The Shredder and C. T. Studd

by DanWolgemuth on January 21, 2022

Sitting on the top shelf of a storage area in our basement was a banker’s box. The box has been the final resting place for financial information for Mary and me. Everything from mortgage papers to tax returns.

On nearly every visit into this area I catch a glimpse of this box. Over time, the contents have been chronologically and thematically arranged. In addition, the continual addition of key financial material has meant that a few layers of file folders were stacked on top of the nifty box lid. Until two Saturdays ago.

For the past few years it has felt as though every glance at the box invited a dare, a taunt… Like the box thumbed its corrugated nose at me. And with good reason.

Nestled inside the box were tax returns that dated back to the year I graduated from college. My first year in full time employment. My last year as a single man. 1977 to be exact. I even had the W2 form from Mutual Security Life, along with an adjusted gross income of just over $6,000.

Two Saturdays ago I slid my hands in the openings at each end of the box and tugged it from the top shelf. I had done this before… to relocate the box, or to organize the box, or to add to the contents of the box. But frankly, never to utilize the contents for some regulatory purpose. Never.

In some odd way, the contents of this box provided comfort or confidence. Untested, indeed. But strangely significant. Until January 2022.

I had repositioned a paper shredder in front of a couch in our basement, with an unobstructed view of a television that displayed NFL football.

And shred I did. At moments when nostalgia or misplaced importance pressed against my resolve, I pushed five more pages into the whining motor. Handwritten Form 1040s. Notarized mortgage documents. Shredded. Trashed. Obliterated. Indistinguishable.

My entire working career (with the exception of the last few years based on IRS requirements!) gone. Destroyed.

Positions, bosses, promotions, and callings flashed in front of my mind’s eye. Fort Wayne. Franklin. Elkhart. Kansas City. Denver. Eight employers.

In a two-hour period of time, before the conclusion of one NFL football game… gone. Irrecoverably so.

I emptied the shredded collection over and over. Not disrespectfully, or void of gratitude… but with a proper amplification of the words of famous missionary, C.T. Studd…

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

One life.

Anything. Everything that doesn’t lift the name and cause and character of Christ… shredded. Gone.

A banker’s box dared me. And for years I folded. Until Saturday.

Twice the shredder overheated. But ultimately. And finally… gone.

Only one life… soon past.

Shred more.

Value rightly.

Lift higher.

Only what Jesus values escapes the shredder. Only…

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7 to 1

by DanWolgemuth on January 14, 2022

It was 1896 when the Supreme Court of the United States convened for what would become a landmark case. Seven justices were opposed by one dissenting voice. That voice belonged to John Marshall Harlan, a Kentucky lawyer who was appointed to the highest court in the land by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

The case in front of the court was Plessy v. Ferguson.

The origin of the case came when Homer Plessy, a black Louisiana shoemaker bought a first-class ticket in a “whites only” rail car. He was arrested and accused of violating the Louisiana Separate Car act.

Homer Plessy was convicted and subsequently appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1896 the Court voted in support of the conviction by an overwhelming 7 to 1 margin.

Upholding the conviction provided a red carpet for the Jim Crow laws that would remain in effect until the 1950’s and 1960’s. Laws that strangled human freedom and flourishing for black Americans by providing a suffocating grip on equal access and opportunity. Laws and injustice that ultimately galvanized the resolve of individuals like Rosa Parks in 1955, and amplified the voice of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

One dissenter. One “no” vote as the High Court stooping to one of its lowest points ever.

One.

A lone voice on behalf of Homer Plessy. One.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Harlan wrote… “Everyone knows that the statute in question was intended to exclude colored people from coaches occupied by or assigned to white persons,” adding that the law was “cunningly devised” to overturn the results of the Civil War.

Seven justices disagreed. Seven. Against one.

One.

John Harlan.

On behalf of a shoemaker from Louisiana. Homer Plessy.  

Decades before the Lincoln Memorial was completed… which decades later Martin Luther King, Jr. would stand on and deliver one of the most famous speeches in American history… Homer Plessy and John Harlan took a stand. For human dignity. For equality.

For America to live into the promise it had made in the Declaration of Independence… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What Homer Plessy believed, John Harlan defended.

Soloists. Waiting for the grand choir to assemble around the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. A choir under the inspirational direction of a man with a dream. A dream that was anchored more firmly in Genesis 1 & 2 than in the pens of men in the 1700’s. A dream anchored in divine design. A dream empowered by the Creator.

A Creator who had left His seat at the right hand of God…

An act of love and sacrifice that ushered Homer Plessy to his seat on a rail car in Louisiana. Image bearers expected to treat each other in like manner. Oppression confronted. Justice defended. Diversity celebrated.

Sometimes human history pivots with the masses. Sometimes it shifts with a first-class ticket and a lone dissenting vote.

One.

Me. You.

One. For all. On behalf of our righteous, holy, and just God.  

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Magnificat – (Latin: “My soul magnifies the Lord”)

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3 Words

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The Bible is a collection of over 783,000 words. 184,600 of them are in the New Testament, with 82,590 tucked in the four Gospels. Of these words, the Gospels record 31,426 spoken by Jesus. Each word measured and masterful. Every word a light. Yet, within the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks three words that anchor […]

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