Saturday, November 29, 2014

No Excuses! Make Something Good of Your Life: The Remarkable Story of the Marlow Brothers

The five men pictured above are the Oklahoma Marlow brothers. From left to right are George, Boone, Alfred (Alf), Lewellyn (Epp), and Charles (Charley), all sons of Dr. Williamson Marlow and wife Martha Jane, a relative of Daniel Boone. This picture is from 1880 and taken on the grounds of Fort Sill in southwestern Indian Territory, now Lawton, Oklahoma. The father, Dr. Williamson Marlow (not pictured), provided medical treatment to cowboys driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail. Dr. Marlow also farmed while his sons herded horses and the wild mustangs that roamed the prairies, selling many of the horses to the United States Army headquarters at neighboring Ft. Sill. By all accounts, Dr. Marlow, his wife Martha Jane, and the five boys were esteemed by the locals as an honorable family. The short story that follows revolves around the two brothers on each end of the picture above - George (far left) and Charley (far right).

If you have ever been to the mountains of Colorado, near cities of Crested Butte or Telluride, there is a small community called Ridgway, Colorado. Charley and George served as law enforcement officers in that area, but only after a series of setbacks, losses, and the scarring of their personal reputations, circumstances that would have left most people full of hopelessness and despair. Not the Marlow brothers. Charley died in 1941 and George in 1945. Upon George's death by natural causes on July 3, 1945, the Montrose (Colorado) Daily Press wrote,
"The wildest Western fiction magazines have never produced men of greater courage or more daring and remarkable incidents than were enacted in real life by these famous brothers.…Arriving in this country, the Marlows were always perfectly law-abiding citizens and earned hundreds of friends, not one of whom was ever let down."

The Accusations

In 1888 the five Marlow sons were accused of horse-stealing in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), a
charge later proven to be unfounded. Rival horse traders played a role in attempting to shut down the Marlow brothers profitable horse trading business through these false charges. Nevertheless, four of the five brothers (George was gone on a business trip) were escorted by United States deputy marshals to the federal court in Graham, Texas in order to stand trial. In 1888, there were no federal courts in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Upon hearing his brothers were in jail in Texas, George made his way to Texas to plead their case, but he soon found himself in jail as well. Boone Marlow was able to escape and make it back to Indian Territory where he later died after being poisoned by rivals. Because of Boone's escape, federal marshals decided to move the remaining four Marlow brothers to a more secure facility in Weatherford, Texas.

The Ambush

On Saturday, January 19, 1889, the four Marlow brothers were handcuffed together - George to Lewellyn and Charley to Alfred - and guards prepared to move the brothers to Weatherford, Texas.

Shortly after leaving the city of Graham, a hidden mob ambushed the defenseless and unarmed Marlow brothers. When the firing commenced, the guards ran to join the mob while the brothers leaped from the wagon, still handcuffed together, and armed themselves with guns they'd managed to take from guards before they fled. In the horrific gunfight that ensued, Lewellyn and Alfred were killed.

Though George and Charley were seriously wounded, they managed to retrieve a knife from an ambusher that had tried to sneak on them from their flank. The surviving brothers used the knife to remove the chains which tethered them to their dead brothers (gruesome details omitted). George and Charley managed to escape using the wagon in which they'd been riding.  Three members of the mob which ambushed the Marlow brothers were killed and a number of others wounded.

Several members of the mob were later prosecuted and convicted for their deadly assault upon the unarmed Marlow brothers. After escaping the ambush in Texas, George and Charley forsook their home in Indian Territory and made their way to Colorado where they established a couple of small farms. The Marlow brothers, like they had in Oklahoma, became good neighbors. They even began working in Ouray County, Colorado as law enforcement officers because of their expert horsemanship and marksmanship, not to mention the trust the locals had given these two men.

