RLW 1947-2017

Robert Wears was my friend.

I am sorry, I know most of you called him “Bob,” but I met him through his wife Diane, and to me he was always “Robert.” With my wife Katherine, we four were members of a book club for the last 20-plus years. We have met more or less monthly, and read well over 200 books together.

I did not know him in his professional life, I was not a member of his family, we shared no school ties, we did not go to the same church. I interacted with him medically only once, and in that moment, as he visited me in the hospital before my abdominal surgery, he gave me permission and I threw up on him. Continue reading RLW 1947-2017

Worth reading

Three stimulating articles, without any obvious common theme except the most common of all — a fallen world with fallen people in it:

current reading 2
“Ultimately, God is still good. And he is still enough.”  Bekah Mason, “Finding My ‘True Self’ As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman,” Christianity Today (June 2017) [link].

“I am capable of any sin. And God loves me in spite of my sinful nature.”  Sanya Richards-Ross, “My Abortion Broke Me, God Redeemed Me,” Christianity Today (June 2017) [link].

“What explains a person or a group of people doing things that seem at odds with who they are or what they think is right?”  Malcolm Gladwell, “Thresholds of Violence,” gladwell.com (October 19, 2015) [link].

But still, there is always the offer of God’s grace.

Tim Farron

libdemIf you are like me, you would not have recognized the name “Tim Farron” until the last few days.

Mr. Farron was the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, and, it is apparent, is a committed Christ-follower.  He decided that it was not entirely possible to be both, but in so doing, I think he encourages us not to give up on the task of living in a world that is not our home.

This is his resignation letter.


Dear Deidre,

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

*We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.*

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.

Thank you,

Tim

“A religion of losers.”

ScreenShot164Matthew Schmitz wrote this back in August, but I just read it today.  It is an interesting take on Donald Trump’s “faith,” and attempts to trace the influence of Norman Vincent Peale on Trump.  Apparently Trump once said that Peale “thought I was his greatest student of all time.”  Schmitz goes on to explain why that might actually be true.

But the best thing in the article is this description of Christianity:

“Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform.”

Matthew Schmitz, “Donald Trump, Man of Faith,” First Things (August 2016) [link].

That seems pretty thoughtful, though to my way of thinking it does not go far enough:  The penultimate line should probably read: “People cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking.”

There is none righteous, no, not one.

AEB 1931-2016

Alban Emerson Brooke
July 1, 1931 — November 4, 2016

Alban Emerson Brooke, 85, of Jacksonville, FL, passed away suddenly on November 4, 2016 from a head injury suffered after an accidental fall.

He was best known to the public as an attorney and judge in Duval, Clay and Nassau County from 1960 to 2002. Born in Louisville, KY, he was raised in Sandy Spring, Maryland. He attended The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina), graduating in 1953 and served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. After his discharge, he attended the George Washington University Law School. Upon relocating to Jacksonville in the late 1950s, he became the 9,027th member of The Florida Bar, and was in private practice until 1980. He then served in the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office under T. Edward Austin from May 19, 1980 to December 31, 1988, before he was appointed as a trial judge in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit in 1988, serving for 13 years, until his retirement at the end of 2002.

He is survived by his wife of more than 61 years, Mary Grace Brooke; his children — local attorney Allan F. Brooke II (Katherine), Grace Brooke Huffman, M.D. (Steve) of Winchester, Virginia, and Peter Emerson Brooke; his grandchildren — Alban Emerson Brooke II (Marie), Philip Davis Brooke, Ph.D. (Cecilia), Priscilla Mary Brooke, Sarah Katherine Brooke, Thomas Tarlton Brooke, and Thomas Brooke Huffman; and his great-granddaughter Emerson Rose Brooke. He was blessed to have most of his family living close by.

He had been a member of the Session of Riverside Presbyterian Church and was later a deacon at First Baptist Church. He was a man of deep personal integrity, broad intellectual interests and was known for his compassion and concern. He had a great sense of humor and a nearly endless supply of stories. He read widely, enjoyed contract bridge, and was devoted to his Lord.

His devotion was characterized by his service as husband and father, as he and Mary Grace dedicated their retirement years to the care of their youngest son, Peter. He will be much missed by his family, friends and community, as he adds his voice to the chorus of praise around the throne of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.

A Memorial Service and reception will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at Westside Chapel, 4541 Shirley Ave., Ste 8, Jacksonville, FL 32210.

In lieu of flowers, donations to The Arc Jacksonville (www.arcjacksonville.org) or Westside Chapel (www.westsidechapeljax.com) would be appreciated.

Arrangements by Naugle Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 1203 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, FL (904) 396-1611.

PHD 1925-2016

G R A V E S I D E     S E R V I C E

Philip Herman Davis
October 13, 1925 — October 14, 2016
2:00 pm, October 22, 2016
Pine Bush Cemetery, Kerhonkson, New York


I think Grandpa would like it if we started with Scripture, and here the Scripture states the problem we face, from the difficult and troubling book of Ecclesiastes.

