Saturday, March 31, 2012

REVIEWING THE SPUR WINNERS #1: Some Short Story Winners

Albie's Note:  Today I will begin yet another series where  I will take brief looks at stories, novels and non-fiction works that have been awarded the SPUR AWARD by The Western Writers Of America

I have collected together-- from my all-too-vast paperback library of western fiction-- several past winners of that prestigious honor and will review them as I read them.  Most are novels and book length long non-fiction.

Today, however, I will start with some short stories that I have already read. This area is dear to my heart, anyway.  It is my long-held opinion that the "genre western" was actually never better than it was when rendered by a true master in the short story form.  I further believe the 2 great past masters of the western short story were Ernest Haycox [who died before the award was started] and Dorothy M. Johnson [who won once, in 1956.] 

Here are five past winners, though, that truly deserve to be hunted down:

1.  "Log Studio of C.M. Russell" [1964 winner] by Lola Shelton
This one was kind of a "docudrama," giving a poetic glimpse of legendary western painter Charles M. Russell's marriage through the story of the building and maintaining of his famous log studio in Montana.  A very charming tale that would have made a great episode of one of those old western anthology shows like Death Valley Days or Zane Grey Theatre.  I really liked it.

2.  "Westward-- to Blood and Glory" [1969 winner] by Cliff Farrell
Oddly, this one won the Spur in 1969 but was originally published in a pulp magazine back in 1937!  In '69 it was re-printed in a WWA anthology and proved so popular the voters just gave it that year's award.

This one is a true classic,  containing all the elements of the best frontier fiction. From the very beginning, where a midwestern river town chooses to turn away a ship of travelers suffering from cholera, to the exhilirating climax on the Gold Fields of California, this story really delivers. It is the story of Zeke Rust, a very well-drawn frontier Tarzan-like character (a savage amidst civilization) who is drafted from the local jail to serve on the doomed ship and who eventually becomes leader of the ship's passengers and ultimately helps the few survivors on their way West to new lives. It doesn't sound like much from that synopsis, but it was a rousing tale, exciting and wonderfully atmospheric.

This one has been collected many times but is probably most easily found in a recent Farrell anthology called WHITE FEATHER, under its original title "The Brave March Westward."

3.    "Gun Job" [1953 winner] by Thomas Thompson
This "high noon-ish" story of Marshall Jeff Anderson trying his best to retire won the very first Spur award for short fiction.  It is so simply told that it takes you by surprise, and it has a great moral about what makes life worth living in the long run.  I don't know if this one was ever filmed but it should have been.  Another dead-on classic.

[For the record, I like "Gun Job" way better than either HIGH NOON  or its original story "Tin Star" by John Cunningham.  But then again, I actually hate HIGH NOON.  I should blog about that someday :) ]

4.   "The Guns of William Longley" [1967 winner] by  Donald Hamilton
I first read this one many years ago in an old Fawcett Anthology [also edited by Hamilton] called IRON MEN AND SILVER STARS.   Reading it makes you wish ol' Don had turned to westerns much more often than he did [although he left five really fine frontier novels among all the pulp mysteries and spy sagas.]

A witty story that leans toward the tall-tale quite often [just how I like 'em best!], "Guns" is really an interesting examination of the power of myth [a theme central to the endurance of the entire genre] as the titular firearms are key to the perceived power of the protagonist.  Reading this one more than once yielded great reward, which is one definite mark of really fine fiction. 

5.   "Lost Sister" [1956 winner] by Dorothy M. Johnson
I can't believe DMJ [possibly the greatest hand ever at western short fiction] never won for "A Man Called Horse,"  "The Hanging Tree," or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," but she certainly deserved her award here, anyway.

Picking up her favorite theme-- whites living among the Indians-- Johnson here takes on the perspective of a pioneer family being reunited with a sister re-captured from 30 years of Indian Captivity. Nowhere has the clash of cultures been better shown than in this poignant story of the painful attempt by a white family to re-integrate a sister who had gone completely native over the passage of time, and whose highest desire was to return to the life and place she had come to know as "home." 

