OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

October 22, 1998

Surely The Lord Is In This Place;
And I Knew It Not

by The Rev. Robert B. Moore

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library

Biography of Robert Buxton Moore
  • Bob was born and raised in Long Beach' California. Upon leaving Poly High School, he attended Stanford University where he majored in United States History. Two years were spent in the U.S. Naval Reserves (active duty). Sensing a call to the Christian ministry, Bob attended the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School where he graduated in 1956. While there, he met Doris Klindt, and they were married at the Seminary in 1955.

    Bob was pastor of the Gateway Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, for four years. He received his M.A. in history from Arizona State University at Tempe in 1961. For five years he was on the staff of the First Baptist Church of Redlands, serving as Youth Minister and Campus Minister at the University of Redlands.In 1966 he began a teaching career at San Bernardino Valley College which lasted twenty-nine years. He still teaches part-time. While at Valley, he taught the survey course in U.S. History on a regular basis. Other courses taught were: The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War, Violence and Non-Violence in U.S. History, Mexican-American History, the Black Religious Experience in America, and, for twenty-five years' Religion in America.Bob is active in the First Baptist Church of Redlands, the Redlands Area Interfaith Council, the Kiwanis Club of Redlands, the United Way, Inland Harvest, and the Redlands Your Accountability Board.He and his wife, Doris, have two adult children --- Robert and Susan --- and two grandchildren --- Travis Wayne Smith and Ellayne Annette Smith.

    Finally (and relevant to this paper), Bob is a life-long, sentimental fan of the Chicago Cubs. He hopes that his grandchildren live to see the day when a few of the World Series games are played at Wrigley Field.


Bob described the story of Elmer McCurdy, gunned-down Oklahoma outlaw, whose mummy, after neglect at a funeral home, became a side-show exhibit in Long Beach, and eventually was returned to his previous home for burial in Guthrie, Oklahoma. In the same cemetery Bob was moved when he saw the headstone of his great-grandparents that includes the words "In Christ". Bob included the story of Jacob and the stone dedicated to God. This led to Bob's  relating unexpected examples of God in common places, common times, and common people. President Allan Griesemer thanked Bob for his inspirational talk.

Surely The Lord Is In This Place;
And I Knew It Not

Once upon a time there were three Elmers: (l) phony minister¾ Elmer Gantry; (2) Bugs Bunny's pathetic victim¾ Elmer Fudd; (3) and then there was Elmer McCurdy. Now, who was Elmer McCurdy?Recently, I have developed an interest in our family history. As a result, in 1996 Doris and I flew to Oklahoma City and spent a week looking into ancestral roots. One day our cousins drove us north of "The City" to Guthrie, territorial capital of one hundred years ago. My mother, her siblings and parents lived in Guthrie in the 1890's. At the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, we found information about the family, including the fact that my great grandparents¾ Stephen and Laura Buxton¾ were buried in the town's Summit View Cemetery. Then, our young woman helper added, "You might be interested to know about the most famous graveyard residents there: Bill Doolin, leader of the famous outlaw gang, and Elmer McCurdy." Doolin, yes. But McCurdy? She began his story, and I was surprised. I had heard it years ago. It connected with my birth and childhood home, Long Beach, California.We drove to the cemetery. Important, thoughtful moments at the family grave. Then over to the last resting places of Bill Doolin and Elmer McCurdy.Who was this Elmer? Like Doolin a few feet away, an outlaw. Born in Maine about 1880, he moved to Kansas in 1903, apparently drawn by a natural gas boom. He helped lay gas lines, and was a respected plumber. Serving three years in the U.S. Army, his discharge said that his service was "excellent, honorable, and faithful." (The Career of Elmer McCurdy. Deceased. Richard J. Basgall, p. 64) However, he developed a drinking problem, chose a few wrong friends, and got in trouble with the law. He turned to robbing banks and trains, the last of which was the M.K. & T. ("Katy") in NE Oklahoma in October 1911. They hit the wrong train; the safe was empty, and all they made off with was small change and some whiskey. A posse set out to track down Elmer. He took refuge at a ranch in the Osage Hills. A newspaper account tells what happened:Arriving there early in the night the posse of four men and their guide surrounded the house, remaining concealed until daylight. They then communicated with Revard and at last learned that the man for whom they were seeking was hid in a long hay shed which covered a large rick of alfalfa. Revard was sent to the hay shed to ask him to surrender, as the place was surrounded and escape would be impossible. His response was an oath, and for an hour he continued to curse those who were seeking his capture. He could be heard talking, and a number of times Revard was sent to ask him to surrender and avoid bloodshed.Bob Fenton, a deputy sheriff and a member of the posse, went to a well to get a drink of water. The desperado called to him to throw up his hands. Waving his hands the officer jumped back of a log shed just as both barrels of a shot gun were fired at him. A fusillade of shots followed, the battle continuing for an hour before fatal shot ended the bandit's life, his death having been instantaneous. It was found later that a bullet from an automatic revolver carried by Bob Fenton, the man at whom he had fired, had ended his life, striking him in the right side and ranging down through the lungs. When the officers reached him the other jug of whiskey, with but a small amount of the liquor remaining in it, was found beside his dead body. There for the first time it was found that they had been trailing the much wanted Elmer McCurdy (sic).His body was taken to the Pawhuska, Oklahoma, funeral home where it was embalmed. No relatives showed up, so he was headed for a pauper's grave. Dressed in a black suit and tie, he was laid on a slab; but after a while, for lack of room, was stood in a corner. Time passed, and Elmer ventured out on a new career. He became an object of keen interest. In Redlands it may be the Lincoln Shrine, the Morey House, Kimberly Crest. In San Antonio, the Alamo. In Pawhuska, it was the "badman", Elmer McCurdy. It was decided it would be more fitting to dress him in his last bandit outfit, rifle in his hands. There he stood for five years, ossified and very life-like. Stories abounded. One was that he was fitted with roller skates and would surprise curious visitors by sliding out of the corner at unexpected moments!

