Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

The anecdote says that when Spurgeon was robbed while away from home that he came home and expressed thankfulness that a) his life was spared, b) the robber didn’t get much and c) “I’m thankful to God that I was not the robber.”

Last Wednesday, the second day of this year, I was working at my desk at school when Christie called me on my cell. She said a jumble of things [in my mind] but also something close to, “some men just came into our house…they put a gun to Karsten’s head….and put him in the closet.” She was also able to confirm that at least one item was missing and they had attempted to take the TV. I was her first call, so I ran to the car, raced home and talked to 911 the whole way there. I beat the police, and as I entered home, Karsten obviously had a jumbled dread of emotions on his face.

Karsten is our oldest. He is 10, and he was enjoying his last morning of Christmas break by playing with Legos on the living room floor when a knock came to the door. Christie was heading up the stairs to tend to the running water (a tub being filled for Bear’s bath), and she told him he could answer it. We live in a busy house with many guests and neighbors at our door throughout the week; sometimes even when I come home, I knock and wait at the front door. When the door was opened, a man with a gun presented himself and asked Karsten who was home. There were two masked and gloved men with him. Karsten told him that his mom was upstairs. He covered Karsten’s mouth, put the gun to his temple and marched him about 12-15 paces to a closet and deposited him inside. For 3-5 minutes, the three men (ages 17-20) went through the downstairs of our home trying to disconnect the TV, taking our iPod, and turning the radio on the docking station to a rap station.


Karsten’s heart was pounding in the closet. He couldn’t hear the intruders, but he expressed very high concern that they would head upstairs where his siblings (ages 9, 7, 4, 3) and mama were. His emotions were racing. He described that time, not as primarily fearful for himself, but a strong sense of “I can’t believe this is happening here, happening to us.”

The men left with a slam of the door and raced to the car where a waiting 15-year old was in the rear seat of their car. The gunman drove away and out of our subdivision.

Just after I arrived home, the police descended on our subdivision. It was a harrowing time of details and shock, reporting and telling, fingerprinting and rehashing. And the police were great. Metro Nashville Police were highly esteemed in our eyes, but now much more so. They were kind and thorough and were gracious with our whole family.

Because of Karsten’s very detailed description of the men and a neighbor’s very exact description of the car, the four were caught within an hour, the iPod and gun (with a 33-bullet clip) were recovered, and have all admitted to being involved in some way. The DA is seeking a whole host of charges, perhaps including aggravated kidnapping for each of the four involved (TN law does not exclude the one who didn’t come in the house).

There is a definite gravity to this event in our lives. We were immediately and intensely thankful. We were thankful that God had spared Karsten’s life; our precious son still lives! God had kept our other little ones upstairs. He had kept the bad guys downstairs. He had allowed the bad guys to be consternated and leave sooner than they had to (they said they were not in the house that they meant to be in). We appreciate what sort of tragedy may have come last week and how different our lives almost were. We appreciate that there was a quarter of inch pull between life and death and that God controlled even that quarter-inch of space.

At the same time, we have slept well every night since. We have resolved together that God is King, even outside of church. In the moments after the police left, Karsten found his shoulders in my squeezing hands, and we were face to face with me telling him plainly and slowly that, “No one can hurt you. No one in this world can touch or harm you without God’s permission.” I quoted Spurgeon to him, saying, “The God who has been sufficient until now can be trusted to the end.”

We have been so loved this week. We have received encouragements and prayers and Scripture and texts and calls from the world over. In the midst of the trauma, we have received this very special dispensation of overt love that have made all the creaky pains seem lighter. Karsten has been fantastic. He has met two very competent, professional and compassionate District Attorneys, a wonderful victim advocate, an amazing arresting officer, a hilarious CSI, two of Nashville’s finest detectives, and a whole precinct (practically) of caring officers and sergeants. He has been prepped and sworn in for two different hearings already but has not been called to testify, though we are pretty certain he will need to do so in the future, perhaps many times. He has been interviewed on TV, and I’ve turned down two other interviews because that one was hard enough for him.

Today’s hearing was especially hard since it was a packed courtroom with the oldest two defendants present, many family members of the defendants, a news team, a whole gaggle of court crew and 15+ police officers waiting to testify. We were told he wouldn’t be needed and then were told in the middle of it that he would be brought in. He was calm (and a little bemused about the loose tooth that was hanging from his gums that he wasn’t ready to pull out today), but I was trembling for him today. In the end, the D.A. said she didn’t need him.

