Thursday, May 17, 2012


Step into the Garden

Make them singular and uncommon

Singular and uncommon? How so? How are we who claim to follow Jesus to be perceived as set apart? Singular and uncommon? Is this a good thing?

Jesus is about to be glorified. There he is, about to be exalted to the right hand of God where he will sit in authority over zillions of light-years, galaxies, supernovas, quasars, black holes, stars, comets, planets, earth, moons, sparrows and human hairs, which if we believe the Scripture, he has actually numbered. Although it does seem like God could find something better to do with his time than count all of our hairs. And in some of our cases, it is not a matter of sums.

So, on this night, Jesus prays for his disciples and for those who would believe through the message he gave them. It appears that when Jesus offered this prayer, he was thinking of you as well.

The disciples who believed in Jesus while he engaged society in his time on earth, were ordinary men and women. Fishermen, politicians, tax-collectors, prostitutes, even members of the Sanhedrin and many others who populated his life. Ordinary people who went about doing ordinary things..

So how is it that they became “singular and uncommon?”

They believed. And in believing, they loved. And in loving, they became like Him.

I had the distinct privilege of knowing a man I deeply admired. He is with Jesus now, but I knew him well enough to be guided by his counsel. He was a man of uncommon grace, humility and love. His name was Richard (Dick) Halverson, pastor of the great Fourth Presbyterian Church just outside Washington, D.C., and for many years, Chaplain of the United States Senate, where he ministered to the needs of the senators and their families. He sat on and chaired the Board of Directors for World Vision, Inc., one of the largest and most effective Christian charities in existence. He was a man immensely respected by all who knew him. He is also the most humble man I think I have ever met.

I think of Dick in writing this piece because he is an outstanding example of how God will honor a man whose heart is truly humble. Dick was, in himself, an ordinary man, and I think, he knew it. He did not think himself more than he was, yet his life and ministry touched the lives of thousands. The spiritual power emanating from this man brought him into the service of Almighty God. Through his gentleness and humility, he became -- singular and uncommon.

Please hear that: Through his gentleness and humility, he became singular and uncommon.

That is an honor of unimaginable proportions. It is all any of us can hope for. And yes, indeed, it is a good thing.

As Dick knew, and as we all must surmise, he was never singular and uncommon in and of himself. God made him that way owing to the genuineness of his faith, his honest heart, and to be certain, his humility. He was a man whose life influenced those whose decisions impacted a great nation. He had their ear. Moreover, he had their back. His was not the ministry of a perfunctory prayer in the Senate sessions. He counseled them when called upon, he comforted their families in times of great stress. He was a friend, regardless of political affiliation. He was, in a credible sense, the nation’s pastor.

Some think that in order to become singular and uncommon, one must aim for it, have ambition for it, plan for it and implement it. Nothing could be further from the truth. One does not arrive at singularity and uncommonness by seeking it. It just happens in the normal and routine course of service to Christ and to others. Nor is it an award, or reward. It does not answer Peter’s question, “We have left all to follow Thee. What shall we have, therefore?” Instead, it is the natural outgrowth of worship in service to others. It is, in a word, the fruit of the Spirit.

Singular and Uncommon: Dick Halverson, Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, former Governor and Senator Harold Hughes, Senator Mark Hatfield, and R.G. Letourneau come to mind. And, of course – or, perhaps even moreso – those who labored in relative obscurity: Charles Beatty, John Suiter, Paul S. Fleming, S. W. Burch – each of them, heroes – men who left giant footprints wherever they stepped.

I am grateful to have lived, to have breathed the same air as these men.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I know what it is for strong, tough and proud men to humble themselves. I’ve had to do it and it is painful. Maturing, however – What I want you to know is that I am proud of how you handled yourself – proud you are my brother and part of the team. – CWC
Chuck always signed his handwritten memos like that – “CWC,” Charles W. Colson. This memo, along with his picture, a flyer promoting the seminars I conducted with Prison Fellowship, and a news article of an inmate who wanted the judge to let him finish the seminar before he was released; hang framed on my office wall along with family and other pictures. It commemorates the three years I spent with Chuck and Prison Fellowship, many years ago, near the beginning of that incredible ministry to inmates and their families.

Let me say at the outset that I have never met anyone who was more committed, whose Christian testimony was more authentic, more genuine, or had more integrity than that of Charles W. Colson. His life and the meaning of his life towered above so much.

We were riding down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C., in my Karmann-Ghia convertible with the top down. Chuck was in the passanger seat and we were talking about something, only God knows what. As usual he was making gestures with his hands and arms as he talked, his black rimmed glasses punctuating each assertion. We pulled up to a light. While we waited for it to change, a car pulled up in the lane to the right of us. The female driver looked over at us and her eyes widened. “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!” she shouted. Chuck was hardly more than an arm’s length from her. He turned, greeted the lady with a warm smile, a hearty "Hi there," and an acknowledging wave. The light changed, and off we went. Chuck resumed his topic as though nothing had happened.

Perhaps it hadn’t.

After all, he had spent three years advising the President of the United States, carrying out often execrable orders, served time in prison for his trouble, and in the process was “Born Again.” He wrote a book about it. They made a movie out of it. Then he founded a ministry to prison inmates and their families (especially their children – does your church have an “Angel Tree” each Christmas?), of which I was then a part. Perhaps next to this, celebrity recognition was hardly a new experience to him.

I could tell more stories about this, mostly hilarious.

Working with Chuck and Prison Fellowship was for me, one doozy of a ride! In those early years, he often said that working in this ministry was "like trying to build a moving locomotive." I conducted week-long seminars in well over 100 prisons, both state and federal, throughout the U.S. and Canada. I was in charge of all the seminars, both in-prison, and those programs where we brought inmates to Washington, trained them and sent them back to finish their sentence. Lord, were I to recount all the experiences, I think I could fill a book.

Maybe. Someday.

Chuck was not perfect. None of us who worked with him in the ministry were. Nor, it should be noted, is anyone who reads this account. That said, God used him in a way he has used few men over the centuries. Like his hero, William Wilberforce, Chuck’s legacy will endure, perhaps for centuries to come.

He was a man of God. And because of this, he now is in the direct presence of the One he served so faithfully. I count it one of the most significant events of my life to have known him, and to have served with him.

To put a fine point on it, I do not believe Chuck is “Resting in Peace.” I prefer to believe that he is “Working in Joy.” I have never thought of heaven as a place where one sits on a cloud and plays a harp, or casts crowns, or spends the rest of eternity singing, “Hallelujah,” and stuff like that. I suspect the Lord has CWC busy doing stuff, and that there are still people who shout, “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!”

If I am ever in his neighborhood again, I'm going to look him up and see if he remembers my Karmann-Ghia!

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