Tag Archives: biographies

Walking with Chuck Colson

When I first read the other day that Chuck Colson was on his deathbed, I started to tear up.  He was a man of God…and to me, maybe even a father in the faith. Colson died April 21st surrounded by his family.

After I became a Christian in 1982, Born Again (Colson’s autobiography) was one of my first reads as a new believer. I was getting my bearings in those days, gaping at this Kingdom of God that I could see for the first time, and Colson was one of my tourguides. He had professed Christ 9 years before me, and despite what some in the media had said, it was clear to me that whatever had happened to me had also happened to him.  He was the real thing.

I remember little of the book, except the basic outlines that you might pick up in any news story, yet it was a delight, and I recall that Colson was impacted by C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  This fact may have been what moved me to pick up that classic.  I would eventually pass it on to my dad who would be eternally impacted by the Oxford professor.  I followed up Born Again with Life Sentence, Colson’s story of the beginnings of Prison Fellowship.

Navigators teach me a lesson…again

I came to Christ through the ministry of the Navigators at West Point, and then was discipled by the same group at the University of Illinois. Looking back on it, the Navs were a quirky bunch (I fit right in), but they were definitely Bible-saturated, and I was blessed by my association.  One of their quirks, if you will, was an emphasis on “getting all you can” from godly men and women.  So, for instance, when you went to a conference, and one of the Nav leaders from Colorado Springs was speaking, the sharp Nav students would vie to spend some free time with this leader. You know, ask him questions about his “quiet time”, about who he was currently discipling, and what memory verses were in his “current review.”  This emphasis permeated the Navigators, driven, I’m sure, by Proverbs 13:20…

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Pro 13:20 NIV)

I remember being with the Navs on a trip and the group of us getting an audience with J. Oswald Sanders, author of the classic, Spiritual Leadership.  We asked him about his quiet times, and I’ll never forget his answer: He said, “Oh, I could never talk about something so personal.”  What a cool answer, huh?  I figured you had to be extremely godly to answer the old quiet time question that way.

But I digress. Somewhere along the way, I realized that there was more than one way to “walk with the wise”. Sure, seeking out holy men and women had its blessings.  But godly people also write books, and I came to believe that reading a book by such a one filled the bill just as well as an afternoon “walking” with him or her. Maybe, in some ways, it was even better.  Through the years, therefore, I walked with fruitful missionaries, pastors of great faith, and founders of dynamic Spirit-led movements.  And I like to think I have grown wiser as a result.

Seven years ago, I started leading a Bible study in one of our local prisons (Waupun has three), affectionately known as “The Walls”. My buddy Pete was moving out of town and asked me to take over.  Back then, I don’t recall thinking much about Mr. Colson, but I was glad to pick up where Pete left off, and maybe Chuck Colson was in my head.  You see, I never had a single conversation with Nixon’s converted “hatchet-man”, but a long time ago, when my faith was being formed, he talked to me.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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A Wild and Crazy Guy

“…my memory of specific shows is faint.  I stood onstage, blinded by lights, looking into blackness, which made every place the same.  Darkness is essential: if light is thrown on the audience, they don’t laugh; I might as well have told them to sit still and be quiet.  The audience necessarily remained a thing unseen except for a few front rows, where one sourpuss could send me into panic and desperation.  The comedian’s slang for a successful show is “I murdered them,” which I’m sure came about because you finally realize that the audience is capable of murdering you.”

Steve Martin, Born Standing Up

Of my somewhat limited collection of LPs growing up, somehow I ended up with a Steve Martin comedy album.  Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with his movies, Father of the Bride, Parenthood,, but I remember the stand-up Steve fondly – the King Tut song, the “I’m just so mad at my mother” bit, and the song about being “obsequious, purple and clairvoyant”.  Steve Martin was part of the wallpaper of my life during that that unforgettable time we call high school.

I had recently tried to quit, and when they threw $20 at me to induce me to stay, I found myself shopping their $9.95 Holiday sale.  That’s when I decided to take a trip down memory lane and chose Born Standing Up, Martin’s chronicle of his early years culminating in sold-out stadiums and phenomenal success.  It was a delightful read (listen).

First, he’s a great writer, and captivated me: I started listening at night on New Year’s Day and was finished on January 2nd.  Okay, it was admittedly short (4 hours – in comparison, I listened to a George Washington bio last year that ran about 50), but still, I didn’t want to stop.  I also liked his honesty.  I suppose it’s possible to write in a way that seems transparent, but really is a pretend transparency. I have a hunch people see through that eventually.

He called his dad “Glen.”  That was weird, and Martin knows it.  His mom was “Mom”, but he called his biological father by his first name.  And far from creating a closeness, the relationship with Glen was distant, and in his reflective amateur psychoanalysis, Martin felt that the angst of his childhood home fueled his desire to be on the stage.

How wild to find out that he lost his virginity to none other than Stormie Omartian, of Power of a Praying fill-in-the-blank fame, obviously in her pre-Jesus days.  He calls her a very successful author and proselytizer now, but also remembers her quite fondly.  Since she writes about prayer, not evangelism, I’m guessing that “proselytizer” came about because Stormie has made one or two tries to tell Steve about grace.  Keep at it, Stormie.

Though he doesn’t claim it, I would have to say that before Seinfeld, Martin’s was the original “show about nothing”.  Over the years, with his banjo and magic tricks and silly songs, Martin morphed into what became the “wild and crazy guy” that we late baby-boomers remember. His fame was fueled by day after day, year after year laboring – on the road and in small clubs.  He admits to the power of the protestant work ethic informing his life and labor.

Panic attacks – something I dealt with in 1985 – were also part of his life.  At once awful and non-sensical, anxiety attacks were with him for 20 years.  I can’t imagine.  But on the bright side, since they started on the night he was using an illegal substance, he credits the debilitating condition with delivering him from drugs once and for all.

All in all, Born Standing Up was a joyful glimpse into the world of a very bright man (IMDb reports that Martin is a member of Mensa) but also a man who was very lost.  Like the rest of us, Steve needed to find something to fill Augustine’s God-shaped hole, and found it on the stage, and then eventually…on the screen.

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


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