The owner of the traveling "Great Patterson Carnival Shows" heard of Elmer, bought him and put him on exhibit throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. He passed into the hands of Louis Sonney of Los Angeles, who also had a road show. It featured a "Museum of Crime" with wax figures of the famous outlaws of the West --- Bill Doolin, Jesse James and now, Elmer McCurdy (not wax!). He changed hands again, and in 1971 ended up far from home with other dummies at the Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, CA. Displayed out front he was billed as "The 1000-Year-Old Man". After five years, a bit worse for the wear, he was moved inside the "Laff In the Dark" funhouse. On Tuesday, December 7, 1976, the building was closed to the public for the filming of an episode of the TV series, "Six-Million Dollar Man". As Basgall continues the story:

Working quickly in the dim work lights, several crew members pushed the little cars into a row, removed the partitions, and took down the "black" lights. They stacked the stuffed gorilla, the leering Dracula, and the dancing skeleton in a corner. A prop man began to take down what looked like the figure of a shrivelled-up old man. He was hanging by his neck from a rope in the ceiling. He had been painted several times with phosphorescent paint, making him glow in the dark. He was nude.

The prop man grabbed the figure under its right arm and reached up to loosen the noose around its neck. As he jerked at the noose, he felt something hit his foot. He looked down and saw the lower half of the figure's right arm on the floor. Apparently, it had broken off at the elbow.

He took out a roll of electrical tape, picked up the forearm, and tried to fit it back. It wouldn't fit. He twisted it several times, but he still couldn't get a clean, tight fit. He looked closely at the upper arm and noticed a piece of wire dangling from above the elbow socket. It had been broken off before and had been wired back together.

He braced the upper arm from behind and jammed the broken forearm up hard into the elbow socket. As he did so, a piece of the upper arm broke off. It was as hard and as brittle as old shoe leather. He looked closely at the dull, white substance beneath. He ran his finger over what appeared to be bone.

He looked up at the paint-streaked face, the rounded, not quite closed eyelids, the partially opened mouth with just the tips of the teeth showing.