[Warning:  If you're sensitive, as I tend to be, the ending WILL make you cry. ]


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

COOL STUFF FROM LIBRARY BOOKS #16: "Delivered From A Frontier Snowstorm"

Late in the fall of 1842, Marcus Whitman, missionary to the Indians who lived in the great Northwest, decided it was necessary to make a hurried trip to Washington. He felt that Congress should be urged to take immediate action to make the Oregon country American territory.

Now Marcus Whitman knew the dangers of winter travel across the Northwest mountains. Friends tried to dissuade him from making the trip at that time, saying that it could be better made in the spring. But Marcus, a man hesitant to delay when his mind was made up on a course of  action, would not be dissuaded from the proposed journey. Shortly he set out, despite the fact that already snow was twenty feet deep in some of the mountain passes. For the first eleven days progress was difficult. Still he managed in that time to reach Fort Hall. Here again friends said that the trip was foolhardy. But Whitman, his face set like a flint eastward, would have none of their delay. They said the snows were deep, the streams in the lower lands would be raging torrents. When asked how he hoped to survive these dangers, he said, "I feel that my duty calls and I must go."

A short distance south of Fort Hall, he encountered a very severe snowstorm. Progress was slow due to the heavy drifts. Passing out of this storm, he encountered a second, more severe than the previous. Travel was now impossible, and Marcus with his friends found shelter in a deep ravine. Here they stayed for ten days, during which time the storm increased the crescendo of its fury. 

Whitman decided in spite of the raging elements that he must travel onward. So with his company he left the shelter and wandered for several hours. At length the guide decided that they were lost and it would be best for them to return to the ravine. But when they tried to retrace their tracks, they found these had been drifted over and, instead of having a marked trail back to the shelter, they faced an expanse of trackless snow. 

Whitman's prayers having been answered before by seeming miracles, he knelt down in the  snow and asked God for guidance. He pleaded the promises of Christ, and in a simple petition he asked the Heavenly Father to protect them.

Arising from his knees, he turned to the guide and made some casual remark, and the  guide's eyes were attracted to the lead mule. After some time the mule turned his long ears in  various directions and then started to plunge through the heavy drifts.

"Follow the mule; he will get us through," shouted the guide. Sure enough, in two hours by  following that obstreperous, long-eared mule they arrived at the camp in the ravine. Here they  were able to outlive the storm, and when it had abated they traveled on. Whitman finally arrived in  Washington, D.C. Thus the prayers of this man of God were answered and they were delivered out of a snowstorm.

From ANSWERED PRAYER IN MISSIONARY SERVICE by Basil William MillerBeacon Hill Press Kansas City, Missouri, First Printing, April 1951

Monday, March 26, 2012

HYMN TIME #4 "Did Christ O'Er Sinners Weep?"

"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, 
and wept over it..." -- LUKE 19:41

This one was written by London Baptist preacher Benjamin Beddome [1717-1795] and first published in the Hymnal A Se­lect­ion of Hymns from the Best Au­thors,  compiled by John Rip­pon, way back in 1787!

I don't know much about Beddome but I am amazed by this beautiful look at the great compassion of Christ. Click on the video file below to hear Doc Watson's moving interpretation from his classic Gospel album ON PRAYING GROUND:

Here are the beautiful verses.  Hope it blesses ya like it did me! :)

Did Christ o’er sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief
Spring forth from every eye.

The Son of God in tears
The blessed angels see:
Those tears were shed for everyone;
They were shed for even me.

He wept that we might weep;
Each sin demands a tear;
In heaven alone no sin is found,
And there’s no weeping there.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


ALBIE'S NOTE:  Today I begin a series of blogs featuring memorable quotes from sermons I have heard, either in person or [perhaps more often] on tape. I begin this series with a favorite oddball quote taken from a sermon called "Wisdom From The King" by someone named Levert Noble.  I have no actual idea who Mr. Noble is or was [the tape was given to me in a bag full of cassette sermons several years back] but judging from internal evidence I assume he was a traveling Baptist preacher who preached this sermon at a church in Idaho some time in the late 1990s. 

