Archive for the ‘Heroes’ Category

Worn Path

Friday, January 1st, 2010

In Eudora Welty’s short story “Worn Path,” the elderly and slightly senile grandmother protagonist, Phoenix, has come to the doctor to obtain medicine for her grandson. But, she cannot remember why she came!

The nurse tries to tease out of Phoenix her reason for coming.

“You mustn’t take up our time this way, Aunt Phoenix,” the nurse said. “Tell us quickly about your grandson, and get it over. He isn’t dead, is he?’

At last there came a flicker and then a flame of comprehension across her face, and she spoke. “My grandson. It was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip.”

“Forgot?” The nurse frowned. “After you came so far?”

After coming so far, after working so hard, have we home schoolers forgotten why we came? Are we at the place where we can get the solution to our problems, but have we forgotten why we came? The challenge for us in 2010 is to sit down together and talk. Look around at all that God has done, and give thanks. And then go forth, Elijahs, and challenge the gods of this age—at Harvard, at the Supreme Court, in Hollywood. Give no quarter and ask for none. The God we serve deserves nothing less, accepts nothing less!

Crossing the Rubicon

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I don’t know, home schoolers, when we crossed the Rubicon. Perhaps it was when we turned off the television or refused to buy the latest entertainment center. Maybe it was when we drove our old cars another year so we could buy the best curricula for our kids. Or was it when we decided to read classics together in our homes? Somewhere, sometime, we crossed the Rubicon and there is no going back.

To push my metaphor farther, we were first “Obadiahs.” Obadiah, like Daniel, was a very influential in a very evil regime. King Ahab and Jezebel are very capable, and in many ways, successful monarchs. From their perspective, they are the ‘true’ leadership. Elijah, and the prophets, were radical, unreasonable, uncompromising troublers of Israel. They were not team players. No doubt Ahab and Jezebel could not understand why Elijah could not carry on a civil discussion about what they saw as tangential, civil issues.

This generation is the Elijah generation. To Elijah, the behavior of Ahab and Jezebel is absolutely appalling. While claiming to worship the Hebrew God they also fill the land with syncretism, with apostate worship of the BAALS. The crowning blow, to Elijah, was when these scoundrels placed the Asherah poles (places where believers could have sexual relations with temple prostitutes) on the hill next to the Temple. Enough was enough and Elijah was ordered home to confront these evil powers on Mt. Carmel.

And Elijah was not accommodating nor was he running away – don’t you just wish Ahab and Jezebel!—he is coming home to challenge the gods of this age.

Ahab and Jezebel are Post-Modernists. They celebrate the subjective. They are committed to compromise – it is their religion. Live and let live! What is the big deal?

Well, you see, Elijah cannot compromise with the stuff they are doing. There is no wriggle room in Judah and there is getting to be precious little wriggle room in the U. S. A. too.

The world of the Baals, folks, is falling apart. And quickly. As sociologist Peter Berger explains, “American mainline culture can no longer offer plausibility structures for the common man. It no longer sustains Americans.” Or, as my old friend Professor Harvey Cox, at Harvard, coyly observed, “Once Americans had dreams and no technology to fulfill those dreams. Now Americans have tons of technology, but they have no dreams left.”

In short order the Ahabs and Jezebels are going to find out that Elijah is not in a compromising mood either. Folks, there are some things one cannot compromise. Elijah and Jezebel are going to meet a man of God who speaks with concrete clarity, who carries the weight of truth.

Elijah is coming in 2010, Christian brothers and sisters. The days of Obadiah are over. Elijah is coming to town.

Are you ready? Can you give up your anonymity? Will you risk everything this year to do what God tells you to do? Will you go the extra mile in your home schooling to make sure that this generation will stand on Mt. Carmel and proclaim the sovereignty and goodness of our God? So they can bring the Kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven? The stakes are high; the potential rewards astounding. We have a chance, perhaps in our lifetime, to experience an unprecedented revival. This is the generation of Elijah. The generation that will have to walk the long, arduous walk up Mt. Carmel and they will challenge the gods of this age. Bring it on! We are ready! Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall profess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Bring on the fire of Elijah, again, on this nation! God is calling forth our children–Elijahs who will go to the high places of our nation to challenge the prophets of Baal—in the courts, in the university, in the shop, in the home, in churches.


Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

In The Odyssey, Homer emphasizes the importance of family and home. After being absent from his home and family in Ithaca for almost 20 years, Odysseus sits daily on the shores of Calypso’s island, Ogygia, “wearing out his soul with lamentation and tears” (63) because he longs to return to his home. Athena, who argues with Zeus to allow Odysseus to go home against the wishes of Poseidon tells her father Odysseus “would be happy to see as much as the smoke leaping up from his native land, and then to die” (12) knows how much he wants to be with his family again.

I have lived six weeks on the road–literally six weeks–I have not lay in my bed or scratched my dog’s ears–in six weeks–I miss home terribly. I “wear out my soul with lamentation.”

That feeling was more than mitigated, however, last week when I had the privilege to stay with a home school family, the Chows, outside San Francisco. They are some of the finest people in the world. Hospitable, generous, and loving, they made their home my home. And I am grateful.

It felt a lot like home. Thank you!

Odysseus further conveys the significance of his family relationships by refusing the appealing bargain of “Calypso, a radiant creature” (11), which would give him immortality under the stipulation that he must forget his family in Ithaca and stay with her for eternity. When Odysseus is set free from Calypso’s clutches by Hermes and informed that his journey to Ithaca would be a challenging one, he still chooses to depart so that he can be with his family once again. Odysseus’s homeward bound takes ten years and involves several tumultuous experiences with mortals, gods, and monsters. Odysseus saves his men from the blissful drugs of the Lotus-Eaters and the wicked enchantments of Circe. Also, he rescues them from the Laestrygonians, who were a cannibal race of giants. Odysseus led his men pass the enticing Sirens and in addition, he surpasses the six-headed monster Charybdis. He even lands on the treacherous island of Ogygia again after his ship gets wrecked all before stepping foot in Ithaca.

Not only does Odysseus battle his way through hordes of dangerous instances to reach home, he also brawls with the suitors in Ithaca to reclaim his abode. Odysseus valiantly slaughters the sinister suitors who laid siege to his house with help from his son and Athena. This was the greatest obstacle that Odysseus triumphed over so that he could be with his family.

I have found in the homes of people like the Chows, a gentle song, more appealing than the Sirens!

Fishing At King Tut

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Dear Friends and prayer partners,

My 49 year old dad died 27 years ago on Father’s Day. He was one of my best friends. He died so young – and I miss him so much.

Dad loved to fish. He taught me to fish in deep waters. To fish in places where others avoided. My friends and their dads fished at Possum Fork or Kate Elder Lake where there were inviting loading docks and paved roads to river banks. Their fishing was profitable and easy. They never caught a trophy bass or a crappie limit, but they caught enough to eat. Average fish, true, nothing extraordinary, but adequate. And that was good enough for them.

Not for my dad. He did not want merely to catch enough to eat. A stringer of forgettable but eatable 2 pound black bass were not enough for him. He didn’t merely want to catch the limit. He wanted the 4 pound lunker. The trophy. The unusual. So we went to Ditch Bayou or King Tut or Anthrax Slough. Slippery river banks and inhospitable muddy water for us. Why? Because no one else went there and that is where the monsters lived. The really great fish. The granddaddy crappie. The behemoth bass. That is where we went.

The allure of catching one trophy fish in a neglected Anthrax Slough was worth more to Dad than all the crappie in Possum Fork.

As a result, we did not catch as many throw backs as my friends, and they fried a lot more crappie and bass than we did, but when we did catch a fish, it was a trophy. A memorable catch. And more times than not my soft hearted dad threw the trophy back – it wasn’t the consummation of the fact that thrilled him so much as the faith event, the thrill of the journey.

I learned that the biggest fish lived in the back water bayous of Whiskey Shoot or Boggie Bayou, not in hospitable Lake Chicot or Paradise Lake.

