There is currently circulating on the Internet a clip from Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama in which the usually sure-footed orator is seen stumbling, repeatedly, over his words. Indeed, politicians have always stumbled on occasion when trying to wax eloquent about the issues of the day. And the media has not always been kind to even the most earnest attempt to speak of those issues. Asked to deliver closing remarks on a solemn occasion, one U.S. President spoke only briefly, responsibility for the principal oratory having fallen to another. Nevertheless, his remarks were savaged by the reporters present. One newspaper said “We pass over the silly remarks of the President — for the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of.” Another reported “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the …
Bristol, Rhode Island is sometimes called “America’s most patriotic town”, with Independence Day celebrations dating back to 1777. Today, more than 100 thousand people visit the town to participate in its month-long celebrations. In 1932, however, as the nation coped with the Great Depression, the town’s celebrations were more subdued. The largest manufacturing plant in town had closed, leaving a thousand people unemployed and without hope. The owners offered the plant superintendent, Maurice Smith, a good job in one of their other plants, but he refused, feeling a duty to the people he had worked with for so long. He solicited funds to start a new business manufacturing rubber shoes, but the amount he raised wasn’t nearly enough. [Photo: Bristol, Rhode Island/Angusdavis/Wikipedia]
[by Earl Blacklock] Throughout his life, Toyohiko Kagawa was a respected voice in Japan, representing Christian truth and witness. Born to a concubine, Kagawa was raised by his father’s wife and her mother who, in their indignation, took turns beating the boy until he was old enough to be sent away to school. There he met two missionaries who taught him that all men were created by a God of love, and that any person could accomplish good simply by devoting himself to service. Inspired by their example, he plunged into study for the ministry, only to be struck down by tuberculosis. During his recuperation, he wrote Across the Death Line, a novel that was to play an important role in his life. Impatient with endless discussions about doctrine, Kabawa moved into the slum area of Kobe, where he was to live for 15 years. There, he lived the teachings of Christ, sharing his meagre resources to buy food for his neighbours. Called a fool, he proudly called himself “Christ’s fool”. When one man demanded …
[by Earl Blacklock] Perhaps the first news event to capture the rapt attention of a world-wide audience was the sinking of the freighter Flying Enterprise. In December 1951, the ship left England for New York carrying 10 immigrants and a mixed cargo, including Volkswagens and pig iron. On Christmas Day, rough seas and gale force winds caused the cars and pig iron to shift, and the ship began to list to port. By the following morning, a crack had appeared in the hull and, despite valiant efforts by the crew, it was clear the ship was in trouble. On December 28, an SOS was issued, and the crew and passengers were ordered to abandon ship. They were forced to jump into the sea, where all but one were rescued. Meanwhile, the Danish ship captain, Henrik Kurt Carlsen, stayed behind to assist in salvage efforts. More than 400 newspaper and radio reporters from 12 countries rushed to cover the story. It was, indeed, a compelling one – a single man alone on a ship with a …
[by Earl Blacklock] The American War of Independence, from 1775 to 1783, was an extraordinary event which changed the course of history. It was waged on multiple fronts, from the eastern seaboard to Canada, and it eventually drew in France, Spain, and Holland on the side of the rebels. George Washington, later to be the first President of the United States, was the general in charge of the Continental Army, which Congress had formed in 1776. By December of that year, it was an army in retreat, having been driven out of what is modern-day New York. Washington had fewer than 2400 men at arms, compared to more than 25,000 for the British. British generals Howe and Cornwallis were preparing to sail for London to inform their government that the revolutionaries had been beaten. The British had at their disposal battle-hardened Hessian mercenaries who now occupied the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. The Americans had limited supplies, with many marching without warm clothes or even boots. It seemed, indeed, that the end was …
[by Earl Blacklock] Robert Todd Lincoln was a witness to some of the most momentous moments of American history. As Secretary of War under President James A. Garfield, he witnessed Garfield’s assassination at the hands of Charles Guiteau. He was Minister to the Court of St. James (U.S. Ambassador to Britain) under President Benjamin Harrison. He succeeded George Pullman as the President of the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1898 and, at the invitation of President William McKinley, he was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo when McKinley was gunned down by Leon Czolgosz. Despite his lifetime of achievement, however, it was his record of failure which was, perhaps, his greatest contribution to history. Robert Todd Lincoln was the first son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, and the only one to reach adulthood.
