alas, life is now a living satire

Dennis: Come and see the violence inherent in the system.
Help! Help! I’m being repressed!
King Arthur: Bloody peasant!
Dennis: Oh, what a giveaway!
Did you hear that?
Did you hear that, eh?
That’s what I’m on about!
Did you see him repressing me?
You saw him, didn’t you?
(lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail)


(Monty Python and the Holy Grail / the killer rabbit scene)

Way back in 1975 I can remember going to the theater to see a rather bizarre movie.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

At the time I was not up on my British comedies and was unfamiliar with Monty Python
let alone their often avant garde and most irreverent humor

As a young girl, I was always more serious than silly so the often blatant silly
comedic humor was lost on me as I found it just too…well, silly.

Having a keen interest in history…
which first started out with a love of history of heritage…
of which took me back to roots found buried deep in the soil of the British
and Irish Isles, coupled with my often vivid imagination…
well, I could envision myself mucking about with a metal detector trying to locate Excalibur, believing Arthur to have been once a living breathing king, I would then
be claiming that mythical sword in the name of some long lost relative.

So when I first watched Monty Python’s take on Arthur and the quest of the Holy Grail..
well I wasn’t sure how I felt about it or what to make of it.

But one thing was certain, I did develop a life long enjoyment from watching
John Cleese in action.

Yet what brought Monty Python to the forefront of thought today was not some fun or
amusing sketch I glanced while perusing the web but rather it came from the latest blog offering by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

Perhaps an odd coupling….

His most recent posting is actually an article written for Premiere Christianity
and is written in response to an article about a troubling incident where a church school there in the UK has deemed a Christian organization of being, well, too Christian to be
permitted in a church school.

And so here is where we que the insulting French knight who sadly is not showing up.

As in here is where the overt satire of the likes of Monty Python deviates to reality…
A sort of surrealism that just happens to be real….
In such that one just can’t make this kind of stuff up….
as in it is just so over the top and so so sad and so so troubling and ridiculous
all rolled into one, that one is left standing mouth agape.

A Christian group has been banned from a Church school because a few parents have complained that Christian teaching is extremist. Premier Christianity asked me to write a response – you can get the original here – (some of the comments afterwards from people who profess to be Christian are quite chilling – not least the two professing Christians arguing that to ask for a Christian group to be able to speak at a Christian school is intolerant, discriminatory and against the teaching of Jesus!)

As a retired educator this story certainly had my attention.
Now whereas I spent my career in the often anemic sector of public education that
basks in its secularization and the separation of church and state–
so much so that there are districts who have told their educators that they may not
have a Bible in the classroom but an Islamic prayer rug is ok….
if that makes any sense….
so I understand the raised eyebrows over religious groups coming in
to address the students….
But when an actual church school claims a Christian organization is just too Christian..
well we’ve got bigger troubles then I ever imagined…

3) There is a patronising and dangerous ideology that is being used to teach our children.

Education used to be about teaching children how to think. Now it is about teaching them what to think. And nothing must be allowed to deviate from that. Instead of education our schools are being turned into centres of social engineering where the secular Brave New World is indoctrinated into our children. Our children are being taught that marriage has nothing to do with gender. And now they are being taught Queer theory; that gender either doesn’t exist, or has nothing to do with biology, or is ‘fluid’. Now there’s a really harmful and dangerous ideology!

And the good Pastor goes on to then offer the following points…
(you’ll have to click the link below in order to read the commentary for
each of the points)

4) Those of us who warned that the introduction of Same Sex Marriage would quickly move from being a permissive to being a prohibitive decree have been proven right.

5) The Church only has itself to blame –

Jesus wept.

Christ wept over Jerusalem.
We must weep at the insanity that is gripping the UK, *[and might I add the US]
of which this incident is only the tip of the iceberg.
Christ’s sternest warning was for those who would harm any of “these little ones”.
Maybe its time for the Church to reflect the priorities of the Christ who said
“let the little children come to me,
and do not forbid them”?
Maybe for the sake of the children we should come out of our own comfort
zones and challenge the new State-imposed fundamentalist doctrines that
cause so much harm. If we are to be accused of extremism,
then let’s make sure that it is the kind of extreme and courageous love
that Jesus showed.
Whatever the cost.

* my little input

So just when we thought the likes of Monty Python to be just a mere comedic group
of both stage and theater, we see that they are actually becoming quite real…
quite real indeed….

Now teaching Christian doctrine at a church school is ‘extremist’. Move over Monty Python.

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!…
You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful,
but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

Matt. 23:24, 27

all roads…do not lead to Heaven

I want to be a more serious-minded Christian, more detached from this world,
more ready for heaven than I have ever been in my whole life.
I want an ear that is sharp to know the voice of the enemy,
whether it comes from religion, politics, or philosophy…
I would rather stand and have everybody my enemy than to go along with the
crowd to destruction.
Do you feel that way?