I remembered my dad and as I fish for the big fish. Metaphorically speaking I went fishing at King Tut yesterday. I went fishing in the deeper waters yesterday. I reached for the trophy catch. I decided I wasn’t merely satisfied with catching my limit. I want the biggest and the best.

I resigned yesterday from my safe, profitable, public teaching job. It is not that I don’t like teaching – I do. And I am not opposed to public education (although it is an oxymoron). For the first time in my life I am not sure how my bills will be paid. This is my Anthrax Slough, my Whiskey Shoot. It is the only way I can fully obey the calling God has placed on my life.

Karen seems to be ok about it–I don’t know if she is Joan of Arc or just walking in faith (probably the later). I love that woman. She has been fishing in Boggie Bayou so long she has learned to be patient and to wait for the trophy bass. Not I though. It is still real scary to me.

I am, I admit, Doubting Dan. I wonder if I will actually catch that big fish.

Perhaps only I, or any 50+ year old husband , can understand how this feels–I have devoted my entire adult life to providing for my wife and children. And I just resigned from a good paying job in a Recession? A good job. But not what God wanted me to do (darn it). He wants me to fish in more treacherous, but more promising waters. Waters where I can land a whopper.

The problem is, and I admit it, in spite of my dad’s best efforts, I am at heart a Possum Fork fisherman. I like to ease my boat down a ramp and not get dirty. I like to catch a few fish and go home. It is no fun dodging cotton mouths and mosquitos at King Tut. But that is the only place the monster bass live. It is the only way this saint can fully obey his Lord!

I have seen the outcome of this faithfulness. In my distance learning program there is Julia who will someday write better than Willa Cather. There is Lucy my 2003 distance learning student who graduated from Columbia Law School and is arguing hard in Congress against the inevitable approval of the pro-choice Supreme Court nominee. Chris used my SAT Prep program and scored 2000+. I have stayed on the lake long enough already to be assured the big fish are out there.

Well, I am sure it is my problem. I am a “scenario” guy. Which means I think of “potential” scenarios and I use that as my compass. A bad plan I admit. Too often this plan is a self-fulfilled prophecy to mediocre fishing. Pray for me! Pray that I will learn to ignore the scenario and to follow the Lord. Pray that I will patiently take the necessary risks and to fish in the dangerous places. Pray that I will take joy in the journey and not to worry about the angry water snakes stalking my john boat..

So onward and upward! And think of me while I am fishing in the deeper waters. Looking for the trophy. And join me if you can!

Thank you for your prayers.

Jim Stobaugh

Sister Mary

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Several years ago, in Chicago, Illinois, an elderly lady died.

When she was discovered by her neighbors, no one seemed to know who she was. She was called “Sister Mary” because she was a nun and member of the Cenacle Sisters (Roman Catholic Church). But no one knew her last name.

So, the police investigated. It was more difficult than they thought it would be.

You see, Sister Mary, owned almost nothing. She had no credit cards, no automobile, no televison. People knew and loved her though. She was well known at the local food bank. And almost every homeless person in the neighborhood knew her. But, the police could not identify her until they contacted the Cenacle Sisters and sent them a photograph.

“I have no need of credentials,” the Apostle Paul writes the Corinthian Church. “My life is written on your hearts.” Paul owned almost nothing, but his value as a person was to be found in the persons with whom he had shared Jesus Christ. Those were the riches he carried with him to the Roman gallows.

What do people say about us parents? “He buys a new car every year.” Or, “His front yard is beautiful . . .” If we died tomorrow, what would people say about us?

In America, unfortunately, we are most often known by what we own. By our job. Our success is determined by how much wealth we collect. You know the old joke–“Success is determined by how many toys we have at the end of our lives.” Sister Mary owned very little. So she could not be identified by outsiders. But her life was written on the hearts of thousands of people. And you can bet that God will know her when she gets to heaven!

Karen, my wife, and the mother of my children, is a culture creator. A faithful servant of God. Her life is indelibly written on all our lives!


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

A woman in Deborah’s day had no property or value herself without her husband. If she was infertile she could be divorced. And, in any event, most women died before age thirty. They were married about age 13 and delivered an average of sixteen children (but only five survived). In fact, most women died in childbirth. This was a terrible time to be a woman.