I like the following quote for it's highly unusual interpretation of a certain O.T. Proverb.  Here is a transcription:

"For example, you men.  Has a contentious wife ever asked you to sleep on the couch 'cuz she's mad at you?  Come on, be honest. [laughter]

"You know what I think you oughtta do? I think you oughtta just take a blanket and go camp out on that couch!  I mean the Bible says right here 'It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.' [quoting Proverbs 21:9]  Listen, if the corner of the housetop is too uncomfortable, I figure that couch is a good substitute! [laughter]

"Hey, I say make the best of it!  Tell her you love her-- 'cuz you want not to have the sun go down on your wrath-- Amen?-- and just go sleep like a baby on that couch.  I mean guys don't mind that, anyway.  It's like camping indoors! [laughter]  Just sleep it out and face the new day when you get up."

Interesting exegesis, eh? :)


Sunday, March 18, 2012


We all know about "The William Tell Overture", but the Lone Ranger also has an actual theme song, complete with lyrics. It's called "Hi-Yo Silver", and was written by Lenny Adelson and Les Baxter.

The song tells the origin story of the Lone Ranger.  It was first used as the opening sequence in the pretty dang decent 1957 movie THE LONE RANGER AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD and was later used to introduce a syndicated package of LONE RANGER TV color Re-runs sent to stations in the mid to late 1970s.  That's where a young Albie saw the following clip every Sunday night and learned the lyrics by heart back around 1975-78. Each package of shows would begin with the following exact clip from the 1957 movie:

And of course, here are the sainted lyrics to this incredible theme:

Six Texas Rangers (Hi-yo, hi-yo) rode in the sun (Hi-yo, hi-yo);
Six men of justice rode into an ambush, and all were killed but one.
One lone survivor (Hi-yo, hi-yo) lay on the trail (Hi-yo, hi-yo);
Found there by Tonto, the brave Indian Tonto, he lived to tell the tale.

(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away!)

His wounds quickly mended (Hi-yo, hi-yo) and there in the night (Hi-yo, hi-yo),
Six graves were put there to hide from the outlaws that one man lived to fight.
He chose silver bullets (Hi-yo, hi-yo) the sign of his name (Hi-yo, hi-yo); A mask to disguise him, a great silver stallion, and thus began his fame.

(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! THE LONE RANGER IS HIS NAME!) 


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Salute to PATRICK Of Ireland!

Well, he wasn't  Irish, and he wasn't Catholic, either.

St. Patrick was likely born in what is now Scotland. His father was a Roman centurion and also a deacon in a local New Testament [read that as "proto-protestant"] church.

He was actually captured and taken to Ireland as a slave, but he later escaped. After his conversion to Christ, he studied on the mainland in Gaul, and then returned to minister to the heathen tribes in Ireland as an early-- and extremely effective-- foreign missionary.      

He started scores of churches and baptized-- yup, immersed-- thousands of converts. He is said to have been largely responsible for the large number of Bible-believing Christians that still inhabit Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England to this very day.

Patrick, his father, and also his grandfather, were proud of the fact that they were never controlled by the centralized Roman Church, and that they were responsible only to God.

This man called Patrick [His real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat-- he probably took on the name "Patricius"-- meaning "nobleman" or "patrician"-- after his conversion to Christianity] was later canonized by the same Roman Catholic Church in a clever political move to control the Irish churches.

However, he certainly was a "Saint," as ALL blood bought believers are. [I Cor. 1:2, Phil. 4:21, etc.]

SO... Here's to Patrick Of Ireland, a man eminently worth remembering.

He is not Catholic or Protestant, really-- he belongs to all who name the name of Christ!


