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1
CONVICTION
Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001) was a Christian minister in Romania who suffered brutal abuse at the hands of Communists. He spent 14 years in prison, three of those in solitary confinement, simply because of his faith in Christ. He was tortured physically and mentally, often enduring extreme hunger and cold, yet he never wavered in his faith. He’d once been a militant atheist but the supernatural transformation he had through Jesus wouldn’t allow him to stop telling others about his Lord. When writing of his experiences, and what the persecuted Church encounters, Wurmbrand wrote, “A man really believes not what he recites in his creed, but only the things he is ready to die for.”
Tortured For Christ, Richard Wurmbrand, 50th Anniversary Edition, 2017, p.83
January 2020
2
DISPOSITION
In 2003, the world was introduced to James Kennedy as Cuba Gooding played the beloved mentally challenged “Radio.” In the late 1960s, football coach Harold Jones began taking care of Kennedy after befriending the man known to walk around town pushing a shopping cart and listening to a transistor radio. He became the team manager for the T.L. Hanna High School football team in Anderson, South Carolina and was a fixture on the sidelines where he jubilantly cheered for his team and urged them to win. Assistant coach Terry Honeycutt cherished his childlike spirit and said, “He doesn’t know what a bad mood is. He’s always got that smile on his face.” James “Radio” Kennedy died on December 15, 2019 at the age of 73. He never knew how to read or write, but he provided a dissertation on the value of a great disposition.
USA Today, 12/16/19, p.3C
January 2020
3
DREAMS
It was the legendary duo of Rodgers & Hammerstein who crafted those famous lyrics for Happy Talk in South Pacific: “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
Men of Integrity, September/October 2009, p.11/22
January 2020
4
EXERCISE
If carving out 30-minutes a day for exercise seems challenging, be glad you’re not an astronaut. To compensate for the effects of zero gravity on the space station, each astronaut is scheduled for 2 ½ hours of exercise per day, six days a week. Why not try to do in 5 days what they do in 1?
Reader’s Digest, May 2015, p.83
January 2020
5
HABITS
In his best-selling book about habits, James Clear gives this concise insight: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” You may not want to be financially strapped, but overspending demonstrates you’re actually voting for escalating debt. That second helping of dessert probably doesn’t seem significant, but it’s really a vote for weight gain. Your understanding of Scripture might feel inadequate, but each time you read God’s Word you’re voting for a richer relationship with God. With that in mind, what will you vote for this year?
Atomic Habits, James Clear, 2018, p.38
January 2020
6
PRAYER
Prayers outnumber kisses on New Year’s Eve as 66% of Americans say a prayer while 47% kiss someone. There’s something about new beginnings, uncertainty, and hope that fosters our awareness of God.
Outreach, January/February 2012, p.97
January 2020
7
RISKS
Tiger Woods won the Masters in April 2019 (his first major win since 2008) and the Associated Press ranked it as the sports story of the year. There were plenty of headlines to choose from: U.S. Women’s soccer team winning the World Cup, the blown call that kept the Saints out of the Super Bowl, an historic World Series where neither team won a home game, Simone Biles’ resurging dominance in gymnastics, plus many others. But it was Woods turning back the clock that ranked highest in 2019. As experts analyzed his win, they point to one strategic decision that led to his fifth green jacket. On the final day at the par-3 12th hole, he watched two other players in his group go for the pin only to watch each ball role down into the water. Woods opted to shoot for a safe spot on the green where the ball ended up 60 feet from the hole. He then two-putted for par. Commentators said there wasn’t anything exciting about it, except his wise decision. By calculating the risk and playing it safe, he achieved his goal of winning. Our culture thrives on grandiose goals and major risks (and they have their place) but sometimes the wisest decision is to play it safe.
Houston Chronicle, 12/26/19, p.C7; Beaumont Enterprise, 11/27/19, p.C5
January 2020
8
STEWARDSHIP
Physical discipline is a portion of Christian stewardship. The way we treat our body is significant since we are to use them for God’s glory. A recent study from Harvard, that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, projects nearly half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030. Forty percent of American adults are currently obese, and that will increase to 49% in just ten years unless changes are made. In one brief decade, 29 states are projected to have majority populations that are obese. Stewardship of our body is an investment in spiritual optimization.
USA Today, 12/23/19, p.6A
January 2020
9
VISION
In 1959, Harvey Mackay bought a struggling envelope company. He turned it around, renamed it Mackay Envelope Corporation, and led it to become a dominant force in the industry. By the time he sold his company in 2001, they were producing over 17 million envelopes per day. Mackay has shared his insights & wisdom in his best-selling books, and branded himself with the first book’s title in 1988, Swim With The Sharks. When talking about his company, Mackay has repeatedly explained their mission was simple: “To be in business forever.” Mark DeMoss affirmingly wrote, “This company’s compass points to true north: stick to what you know and do it better than anyone else.” Imagine what might happen in our lives, families, churches, communities, and careers if we did just that.