But God again chose the most unlikely candidate to do His work. A person with no status, with nol honor. He knew that she would be flexible in His hand. He knew that Deborah would be easier to use than some self-reliant person who was self-important. No, Deborah was willing to follow the Lord no matter what the cost. Afterall, what did she have to lose? She was unimpressed with the Canaanites because she was impressed by who God is.

I pray that we can reach the basic level of our existence, the critical mass, as it were, where we realize that we have nothing without God. That we owe Him everything. That we must obey Him whatever the cost.

God will always use people like Deborah, people who are willing to go and do anything He says. The world needs more Deborahs!

Deborah, besides being a military genius, was a woman who remembered Israel’s past. She was a song writer, a story teller.

And Israel had forgotten her past. Righteous roads were abandoned. The nation was taking an obscure and destructive path (v. 6). The ego–not God–ruled the land.

There was no collective memory, no commonality. There was nostalgia, but no memory. Memory learns from the past; nostalgia tries to retrieve the past. Deborah knew how to remember the past without worshiping it.

In general Deborah’s community was prehistoric–writing was not yet developed. Traditions, history, and morality was maintained through legends, myths, stories, and songs. In early England these traditions and history were maintained by traveling minstrels, story tellers called Scops. Early English poems were memorized rather than written and were recited by scops, wandering poets who chanted their poems. These minstrels maintained English culture for several generations.

Communities–like churches–need minstrels, men and women of God who tell our story over and over again. When I came to my downtown church, I immediately looked for these minstrels, these preservers of history. I found them. A mother arose among them . . .

Deborah was a singer, a culture creator. But she also was a woman who understood power. Understanding that true power arises from God, not humankind, she led her anemic nation to victory. She was not to be deterred.

Today, we need Moms who will not be thwarted from raising their children in Godly ways. Who will not be impressed by the power in the world. But will take control in the name of Christ of their children’s future. And teach them to be impressed and to respect power–but not power and rulers of this world–but God’s authority and His word.

Deborah encouraged her community to defy Baal. To stand against the forces of darkness and to win . . .”Souls are like athletes,” Thomas Merton writes. “And they need opponents worthy of them.” Deborah challenged her community to reach beyond themselves and to find the strength to be and to do all that God wanted them to do and to be.


Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

“Fifty-seven and she is more beautiful than ever,” I thought.

Seventeen years ago, Karen, my wife, was carefully unpacking her 1960 Barbie dolls. While taking a break from my nervous Saturday night sermon review, I discovered my wife holding an archaic, but still beautiful, silver Barbie doll dress up to our dull attic light.

“Lord,” she hopefully sighed, “please don’t let Jessica think these clothes are corny.”

Some of these 1950ish out-of-style clothes would be part of one of my daughter’s Christmas. With four children to buy for Karen and I find Christmas shopping to be a painful experience. My Scottish wife never hesitated to explore creative alternatives to huge post-Christmas Visa bills.

Karen was the sort of woman who looked better at thirty-nine than she did at twenty-four. Oh she was beautiful–but her cherubic face, looking somewhat juvenile at 24, was suddenly strikingly attractive at 39. I remember well the smile of my bride as she walked down the aisle–her generous smile dominating her face. But, while most of us find that the vicissitudes of life assault our outward vitality, Karen seemed to have grown stronger and more attractive in the fight. As Karen’s grandmother from Glascow, Scotland, would say: “Fifty-seven suited her.”

Karen did not see me on this Saturday night and I starred at her for several minutes.

“I owe this woman so much,” I thought to myself.

My father once correctly evaluated Karen’s value to me: “She is the best thing that ever happened to you, Jim.”

And she has been, by far, the greatest gift that God has ever given me. She has supported me through graduate school (three times!), she has stood beside me through the difficult early years of ministry. She has raised our four children. While Karen and I feel that both parents’ working is proper for some couples, for us, at least, for the early years of our children’s lives, she chose to stay at home and to raise our children.