It has been a whirlwind, though, mostly of happy graciousness. That man did not pull the trigger. Those men did not go upstairs where our other three boys and little girl were. We are safe. We are warm in our home together. We can sleep in peace.

We are lucky. We live in this corner of the world where we can live softly with high birth rates, heated blankets, electronic amenities, soft-serve yogurt on every corner…. We live in a part of the world where crime still shocks us and calls us to the realities of a fragile and desperate world. I don’t deserve five healthy kids. They are a grace. I don’t deserve the Gospel love I’m shown each day either, but we have a good God with a perfect Son who made a perfect atonement for my trouble. He solved and healed my woes. And now I can’t look on these other things as my own. I’ve written this before, but Christie and I will recite on occasion what we know is true: “These kids are not ours; they are God’s. He gave them; He can take them. Nothing is too good or should be too close for our God to take.”

My sympathy for Vaughn, Birdsong, Kelly and Spears is high. While I want the judicial system to do its work on them and want them penalized, I want them to know the freedom that I feel. And the freedom is not a result of my lack of leg irons and handcuffs and steel bars. My freedom comes because I know the truth of the Gospel, and I believe the plain truths of Ecclesiastes, that you can have nothing in this world–no freedom, no people, no things–and life can still be rich.

I am fortunate; I have my child and my family is whole. The four defendants are fortunate–I was shopping for home defense shotguns 22 hours before they intruded my home; and, if I were home, I would have been steps away from a pistol. For this, I am thankful that I was not home. I want the gun, but the stories are so much uglier when the guns are used.

Unapologetically, this trauma has been good for our family. It’s not that we wish it on others, are glad it happened or want it to happen again. But it allows all of us to see God’s steady, close protection and care of this family. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will declare His Lordship; and the excess and bounty will drip from our mouths and saturate our sight. May He preserve us to better declare His story to others.


But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.

Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.

For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
(Psalm 5:7-12)

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1. The first prerequisite of true leadership is a happy home. The private life is the proving ground for the public life.

2. Leadership is the art of pursuing the ideal in the midst of a world that is something less than ideal—and never losing sight of either notion.

3. A leader is an idealist who is simultaneously blessed with a strong dose of reality.

4. A leader knows that what is really important in life rarely puts on airs of importance.

Read the others on Eleventary.

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Abraham Kuyper

The more I learn of Abraham Kuyper, the more I am amazed at how little we Americans know of this thoroughly astounding modern, reformer. He is the voice behind that beautiful declaration of Lordship:

“In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,’That is mine!’”

Do a favor to yourself and read this very brief overview of Kuyper’s life:

Abraham Kuyper was one of the most remarkable men of the twentieth century. A true poly math, the Dutch statesman made his mark as a pastor, theologian, journalist, educator, orator, publisher, politician, and reformer.

Read the rest from Grantian Florilegium.

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Here’s a good article from the doctor who cared for Dr. Gus last year.

Why It’s All Worthwhile (Or What Keeps Me Going)

HT: Brad Baughm

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“Paul Revere is famous for his ride. He’s essential for so much more.” Joel Miller’s book, The Revolutionary Paul Revere, amazed me and annoyed me.

First, this book was a great idea. It’s as much about the American Revolution as it is Paul Revere, but it gives the story and sequence of the events of the American Revolution as seen from Revere’s eyes, and I have never read a non-fiction work on this era like this. It is astounding to see how vast the breadth of Revere’s touch was. Revere is mostly famous for his “Redcoats are coming” ride and perhaps for silversmithing, but every bit of his life was more interesting and hands-on than you could have known. Revere was a brazen and brave leader amongst the Patriots. He was ingenious and productive. He was deep and broad in his skill and passion. He was hands-on in building some of the amazing and lasting works of that era (including the USS Constitution, which would not have survived so long if not for Paul’s quality work keeping it held together).

My grievances are small, but I was disconcerted that Mr. Miller repeatedly used a rather flippant, modern jargon to apply to the matters at hand. Word choices that pulled us out of the time period to our modern one. I noted it 17 times and may have given grace to others. Thankfully, they were top-heavy at the front of the book so I was less put-out as I went along. In telling of a general being killed in action, Miller said he “bought it.” In describing how Revere and his first wife met, he employed the informal “became an item.” When the stores were not allowed to sell, they were, “on ice.” The technique doesn’t make it unreadable, it just lops off some of the import that Revere and his important work conveyed.

I really liked the idea of one-word chapter titles, but the introductions to each chapter, “In which our hero…” were a little weird: by which I mean, it’s something I would do if I were an author and something I’m sure I would take flak for doing.

