Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

7.27.2010

Big Corner, Small Corner

Before the standard of “Americanism” was compared to a nine inch pastry filled with sliced pomaceous fruit, there was another, far more extensive, touchstone. “Theodore Roosevelt called it ‘the most American thing in America,’ Woodrow Wilson described it during World War I as an ‘integral part of the national defense,’ and William Jennings Bryan deemed it a ‘potent human factor in molding the mind of the nation.’ [1]” You are certainly not alone, however, if you have never heard of the Chautauqua Circuit.

This was a national pastime that began in the 19th century as a Sunday School training camp in New York, but by the 20th century had morphed into a traveling education in culture, religion, politics, history, and more. The American Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, The American Jubilee Singers, and the San Francisco Ballet Company were just a few of the world famous talents to take the stage. Lecturers such as William Jennings Bryan, the former President William Taft, and Joseph McCarthy joined hundreds of other scholars, statesmen, and preachers on the stage. Debates, plays, revival meetings, and the first correspondence school were all part of this enormous circuit that continued through the first half of the 20th century.

Undoubtedly, it would have been an honor just to attend such an event—one person commented, “[our] town was never the same after Chautauqua started coming.... It broadened our lives in many ways [2]." But to speak or perform in the circuit—could you imagine? Just one speaker who was part of Chautauqua is estimated to have reached “10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people [3].” Such an audience was nearly impossible to reach in any other way during that time, and even now would be difficult to obtain. (A TV show would perhaps be the closest one could come—and 45 million hits on a YouTube clip remains exceptional and elusive).


All of these thoughts must have been going through one young lady’s head when she was invited to speak on the tour in 1912. Excitement at the possibilities for advancing God’s kingdom filled her, but nervousness surely overcame her too at the thought of speaking before so many masses. She agreed, however, and bought her tickets, and eagerly told all her friends of the upcoming tour. Commitments were finished, her lectures were outlined, and prayers were being offered for her safe journey and Spirit-filled sessions. All that remained was to pack, say her good-byes, and be on her way. But while she was in the very act of gathering the necessities she would need for the trip, the terrible news came that her father had been seriously injured in a horseless carriage. There was nothing to be done but to call the directors of Chautauqua and cancel, to throw away her tickets, to unpack her bags, and to ask all her friends to change their prayers for her father instead of her.

What a terrible blow it was to young Ina Duley Ogdon to give up what she had hailed as an opportunity from God to glorify Him. And yet, in those quiet moments at home, nursing her father back to health, God worked in her heart. Although she could almost hear the thunderous applause of the Chautauqua audience ringing in her ears, and her poor father, in pain from the accident, could barely muster a smile, God’s pleasure warmed her soul. There would always be other Chautauquas—and there would always be other lecturers to take her place. But at that time—in that place, the world would have to wait, for God wanted her most of all in a quiet, dark sickroom. Would she have brought glory to God as part of the Chautauqua Circuit? Probably—but the glory from man was just as tempting. Now, she had no glory or thanks or notice from men, but she had all those things from God, and she gave all those things back to God.



It’s little wonder that from those sober days, so far removed from the flamboyance of Chautauqua, Ina wrote “Tho into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer, brighten the corner where you are.” Ina glorified her God best when she was where He wanted her, and her corner shone bright and true indeed. How is your corner doing?


For more about Ina Duley Ogdon, please visit our Welcome page.
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[1] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000. http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/essay.htm
[2] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000. http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/essay.htm
[3] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000. http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/essay.htm

9 comments:

  1. I loved this post! It is again a reminder to keep focusing on helping others and following God's lead, even when our plans may be "good" or noble.
    I also love your writing style! Keep it up!

    -Rae

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  2. Thank you Rae! To receive a compliment from you on my writing is indeed an honor, for I admire everything I read on your blog.

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  3. I loved reading more about Ina and understanding better why she is such an inspiration to you and Lauren.
    I believe it is so true that God does not look at the size or placement of our "corners," but our faithfulness to shine in them, where He has indeed placed us.
    Thank you for so brightening your corner here in the blogging world! God bless you!

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  4. Thank you for posting this, Mikaela. I've been in a somewhat "dark" time in my life for the past year, because my husband and I moved from America to Australia. Although there are a lot of great things about living here, it's a more lonely and quiet place than America--especially regarding Christians. God has showed me, gently, in the past week that my focus needs to be on brightening this corner of the world instead of focusing so much on missing my other corner of the world. My focus needs to be on making the most of every opportunity rather than longing for a different opportunity. Ina's attitude and the way you've written this post has affirmed that lesson even more. Thanks so much.

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  5. Your blogs always uplift my soul and leave me with a smile and thinking! Thank you for sharing.

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  6. Ruthie--I'm so glad you enjoyed and learned from it! There are so many lessons to pick from Ina Duley Ogdon's life.
    Samantha--That would be hard, for sure. America certainly isn't any wonderland, but it is "home" and it is blessed to be one of the most "Christian" nations in the world right now (not that that's saying much). Changing your focus from inward to outward is so mature of you--and I can't wait to see how it transforms your new life in Australia.
    Brandy--Thank you so much! I write for God and my readers, so to hear something like that just makes my day. ;-)

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  7. What an excellent and inspiring post! It amazes me how I often doubt God's ability to use me in a very "large way", then after accepting that very possibility, I question His decision for me to do something on a "smaller scale". God wants us to be willing to minister to the masses, as well as to one lonely soul. Somehow, it seems each of these acts are equal in God's eyes. Thank you for this post- it truly spoke to my heart!

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