"The River of Doubt" by Candice Millard
While sulking at his home, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, NY, Roosevelt was contacted by a few of his friends desiring to put their names on the map in regards to exploration. After every defeat throughout Roosevelt's lifetime, he always found something extraneous to accomplish to almost prove to himself and others that he was not a failure. Some of these pursuits led him to Dakotas, on African safaris, and to scale the Matterhorns in Europe. Roosevelt reeling from his defeat was easy prey for this planning party and he agreed to go with them as part of the expedition.
His ambition and experience however would ultimately lead Roosevelt to lead the expedition along with the help of a Brazilian guide, Candido Rondon. The beginning of the river had been discovered by Rondon, but all efforts to travel it had resulted in death for all explorers due to the conditions, disease, wildlife, and the hostile Indians encamped inside the Amazon. Roosevelt was undeterred by the dangers though many of his original party deserted the mission before ever setting sail on the river including the expedition's original planner, Father Zahn.
Roosevelt would indeed make the expedition and this book covers the entirety of the mission from the betrayal of one of the Brazilian workers to the eccentric behavior of Teddy's son, Kermit, who also made the trip. Roosevelt almost died several times on the trip, but in one of the more classic Teddy moments, he literally raised himself up from the depths of death to chase down the traitor who had killed one of the workers on the expedition.
Ultimately, Roosevelt was successful and today the river is known as "Rio Roosevelt" named after the famous president. When he returned to the states months longer than he expected the trip to take, he was welcomed by a hero's reception in New York. He traveled across the country and into Europe debating and giving speeches about his expedition and defending the validity of the fine. However, the disease that almost took Roosevelt's life in the Amazon would continue to be a problem for him and would eventually contribute to his death in 1919 a little less than 5 years later.
An interesting side note was given by the author. Supposedly, the Republican machine admitted to screwing over Roosevelt for the nomination in 1912 and promised that if he would stand down that they would nominate him in 1916. Of course he did not, nor could he if he planned to true to his character. Had he though, he never would have taken the "River of Doubt" expedition and would more than likely have won the 1916 election beginning what would have been a 3rd term as president. This would have had him the president during World War I and with Roosevelt's taste and love for war and military history, it would have been interesting to see how events would have been affected had Roosevelt been leading America instead of Wilson.
A tremendous book for people who love adventure. This could easily be made into a movie and people would love it! It's an absolute must for all Theodore Roosevelt admirers.
"Breakout Churches" by Thom S. Rainer
An excellent book for those looking for church growth advice. I took a good bit of notes and have been using some of the book's ideas in my planning for 2013. I'm a big Rainer fan, but even without that being said, this book is a great read for all pastors.
"The Presidents and their Faith" by Dr. Darrin Grinder and Dr. Steve Shaw
- George Washington was not a big church goer despite popular belief. His reasons however are divided, but the most accepted reason was simply that Washington refused to align himself with the Episcopal church then associated by the Church of England. There were no other "denominations" to attend so church attendance required he go to the Church of England church on American soil. He saw attending the church and supporting it synonymous with supporting the Crown.
- John Adams was probably the first devout Unitarian and Univeralist.
- To sum up Jefferson, you can safely believe all the rumors . . .
- Andrew Jackson was the first Presbyterian ever elected to office and is the first president to openly believe in the deity of Christ and publicly proclaimed his salvation and belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. His famous war against the Indians was sparked after reading Elijah and Elisha's actions against the pagan nations standing in the way of Israel and how the two prophets along with the armies of Israel were called to annihilate their pagan neighbors.
- John Tyler was considered the "Traitor President" as after serving as President of the United States, he accepted a nomination and was elected to the Senate of the Confederate States of America though he died before being able to do anything in office. Tyler was extremely non-religious one of the first presidents to practically have very little to do with religion or Christianity though he would claim a connection to the Baptist doctrine.
