My Way

by Tom Wacaster

The closing lines to Frank Sinatra’s hit record, “My Way,” sum up not only the essence of the song, but perhaps the life of the man himself:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels,
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows,
And did it my way.
Yes, it was my way.

Mr. Sinatra was the very embodiment of America’s changing values from the 1950’s to the present age. Following WWII our nation began a love affair with the almighty dollar, and the wealth and affluence of this nation blossomed into a mighty oak of material success. Meanwhile, the sanctity of marriage took a back seat to the pursuit of pleasure, with Mr. Sinatra and other Hollywood stars leading the way with multiple partners throughout their careers. Sinatra himself went through four marriages, as well as multiple extra-marital affairs with such stars as Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, Lauren Bacall, and Marilyn Monroe. Honesty, integrity, and moral uprightness were cast off during the 1960’s sexual revolution, and Sinatra’s well known connection to the mob did nothing to stem the tide of rebellion toward authority. His connections to such mob characters as Lucky Luciano, Mafia boss Willie Moretti, Bugsy Siegel, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, and Joseph Fishetti glorified the world of crime and gangsters. Yes, he did it his way! And following in his steps was a generation that forgot God, and sought instead to do it their way. Humanism, materialism, evolution and a host of other “isms” found fertile soil in which to grow, and it seems that in the efforts to do it our way, the nation cast God out of her schools, public discussion, and everyday life. And, as they say, the rest is history!

The Bible gives us an inspired record of men and women who sought to do it their way rather than God’s way, and not a single one of them are held up in high esteem by heaven’s holy hall of fame.  Saul, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, Dathan, Korah, Balaam, the named but seldom remembered ten spies that brought an evil report to Joshua; Pharaoh, Cain, and hundreds and thousands of unnamed men and women who were determined to do it their way! I am presently engaged in a profitable study of the prophet Jeremiah. Judah was determined to do it their way, and the preaching and pleading of the prophet fell on deaf ears.

While in the minority, there are those faithful saints who go about seeking and serving the Lord in the midst of a world of corruption. They are sojourners and pilgrims, strangers in a land not their own. They seek for that city whose builder and maker is God. They feast upon the bread of life, drink from the fountains of living water, and refuse to be conformed to this world.  The mark of distinction that sets them apart from the world that seeks to do things their way is that these faithful saints of God seek to do it God’s way.

The album ‘My Way’ sold almost a million copies. Ironically Mr. Sinatra later came to hate the song because it was, in his words, “self-serving and self-indulgent.” Perhaps he came to realize, too late, that words do have meanings, and that the message of the song epitomized him and his generation more than he wanted to admit.

Now let me tell you of another song writer and lyricist. She is a faithful child of God, seeks to serve Him every day of her life. She has written a number of spiritual hymns, some of which have graced the pages of some of our song books. I have known her all my life; she is my mother. Here is a poem she recently wrote that focuses attention on doing things God’s way, for that is the only way that will lead to eternal life:

God’s Way
By Mary Esther Wacaster

God says, “If you would walk with me and stand where I stand,
Then you must do it, under the touch of my hand.”
If you are a faithful servant, the Master must be able to say,
“Come, my good and faithful servant, for you did it my way.
Because I sent my Son to bless you and call you back to me,
He promised through your obedience that He would set you free.”
Then for the sake of righteousness, if you hunger and thirst,
You must walk by His pathway, and seek His kingdom first.
If you pass through toils and troubles, and win day by day,
You will seek His face in service, for you will do it His way.

Thank you mom for your wonderful words of encouragement!

A Civilization Gone With The Wind

By Tom Wacaster

It has been slightly more than four years since she sat across from me, both of us with our Bibles opened. After a number of previous studies she had obeyed the gospel, and she was still hungering and thirsting for knowledge of God’s word. It was almost as if she could not get enough. Her capacity to learn was outpaced only by her desire to learn, and so whenever she had the opportunity, she would stop by the office and we would study the only thing that could satisfy that spiritual hunger in her soul.

On this particular occasion our conversation turned to the moral depravity that seems to characterize our nation more and more with each passing day. At some point in that conversation I reflected upon what society was like a mere 60 years ago. I told her I could remember when it we could leave the house unlocked, and have no fear of someone burglarizing your home while you were away. Her reply manifested her utter amazement: “Really?!” Yes, “really!”

I can remember when it was safe to walk the streets, at night, without fear of being mugged or assaulted. How many of you can remember when a “Club” was something you carried with you when you went walking to beat off the dogs? Can you remember when families usually remained together for more than just a few years, when divorce was shameful, and single parent families were almost unheard of? Can you recall when “gay” meant happy, and “rap” was something someone did on your front door when they came calling? Or can you remember when the problems we faced in schools were chewing gum, getting out of line, or skipping classes? If you do, then likely you can also remember when each school day was begun with a devotional and prayer, piped into each class room via the intercom; when neighbors talked to each other over the fence; when two week gospel meetings were common and cottage classes were conducted on a regular basis; when church attendance on Sunday morning, Sunday evening AND Wednesday evening were the norm; when we discussed religion with our neighbors, and encouraged an open examination of one’s belief in the light of the Bible; when mission work was increasing each year; when preachers gave a “thus saith the Lord” for all that we do in religion; and when the majority of the churches of Christ were united, standing upon the Bible, and preaching and teaching the same.

Alas, I fear that the words in the opening scene of the movie, “Gone With The Wind” are an appropriate description of our changing times:

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind.

When that movie was made in the late 30’s there may have been a few still living who could remember the simpler times of the Old South, and the moral fiber of a nation that seemed to rule the land and its people. If a generation is calculated to be 40 years, then four generations have come and gone since those dark and dreadful days of the mid 1800’s.

My father was born in 1927. He passed away last year at the age of 91. He was less than two generations removed from that war that almost destroyed our nation from within. In his lifetime he witnessed the passing of his generation often called, “the greatest generation.” His generation consisted of men and women who loved this nation, loved the Bible, practiced their faith, and were willing to make great sacrifices for the preservation the same. Yet, somewhere along the pathway to the present generation the moral restraints have been cast off, the Bible rejected, and Christianity relegated to the status of “just another religion.” I have fond memories of the 60’s and 70’s; a period much unlike the world in which we now live. I will confess that if I could recapture the innocence of those former days, I would not hesitate to do so. So far as that past generation of a bygone era is concerned, it can also be said, “Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind!”