January 2020

Good morning,

Ripley's Believe It or Not iconic name tends to summon disturbing images that teeter between the ridiculous and the macabre. However, that wasn't what Robert Ripley had in mind when he conceived the idea a century ago.

Ripley's simple drawings and modest storylines provided content for his comic strip Champs and Chumps, and intended to showcase unusual and daring athletic achievements. However, as time passed, more and more non-sports oddities were included—the optimum word being oddities.

The real magic behind the Ripley brand blossomed when researcher Norbert Pearlroth came on board to find new stories—you know, the jaw dropping kind of stories that made every reader question its claims. Every day this bookworm plowed through the New York Public Library digging deeper to find the most unusual, hard-to-believe storylines.

For ten hours a day, six days a week for 52 years, Pearlroth uncovered thousands of verifiable, albeit bizarre stories for Ripley's readers. It's no wonder why Ripley's comic strip became a 'must read' in every major newspaper. At its peak of popularity, 80 million readers consumed the syndicated daily feature.

By 1933 it was time to take the show on the road, opening at the Chicago World's Fair. The massive building that housed the display was labeled Ripley's Odditorium. Over two million gaping visitors passed through to see the shocking distortions that seemed outside of natural law.

Prominent signage at the entrance announced, "Beds are provided inside the Odditorium for those who faint upon seeing the sights."

Whereas many of Ripley's entries were just plain weird, some were quite sweet. The story of Parisian painter Marcel de Leclure, for example.

Leclure's story was set in 1875. The young painter was anxious to tell Magdalene de Villalore of his deep love via a love letter. However, as hard as he tried, no words could capture his heart's expression more than the basic, Je t'aime, which is French for I love you. The young Parisian felt that simple phrase just couldn't capture the enormity of his passion. So he decided to repeat the single phrase 1,000 times for every year. Since the year was 1875, the words Je t'aime would be written 1,875,000 times.

Because it was such a daunting task, he hired a secretary to write it for him. However, not wanting to diminish his expression, the romantic Frenchman dictated the letter line-by-line 1,875,000 times: Je t'aime, I love you.

Ripley concluded this letter with the following notation; "Never before was love made manifest by as great an expenditure of time and effort."

It's a nice thought, but it isn't true.

The greatest "expenditure of time and effort" to manifest love was exercised by our Creator. In one dramatic pause in time, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." And in His coming, He "emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bondservant." Then, "He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death," becoming "the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world."

The irony is, this love cost Him so much, yet He gives it freely. It's an "indescribable gift," and yet scripture describes it in the simplest terms…

  • "An everlasting love."
  • "Beautiful is Your love."
  • "You love to show mercy."
  • "God so loved the world that He gave…"
  • "Greater love has no one than this…"
  • "His Love surpasses knowledge."
  • "The Father has bestowed a great love on us."
  • "His love is perfected in us."
  • "The greatness of Thy love."
  • "God is abounding in lovingkindness."

…and the list goes on and on.

The poets' ink will run dry before they sufficiently describe His love. Songwriters could create for eternity and never capture the immensity of His heart towards us. We preachers will grow old and voiceless in trying to put verbal handles on His incomparable and undeserved love.

But let's try anyway. His love is worth the effort, believe it or not!



Ron Walters
Salem Media Group

© Copyright 2020 by Ron Walters

Ron Walters