C. S. Lewis  (1898-1963)

     C. S. 'Jack' Lewis was not the kindly professor he created for
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He sought truth by slashing dialectics taught him by his old tutor Kirkpatrick. He was merciless in debates. At Oxford University Jack Lewis was much feared by opponents. Some feared him so much - like the geneticist and avowed atheist J. B. S. Haldane - that they fled an encounter with Jack. Bitter losers characterized Jack as a loudmouthed, beefy, red-faced butcher! In fact he had a photographic memory, a mind trained in logic that raced far ahead of his usual opposition and a deep, booming voice. Jack's fights for truth were utterly sincere. In his early days his only acceptable companions were those who could give him a good scrap. They not only had to defend their opinions with logic, but with feeling. Yet, even brilliant, passionate dialectics was not enough; any who showed flippancy or cynicism Jack dismissed as lightweights. Those who advanced only anecdotes or mere disjointed facts he held in the lowest regard. Few people met his stringent standards.
     His most worthy opponent for many years was Owen Barfield. Though brilliant and creative J. R. R. Tolkien was too emotional to acquit himself well in Jack's favorite kind of fight. But as Jack mellowed after his conversion to Christianity he accepted less gifted fighters like Tolkien. Slashing repartee had almost disappeared from Jack's life by 1952. He was well past 50 and had never married. Then into his life came the American divorcee Joy Davidman. To Jack's delight she was not only a writer like himself but as merciless a debater as Owen Barfield! In
A Grief Observed he marveled:
          Her mind was lithe and quick and muscular as a leopard. Passion,
          tenderness and pain were equally unable to disarm it. It scented its
          first whiff of cant or slush; then sprang, and knocked you over
          before you knew what was happening...
     Joy Davidman became the love of his life. He married her in 1956.

Jack by George Sayer, 1988, A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis, 1961, and C. S. Lewis by A. N. Wilson, 1990]

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David Livingstone  (1813-1873)

     In 1844 Livingstone was at his new mission in Mabotsa. Though he always encouraged Africans to handle their own problems the Bakhatlans begged him to shoot lions that attacked their cattle. Reluctantly he took his double-barreled muzzle loader and joined them one particularly lion-infested day. He emptied both barrels into a very large male lion that darted into the bush. Reloading he noticed the wounded lion studying him! Years later in
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa he wrote:
               Starting, and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of
          springing upon me. I was upon a little height; he caught my
          shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below
          together.  Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a
          terrier dog does a rat. The shock produced a stupor similar to that
          which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat.
          It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of
          pain, nor feeling of terror...a merciful provision by our benevolent
          Creator for lessening the pain of death.  Turning round to relieve
          myself of the weight, as he had one paw on the back of my head,
          I saw his eyes directed to Mebalwe, who was trying to shoot him
          at a distance of ten or fifteen yards. His gun, a flint one, missed fire
          in both barrels; the lion immediately left me and attacking
          Mebalwe, bit his thigh. Another man, whose life I had saved
          before, after he had been tossed by a buffalo, attempted to spear
          the lion while he was biting Mebalwe. He left Mebalwe and caught
          this man by the shoulder, but at that moment the bullets he had
          received took effect, and he fell down dead...
     Asked later what profound thoughts were racing through his mind at what seemed his moment of death Livingstone always enjoyed the shock his truthful answer gave: "I was wondering what part of me he would eat first."

Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa by David Livingstone, 1857, and David Livingstone: his life and his letters by George Seaver, 1957]

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Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910)

     In September 1856 Florence Nightingale rested at her home in Lea Hurst in Derbyshire. She had just come back from the Crimean War. Although she was an international hero she refused to make public appearances. She had only done what God had called her to do. But she did not refuse an invitation from Queen Victoria. It would give her the opportunity to appeal for reform of army medical procedures.
     Before the visit James Clark, close friend of the queen, briefed Florence. "The queen is quite nervous about meeting you. Almost terrified."
     Florence was astounded. At that time Queen Victoria had eight children. She had reigned nearly 20 years. She had handled many very difficult situations. For years Florence had heard about the queen's deftness - not only at ceremonies but at social gatherings. And yet Queen Victoria was almost terrified of her? What kind of monstrous heroine had Florence become? And yet she knew many thought she was a fire-breathing dragon to accomplish what she did.

To some, C. S. Lewis was a loud, beefy, red-faced butcher!!


     September 21 Florence could scarcely believe she was entering Balmoral, the fabled ivory-hued castle. Prince Albert was calm, but the queen's large blue eyes showed fear. The queen's fair skin was flushed. But within minutes the queen relaxed. Florence had that ability. Her steely resolve was hidden under a demure and gracious demeanor that could melt just about anyone. The queen sounded almost giddy with relief as she summoned the royal children to meet Miss Nightingale. The children were very respectful, although the youngest seemed to blink with their eyes 'Can this frail insignificant woman be the legendary Florence Nightingale?'. After the children were dismissed the queen really relaxed.
     "You have no self-importance or humbug," said the queen. "No wonder the soldiers love you so."

Queen Victoria: Born To Succeed by Elizabeth Longford, 1964, and Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1951]

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Queen Victoria never lost her awe of Florence Nightingale. To her Florence was the bravest, most independent woman in the British Empire. Once when the queen was presiding over a ceremony she saw Florence in the gallery. 'To think she came to see me!' she thought. That night the queen wrote that very wonderful news in her diary.

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years!

Francis Schaeffer  (1912-1984)

Francis Schaeffer's anecdote is available HERE.

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