'`I thought it was just some crummy dummy," he later said. (p. 13)

The Long Beach Police Department was contacted, determined it was, indeed, a mummified body, and turned it over to the Los Angeles County Coroners Office. Amazingly, a search traced back to Oklahoma, 1911, and identified the remains of our Elmer McCurdy. Returned home, he was buried in a serious and dignified graveside service. (More about this later.) A better-known figure from the past is Jacob --- son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham goof Old Testament or Torah fame. The Bible tells of a trip Jacob took one day (Genesis 28:10-22). At sunset he camped, then fell asleep.

"resting his head on a stone. He dreamed that he saw. a stairway reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it. And there was the LORD, standing beside him. 'I am the LORD, the God of Abraham and Isaac', he said. 'I will give to you and your descendants this land on which you are lying. They will be as numerous as the specks of dust on the earth. They will extend their territory in all directions, and through you and your descendants I will bless all the nations...'

Jacob woke up and said, 'Surely, the LORD is in this place, and I knew it not!' When he awoke, Jacob took a stone and dedicated it to God, establishing a memorial at this place he named Bethel ' (house of God).

The friend who invited me to visit the Fortnightly Club and recommended me for membership a number of years ago, also gave some personal advice: "In our papers we do not discuss politics or religion." I guess he may have been worried, since I was a Christian minister, and former preacher! It seemed strange advice for a group such as this where, presumably, "anything goes" from this, pardon me, lectern! At any rate, today I am ignoring his advice, with respect. Please keep in mind that there is no intent to evangelize or convert here. Rather, it is a simple sharing of what seems to be true to me, and may have interest for you.

What in the world have Elmer McCurdy and Jacob in common? Elmer, the unknown and insignificant. Jacob, the famous and important patriarch for Jew, Christian and Muslim.

But --- was Elmer totally unimportant? To everyone? Then? Now? And, as for Jacob, at the time of the ladder dream and the Bethel stone, he, too, was a "nobody", in a "no-place" corner of the world, at a "no-special-time" so very long ago.

Some believe that there is no God, or, that if there is, He/She is far removed, uninvolved and unconcerned about what goes on here on this speck of earth.

The faith position of this paper is that the Creator-God was and is and will be present in His world everywhere and at all times. The faith position here is that He/She is present in what we call "common" time, "common" places, and "common" people in important and real ways. "Surely, the Lord is in this place, and we knew it not...(for)...this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:16-17).

As for "common" time ...

Certainly, for millions, God is present in uncommon, special times. At the moments of birth, marriage, death. For the Jew --- Passover; for the Christian --- Holy Week; for the Muslim --Ramadan.

But many of us find Him present in the "common", the everyday, the routine: at meals, in the breaking of bread; on seeing a friend; in the excitement of a child; a moment of inspiration from a story on TV.

11:00 A.M. Sunday morning is a special time for many Christians. Yet, as I taught at San Bernardino Valley College, sometimes I felt that the class time there was as sacred, because of a sincere search for truth, and a respect for individual differences in the room.

How common are our wake-up moments, day after day. In one of those moments two years ago, I sensed the words ("Go to Guthrie") repeated several times. We did, and the trip was a special gift to us. Certainly, that morning experience could easily have a natural explanation, but... I wonder.

In the New Testament are the words, "In the Lord's sight, 1000 years are as a day, and a day is as 1000 years" (II Peter 3:8). The first idea humbles us. But the second... what a powerful idea! The holy importance of this day, this moment. As someone has said, "God is in the details."

As for the "common" place -

Yes, as far as places go, God is present in the un-common, the special. Spectacular sunsets. Viewing the awesome Niagara Falls, or the fabulous beauty of Yosemite Valley. Standing at Pearl Harbor on the memorial over the U.S.S. Arizona, filled with sadness and respect for those who gave their lives that morning long ago. Rounding a street corner in London and coming suddenly upon the huge, majestic St. Paul's Cathedral. Tears coming to my eyes, remembering the Battle of Britain in 1940, the photo of the smoke from the bombs enveloping the church...but the lights of the fires that night, illuminating the church, so solid, symbolizing courage, survival, and the ultimate triumph over evil.

