Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce

Have you ever wondered how you could accomplish something considering your weaknesses and limitations? If so, then you have something in common with the key figure of this story. 

Let’s go back to 1807 in England. That year, Parliament chose to take a stand against one of the greatest evils of the day. In fact, Parliament voted to make that evil illegal even though some people really wanted to keep it going and giving it up meant losing both power and wealth.

That evil was the trafficking of human beings known then as the slave trade.

Through the radio theater drama Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce, you can meet William Wilberforce. As a young member of Parliament, he has what many people long for – wealth, popularity and position. He chooses to risk it all when careful study brings him from skepticism to personal faith in Jesus Christ. 

Soon he is confronted with the realities of the slave trade – a trade that greatly benefits his country economically and is considered unchangeable. Others are speaking up, but Wilberforce’s gifts and position make him the obvious choice to lead the cause in Parliament. 

After prayer and seeing God work, Wilberforce becomes convinced that taking on the slave trade is something he must do in spite of the cost…

While William has position and a penchant for public speaking, one thing he does not have is good health. Throughout his life, he is plagued by poor eyesight and what may have been ulcerative colitis. (Note: Information on his exact ailments seems to vary.) But he presses on.

Grace Victorious leaves you with the story unfinished, a reality to which we can all relate. After all, that is how our stories are (for anyone reading this blog) – unfinished. We may be facing challenges, questions, unknowns….Just like William Wilberforce when he began his campaign against the slave trade. 

One of William’s last statements in Grace Victorious is,

“I expect a long and arduous fight. But as I lie here, I wonder how I will fight – how this frail and feeble body will ever rise against a mountain of hatred, cruelty and greed.” [1]

The response?

“The only way such things are ever done, William – by the grace of God.”

If we choose to live like William Wilberforce, we may live to see challenges met, questions answered, unknowns discovered. And we may be used in ways we never expected.

After all, it’s unlikely Wilberforce thought someone would be writing about a radio theater drama featuring his story 210 years after the abolition of the British slave trade, much less that the writing would go on a blog accessible to the world at the push of a button. 

[1] Paul McCusker, Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce, audio CD disc 2, track 8, 6:28.

A Petal for Your Thoughts: Doing and Being

With my vase full of flowers, I’m thinking of Anne of Green Gables and her opinions about the feelings of flowers. 

Whether or not flowers actually have personalities and might argue with each other, I think there is a truth we can learn from these spring blossoms. A truth besides not to worry so much, that is. (Matthew 6).

Have you ever recognized that flowers are good at both doing and being? They grow, they produce roots. stems, petals and pollen and they blossom. Some do this year after year. But then they can stand in a garden or vase and just be. They can be cheery and beautiful. We love them for this being. Then it comes back to doing because they are cheer givers, sunshine sharers and beauty bearers. 

For us people, it can be easy to value doing, can’t it? It’s fun to check off a list of accomplishments! Doing is important. God thinks so, too. There are plenty of verses in the Bible about doing. Like this one from Galatians 6:10,

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (ESV) 

But sometimes it is easy to overvalue doing, isn’t it? To value it more than being perhaps? 

Just like there are verses in the Bible about doing, there are also verses about being.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, ESV)

When I pray for people I care about, I have prayed that we will be doing the things God wants us to be doing, but maybe I should pray more that we will be being the people He wants us to be. The cool part about this is that no matter what our physical capabilities, by God’s grace, we can be.  And I would venture to say that – like with the flowers – we appreciate other people’s doings, but we love most their beings

Still, like with the flowers, doing and being are intertwined as much as mandevilla on a trellis. For example, being kind and tenderhearted leads us to “forgiving one another,” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). One leads to the other and back again. Interesting, eh?

Well, while you’re doing something out of being a kind friend like arranging a vase of blossoms to brighten someone’s day, you may want to put some thought as to whether such-and-such bloom really would appreciate being with such-and-such…just in honor of Anne. 

For Someone Else


Timeless: Thoughts on Moving Forward Well in 2016

Looming uncertainty. Unwanted pain. Doubting of truths once trusted. Struggling world economies. Promised but paling world peace.  Questions tumbling around in minds unsure where to look for answers.

