomato factory and sewed for a living. He remembered the great fried chicken he had grown up with, and the impulse came, the push, what he would later call “his call.” He kissed his wife good-bye and set off in a battered old car, going out not knowing quite where he was going; with a pressure cooker and a can of specially prepared flour, set out to sell his idea.

It was tough going. A lot of self doubt. He often slept in his car because there was no money for hotel rooms. But he persisted. He called on restaurant after restaurant until finally he found a man in Salt Lake City who was willing to accept a franchise. In two years, he had sold two hundred franchises. In seven years, he had sold five hundred. So the business prospered. But he never seemed to care much about the money. He finally sold the business for two million and was hired back as a PR man, the picture of a gracious, loving, kindly gentleman of the old school, known to us as Colonel Sanders.

How do you explain such courage, such energy, such life? Well, on his 80th birthday, he spoke in Louisville, Kentucky and explained himself. He began with the comment that he had probably killed more chickens than anyone in American history. He told how they were killing chickens one day and came to an especially appealing chicken. The executioner said, “I like you, little chicken. Before you die, is there anything you would like to say?” And the little chicken said, “Yes, as a Christian chicken, I just want to say that I forgive Colonel Sanders.” Then he went on to say, “The secret of my life is that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. And because I try to follow him I have learned to think. I never had much education, but I once read in the Bible these words. ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’ And I pondered that. I figured that it meant to think without hate, without frustration, but with courage and hope, and so I have tried to live.” When he died at age ninety, newspapers all over the world carried the story. He was editorialized as an example to youth the world over. Choose life. Can we, against all the voices we hear around now that say that real life depends upon other people, upon my circumstance, upon my fortune good or bad, now even my genes? Francis Fukuyama, in a recent article entitled, “Is It All In The Genes?” argues that, until recently, we have been taught that we are victims of our environment, our parents, our poverty or wealth, but the new voices are now telling us that we are all victims of our genes, our genetic programming. “Just as people excuse themselves today by saying that ‘society made me do it,’ tomorrow they are likely to plead that ‘my genes made me do it,’ and to find support in the expert testimony of a host of biologists armed with charts and statistical regressions.”

So can I believe that I decide whether I will really live or not? This word of truth, this word of God says, “Yes, you can, you really can.” ….Jesus said, I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly. So today let us again this day choose life, His life, that today God may bless us and we, one another.  From a sermon by Gilbert W. Bowen, Kenilworth Union Church, Embracing Life 

                                The Gate of the Year

    I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
       
     And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than light and safer than known way!"

     So I went forth and finding the Hand of God trod gladly into the night. He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east.

     So heart be still! What need our human life to know if God hath comprehension?
       
    In all the dizzy strife of things both high and low, God hideth his intention."
             Minnie Louise Haskins

 

People in the West spend their time wondering if there is a God  while people in the East spend their time wondering which God to believe in.”          

                                             E. Stanley Jones