From Power to Purpose: A Remarkable Journey of Faith and Compassionby Sam Brownback, Jim Nelson Black (With)
The book Sam Brownback will write will not be a memoir; it will not be a policy manual; it will not be a book of self-promotion designed merely to propel the Senator into the White House in the forthcoming election season. It will be the record of a remarkable journey of faith and compassion, and the story of what can happen when one man is utterly sold out to his
The book Sam Brownback will write will not be a memoir; it will not be a policy manual; it will not be a book of self-promotion designed merely to propel the Senator into the White House in the forthcoming election season. It will be the record of a remarkable journey of faith and compassion, and the story of what can happen when one man is utterly sold out to his Lord and conspicuously placed to make a difference in the world.
Senator Brownback's story is the personal narrative of a man with a sense of mission for America and a heart for God. It will also be the story of a spiritual awakening that came through adversity, and what one aide has called his "cancer epiphany." How that change came about, and how the Senator is today going about implementing that vision in his life and work is the subject of this book.
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From Power to PurposeA Remarkable Journey of Faith and Compassion
By Sam Brownback Jim Nelson Black
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Sam Brownback
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Challenge to Lead
There's an old saying that the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree. It means that the characteristics of one generation are often visible in the lives of their children and grandchildren, and I am convinced that's especially true for those of us who were born and bred in the heartland of America. Our ancestors were of hardy stock. They came here to farm and raise their families, but they were also fiercely independent people who were willing to stand up for what they believed in. For the most part, these early settlers were Christians who resisted oppression of any kind.
The American artist John Stuart Curry captured some of that spirit in a series of murals that now adorn the walls of the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka. The most famous mural in this group is a dramatic portrait of the fiery abolitionist John Brown, with his long hair and beard blowing in the wind. In the picture, Brown is holding high a Bible in one hand, with the letters Alpha and Omega written inside it. In the other hand he's holding what the abolitionists referred to as a "Beecher's Bible," otherwise known as aSharp's rifle.
The figure of the wild-eyed abolitionist dominates the painting as he stands defiantly before a scene of armed combat on a Civil War battlefield. In the back- ground a prairie fire is blazing away. The fire no doubt symbolizes the conflict that was sweeping the state of Kansas at that time.
According to one account, the abolitionists in the east who supported Brown's war were eager to send rifles to aid the antislavery settlers, but they knew that the bushwhackers in proslavery country would seize those guns and use them against the abolitionists. So they shipped the rifles in boxes marked "Bibles," and addressed them to the "Beecher Bible Church." The church was fictitious, but the name clearly referred to Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, a renowned abolitionist, and his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Another of those famous murals by John Stuart Curry is a large portrait of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, who came to North America in the mid-sixteenth century searching for fame and fortune. The image of Coronado captured in that painting is of a rich and powerful conqueror on his majestic steed. In the foreground, walking beside him and almost unseen, is a diminutive figure in a brown robe. I remember looking at that picture several years ago and wondering, Who is that person walking beside Coronado?
I knew the story of Coronado and how he came as far north as the Kansas prairies looking for gold. He didn't find it, but he did find several tribes of Native Americans, and ultimately went home in frustration. The story of the man walking beside him was more interesting. So I did a little reading and found out that this was Father Juan Padilla, who had accompanied Coronado's expedition.
Several of the places where the conquistadors camped have been identified by historians and archaeologists. One of them is just outside of Dodge City, Kansas. Today the site is recognized as the place where the first Catholic Mass west of the Mississippi River was celebrated. Coronado crossed the Kansas River-which he named the Saints Peter and Paul River because it was near the saints' feast day when they arrived-and made his way farther north to an area near the site of Lyons, Kansas, where he made contact with the Quivira Indians.
Coronado and his soldiers stayed with the Quivirans for about a month before heading back south, disappointed that they hadn't found the treasure they were seeking. But Father Padilla found something more precious than gold-he found souls. He went back to Mexico with Coronado in 1541 but returned to Kansas in 1542, accompanied by three other Franciscans, to work among the Native Americans and spread the Word of God.
Padilla was well received and well treated by the Quiviran Indians. After some time he decided he wanted to meet with another tribe in the area. The best explanation of what happened next is that the Quivirans were afraid that Father Padilla would spread his good medicine to rival tribes, so on his journey to another village, a raiding party caught up with him and, on Christmas Day 1542, he was martyred while kneeling in prayer.
