Monday, July 14, 2014
‘There , but for the grace of God, go I.’ : The History and Meaning of the Phrase ( or What Do Sherlock Holmes and Charles Spurgeon Have In Common?)
Recently, I have been thoroughly enjoying “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle. This book contains the first 12 stories of Doyle’s great, yet flawed, detective ever to be published.
As I was finishing up one of the stories, “ The Boscombe Valley Mystery” , I was surprised and pleased to read this passage of Holmes dialogue with Watson - just after a bittersweet case had been solved and one of it’s main characters had left the room:
“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence. “Why does fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes”.
I, probably like you, have heard this phrase before. For me it was always been in regards to a story regarding the great 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon. Although there are variations and I have not been able to verify if this story did indeed happen, it goes something like this:
“Mr. Spurgeon and a friend were walking down the street when they came upon a drunken homeless man prostrated on the street. After Charles’ companion makes a snide remark about the poor soul, Charles quickly rebukes him and with tears running down his face says “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The meaning of the phrase here being that even a preacher of Spurgeon’s status is prone to the same sins and poor decisions of the drunken man, if it were not for God’s grace guiding and aiding him. It was an ackowedgement of humility, compassion and utter dependence on God.
As I sunk in to do a little research on the phrase I found that, according to Rev. James F. Rigney, the “Baxter” referred to in Arthur Conan Doyle’s book is Richard Baxter, a 17th century puritan author.
Richard Baxter was born in 1615 in England. Wikipedia notes:
“Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).”
Although I myself could not find a specific instance of Richard Baxter saying this, it is most likely he did as the phrase was already known by that time and Conan Doyle, writing over a century ago, was likely aware of the specifics.
The first reference to this iconic phrase though was in regards to an English Protestant Reformer and martyr named John Bradford.
Bradford in prison with bishops from “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”
Bradford was born in Manchester in 1510. He later became a Protestant Bishop under Edward VI but was soon to be persecuted by the following monarch – the Roman Catholic, Mary Tudor.
For no crime besides his faith, he was sealed in the infamous Tower of London along with fellow Anglican, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and reformer Hugh Latimer. There he continued studying the Bible and writing and, as Wikipedia states:
“At some time during his imprisonment it is said that Bradford witnessed a group of prisoners being led to their execution and remarked, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." The phrase has survived in common parlance in its variant, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
But now back to Spurgeon for a moment. Although the little story I told earlier could not be verified, Spurgeon did utter this phrase or something very much akin to it. We read it out of his personal diary:
“Fair Day. – Spoke to Mr. R. How can a child of God go there? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Forgive him Lord, for so forgetting his high calling! I too should be there, but for the grace of God. I have the seeds of all evil in my own heart; pride is yet my darling sin, I cannot shake it off. Awake, O my Lord, against the mighty, for I shall die by his hand if Thou do not help me. And lead me on to triumph! Leave me , ye vain thought! I have nothing but what I received; it is the Lord’s goodness that I even have my reason. (from ‘Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers’By Lewis A. Drummond)”
So what does the phrase mean for us today?
In Bradford’s case, it seemed he was saying that he was thankful for one more day alive on this earth – even if it was in the Tower of London. That is not to say that when his time for execution came that he thought God’s grace to be gone. It is clear that He understood the day would most likely come and , if I may speculate a little, knew that God’s grace would be sufficient for even that terrible death of burning at the stake.
This notion is reinforced as we read Thomas Fuller’s comments on Bradford’s martyrdom. He wrote that he endured the flame "as a fresh gale of wind in a hot summer's day, confirming by his death the truth of that doctrine he had so diligently and powerfully preached during his life."
Sherlock Holmes and Charles Spurgeon seemed to have something a little more internal in mind, reflecting on their own broken natures and tendencies to do evil ( Sherlock was a cocaine addict you may remember).