She was therefore critical to the growth and maturation of our children. It is a well known fact in family therapy that the mother is the key to a healthy family system. In fact, we family counselors are taught that if we can shore up the mother we can probably heal the whole family. The mother is the lynch pin so to speak.

Israel needed a mother. The city needs mothers. In fact, as we urban pastors know all too well, it is the mothers in our innnercity neighborhoods who hold together the very fabric of our society. The Cotton Patch Gospel interprets v. 6 as “Things were bad until a woman arose . . . we needed a mother!”

Families are in trouble. Everyone knows that. And one of the main reasons is that American parents are not making the right choices. Fathers and some mothers are AWOL. And the consequences to American families is devastating.

Of course the real victims are children. Single households statistically are usually poorer than two parent households.In 1993, 46.1% of the 8.8 million female-headed families with children lived in poverty, compared with only 9.0% of the 26.1 million married couple families with children. Of 1.6 million families headed by unmarried men only 22.5% lived in poverty.1 Out of 69.3 million children younger than 18 15.7 million–one in four–are poor. Most of these poor children are illegitimate and illegitimacy is approaching an 80% rate in some inner-cities.2 And it is not simply an innercity phenomenon. 23% of American children live in families below the poverty line and 31% of these in Suburbia.3 We need moms and dads to come home again . . .

Call Forth Elijahs

Friday, January 30th, 2009

In 49 BC, the crossing of a small stream in northern Italy by ambitious Roman general Julius Caesar became one of the pivotal events in world history. From it sprang the Roman Empire and the genesis of modern Europe.

An ancient Roman law forbade any general from crossing the Rubicon River and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason. Caesar was well aware of this. Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, he halted for a while, and rehearsed in his mind the importance of the next step. “Still we can retreat!” he said. “But once let us pass this little bridge, – and nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!” (Suetonius ). He crossed the river and we all know the rest.

After raising four home schooled children, attending over 300 home school conventions, participating in a HSLDA court case victory (Stobaugh, et al., vs. Pittsburgh Board of Education), attending 15 or 16 field trips a year, it is time for Karen and me to cross the Rubicon.

America is very different from the American in which Karen and I began home schooling in 1985. Really different. Our president wonders why we 2010 evangelicals cannot be “civil” in our discussions about things like abortion. Civil? Abortion is murder, Mr. President. Murder. I could be civil discussing tax increases or even the Surge in Iraqi, but there are some things I just can’t be civil about.

In 1 Kings 18-19, the famous Mt. Carmel challenge chapters, choleric Elijah is coming home—and no one wants him to come home. He is crossing his Rubicon. After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, of course, hate him. But even, Obadiah, a faithful follower of God and trusted advisor to the king and queen, who had learned so well to survive in this hostile land, who has done so much good for God’s people—Obadiah was not too thrilled to see him either. In fact, no one welcomed Elijah – not the hostile king and queen nor the pious evangelical Obadiah.

Even though Elijah brings good news – it is finally going to rain—no one welcomes him. Elijah’s fish-or-cut-bait prophetic messages are irritating the life out of the status quo. That is bad enough. But what really scares the dickens out of everyone is the fact that Elijah has come home to Zion, to the City of God, to challenge the gods of society to a duel.


Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Some people understand life better.

And they call some of these people “challenged”…

At the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash.

At the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win.

All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry.

They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back every one of them. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.”

Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line.

Everyone in the stadium stood, the cheering went on for several minutes.

People who were there are still telling the story… Why? Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves.

What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course.

Crossing the Rubicon 3

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Elijahs brought Good News but not welcome news. Good News that we gave them in our modest homes. Year after year, one music lesson after another, one coop meeting after another, year after another, we raised this generation. And today, today they are on the threshold of changing their world. They are housewives, they have small businesses. They are writing scripts in Hollywood. Writing speeches for presidents. Lobbying for Godly causes in Congress.

Do we have a vision of what lies ahead? Will we seek the Lord’s face to cooperate in His equipping , enabling and empowering process? Will we trust God? Elijahs are wild and crazy! They will move beyond our traditions and our comfort zones. Elijahs always do.

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him the bad news, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals.

Challenge the gods of this age home schoolers!