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(massive trees fall across a dirt road / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2017)

About a month back, following Hurricane Irma, this is what my husband and I found
on a piece of property located in the western Georgia area.

It’s a piece of property he’s enjoyed and maintained for the past 30 years for hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.

Nearly 400 acres of woods and former pasture land with a criss crossing maze of
trails and dirt roads…
Irma saw to it that one of the main roads to the backside of the property should be
blocked by downed trees.

The trees fell across the road from the adjoining neighbor’s land.

Removing the massive oaks would require some major equipment of which we didn’t have,
so the only option was to cut a new road.

Where I saw an impossible passage, my husband saw a brand new opening…
but one that was not readily available.

A new passage that would require some time and hard work on our parts….
Not to mention destroying a large yellow jacket’s nest underneath a massive rock
as well as battling ticks, mosquitoes and watching carefully for snakes.

Yet it was all part and parcel of a massive undertaking if we wanted to
reach the other side.

It took the two of us the better part of the day to first clear a path using
clopping shears, and a chainsaw…
eventually allowing for the tractor and bush hog to make a clear path.

I was reminded of this recent road cutting adventure yesterday after reading
the words offered by a dear friend from Ireland…

A wise friend who admonished me…warning me to be wary of words now being offered
in the name of God…
As in not all words that are currently being claimed by some seemingly knowledgeable individuals are words, as given in scripture, being that of God’s…
Words that are not God’s word to man….but are rather words man is taking as God’s
and twisting them to his own.

He reminded me that the world has a new gospel…
and with its new gospel the world has decreed that any and all roads will lead
to Heaven..it matters not.

My friend noted that it would behoove me, as it would behoove all the faithful,
to see and to understand that the world is now claiming its gospel path as
the road of inclusion…which is a very dangerous gospel at that…”

He encouraged me to trust no one with God’s word.
For the amount of false teachers is growing at such a fast and alarming rate with
this current new notion of the gospel of inclusion…
such that scripture and prayer are to be our only true guide…

Because these false teachers are each readily claiming that any and all roads lead to God..which is a very dangerous gospel thought.

As I am reminded that Jesus, not man, clearly taught us to…
“Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:13-22

crying in need


(baby goat pic found on the web)

There I was on a hot Friday the 13th afternoon in October—
did I mention it was hot?

Mid October and there has yet to be any near sighting of the
long awaited and highly anticipated Fall…

Anywhooo back to our tale….

There I was just coming out of Lowes, one of our big home improvement centers, headed for my car when I first heard it…

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Was that a sheep?????

“Must be the heat” I mused as I continued on my journey to my car,
with air filters in tow….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the parking lot…listening.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Without skipping a beat, the baying sound filled the entire parking lot.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

A woman just getting out of her car stops dead in her own tracks right by me…
“What is that crying? she asks confused.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

We both are standing still as statues, listening….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

“I think it’s coming from over there” as I point toward a yellow pickup truck
several lanes over.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

More people stop…mostly women.
The same question…”what is that crying?”

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

Finally I discern that indeed it is the yellow pickup truck that happens to have
a large animal carrier in the back of the truck bed.
The truck is one of those that has a full back cover for the bed,
of which was propped up as the animal carrier was wedged between bed and
cover. I could make out something white moving a bit side to side in the carrier.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

“Is that a sheep?” another woman walking passed asks bewildered.

“That or a goat” I respond as we all now stare in the direction of the truck.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

By now I’m feeling a strong urge to follow the cry, but reason tells me
“take the air filters to the car and drive on home…”…
or maybe that was actually my husband’s admonishement from afar
telling me “do not stop, we do not need nor want a baby lamb or goat…GO HOME!!!”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Inside my car I can still hear the cries….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I roll down my window as I begin to pull out of the parking spot still feeling
a strong urge to go to this crying “baby.”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I notice several other shoppers, all women, making a bee line for the truck.

Inquisitive?

Absolutely…
but this draw was something much more than mere curiosity.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

This poor baby goat or lamb was in dire straights as it was wailing for “mother”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Finally pulling far enough away I no longer could hear the cries…
yet in my rear view mirror I could still see various women making their way over
to the truck…

Pondering as I drove….
was it the cries of a child, albeit animal, crying out in desperation that sent
out some sort of distress signal to the maternal instincts in the female
shoppers today??

The draw was strong to go attend to this crying baby…
I know because it was all I could do not to walk over to the truck myself.

And then the thought occurs to me—what of our own cries?…
those cries we utter and offer up to our unseen God and Father…Abba?

