Thursday, May 22

Hard-Won Respect

The only man to ever serve two non-consecutive terms as President, Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) performed the greatest comeback in American politics, he succeed his successor.

With a limited formal education, Cleveland managed to study law and establish himself as a scrupulously honest office-holder in Buffalo and western New York state. By 1882 his reputation as a dedicated and effective administrator won him the Governorship of New York, a post in which he gained further renown by fighting the New York City Democratic machine in cooperation with a young Republican assemblyman, Theodore Roosevelt. “We love him for the enemies he has made,” said the delegate nominating Cleveland for the Presidency at the 1884 Democratic convention, for “Grover the Crusader” had not hesitated to stamp out corruption, even in his own party.

To many men in both parties, he was the incarnation of clean, honest government. After the corruption, oppression, injustice and outright tyranny of the Reconstruction era, it was time for a change: “Grover the Good” was elected in 1884, the first Democratic President in twenty-four years. In office Cleveland was a doer—and as a result, he made plenty of enemies as doers are wont to in Washington. He made civil service reform a reality by courageously placing a number of political jobs under the protection of civil service, and he stood firmly against a high protective tariff, moves that contributed to his defeat in 1888.

While out of office Cleveland assumed the role of party spokesman and became an active critic of the new administration of Benjamin Harrison. In 1892 he soundly defeated the man who had replaced him in the White House. But he returned to power in grim times. With a depression cutting deep into the nation’s economy; strong measures were called for—and in forcing the repeal of silver legislation and halting a Pullman labor strike, Cleveland demonstrated a firm hand.

Nevertheless, rioting broke out on this day in Chicago and several other cities, as panic spread across the nation. Cleveland however did not yield to the pressures of the tyranny of the moment and slowly was able to steer the nation’s affairs toward stability.

Throughout a difficult term he remained an honest, independent leader, a man who left office with the hard-won respect of members of both parties.

Friday, May 16

Longing for Home

The longing for home is woven into the fabric of the life of every man, every woman, and every child. It is profoundly affected by their inescapable connection to place, persons, and principles—the incremental parts of a covenant community. While the nomad spirit of modernity has dashed the integrity of community, it has done nothing to alter the need for it. Gardens serve to connect us with those places, persons, and principles in remarkable and unexpected ways. This is a notion that wise men and women through the ages—and particularly wise artists, musicians, and writers—seem to have always known. It is part of that spark of genius that makes their work live on long after they themselves have passed on into eternity.

Fantastic Realism

In writing about the life and legacy of King Alfred the Great, G.K. Chesterton quipped, “King Alfred is not a legend in the sense that King Arthur may be a legend; that is, in the sense that he may possibly be a lie. But King Alfred is a legend in this broader and more human sense, that the legends are the most important things about him.”

Chesterton was simply acknowledging that sometimes that which appears to be most realistic is actually most fantastic and that which appears to be most fantastic is actually most realistic.

London Lists

As I prepare to take my graduating students on our traditional celebratory trip to England, I am making my lists and checking them twice. They're over on the Eleventary site.

Great Piazza

Libraries are among the chief evidences of a civilized society. They are, in a very real sense great catalogs of human cultural achievement, paeans to art, music, literature, and ideas where all that really matters in life may be expressed and disseminated in accord with beauty, goodness, and truth. They are great piazzas where the conversations of the ages continue unabated. Best of all, they are accessible to anyone and everyone—the riches of libraries are available to all those who would but venture in to partake of their knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. For any reader, a visit to a really well-stocked library must necessarily be something akin to Coleridge’s imagined visit to Kubla Khan’s famed pleasure dome.

My own library is rather humble, but nevertheless redolent with books collected from a lifetime of travel, study, and reading. Several views of this, my favorite room, are over on the Eleventary site.

Thursday, May 15

No Other Success

"No other success in life—not being President, or being wealthy, or going to college, or anything else--comes up to the success of the man and woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up to call them blessed." Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, May 14

Relief for Myanmar and China

Because of the enormity of the crises following the Myanmar Cyclone and the China Earthquake--the unimaginable human suffering there made even more difficult by governmental recalcitrance--many Christians have wondered how they can possibly help. At this moment, three strategically placed organizations are working to bring help to tens of thousands of victims--and these organizations desperately need our financial and prayer support.

Samaritan's Purse is already on the ground in Burma (or Myanmar as the country is generally called). They are very well connected with the underground church there--both in the capital Rangoon, and in the more remote jungle regions along the Thai border. They are currently coordinating temporary shelter at the displacement camps and providing fresh water supplies.

Food for the Hungry is one of the world's most effective Evangelical relief and development organizations with crisis teams already deployed in China and Burma. They working night and day to provide food, shelter, refugee relocation, medicine, and Gospel hope to the people there.