We often find it hard to think of ourselves as having a sin nature – a bent towards ill behaviour of some sort. Although sometimes I think we are keenly aware of it. To recite Spurgeon again, “I have the seeds of all evil in my own heart; pride is yet my darling sin, I cannot shake it off. Awake, O my Lord, against the mighty, for I shall die by his hand if Thou do not help me. And lead me on to triumph!”
In the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul, a man who knew well the evil tendencies of human nature, wrote this:
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. …. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:18-24
It is, I believe, when we are most keenly aware of these dark seeds, of the complete inability of our own “flesh” to perform good always - that we are most honest and most humble and most thankful and most open to God.
And that is the most valuable thing we can learn from this age old phrase.
“A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ.” -Martin Luther (1483-1546)
“When the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are (then) candidates for God's generous grace.” -Erwin W. Lutzer
I’m told that Laurie Boschman is a distant relative of mine. That, however, is not why I am writing about him here. In a sports league that is much more reserved than its peers, Laurie Boschman has played a significant role in blazing a trail for Christians in the National Hockey League.
Whether it’s that vocally reserved culture of most hockey players, a possible frowning upon of outspoken faith in the league or just a more secular media coverage in Canada than we are used to in the U.S., you don’t hear too much about an athlete’s personal faith in the NHL. The “PDF” ( Public Display of Faith) is a bit more rare in the good ol’ hockey game.
That’s not always a bad thing – it is, of course, far better to walk the walk than merely talk the talk. But as I have begun to research this topic of Christianity in the NHL (both now and in the past) I have discovered a real legacy of faith amongst some of its most popular players.
I’ve discovered that Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, inventor of the “slap shot” and winner of 6 Stanley cups with the Canadiens, wrote these words at the end of his autobiography: “Once upon a time I used to believe that hockey was everything. It isn't. God and family come first. Being happy with the Lord and my family is a lot better than winning 500 Stanley Cups! When you are flat on your back the only place to look is up-to God.”
|Bernie "Boom Boom" Geffrion Photo Credit: habseyesontheprize.com|
I’ve discovered that Paul Henderson, scorer of perhaps the most famous hockey goal in Canadian history, found his faith in Jesus Christ through a friend who told him he “hadn’t (yet) taken care of his soul”. After all the glory days Paul says he still felt bitter, angry and discontent and that, after a long struggle with his pride and fears, he said he finally: “…gave my life to the Lord”.
I’ve discovered that Mike Gartner, one of the game’s best right wingers and member of the 700 goal club, was led to Jesus by none other than Jean Pronovost. Pronovost (who himself was led to faith by Atlanta Flames defenseman Ed Kea and his wife) mentored Gartner in the position and also invited him to Bible studies at his home. Later, on a flight between games, Gartner recalls that Jean asked him a very direct question “Mike, if this plane goes down, do you know where you will spend eternity?” In the book, “Toward the Goal” , Gartner tells of his personal experience with Jesus Christ when “In the quietness of my hotel room, I got on my knees and said : ‘ Lord, if You are real, come into my life now and change me.”
But now back to Laurie Boschman. His story from top draft pick of the famed Maple Leafs, to being in the club’s doghouse , then back to resuming a successful NHL career and now to current chaplain of the Ottawa Senators and member of Hockey Ministries International is inspiring.
Boschman was born and raised in Saskatchewan and later moved to Manitoba where he played for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. He played 14 seasons in the NHL for the Leafs, Oilers, Jets, Devils and finally, in 1992 , the expansion Ottawa Senators where he became the first captain in team history.
It was in Toronto though where he had two profound encounters. The first and most important was meeting and getting to know the Leaf’s forward Ron Ellis. He respected the way Ellis carried himself on and off the ice and finally asked him “What makes you tick?” . Ellis went on to explain his relationship with Christ and the guidance he found in the Bible. Not long after, Boschman prayed with Ellis, believing and receiving the Gospel. Similar to the fears of Paul Henderson before him, Laurie said to Ellis as he was leaving “Just don’t tell the other players, OK?”.