As I reflected on the images in John Stuart Curry's painting, I was struck by the contrast between these two men who had come to America with such different goals. Coronado was after power and wealth, but he didn't find it. Juan Padilla came with a very different object in mind, to share the Word of God with others, and he found it. Even in martyrdom, Father Padilla left an important legacy to those that would come after him. In that light, I thought John Stuart Curry captured the characters of both men very well. On first glimpse, Coronado is the icon and the hero. It's only on closer inspection that Father Padilla stands out, and that's just as it should be.
When I first set out to pursue a career in public policy, I probably had more of the Coronado spirit in me. It wasn't the glitter of gold that I was after, but I confess I was drawn by the lure of notoriety and influence. It didn't take long to discover the emptiness of that track. It was only when I understood and followed my true purpose of service to God and my fellow man that I found what I was really looking for. Not power but purpose. That's the focus of my life and my work today in the United States Senate.
I'm a part of that large group of Americans that has been described by demographic researchers as "the pig in the python" moving through the system: the Baby Boom generation. Maybe you are, too. It's a group that has experienced a lot of life, but a lot of Boomers today are dissatisfied with what's become of it. Many of them have had financial success. They may be stable now, and the kids are mostly grown, but for some reason it's not satisfying. Things didn't turn out the way they expected, and a lot of Boomers are still looking for the meaning of life.
Many people in my generation have engaged in a selfish pursuit of pleasure, and they've found it. But they're not satisfied with that either. I can say that I've done that too. There were times when I thought that being comfortable and happy was all that mattered, but like so many of my peers, I discovered that pursuing pleasure alone is not satisfying. So now I'm after something better-I'm after joy. Even though pleasure and joy may sound like the same thing, they're not. Pleasure fades, but joy is constant and ongoing.
The entire Boomer generation of seventy-eight million Americans, born from 1946 to 1964, is now approaching retirement age. These men and women, between the ages of forty-two and sixty, are the largest, healthiest, and best-educated generation in American history. I believe that a lot of people in my generation have reached the point where they're searching more for meaning and purpose than pleasure. I believe my story is their story.
Our parents are aging, some of us are having health problems, and our kids may be going through tough times as well. Some of our classmates are getting cancer now. I've been down that road, and it's something I've thought a lot about. And 9/11 made a lot of us wonder what's going on in the world. Obviously something is going on, and we're finally getting the message that sooner or later we're all going to die.
No matter how much we want to live, we're beginning to realize that time is passing, and the prognosis isn't all that great. But despite the occasional fears, there's plenty of reason for hope, and that's really the best part of this story.
A Time of Transition
My motivation for going into public service had a lot to do with the economic crisis that hit Midwestern farmers back in the 1980s. I was born into a farm family, so that was something I understood and cared about. My dad farmed in partnership with my grandfather for a number of years, and then he went out on his own. Our farm was in eastern Kansas, about eight hundred acres of wheat, corn, and soybeans, as well as cattle and hogs. The Brownbacks had farmed in eastern Kansas for four generations. We're of German descent but long ago lost any connection with our German heritage.
We were farmers in a state that's known for farming. I was pretty sure that I would grow up to be a farmer. It was a lifestyle I knew, liked, and was comfortable with, so I was fine with that idea. Dad was a hardworking man. He worked every day, even most Sundays. He'd ship the kids off to Sunday school in the morning, and we would take a few hours off for lunch and family time, and after that we worked.
That was a great way of teaching us the importance of work. The Protestant work ethic was a very real thing to us. You got up and you worked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She worked every day in the house and kept the farm records. There were four children: an older sister, an older brother, myself, and a younger brother. The community I grew up in, Parker, Kansas, was a farming community of about 250 people, where everybody knew everybody else-and most of everybody else's business. At one point we had a party-line phone of eight families, so we generally knew what everybody else was doing. There weren't many secrets in those days.
Looking back, I realize that it was a great incubator environment. Opportunities to get in trouble were limited, because if you did something bad, everybody in town would know about it before long. There was no hiding from it. There were aunts and uncles just a few miles away, and my grandparents on my mother's side were twelve miles away in the other direction. It was a stable environment. Broken families were rare.
As far as I knew, there wasn't anybody I went to school with-from first grade through high school-who was from a separated or divorced family. Of course, if you go to the same community today, I suspect you'd find that the numbers would be about the same as the national average. But when I was growing up, it was a stable, solid, peaceful community, and a pleasant way of life. Certainly we had problems. Alcoholism, abusive spouses, and rural poverty were present, yet it was mostly managed within the context of the family. Not perfect, but it did work.
Excerpted from From Power to Purpose by Sam Brownback Jim Nelson Black Copyright © 2007 by Sam Brownback. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Samuel Dale Brownback (born September 12, 1956) is a senator from Kansas. He is a member of the Republican Party and is a candidate for president in his party's primaries in 2008.
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