Wednesday, June 12, 2019
When I was about 12 years old, Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie visited our church in Salt Lake City, Utah for a weekend of "renewal". Having grown up in the intermountain West through out my first years of life, I had never heard of Dr. Ogilvie's ministry. I was not familiar with the aspect of his character that all of us now take as his signature, his deep, rich, milky, sonorous voice. This past week, Dr. Ogilvie passed away at the age of 88 (He would have loved the double polarity of the double number 8 that marked his passing). And with it, the world of ministry experienced...
A Stentorian Voice that Has Gone Silent
Because I was doing public speaking and competed in Oratory (as a side note, Dr. Ogilvie won the National Oratory Championship in 1948, representing is home high school of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I had the honor of winning the same National Oratory Championship in 1990 representing East High in Salt Lake City Utah), I asked Dr. Ogilvie what the secret to good speaking was. He leaned down to me, and looked me in the eye and said, "The secret to good speaking is you must have deep voice like mine!" As a boy soprano, and still a fairly high pitched tenor, I wondered how my voice might become as deep as his. Some have joked about Dr. Ogilvie's voice being, "the voice of God."
But it wasn't his voice, really, which set him apart. For me, it was his deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ, and his desire to bring that love to life each week in whatever pulpit he was filling. Author of 52 books, and countless other publications, Dr. Ogilvie was as ubiquitous on the written page as he was in the oral presentation. Lloyd (and he allowed me to call him that, so I will use his first name throughout the rest of this blog) really, really, really believed in God. He really believed in the power of prayer. He really believed in the power of healing. He really believed in salvation, and that a personal commitment to Christ was what gave anyone the gift of eternal life.
On the written page Lloyd loved alliteration and assonance. Listen to a list of titles of some of his books, "Silent Strength", "Perfect Peace", "Let God Love You", "The Bush is Still Burning", "The Essence of His Presence". Lloyd also loved stark strong images. He painted pictures each Sunday morning while he delivered messages at The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I will never forget the one Sunday that I worshipped at Hollywood First, Lloyd leaning down and with a strong hand, moving from the ground to the ceiling and saying in the deepest voice imaginable, "God lifted his head up!" At Mark Labberton's inauguration as President of Fuller Seminary, Lloyd offered the prayer. I will never forget one phrase which Lloyd delivered which, knowing him, he must have worked hours perfecting and polishing, "God's Prevenient Grace!"
Years later, when I was a seminarian at Princeton, I went over to the Princeton University Chapel to hear Lloyd preach. I thought that that Sunday might be like so many of the other Sundays in that Chapel and have a small handful of people to hear him. The chapel (seating around 1,000) was packed. I will never forget how he stood at the back door and greeted each person individually as they left. With each person who came, he looked deeply in their eyes and he said, "God's peace to you!" It was a private moment, one felt, with God Himself. I wandered to the back of the chapel long after each person had departed, and there, Lloyd invited me into the Sacristy where he was meticulously folding his clerical vestments (which were another hall-mark of his ministry). This blog could just as easily be titled;
A Sartorial Voice Has Gone Silent
In a way, Lloyd was a creature of his time, and yet a being that seemed to come from another time altogether. He was like the great preaching orators of the previous generation - Louis Evans Sr., or dare I say my great grandpa Jesse Baird. And yet he seemed to transcend previous generations as well. On the week after the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy - D Day, we are reminded once again of the passing of an entire generation right before our very eyes (300 plus World War II veterans a day are passing away in the United States). And so, we see the passing of a beautiful, and somehow simpler, but richer generation of pastors pass away, right before our very eyes. Or perhaps it would be better to say, right before our very ears. Because, in Lloyd's case, it was his voice which still resonates.
A Stentorian Voice Has Gone Silent
All For Now,
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
I've been thinking a bit lately about the concept of...
I've not been thinking about "worth", strictly speaking, in the monetary sense, but rather about the subject of "worth" in the more general sense. The questions I've been asking myself are; "What is it that makes a thing have worth?" "What is it that gives another thing value?" "What is it that causes us to consider one thing as having more intrinsic desirability in life, over another?" Of course, the answer to this varies from object to object. A painting worth $1 million dollars to one person isn't worth even $1 to another. One man's rags are, as the saying goes, another man's riches.
The writer, Arthur Schopenhauer, once said, "Mostly it is loss that teaches us about the worth of things."
This past week I lost my grandmother.
She died of "natural causes", which is the name that doctors give to any ailment that a person has after they reach the age of 99, which she did. She lived a happy, and seemingly full life. In the picture above, she is captured on the cover of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper in 1938 as the face of youth, vibrancy and beauty, who swam in the Santa Cruz Aquacade with Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams. She was Miss Merced in a beauty pageant in her hometown. She holds the underwater world record, to this day, for distance swimming. But that was long before I knew her.
To me, she was always just - "grandma". But what I have been realizing, leading up to her death, and now after her death, is that in a very real sense, she gave me worth. Or should I say, she gave me a sense of self-worth.
Combing through her volumes of picture albums which adorned her tiny room in the nursing home in which she lived, I discovered picture after picture of different stages of my life. She captured on now be-yellowed polaroid photographs, almost every mundane and trivial activity of my youth. A picture of me holding a soccer trophy in Boise, Idaho in 1979 (I was terrible at soccer, as the super white uniform, unstained by any grass or dirt or sweat conveys). A picture of me three years later at a soccer match in 1982 (I was even worse then). It was the same year that she took a picture of me playing the bagpipe chanter with my father, at age ten (Even grandma must have known I had no future in the English Premier League of Soccer). A picture of me standing next to my grandpa and my dad, both pastors, in February of 1984 (I'm trying to look serious and "pastoral" in this photograph, an omen of things to come). Grandma recorded and catalogued nearly every event of the first 18 years of my life.
And it wasn't just me that she invested in, although at the time I thought it was. She invested in all of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the same way. There are an equal number of pictures of them sitting in the cockpit of airplanes, going off to college, getting married. She invested in her husband's career and life. She invested in members of her church and social service organizations (Kuwanis, Rotary, Good Sams Club). Grandma was ubiquitous in her attention to detail, as the many, many, many albums on her shelf, three days after she has died, all demonstrate.
But what I realize now, these 29 years later, is that grandma was doing much more than simply taking photographs of my life. She was giving me WORTH. By investing in my every move and award (usually it was, "most improved player" and not "most valuable player"), she was adding intrinsic value to the movements of my life. Worth comes into our lives when others invest in us. Worth can be imbued through an investment of time, attention, focus, affection, notation, and demarkation and cataloging. We make deposits of worth in other people's lives, not one penny at time, but one moment at a time. And these momentary depostits can add up to huge hedge funds of dividends.
They did for me. Today I'm a wealthy (at least in memories) 47 year old man. Hey, I still have the photographs that grandma took of me almost three decades ago. And when I look at them, I remember, that she gave to me the most important thing I own. My...
All For Now,