Two years after the shootout in Graham, Texas, the governor of Texas received word that the Marlow brothers were in Colorado. The Texas governor sent marshals to arrest Charley and George in Ridgway, Colorado. The Marlow brothers came to meet the marshals knowing that the horse thievery charges had already been proven false. They refused to surrender to the Texas marshals, proclaiming that they were the ones who had been wronged in Texas. The local sheriff asked for intervention from governor of Colorado, and after a few telegraph exchanges, the Texas marshals left without the Marlow brothers. This prompted the locals to declare, "the next time Texas seeks the Marlows, they'd better send 2,000 Texas rangers instead of two." A petition circulated among the inhabitants of Ridgway, Colorado avowing "the Marlow boys are known by the signers to be good and law-abiding citizens of Ouray County. They deserve the support of all citizens in their endeavor to be freed from persecution."

Texas decided to leave the Marlow brothers alone.

The Aftermath

George and Charley Marlow settled in Colorado and both had large families. They became successful small ranchers and were involved in community activities, serving as lawmen in Ouray County, Colorado for more than a decade. They were instrumental in putting down a labor strike in Crested Butte, Colorado with the infamous Doc Shores. They were known for their ability to chase and capture stagecoach robbers through their expert horsemanship, and they often assisted their neighbors in cattle round-ups. Their most famous arrest involved a local murderer who was believed to be 'armed and extremely dangerous."

Eventually Charley relocated to California to be near his adult children. He died on January 19, 1941, 52 years to the day of his wounding in the Graham, Texas ambush. George continued to live in Colorado, passing away on July 3, 1945.

In 1891, after sentencing ambushers to prison for their part in the attack on the unarmed Marlow brothers, Federal Judge A. P. McCormick said:
"This is the first time in the annals of history where unarmed prisoners, shackled together, ever repelled a mob. Such cool courage that preferred to fight against such great odds and die, if at all, in glorious battle rather than die ignominiously by a frenzied mob, deserves to be commemorated in song and story."
The judge was prophetic.

In 1965 John Wayne starred in The Sons of Katie Elder, a movie loosely based on the Marlow brothers. The town that would be incorporated around the original homestead of Dr. Marlow and his five sons in 1898 would take the name Marlow, Oklahoma. Several books have been written about the Marlow brothers, and their exploits have been put to song.


Being a pastor I am in a position to see catastrophic, unexplainable, and hurtful circumstances enveloping individuals. It is not uncommon to see people falsely accused, verbally shot at by enemies while completely defenseless, facing the loss of all things loved and cherished, even reputations, and finding themselves having to start all over again.

There are two responses. One can either give in to hopelessness and despair, or one can put the past behind and start again. The Marlow brothers are an example to me that no matter what comes your way, it is possible to begin again. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "Hope is the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon."

To all my friends who feel despair because of their circumstances, I offer the Marlow brothers as an illustration of the axiom Martin Luther gave nearly 500 years ago:
"Everything that is done in the world is done by hope."
Don't lose your hope. There is a better future just over the horizon. Make something good of your life, no matter how dark it seems to you right now.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lord, Be Thou My Vision - A Thanksgiving Poem

The Bible says, “In everything give thanks,”
but this is hard if I may be frank.
In my life there’s so much tension,
for this to happen, “Lord, Be Thou My Vision.” 

Luther cried “this world with devils filled,”
a knowledge that seems to take away the will
to accept my “giving thanks” mission.
So I ask, “Lord, Be Thou My Vision.”
The darkness hides Your smiling face.
Pressing on requires amazing grace.
I cannot see good with any precision,
I must pray “Lord, Be Thou My Vision.” 

Your power and love to me please show,
and grant that I'll be able to know,
 that when I make a “thanks giving” decision
I am experiencing “Lord, Be Thou My Vision.” 

So I pause and choose to give thanks today,
and join with my family and friends to say,
“We trust Your gracious, abounding provision,
for You have become our Thanksgiving vision.”

Wade Burleson
Dedicated this Thanksgiving 2014 to our friends, the Bakers, the Classens and the Shamburgs!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Four Things I Do When People Make Me Blue

Life is all about relationships. Relationships with people are as risky as they are beautiful. The people you and I love are seemingly capable of hurting us the most. Over the course of a lifetime of experiencing both helpful and hurtful relationships, I've learned a few things that help me when I'm in the middle of a rocky relationship with a friend or loved one.