Thursday, March 15, 2012


 GERONIMO, aka "Goyaałé"

"If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they."  --Ecclesiastes 5:8

I have been fascinated by the great Apache warrior Geronimo ever since childhood.  First there was the old movie with Chuck Connors gloriously miscast as the Scourge of the Cavalry.  Say what ya want about that old 1962 flick and its historical inaccuracies, it did a good job presenting the Mescalero Apache as a displaced human being with a specific code and way of life.  Chuck might have been 6'5" with red make-up and eyes as blue as robin's eggs [reportedly it was decided his natural eye color would gain more sympathy from the viewers] but he did as good a job as possible conveying strength and courage to later TV boy viewers like myself. 
 Also there was the great book THE STORY OF GERONIMO by my fave author at the time Jim Kjelgaard, Still recommendable as a good introduction to the life and exploits of a great American [Native, that is.]
Goyaałé can definitely be considered an Arizonan, having spent the vast majority of his life within, at least, our territorial boundaries [which, of course, included modern New Mexico], but he makes my list because, frankly,  I have nothing but sheer admiration for him as a man.  

Looking for great Rogue Males to esteem?  How about a guy who-- as essentially public enemy #1 of his time--  led the Federal government on a merry chase til the very  late Indian War year of 1886... and then went on to live healthily into his 80th year... when his life was finally ended by a throw from a horse! [who rides a horse at 79??

Then, to top it off, his name is now what we all say when summoning the courage to jump from an airplane or commit some other comparable act of fool-hardy insanity.

So... Geronimo was clearly no ordinary dude!  

They say he converted to Christianity at the end, having died as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and I am glad of it.  He is quoted as once saying, "I have advised all of my people who are not Christians, to study that religion, because it seems to me the best religion in enabling one to live right."

Anyone who loves western history should read his dictated autobiography GERONIMO,  HIS OWN STORY compiled by Stephen Melvil Barrett back at the turn of the last century.  Some say liberties were taken with the great Apache's oral history, but I think it rings pretty true.  [Be prepared, though, as you read, for a lot of bitterness against Mexicans, as Geronimo never seems to have quite forgiven them for the slaughter of his family and other tribesmen.]
Not far from where I live, in Texas Canyon, the awesome Amerind Foundation has a bow with the great man's signature, signed probably at the World's Fair in 1905.  The tour guide there will tell you that it is likely one of hundreds of bows signed by Geronimo at the fair...  the irony of which, she will then add wryly, is that the historical Geronimo, while he hated the bow and arrow, was "a great fancier of all kinds of Firearms!


Rock On, Geronimo!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
 -- Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:39 

It is sometimes astonishing how many people either bypass these words from Jesus' Sermon On The Mount, or just try to explain them away entirely.

Now, I understand the problem in its essence, of course... these words from the very mouth of Our Lord seem to imply that we are to allow people to just beat the tar out of us and not resist physical violence and injury. So, when confronted by such a radical teaching, we defensively jump into an "interpretive" mode of Bible study where we try to find  "a sense of what Jesus really means" instead of taking it as a literal command. This is a subtle temptation, I think, and it is amazing how easily we can deceive ourselves in one of two directions: Either 1. We will explain the statement completely away; or 2. We will convince ourselves that it means something hyperbolic or figurative... and is thus impossible to  truly obey.

Personally, I simply have to reject both paths.

First, I am not a very smart man, but in my own life I can tell of you of a certainty that I have learned [often the hard way] that  it always safest to take Jesus at His plain word.

Second, I do not believe God has ever given us commands that are impossible to obey. He certainly gives us ones that are difficult... ones that challenge all the faith we possess...  but never ones that are impossible.

In order to ever understand what God wants of us, it is important to catch certain key details when we study His written Word. Anytime the Bible gives a particularly vivid or striking detail we need to pay that much more attention.

The imagery here is nothing if not striking [pardon the pun.]  Think if you will of the visual picture. Jesus said, if someone “smites you on the right cheek” then you are to turn your face to him in such a way as to present your left cheek. The implication being that he may... is even welcome to... hit you again!