Revere is a hero worth knowing more about. This is a good place to start.

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Ernie was scheduled to accept the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting tonight. Al Kaline will accept the award on his behalf.

Here Ernie sits with Bob Costas and recites a portion of his Hall of Fame Speech in which he offers his own definition of baseball.

And here are two really good tributes that were posted in today’s papers in Michigan:

Mitch Albom – Detroit Free Press

John Bacon – Ann Arbor Chronicle

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Originally published in 1842 by the American Sunday School Union, Life of Washington by Anna C. Reed has been recently re-printed by Attic Books. It finishes with a beautiful tribute to America’s father:

You have learned why there was cause for joy in in Washington’s birthday, and for sorrow in the day of his death. If you have been attentive to what you have read of his conduct, from the one day to the other, you know that in childhood he was a lover of truth, and a peacemaker among his schoolmates; –that in boyhood he was a diligent scholar, and the leader of his companions–not in mischief, folly or vice–but in harmless and healthy exercises: and was a pattern of obedience to the wishes of a parent;–that, when the years of boyhood were passed, he immediately applied to useful purposes the knowledge which he had acquired by attention to instruction; and that early in manhood, he merited the confidence of his native Province, and was instrusted [sic] with important and dangerous duties, which he performed with faithful perseverance; –that he used all his talents, and spent almost all his years, from manhood to declining age, in the service and for the benefit of his fellow-beings; and even in old age, was willing to yield the peaceful enjoyments which he loved most, because he thought that it was “the duty of every person, of every description, to contribute, at all times, to his country’s welfare.

This little book was an immense boon to me. It was full of riveting anecdotes of the great man, examples of his deep piety and grace, and a deeper understanding of the causes and struggles for liberty from England. Washington was a peacemaker. He was a gentleman. He was a giver. He was protected and preserved by God.

This book is slanted. It’s written by a God-fearing human who lives by the Gospel. She makes assumptions and provides commentary that today we find unscholarly…right as she was. It was written by a Christian, probably for a Christian audience about a Christian man. Or was he? This book helped me gel in my mind some of the thoughts I’ve had about Washington’s Christianity.

My favorite period of history is that which falls from the Pilgrims to the American Revolution. There were times I wondered if this book were more about Washington or the War of Independence. It was a treat getting some blanks filled in for me, and it was interesting reading a history written so closely (50 years) to Washington’s death.

This is a great book to hold; it has a good feel in the hand and it’s one of the few books on which I appreciate the deckle/feather edge. I took lots of notes in this book, lots of markings throughout and almost two full pages of references in the back blank pages. That’s a great sign that I got much from this and much that I wish to enjoy again later.

Life of Washington by Anna C. Reed

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Luther on Life

Read this super-summary of what Martin Luther believed: Luther on Life

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What a wonderful old man Chalmers is. Or rather, he has all the buoyancy of youth. When so many of us are wringing our hands in hopeless despair over the vileness and wretchedness of the large towns, there goes the old man, shovel in hand, down into the dirtiest puddles, cleans them out, and fills the sewers with living waters. It is a beautiful sight.

— Thomas Carlyle

Brief bio by George Grant

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Today is his 201st birthday. Read his official White House biography

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Had Alfred only delivered his people from the plundering Danes whom he defeated at Edington, then his contribution would have been significant and worthy of rememberance, but he would not have been worthy of the legendary status the the name King Alfred has acquired over the years. He would not have been King Alfred the Great.

Benjamin Merkle’s first book, The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great was released last November and is a great first deposit into the publication pool. I am, after reading it, fully endeared-to and thankful-for the man who was only English king to ever be called “the Great.” This story is a readable, action-packed, probing look at the man who played an enormous role in defending, stabilizing and then civilizing a fragmented kingdom that would later become what we call England, which would later play a crucial role in the democratic and orderly governments of many other major countries, including the one most of my readers call home.

The bulk of the book is the story of Alfred’s attempts to rid his land of innumerable waves of marauding Vikings who pillaged and ravaged wherever they went. They were a formidable and constant enemy to Alfred for almost every bit of his 50 years. But the story of how Alfred turned them to flight was also an evolution of thought (changing the mind and pattern of a nation) and also the story of the value of righteousness and honoring Christ in pattern and traditions. It was no easy process, but in his end, he was honored with this inscription on a statue that stands in Wantage:

Alfred found learning dead and he restored it, education neglected and he revived it, the laws powerless and he gave them force, the church debased and he raised it, the land ravaged by a fearful enemy from which he delivered it. Alfred’s name shall live as long as mankind shall respect the past.

