October 31, 2012

Remembering a Good, Honest, Common Working Man

By Donald G. Mashburn

He asked little of life, and received little in the way of material possessions. He asked only that he be allowed to work and provide for his family – as honest and honorable men were supposed to do. And when he worked, he gave it all he had, while inspiring others to give their best.

With the help of his equally hardworking and selfless wife, he passed on that work ethic to his seven children. The wife was my mother; the common working man was my father.

James Stevenson Mashburn was born in 1897 on a small farm outside Protem, MO. He attended a small rural school until he reached the third grade. Then, as often happened in that hard country in those hard times, he was “kept at home” to help work the farm, because as the oldest of seven children, he was big enough and old enough to “make a hand.”

My father, known to all as Jim or “Jimmy,” knew nothing but a life of hard work and striving to survive the latest setback, whether that was a drought, a war, or the loss of a beloved wife. He died of lung cancer a bit more than four months past his 58th birthday.

In earlier times, he was a successful farmer and cattleman, even during the early years of the Great Depression. But eventually the sick national economy, the New Deal policies of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, and the Dustbowl combined to take his cattle and livestock, scorch and smother his crops in the field, and tried to kill his spirit.

But the spirit of Jim Mashburn was not easily killed. The combined forces got his cattle and crops, but they could not defeat the man who put his heart and strength into growing and tending them.

The extended illness of my no-less heroic mother added to the burdens this courageous man carried on his shoulders. But instead of complaining of the hard life, he worked with what he had been given. He worked at any job he could find. Even when that meant moving his ailing wife and his children to Fort Gibson to tend the crops of another farmer, who also owned a grocery store and a feed store and was able to weather the hard times of the middle 1930s.

My father never delivered any great orations on life or how to live it. He preached no long sermons on honesty; he just lived it by example. However, it was mentioned enough to become a recurring theme in what we heard, saw, and understood. His teaching and fathering, and his observations and advice, were often seasoned with colorful, pithy expressions that helped drive home his point, but he did little sermonizing on honesty.

Honesty was simply expected of Dad’s children. They learned and absorbed it naturally, the way they learned to say, “Please,” or “Thank you.”

There was a brief time of relative plenty in the late 30s when Dad was able to return to his first and greatest love: farming. But as a sharecropper this time. Farming in the late 1930s was tough. The crops were plentiful in 19 37, but the prices showed that the Great Depression still held farmers in a near death grip. It seemed almost no one had any money, not even for watermelons at five cents each, and tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and green beans at just a few cents for a bushel.

Dad hauled watermelons to Tulsa and sold them for 10 cents to 25 cents each, sometimes for a nickel. Beautiful handpicked tomatoes sold for a dollar or less a bushel, and fifty cents or less for a half bushel, when they sold at all – many were given away or sold for whatever small coin the buyer might offer.

In that Great Depression economic valley that seemed to be a bottomless canyon, many farmers discovered that for those who owned no land, farming on shares was an impossible arrangement for feeding and clothing a large family. In 1938, Dad realized he had to find work that produced a regular paycheck, and worked for the WPA as a carpenter and stone mason.

After my mother died suddenly in 1939, Dad’s grief and loss were so obviously and openly painful that it may have helped his seven children deal with their own bewildering loss of a loving and heroic mother. After Mother’s death in 1939, Dad seemed to throw himself into working even harder to provide for his family and keeping it together.

Almost four years after our mother died, he remarried a widow with four children of her own. The family now numbered 13 instead of eight, and Dad labored hard at everything job he could find to care for his much larger family. The increased responsibility seemed only to make him work harder. And he never complained.

He tried farming once again after WWII, but he never again achieved the independence and success in the late 1920s and early 1930s. When, in late 1955, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he was working in a foundry, daily breathing in the smoke and dust produced in a sand casting foundry. The air was made worse by the grinding processes used to remove the black molding sand-metal defects from the steel castings.

He reached the end of his life much too soon at 58, on March 22, 1956. In the end, he left his widow, whom he married 15 years before, only the well-used furniture in a very modest rental house, a car, and a small, almost negligible amount of insurance.

He left his children with a solid belief that it’s only right to do “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” To “do your best, no matter what the job is or what it pays.” And to “Do what you would ask the man who hired you to do if he were working for you.”

My father left little in worldly goods. But what he left was good and lasting legacy for his children: A belief in hard work, a belief in an loving and merciful God, and a belief that we should treat others fairly and as we would like to be treated.

But that’s quite a lot – enough to last a lifetime for his seven children, who all seemed willing to accept and practice what Dad taught. And for me, with enough left over to share with my five children, which I’ve tried to do. How well I’ve succeeded is in God’s hands, and up to my children’s own willingness to accept and practice what has been passed down in love.

Dad wouldn’t want anyone to make him seem special. But he was special. And his life was proof of the statement: There’s nothing common about a common working man who works uncommonly hard and tries to do uncommonly good work.