Those cries of anguish, despair, pain, desperation, sorrow…
Cries offered, or perhaps actually hurled outward and upward,
most often in distress or resignation…
cries of need and want…

And what of the One who hears those cries…is He not then drawn, even more powerfully
to our cries then we are to the cries of our own crying children….
So much so that He immediately runs to the sound each and every time!
As we rest assured, He runs…


(little lamb found on the web)

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

Psalm 18:6

Oh really?

“Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.”

A. W. Tozer


(The Stoning of St Stephen by Rembrandt who just happens to make a small cameo appearance in the scene…the awkward face peeking out from just under the raised arm
of the man with the large stone / 1625 / Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France

Day before yesterday I wrote a post featuring a story about the first Christian
martyr– Stephen.

I gave a bit of the back story behind what led to Stephen’s martyrdom.
We learned that Stephen would not back down from his conviction of belief even
when faced with his own imminent demise.
He wasn’t about to start back peddling when he knew what the Truth of life
and living actually was all about…despite facing a horrific death.

That truth which was the chief cornerstone to Stephen’s very existence, was a living
and breathing knowledge of God as Father and Christ as Son
and the Spirit as mediator.

Stephen did not waiver or waffle nor did he mince his words to the those in authority
as to what his life’s choice would be…and that was to stand as a man who believed
in Jesus Christ as both his Lord and Savior….there was no thought of cost or hurt feelings or loss…

And yet the cost for him was pretty tremendous as far as the world was concerned..
It cost Stephen his earthly life.

Not his friends, not his job, not his security, not his comfort, but his life.

Conviction….a fixed or firm belief..

Stephen had such conviction.

So yesterday I came across a story in the news about a college in the Oxford
University system there in England that banned a campus Christian organization
from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming freshman class.

Another rampant example of waffling and wavering.

I can remember when I was a college freshman.
I recall that near ecstatic level of excitement of all that was new.
New faces, new places, new friends, new opportunities…
With some of those opportunities being right up my alley and some of them not…

And isn’t that what something like this is all about…the choices offered to us?
We pick and choose…what looks appealing while discarding that which does not.

Life is like that sort of endless buffet of picking and choosing is it not?
Yet what happens when that buffet is gravely limited due to others deciding options
should not be made available.
It is then that the buffet becomes something very different from
a buffet—it becomes more of a pre fixed plate of flavorless offerings.

The opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth becomes near stagnant
when the powers that be decide the masses might just become too dangerous if they
are given too much choice.

When only the few decide for the many that the freedom of choice and the ability
of personal decision should be a limited offering, then there is no true human growth.

A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

Yet did they opt to ban the Jewish organizations, perhaps b’nai b’rith?
What of the Muslim organizations?
Perhaps any sort of pagan organization?
What of the Buddhists?
What of any political organizations?

Here is the reasoning….if one can call such reasoning rational thought….

The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an
event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls
the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,”
The Times of London reported.

Potts added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has
been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice,
and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At last check, there is a massive difference between something perceived as a
phobia, or irrational fear, verses simply following the tenants of one’s faith.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians,” Potts said, according to The Telegraph.

Ahh, so the issue here is now of overcompensation…
the act of apologizing, once again, on behalf of a past time period…
an act that is neither productive or even necessary as we are not them and they
were not us…as in days gone by….

A time period that is far removed from modern times—

So are those mutton chop young men of all things British Academia,
say the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reign of monarchs who were setting
sail in exporation in the name of the Crown, are those such young men still haunting the halls of places such as Oxford or Cambridge….I think not.

And last I checked, if I wanted to attend school in say Beijing or Riyadh,
I think I would be hard pressed in either city on finding an openly Christian place to
worship…and I would certainly not be surprised at such as neither of these cities
have a deep Christian heritage as say England—- quiet the contrary in fact.

So is this particular school spokesperson suggesting that a predominately historical Christian country, such as England, should now do away with its own heritage in order to bend over backwards…
doing away with Christian houses of worship in order to construct more mosques as a
form of overt appeasement or as some sort of welcome mat?

“A spokesperson with the Church of England told The Times that the ban was not
in line with “freedom of religion and belief,” and “is at odds with the kind of society
we are all seeking to promote.”

Finally is there actually a bit of clarity coming from the Church of England…
really???

“Leaders of the Balliol student body reportedly condemned the ban, and passed a motion calling the ban a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom,” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Maybe there does remain a few brave souls not afraid and who will not backdown or recant
the Word of God when push comes to shove….

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/11/christian-group-at-oxford-university-banned-from-fair-out-fear-it-would-alienate-students.html

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

quiet and still—allowing God to dwell within

The first stage of this tranquility consists in silencing the lips when
the heart is excited.
The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited.
The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.”