And so, 1,111 years after his death, King Alfred’s name and deeds are remembered again–this time here in Nashville, TN. His name will be promoted on this blog, in my memory, to my 5 little ones and wife, and to those with whom I can muster an opportunity to bring this story to note. The great ring-giver will live on in this way.

(Also, you will love the redemptive story of the man who was called Guthrum.)

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The opening paragraph of Jean Fritz’ biography Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt:

What did Theodore Roosevelt want to do? Everything. And all at once if possible. Plunging headlong into life, he refused to waste a single minute. Among other things, he studied birds, shot lions, roped steer, fought a war, wrote books, and discovered the source of a mystery river in South America. In addition, he became the governor of New York, Vice-President of the United States, then President. This was a big order for one man, but Theodore Roosevelt was not an everyday kind of man. He was so extraordinary that when people tried to describe him, they gave up on normal man-size words. ‘A cyclone,’ that’s what Buffalo Bill called him. Mark Twain said he was ‘an earthquake.’ He was called ‘an eruption,’ ‘an express locomotive,’ ‘a buzz saw,’ ‘a dynamo.’

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We acknowledged William Wilberforce’s 250th birthday yesterday in assembly. Here is a good overview of his important life.

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My First Business Card (circa 1981)


My Current One


I’ve decided to not put my picture on my business card anymore.

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I finished Team of Rivals tonight and wasn’t prepared for the emotion that came with Lincoln’s assassination. I had just spent 743 pages getting lincoln-portrait-1863endeared to him and then in a moment, he was gone to the ages.

Linc’s Secretary of State was William Seward. Seward had been one of the former rivals and then had built a close-knit relationship to the President–adoring him as did everyone who learned to know him. Simultaneous to Lincoln’s assassination was the attempt to take Seward’s life. It was a bloody, murderous scene in Seward’s home as the intruder killed Seward’s son and severely injured Seward and three others in the home.

As he was convalescing three days later, the nation was in mourning, but:

The news of Lincoln’s death was withheld from Seward. The doctors feared that he could not sustain the shock. On Easter Sunday, however, as he looked out the window to Lafayette Park, he noticed the War Department flag at half-mast. “He gazed awhile,” Noah Brooks reported, “then, turning to his attendant,” he announced, “The President is dead.” The attendant tried to deny it, but Seward knew with grim certainty. “If he had been alive he would have been the first to call on me,” he said, “but he has not been here, nor has he sent to know how I am, and there’s the flag at half-mast.” He lay back on the bed, “the great tears coursing down his gashed cheeks, and the dreadful truth sinking into his mind.” His good friend, his captain and chief, was dead.

General Ulysses S. Grant said:

I have no doubt that Lincoln will be the conspicuous figure of the war. He was incontestably the greatest man I ever knew.

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Horatius Bonar, writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, proposes that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival have been marked in these nine ways:

1. They were in earnest about the great work on which they had entered: “They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung.”

2. They were bent on success: “As warriors, they set their hearts on victory and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head.”

3. They were men of faith: “They knew that in due season they should reap, if they fainted not.”

4. They were men of labor: “Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul; time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing.”

5. They were men of patience: “Day after day they pursued what, to the eye of the world, appeared a thankless and fruitless round of toil.”

6. They were men of boldness and determination: “Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness and loses many a precious opportunity; it wins no friends, while it strengthens every enemy. Nothing is lost by boldness, nor gained by fear.”

7. They were men of prayer: “They were much alone with God, replenishing their own souls out of the living fountain, that out of them might flow to their people rivers of living water.”

8. They were men whose doctrines were of the most decided kind: “Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power. It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword.”

9. They were men of solemn deportment and deep spirituality of soul: “No frivolity, no flippancy . . . . The world could not point to them as being but slightly dissimilar from itself.”

HT: Ortlund

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Monday, January 26th, 2009 is (in foresight of the planned schedule) going to prove to be one of the biggest days of my life. It will rank somewhere between #3-5 depending on how we are counting. A group of men I barely know is going to assemble in the evening to make a decision that radically affects the way my life and ministry turn.

If they decide in the negative, life and ministry go on sweetly and progressively. If they decide in the affirmative, everything explodes into a million, little possibilities. God is absolutely sovereign, faithful and good at all times and after any decision. I rest on Him utterly and confidently.

Since I saved so much on my auto insurance by switching to Progeckowide, I have hired this duo to follow me around all day singing this tune:

Thanks for praying with us.