Now, what is the significance of the “right” cheek? Why not the left cheek? I heard it explained this way once:

Picture someone getting hit on the right cheek. What is the most likely way for that to happen? Since most people are right handed and would hit someone with their right hand, then the only way for them to hit someone on the right cheek is to do it as a backhanded slap. [I don't think this interpretation is "over thinking" it either, by the way. I think Jesus' original hearers may have even pictured it this way immediately, as they were an oppressed people who actually lived with Roman "police state" violence as a common reality.]

What Jesus was addressing here is therefore not just mindlessly letting someone pummel you into a pile of broken bones.  I rather truly believe He may have been broadly addressing the taking of an insult... which could be verbal OR physical.

A backhanded slap is an insult, either literally or figuratively. It is, in its deepest essence, a challenge to retaliate... a mean-spirited attempt to shame you and get you to either back down in utter humiliation or lash out and escalate the conflict.

To turn the other cheek is a bold statement!  It neither humiliates one's self nor retaliates against the aggressor. It is a response of of strength [and faith!]that says, “I will not seek revenge because I trust a friend who is infinitely stronger than us both!”   It allows us a response that carries NO SHAME  because we are resting in the very dignity in Christ. Think of it this way.  There is not only no dignity in fighting back and hurting the other person, but that course has effective denied Christ Himself a chance to work in and through us!

If our own, personal dignity is found in Christ, we will be empowered to respond in just the way He would respond.

[DISCLAIMER: Since at this point someone will probably bring up the topic of domestic abuse I should probably say that if you are being beaten physically there is, of course, nothing wrong with seeking help or defending yourself... I might here quote a preacher I heard once years ago who said that while Jesus may have implored us to turn the other cheek, God created us with only 2 cheeks! The implication of this was that God may desire you to seek non-violence but wouldn't want you to allow yourself to be conquered endlessly.  I like that, actually-- it seems like a valid point... but honestly?  Even standing up to an abuser can be most effective when done non-violently and in a Christ-like spirit.  Before you hate me on this one, let me just say I actually knew a woman who had an amazing testimony of using the authorities and still not "fighting back" in a very violent and dysfunctional situation.  That abuser came to a glorious repentance.  Say what you will, but amazing things can happen when we simply obey Jesus as well as we can.]

In actual social practice, though, there really are very few times in our lives [at least here in America] when another person would actually give us a backhanded slap. I know it happens, but honestly, I think we can all agree it is rare in our daily social existence. But oh, Brother...  there are times-- and then more times-- when they might give us a verbal one, or show great disrespect for us in one way or another. Interestingly, I think it is precisely those verbal, non-physical things that get people most worked up and excited anyway! Think of how often you see people arguing and fighting and literally screaming because someone “disrespected” them.

Well, at the heart of it, what they are looking for is dignity.

They want an acknowledgement that they are a person of substance and importance.

If someone does not give them that respect then they feel somehow violated. The means to get that respect and dignity is to exert power over the other person and show that you are stronger, better, more significant than they are. So instead of turning the other cheek, you strike back, preferably with even more cutting force. Well, frankly... if that is what you need to do to get respect and dignity then you will never have it, regardless of whatever satisfaction is gained by your bold reaction in the flesh.

The dignity possessed by every saved, blood-bought child of God comes from our knowledge we were made in His image, with the purpose of glorifying Him with our lives. Our significance comes because we are called by Jesus to be "world changers."  Our power and strength comes because we are filled with His Holy Spirit who gives us an ability to receive the insults of others and respond as Christ responded to those who hurled insults at Him... and eventually killed Him brutally.
Jackie Robinson is one of my heroes. Not because he was a great athlete, or even one who affected change.  It is more because he accepted the challenge [famously presented by Brooklyn Dodgers executive and devout Christian Branch Rickey] to deliberately face insult after insult without retaliation.  Robinson, also a devout Christian, did this valiantly-- for years on end- and changed not only baseball, but really all of American popular culture. 

One writer said: "Some men entertain crowds. Some men are changed by the crowd. Jackie changed the crowd!" AMEN!

Those insults were intended to humiliate and incite an even more violent response. The hope was that such a response would then justify the impression of the black man as out of control and uncivilized. But when the response was a quiet dignity that came from within...  it changed things, brother. Reconciliation began to move on the landscape!