St. John Climacus


(the beauty of the tiny shelf fungus scattered amongst the debris deep in the woods /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Yesterday I read the following words on an Orthodox blogging site and found them to be
both comforting and soothing…
while I also desperately recognized the need to seek that same sense
of hesychia
the seeking of an inner quiet and stillness…
both of which are of the utmost importance–

This as our times are crying so utterly loudly…screaming at us in such a way that
we are actually failing in our attempts at seeking a quiet inner stillness–
We are so full from the madness of our times, so much so, that the place that God
seeks to dwell within our very being is already so terribly full…

Hesychia, stillness [quietude], is essential for man’s purification and perfection,
which means his salvation.
St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically:
“One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous
a little away from those wandering in error”.
Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains
communion and union with God.
This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God,
also constitutes man’s salvation.

Hesychia is nothing other than “keeping one’s heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities”.
When a person frees his heart [nous] from thoughts and passions,
when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly
[corruptible / decaying / perishable] things and towards God,
then he is experiencing Orthodox hesychia.
St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is
“the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable nous”.
Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is “dwelling in God”.

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.

lambs to rams

“There’s nothing so fearsome as the revolt of a sheep,”
said de Marsay.”

Honoré de Balzac


(Sheep along the cliffs of Slieve League, Co. Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have a very wise blogging friend.

Well actually, I have many wise blogging friends….
all of whom I have been fortunate enough to sit at their knees while learning
a thing or two.
For you see, I don’t think we’re ever too old or too knowledgable to learn.

One friend in particular is what I like to call a ‘kindly sort of warrior.’

Not warrior like some sort of Viking princess or radical progressive feminist—
quite the contrary.

She is older than I am, so she’s been around the block a couple of more times
than I have.
She also knows her stuff when it comes to both life and faith.

When you look at her, you get that sweet dear old aunt or grandmother vibe….
the one who always has the plate of fresh cookies waiting on you when you come visit.

Her point of origin however denotes a southern mid-west no nonsense sort of lens.
She therefore shoots straight from the hip and makes no apologies….

The other day after one of the most recent current event brouhahas, which was running
amuck across the nation, blew up in the media…this kindly wise soul actually bristled some feathers.
And naturally…. I liked it…. and told her as much.

Her response—“lamb to ram.”

Meaning that sometimes the sweet little lambs of the fold have been known to step up,
speak up, speak out—all the while they let it be known that whereas the lambs may
be known for their peaceful love…they are certainly no pushovers.
They will defend and even fight for what is right when it is necessary….
as in a Godly sort of righteousness.

Think Joan of Arc—as in a holy warrior.

And that’s the thing.

I often think those of the world view much of fold of Christianity as being pushovers, mambie pambie do gooders who are naive and often times ignorant souls who, bless their hearts, believe in make-believe and fairy tales.

As in who can or would take them seriously…??!!

They are to be the doormats of progressive liberals, the media, atheists and yes,
even radical Muslims…
As in annihilate the Christians because they are the annoying little flies in the room,
the troublemakers caught in a tragic time warp whose past is all but checkered.

But in actuality what I see is that Christianity represents the conscience
of man.
For Christians know all about sin, its destructiveness, its lies,
its corruption, its snare and its trap.

Christians are those who can actually see and know Truth, while living all around them
is a raging lie.
And no one likes being told their living or lives boil down to that of a lie…
hence part and parcel for all that animosity.

Yet Christians are no more exempt from sin, temptation, egregious acts than the next
person…it’s just that Christians recognize the source of the misery… they call it
by name, admit the errors… be they small or egregiously grand, seek the forgiveness
and the righteous salvation freely offered by the Resurrected Son and then in turn
share that blessed knowledge.

It’s that whole go and sin no more notion.

And yet, often times, they, we, do sin again.

And that’s when the naysayers jump.

But here’s another thing.

Christians continually seek the saving Grace of Jesus Christ…
as they are the penultimate sacrificial lambs to the ultimate Lamb…
that having been Jesus Christ.

We seek Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness…and the rub…?
The fold is then instructed to go out and do the same to and for those still
caught in the lies of the cultural wars.

Yet the culture war gods would prefer the Christians keep silent or better yet,
be silenced.

Because the collective fold consciously reminds these culture gods as to why
their push for the latest and greatest dehumanizing choices are wrong.

Why homosexuality is wrong.
Why gay marriage is wrong.
Why radical feminism is wrong.
Why abortion is wrong.
Why addiction is wrong.
Why sin is wrong.
Why secularism is wrong.
Why humanism is wrong.

They speak to what is dangerous and to why that is so.

Progressivism, liberalism, communism, secularism, totalitarianism, hedonism, socialism
materialism, idolatry, sorcery….as each one falls under the rule of the Law…..
as the lambs of the fold remind the nations as to why there are the laws of Commandments and to the consequence of not following God’s word…

So yeah, sometimes the lamb has to be a ram…


(a sheep somewhere along the road in Co Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise
its authority for forty-two months.
It opened its mouth to blaspheme God,
and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.
And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—-
all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life,
the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

Revelation 13:5-8

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7