Monday, May 30, 2005


The context is a battle in the Civil War—

It was in the terrible battle of Atlanta that the brave and idolized McPherson fell.
The news of his death spread with the speed of lightning along the lines, sending a pang of sorrow through every soldier’s heart. For a moment it seemed as if despair would demoralize the whole army, until General John A. Logan, on whom the command now rested, took in the situation and, on his furious black stallion, dashed down the lines, crying at the top of his voice, as he waved his sword in the air, “McPherson and revenge!
McPherson and revenge!”
An eye witness wrote; “ Never shall I forget—never will one of us who survived that desperate fight forget to our dying day—the grand spectacle presented by Logan as he rode up and down in front line, his black eyes flashing fire, his long, black hair streaming in the wind, bareheaded, and his service-worn slouch hat swinging in his bridle-hand and his sword flashing in the other, crying out in stentorian tones, ‘Boys! McPherson and revenge!’ Why, it made my blood run hot and cold, and moved every man of us to follow to the death the brave and magnificent hero-ideal of a soldier who made this resistless appeal to all that is noble in a soldiers heart, and this, too, when the very air was alive with whistling bullets and howling shell! And if he could only have been painted as he swept up and down the line on a steed as full of fire as his glorious rider, it would today be one of the finest battle pictures of the war.”
This impromptu act of courage was even more inspiring than a reinforcement of ten thousand men, and converted his almost despairing command into mighty conquerors; and the day was won.

Put that courage into a saint and he will become a missionary like Judson, a reformer like Howard, a preacher like Paul, or a martyr like Sir Thomas More.
It is this spirit that has withstood the opposition of wicked men in the progress of the achievedd acheived victory in the face of trials and death.....

This piece comes from my new book "Onward to Fame and Fortune" and I share it because this is the kind of story that inspires me. It made me think how children today are brought up with the courage of "Super Heros" or imaginative figures and not from examples of history. For me these stories are very inspiring and have an infectious quality that fiction lacks. This story reminded me of a scene in "Brave Heart".

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Look and Listen

Two merchants met a dervis in the desert, who was traveling alone.
“You have lost a camel,” he said to the merchants.
“ Indeed we have,” on of the merchants replied.
“ Was he not blind in his right eye, and lame in his left leg?” continued the dervis.
“ He was,” answered the merchants.
“Had he not lost a front tooth.?” Added the dervis.
“ He had,” replied the merchants, beginning to think that the lost animal was found.
“ And was he not loaded with honey on one side and corn on the other?”
“ Most certainly he was,” the merchant said, “and as you have seen him so lately, and marked his so particularly, you can, in all probability, conduct us to him.’
The dervis responded, “ I have never seen your camel, nor even heard of him but from you.”
“ A pretty story, truly!” exclaimed the merchants, supposing they were standing face to face with a thief or robber. “ But where are the jewels which formed a part of his burden?”
“ I have neither seen your camel or the jewels,” insisted the dervis.
Satisfied that the dervis was a robber, the merchants seized him and carried him before the court for examination. Nothing was found on his person to convict him, nor could any evidence of guilt be discovered.
“A sorcerer! A sorcerer!” exclaimed the merchants, and they hastened to get him indicted for sorcery. But the drevis put an end to their proceedings by addressing the court thus:--
“ I have been amused with your surprise, and own that there has been some ground for your suspicions; but I have lived long and alone, and I can find ample scope for observation, even in the desert. I knew that I had crossed the track of a camel that had strayed from its owner, because I saw no mark of any human footstep on the same route. I knew that the animal was blind in one eye because it had cropped the herbage only on one side of the path; and I perceived that it was lame in one leg from the faint impression which that particular foot had produced upon the sand. I concluded that the animal had lost one tooth because wherever it grazed, a small tuft of herbage was left uninjured in the center of its bite. As to that which formed the burden of the beast, the busy ants informed me that it was corn on one side, and the clustering flies that it was honey on the other.”

“One purchaser notices every defect in cloth or garment that he examines, while another overlooks them; one traveler notes everything on his journey—trees, landscapes, crops, farms, homes, thrift or decay, proofs of enterprise or shiftlessness, and a score of other things, which another traveler fails to see; one reader becomes familiar with the style, purpose, sentiments, and scope of an author, pleased with excellence and pained by defects, while another catches only the general drift of the book, without being able at the conclusion of his reading to discuss its subject matter intelligently, or even to give a passable analysis of the volume; one pupil masters each branch of study to which he gives his attention, never satisfied until he understands each subject so that he is able to reason for the belief that is in him, while another is content with a parrot-like recitation or less, neither comprehending the author nor mastering the subject.”

This story and paragraph are from my knew book, and this chapter is about discrimination and discernment. There are many moral and practical applications in the chapter. The chapter encourages us to teach our children these virtues and seek them ourselves as a most important character trait for success in all of life. I think the encouragement is such a good one and I also think that our lives are broadened, deepened, protected and enjoyed more as we are able to discern.

“Onward to Fame and Fortune” by Wm. M. Thayer. The title sounds secular but it isn’t. It is published by The Christian Herald in 1897, and well worth picking up if you can find it on the internet.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Stirring Within

On my visit to Lincoln City last weekend I scored a great old book. As I was thumbing through it I read the following paragraph in the introduction---

My dear Mr. Burke,-- You will agree with me that every one must decide and direct his own course in life, and the only service friends can afford is to give us the data from which we must draw our own conclusions and decide our course. Allow me, then, to sit beside you and look over the field of life and see what are its aspects.
Tell me Mr. your name, do you not feel a spirit stirring within you that longs to know, to do, and to dare; to hold converse with the great world of thought, and hold before you some high and noble object to which the vigor of your mind and the strength of your arm may be given?
Do you not have longings like these, which you breathe to no one, and which you feel must be heeded, or you will pass through life unsatisfied and regretful? I am sure you have them, and they will forever cling round your heart till you obey their mandate.
They are the voices of that nature which God has given you, and which, when obeyed, will bless you and your fellow-men.
Now all this might be true, and yet it might be your duty not to follow that course. If your duty to your family or parents demands that you take another course, I shall rejoice to see you take that other course. The path of duty is where we all ought to walk, be that where it may.