I will focus on the trouble within me.

Every external action by me is the result of an internal reaction in me. I can't control the thoughts, actions, perceptions, or character of others I love, but I can trust the promise that "Jesus, who began a good work in me, will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:7). The problem I face is a heart problem, and the Great Physician is the only One who can give me a heart change. I am by nature selfish, vain, indulgent, and deceitful. Jesus alone can change me internally into a selfless, humble, disciplined, and transparent person. It requires the grace of God to transform me from what I am by my nature into what I am becoming by His grace. My focus needs to be on the trouble within me and the only Hope I have for real change. When I am only focused on the problems I perceive in others, I am never moving toward any real and lasting solutions for me.

I will believe the truth about me.

The world in which I live sends me all kinds of messages about me that are not true. When I am rejected for my poor performance, I am sent the message "People who perform are the only ones worth accepting." When I am abandoned because of the struggles occurring within me, the message sent is, "People who are perfect are the only ones worth loving." As long as I look to the world for the messages about me, I will never find true happiness or satisfaction. Like the Apostle Paul I must come to the place where I believe "I am what I am by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10).  Until I understand that the only thing worth believing about me is what the One who created me thinks of me, I will never find true soul satisfaction and happiness. So, what is it that is true about me by the grace of God in Jesus? I am loved. I am forgiven. I am accepted. I am guided. I am blessed. I am ... all this and more by the grace of God. That's the truth about me, and that is who I am - regardless of what others say. And, by the way, if others don't think this about me, that's not my problem. My problem is the internal need to have others think good things about me instead of depending solely on what Jesus thinks.

I will pass the test before me.

Uh-oh. I hate tests. Hate them. What test am I talking about? It's this one: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).  How free am I really? This is the test.  How free am I from having to depend upon the actions, words, or moods of others for my happiness? How free am I from the need to manipulate and control people to do what I need in order to feel good about myself or my situation? How free am I to live life and love people regardless of the choices that other people make? Freedom is a result of truth. When I am focused on the trouble within me, refusing to believe my problems are the people around me, and when I believe the truth about me as Jesus declares it, then I pass the freedom test. When I fail the test, I am known for the bondage I create. I put people in bondage through my deceptive manipulations and selfish control. I put myself in bondage by worrying and fretting over what people are thinking about me or perceiving of me. So I must ask:  Are the people I love free to be _____? (fill in the blank). Or, am I creating bondage by manipulating and controlling people to make them  _______?  (fill in the blank).  When I can't pass the test of freedom I am not focusing on the problem within me nor I am believing the truth about me.

I will rejoice in the trials around me.

There's a huge difference between 'enjoy' and 'rejoice.' My tribulations are not always enjoyable (sometimes they suck big time), but in every affliction I can rejoice! Rejoice is a choice. "I will rejoice in my tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about ... character!" (Romans 5:3). Every trial that comes my way is not caused by Jesus, but Jesus guarantees me that He 'orchestrates' all things for my good (Romans 8:28). Jesus is not so much interested in my pleasure or comfort as He is my personal character. Remember that trouble that is within me? My character is such that I am a needy, greedy and often seedy individual that Jesus (by His grace) is transforming into a loving, giving and serving character who looks a lot like Him. "And we all (we Jesus followers) ... are being transformed into His image" (II Corinthians 3:18). It's definitely a work in progress, but when I do these four things during difficulties in a human relationship, I keep the emphasis where it needs to be - on God doing a work in me!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Artificial Divide Between Secular and Sacred

Like every religious organization, Emmanuel Enid does some things that require 'announcements.' We've chosen for a variety of reasons to play our 5 Before announcement videos five minutes before the worship services begin. Most of the time, these announcement videos are pictorial, with a musical underscore.

Several months ago we noticed very few people were paying attention to the announcement videos. So one Sunday, we experimented a little and played the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen to underscore the announcements. An amazing thing happened. The instant Let It Go began playing, every child under 14 looked up at the screen and began paying attention to the announcement of a new AWANA children's program we were launching.

