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The Wright BrothersBOOK REVIEW:  The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Simon and Schuster. 336 pages. 2015.

I’ve always enjoyed flying and still think it’s amazing that we can cross the country in a matter of hours at 35,000 feet in the air at speeds of more than 500 miles per hour. I remember many years ago how excited my Dad was the first time he flew on a business trip to New York City.

After seeing this book on the summer reading list of some leaders I respect I decided to check it out myself. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by the author. McCullough’s voice isn’t the strongest, but I always prefer an audiobook that is read by the author, so I enjoyed McCullough’s reading of it.

The book tells the incredible story of brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio. Life-long bachelors, the brothers lived with their father Bishop Milton Wright and their sister Katharine. Katharine was a graduate of Oberlin College and a high school Latin teacher. Bishop Wright was an itinerant preacher. His wife Susan died of tuberculosis in 1889. There were two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, who married and did not live in the same house with the Bishop, Katharine, Wilbur and Orville.

Wilbur and Orville were inseparable and worked hard six days a week, always taking Sunday off. They had a unity of purpose and were determined. Wilbur was older by five years; he was more dominant, serious and seemed to be a natural leader. Orville could become moody and irritable, but was the better mechanic of the two brothers; he was also shy, gentle and more optimistic.

At age 18, Wilbur was hit with a hockey stick by a man later executed for murder. He had planned to go to Yale, but those plans had to be cancelled. Instead he became a recluse for three years, suffering many physical problems.

The Bishop, Katharine and the boys all loved to read books. Ironically, after reading the writings of an agnostic (Robert G. Ingersoll), the boys stopped regular attendance of church services. The boys also started their own newspaper, the West Side News.

Orville was struck by typhoid fever. During his recovery, he read about gliders, and Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer. Lilienthal built gliders designed to imitate the wings of birds, but died in a crash in 1896. The brothers also loved to read about birds and aeronautics.

They started their own successful bicycle shop in Dayton. At the time, Dayton was a leader in inventions and patents. In 1899 in a room above their Bike Shop, the boys began developing their first flying machine. They soon began working on a manned glider.

As they looked for a place to experiment with their machine, the wind was an essential element. Kitty Hawk, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, was chosen for its steady moderate winds, soft sand beaches and isolation. Wilbur was the first to go there in September 1900 and the boys would have their first Kitty Hawk flight in 1903. They observed the local birds at Kitty Hawk, and learned from them; they loved their time there.

The boys were not daredevils. They approached their work with low risk. They did not have college degrees, friends in high places or much money. They pretty much did everything on their own, even when they were mocked by some in the media for attempting to do something that was thought to be impossible.

They would enter into a relationship with Octave Chanute, exchanging several letters over the years. They would hire Charles Taylor to run their Bike Shop for them. Taylor would be instrumental later in developing a lightweight engine for their flying machine. They would return to Kitty Hawk several times over the next few years constantly improving their machine. They applied for a patent for their flying machine in March, 1902. They later moved their testing to Huffman Prairie, near Dayton.

We hear about the Wright brother’s competitors, including Samuel Langley and his failed flights. Langley used $70,000 of public money on his flights, while the Wright brothers spent less than $1,000 of their own funds.

An interesting aspect of the Wright brothers’ story is that Washington was not interested in their flying machine for the longest time. Instead, there was interest from England and especially France. Later, they would sign a deal with a French company, and hold public demonstrations there and in Washington.

Orville was badly hurt in a crash in Washington, and spent five weeks in a hospital there, accompanied by Kathryn, before returning to Dayton. Meanwhile, Wilbur was in France for months where he became a celebrity. Kathryn and Orville would join Wilbur in France in 1909 and all three would become extremely popular in Europe.

Wilbur and Orville would finally receive the recognition they deserved in America with President Taft presenting them medals and a grand celebration being held in Dayton. They would eventually sign a contract with the War Department.

Much of their time afterwards would be spent with patent infringement lawsuits. Unfortunately, Wilbur’s typhoid fever would return, and he would die at age 45 in 1912.

As I read the book I enjoyed hearing about each new record achieved – length of time in the air, height, speed, etc. McCullough’s book is very detailed and he used hundreds of sources. It is so detailed it gives the reader the feeling that you were actually there observing what he is writing.