It is no different for any other Christian.

When we respond to insults and abuse with a like kind of vindictiveness, we simply affirm to this old, nasty world that Christianity is a sham and a joke. But when we respond in quiet humility and dignity, drawing on the power of Christ Jesus Himself, we just might provoke a response of respect and wonder and even compel people to want to learn more about Our Lord.  will it always work that way? Probably not... but isn't it interesting that Jesus doesn't promise success every time? And really... aren't most of God's commands like that? 

HMMMM.... Maybe we're suppose'ta just do it and let God plant the seed of it where and when he chooses to!

In short.... turning the other cheek is NOT impossible.  Not at all.  I think we actually know that, deep down.

But, of course, it IS difficult.  I, for one, find it VERY, in fact endlessly, challenging.  [This explains how often I fail to do it. :( ]

But I know one thing, Brothers and Sisters. No matter what... when we DO actually respond with the gentle dignity of Jesus, we will certainly bring Glory to HIM.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

QUOTES From VANCE HAVNER, American Preacher...

From Dr. Vance Havner

Albie's note: Vance Havner [1901-1986] was an amazing Baptist preacher and author.  This North Carolinean started preaching at 14, and didn't stop 'til he went to glory! That alone is a great legacy, but "Uncle Vance" also preached some of the greatest messages I have ever heard and read.

He was the most homespun of country preachers, possessing a southern charm that always belied his great intellect and persuasive power. A preacher friend of mine has said it well: "Old Vance was half Charles Spurgeon and half Billy Sunday with the voice of Will Rogers." I wish I coulda met him!

When you cannot trace God’s hand you can trust his heart.

If I could strike one note on the piano it would be "Be Natural."

A country boy can learn city ways, but the city boy cannot learn country ways.

God does not always send his prophets through the convention assembly line lest they come out wearing a stamp that does not become them.

I find myself wondering how John the Baptist would have addressed the Rotary Club in Bethel or how John the Baptist would behave before a Monday Minister’s meeting.

Today's church life runs from rigor mortis to St.Vitus.

You can be so wary of getting out on a limb that you never go up the tree.

Opportunity brings opposition.

Casual Christians know nothing of spiritual warfare.

The average church member doesn’t even give the devil enough trouble to get his attention!

Just because we cannot see the clouds on a sunny day doesn’t mean they are NOT there.

His will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us.

Time is the one thing it does take to be holy. When we’re too busy for that we’re just too busy.

We spend many an hour just talking when we should have been plowing.

If we could answer all the "whys" we would not need faith.

Only God could meet the demands of God’s righteousness and only a man could identify with sinful humanity. As "God-man," Jesus Christ did both.

Something was finished at Calvary, but some three days later something else was begun.

Nothing else can be as good as the blessing God has for you.

My father said "dirt, debt, and the devil" were related so I decided to keep away from all three as far as possible.

The vaults of heaven are moth-proof, rust-proof, and thief-proof.

The word "Christian" ends with "IAN" and that stands for "I Am Nothing." We are zeroes until we relate to him.

Zeroes are useless unless they follow a numeral. Beside Jesus Christ we take on value, but He does not come next.

The mighty angel broke the seal, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it as if to say, "NOW look who’s in charge around here."

Unless there is a spiritual revival, we might as well try to hold back Niagara Falls with toothpicks.

The real problem is sin and science has no answer for sin.

The Spirit has not come to supercede Jesus, but to testify of Him and make Him more real.

Jesus came not to brush away the cobwebs, but to kill the spider.

A Christian is not a citizen of earth trying to get to heaven, but a citizen of heaven making his way through this world.

If you growl all day you will end up "dog tired" at night.

Fix your eyes on the glory to come and then what looks dark in the distance will brighten as you draw near.

The road from groans to glory is by grace, and there will always be enough of that to do all that God wants you to do, as long as God wants you to do it.

A man is not the sum total of what he thinks in his head and does with his hands, but what he is in his heart.

Christians are not just nice people, they are new creatures.

