Checkerboard Square

Growing up in America it was quite common in rural towns to shop at the local Grange store. It was a kind of feed store and hardware store combined where you could buy animal feed and basic hardware supplies. They always displayed a familiar red and white checkered sign out front that said “Purina.”  We would often eat Purina cereals for breakfast and feed our animals Purina “Chow” such as dog and cat Chow.

“How could I have lived nearly 20 years and had not even considered there was something more to life?”

In my late teens I attended a summer camp in Michigan that was founded by the late William H. Danforth.  There we learned that Mr. Danforth had founded Purina Mills in the 1890s and used the checkerboard pattern – similar to the familiar tablecloth design – as his company’s logo.  But at the camp the logo was transformed into something quite life-changing.  Mr. Danforth was a man of faith who enjoyed reading his Bible.  During his reading he discovered a marvelous verse in Luke 2:52, one that he took both as a guiding principle for his life as well as a theme for the youth summer camp that he founded. It is a simple verse with profound meaning.


“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor [or grace] with God and man.” – (KJV).

 Mr. Danforth saw in that verse a principle for human living demonstrated by the only One who had ever lived a perfect life.  The principle by which the man Jesus lived on the earth was constituted of four principle aspects: wisdom, stature, grace before God, and grace before men. 

Mr. Danforth interpreted those four primary aspects of a well-lived human life as mental, physical, social and religious.  He added the first letter of each word to the white space of his checkerboard logo, which is now the logo of the American Youth Foundation (AYF).  The similarities between the Purina and AYF logos are easily seen:


“Four Square” Living

I attended Mr. Danforth’s summer camp the first summer out of high school just prior to entering college.  Prior to camp we were encouraged to read one of Mr. Danforth’s books entitled “I Dare You”.  In it he dared the reader to be the best he could be in all four aspects of human life.  The camp introduced this four-fold or four-square living to the young attendees.  Danforth believed that four key components (or “squares”) – the mental, the physical, the social, and the religious – needed to be in balance in order to achieve fulfillment and success in life.  To me, this was something new I had never considered before.  While this four-fold living seemed simple and intuitive, I began to realize I was missing something.  I surely had the mental aspect “M” as I attained good grades in high school and was about to attend college.   I certainly had the physical aspect “P” as I participated in all kinds of sports and lettered in gymnastics.   I believed I had the social aspect “S” because I had many friends and was easily able to make new ones.   But the religious aspect “R” troubled me.   Although I had attended a few religious services, my parents were not regular church-goers.  I came to realize I was missing one of the four aspects of a well-lived human life.  How could I have lived nearly 20 years and had not even considered there was something more to life?

After reading Mr. Danforth’s book and attending his camp, I did not want to be deficient or lacking in any way.  He had made the challenge and I accepted it.   I became determined to find out what this “R” part of life was all about.  I did not want to live any longer knowing that I was missing a critical part of a normal human life!   One aspect of the camp was to have a morning quiet time, alone in the woods, out-of-sight of every other human.  We were given short devotions to read and to consider prior to breakfast.   That was a new, refreshing experience for me.  Like any summer camp there were classes, sports activities, and singing around a large campfire.  At the end of camp everyone was assigned to write a letter to themselves to remind them what they had learned and enjoyed during camp and to enumerate some future goals.   The camp would withhold the letters for a couple of months and then mail them out.   We would all receive our personal letters later that year and we could assess how we had progressed toward our goals.  In my letter my primary goal was to find out what this God stuff was all about.   I challenged myself to buy a Bible and to attend a church to make progress toward that goal.    I did not need the letter to remind me.  When I arrived at campus that fall and was buying my textbooks at the campus bookstore, I ran across a Bible, so I added it to my stack of books.   And I began to read it.  I also asked a dorm-mate if I could attend church meetings with him.   After a few months of reading the Bible and attending church meetings I began to fully appreciate my need for God.  Of those four aspects of life I realized I was missing the biggest part!  Certainly the eternal part!

Since I had been attending church most of my new friends were also church-goers.  I think they just assumed I was one of them.   But inwardly I knew that I was not yet a believer.  Up to that point it was just too big of a step for me.  Besides, if God really wanted me to believe (I thought) why couldn’t I have been born 2,000 years ago so I could see Jesus for myself!  Then I would surely believe in Him!   

Eventually one night in my dorm room I was reading Romans 10:8-13.   After reading those verses a few times I realized that believing was not so difficult.  It said “the word was near me, in my heart and in my mouth”…  Suddenly a little spark of faith penetrated me.   Continuing it said “if you believe in your heart God has raised Him (Jesus) from the dead”…  I realized over the past few months I did believe in the resurrection and that if God had actually raised Jesus 2,000 years ago, He was still alive today!  And if He was alive today, He was with me in an invisible way right there in my room!   Those verses in Romans also said “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…..you will be saved.”   It became clear to me that I did believe but I had never confessed “Jesus is Lord”.   So right then I opened my mouth and called on His name “Lord Jesus!”   I sensed the Spirit of the Lord who was formerly on the outside of me suddenly entering into me and filling me.  What a heavenly experience!   For days I felt as though I was walking a few feet above the ground.  That was many years ago.  By God’s mercy I still enjoy believing, calling on His name, and being filled with His Spirit.

I dare you!

Now, I’d like to speak Mr. Danforth’s words to you: “I dare you!”  I dare you to consider your life, your future, even your eternal future.   You may have three of those four squares of life taken care of.  But what about that fourth square?  You were made as a vessel to contain the life of God. Have you opened to receive Him as your content?  Are you still just an empty physical shell having a mind and social interactions?  The real essence of human life, the meaning of human life, is to be a proper human vessel containing the life of the eternal God.  If you lack this, you are still incomplete.   Won’t you take a moment, bow before the living God and pray this prayer:  

“Dear God, I do not want to live a wasted life.  I realize now that I need you to fill me.  I believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead and He is living now to be my life.  I open my mouth to call on the name of Jesus – Lord Jesus!  I thank you for being my Savior and my Lord.  I ask you to fill me with your Spirit that I could be born again with eternal life!  Thank you Lord Jesus!”