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What a Guy

I’m starting to plow through Doris Goodwin’s Team of Rivals–a biographic look at Lincoln and his cabinet. Leo Tolstoy had this to say about Lincoln:

The greatness of Napolean, Ceasar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years…. He was bigger than his country–bigger than all the Presidents together…and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives.

I suppose that is an ok recommendation for reading my first adult book biography of Lincoln.

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She died in May. A friend just commended this video to me.

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lincoln1picIn 1834, when Abraham Lincoln was a candidate for the legislature, he called on a certain farmer to ask for his support. He found him in the hay field, and was urging his cause when the dinner bell sounded. The farmer invited him to dinner, but Lincoln declined politely, and added, “If you will let me have the scythe while you are gone I will mow ‘round the field a couple of times.”

When the farmer returned he found three rows neatly mowed. The scythe lay against the gate post, but Lincoln had disappeared.

Nearly thirty years afterward the farmer and his wife, now grown old, were at a White House reception, and stood waiting in line to shake hands with the President.

When they got near him in the line Lincoln saw them, and calling an aide, told him to take them to one of the small parlors, where he would see them as soon as he got through the handshaking. Much surprised, the old couple was led away. Presently Mr. Lincoln came in, and, greeting them with an outstretched hand and a warm smile, called them by name.

“Do you mean to say,” exclaimed the farmer, “that you remember me after all these years?”

“I certainly do,” said the President, and he went on to recall the day he had mowed around the farmer’s timothy field.

“Yes, that’s so,” said the old man, still in astonishment. “I found the field mowed and the scythe leaning up against the gate post. But I have always wanted to ask you one thing.”

“What is it?” asked Mr. Lincoln.

“I always wanted to ask you, Mr. President, what you did with the whetstone?”

Lincoln smoothed his hair back from his brows a moment, in deep thought; then his face lighted up.

“Yes, I remember now,” he said, “I put that whetstone on top of the high gate post.”

And when he got back to Illinois again, the farmer found the whetstone on top of the gate post, where it had lain for more than thirty years.

This story is attributed to Edna M. Colman.

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I just read the books, tell you and leave the summaries to others. Here is a book review of Marsden’s great biography.

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I just finished reading a comprehensive biography of JE.  He’s a man worth knowing a lot about.  Here’s a good super-summary of why you should like him that is posted at Redeeming Womanhood.

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Great leaders demand attention for reasons bigger than themselves.  Here is a great short biography of Samuel Adams, because you and I don’t know enough about him.  This article is copied from the Kings Meadow Study Center newsletter.

  All temporal power is of God,
And the magistratal, His institution, laud,
To but advance creaturely happiness aubaud:

    Let us then affirm the Source of Liberty.

Ever agreeable to the nature and will,
Of the Supreme and Guardian of all yet still
Employed for our rights and freedom’s thrill:

    Thus proves the only Source of Liberty.

Though our civil joy is surely expressed
Through hearth, and home, and church manifest,
                           Yet this too shall be a nation’s true test:

                     To acknowledge the divine Source of Liberty.

    -Samuel Adams

Politics is a strange institution.  Though the word means a dutiful participation in the local sphere of government, such an unadulterated definition has little value in the current market.  Rather, “politics” is a sophisticated word implying careless and unrealistic campaign promises, questionable fundraising, self-promotion through sordid accusations against opponents, schmoozing, and a common sliminess that appears openly upon the holding of office.  It is certainly not that all men who serve the public have such dishonest characters; it is that the term, “politician,” in our day, says as much.

Yet, politics is obsessed over, minutely analyzed in heavy air-time, and perpetually prognosticated by a media-saturated culture.  Or at least it seems that way.  This is the trick.  Though we have the longest ever presidential campaign in American history currently being waged, and though we have a wash of possible precedents in the next commander-in-chief, a majority of Americans simply don’t care enough to actually vote.  Such politics has little to do with ordinary lives and such politicians are seemingly mere manipulators and dishonest posers-the worst possible vice to my generation.  To this generation, an honest expression, no matter how wrong, is at least honest.  Experience is everything.

Leadership implies integrity.  As Stonewall Jackson once wrote: “What is life without honor?  Degradation is worse than death.  True leadership comprehends this full well.” (Grant 132).  Whether the sphere of leadership be the family, church, state, or vocation, all callings must be genuine and true in order to be done well.  Within these priorities, excellence equates to a commitment to right and not simply refined tastes and charming personality.  As William Lane put it, “Let your excellence be your protest.” (more…)

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