The second was much more a trial than a joy. The infamous Harold Ballard was the owner of the Maple Leafs at that time and , like a number of other players, Boschman had his run ins with him. After a poor game at Madison Square Gardens verses the Rangers, Ballard singled him out for his “soft” play – but what’s more he blamed it precisely on his new found Christian faith.
“He said I had too much religion, and that he was going to trade me or send me down to the minors,” says Boschman in a Calgary Herald article.
Some would say that a perceived image of the Christian hockey player as being “soft” started right then and there. But this image is not held by all. Mike Gartner said that his conversion made him more motivated than ever. “I played to glorify God and I played my best. I felt responsible to God to use the talents and abilities He had given me.”
In the same Calgary Herald article, former NHL’er and now ESPN Analyst Barry Melrose says: “A lot of people in the hockey world feel you can’t be a big tough physical hockey player and be a Christian, but my history of being around Christians is totally opposite. They’re some of the most fierce competitors there are in the world.”
Boschman’s stats speak for themselves though as he is one of only 16 players to have scored 500 points and amassed over 2,000 penalty minutes in a career.
Since retirement in 1992, Laurie has suffered the loss of his first wife of 21 years to cancer. Of this tragic event he says: “The reason I was able to survive the days, months and years after I got the news that somebody I loved very deeply had been diagnosed with cancer was my faith. That’s the foundation. Faith in Christ is the foundation for any relationship and for anything that happens inside that relationship. Faith doesn’t take away the tears and the sadness, but it gives us hope and provides us with a foundation to keep on going.”
Boschman is now happily re-married with a blended family and is not only the chaplain for the Ottawa Senators, but the coordinator for all the team chaplaincies in the NHL. In regards to his work (which is in accordance with his role with the faith organization Hockey Ministries International) he states: “We’re pretty low-key about how we go about the business of faith in hockey,” says Boschman. “We understand that some people still have pre-conceived notions. The bottom line is that the chapel program is player-driven, and the teams who have chapel and who offer it to their players have benefited greatly.”
I was recently talking to one of my pastors (who just happens to be American) and we were discussing the difference in openly Christian players between the NHL and the other three major North American leagues. He said that he believed one of the biggest reasons was team chaplains or rather the historic lack of them in hockey. If this is true then Hockey Ministries International and Laurie Boschman are on to something.
As it stands today there are a growing number of openly Christian players in the NHL including Jarome Iginla, Mike Fisher, Shane Doan, Eric Staal, Ryan Smyth, David Booth, Matt Duchene and Dan Hamhuis to name a few. They are respected players who don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk.
Its been often said that hockey is religion in Canada. If that is indeed the case, then perhaps it will be through the legacy of these players, past and present, that other lovers of the great game may just find their way from the religion of the rink to the gospel of the Cross.
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath (crown), but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 (ESV)
You may also like:
Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion : http://www.hockeyministries.org/rwt-blog-44338
Paul Henderson http://powertochange.com/discover/faith/paulhenderson/
Mike Gartner: “Toward the Goal” by Cathy Ellis
Laurie Boschman: Calgary Herald article: http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/Christians+hockey+coliseum+National+Hockey+League+tentatively+embraces+players+religion/8273238/story.html
More Info on Christians in the NHL: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2796219864124063055&pli=1#editor/target=post;postID=1698163683768725397;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=2;src=postname
#1 One Lake Becomes Two
|Photo: Lake Country Museum|
We recognize this land strip today as part of Oyama with Oyama Road running alongside the shore of Wood Lake and Kaloya Regional Park shoring the Kalamalka side. There was once a creek joining the two lakes until 1908 when a navigational canal was built between the two bodies of water and still exists today. It is said that Wood Lake dropped by four feet when the canal was made until it was finally level with Kalamalka.