But belief and faith may lead one to believe that God is ever-present in non-special, "common" places, too, if we are ready and available. Said Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes." Or Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

More moving to me than the famous holy sites in Jerusalem, were the tiny desert flowers on a rocky hillside in a moment of reflection ("the lilies of the field"). And in another special moment of family love, hearing the voice over the phone of our son way off in California, saying to his Mom and me...because of the connection..."You sound like Mickey and Minnie Mouse!" Or walking in a small wooded area of urban Madison, Wisconsin, surprised in October to see standing tall in the fallen autumn leaves, one lone, bright Easter lily ... an obvious reminder of resurrection at a time of nature's "death".

Or the old gymnasium at the University of Redlands. One scorching August morning this summer I walked out of the Armacost Library to a strange sight. Atop the gym, straddling the roof peak was a human figure I- standing erect, arms raised against the pure, blue sky. Like a meuzzin in the mosque minaret calling the faithful to prayer. Like Kunta Kinte in Alex Haley's, Roots. holding his new boy-child aloft to the sky. Our man was a part of a roofing repair crew, and held to his lips a water jug. The stark sight spoke to me of the dignity of his world...a hot and dirty job...and how we depend upon the roofer to do his job well.

Or the kitchen in our home as our five-year-old daughter, resuming from a two week trip away with her mother, sees me, runs and throws her arms around me with a huge bear-hug, and simply says one word: "Daddy!"

Or...the other side of that coin...on the three-deck Catalina ferryboat one summer. On the way home from a fun week as a family in Avalon. But where is young Bobby? He likes to explore and climb on everything. I search the three decks for ten minutes, panic growing by the minute. Experiencing for the very first time in my life full-blown terror I can feel even as I write: the heavy side of love.

It seems that God is ever-present in time, in all places and in all people.

True, He/She is in un-cornmon, special people: Lincoln, Dr. King, Jonas Salk, Marian Anderson...and your list of the "greats". '

More powerful to me day by day are not the kings, the presidents, the `'stars", the computer short, not "the rich and the famous "but rather, the "common", the "nobodies". Not the "Who's Who?", but the `'Who's He?" and "Who's She?"

A friend, Frank Serrao, once said, "Bob, you always seem to be for the underdog." I suppose that goes back to childhood church training and experience, plus growing up with parents who treated all kinds of people with courtesy and respect.

Someone has said, "Who is wise, The person who learns from everyone."

Custodians, plumbers, street repairers, "street people", cooks-waiters-waitresses, secretaries, flight attendants, cops, bus drivers. People who give their time, energies and lives in caring for children¾ those who so often in our society don't seem to count for much. People with compassion for the elderly. The lady in Smiley Library, sitting at a table in the reading room, helping another grown-up woman learn how to read, from a first-grade reader. Those working to help kids in trouble. Kids trying to stay out of trouble. Students who need to study, hold down a job and, maybe, manage a family, too. (See my earlier Fortnightly paper, "Students are Teachers, Too").

The auto mechanic who comes to our rescue when we haven't a clue how to fix it. CBS recently ran a news series called "Dirty Mechanics", focused on the dishonest. I wonder if they would feature a program labeled "Dirty Doctors"? Our strange sense of priorities and values sometimes. Especially since our lives depend on the skills of the mechanic every bit as much as the doctor.

Words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "God must have loved the common man; he made so many." In part our feelings for Lincoln somehow relate to the idea that, extraordinary as he was, he was still, like us, common clay.

One of my wife's and my favorite TV programs is "Mystery" on PBS weekly: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marpole, Inspector Morse, Inspector Maigret. Doris' favorite is P.D. James' Commander Dalgliesh. Mine is the old, crusty, dumpy English barrister (lawyer) Horace Rumpole.

Last spring I had a respiratory infection that put me low for six weeks. Along with my wife's care, it was the book of stories of Horace that pulled me through!

In the case "Rumpole and the Model Prisoner" (Rumpole and the Angel of Ouch Viking Press, 1995), creator John Mortimer tells of Horace being formally invited to prison to see the inmates' production of Shakespeare's, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Says Rumpole,

I had been to Worsfield gaol regularly over the years and never without breathing a sigh or relief, and gulping in all the fresh air available, after the last screw had turned the last lock and released me from custody. I never thought of going there to explore the magical charm of a wood near Athens.

'Hilda,' I said, taking a swig of rapidly cooling coffee and lining myself up for a quick dash to the Underground, 'can you prove your identity?'

