Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



This tale is a favorite.  I do it as a monologue in an abridged version.  It’s been a winner every time.


 By Burl Ives


[From Wayfaring Stranger, Kessinger Legacy Reprints, Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, © 1948, page 73.]


When I was in about the sixth grade at school, our two-year high school decided to put on a play.  Since there were only eight or ten students in high school, they had to draw from the grade school to fill out the cast. Because of my singing in public, I was given the part of the comedian.

The following year the young people decided to put on another play, "a home talent play" they called it, and I was given the lead.  The name of it was Misery Moon. . . . The play was put on in the Odd Fellows Hall over the brick mercantile store in the center of our town.  We made the scenery, the girls made the costumes, and everybody turned out for the amateur theatricals.  People from other towns came to see them and before we knew it, we were putting on plays in the neighboring towns:  Willow Hill, Yale, St Marie, Rose Hill and others.

Between the acts I played the banjo, cracked jokes, and sang minstrel songs and the old ballads.  Because of my extensive theatrical commitments, I saved money and bought from Oliver Ditson in Boston a make-up box which had grease paint, eyebrow pencils, and all kinds of make-up equipment. 

One night after our week's theatrical season was over and forgotten, I began to experiment with make-up. . . . I sat before the glass and made myself up as old men with various kinds of whiskers.  One of these I liked very much.  I really looked like a very old man with whiskers.

In an old trunk in my father's bedroom, there was a cape and hat such as gamblers on the Mississippi River used during the turn of the century.  This hat and cape had belonged to my father's brother who was the black sheep of the family.  He had actually been a Mississippi gambler, and it was said that his body lay unfound at the river's bottom.

I took the cape and hat out of the old trunk and put them on.  With my whiskers and gray make-up on, with a cane in my right hand and in a stooped position, I walked towards the restaurant.  As I came to the corner to turn toward the restaurant, I met Ide Chatman, a neighbor woman.  I walked slowly past her, and I saw that she was mighty curious, that she did not recognize me.  She went on toward her home looking back over her shoulders at one whom she supposed a stranger in town.

I went up past the restaurant but stayed far enough away so that the people in the restaurant saw only the outline of an old man with a cane, a cape and a tall hat.

When I had moved from the light into the darkness I ripped off the cape and hat, flew home and took off the make-up.  Then I ran back as fast as I could to the restaurant.  The place was buzzing with excitement.  Ide Chatman had come in and reported what she had seen on the street.  Several of the loafers had seen the old man as he passed in front of the restaurant.  I knew in a moment that I was not suspected so I said, "Why I saw him not two or three minutes ago as I came up.  He was going towards the church."

That night, people who had not locked their doors in years locked them.  Children waited to walk home with their parents, and there was an air of mystery around the town.  During the day drummers would come into town taking orders for goods and occasionally visitors would come to some family, but everyone who came into town was accounted for.  The appearance of this stranger was curious, and everyone was afraid down in his heart of the mysterious old man.

After a couple of weeks, he was forgotten, and I thought it time he should make another appearance.  It was in the spring of the year, and the roads were muddy, and it was difficult for anybody to get into or out of town. Horseback and carriage were the only practical ways of travel.  The roads were impassible to automobiles.  Thus, the town had fewer visitors than at other times of the year.

It was a beautiful moonlit night when an old man with a cape, tall hat, and cane again moved slowly down the street in Hunt City.  Various people passed him, and he walked on, saying nothing.  Ten minutes later, after shedding my disguise, I went into the restaurant again, and this time the intensity of the excitement was even greater.  People ran into the restaurant to report that they had seen him in various other parts of town where he had not been.  Ide Chatman reported that she had seen him walking across the road, and that as she went toward him, all at once there was a flash and a puff of smoke, and he was no more.

Again, fear gripped this little town.  I fell in with their attitude and soon was not sure but that there was another old man, and that actually there was something to be afraid of.  For many weeks various people came in to tell of having seen the strange old man at one place or another in the town.  One person said he had seen him sitting on the steeple of the church, balancing himself and then fading away.

Summer came and the old man had been forgotten except as a legend.  Then one night, feeling the need for a little excitement, I put on my costume again and ventured into the streets.  Four young men were coming toward me, and I thought, should I give ground or should I walk directly past them?  I pulled the hat down over my face, bent on the cane and walked by the four frightened young men.  I kept walking, and they stopped.  One of them said, "Let's catch the old SOB."

They stared walking after me.  I started walking a little faster, and I realized that they intended to catch me. Also I sensed their fear.  I turned, with my cape in the same hand as my cane, and lifted them both high in the air.  The young men stopped for a second, then flew in terror down the street.  I ran and disrobed, then hurried into the restaurant and reported that I had seen him.

The town was abuzz, and again he was reported many times and in many places by various people. One woman said that she had seen him in her back yard, and that he had looked up at her, and his eyes were afire, that his face was pale, that stringy hair hung down from under his tall hat, and that he had no lips, only a pair of teeth.

During all of this I became very fearful lest I should be caught, and I did not appear again in this outfit for a very long time.  Then, I could not resist, and again I appeared on the street as the old man.

This last time I appeared was in the fall of the year.  There was a vacant lot down one of the streets where we boys had made beds in the tall Jimson weeds.  The weeds had grown eight feet high, and through them we had made tunnels.

It happened that on the night when the old man appeared, there was a group of men and boys in the street. Somebody said, "Let's get him."  All at once they came at me, fifteen or twenty men and boys, running as fast as they could go.  I came to the weed patch which was next to an implement building.  I went through a hole in the fence into the Jimson weed patch, threw off my cape and hat, and escaped.

They did not see where I had gone because I had faded into the dark shadow of the implement building.  Some of the men said, as they cut back to the restaurant, that as the old man flew down the street, his feet had not touched the ground, and as he had come to the implement building, he had raised in flight, and they had seen him soar into the sky.

I was so excited at all of these stories and at all of the wonderful things which were manufactured in the minds of the people that I felt I wanted to tell somebody that I was the old man.  But there was no one to tell.  I couldn't let this get out.  It had to be my secret, but I was bursting to tell someone.  I thought about telling my father, but realized that the consequences might not be pleasant.

So again in two weeks the old man appeared on the street, and this time he was chased into the weed patch by five or six men, one of them Frank Ives, my father.  After I had crawled into the weed patch a little distance, I took off the cape and hat and threw them into the weeds some distance.  Then I went back by tunnel and joined those who were seeking the old man.

I started down the street ahead of the men who had been seeking the old man, and my father said, "Burl, are you going home?"

I said, "Yes, I think I will."

He said, "Wait, I will come with you."

As we neared our house, from underneath his coat, he pulled a cape, a hat and a cane, and said, "Did you ever see these before?"

And I said, "Yes, they were Uncle John's."

He said, "Yes, they were."

He took the costume and put it back in the trunk which had belonged to my uncle, then came back to me and said, "Let's take a walk."

We walked what seemed to be a very long time down the streets, and finally he said, "You might have been killed, pulling a trick like that."

I said, "Yes."

Then he said, "If the old man never appears again I will tell no one.  It will be our secret."

We stopped and looked directly into each other's eyes, and Frank Ives held out his right hand to his son.  Until this day it has remained our secret.


Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.


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