Book News

  • On My Shelf: Life and Books with Randy Alcorn. Ivan Mesa interviews Randy Alcorn about what books Alcorn regularly re-reads, what books have profoundly shaped him, his favorite works of fiction, and more.
  • 5 Dangers of Reading Christian Biographies. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “As our souls and minds are encouraged and stirred afresh for the Kingdom through great Christian biographies, may we avoid these dangers and become people of grace as we seek to serve God with our gifts in our day and age.”

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at CHAPTER SIX BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.

  • We must point out that this Beatitude, this particular description of the Christian, causes real surprise because it is so completely and entirely opposed to everything which the natural man thinks.
  • We are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.
  • Matthew was writing primarily for the Jews. He places the Beatitudes in the forefront of the Gospel for that reason. They had ideas of the kingdom which, you remember, were not only materialistic but military also, and to them the Messiah was one who was going to lead them to victory. So they were thinking in terms of conquest and fighting in a material sense, and immediately our Lord dismisses all that. It is a great contrast to the Jews’ way of thinking.
  • But further, this Beatitude comes, alas, in the form of a very striking contrast to much thinking within the Christian Church at the present time. Am I wrong when I suggest that the controlling and prevailing thought of the Christian Church throughout the world seems to be the very opposite of what is indicated in this text?
  • `Blessed are the meek’, not those who trust to their own organizing, not those who trust to their own powers and abilities and their own institutions. Rather it is the very reverse of that.
  • There is an obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Each one suggests the next and leads to the next.
  • I would point out, also, that these Beatitudes as they proceed become increasingly difficult.
  • Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to look at it in terms of certain examples.
    • I think, the greatest gentleman in the Old Testament-Abraham, and as you look at him you see a great and wonderful portrait of meekness. It is the great characteristic of his life.
    • You see it again in Moses, who is actually described as the most meek man on the face of the earth.
    • The same is true of David, especially in his relations with Saul. Read the story of David again and you will see meekness exemplified in a most extraordinary manner.
    • Look at the portrait of Stephen and you will see this text illustrated. Look at it in the case of Paul, that mighty man of God.
  • But of course we must come to the supreme example, and stand and look at our Lord Himself. You see it in the whole of His life. His attitude towards His enemies, but perhaps still more His utter submission to His Father, show His meekness.
  • He humbled Himself, became as a servant and even went to the death on the cross. That is meekness; that is lowliness; that is true humility; that is the quality which He Himself is teaching at this point.
  • First, let us notice again that it is not a natural quality. It is not a matter of a natural disposition, because all Christians are meant to be like this. It is not only some Christians. Every Christian, whatever his natural temperament or psychology may be, is meant to be like this.
  • No, it is not a matter of natural disposition; it is something that is produced by the Spirit of God.
  • Meekness is compatible with great strength. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. That meekness is not merely a matter of outward manner, but also, and still more, of inward spirit.
  • Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is therefore two things. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others.
  • You see how inevitably it follows being `poor in spirit’ and `mourning’. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner. These other things must come first.
  • The meek man is not proud of himself, he does not in any sense glory in himself.
  • The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself.
  • The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive.
  • To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending.
  • The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself.
  • The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality.
  • A person who is of the type that I have been describing must of necessity be mild.
  • it also means that there will be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person pays for it. It also means, therefore, that we shall be patient and long-suffering, especially when we suffer unjustly.
  • Above all we must be ready to be taught by the Spirit, and led by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Meekness always implies a teachable spirit.
  • We are to leave everything-ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future-in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.
  • The meek already inherit the earth in this life, in this way. A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content.
  • All things are yours if you are meek and truly Christian; you have already inherited the earth.
  • But obviously it has a future reference also.
  • You are going to judge the world, you are going to judge angels. You will then have inherited the earth.
  • But I think it is all to be found in those words of our Lord in Luke xiv. ii: `Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ There, then, is what is meant by being meek.
  • If we truly claim that we have received the Holy Spirit, and this is the claim of every Christian, we have no excuse if we are not meek. It is not something that you do and I do. It is a character that is produced in us by the Spirit. It is the direct fruit of the Spirit.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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