World Vision, one of the most recognized and respected Christian relief and development organizations, has worked in Burma for more than forty years. They have between five and six hundred aid workers already on staff there. So, while the UN and other governmental agencies are being stopped at the borders and airfields, World Vision is able to get help directly to the people.

Sunday, May 11

Strowe About

I've posted some photos of our garden's Springtime glory over on the Eleventary site. Just looking at them again, reminds me of this poesy from Thomas Campion:

Now hath flora rob’d her bowers
To befriend this place with flowers;
Strowe about, strowe about
The sky rayn’d never kindlier showers.

In the Garden

"God Almighty first planted a garden. And, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures." Francis Bacon

"To prevent undue disappointment, those who wish for beautiful flower borders and whose enthusiasm is greater than their knowledge, should be reminded that if a border is to be planted for pictorial effect, it is impossible to maintain that effect and to have the space well filled for any period longer than three months …It should also be borne in mind that a good hardy flower border cannot be made all at once." Gertrude Jekyll

"There is nothing in the world more peaceful than the dappling of light through the leaves of my cottage garden’s apple tree with an early moon." Alice Meynell"Every experienced Christian gardener knows that there is a spiritual spring which comes just as surely as nature’s spring. The Lenten spring is God’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and penance. Like the deep-rooted thistle weed, some of our worst habits withstand all but the most persistent, persevering, and strenuous exercise. A quick pull on the root, however, will not do the trick, nor will an aggressive chop of the hoe. Patience is needed, and the humble willingness to drop down on one’s knees and work carefully with the hand fork and trowel. The Christian gardener patiently picks sin from the soul’s soil and cultivates it with care and attention to the tender new growth of faith. The Christian gardener also respects the fact that God appoints each soul to be ‘the sort of garden it is to be.’ ‘Your job,’ Underhill admonishes, ‘is strictly confined to making [your soul] as good as it can be of its sort.’ Some of us will be contemplative in the manner of a rose garden, and others are more earthy and restless, like a potato patch.” Vigen Guroian

If you wish to be happy for an hour, drink;
If you wish to be happy for a day, cook;
If you wish to be happy for a week, sail
If you wish to be happy for a month, love
If you wish to be happy for a year, marry;
If you wish to be happy for a decade, read;
If you wish to be happy forever, pray;
But, if you wish to be happy all the while, garden.

Ian Guillen

"A house though otherwise beautiful, yet if it hath no garden belonging to it, is more like a prison than a house." William Coles

Thursday, May 8

Promises, Promises

"God promises forgiveness for repentance; He does not promise tomorrow for procrastination." Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, May 7

Mentoring Bold Leaders

"Reward spectacular failure; punish mediocre success." This traditional leadership-development maxim has long been attributed to Ramses II, but it was probably adapted from a folk saying by the Greek-Christian redactors and curators of the great Alexandrian library sometime around the middle of the third century.

Tuesday, May 6

Petty Tyrannies

“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain bad laws.” G.K. Chesterton

“There is no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” Will Rogers

“The worst thing in the world, next to anarchy, is government.” Henry Ward Beecher

“Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil.” Robert Heinlein

“The most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan

“If I knew that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.” Henry David Thoreau

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely expressed for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent busybodies.” C.S. Lewis

“When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse

Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.

Before the gods that made the gods
Had drunk at dawn their fill,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was hoary on the hill.

Age beyond age on British land,
Aeons on aeons gone,
Was peace and war in western hills,
And the White Horse looked on.

For the White Horse knew England
When there was none to know;
He saw the first oar break or bend,
He saw heaven fall and the world end,
O God, how long ago.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

Alfred the Great

it was on this day in 878 that the young, inexperienced Christian king of Wessex, Alfred the Great, defeated the pagan Viking warlord Guthrum at the Battle of Ethandun. The unlikely victory not only ensured that Christianity would survive in England, it made the unification of that land possible for the first time since the departure of Roman legions in the fifth century.

Monday, May 5

True and Solid

"It is to be steadily inculcated, that virtue is the highest proof of understanding, and the only true and solid basis of greatness." Samuel Johnson

Saturday, May 3


The May issue of TableTalk Magazine offers a fascinating examination of the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues. The varied contributors include R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, Robert Carver, Chris Donato, Ron Gleason, Ken Jones, Robert Rayburn, Carol Ruvolo, R.C. Sproul Jr., Gene Edward Veith, and Yours Truly.

If you’ve never read—or better yet, used—this very fine monthly devotional magazine from Ligonier Ministries, I highly commend it to your attention. And if you are a pastor or a Sunday School teacher, this is precisely the kind of tool you can put into the hands of your parishioners, students, friends, brothers and sisters, and fellow-workers in the faith to encourage them to walk in the fulness and richness of the Gospel. Just to encourage you, Ligonier is currently offering a free Three Month Trial.