The Little Red Book of Wisdom, Mark DeMoss, 2001, p.14
January 2020
10
CLUTTER
New Year’s resolutions often include being more organized. Nicole Anzia is a professional organizer who’s featured monthly in The Washington Post. Although Ben Franklin said, “A place for everything, everything in its place,” Anzia reminds us that the floor is not one of those places. She notes more and more people are moving to “floor storage,” which is not an “optimal system.” “Floor storage” usually means we have too much, or we’re too disorganized... or maybe both.
Beaumont Enterprise, 5/12/19, p.B13
January 2020
11
DIETS
Actress Anna Kendrick: “Low-carb diets work not because they are healthier, but because without carbs I simply lose the will to eat.”
Reader’s Digest, October 2016, p.83
January 2020
12
EXERCISE
Patton Oswalt talked about his fitness goal: “I would like to stop looking like I’m wearing a bulletproof vest all the time.” Lisa Goodwin noted, “My favorite thing to do at the gym is leave.” Kevin Nealon shared, “I’m on a strict running program. I started yesterday. I’ve missed only one day so far.” Lisa Landry added, “A gym is just a PE class that you pay to skip.”
Reader’s Digest, November 2016, p.19; March 2017, p.93
January 2020
13
MESSAGING
TruthFacts.com took a look at the content of women’s magazines and concluded half the messages are, “Accept yourself – you’re beautiful just the way you are.” The other half are, “How to lose 20 lb. in four weeks.”
Reader’s Digest, April 2017, p.33
January 2020
14
CHANGE
Steve Jobs (1955-2011) famously changed the world through his technological innovations at Apple. But he also noted, “Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Why not make one such change today?
Reader’s Digest, October 2012, p.208
January 2020
15
CHURCH
The Barna Group revealed that 80% of people find their friends outside of the church. Research like this should drive us to ask why such a small percentage of friendships are being formed in the body of Christ.
Charisma, March/April 2018, p.68
January 2020
16
EXAMPLE
Peter Frates died on December 9, 2019 from Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 34. The former baseball player at Boston College contracted the disease in his twenties and battled it for seven years. In 2014, pro golfer Chris Kennedy introduced the “ice bucket challenge” because of a relative with ALS. It was Peter Frates and his family who then caused the phenomenon to go viral, which resulted in over $200 million being raised for ALS research. At the funeral for Frates, the officiating minister, Tony Penna, said, “The best way to honor him is to try to imitate him.” It’s a great tribute and a good reminder that we honor our Lord the same way; imitate Him.
Houston Chronicle, 12/14/19, p.A2
January 2020
17
INTEGRITY
In December of 2019, Howard Kirby bought a used couch from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Michigan and put it in his man cave. Several weeks later, he found that the accompanying ottoman wasn’t very comfortable. His daughter-in-law unzipped the cushion to see why it was so stiff, and found a box containing $43,000. An attorney told Kirby that the money was legally his, but his conscience wouldn’t let him keep the cash. He contacted the store to find out who donated the furniture and ended up meeting Kim Newberry. The couch belonged to her grandfather who died in 2019. Kirby gave her the contents of $43,170, but laughingly told reporters that he kept the couch. It wasn’t an impulsive decision, but one he’d pondered before. He said, “I always thought, what would I do if that ever happened, and now I know, and it makes me feel good.” C.S. Lewis wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Howard Kirby gave a visual to what Lewis said, and he showed us that we make those kinds of decisions long before they occur. Attorney Lou Scofield has astutely written, “It is never too soon to pay attention to your reputation.” Kirby understood that years before he found the money.
CNN.com, 1/18/20, Dave Warren; A Word From Lou, Lou Scofield, 2019, p.58
January 2020
18
OFFENSE
Ricky Gervais is an equal opportunity offender with his caustic comedy routines and improvisational remarks. His controversial jokes at the Golden Globes while hosting the event on January 5, 2020 had him defending his humor once again. Although it’d be hard to support his indiscretion with words, he did make an insightful remark when replying to criticism on Twitter. The 58-year-old comedian wrote, “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right.” It’s a strong word of accurate rebuke for Hollywood, and an important reminder for our perpetually offended culture.
USA Today, 1/9/20, p.1D
January 2020
19
PURPOSE
It might be assumed that money is the big driver in the workplace, but a list of 2020 New Year’s work-related resolutions shows otherwise. Just 8% aspire for a raise while 41% say what they want most is to “make a difference.” God created us to have purpose (Genesis 2:15) so we inherently long for it and need it.