[by Earl Blacklock] Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas was established in 1885 by the Methodist Episcopal Church to provide students with a liberal arts education. In 1951, the school took pride in its athletic program, and in its coach Harold Hunt. It was a difficult time for the school. The year before, a major fire had ravaged its administration center. With only 350 students, the school’s football team was always up against larger schools, and Coach Hunt had only 27 in his entire squad. College football was in trouble throughout the United States because of news stories about bribes and dirty play. The opening game against Central Missouri State College was one Southwestern badly wanted to win. Before a crowd of 2,000 fans, the team didn’t give an inch on defence for the entire first half, and the half ended with no score from either team.
[by Earl Blacklock] We’ve all seen them – the athlete or celebrity who, by virtue of their endorsement, can boost sales and raise profile for products and ideas. Companies line up for the opportunity to pay millions for the endorsement of a celebrity. Remember the “I’m going to Disneyland!” campaign? Constance Talmadge was one of the champions of the endorsement game. If you’ve never heard of Constance, it’s not surprising. She was a star of the silent film era, a beautiful woman who made some 84 films before her career ended when talkies took over. Together with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and her equally talented sister Norma, she inaugurated the Hollywood tradition of putting her prints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
[Earl Blacklock] The Colosseum in Rome is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world. Millions come each year to view with awe its remnants. And little wonder. Designed to seat 50 thousand people, it was an architectural masterpiece. But it had a bloody history. The arena was the place where the idle gathered to amuse themselves, and Roman society had many idle, to the extent that the state had to placate them with free food and amusement to keep them out of trouble. By the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.), 159 days of public holidays were in place, of which Claudius devoted 93 days to spectacles in the arenas of the empire, of which the Colosseum was chief. Juvenal, a writer of the day, said of his fellow Romans that they “now long eagerly for just two things: bread and circuses”.
[by Earl Blacklock ] As a young man, Walter Judd attended a youth conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. He remembered little about the conference except the story of the rich young ruler. He saw in the story a choice – to put a Cause before himself, or to be a quitter. He went home and announced to his parents that he had chosen to be a medical missionary. In 1925, after graduating from medical school, Judd went to a mission hospital in China, 12 days inland. After a succession of 46 malarial attacks, he was forced to return to the United States in 1931. What he had seen in China convinced Judd that Japan was preparing for war, and that the U.S. would inevitably be embroiled in it. He tried to convince anyone who would listen that American trade was helping Japan arm. No one took his warnings seriously.
[by Earl Blacklock] Japan will long be remembered as the perpetrator of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, followed by years of astonishing cruelty against those it conquered. This made them beyond redemption in the minds of most Americans. An associate of Dulles once called the behavior of the Japanese during the war “unforgiveable”. Dulles’ response? “Christ teaches us that nothing is unforgivable.” John Foster Dulles was born into a devout Christian home, a pastor’s family, in 1888. His grandfather, John Foster, was part of the team that negotiated an end to the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, and served as Secretary of State. His parents wanted him to follow his father into ministry, but his grandfather had other ideas.
[by Earl Blacklock] Dr. William Osler was a Canadian doctor who profoundly influenced the practice of medicine. To be a doctor was not, however, his first career choice. William intended to follow his father into the ministry, even entering seminary with that intent. After a year, however, William decided to study at McGill Medical School. After graduating, Osler continued his studies in Europe. In London, he became the first to identify the clumps that form in blood after it is drawn from the body. He correctly concluded that the clumps, now known as blood platelets, had a role to play in clotting. The acclaim that accompanied his discovery prompted McGill to call its former student home as a professor of physiology.
[by Earl Blacklock] Marian Anderson was a black singer in the U.S. whose singing ability was considered exceptional. Famed conductor Arturo Toscanini once told her she had a voice “heard once in a hundred years.” In 1925, she began singing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and was an immediate success. She followed that up with an appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1928, and a tour of Europe in the 1930s. She sang at the White House for the President and the King and Queen of England. A black singer in the U.S. during the 1930s faced enormous obstacles. In 1939, she was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) from playing at Constitution Hall. There was a public outcry against the decision, led by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President. She, along with thousands of other DAR members, cancelled her membership in the organization in protest. She went further, helping to persuade Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to permit Marian to sing in an open air concert on the steps …
[by Earl Blacklock] U.S. Coast Guard cutter George M. Bibb was designed as a ship of war – and of hope. In World War II, its crew rescued hundreds from the waters of the North Atlantic, but its greatest challenge was the post-war rescue of those in a downed trans-Atlantic airplane. The Bermuda Sky Queen, piloted by Captain Charles Martin, was a Boeing 314 flying boat with 62 passengers and seven crew. On October 14, 1947, the plane was flying from Ireland to Newfoundland when it encountered unexpectedly strong headwinds from a heavy gale. Martin realized that the plane didn’t have enough fuel to make it to land in either direction, and he decided to land the plane beside the Bibb, on weather station duty nearby.