- Abraham Lincoln didn't grow up a Christian or anything close as fables would like to proclaim. In his writings, he claimed he was skeptical of church and Christianity after seeing hypocrisy in the life of his biological father and even his mother to a great extent. Lincoln believed in God but struggled to find Him. It was after the death of his young son that he and his wife began to seek after God and Lincoln became very religious. He is known as one of the only "theologians" to ever occupy the Oval Office as many of his letters and writings dealt with questions about God and his plan. He famously wrote that it was useless for people to try and invoke God's name and will into the Civil War. He claimed both the Union and the Confederacy believed God was on their side, but that ultimately one would have to be wrong or possibly both considering God was probably not on either side.
- James A. Garfield was a licensed Presbyterian minister and evangelist when he was elected president. He was assassinated less than a year after taking office. It would have been interesting to see America being led by a pastor.
- Theodore Roosevelt was one of only two Dutch Reformist to occupy the Oval Office. Roosevelt had a strong belief in the Bible and in particular Christ. Many of his speeches contained Biblical references and he was said to have memorized large chunks of the Bible. His view however was one more fixed on works than grace and believed strongly in the works of man in getting to Heaven.
- Calvin Coolidge, one of the quietest, most forgotten presidents in American history, was mysteriously religious. He was said to be a very moral man with deep convictions, but his church attendance wouldn't necessarily agree. He was very witty however and enjoyed a good joke or two. Instead of committing to one church, Coolidge enjoyed visiting churches throughout DC during his presidency along with inviting the local pastors over for dinner. After having prepared a large feast for a Baptist minister, a funny exchange takes place. The minister stopped eating long before the course was finished and explained that he believed having control over his food intake made him humble and thus allowed him to preach with excellence. The next morning, Coolidge left the White House and went to hear the man preach. When he returned home, his wife asked him how the service went, Coolidge dryly exclaimed, "The pastor should have kept eating."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower grew up in the Jehovah Witness faith but later converted to be a Presbyterian. Interesting enough though, he would never denounce the Jehovah Witness faith as he told the story of his mother, who was devout long after his father abandoned the faith, praying for the young Ike's infected leg and watching as God heard her prayer and healed his leg which was set to be amputated. Interesting enough, the man raised in the Jehovah Witness faith which stands against holidays, inscriptions, etc. is responsible for having "In God We Trust" put on our monies and "One Nation Under God" put in our pledge.
- John F. Kennedy - It was interesting reading about the backlash his Catholic faith brought him. The truth is that he was hardly devout however throughout his life and even the early years of his presidency. When he and Jackie lost their infant son, something did change in the JFK. Observers in the White House stated that he seemed to become more religious and one writer compared his demeanor to that of King David weeping over the infant son born by Bathsheba from the illicit affair the king manufactured behind Urriah's back.
- Jimmy Carter is considered one of the most Christian presidents in history. He is the first president ever to use the phrase, "born again," to describe his Christianity. His Christian views of passivity however would ultimately hurt him in foreign policy and dealing with hard situations. He is however known for his peaceful demeanor and attempts to promote peace and help the hurting and broken. He has become one of the largest supporters of humanitarianism that ever occupied the Oval Office.
- Ronald Reagan was extremely religious and actually wrote that he believed the world may either be or was about to be in the tribulation described by the book of Revelation. He believed he would be president when the apocalypse took place upon the earth and viewed the conflict between the US and USSR as part of the situation.
- George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were two of the most Christian presidents to ever serve. Both were extremely devout and blurred the lines of separation of church and state more so than any other president in American history. George W. Bush claimed to have had a spiritual vision and experience with Christ which ultimately resulted in his sobriety and faith.
- Bill Clinton is the only president in the US History to have had any experience in a Pentecostal church. His submission and writings after the Monica Lewinsky trial have been deemed reminiscent of King David's in Psalm 51. He is the only president to ever submit himself to Christian counseling from a group of five pastors during his sexual affairs.