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GIDEON IS A FAVORITE OF OURS. He was scared, and with good reason. The Midianitesthe traditional enemies of his people, the Israeliteshad a nasty habit of stealing the harvest. So Gideon tried to thresh his grain out of sight of the Midianites in a winepress.
That was crazy.
To thresh grain you need a large, flat, open space where you can pile the grain, beat it, and throw it into the air so that the wind can blow away the chaff and leave the grain. For a winepress, on the other hand, you need a confined space where you can heap the grapes, stomp on them, and collect the juice that runs out. In other words, a winepress is no place to be threshing grain. While Gideon was doing his work, the angel of the Lord visited him and said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior."
Now if there was ever anybody who did not feelor looklike a mighty warrior, it was Gideon. He remarked ruefully, "If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened?"
The angel of the Lord was not at all put off by this response, but told Gideon to do all kinds of things that would undoubtedly upset a lot of people. Gideon was less than enthusiastic, but he was soon shown that the Lord truly was with him. He did what he was told, even though it was dangerous.
Gideon's story teaches us a lot about courage. First, courage is not the absence of fear. Fear is a natural emotion that God has given us to help protect us from harm. If a ten-ton truck heads for you, it's a good thing to be scared; your fear makes your adrenaline pump like crazy, and you will jump further than you thought was possible. Courage is being scared because youare aware of the dangers, and going ahead anyway.
Second, courage comes from a resource that helps counteract fear. This resource may be the assurance that the fear is actually unfounded. Junior, who is afraid of the dark, is put at ease when Dad looks under the bed and shows him there is no one there, then leaves the light on and promises to come back in a couple of minutes. Or the resource can be the knowledge of the means available to counteract the dreaded situation, such as the angel's promise to Gideon, "The Lord is with you."
Third, courage comes when we decide to draw on the resources available and go ahead whatever our feelings may be, because we are sure that the action is right and we ought to do it.
None of us will be required to face Gideon's situation, but we will all face occasions that require a courageous response. At that time we should, as the old hymn says, "let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose."
The Mice in Council Aesop
Talk is cheap-action requires courage.
Once upon a time all the Mice met together in Council and discussed the best means of securing themselves against the attacks of the cat. After several suggestions had been debated, a Mouse of some standing and experience got up and said, "I think I have hit upon a plan which ensures our safety in the future, provided you approve and carry it out. It is that we should fasten a bell around the neck of our enemy the cat, which will by its tinkling warn us of her approach."
This proposal was warmly applauded, and it had been already decided to adopt it, when an old Mouse finally got upon his feet and said, "I agree with you all that the plan before us is an admirable one: but I ask, who is going to bell the cat?"
The King's Champion Pauline Rothrauff
It takes courage to do what God says is right. Rob's action is a good lesson for young and old alike, because for every opportunity to "do right' there is a chance to "go wrong"and often the latter seems easier than the former.
It was the year 1189, more than 800 years ago. From the window of his father's inn, Rob watched the travelers go by. He thought of the great celebration that would take place tomorrow in Westminster Abbey, in London.
"I want to see the Coronation procession," thought Rob. He had heard many stories of Richard the Lionhearted, who would be crowned king tomorrow.
His father was busy with early morning chores when Rob approached him. "Father," he said, "I want very much to go to Westminster to see the new king."
His father looked doubtful. "It's no place for a lad of fifteen," he replied. "There'll be all sorts of people therebeggars and thieves, as well as good people. And yet ... when I was your age, too, would have wanted to go.
Very well, Rob," his father finally said. "Go if you wish, but you must be careful. Ask your mother to fix some food for you. And here are a couple of coins to spend."
"Thank you, Father," replied Rob. "I will be careful. God will take care of me."
Soon he was on his way, a big package of food under his arm. "I'll try to get to the edge of London by night," he planned as he walked along. "Then tomorrow at daybreak I'll go straight to Westminster."
At noon Rob decided to find a shady spot and have his lunch. When he came to a forest, he left the road and walked until he came to a clear spring. He drank some of the delicious, cool water, then opened his package of food. Then Rob bowed his head and thanked God for his food.
While sitting there eating and trying to imagine what the coronation procession would be like, Rob heard the sound of a horse's hoofs. In a few minutes a horse and its rider, a tall man with red-gold hair, appeared and rode up to Rob.
"How about something to eat for a weary traveler?" he asked, with a merry smile. He dismounted and led his horse to a patch of grass.
When the stranger returned, Rob spread his food package open before him. "Help yourself, sir," he invited. "You're welcome to whatever I have."
While the man ate, Rob mentioned that he was on his way to the Coronation. "I can hardly wait," he said. "I'll be in London by nightfall, won't I?"
"Easily," replied the stranger. "You are only a few miles away now. I would offer to let you ride with me, but I have a visit to make before I go into the city."
