This past year of 2011 was especially compelling, with the passing of two, very beloved, luminaries; Dame Elizabeth Rosemond "Liz" Taylor, (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) British-American actress and social activist, champion for HIV and AIDS programs; she co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985, and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1993...and Rev. David Ray Wilkerson, (May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011) American Christian evangelist, best known for his book "The Cross and the Switchblade". The founder of the addiction recovery program Teen Challenge, and founding pastor of the non-denominational Times Square Church in New York.
Dame Elizabeth wanted her tombstone to read, “She Lived”. Indeed, she did and, according to Wikipedia, in 1959, at age 27, after nine months of study, Taylor converted from Christian Science to Judaism, taking the Hebrew name Elisheba Rachel. She stated that her conversion was something she had long considered and was not related to her marriages. After Mike Todd's death, Taylor said that she "felt a desperate need for a formalized religion," and explained that neither Catholicism nor Christian Science were able to address many of the "questions she had about life and death."
Biographer Randy Taraborrelli notes that after studying the philosophy of Judaism for nine months, "she felt an immediate connection to the faith." Although Taylor rarely attended synagogue, she stated, "I'm one of those people who think you can be close to God anywhere, not just in a place designed for worship . . . " At the conversion ceremony, with her parents present as witnesses and in full support of her decision, Taylor repeated the words of Ruth: “...for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
During an interview when she was 55, she describes how her inner sense of identity as a child actress, kept her from giving in to many of the studio's demands, especially with regard to altering her appearance to fit in: “God forbid you do anything individual or go against the fad, but I did. I figured this looks absurd. And, I agreed with my dad: God must have had some reason for giving me bushy eyebrows and black hair. I guess I must have been pretty sure of my sense of identity. It was me. I accepted it all my life and I can't explain it. Because I've always been very aware of the inner me that has nothing to do with the physical me.”
She adds that she began to recognize her "inner being" during her adulthood: “Eventually the inner you shapes the outer you, especially when you reach a certain age, and you have been given the same features as everybody else, God has arranged them in a certain way. But around 40, the inner you actually chisels your features. . . Life is to be embraced and enveloped. Surgeons and knives have nothing to do with it. It has to do with a connection with nature, God, your inner being, whatever you want to call it, it's being in contact with yourself and allowing yourself, allowing God, to mold you.”
Similarly, David Wilkerson allowed God to mold him into the dynamic preacher that many came to know and love. His ministry was known worldwide with many ex-drug addicts and gang members singing his praises.
Wilkerson served as a pastor in small churches in Scottdale and Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, until he saw a photograph in Life Magazine in 1958 of seven New York City teenagers charged with murder. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958. It was then that he began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members, which he continued into the 1960s. Later in 1958, he founded Teen Challenge, an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program affiliated with the Assemblies of God, with a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers.
Wilkerson gained national recognition after he co-authored the book “The Cross and the Switchblade” in 1963 with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, about his street ministry. The book became a best-seller, with over 50 million copies in over thirty languages, and is included in Christianity Today's "Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals". In the book, Wilkerson tells of the conversion of gang member, Nicky Cruz, who later became an evangelist himself and wrote his autobiography, “Run Baby Run”. In 1970, “The Cross and the Switchblade” was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz.
These incredibly influential people were but two, of countless thousands, that we’ve said goodbye to in this last year. In case you weren’t aware of their passing, it is with great respect and sorrow that I have compiled the following list by month, of only a few, of individuals that have died in 2011.
January; Anne Francis, Gerry Rafferty, John Barry.
February; Gary Moore, Necmettin Erbakan, Jane Russell.
March; Nate Dogg, Warren Christopher, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Ferraro, Farley Granger.
April; Sidney Lumet, William Lipscomb, Rev. David Wilkerson.
May; Osama bin Laden, Jackie Cooper, Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage, Jeff Conaway.
June; Jack Kevorkian, Clarence Clemons, Peter Falk.
July; Cy Twombly, Betty Ford, Amy Winehouse.
August; Bubba Smith, Raul Ruiz.
September; Cliff Robertson, Andy Whitfield, Richard Hamilton.
October; Steve Jobs, Charles Napier, Muammar Gaddafi. November; Joe Frazier, Anne McCaffrey, Paul Motian, Charles Thomas Kowal.
December; Harry Morgan, Joe Simon, Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong-il, Helen Frankenthaler.
As this year breathes its last, we must know that none of us are promised tomorrow. James 4:13 & 14 says, ‘Pay attention to this! You're saying, "Today or tomorrow we will go into some city, stay there a year, conduct business, and make money." You don't know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.’ Remember to live each day as your last or in the words of Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dyin’”.
Scripturally, It is appointed for...“People (to) die once, and after that they are judged.” Hebrews 9:27 Consider my next article, "2012 Begins A New You!" for possibilities to revolutionize your life and the living you will be doing in 2012.
Happy New Year!
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