Since that day, we've played music during the announcements that you normally wouldn't hear in a 'religious service.' We've played Pharrell Williams' song "Happy" from the movie Despicable Me, Imagine Dragons song "I'm on Top of the World," and we will possibly use Ceelo's and the Muppets song "All I Need Is Love" for December, or maybe music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I recently received a letter from a church member who asked some excellent questions about playing "secular" music during the announcements. Another person who watches our services online also wrote and asked similar things. A summary of their queries include: (1). What about character of the artist that is singing? (2). What about other songs that the artist may sing? (3). Though 'secular' music is enjoyed by all, should a 'secular' song be played in a sacred church service?

I responded to our church member with the following email.

Thanks for your kind email. I appreciate your transparency on the auditorium. We did have a purpose in the redesign, and it was not for the small portion of the congregation that attends REFUGE,  but the large portion of Enid that doesn't attend church anywhere. We feel that in the few weeks we've been in the auditorium that several unchurched people are beginning to attend REFUGE. I have some specific illustrations, but I think I'll move to the question about secular songs in the pre-service music.
There is a reason behind the decision. The first time we used secular music in the pre-service announcement slide we chose the song Let It Go, I did an unscientific survey that morning and watched the kids. An amazing thing happened. Nobody was paying any attention to the announcements, but when we started the title song from Frozen, every child within my view looked UP and paid attention to the announcement about the new AWANA'S Program. Our decision to play secular music is based upon people paying attention - it seems some tune out the songs that are traditionally played in pre-service announcements.
I agree with you that the lives of some of the artists (including Pharrell Williams) don't always reflect Christian character. In addition, OTHER songs that the artist sings don't always reflect Christian values. We agree.
However, we think you'll find that many Christian artists have the same issues. Not always do Christian artists lives reflect Christian character. In addition, there are SOME songs that are sung by Christian artists that we would not agree with theologically. Nevertheless, our disagreement with the artist's OTHER songs doesn't necessarily mean we can't express agreement in the message of some of their songs.
Finally, it's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)." Personally, we believe  in life and all life is spiritual - even when a Christian is listening to country music. We want people to feel that what you do in a church building is no different than what you do in a truck or car. So if it's fine to listen to some country music in your car, it would be fine to listen to that same country music in a church building. With that said, I'd suggest you offer us a country song that we can choose to play in the pre-service portion of our worship service for December or January.
We do go over the words of songs VERY CAREFULLY and discuss what is being said before the song is approved. If we feel there is something in the song that does not reflect our 'values' or mission statement, then the song will not be played.
I hope that answers your question!
I'd like to focus one phrase I used in the above email: - "It's our desire to not separate the 'secular' from the 'spiritual' (or sacred)."

The word 'sacred' comes from the Latin "to make holy.' It is the root word for 'sacrament' which is something that 'is made holy' by a priest's blessing. To the religious crowd of the Middle Ages, the sacred was segmented from the profane (Latin: "before the fence"). Contrary to the New Testament teaching that the ekklesia is the body of Christ, and wherever we go, Christ is, Christians in the Middle Ages began to compartmentalize their lives. The 'sacred' things they did occurred 'inside the fence' of the church (building) and everything else they did (outside the fence - i.e. 'profane') was NOT sacred. So, in the mind of a Christian during the Middle Ages, he could do things outside of 'church' that he would never consider doing 'inside' a church (building).

We think that divide between secular and sacred is artificial. Our belief, which we believe is biblical and inspired of the Spirit, is that if it is okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to music outside a church building, then its okay for a believer in Jesus Christ to listen to the same music inside the church building.

Our kids listen to the music from Frozen.  Our members work out at the YMCA with Happy playing loudly as they lift weights. Our radio stations will play constantly All I Need Is Love this Christmas season, sung by Ceelo and the Muppets. If we aren't offended with the songs outside the church building, then there's no reason to be offended with them inside the church building.

We are the church.

We live life, and the presence of Christ in us makes this life very special.