[by Earl Blacklock] From his childhood, Jean Henri Casimir Fabre was a gifted self-taught observer of nature whose extensive research and writings on insect and arachnid anatomy and behavior set the highest standard for scientific inquiry. Fabre won a scholarship to a school for teachers, where he taught himself Latin and Greek. While studying a text on entomology, he discovered an error. The book said that the hunting wasp kills beetles before feeding them to its larvae. Through careful observation, Fabre saw that the wasp instead paralyzes its prey, delivering them to its young still alive. From that observation, Fabre learned the principle that in science, all authority must be questioned. A teacher of biology at a high school for boys in Avignon, Fabre devoted his free time to the study of insects and arachnids. He would spend hours after school studying and recording the drama of the lives of creatures that lived nearby, from the way they would signal their presence to how they killed their prey.
[by Earl Blacklock] In November of 1951, Captain John Paladino was a fighter pilot, flying an F-86 Sabre jet fighter over North Korea. He was flying home from an air attack on enemy railroads when the unthinkable happened. At 32,000 feet, Captain Paladino’s oxygen equipment failed, and he passed out, unconscious. “The first I knew I was in trouble was when the instruments went hazy. That’s all I remember”, Paladino recalled. Flying with the stricken pilot were friends Jack Miller and Wood McArthur. They watched with concern as they saw Paladino take a sharp drop to the left. After dropping a few thousand feet, Paladino’s plane went through the sound barrier, then suddenly pitched up into a climb.
[by Earl Blacklock] When Canadian bush pilot Robert Gauchie left Cambridge Bay on February 2, 1967, he had every reason to be confident he would arrive in Yellowknife, less than six hours away, by late afternoon. He flew a single-engine Beaver, built to be both rugged and reliable. He had every kind of communication and navigational aid available. Just over two hours later, Gauchie encountered a driving snowstorm. When he attempted to set up an instrument course, he discovered two crucial instruments – his turn-and-bank indicator and his artificial horizon – were not working. Descending quickly, he flew by sight until he spotted a stretch of clear ice. There he set his craft down.
[by Earl Blacklock] Elyesa Bazna was the butler for the British Ambassador to Turkey in the final years of World War II. He was also the highest paid spy in history – at least on paper. Bazna is known to history as Cicero, his German code name. He approached the German embassy in Ankara with an offer they couldn’t refuse – an opportunity to regularly see the contents of British Ambassador Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen’s home safe. The Ambassador was careless about following procedure, regularly bringing sensitive documents home. He was unaware that his trusted valet had made a copy of the key to his safe, and was regularly rifling it for secrets.
[by Earl Blacklock] Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection which causes disfiguring skin lesions, blindness, and absorption of bones and cartilage. Formally known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is only mildly communicable. Nevertheless, over a period spanning thousands of years, it has been a disease that has meant fear, rejection, and personal terror. Since its first diagnosis in the United States, thousands of people contracted the disease. Those diagnosed with the disease suffered shame and sorrow. Starting in 1921, public health authorities in the United States sent patients diagnosed with leprosy to the Public Health Service Center in Carville, Louisiana for isolation and treatment. Mail to the outside could only be sent by a staff member, after sterilization.
[by Earl Blacklock] Robert E. Peary was the first to lead a successful conquest of the North Pole, one of the great achievements of history. However, the measure of the man can be found in what happened after his return. Peary had made previous expeditions to the North, including a failed attempt to reach the pole in 1906. He and his men came within 174 miles before they had to turn back, barely alive. In 1908, at the age of 52, Peary knew he was facing his final chance to reach the pole. He planned his expedition carefully. A thick-hulled ship named the Roosevelt carried him to Cape York, Greenland. There he met his Inuit helpers and their families, who knew him well from his previous expeditions. They came on board for the journey to the jumping off point at Cape Columbia, the northernmost point of Canada. There, they spent the winter locked in ice. The Inuit hunted for extra food, and they built sledges for the journey.