USA Today, 1/21/20, p.1A
January 2020
20
SIGNIFICANCE
Art took a strange twist just as the decade was drawing to a close. The most discussed exhibit in Miami’s Art Basel during December 2019 was “Comedian” by artist Maurizio Cattlelan. It was a banana duct-taped to the wall. The Italian artist is known for turning normal objects into “vehicles of both delight and critique.” Florida’s Billy and Beatrice Cox somehow agreed because they bought the piece for $120,000. But just a couple of days later, artist David Datuna pulled the banana off the wall and ate it, claiming he was participating in “performance art.” A new banana was installed and sold for over $100,000. And then, Cattlelan sold a “third edition” to a museum for $150,000. The first purchasers, whose masterpiece ended up in another artist’s digestive system, said, “We are acutely aware of the blatant absurdity of the fact that ‘Comedian’ is an otherwise inexpensive and perishable piece of produce and a couple of inches of duct tape. Ultimately, we sense that Cattelan’s banana will become an iconic historical object.” After a collective head-scratching, hopefully we’ll all aspire to do something a bit more significant with our lives.
Houston Chronicle, 12/13/19, p.A2; USA Today 12/10/19, p.6A
January 2020
21
URGENCY
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons. Two years later, they created the Doomsday Clock as imagery to communicate the threat of nuclear war. Midnight was identified as the apocalyptic end of humanity, and the time before midnight revealed our proximity to earth’s demise. On January 23, 2020, the clock was moved to 100 seconds before midnight; the closest it’s ever been. No longer does the organization just consider nuclear danger. It now includes issues such as political unrest, climate change, and disruptive technologies. So according to the keepers of the Doomsday Clock, life on planet earth is closer than ever to extinction. Such urgency is an open door to conversations about the best exit strategy known to man: ”In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…”
TheBulletin.org
January 2020
22
APOLOGIES
Apologizing is a serious matter, but NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer put a humorous spin on it. At the season finale race in Homestead, Florida during November 2019, USA Today Sports’ For The Win! polled the drivers asking which one is most likely to apologize for wrecking another driver’s car. Bowyer responded, “None of them. It’s not worth the breath.” Apologies are tough for some people.
USA Today, 11/19/19, p.1C
January 2020
23
BELIEFS
In the column Ask Marilyn, a reader posed this question to Marilyn vos Savant: “Is there a word for a person who does not accept facts that challenge his or her beliefs?” In response, the woman listed in Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest IQ said, “Yes, and it’s ‘normal’”. She explained that the reason you call people like this “normal” is because, “The great majority of people share this trait.”
Parade, 1/5/20, p.6
January 2020
24
LIFESTYLE
While discussing the challenges of budgeting with several of his young couple friends, Lance remarked, “I really don’t want a lot of money. I just wish we could afford to live the way we’re living now.”
Laughter, Deborah DeFord, 1997, p.35
January 2020
25
TECHNOLOGY
Fran told her friends, “This new smartphone is helping me lose weight. It cost so much that I can’t afford groceries anymore.”
AARP, December 2016, p.42
January 2020
26
COMMUNICATION
Research has uncovered the sad reality that “70% of all communication is miscommunication.” That small piece of information should motivate ever-increasing energy towards better communication.
HomeLife, May 2019, p.37
February 2020
27
CONFLICT
Serina Wolfe got very angry when her boyfriend wouldn’t pay for her return flight to New York from Florida. The 24-year-old was so mad that she went out to eat. She took his credit card, ordered an expensive meal, and then left a $5,000 tip. The ploy later unraveled and the couple parted company when Wolfe was charged with grand theft. Unresolved conflict is usually worse than the conflict itself.
Examiner, 7/25/19, p.12C
February 2020
28
LOVE
After nearly 30 years of marriage, George H.W. Bush wrote a letter to his wife Barbara in 1974 while he was away during Christmas. He was serving as Chief of the U.S. Liaison in China and nearing the age of 50 when he wrote, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up except that I know one thing for positive sure – you better be with me.” True love keeps growing and maturing over time.
Beaumont Enterprise, 12/9/18, p.B4
February 2020
29
MARRIAGE
Jim Daly wasn’t writing for laughs but what he said certainly makes married couples smile. The president of Focus on the Family wrote about the perpetual need for rekindling romance and began his article by asking, “Did you get married to do laundry? How about to pay bills? Or do the dishes?” Nobody plans a wedding with dreams of folding clothes, loading a dishwasher (if you have one), or balancing the spending habits of two people who probably have different views about money. The splendor of marriage includes a substantial amount of monotony, even drudgery, but part of its beauty is that it allows two people to meet the grind of life together and eventually discover the joy of real and meaningful love.