Does that sound familiar? Well, I think it sounds like our time, but, interestingly enough, I’m discovering all of those statements could be said about England seventy-some years ago as it entered World War II. 

Perhaps we like to think our struggles are unique to us. Some of us might even like to feel sorry for ourselves. It seems sometimes Christians (of various backgrounds) especially like to think that the “badness” of their time is the worst it’s ever been because that might mean Jesus is going to come again soon and sweep His people into heaven – and away from pain, sorrow and loss – with Him.

While I think looking forward to the return of Christ is a wonderful (and good!) thing, for anyone who has studied history there’s a problem with thinking the timing is based on present problems: Life has been downright horrible time and again. If anyone had a right to think life couldn’t get any worse, it would be the people getting bombed in London or the people living in Germany during Hitler’s reign…and many thousands throughout the centuries before them. And did the world end? Apparently not.

The upside to there having been struggles in the past is that Christians can learn from how the Church faced those challenges. Take the religious branch of the BBC during WWII for example. They faced a question not unlike the church faces today.

How can the church meet a hurting people where they are and show that Christianity is for real life including all the pain?[1]

Enter Clive Staples Lewis or C.S. Lewis or even Jack as his friends would call him.

He was a man acquainted with pain, having lost his mother at a young age and having served in WWI. He had once been a skilled skeptic of Christianity but became one of its greatest advocates. And although he was a university professor, he managed to reach the British people via the “wireless” in a way that common people could appreciate even as they managed ration cards, hid in bomb shelters, wrestled with ideologies like nationalism and Communism and heard that their loved ones were never coming home.

But it didn’t all come easy to him.

In fact, his first attempt at speaking to a group of British soldiers on Christianity was decidedly disappointing.[2]

 However, thanks to some encouragement, he didn’t give up there. And from his labors grew a modern classic called Mere Christianity.

I haven’t finished the book C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic yet, but I have listened to the companion radio threatre drama C.S. at War, and I think there are several tips we can all gain from the life of C.S. Lewis. 

  1. He kept learning, even from his own failures. 
  2. He had the humility to let his radio talks be edited and revised. 
  3. He sought counsel. 
  4. He genuinely cared for people. 
  5. And it was the Lord Who made his efforts successful.

Maybe if we want to move forward well in 2016 – both looking forward to Christ’s return and living well in the meantime – we need to take some time to look backward. After all, on this earth, some things could very well be timeless.  

1 1Paul McCusker, C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic. Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, 2014), pgs. 30-31.

2Ibid., pg. 105.


A Life of Loves

Getting older is like walking down a leaf-lined trail in the woods. Once you’ve gone a ways, you can look back and see where you’ve come from. At least some of the turns start to make sense and you can appreciate with new eyes the wonder of what lies around you. 

You can also start to notice themes throughout your journey. On a walk in the woods, it might be how maple leaves always catch your attention, the frequent scurrying of squirrel paws or the chirp of a certain bird. On the journey of life, it may be the things that have stuck with you through the years, the things that you’re drawn to, the things you love.

Take my Grandpa’s life for instance. After this Nebraska-born man joined the Navy in his teens, everything Navy has held a special place in his heart. First, the Navy itself, then lighthouses, now restoring and building model ships have kept the nautical lines strong in his life. They also extend into something else Grandpa loves.

“I would have thrown it away if you hadn’t taken it,” the jolly old blacksmith told Grandpa as they admired the five-foot, restored pond yacht. The boat had been the blacksmith’s childhood toy but needed some serious repair after being damaged in a tornado and neglected for years. After discovering how much Grandpa likes all things ship related, the blacksmith offered him the boat. Grandpa took on the project and went to work, scraping paint and repainting, studying historic information, crafting new parts, even tying the rat lines himself. After hundreds of hours of labor, the pond yacht was ready, and, oh, is she a beauty now. She represents one of the other things Grandpa loves: fixing things and giving them a new start on life. It makes me think of how God takes on the wreckage of our lives and makes us ready to sail again.

Yet another of Grandpa’s loves is making people laugh. He’s the one you can always count on to tell a joke. But he can tell it with such a straight face, you might take him seriously if you’re not on your toes!