'Is that meant to be funny, Rumpole?' Hilda was deep in the lazily Telegraph and unamused.

'I mean, if you can satisfy the authorities you're really She --- I mean (here I corrected myself hastily) that you're my wife, I'll try for another ticket and we can go to the theatre together.'

'What's come over you, Rumpole? We haven't been to the theatre together for three years --- or whenever Claude last dragged you to the opera.'

'Then it's about time,' I said, 'we went to the Koreans.'

'Which dreamy'

'The Midsummer Night's one.'

'Where is it?' Hilda seemed prepared to put her toe in the water. The

Royal Shakespeare?'

'Not exactly. It's in Her Majesty's Prison, Worsfield. Fifteenth September. Seven p.m. sharp.'

'You mean you want to take me to Shakespeare done by criminals?'

'Done, but not done in, I hope.'

'Anyway' --- She Who Must Be Obeyed found a cast-iron alibi --- 'that's my evening at the bridge school with Marigold Featherstone.'

Hilda, I thought, like most of the non-criminal classes, likes to think that those sentenced simply disappear off the face of the earth. Very few of us wonder about their wasted lives, or worry about the slums in which they are confined, or, indeed, remember them at all.

'You'll have to go on your own, Rumpole,' she said. 'I'm sure you'll have lots of friends there, and they'll all be delighted to see you. '

'Plenty of your mates in here, eh, Ad. Rumpole? They'll all be glad to see you, I don't doubt.' I thought it remarkable that both She Who Must Be Obeyed and the screw who was slowly and carefully going over my body with some form of metal detector should have the same heavy-handed and not particularly diverting sense of humour.

'I have come for William Shakespeare,' I said with all the dignity I could muster. 'I don't believe he's an inmate here. Nor have I ever been called upon to defend him.' (pp. 1-2)

He then describes the jail, built in the 1 850's, as a "granite-faced castle of despair" ..designed to "deter the passers-by from any thoughts of evil-doing" (much, I thought, like the Arizona prison just west of Phoenix on Interstate 10)... and "a place to be pointed out as a warning to shuddering children." He tells of the "smell of stale air, unemptied chamber-pots and greasy cooking" and the "prison pallor". Coming to the chapel for the play, he says,

We were a segregated audience, divided by the aisle. On one side, like friends of the groom, sat the inmates in grey prison clothes and striped  shirts --- and trainers (which I used to call sand-shoes when I was a boy) were apparently allowed. On the other side, the friends of the bride, were the great and the good, the professional caters and concerned operators of a curious and notoriously unsuccessful system. Of the two sides, it was the friends of the groom who coughed and fidgeted less, laughed more loudly and seemed more deeply involved in the magic that unfolded before them: (p. 4)

Concludes the prisoners' friend, Horace Rurnpole of the Old Bailey, "I'm a black taxi plying for hire. I'm bound to accept anyone, however repulsive, who waves me down and asks for a lift" (p. 136).

Some of the examples used in this paper are not ones usually given to illustrate what most people would call "successes" in life. In fact, just the opposite.

"Success" can be a worthy goal. We would all like to be successful. We would like our children to be...our team, our nation.

The problem comes, of course, as we attempt to define "success". Why do some of life's most "successful" people, as generally interpreted, seem unhappy and bored and empty? Why did my best childhood friend, at age 59 nine years ago decide to end his life? He shot himself. He was a millionaire.

Sometimes the Bible assumes that success can be measured in material ways. Take the story of Job. His friends took it for granted that he must have sinned to have lost everything. Jesus healed a man born blind. The religious leaders did not rejoice. Instead, they were puzzled and asked: "Who sinned, this man or his parents?", that he was born blind.

Our American values are often much the same. Who makes the most money, has the "best" job, is a "winner", has children who are "achievers"?

Someone compared Michael Jordan's salary to that of Bill Gates. To have the equivalent wealth of Gates, Jordan would have to save 100% of his income for 270 years! Small matter both of them are great examples of "success" in our society.

