Our days are filled with events that shape our lives, some more important than others — some where we can look back and say if this had been different or if that had not happened just as it did, everything would have changed.
Our nation's history is like that, too, say authors Ted and Chris Stewart, whose book "Seven Miracles That Saved America: Why They Matter and Why We Should Have Hope," (Shadow Mountain, $27.95) looks at some pivotal moments in American history.
The Stewarts see in these particular events not the random whims of fate, however, but evidence of divine blessing, proof of divine providence at work, a hopeful conviction that God does indeed care about America. They see miracles.
They are not alone in that perception. "The people who were living these things all had doubts about how they would turn out," says Ted. "But what's remarkable is that every one of them, to some degree or another, acknowledged the help of Divine Providence."
The seven events they focus on are:
Christopher Columbus, who "against all odds" discovered the New World — when it could very well have been found by the Chinese.
The survival of Jamestown, despite untold hardship and starvation, ensuring that America would be settled by a religiously oriented and religiously tolerant people.
How an unexplained summer fog shrouded the East River on an August morning, allowing Gen. George Washington and his army to escape annihilation at the hands of the British troops.
The epic events that led to the creation of the United States Constitution, forever establishing this country as "the shining city on the hill."
How, at a time when it looked like our fledgling democracy was actually going to fail, God answered Abraham Lincoln's desperate prayer for a victory at Gettysburg, literally changing the future of the world.
The incredibly unlikely scenario that played out during the Battle of Midway during World War II, which in no small part contributed to the Allies' ability to win the war.
How a would-be assassin's bullet stopped within an inch of Ronald Reagan's heart, thus allowing him to live and go on to play a key role in the end of the Cold War.
"We could easily have come up with far more than seven events," Ted says. "But these make the point we are trying to make and cover a broad spectrum of events. And every one of them could have turned out differently, with dramatic results."
Another reason they chose these particular events, Chris says, is "that we often think of miracles at the time of the Founding Fathers, but we wanted to show that they happened well before and they extend up to our own time. That helps explain our whole premise of why they matter, and why we should have hope."
It is that hopeful message, they say, that seems to be striking a chord with people all over. "I think that's why we're getting some national attention," Chris says.
A lot of people worry about all the bad things that are happening in the world, they say. "Many people think America may no longer be worthy of God's help," says Chris. But, at what percentage of unbelief does God give up on us? he asks. If it's 51 percent believers and 49 percent nonbelievers, are we OK? If the scale tips to 51 percent nonbelievers, are we done?
There are precedents in the Bible that say no, he says. "But we want to encourage people who still believe to stand up for their beliefs; we want them to know they are not alone. Our country is not perfect. But most of us look at the people in our lives, and they are good people. I've lived all over in the military and met a lot of good people, who try to do right. Sometimes, I think we don't give enough credit to what is good in this country."
None of the events they talk about "are without controversy," says Ted. But, Chris notes, they have been "really, really careful with our research." People may not agree with their conclusions, "but there's nothing that anyone can say is poorly researched."
They carefully examine potential outcomes and look at a lot of what-ifs. "These are remarkable events in U.S. history," adds Ted. "We simply set forth the facts, and those facts justify our conclusions. But this is not a religious book or a political book; it is a history book."
The brothers bring diverse backgrounds to the task. Chris was a record-setting Air Force pilot (he holds the record for the fastest nonstop flight around the world) before he retired to become president and CEO of The Shipley Group, a nationally recognized consulting and training company, as well as a best-selling author. His techno-military thrillers have been released in multiple languages in seven countries, and he's published a number of novels for Shadow Mountain.
Ted was appointed as a U.S. District judge in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. Before that, he served as chief of staff to Gov. Mike Leavitt, as a member and chairman of the Public Service Commission and as chief of staff to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. He has also taught university courses in law, the Constitution, the Supreme Court and public policy.
Their collaboration was not only fun, but also "critical," Chris says. "All my books are novels, and this is completely different." They do include some historically accurate but fiction-laced vignettes as a way to add interest and make the stories more personal. "It's just another way to convey information," Chris says. "We were nervous about whether it would work, but the feedback we've gotten is that people like it. But, he adds, "Ted's background in government is also a reason it all works."
The book took about four years to research and write, they say. And for both of them, its genesis came out of stories they were told from American history.
"A friend who was a great teacher told me a story of Abraham Lincoln that I had never heard before," Chris says. "He told me they used to teach these stories in school, and showed me a book from the 1930s to prove it."
Ted heard a story from "a man who was a German emigrant. I had not studied history, but I had always loved it, and had read a lot. I wondered why I was hearing this story for the first time from a German emigrant." The brothers got talking about that, and a book was born.
One of the things that came out of writing the book was a much deeper appreciation for what many of our leaders went through, they say. "We had preconceived notions of the greatness of Washington and Lincoln, but that was validated to a quantum-leap degree. We realized that most of our admiration was superficial. These were great men."
As they began to think about a book and as they started researching stories, the Stewarts realized another very important thing: America has a unique role. "It is the source of democracy in the world. We believe that is important to God, and that is why he protects us," Ted says. "And if that is true, we have every reason to have hope for the future."
As they write in the book, "This country was too important to the future of mankind to let it fail. Despite our weaknesses, which are many, and our failings, which have existed since our inception, God has been willing to intervene so that this nation might survive. History gives us the ultimate assurance that God still watches over this country today."
To purchase the book go to www.deseretbook.com.