Today Kalamalka Lake is measured as having a maximum length of 16 km, a max width of 3 km and a surface area of 25.7 km squared. The average depth is 58.5 metres with a max depth of 142 metres. Water from Kalamalka Lake is used to supply drinking water for the city of Vernon.
#2 The Name
So why is the northern lake – the one which we all love so much – now called Kalamalka Lake? Well, first of all, there is no evidence to suggest that the name means “lake of many colours”. Kalamalka (possibly a form of Kenamaska) was the name of a popular Indian Chief who lived at the northern head of this beautiful lake - it was he for whom this lake was named. In 1892, the main hotel in Vernon was renamed in the Chief’s honour and it seems that there was a push by some business men to have Long Lake renamed as Kalamalka as well. The local radio station was even referring to it as Kalamalka Lake. This was not so much to honour the Chief but probably more for marketing purposes – nonetheless a great name for the lake! The name change was made official in 1951.
There is also a theory out there that Kalamalka may be a Hawaiian word and that one of the kanakas (workers brought over from the Hawaiian Islands by the Hudson’s Bay Company) was father to the Chief and named him this after himself or in honour of his Hawaiian heritage. The Polynesian form of the word apparently means “The Sun of America”. This is an intriguing story – and the dates for kanakas coming over do line up. It is worth noting that a kanaka named "Kalemaka" came over from O'ahu in 1845 to work for the HBC. He began in Washington State and then worked in northern B.C. from 1846-48. It is not impossible that he could have fathered a child with an Okanagan Indian woman eventually resulting in the local place name "Kalamalka". For more information on the origins of the name please read Kalamalka: A Look At the Mysterious Origins of the Name.
#3 Chief Kalamalka
“In his old age, Kalamalka was very anxious to become a Christian and repeatedly asked Father Le Jacq to baptize him. Each time the good father protested that he could not do so until Kalamalka gave up his … practice of having four wives. Loyal to his wives, Kalamalka produced reasons against putting aside any of them: one was the mother of his oldest son, another was lame from the terrible frost-bite she had suffered once when saving him amid the winter snows, and so the story continued. At length, Father Le Jacq was so moved by the old Indian’s constancy to his wives, along with his tremendous desire to be a Christian (*Though baptism is not a requisite), that he appealed on his behalf to the bishop, only to hear his own ruling repeated – Kalamalka must settle for a single wife.
Coming back sadly from New Westminster, Father Le Jacq received from Kalamalka the tidings that at last he had only one wife. She turned out to be none of the four, but a good looking young woman! The four wives had a held a conference, decided that a new young wife could take over a lot of the work, and had sent the chief to find a new wife while they went into retirement. And so from that day on, Old Kalamalka had one wife but supported all five women, was baptized, and, presumably, was happy.”
#4 The Parks
The first provincial park established on the lake was Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park founded in 1975 on what was formerly land belonging to the Coldstream Ranch. Its mission was to “provide opportunities of regional, provincial and national significance, for access to outstanding natural features and significant outdoor recreation opportunities” (Public Advisory Committee 1984). Kal Park, as it is known locally, is home to Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir as well as 432 varieties of vascular plants. It also holds an abundance of wildlife from Western Rattlesnakes to the occasional bear or cougar. Kal Park now encompasses the Kalamalka Lake Protected Area (formed in 2001) and the Couger Canyon Ecolgical Reserve (formed in 1981) and comprises 4209 hectares of land alongside Kalamalka Lake. Kal Park is a local hotspot for hiking, swimming, beach-going and cliff diving.
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park was established in 1990 on the west side of the lake. It is named for a Native Indian dwelling place called a kekuli. These kekulis were subterranean homes (pit houses) with log roofs. There is archaeological evidence of these and other Okanagan Indian artifacts in both provincial parks. Kal Lake and its parks were also used for combat practice during WW2. “During the war amphibious assaults were practiced on Kalamalka Lake, with the ships launching from Keluli Bay. Guns would be firing as they approached Cosens Bay.” In addition to this military note, the Canadian Navy launched a mine-sweeping vessel and named it the HCMS Kalamalka in July of 1944.