Silence Is Not an Option for Christians

By Matt Barber

The secular left has mastered use of the Internet to further its extremist goals. In fact, President Obama’s web-based “Organizing for America” propaganda machine may have given him the 2008 election.

Let’s beat them at their own game.

To that end, I have a strange request. I’m asking each God-fearing, freedom-loving American who reads this column to forward it, post it, tweet it, print it out and give it to every pastor, priest or cleric you know. If you don’t know any, give it to someone who does.

Why? I agree with Barack Obama that November 2012 represents the most important election of our lifetimes – perhaps our history. Of course, that’s where my agreement with Mr. Obama both begins and abruptly ends.

Here’s the operable question: Do we want America “fundamentally transformed” to mirror the secular-socialist ideals of the radical leftist currently “occupying” the White House?

In Barack Obama’s America, individual freedom is trampled beneath jackboots as a matter of course. It’s already happening at an unprecedented rate.

One need only look to the HHS mandate forcing Christian groups – both Catholic and Protestant – to violate, under penalty of law, biblical prohibitions against abortion homicide.

Or consider recent attempts by multiple elected officials, all Democrats, to shutdown Chick-fil-A – a private, Christian-owned business – simply because its leadership holds the biblical view of marriage.

Is this George Washington’s America, or Joseph Stalin’s Russia?

It’s definitely not your father’s USA.

Instead, wouldn’t we prefer the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers? A constitutional republic wherein individual liberty – whether economic, First Amendment or Second Amendment-related – is sacrosanct and off limits?

Pastors, you’re it. You’re our front line of defense. It’s up to you to rally the troops. Now begins the second American Revolution and, as with the first, it’s on you – men of the cloth – to take the lead.

That is, if you hope to remain free to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of chicken: In recent years there’s been an epidemic of cultural inaction exhibited by far too many ministers of the gospel. It’s fear-based. “Oh, I don’t talk about political issues,” they say. “You know, ‘separation of Church and State’ and all that.”

Baloney.

If this is you – and only you and our Lord know for sure – you’ve been deceived by the enemies of God. You’ve chosen the easy way out – the path of least resistance. This is something Christ, whom all Christians are called to emulate, never did – not once.

So, respectfully, man-up, Padre! Be the “salt and light of the world,” as Christ so admonished.

But you don’t have to go it alone. There are detailed, easily digestible tools available. Civil-rights firm Liberty Counsel, for instance, is distributing more than 100,000 copies of “Silence is Not An Option,” a concise, though comprehensive, DVD and printed material collection informing pastors and churches about what is permissible regarding political activity.

“The church must be empowered to confront the assaults on our culture, our faith, and our freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “I don’t want any pastor, church leader or lay person to say, ‘What more could I have done to protect life and liberty?’”

“Silencing people of faith in the public square has always been the goal of those who realize the influence that pastors, churches and people of faith have on elections. I want pastors to remove the muzzle and replace it with a megaphone,” he said. “Pastors and churches have a lot of freedom to address biblical and moral issues, to educate people about the candidates, and to encourage people to vote. Not one church has ever lost its tax-exemption for endorsing or opposing candidates or for supporting or opposing local, state or federal laws.”

Did you get that? Despite hundreds of thousands of threatening letters sent by hard-left groups like the ACLU and Barry Lynn’s Americans United, not a single church has lost tax-exemption for socio-political activity – zip, zero, nada. Not even for endorsing candidates from the pulpit.

Indeed, if these anti-Christian bullies had been around two-and-a-half centuries ago, and our forefathers had paid them any mind, we may never have had the first American Revolution.

Don’t let them halt the second.

We’re on the precipice of the abyss, and, pastors, I think you know it. But know this too: There’s a whole lot relating to both culture and politics you can both say and do, and very little – if anything – you can’t.

Churches can educate about political, moral and biblical issues. These kinds of issues – whether abortion, marriage, feeding the poor or any community issue – are never off limits from the pastor’s pulpit, even if politicians are also talking about them.

Leading up to Ronald Reagan’s landslide presidential victory in 1980, the Rev. Jerry Falwell captured the crux of the church’s apathy problem: “What is wrong in America today?” he asked. “We preachers – and there are 340,000 of us who pastor churches – we hold the nation in our hand. And I say this to every preacher: We are going to stand accountable before God if we do not stand up and be counted.”

Dr. Falwell’s words ring no less true today.

Imagine the benefit to our culture if thousands of churches across America registered millions of Christians to vote. How about pledge-drives wherein pastors ask tens-of-millions of Christians to simply commit to voting biblical values?

The possibilities are limitless.

Proverbs 4:18 reminds us: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Shine bright, salt and light. Don’t be choked into dark silence.

Because silence is not an option. It can’t be.

Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law, who also serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action.

[Editor’s Note: The opinions and views expressed by guest contributors in articles submitted for publication in the Sage Commentary or Sage Views sections are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions and views of Sage Commentary]