A century ago, Social Darwinist William Graham Sumner said: "Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members, the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members." (Social Darwinism in American Thought, Richard Hofstadter, Beacon Press, 1955, p; 51) He goes on: "The millionaires are a product of natural selection...They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society" (Ibid ~

As millionaire John D. Rockefeller said, "The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest...The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil thing in business. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God" (Il2il.).

Again, how does one decide who are the "fittest", the "best"...the "unfittest", the `'worst"? Who are to be the judges? Are their values the "best"?

When starting to think through this project, I went to the computer for our Library holdings at San Bernardino Valley College, and looked up "failure". There were ten entries, such as "Failure in Business", "Failure of Banks", "Failure of Engineering Systems", "Failure of Solids", "Failures Structural", 'Failure to Assist in Emergencies". Only two entries might have been helpful in a study of our failures as human beings: "Failure Psychology", and "Failure School".

Then I looked up the word "success". Not ten entries, but 266!

Is this paper meant to praise "failure" and condemn "success"? Not at all. Rather, to think about the ideas on a deeper level. In so doing we may be better able to sense values in failure. I like that term "Failure School" in the computer list for the Library.

The fact of life is, of course, that we all fail. To fail is human.

I took a few minutes to draw up a list of successes and failures in my life. Failures seemed to win out! (Much as even the greatest baseball hitters like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa don't reach first base most of the time.) As a bookworm-kid in school, I can still feel the pain of being just about the last chosen for the team...and the fear of a ball being hit out there to right field. With a major inferiority complex, always the fear of what others thought of me. Joining a high school fraternity...a big mistake for I never felt that I really belonged. Not being admitted to my college's graduate school because my grades were not good enough. Being "just" a "J.C." teacher for thirty years instead of being at a "real" college. Living on the "old" Northside of Redlands -- the "wrong" side --- for thirty-five years. A Democrat in this Republican fortress! As they say these days, "Get a life!''

You, too, could draw up your own list.

Of course, some of our "failures" are imagined, at times not really failures at all. Some, however... and some too personal to share...have been genuine failures, and very painful.

But even here --- "Surely, the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not."

My four undergraduate years at Stanford were happy ones. To be turned down for graduate school there was not a happy experience. I was admixed at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Then, another disappointment. The failure of the diplomats and peacemakers led to the Korean War. I served in the armed forces for two years. During that time, I felt the call to the Christian ministry and went north to the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School where I spent three wonderful years. All the more wonderful because that's where I met Doris Klindt, my wife-to-be. Doris was from what state? Wisconsin. If I had had my way and gone directly to graduate school in Madison, and had not had to take those two years out of my life in the service. .ironically, I would never have met the woman who has brought me such joy in life. "The Lord moves in mysterious ways..."

Jacob --- living at a "not important" time in history, out in "nowhere", and a "nobody" himself: And then after his experience with God, he sets up a "nothing-important" as a thank offering: a stone!

Recently, in his talk to Fortnightly, Allan Griesemer ("The Earth's Version of the Old Bump and Grind: Plate Techtonics", 1998), apologized for talking about a subject as non-exciting as --"just rocks". A few days later in Mill Creek Canyon, remembering his remark, I picked up a few common rocks, looked intently, and was moved by their beauty.

Stanley Korfmacher reminded us ("The Lure and Love of Gem Stones", 1998), that some stones are really more valuable than the fabled "precious gems".

Examples of so-called "failures" (or, at least, non-successes,' according to many people) are all about us. Can we learn something of value from them? Is there such a thing as "Failure School'? Can we be inspired by them, perhaps even changed by the inspiration?

Single parents whose marriages have sadly ended, and for whom life is not easy. Cary Clack, a sensitive writer for the San Antonio (Texas) Express News in his Mother's Day column this year, had special words for single moms: "Regardless of why they're single, through divorce, death, choice or mistake, most single mothers stand out in their love for their children and dedication to making a better life for them...most single mothers are heroines who create dreams for their children and help them climb the ladder to reach those dreams."

Young people who have had trouble in school, for all sorts of reasons, but who return to get their diploma years later...and the courage that requires.