"Are you going to the Coronation, too?" Rob asked.
"Yes, I'll be there for all of it," the man said with a smile. "I must be on my way now. Thank you for the food, lad, and here is a coin with which to buy a pie in London.1,
He held out a gold piece, but Rob shook his head. " No, I want no money. I was glad to share my food with you."
"Good lad," said the man as he went to get his horse. But when he rode past Rob, he tossed the gold coin down on the grass. After Rob watched the man ride away, he picked up the coin and put it in his pouch. He had never owned a gold piece before. It was a lot of money.
Shortly after he had wrapped up the little food that was left and started through the forest, Rob again heard the sound of horses' hoofs. Soon five riders rode out from among the trees.
"Stop there, boy," commanded the leader, riding his horse in front of Rob to block his way. The man who spoke was ugly and had an evil look about him. "Tell me," he ordered Rob, "have you seen a tall, red-haired man pass by here?" Because Rob was almost certain that these men meant to harm his friend, he replied, "I have been busy with my own affairs, sir. I wasn't looking for anyone."
The man glared at Rob but continued on with his men through the forest. As Rob watched them go, he said to himself, "I wonder what they want with my kind friend? I hope they don't find him."
It was getting dark when Rob arrived at the edge of London, but he soon found a quiet place where he could rest. It had been a long day, and he slept soundly.
When Rob opened his eyes, it was nearly daylight. He got up and started through London to find the road that led to Westminster. Although it was still very early in the morning, and the procession wouldn't be starting for some time yet, there was a large crowd around the Abbey. Rob had to push and shove his way through to get in front of many taller people who blocked his view. But he finally found an opening where there was no one between him and the road.
He would be almost close enough to reach out and touch King Richard, Rob thought happily.
While he waited, Rob glanced around at some of the people standing near him. Suddenly he gasped, and a chill ran down his back. Just a few steps away from him stood the evil-looking horseman who had asked about Rob's red-haired friend. A case of allows hung at the man's side, and he held a bow in his hand.
Rob felt sure the man meant to cause trouble. He wished he could leave, but if he wanted to see the procession, there was nothing he could do but stay calm and wait.
"I'll pretend I haven't seen him," decided Rob, trying to act natural as he listened to the noise of the parade beginning in the distance.
The procession soon came near, and the crowd happily watched the colorful scene.
First came a great number of people in elaborate costumes, carrying gaily decorated flags. Next came beautifully dressed noblemen, four of whom carried the clothes the newly crowned king would wear. They were followed by the man who carried the crown itself. He walked directly in front of the canopy that was being held over the king. Behind the king marched another richly dressed group of royal persons.
But it was toward the king that everyone looked, and Rob, too, leaned out into the road to get a good look.
It was then that Rob's eyes almost popped out of his head. King Richard was none other than his red-haired friend, the man with whom Rob had shared his lunch the day before!
After his surprise at seeing that his friend was the king, Rob's next thought was for the ugly man standing nearby. Rob began to pray that God would help him do what was right.
Rob turned to look at the man just in time to see him raise his bow and allow and aim straight at the king. Because everyone else in the crowd was watching the procession, no one but Rob saw that the man intended to kill the king.
Without hesitating, Rob raced toward the canopy and flung himself in front of the king just as the arrow came whizzing toward him.
Rob felt the sharp point pierce his shoulder and heard the cries of the crowd, as well as the king's exclamation of surprise and alarm. Then everything went black.
When Rob opened his eyes, he was lying on a couch in a large, beautifully furnished room. A doctor was bandaging his shoulder while several of the king's men stood nearby.
"There," said the doctor as he finished, "it will soon be better. Now drink this medicine and sleep for a while."
Rob drank from the cup which the doctor handed him. Then he lay back again, weak and tired.
"That was a splendid thing you did," said one of the guards. "Our king will not forget it."
"Where is the evil man who shot the arrow?" asked Rob.
"He was soon caught and is now in prison," replied one of the king's men. "The man was a leader of some troublemakers who were trying to keep Richard from the throne. But now, thanks to you, young sir, our king is safe and at this moment is being crowned king in the Abbey."
First Lady of Flight Francis and Katherine Drake
Amelia Earhart is to this day a symbol of extraordinary courage and adventure. The comfort and ease of modem air travel tend to obscure the fact that pioneer aviation was extremely dangerousno place for a woman, many said. Amelia Earhart thought otherwise.
Mr. George Putnam sat at his desk waiting. He had a crazy job to do: to find a young American woman willing to risk her life on a hair-raising adventure. She was to be modest and dignified, ready to face death calmly, and able to keep a secret.
There was a knock on the door. And into Mr. Putnam's office stepped a smiling towheaded girl with freckles and steady gray eyes. Her name was Amelia Earhart. Occupation: social-service worker. Hobby: flying.