[by Earl Blacklock] Amadeo Pietro Giannini was an innovative banker who was responsible for most of the services we now consider part of what we can expect from our neighborhood bank. Where other banks opened from 10 to 3 weekdays, Giannini’s Bank of Italy opened from 9 to 5 every day but Sunday. Where other banks limited their business to businesses and industry, Giannini served the middle income wage earners from convenient branches. Where other bank executives closeted themselves in expensive offices, Giannini insisted his executives be out on the floor, visible and accessible. The bank was consistent in making a profit, even in the midst of the worst economic conditions. Only two years after starting the bank, Giannini’s biggest challenge arose with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He saw the challenge as an opportunity, however.
[by Earl Blacklock] Father Pierre was a defrocked priest who, convicted of murder, had been sentenced to life at hard labor at the infamous Devil’s Island penal colony. The evidence against him seemed conclusive. The widow he was accused of killing, who had made him her beneficiary, was known to be fearful, keeping her door bolted after sundown. Tracks in the snow led from the widow’s house to the rear of the church. And his blood-stained cassock was buried in the rectory garden. He proclaimed his innocence, but would say nothing more, and he was convicted. Hard labor at Devil’s Island meant hours of work in the jungle, felling trees or doing whatever else the authorities demanded. Malaria and other tropical diseases were constant companions. Father Pierre always did his share and more, helping those who were weaker to finish their assigned duties.
[by Dean Smith] Biosphere 2, located in Oracle, Arizona, is a 3.14 acre (1.3 hectare) controlled environment that researchers have used for various projects. The giant enclosed glass dome, constructed between 1987 to 1991, contains a variety of environments including rain forest, savannah, desert and even oceans. For decades, it has been used for agricultural research and even for planning how domed environments could function on other planets. As these different environments were created, the researchers made an interesting discovery. When they planted various types of trees, they found in this perfect environment the trees grew much quicker than they did in the wild. However, before the trees reached their full size, many toppled over or began to lean.
[by Earl Blacklock] Prior to 1854, Japan was a reclusive nation ruled by a shogunate that had isolated the nation for 200 years. When Commander Perry sailed into Tokyo harbour aboard the frigate Susquehanna, he demanded a treaty between the two nations that would guarantee the safety of shipwrecked American sailors and allow American ships to refuel on their way to Asian markets. Much has been made of the threat that the American guns posed to the Japanese that day. Less known is the story of the role played by a Japanese man who had returned to Japan after being rescued by American sailors. Nakahama Manjirō was only 14 when, in 1841, he was shipwrecked with four others. They made it to an island where they survived for six months. They were rescued by the American whaler ship John Howland and taken to Honolulu.
[by Earl Blacklock] Elizabeth Gray Vining was an experienced American teacher who, in 1946, had the opportunity of a lifetime – to be the English tutor of the Crown Prince of Japan. Emperor Hirohito had specified the qualifications she was to meet. She was to be a Christian woman, “but not a fanatic”. Japan was recovering from a devastating military defeat; the Emperor had been permitted to remain as a figurehead ruler. Real power, however, rested with the Allied commander General Douglas MacArthur, and the Emperor wanted the Crown Prince readied for this new world. Elizabeth was told her purpose was to open windows to the world outside Prince Akihito’s household and culture. Elizabeth’s influence went beyond her lessons.
In John 14:27, Jesus said He came to give us peace, but added His peace was not the same as the world’s. Jesus’ peace was different. To the world, peace can only take place when there is no conflict and in this crucial way Jesus’ peace was different. He gives us peace in the midst of conflict. Conflict or trouble can come in various forms — from terrorism to health to financial to family. Jesus told us when He died, He would send us a Comforter. One of the emblems used in the Bible to picture the Holy Spirit was a dove. And even today, the dove represents peace. When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and He wants to fill us with God’s peace. But too often we put up walls preventing this.
Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NASV) Many have used this verse believing if we seek after God, He will give us everything we desire — a big home, a great job, a new car…. the list is endless. But is this how we should interpret this verse? As we struggle with sin, we know in our mind it is wrong and we realize we need to stop. But the biggest part of our struggle is that we still want this sin. We still desire the pleasure it brings or the rush it gives us. Some even miss it, when they try to stop. So it is a battle between what our mind knows and what our heart wants. Maybe God wants to change your desires so you no longer want the porn or the new pair of shoes or the drugs or whatever bondage enslaves you. Instead of praying for the big house, ask God to give you the actual “desires of your …