Youth in the arrested teen who committed senseless acts of vandalism, out of disrespect for the rights of others. Appearing before the Redlands Youth Accountability Board, his attitude seemed hopeless. A dismal future seemed to lie ahead. But then we learned that he had written a letter of apology. Asked to read it aloud, the panel was impressed by his thoughts and by his apparent sincerity and by his ability to express himself. Then the members learned that he had just received a plaque at Mission School as 'Student of the Week". Our spirits were lifted. Here was hope for him after all.

Even "street people"? Like Robert Jordan, brutally murdered in Redlands. A failure of a life, most would judge. But not Gary George, who was outraged by the act, and arranged a dignified, public candlelight service for Mr. Jordan.

Outsiders. Like Julia, our elementary school classmate in Long Beach. Fellows joked about how fat and ugly she was. Never invited to anything. Left out. Ah, but, forty years later, seeing Julia at a class reunion --- slim, well-groomed, classy, self-confident. An elementary school principal...and probably a sensitive, caring one with children who were treated as outsiders. She knew what it was like.

The ruined veteran...broken and defeated by the Vietnam War. His life a mess. In jail. But, miraculously, a religious birth of soul. Life completely turned around. He becomes a leader and servant of his fellow-veterans who have been wounded in body, mind and spirit.

Star quarterback, defeated. Ryan Leaf, heralded hero of the Washington State Cougars (now a pro with the San Diego Chargers). WSU loses a cliff-hanger to the University of Michigan Wolverines in the '98 Rose Bowl. In the pandemonium on the field after the final gun, the TV camera catches Leaf instantly running over to the UM quarterback and giving him a big, enthusiastic hug. What class!

Heroes in death. Don Singer's paper recently given to Fortnightly was hard to listen to.

Such cruel destruction of European Jews, not by the Nazis, but centuries ago in the Middle Ages.

And yet, the power of the faith and courage of those who went to their deaths rather than reject their beloved Judaism, accept Christianity and live!

"Primitive'' Africa. (But what do we mean by "primitive"?) In one African tribe, a teen-ager commits a crime against his people. His punishment? The men gather in a circle and put the boy in the center. They tell him how he has done wrong, how he has hurt them. But then, going around the circle, each one shares with the boy the good things about him- his strengths, his fine qualities.

What wisdom!

One morning earlier this year when I went out to get the morning papers, I noticed a folded and crinkled piece of paper in the street. Picking it up, I found that it was a typed letter by a soccer coach to the parents of his players. Here's the first part of it:

"Dear Parents,

Although we have not won a game yet, I do feel that we are progressing just like I had hoped we would. The boys are playing their hearts out and they are learning how to play soccer instead of kickball. Essentially, we are undoing years of bad habits and we are attempting to advance their soccer skills to a point to where they will be able to compete anywhere.

I know this sounds rather apologetic, but I guess I sort of feel bad that we have not won a game yet. But I suppose that we must maintain our course and remember that our main objective is to let the boys have fun and I hope your boys are having fun..."

That young soccer team's experience of not winning a game so far reminded me of my first year in college. Our team lost every game that season. It was embarrassing. When the score was close, I would write home and tell Mom and Dad about the "moral victory". After awhile, I got ribbed about all those "moral victories". Strange to say, that season was more fun than all the others. The team tried its best, the fans yelled their lungs out, and there was always hope for next Saturday. ("The only way to go was up!")

Ultimately, no matter what the won-loss record in life, we all will fail in one important sense. We will die. (That depends, of course, on what we mean by "failure" and what we mean by "die". And that depends upon our faith.) But our lives here on earth will come to an end, and most of us would like to live, at least a while longer.

Someone has said, "We live in moments, not in days." One such moment came to me on our trip to Israel in 1983. I stood looking at the collections in the Rockefeller Museum¾ in particular, an object in a glass case. It was a human skull. As I gazed into the sockets of eyes and mouth, the words came to my mind, "As I am, so you shall be." It was a sobering experience.

Standing at another place of death, the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma, I beheld my great-grandparents' tombstone. They died long before I was born. On the Vermont marble tombstone were these words:





HIS WIFE 1825-1899


Seeing the words "IN CHRIST", I was deeply moved, and have been ever since. I realized the importance to my life of Stephen and Laura. Their lives reached out far beyond their gravesite to a great-grandson they never knew in this life. I know next to nothing about Stephen and Laura, but, in those two words, I reamed of something that was very special to them...indeed, sacred. A Century later that faith is sacred to me, too.