All things are His and all things are ours, except ourselves.

What we call fellowship sometimes-- when we gossip over our coffee at a church supper-- is often just sociability under religious auspices and not the communion of saints.

An attitude of worship can cut down an avalanche of words.

Our happy "whiles" here are but a foretaste of "forevers" to come.

It has not dawned upon most of us that we do not need some new thing so much as some old things that would be new if anybody tried them.

Heaven is not an endless vacation where we sit on clouds wearing haloes and plucking harps forever. Nothing could be more exhausting than eternally doing nothing.

Anybody can be faithful, but many are not.

The greatest ability is depend-ability.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

POETRY BREAK #7: "Taxi Suite" by Lew Welch

ALBIE'S NOTE: Today's Poetry break is from Beat poet and Arizona Native Lew Welch.  He once performed this poem live to a group of fellow Taxi drivers in a bar in Chicago.  When he was done they one of them told him: "I don't know if it's poetry or not, Lew, but it's definitely true to my life."  Here is a great poem any way you look at it:

Taxi Suite
(excerpt: 1. After Anacreon)

When I drive cab
I am moved by strange whistles and wear a hat

When I drive cab
I am the hunter. My prey leaps out from where it
hid, beguiling me with gestures

When I drive cab
all may command me, yet I am in command of all who do

When I drive cab
I am guided by voices descending from the naked air

When I drive cab
A revelation of movement comes to me. They wake now.
Now they want to work or look around. Now they want
drunkenness and heavy food. Now they contrive to love.

When I drive cab
I bring the sailor home from the sea. In the back of
my car he fingers the pelt of his maiden

When I drive cab
I watch for stragglers in the urban order of things.

When I drive cab
I end the only lit and waitful things in miles of
darkened houses.

LEW WELCH [1926-1971]



The most frequent objection to the doctrine of Eternal Security is that it supposedly promotes the idea that Christians can live any way that they want to and still be saved.

Well... To be brutally honest, this is "technically" true. Admitting this may shock some folks, but please hear me out. That simple "technicality" of the overall truth is far, far from the essence of the Blessed Truth we call "Eternal Security." A person who has truly accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Savior can live a life characterized by continuous, willful sin, but he or she will not do so, at least not with any kind of impunity. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live and what a person must DO in order to receive salvation.

The Bible is abundantly clear that salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Jesus Christ Alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6).

So... A person is saved by faith and faith alone.  Let that sink in. 

And while we're at it... let a few other things sink in with it:

1. The moment a person truly believes and trusts in Jesus Christ, they are saved and secure in that salvation. Period.

2. Salvation is not gained by faith, but then maintained by works. I don't care how many impeccably dressed and bejeweled televangelists tell you this, they are wrong. Just plain, dead wrong.

3. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3 when he asks "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"

4. If we are saved by FAITH in the finished work of JESUS CHRIST ON OUR BEHALF, then our salvation is also maintained and secured by nothing except that finished work!

5. We can not in any way, shape or form EARN our own salvation. Therefore, we can not EARN the maintenance of our salvation either. It is God Almighty who maintains our Salvation (Jude verse 24).

6. According to no less an authority than JESUS Himself, it is God's Own Hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29).

And finally,

7. It is said of God's Love that nothing-- NOTHING-- can separate us from it! (Romans 8:38-39).

Any-- and I mean ANY-- denial of Eternal Security is, in its very and deepest essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works and efforts. Press one of these people about the logical, practical essence of their belief and this will become abundantly clear. Try it some time.

So think about it.  Is this not completely antithetical to true Salvation by Grace?

Look, friends... we are saved because of Christ's merits, not our own in any way, shape or form! (Romans 4:3-8).

Further, to claim that we must obey God's Word or live a "godly life"  IN ORDER TO maintain our salvation is saying that Jesus' death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Slice that one any way you want but it is still comes out the same... B. A. D.! 