I just love that. Such practical advice and nearly every one I have ever met knows that stirring to "know, to do and to dare" something noble we can throw ourselves into. I also like the way he balances these inner longings with our duty.
A word somewhat out of style today. But certainly a big part of manhood is doing our duty, even though it doesn't offer the same dare or risks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I find homo sapiens to be the most interesting study. Myself included. We have a longing for society, friendships and fellowship with others. That being said, we have the most difficult of times getting along, without offending one another.
Try as we will, not long after people gather, we find we have said or done some action that we wished we had not. We seem to jockey for position, swell and snort for elevation. Not content with mere discussion, we have this need to defend our intellectual ground, or pout if our self perceived status isn’t recognized. As often as not, we leave discussing others faults or blaming them for not valuing our presence. It is a madness of sorts. I say it’s a madness because the list of short comings we hide is nearly endless. To borrow from Jeremy Taylor’s list of shortcomings;
We speak of ourselves as though we have forgotten our follies and weaknesses, the sins of our youth and the weakness of our age,
Their imperfect grace and the long list of omissions of duty,
our hesitations and fears, reservations and cowardice,
All our shame and things we are sorry for,
The evil intentions and little plots,
Our carnal confidences and trust in things of this world,
The overindulgences and lack of self-control,
our wilder escapades and materialism,
The wasting of time and eager submission to compromise,
Our trifling complaints and little peevishnesses,
The mixtures of the world with the things of the spirit,
And all the times we received mercy and the ingratitude we showed,
Our breaches of promise and abandoning of holy purposes,
The breaking of resolutions, and the plundering of our vows.

These things we are tempted to conceal and present ourselves to society as though we have nothing to hide. Were the curtain drawn back on all of our folly, one could scarcely imagine how our society has continued.

These things being said, not a day later we find ourselves craving the company of others. I was reading a piece from William Law’s “Christian Perfection” and he writes about our weaknesses in a vivid way—

"Let us take another view of the weakness and disorder of our nature. When we see people drunk, or in a violent passion, we readily own that they are in a state of delusion-- thinking, saying, and doing irregular things under the promptings of their high spirits. In these states we all see and acknowledge the power of our bodies over our reason and never suppose a man capable of judging or acting wisely as long as he is under the influence of violent passions or drink.
Whether a man be drunk with passion or strong drink, there is the same weakness of mind, the same disordered imagination, the same misapprehension of the nature of things.
We are always in a state either of self-love, pride, hatred, envy, covetousness, or ambition. One or more of these passions affect in some degree our spirits in the same manner that liquor affects us. A silent envy, a secret vanity which nobody sees raises disorderly thoughts in our heads and perverts our judgments in the same manner as do more violent passions."

When I read the part that says " we are always in a state either of self-love, pride, hatred, envy etc."
It made me think and wonder; are there no times when I'm free of self-love, times when I am truly humble? As I went through the list it was difficult to remember when I spent an hour free of some distemper.

Now to bring this to the spiritual battlefield I’ll turn to Thomas A. Kempis --

“For the love of God you ought cheerfully to undergo all things, that is to say, labors and pains; temptations, vexations, anxieties, necessities, infirmities, injuries, slanders, reproofs, humiliations, confusions, corrections, and despisings.
These are a help to virtue; these are the trial of a novice in Christ; these frame the heavenly crown. I will give an everlasting reward for a short labor, and infinite glory for transitory confusion.” Thomas A Kempis

“Trials of a novice in Christ”, would that I weren’t still a novice in Christ after thirty some years as a Christian, but to cheerfully undergo all the vexations and confusions I encounter with others is still one of my greatest challenges.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"A large charity is the growth of years, the last result of may trials." Stopford A. Brook

There's some comfort in that.

Ahhh, simplicity

"Let us learn to be content with what we have, with the place we have in life. Let us get rid of our false estimates, let us throw down the god Money from its pedestal, trample that senseless idol under foot, set up all the higher ideals-- a neat home, vines of our own planting, a few books full of the inspiration of genius, a few friends worthy of being loved, and able to love us in turn; a hundred pleasures that bring no pain or remorse, a devotion to the right that will never swerve, a simple religion empty of all bigotry, full of trust and hope and love, and to such a philosophy this world will give up all the joy it has." David Swing

I like that, false estimates, vines of our own planting, of course a few books ( or more ) and a few friends, maybe throw in there a wife or two.

We Are Not Our Wounds

“When we are cut off from the ones we love, it’s easy to define ourselves solely by our wounds, by all the ways we have been hurt and maligned. Without strong connections and input from others, we become isolated and in our isolation the places that hurt, the places that are raw and bleeding, capture our interest. Conversely, the more we are connected to love ones and are engaged within community, the more we are defined not by what we are lacking but by our presence and our impact on the lives of those around us.” The Community of Kindness"

I bought what I thought was a follow up book to "Random Acts of Kindness" but it turned out to be kind of new Age. I did find some interesting thought none the less. This particular piece jumped out at me. I know so many that are cut off from loved ones by distance, and I have seen the described sentiments occur. I think there is a lot of truth in it.