We are fortunate if we come to view our lives, and all persons' lives, as sacred journeys. It has been said, "Just to live is holy; just to be is a blessing."

Many times we don't sense that truth, perhaps because of the many daily distractions we experience, perhaps because of our failures on the journey. Sometimes we take the wrong turns, follow the wrong directions, make the wrong choices. We get lost.

Daniel Boone knew all about physical journeys. He was on the road nearly all of his life. At age 80 he traveled from the home he built decades earlier in Defiance, Missouri, to Yellowstone in

Wyoming. Someone once asked him, "Did you ever lose your way?" His answer, "No, but one time was bewildered for three days."

At time of my "bewilderment", fellow-journeyers have helped along the way. One such is Oswald Chambers who, years ago, wrote what was to become a Christian devotional classic of daily devotional readings, My Utmost for His Highest. For July 28th, he says:

"We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God's purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end.

What is my dream of God's purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His purpose now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process¾ that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainly that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.

God's training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience…

God's end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious."

Another who has inspired so many on their spirit journey has been Mother Theresa, who said, "We can do no great things; only small things with great love."

Unknown, "common" people often rise up to inspire us: a musician who performs though profoundly deaf, a railway conductor who risks his life to get a small child off the track just in time, a Redlands fireman who jumps into the flood-swollen Zanja creek to save a desperate boy.

As for most of us, our influence may not be that dramatic. But when we see our daily lives as holy gifts, our journeys will take on the sacred. As has been said, "Revelation is always measured by capacity" (Margaret Fairless Barber). The capacity to sense, feel, imagine, see deeply into the mystery of life.

"Surely, the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." Now... in this place...with every person.

Do you remember Elmer McCurdy? His life came to a close in 1911 . His earthly journey concluded one April day in 1977 at the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Says his biographer, Richard Basgall, "The morning of the funeral dawned grey and overcast. There was a very fine mist in the air. Elmer's body was brought down from Oklahoma City and turned over to the Smith Funeral Home in Guthrie. Some had wanted to open the coffin before the funeral, but Fred and Jay Chapman said no." At graveside, the gathered crowd was reminded that this was "not a mock funeral". Instead, it was to be a "real funeral...done in a solemn and dignified though this man-had just died." (pp. 248-249)

I close with the words spoken by Glenn Jordan. They would not have been said at the time of Elmer's death; but, on reflection years later, bear remarkable truth. In the context of Oklahoma history, Jordan said:

. . .

...despite our pride in past accomplishments, these ancestors like ourselves, were not perfect, mistakes were made and sins committed. The Indian did not always use his environment wisely and fought a cruel and savage war against changes he could not prevent. The soldier occasionally practiced deceit, deception, dishonesty and cruelty against the Indians he was assigned to assist and protect. The cattleman overgrazed the range and actively opposed the entrance of anyone on what he considered his private domain. The farmer’s arrival was often illegal as evidenced by the term "Sooner' and, when he did come, he "sowed the wind" by plowing up the prairie sod thereby destroying the ecological balance and, of course, "reaped the whirlwind" with the coming of the dust bowl days. The minister sought to impose his values of society and Christianity upon the Indian and, in so doing, assisted in the almost total destruction of native culture. The miner and roughneck extracted and exploited the natural resources with limited concern for the immediate and none for the future. The lawman, despite all of the good that he did, was not always consistent in his application of justice. The outlaw, as consistent as he was in his actions, was "a blight on the land" and, in spite of the hero worship by some who saw him as a native Robin Hood, had to be removed.

Yet to all of these people, even a Bill Doolin and Elmer McCurdy, we offer understanding and forgiveness. We were not there and we do not know the circumstances and conditions that made our ancestors act as they did. We must be careful to "judge not lest you be judged." We simply affirm that all concerned -- white and Indian, cattleman and farmer' lawman and outlaw -- are a part of Oklahoma's heritage.

"By now, the fine mist had turned to a light drizzle... Slowly, they lowered the coffin into the grave. After it was down, a girl from the ninth grade History Club came up and dropped in a single, red rose." (p.232)

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