[forthright] Fragile -- Handle With Care / Raccoon John Smith (3)

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 08:36:58 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
Straight to the Cross

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Fragile -- Handle With Care
 by Tim Hall

She was a Christian woman with whom I'd been acquainted
for many years. In recent months her husband battled
some serious ailments. 

In that time, she developed some conditions of her own. 
It seemed she was doing better. But her husband woke up 
one morning, and she did not. She was 81 years old.

He was a distant relative, a young man I'd never met.
His great-grandfather was my grandmother's brother. He
was a husband and the father of two young children. The
fact that he worked inside a coal mine suggests that he
was in good health.

But on the last day of 2006 he suffered a heart attack
and died. He was 23 years old.

These two sketches of real people illustrate a
principle we’ve come to know all too well: life is
fragile. Though it may seem we're in the prime of life,
enjoying excellent physical health, conditions can
change with blinding speed.

An undetected illness surfaces, and carries a poor
prognosis. An oncoming car fails to negotiate a curve
and veers into our lane. A freak accident occurs on the
job. Just when we thought life was going smoothly, the
end comes.

James didn't use the word "fragile" in describing the
temporal nature of life, but his image carries the same
idea. He wrote:

   "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow
   we will go to such and such a city, spend a
   year there, buy and sell, and make a
   profit;' whereas you do not know what will
   happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It
   is even a vapor that appears for a little
   time and then vanishes away" (James 4:13,14,

"A little time" may mean ninety years, but it may not.
In view of eternity, any number of years begins to look
puny. Even if we lived to be 500, it would be "a little
time," and then we would vanish away.

The lesson to be learned was not forgotten by the
inspired writer: "Instead you ought to say, "If the
Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that" (James

His point: We need to live in view of God's will. And
God's will is that we be reconciled to Him and live
according to His will -- every day.

This package contains items that can be easily broken.
That's why I'm asking the postal worker to handle it
with care. Similarly, God warns us that our souls are
enveloped in fragile containers. Before they break and
spill our spirits into eternity, let's make sure we're

Let's live in a constant state of readiness. And if we
vanish away today or twenty years from now, we'll
welcome the appointment, knowing we're heading home!

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Raccoon John Smith (3)
 by Michael D. (Mike) Greene

Saturday, January 15, 1815 was a bright but cold day.
John left his home to visit and preach for one of his
father's old friends some distance from their humble
rented cabin.

His lovely wife, Anna, who had a beautiful singing
voice, was called to cheer a dying neighbor with her
songs. She took her infant child in her arms, left the
three older children in the care of her younger brother
and sister, and set out on her mission of mercy to the
nearby cabin.

Late in the evening, the cry dreaded by all went out;
"FIRE!" Anna seized her infant child and rushed to the
cabin where the children had retired for the night,
only to see the little cabin engulfed in flames.

Only a mother could understand her fear as she, in
terror, called the names of the children. Her younger
brother and sister had survived, but only one of her
children remained. Two had perished in the fire. The
heart-broken mother refused to be comforted.

Word was quickly sent for John Smith to return home.
When the messengers reached John the next morning and
gave him the sad news he immediately set out for home.

But the thoughts he had on the return journey were not
the same as those which had captivated his mind just a
few hours earlier. He could see the dreams of
prosperity now in ruins. He thought of his beloved
Anna, and how her heart must be breaking. He turned to
his faith for some solace.

But his religion offered little solace or comfort. The
thought that the two beloved children were not of the
elect, and therefore damned to a devil's hell broke
through the gloom that weighed so heavily on Smith’s
grieving heart and mind. How could he console his
grieving wife if she had these thoughts, if he himself
found no comfort in their faith?

   "'I can give her no her no consolation!’
   thought he. 'If I tell her that our babies
   are glorified, the thought that possibly
   they were of the non-elect will only
   aggravate her woe.' His own faith was
   bewildered by this thought, which haunted
   him like an evil specter as he rode along.
   He tried to persuade himself that non-elect
   persons do not die in infancy; but his mind
   would not accept the subterfuge. He dreaded,
   therefore, to meet his wife's look of
   anguish, and to hear her ask the question,
   'Are our children among the elect of God?'
   For the time being, every other grief was
   lost in this; and in the confusion of his
   mind, his faith in that harsh doctrine of
   his Church yielded up its strength

His dear Anna, thought no such thoughts. She was simply
burdened with guilt and asked her husband "Can you ever
forgive me for leaving home as I did last night?"/2

Smith immediately began to again make plans to find
fortune in this new home. He found some melted coin in
the ruins of the burned cabin. This he sold for seventy
six dollars. He knew that with this and his strength
and unconquerable will, all would be well and his
dreams of fortune and plenty might yet find fruition.

But no sooner had the ashes of his children been
committed to the earth, Anna grew sick and died. Her
earthly remains were buried near the ashes of her

In a few days, the young Smith himself was stricken by
a lingering sickness. Days passed into weeks and weeks
into months as Smith lay on the bed of sickness. Many
gave him up for dead.

After four months he began to recover. But he was never
the man of robust health he once was. When he was able,
he went to see his children who had been in the care of
friends. He knew he could never care for them and left
them forever in the care of those who had accepted them
as their own.

He determined to return to Kentucky. He took stock. He
had come to Alabama seeking his fortune with fifteen
hundred dollars, 85 hogs, 50 cattle, a wagon and a team
of horses, a wife and four children.

Only the wagon and team, one cow and two children
remained and the children had been given over to
friends. Even the clothes on his back he had through
the generosity of a friend.

The cow was sold and the money used to pay the
physician's bill. Smith loaded his few simple articles
of cabin furniture on the wagon and quitting the scene
of his terrible sufferings, began his solitary journey
back to Kentucky./3

Never again would such dreams of grandeur and wealth
come to the now humbled Smith. The one thing he had
left was his undying faith in a loving God. But his
faith in one tenet of Calvinism had suffered a mortal

"My children are happy, for they were innocent," he
reasoned. He returned to his former home in Stockton’s
Valley. His family and friends wept at his story and
welcomed him back into their hearts again./4

Yet emotional turmoil was not over for John Smith. His
faith in one tenet of Calvinism was gone forever, but
others were yet to be tested and found wanting to his
logical and scripture filled mind.

1/ Williams, John Augustus, Life of Elder John Smith,
Reprinted by Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, TN, 1956,
pg. 80.
2/ Ibid., pg. 81.
3/ Ibid., pg. 85.
/4 Ibid., pg. 86

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