For George Putnam, well-known publisher and author, the search was over. He had found his candidate for the dangerous feat of becoming the first woman to fly the Atlantic.
Amelia Earhart was born in Kansas in 1898. Her early life was much like that of other children in the Middle West. But she would rather use the hayloft in her grandfather's barn as a breakneck roller coaster than play with dolls. She also liked to fish, to ride astride, and to belly-flop.
In 1920 her father took her to her first air meet, in California. Many who came to the air meet that day had never seen a plane before. Amelia talked her father into letting her take a "joy ride." And her heart filled with gladness as the field dropped away.
"I knew then," she said, "that I must fly."
It was a Sunday when the Friendship, with Amelia Earhart on board, clawed its way out of Trepassey harbor in Newfoundland and pressed its nose eastward against the heavy fog.
For eighteen hours, Pilot Wilmer Stultz fought his way through blinding storms and bandages of fog. Sometimes he dropped to shake ice from the plane's wings. Sometimes he climbed to escape the waves. The motor coughed all the time. The mechanic, Louis Gordon, paid out fuel faster and still faster as the Friendship bucked heavy headwinds. The radio died, and he struggled in vain to restore it to life.
With fuel for sixty minutes in the tanks, and rain dripping icily down her neck, Amelia spent what might have been her last hours scribbling in her logbook. She filled it with bits of poetry, gay drawings, and word pictures of the flight. "The clouds," she wrote, are like fantastic gobs of mashed potatoes."
The Friendship made a safe landing at Burry Port, Walesthe eleventh heavier-than-air machine to complete the North Atlantic crossing.
During the next four years, Amelia flew for distance records, tested experimental planes and engines, gave lessons, and boosted air travel with lectures and articles. Men admired her good sportsmanship. Women liked her modesty. And George Putnam married her.
But always there was that prodding spirit of adventure. True, Amelia had flown the Atlanticbut as "cargo." Now she began to study navigation, radio, and instrument flying. More than 1000 air hours later, she felt that she was ready.
On the evening of May 20,1932, Amelia climbed into the cockpit of her single-engine Lockheed-Vega at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Her heart was set on doing what no one but Charles Lindbergh had ever done: a transatlantic solo.
When she was four hours out of Newfoundland, flames began spurting from the engine. The engine might fail at any moment. Should she turn back? To land at night at unfamiliar Harbour Grace with a full load of gasoline could only mean disaster. Should she go on? Amelia weighed the evils and kept going. With lightning stabbing the darkness ahead, and solid fog below, the altimeter broke. From then on she had to guess how far she was above the sea.
Amelia climbed until ice formed on the wings. The little plane shuddered and went into a spin, but she regained control. For five hours she flew through violent storms. Then the tachometerthe vital instrument that measures revolutions per minutefailed. A leaking fuel gauge near the blazing engine filled the ship with gas fumes. Though she had enough fuel to reach Paris, she decided to land at the first place she could find.
Thus it was that, fourteen hours and fifty-six minutes after leaving Newfoundland, she came down in a pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. Some astonished cows bolted for safety as the alarming red machine, belching blue flame and smoke, sat down among them. Amelia had established a new world record under conditions that are hard to believe.
The transatlantic solo made Amelia famous. She was showered with honors and decorations, feted by royalty, and mobbed wherever she went. But success did not turn her head.
Amelia wanted to take just one flight around the world. After that she planned to give up long-distance flying.
On the first leg of that flight the new twin-engine Lockheed Electra, overloaded with gasoline to take it from Honolulu to distant Howland Island, north of Samoa, ground-looped and cracked up at the take-off. Repairs caused delay. Then the weather changed, forcing the flyers to reverse their plan and fly eastward around the world. This left to the home stretch the most dangerous part of the whole flight-picking tiny Howland Island, only two square miles in size, out of the vast Pacific Ocean.
The thought of Howland Island must have haunted Amelia and Fred Noonan, her navigator, as they winged their way around three-quarters of the globe. On July 2, 1937, Amelia and Noonan took off from New Guinea. Ahead, more than 2500 miles across the water, lay Howland Island. Hours later, a lookout Coast Guard cutter picked up a familiar voice: "Head winds ... half an hour's gas . . . circling."
Judging by the signals, the lost plane was only a hundred miles from Howland. Somewhere near journey's end, the needle of the gas gauge must have sunk against the stop. In the distant and empty sea, Amelia's luck ran out....
What made this adventure-loving girl risk her life on such a gamble? The answer may be found in a letter she wrote to her husband, George Putnam, before she took off. She had marked it to be read only if she did not return.
"Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards," the letter read. "I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, then failure must be but a challenge to others."
Courage Karle Wilson Baker
The last two lines of this six-line poem give the best definition of courage I know.
Courage is armor
A blind man wears; The calloused scar
Of outlived despairs: Courage is Fear
That has said its prayers.