As Michael Stewart eloquently writes:
Many people (wrongly) view their lives as divided into separate, unrelated parts. There are the parts that some view as secular, such as work, hobbies and recreation. These parts occur outside a sacred place, such as a church, and therefore are not related, in their minds, to faith. Then there are parts that are usually identified with a sacred place. A subtle dualism has developed among many people that divorces the sacred from anything that is considered secular.
Living out one's faith should be a natural overflow of the soul-stream within. Faith is interwoven into life, not reduced to a mere Sunday ritual. The principles of the Bible guide decisions, plans and actions.
This understanding of the unity of the sacred and the secular means, for the believer, nothing is secular. Everything one does, thinks or feels has something to do with God. The Bible presents a challenge: "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
The challenge is to live in the fullness of this unity. The marketplace and the church hold opportunities to fight the dualism of thought and live as a whole person for God.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Eye of the Leopard and the Roar of the Lion

This stunning picture of an African leopard is not from National Geographic or any other slick nature magazine. It is a picture taken by our friend Carol Williams. Carol, her husband Kyle, and Rachelle and I recently returned from an African safari. Our goal was to photograph Africa's big nine. We succeeded beyond my wildest imagination, thanks to expert guides and the magic of Carol's superb photography skills. This particular leopard, captured on camera during our last safari day in Africa's Serengeti National Park, was sitting in a tree by a creek. We had hunted for leopards in the Serengeti most of the day, and our guide took us off the rough dirt roads and followed the creeks, knowing leopards loved to rest in the trees above ground. The thing that strikes me about this particular photograph is that the exposed fangs of this leopard, the narrow, penetrating eyes, and the look of "I'm going to kill you..." was directed at me.

I got outside the jeep and too close to this leopard, not listening to the instructions given. But, I had a reason for doing so. I wanted a close-up of this leopard.

You see, my great-grandfather (6X) on my mother's side, Zachariah Benjamin Salyer (1729-1789), had been killed on his property at King's Mountain, North Carolina in 1776 by a Puma concolor which had jumped from a tree and killed him while he was riding his horse on his property. Nine years earlier, the Battle of King's Mountain, a decisive Patriot militia victory during the Revolutionary War, had been fought on my grandfather's property.   He had lived through the Revolutionary War only to be killed by a cat pouncing on him from a tree above.

I wanted this picture of a leopard in a tree. I wanted to see the leopard up close. The rules in the Serengeti are that tourists are to stay in the jeep, but my I-Pad, the only camera I had at the time, didn't have a zoom lens. So I said, "I'm getting out of the jeep to get a picture." Rachelle gave me kind of drawn out "W-a-d-e!" I responded, "I'll be careful."

I should know by now to listen to my wife when it comes to jeeps.  I got out of the jeep and began walking toward the tree with the leopard in it. I could hear my wife saying, "Wade, get back here!" I thought I could move quickly, get the photo I wanted, and get back into the jeep - no foul, no harm. However, at precisely the moment of thinking I was fine, the leopard stood, turned toward me, bared his fangs, and looked ready to pounce. I heard the guide yell with what seemed to me a strain of panic - "Wade, get back in the jeep NOW!"

That leopard wanted me for lunch. My heart began racing, but I made it back to the safety of the jeep before my great-grandchildren had the opportunity to tweet about the death of their forefather in the Serengeti of Africa.

Anyway, thanks to Carol Williams and her steady hand with the camera, she captured the exact moment the leopard looked at me with the "You are mine" kind of attitude. Carol's pictures are a visual to me of what 'our adversary, the devil' looks like when he prowls the earth 'looking for whom he may devour' (I Peter 5:8).

I wonder if I think enough about my enemy and his intent to destroy me. Jesus, my friend and defender, has given me wisdom on how to live life to its fullest, avoiding the traps set by the devourer. The Bible, I guess, could be compared to the safety of a Serengeti jeep. When I don't listen to the wisdom of Jesus' words, it's to my own detriment. As John Bunyan reminds us in Pilgrim's Progress, our adversary the devil--compared in Scripture to a 'roaring lion'--is actually chained. However, when I get out of the jeep and off the path God intends for me, I'm within the adversary's reach.

Thanks to our friend, Carol Williams. She has given us a vivid visual of the importance of obeying the Word and not playing games with diablos.