[By the way... I put "godly life" in quotes simply because every one that talks this way has a different and entirely personal "standard" about sins in the first place, which Biblically can range anywhere from oversleeping or gossiping or anger all the way up to lust, adultery and murder.  And since ALL sin is sin, how does one make you lose your salvation MORE than another, anyway??]

The Blessed TRUTH is that Jesus' death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins—past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Now... Does this mean that a Christian can live any way they want to and still be saved? Again, technically the answer is... Yes.  I am sorry if that offends you, but it's true.

But really... it is at best an essentially hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live "any way they want to" without consequences from GOD Himself.  And if we're honest about it... Some of us have been there, haven't we?

Christians are called new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  At their best, Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

Now... there is no avoiding that I John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin.  But personally, comparing scripture with scripture, I actually believe that some Christians have sinned their way to both a shipwreck of their lives (I Timothy 1:19) and ultimately an early death (I Cor. 5:1-5)... and STILL did not lose their salvation. A lot of folks hate it when i say that, but i think the balance of scripture supports this view.  This is why that brother who has fallen desperately needs his Christian friends... and not just to preach at him... but to LOVE him with the knowledge that "all flesh is grass." (I Peter 1:24)

Frankly, I know it's a tough doctrine for some folks to take... and in many ways goes against some of our own human logic... but it IS entirely Biblical.  His ways are not our ways. If God were as bitter and vindictive as humans are, then certainly He would put us right back on the road to Hell every time we displeased Him. But thankfully, God is not a human!

Are there some apparent problems with this?  Perhaps.  In response to the accusation that Grace promotes sin, the Apostle Paul declared, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2).

But I actually take this scripture within the doctrine of our Eternal Security.  It is a actually a very important passage to "our side" of the debate because taken in that overall context it shows clearly that the Eternality of of our salvation is not any kind of "license to sin." When folks say that it is, they really betray something about the way THEY look at God.

Here's a memory for you.  I was once taught all about the (entirely biblical) doctrine of the "adoption of sinners in salvation" by a man who completely denied the believer's eternal security.  I love that man to this day, but it boggles my mind now to think that he could have so clearly grasped that a saved Christian becomes God's very "son" and "heir" at salvation, and yet still have believed that the same wondrous God would "dis-own" us when we stray from what is right.  

I have read Jesus' amazing story of the Prodigal Son dozens of times...  and it just gives me an entirely different picture of our Father in Heaven.

No, my friends... I see this doctrine as no license, but rather a beautiful and childlike trust in  the foundational and simple security of knowing that God's Love is guaranteed for those whose Trust is in the very Person and Work of Christ. Knowing and understanding God's tremendous GIFT of Salvation actually accomplishes the OPPOSITE of giving a license to sin.

So here's a hard question... why would anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin?  Because, quite honestly, this fallen flesh is a powerful enemy to the faith! (Romans 6:15-23)  Never forget that the human heart is deceitful and wicked above all things... am I right?

Or we could ask... how could anyone who understands God's unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God's face by willful rebellion?? Well...  it is a terrible thing to contemplate, but I believe it happens nonetheless... however... it is still a sin less awesome than God's great Power and Mercy to His children.  Praise His Name.

Are there backsliders out here in the world??   And is it a problem??

You better believe it!

But don't get all judgemental and uppity, Brother/Sister... After all it is written, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!" (I Cor. 10:12)  I think when you get to judging other people's sins, you should always step back and consider your ownIf you're honest, you'll find some to consider, too!

People can profess one thing and live another... we've all seen it. 

But bottom line?...  such a person is demonstrating NOT that Eternal Security has given them a "license to sin," but rather that he or she has EITHER never truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, or that they are about to be fearfully chastised by their Adopted Father in Heaven... who WILL faithfully chastise his own... mark it down. 

Here is where someone always asks: "OK.... so I have someone in my life who professes Christ but I have my doubts about them for such-and-such a reason.  How do I know which way it is with them?"

My honest answer?  You don't.  And frankly, it's not for you you to judge. (Matthew 7:1)

So Love them, either way... and  "walk humbly before your God." (Micah 6:8)

You may just need THEIR love and forgiveness someday yourself.