Along with that, he also loves marshmallows and pecan pie and really has such a sweet tooth, we don’t know how he gets by. Maybe it’s because he’s disciplined in other areas of his life. Grandpa’s the one who walked miles in a frozen January when he needed to get in shape. That’s partly why he could walk himself out of the hospital a day after having a hip replacement! He’s also the one who is ready to leave to work ten minutes early. (I know because we used to work together.) All his life – from his job at the brickyard when he was sixteen through now – he’s been willing to put in a good day’s work and do things well. He’s also ready to learn new things (like with the ship models). We know he’ll never really retire until he simply can’t work anymore. You could say work is a love of his, too, though he might not admit it. I think this has been an example to the rest of his family.

But more than ships, lighthouses, repairing old things, jokes, marshmallows, and the satisfaction and pride of a job well done, Grandpa has another love: his family – his wife of 58 years, his children and his grandchildren, his brothers and sisters. Sure, our family isn’t perfect, and I think Grandpa would say he’d do some things differently if he could now, but when push comes to shove, we know Grandpa loves us. 

And that really counts for something because there’s a big difference between pouring time into boats and knots and work and pouring your life into people. All those other things are good and can be used in wonderful ways, but people are eternal. Someday Grandpa will leave those other loves – just like you leave the trees, the squirrels and the bird songs when you leave the woods – but those people he loves on can, by God’s grace, stick with him through eternity. How awesome is that?

I know I’m grateful for the “loves” of Grandpa’s life. They will be a part of the “Grandpa” stories my family will enjoy getting to share with his newest little love – his great-granddaughter.

Grand and great-granddaughter

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! I’m glad to say you are one of my “loves”.

 What about you? What are the “loves” of your life? Are your priorities where you want them to be? It’s not too late to change course and set sail for a different sea. 


Feeling Sheep-ish?

Onward he presses. Over the rocky cliffs. Through another chilly stream. He knows it isn’t far now.

Out of so many, only one is missing, but he won’t lose that one. Softly, he calls out, certain his voice is known. Finally, a reply comes.

He scrambles through brush, cutting his hands and legs on the thorns. After so much, the shed blood is worth it, isn’t it? 

He kneels down to free the lost one from its thorny prison. “Come on, little one,” he comforts, patting the sheep before he scoops it in his arms. “I’m going to take you home. And we’ll have to celebrate, won’t we?”

The sheep bleats its answer as it settles on the shepherd’s shoulders. (1)

Have you ever spent much time around sheep? Growing up, I got to observe sheep in their pasture, feed sheep, watch sheep be sheered, and even help care for twin lambs. It doesn’t take long to learn a few things about sheep.

They’re capable of cuteness worthy of nursery-rhymes. They’re useful in their own woolly way. And they’re likely to wind up in dire situations without someone with a shepherd’s heart watching out for them.

They’ll wander into bad places, eat the wrong stuff or eat too much, possibly not take care of their lambs (if they have more than one), fall prey to any number of enemies…You get the idea: Sheep can get in a lot of trouble on their own.

That’s why they need a shepherd-hearted someone to lead them where they need to go, give them “yumthy” (yummy + healthy) food, save them (and their little ones) from their own stupidity, protect them from danger and all-around help them to thrive.

Kind of like us.

Maybe you’re saying, “Speak for yourself!” Of course, I am. However, doesn’t it seem like we’ve all done at least a few sheep-like things in our lives?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a great shepherd, too? A shepherd who could guide us, track us down when we’re lost, provide for us, watch over our little ones, help us overcome our limited understanding, keep away predators, and comfort us with his voice. What if this shepherd even loved us enough that he would shed his blood for us if we needed it?

Well, that, my friends, is what Easter is all about.

We do have a Shepherd Who is able to do all those things for us. Even with His worldwide flock, He values each old ram and each little lost lamb. He has even shed His blood for us (He was also the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5-7, John 1:29). That’s why we celebrate Easter.

And with a Shepherd like that, I think being a sheep maybe isn’t so bah-bah-bad after all.


1 This is what my imagination sees as I read “The Lost Sheep” in Luke 15:4-7 and think of Jesus being the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) .