Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Musings...

Life is a leaf of paper white
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then comes night.

Greatly begin! Though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime -
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

[As quoted in Pillars of Leaders, Dr. David Vaughn, Cumberland House Publishing]

Today, being Memorial Day, we take a look back at those "leaves of paper white" and look over the words written on them by the lives of our forebears. Some had many years and their lives wrote long inspiring messages, others had but few years and in their very brevity we find a poignant inspiration. Oh, certainly there are blots and typos to be found on the pages, some leaves beckon tears over the futility and selfishness contained therein, and some have been lost altogether, and yet how much can be learned through their perusal!

Appropriate for today, as they were the day they were first presented, I beg leave to submit to you all a few excerpts from the opening speech Josh gave at this year's Liberty Day celebration.

...Dr. David Vaughn comments in his book, The Pillars of Leadership: “We are not so na├»ve as to think that yesterday’s leaders were perfect. They were not. Each one was subject as are we, to the fatal flaw of original sin. So, to discover their failings takes no talent at all. C.S. Lewis observed, a critic is always a second-rate man. It takes no virtue to discover vice. But it does take virtue to emulate virtue.”

Today we find again a need for principled leadership... Like our heroes of the past, we need to study our forefathers and learn the secrets to their strengths. Then we need to ask, do we have the virtue to emulate their virtue? Are our children being raised with the virtue and understanding necessary to carrying on the work when we are done, and facing the battles of their own day?

The Pillars of Leadership
, Dr. Vaughn also observes: “Since imitation is natural, [we] will search for, and find, examples to copy. The urgent questions is, therefore, who shall serve as models? The drugged rock stars and corrupt celebrities of the present, or the noble leaders and virtuous examples of the past? With few reliable role models in the present why not mine the rich resources of past achievement and valor? Why be improvised by a meager modernity when we can be enriched by a prosperous past? Why not hold before our eyes, and the eyes of our children, images of courage, and duty, and faith, and sacrifice that have passed the test of historical scrutiny? In short, why stumble over pygmies when we can stand upon giants?"

The heroes and legacies left by the church of Christ over the past six thousand years are the greatest giants we could stand upon. But we cannot stand upon them unless we understand why they stood; where they stood; why they stood when they stood; what they stood for; how they stood – and for Whom they stood. Admiration alone will not enable us to see what they saw and stand as they did... we must so understand the vision and principles that, given of God, inspired their lives, that in the times of greatest ease or pressure we live them out.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout history have given their lives so that they might hand to their children a land, a church, and a heritage even better than the one they themselves had received. Our lives, however simple or profound they may be, will add for better or for worse to the heritage that we leave to our children.

...We have been given a vast treasure. What are we going to do with it? What will be left of it when we give it to our children? It IS in our hands and will be effected by us. Will our handling it enhance its richness? Or will we merely leave the evidence of smudged fingerprints. We can neither deny bearing the mantle, or our role in legacy building. Nor can we pretend that the little things of our daily lives don’t matter. They do.

In short we must ask ourselves: Will we stumble with the pygmies? Or stand upon the shoulders giants?

Perhaps the events of Grandpa Muligano's death early in May, Aunt Ella's death this past week, Grandpa Erber's visit to the emergency room (in the middle of the ICHE convention) that ended in bypass surgery this past week, various families in our church facing death or serious illness in their extended families, and even remembering the legacy of the vonTrapp family, bring again into even sharper focus the brevity of life and the importance of investing our every moment wisely. Soon, our days of writing will be past. What message will we hand down on our "leaf of paper white" for our children's children to read?

"So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom." Psalm 90:12

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