| HonorIn October 1864, word came to President Abraham Lincoln of a Mrs. Bixby, a Boston widow whosefive sons had all bfighting in the Civil War. Lincolnlater wrote his condolences: |
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you arc -the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine
which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of loss so
overwhelming. But 1 cannot refrain from tendering you the
consolation that may be found in the thanks of t they
died to save.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
How beautiful the story would be if it ended here with the simple, literary elegance that was Lincoln's alone. But there is more. The story took an ironic turn just a few weeks after the letter was sent. No sooner had Mrs. Bixby received her letter when it was leaked to
the press by someone in the White House. It was proclaimed a masterpiece for some weeks until a reporter went to the records of the Adjutant General and discovered that the President had been given bad information.
Mrs. Bixby had not lost all five of her sons in battle. One was killed in action at Fredericksburg. One was killed in action at Petersburg. One was taken prisoner at Gettysburg and later exchanged and returned to his mother in good health. One deserted to the enemy. One deserted his post and fled the country.
Word got out, and the press, as well as the rest of the Union, became divided in its support of the President. Some said he had been innocently duped. Others said his feelings were sincere if the cause was not.
Carl Sandburg, in his exhaustive biography of Lincoln, has the last word:
Whether all five had died on the field of buttle, or only two, four of her sons had been poured away into the river of-war. The two who had deserted were as lost to her as though dead. The one who had returned had fought at Gettysburg. . . . She deserved some kind of token, some award approaching the language Lincoln hid employed. Lincoln was not deceived.
How like the Bixby family is each one of us: a mixture of success and failure, honor and shame. The only man worthy of honor is Jesus Christ. Yet, knowing the whole story of our lives, Christ will honor those who serve him.
—Dean Feldmeyer from The Circuit Rider, June 1993
The Winter 1991 issue of the University of Pacific Review offers a chilling description of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster:
"There were two electrical engineers in the control room that night, and the best thing that could be said for what they were doing is they were 'playing around' with the machine. They were performing what the Soviets later described as an unauthorized experiment. They were trying to see how long a turbine would 'free wheel' when they took the power off it.
"Now, taking the power off that kind of a nuclear reactor is a difficult, dangerous thing to do, because these reactors are very unstable in their lower ranges. In order to get the reactor
down to that kind of power, where they could perform the test they were interested in performing, they had to override manually six separate computer-driven alarm systems. One by one the computers would come up and say, 'Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!' And one by one, rather than shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms and kept going. You know the results: nuclear fallout that was recorded all around the world, from the largest industrial accident ever to occur in the world." The instructions and warnings in Scripture are just as clear. We ignore them at our own peril, and tragically, at the peril of innocent others.
—Tom Tripp Colusa, California
The San Francisco Examiner reported that on July 7, 1993, the California State Automobile Association claims office received a package by Federal Express. The unknown contents were bundled in a Fruit Loops cereal box.
Workers quickly became suspicious. The fbi had only days before uncovered a terrorist bombing ring in New York, and the media had been crackling with stories of terrorist bombing.
Security guards called the police, and about 400 office workers were evacuated from the building, said association spokesman Barry Schiller. The bomb squad soon arrived on the scene. The Fruit Loops cereal box was "neutralized" with a small cannon, and its contents were blasted into the air. The bomb squad, however, found no explosives. Inside the suspicious package had been $24,000 in cash. The box contained bundles of $20 bills, $1,000 of which were destroyed in the blast.
"This was a first, finding money," said platoon leader Jim Seim. The package "arrived in such a way that it aroused our suspicions," he said. "We were able to render it neutral. We always err on the side of caution."
In our world it is prudent to use caution, but blanket suspicion can destroy things more valuable than money. Perhaps that is why Christ told us to be shrewd as snakes — and innocent as doves.
Craig Brian Larson Arlington Heights, Illinois
| An Arab chief tells the story of a spy captured and sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and "the big, black door."The moment for execution drew near, and guards brought the spy to the Persian general. "What will it be," asked the general, "the firing squad or 'the big, black door?' "The spy hesitated for a long time. Finally he chose the firing squad.A few minutes later, hearing the shots ring out confirming the spy's execution, the general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known to the unknown. People fear what they don't know. Yet, we gave him a choice.""What lies beyond the big door?" asked the aide."Freedom," replied the general. "I've known only a few brave enough to take that door."The best opportunities in our lives stand behind the forbidding door of the great unknown.—Don McCullough Solana Beach, California |
The story is told of two Buddhist monks walking in a thunderstorm. They came to a swollen stream. A beautiful young Japanese woman in a kimono stood there wanting to cross to the other side. but afraid of the currents.
One of the monks said, "Can I help you?"
"I need to cross this stream," replied the woman.
The monk picked her
up, put her on his shoulder, carried her through the swirling waters, and put her down on the other side. He and his companion then went on to the monastery.
That night his companion said to him, "1 have ,1 bone to pick with you. As Buddhist monks, we have taken vows not to look on a woman, much less touch her body. Back there by the river you did both."
answered, the other monk
"I put that woman down on the other side of the river. You're still carrying her in your mind."
How easy it is to be obsessed with the past at the expense of the future.
—John Claypool Birmingham, Alabama
In 1980 a Boston court acquitted Michael Tindall of flying illegal drugs into the United States. Tindall's attorneys argued that he was a victim of "action addict syndrome," an emotional disorder that makes a person crave dangerous, thrilling situations. Tindall was not a drug dealer, merely a thrill seeker.
An Oregon man who tried to kill his ex-wife
was acquitted on the grounds that he suffered from "depression-suicide syndrome," whose victims deliberately commit poorly planned crimes with the unconscious goal of being caught or killed. He didn't really want to shoot his wife; he wanted the police to shoot him.
Then there's the famous "Twinkie syndrome." Attorneys for Dan White, who murdered San Francisco mayor George Moscone, blamed the crime on emotional stress linked to White's junk food binges. White was acquitted of murder and convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Nowadays, nobody's at fault for anything. We are a nation of victims.
—Louis Lotz Sioux City, Iowa
The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.
Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a rough hut and put his few possessions in it. But then one day, after hunting for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; he was stung with grief.
Early the next day, though, a ship drew near the island and rescued him.
"How did you know I was here?" he asked the crew.
"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.
Though it may not seem so now, your present difficulty may be instrumental to your future happiness.
—John Yates Falls Church, Virginia
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