The writer of Ecclesiastes is called Qoheleth, “The Preacher.” The Preacher says:

A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-2.  It is better to go to a funeral than a wedding reception!

We stand here with the body of a man with a good name, who was held in good repute in his community, yet who lived in deep humility.  To have a good name when you die is a wonderful blessing — it leads to this group standing and considering Philip Herman Davis’s life and legacy, and speaking about him in the memorial service at 4:00.

And Grandpa would have wanted us to take to heart the reality of his death.

But this is not the last word.  

Grandpa would want us to take to heart the reality of our own deaths.

Someday some will stand at a grave for you, and consider your name and your life.  Perhaps it will be a large family like this one.  Maybe it will just be one or two acquaintances.  But your body will probably be in a container to be placed in the ground, with a word from a son-in-law or someone who knew you.

But that will not be the last word.

The end of Ecclesiastes states:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.  And that is frightening, or should be, for each of us have done countless things for which we would prefer not to be judged.  We would far rather have some of the choices we have made and things we have done and words we have said be dropped from consideration, or treated as mere rehearsal or simply overlooked.  We want to cry out, “Please, measure us by our best choices.”

But Ecclesiastes says “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

And yet still, that is not the last word.

Jesus, when he had come to show us what God is truly like, showed both compassion and judgment, and taught and acted out a life of righteousness in joy and sorrow,
pleasure and pain, triumph and tragedy, but at the end of his short life he prayed this prayer:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Luke 23:34.  And by this he did not mean that his executioners did not understand what they were doing, but that they were ignorant, and misled and deceived and Jesus asked his Father to let the punishment fall on him instead of them.

Paul said it like this:

For while we were still weak, at the right time [Jesus] died for [] ungodly [people like us].  For [hardly anyone would] die for a righteous person . . .  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, [Jesus] died for us. . . . [We] have now been justified by [Jesus’] blood, [and certainly] saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.  “Weak,” “ungodly,” “enemies.”  That’s who we are, and honestly, that’s who Philip Herman Davis was.

He would not have denied it.

But 36 years ago, in June 1980, he was reconciled to God by what Jesus did when Jesus died.  Jesus saved Grandpa from God’s judgment on his life.  Thereafter, God would judge Grandpa’s life on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, not on the basis of Grandpa’s own righteousness.

At the end of his life — but just (mercifully) in the last couple of months of his life — Grandpa felt his body failing him.  He might have felt like Paul did, knowing he was near the end, when he wrote his protégé, Timothy:

I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8.

And from where I stand, I completely believe that Grandpa

fought the good fight, . . .

finished the course, . . .

kept the faith . . . .

And so I believe that when Grandpa stepped across the threshold from this life, and
as he slipped out of this body that we are burying today, and when he left this earth on (as we reckon it) October 14, 2016, he heard these words:

Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little;
I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.

Matthew 25:21.

And that is the last word.

May we each consider these things and live so as to hear those very words when we ourselves meet the Judge of every man and woman.

The Man in the High Castle

This is not entirely true, of course, but a provocative thought, nonetheless:

“We do not have the ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.”

61BMpmDw23LPhilip K.Dick, The Man in the High Castle 260.

Indeed the truth is that too often, knowing perfectly well what is moral, we find that we do not choose to do it. See Romans 7:18b-19 ESV (“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.“)*

PKD’s quotation does remind us, however, that our choices are obscured by our inability to perfectly perceive reality — we have very imperfect knowledge about many of the choices we have to make — and yet we still must make them.

Paul goes on to explain the only escape from this dilemma:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:21b-25a ESV.  Only Jesus delivers.

And so we should pray for guidance from the one whose perfect knowledge and perfect love are necessary for correct decisions in life and in less momentous choices like elections.

Not funny, but . . .

ScreenShot164I am well aware that the problem itself is not funny, but Michael Brendan Dougherty is managing to make our apparent 2016 Election choices pretty amusing by saying things like:

You know that Donald Trump is an unstable imbecile. But this knowledge doesn’t oblige you to discover new qualities in the bottomlessly cynical, power-mad grifter Hillary Clinton.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, “The existential despair of Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump,” The Week (June 9, 2016) [link].  Dougherty:

You might also feel some pressure to suck it up and vote for “the lesser of two evils.” Well, I have a simple message for you: Don’t.

Don’t let anyone steal that disgust from your heart. It is a precious thing. You should treasure your disgust as a sign of your decency, particularly because hardly anyone else will. Don’t let anyone tell you that the nearly uncontrollable urge to retch at the thought of this election is disproportionate, or somehow uncivil. When you contemplate the fate of your country in 2016, you have the right to be depressed, or even despairing.

Read the whole article and and laugh a little and then remember that “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” Psalm 2:4.

No reason to despair.