#5 The Colours
These ever changing colours and hues on the lake, along with its remarkable history and geography, truly solidify it as one of the Okanagan’s most cherished treasures.
"Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him,
and He would have given you living water.”
You May Also Like:
8 Fascinating Facts About Mount Robson: Monarch of the Canadian Rockies (B.C.)
7 Fascinating Facts About Okanagan Landing, B.C.
Historic Timeline of Greater Vernon, B.C.
"Kanaka: The Untold Story of Hawaiian Pioneers in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest" Copyright 1995 by Tom Koppel, Whitecap Books
Sources & Further Reading:
Lake Country Museum website: http://www.lakecountrymuseum.com/
Blog by Dr. Duane Thompson for the Lake Country Museum: http://www.lakecountrymuseum.com/kalamalka-name-re-visited/#top
British Columbia Place Names By G. P. (Philip) V. Akrigg, Helen Akrigg
Leaving Paradise: Indigenous Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest (University of Hawaii Press, 2006)
Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park: http://www.kalamalkapark.ca/Home.html
Pat Dillon http://summertree.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82&Itemid=209
The Society for the Protection of Kalamalka Lake (SPrKL): http://www.spkl.ca/Home_files/SPKL_3.2.pdf
It’s been said that if America is a country brought about by revolution, then Canada is a country brought about by evolution.
And that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps we do not have quite the flair or make quite a splash as our neighbours but we, as a country, are stalwart and steadfast, hardworking and hearty. Not prone to violence but unwaveringly brave when called upon.
I was often told that Canadian history was a terribly boring affair, however I have come to believe that the only thing boring about Canadian history is the way it has been portrayed - or perhaps, received. The real stuff is exciting and dramatic and epic. There are many stories of courage and sacrifice, innovation and excellence, and, every once in a while, a Canadian insisting that we be recognized as such.
One such a Canadian was our eighth prime minister, and the face on our $100 bills, Sir Robert Laird Borden. He was a conservative Anglican born in Grande Pre, Nova scotia in 1854 and he guided our country through a massive turning point in our history - “the Great War.”
“Canada entered the war a colony, she emerged from it close to an independent state” Historian Arthur Lower
“It is a myth that Canadians won their independence without bloodshed. Certainly, there political independence was won at great cost in the crucible of World War 1” Will Ferguson
Borden and Winston Churchill - 1912
Borden, like any other man, had his faults and made his mistakes (there was the Conscription Crisis and , of course, the “temporary” Income Tax), however it was his unrelenting push for Canadian equality with other countries that helped shape who we are today. It is worth noting that Borden was also responsible for women’s suffrage in Canada.
In 1917 Borden took the lead for all of Britain’s Dominions when he drafted “Resolution IX” insisting that all dominions receive full recognition as “autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth”. After this resolution was passed, at some consternation to Britain, Jan Smuts, The South African minister of defence said to Borden “You and I have transformed the structure of the British Empire.”
Furthermore, after the Great War and Canada’s proportionally immense contribution, Borden refused to let Britain sign the Treaty of Versailles on Canada’s behalf but took his own pen to it in a symbolic but historically altering fashion.
“It can hardly be expected that we shall put 400,000 or 500,000 men in the field and willingly accept the position of having no more voice and receiving no more consideration that if we were toy automata” Robert Borden
When the Americans resisted the Canadians and Australian having their own seat on the newly formed League of Nations, it was the British PM who pointed out that each country had lost more men than the U.S.A. and from a much smaller population.
Nearly 620,000 Canadians served in World War 1 and over 66,000 died in it – another 172,000 or more were wounded. The latter group included my great grandfather who suffered the effects of mustard gas for the duration of his life and his brother who lost a limb at Vimy Ridge.
Robert Borden, just one of our citizens who have made this country a great one!