Abraham Lincoln won the presidency of a divided country. There were four major candidates in 1860, and Lincoln only narrowly received his electoral majority. Among his harshest critics was Edwin Stanton of Ohio who opposed Lincoln’s election, calling him among other things the “original gorilla.” Yet Lincoln asked Stanton to serve as Secretary of War, recognizing his organizational skills were greatly needed for the war effort. When Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton said, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”
In one of Aesop’s Fables, a donkey walking through the woods finds the skin of a lion. Hunters had killed the lion and left the skin to dry in the sun. The donkey put on the lion’s skin and was delighted to discover that all the other animals were terrified of him and ran away when he appeared. Rejoicing in his newfound respect, the donkey brayed his happiness—only to give himself away by his voice. The moral of the fable was clear: fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.
President Calvin Coolidge was famously known as a man of few words. His nickname was “Silent Cal.” His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, told the story of a young woman who sat next to her husband at a dinner party. She told Coolidge she had a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.” Coolidge understood very well the value of using only carefully considered words—and those being few in number.
At a tea for officers and their wives, the commanding general of a base delivered a seemingly endless oration. A young lieutenant grumbled to the woman sitting beside him, “What a pompous and unbearable old windbag that slob is!”
The woman turned to him, her face red with rage. “Excuse me, Lieutenant. Do you have any idea who I am?”
“No ma’am,” the man fumbled.
“I am the wife of the man you just called an unbearable old windbag.”
“Oh,” said the lieutenant. “And do you have any idea who I am?”
“No,” said the general’s wife.
In May 2013, thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali correctly spelled the word “knaidel” (a German-Yiddish word for a dumpling) to win the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee. Mahankali had finished third each of the two previous years. In both of those years he was eliminated when he failed to correctly spell a German-derived word. In preparation for his third attempt at the prize, Mahankali diligently worked to strengthen his area of weakness. “This year I prepared German words and I studied them, so when I got German words this year, I wasn’t worried,” he said after his victory.
When the Cornerstone Bank in Waco, Nebraska, was robbed of some $6,000 in November of 2012, the bank employees were able to give the police a fairly good description of the teenage girl who pulled off the crime and the car in which she escaped. As it turned out, the investigators didn’t really need those descriptions, because the thief recorded a YouTube video titled “Chick bank robber” boasting of her criminal prowess.
One of Aesop’s fables concerned a turtle who envied the ducks who swam in the pond where he lived. As he listened to them describe the wonders of the world they had seen, he was filled with a great desire to travel. But being a turtle, he was unable to travel far. Finally two ducks offered to help him. One of the ducks said, “We will each hold an end of a stick in our mouths. You hold the stick in the middle in your mouth, and we will carry you through the air so that you can see what we see when we fly. But be quiet or you will be sorry.”
In the washroom of a place of business in London, British newspaper publisher William Beaverbrook happened to meet Edward Heath, a young member of Parliament, about whom Beverbrook had printed an insulting article a few days earlier. “My dear chap,” said the publisher, embarrassed by the meeting, “I’ve been thinking it over, and I was wrong. Here and now, I wish to apologize.”
“Very well,” grunted Heath, “but the next time, I wish you’d insult me in the washroom and apologize in your newspaper.”
Source: The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, Clifton Fadiman
During World War II, the United States government became concerned that a number of German spies were operating in America, sending information back to Germany regarding Allied war plans and specific troop and ship movements. To keep them from impacting the war effort, the Office of War Information launched a national campaign around the slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It was a solemn warning to people not to repeat information that might be damaging or even deadly if it fell into the wrong hands.
In today’s politically correct environment where you have to be so careful to keep from offending anyone, we might all have to give reports like this fourth grader who reported on the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. ”The pilgrims came here seeking freedom of you know what. When they landed, they gave thanks to you know Who. Because of them, we can worship each Sunday, you know where.”
Sandra Bullock won the 2010 Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy in The Blind Side. The sensational film chronicles a Christian family who took in a homeless young man and gave him the chance to reach his God-given potential. Michael Oher not only dodged the hopelessness of his dysfunctional inner city upbringing, but became the first-round NFL draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. At a recent fund-raiser, Sean Tuohy noted that the transformation of his family and Michael all started with two words.
The story is told about a barber who had just been gloriously saved in an old-fashioned revival meeting. The next morning at work he wanted to share his new faith and witness to the lost. A customer came in, and the barber began to shave him. He was trying to muster up the right words to say. Finally as he stood with his razor poised over the man’s throat he asked, “Are you prepared to meet God?”
One day Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, came to him with a wrathful letter written to a Major-General who had accused him of favoritism. Stanton read Lincoln the letter which was full of sharp retorts and the President told him it was a good letter that the general deserved.
While Stanton, much gratified, was folding up the letter and putting it into its envelope, the President asked him, “What are you going to do with it now?”
“Why, send it, of course,” replied Stanton, looking blank.
“Don’t do it,” said Lincoln.
George Whitefield was a famed English evangelist in the 1700s. He led many meetings where hundreds of people come to Christ. His ministry had great affect around England and was instrumental in sparking a revival in the land. Yet for all the good he did, he was not without his critics. He very often received letters of criticism, mockery, or hateful correction. Sometimes he would become discouraged by the letters, but he soon learned that the best response to a critic was openness and honesty. After receiving a letter of personal attack he wrote one simple reply to its sender:
The following memo was sent by a school administrator:
Please remember that we live in a multicultural community, and it is not acceptable to continue to act and speak as if everyone celebrates Christmas as the birth of Christ. The use of the word Christmas and references to nativity or the birth of Christ is offensive to some members of our diverse community. Please remember to use neutral language in any of your decor, announcements, bulletin boards, and invitations. Use neutral language, such as “winter holiday,” “winter programs,” etc.
During the Civil War someone reported to Abraham Lincoln that Edwin Stanton, one of the President’s cabinet members, had referred to him as a fool. Mr. Lincoln replied, “Well, I must check into that, for I have found that he is usually correct in his judgments.”
Source: My Favorite Illustrations, H. H. Hobbs
Submitted by the homiletics class of West Coast Baptist College
Oh, I sure am happy to see you,” the little boy said to his grandmother on his mother’s side. “Now maybe daddy will do the trick he has been promising us.”
The grandmother was curious. ”What trick is that?” she asked.
“I heard him tell mommy that he would climb the walls if you came to visit,” the little boy answered.