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Keep it Under Your Hat

Bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, PA

Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat was one of his signature accessories -- it's now kept at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Lincoln had a famous sense of humor, along with some odd habits, such as letting the family cat eat on the Whitehouse dinner table. In answer to a complaint, he jovially replied, “If the [dinnerware] was good enough for [former President James] Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.” On another occasion, he remarked that their cat Dixie was “smarter than my whole Cabinet!”

Lincoln was also known for his self-deprecating good nature. When Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas called him “two-faced” in a debate, Lincoln famously replied, “If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?”

It so happens that the President’s top hat wasn’t just for looks: he actually kept documents in the hat while he was wearing it. Lincoln would often remove papers such as letters from friends or speeches from his hat while addressing crowds. He was sometimes known to take documents from atop his head and throw them down in front of generals in anger. According to some historians, the phrase “keep it under your hat” — meaning to keep something secret — comes from Lincoln’s habit.

Lincoln’s top hat may have been a good place to keep a secret, but it also kept what was placed there ‘top of mind.’ He didn’t carry every document he owned in this special place – only the most important things, those things that he intended to use at a moment’s notice.

It was akin to what we'd call keeping something at our fingertips or keeping it on speed dial (if that’s still a thing).

Paul encouraged Timothy to treat the gospel the same way…

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort…

The time is coming when people won't listen to good teaching. Instead, they will look for teachers who will please them by telling them only what they are itching to hear.

They will turn from the truth and eagerly listen to senseless [made up] stories (fables).”

2 Timothy 4:2-4

As we consider the beginning of a new year...

More than ever before in history, the world is awash in useless information, but is starving for truth. We have the message of hope – the message of redemption. Let's resolve this year to keep it under our hat, so we can share it at a moment’s notice with those who need it most.


Happy New Year!


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