Focus on the Family Bulletin, February 2020
February 2020
30
MARRIAGE
Lysa TerKeurst and her husband have gone through her cancer and his infidelity, yet they are finding spiritual breakthroughs in their marriage. The founder of Proverbs 31 ministry to women made this insightful statement about marriage: “God doesn’t’ want me to be a ‘fix him’ wife. God wants me to be a ‘love him’ wife.” Regardless of being a husband or a wife, we’re called to love, not fix.
HomeLife, May 2019, p.35
February 2020
31
MARRIAGE
Marital views have so dramatically changed that just 14% of Americans say it’s unacceptable for an unmarried couple to live together.
USA Today, 12/11/19, p.1A
February 2020
32
MARRIAGE
In the recurring feature, Finish The Sentence, readers were invited to submit their response to this sentence: “The one thing I’d save in a fire is…” Answers poured in from around the United States and they included statements like, “My beloved porcelain doll,” “My original-edition Nancy Drew collection,” “My computer,” “My journals,” “My three dogs, four birds, three turtles, and two goldfish.” But the response that stood out above all the rest was from Rick Brueckmann in Lemont, Illinois. He said, “The one thing I’d save in a fire is…my wife.” Great answer!
Reader’s Digest, March 2017, p.35
February 2020
33
MONEY
In a featured business article about finances and dating, it was reported that 30% of Millennials and Gen Z say their financial stability is having an effect on their readiness to find a true relationship. Few couples feel financially ready to get married, but debt and overspending have taken that reality to a new level.
USA Today, 7/31/19, p.1B
February 2020
34
REGRETS
In 2016, Strayer University released a video of a social experiment they conducted in New York City. A large chalkboard was placed in lower Manhattan’s Petrosino Square with the words, “WRITE YOUR BIGGEST REGRET.” For an entire day New Yorkers had the opportunity to share their regrets and the results were telling. For much of the morning people inquisitively stared at the board, took pictures, and then walked away. After watching for a while, a young woman took the first piece of chalk and wrote, “Not following my artistic passions.” Mob mentality soon set in and the board filled up with colorful declarations of regret. The chalked comments uniquely carried a common theme, regrets over things not done: “Not getting my MBA,” “Not saying ’I love you,’” “Not being a better husband,” “Not having kids before my dad passed away.” Many regrets involved relationships, which follows the findings of a psychology study at the University of Illinois. That research found the top two regrets of a typical American involve romance and family. One man’s regret over relational breakdown sadly revealed that. He wrote, “Not building bridges.” We can’t change our regrets from the past, but we can move forward with a resolve to give relationships our best efforts.
Independent.co.uk, 2/15/16
February 2020
35
RELATIONSHIPS
In America, 45% of adults say they find it difficult to make new friends. And the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years. Part of the problem may lie in the effort it requires. Research shows that it takes 50 hours to move from acquaintance to casual friend – then 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend. It requires more than 200 hours before someone becomes a close friend. Relationships are anything but easy, but they’re certainly worth the time and effort.
Daily Briefing, 5/15/19
February 2020
36
LOVE
Canadian author Kelly Oxford isn’t an expert on love but she does have a clever thought about it. She tweeted, “Trust me, you want ‘heels over head’ in love. ‘Head over heels’ in love is just, like…standing.”
Reader’s Digest, February 2014, p.115
February 2020
37
MARRIAGE
Darlene told her friend about buying Girl Scout cookies that have 90% fewer calories. The astonished friend asked, “How?” Darlene explained, “My husband eats 90% of every box.” Marriage does have its perks.
Beaumont Enterprise, 2/4/20, p.B4
February 2020
38
MARRIAGE
Francis and Rosemary Klontz have been married for nearly 70 years. The couple from Sacramento, California have made news because of their clothes custom. They started dating in Junior High and Rosemary’s mom bought them matching outfits for one particular event. Mrs. Klontz said, “We’ve been matching ever since.” Every day she coordinates what they’ll wear and then lays out his clothes. Of the long-standing tradition, Francis humorously says, “I don’t have a thing to worry about!” Marriage offers plenty of ways to communicate that unique and exclusive bond.
Examiner, 8/22/19, p.13C
February 2020
39
MARRIAGE
Barbra Streisand asked, “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man, then complain he’s not the man she married?”
Reader’s Digest, October 2016, p.83
February 2020
40
DEVOTION
Famed actor Kirk Douglas died on February 5, 2020 at the age of 103. Several generations of movie-goers saw at least one of his 87 films, but his most enduring role was that of Spartacus in 1960. He was so well-known for this role that his wife, Anne, set up their answering machine to say, “Spartacus and I are not home at the moment, please leave a message.” In Spartacus, Douglas played the lead as an insurgent slave revolting against the Roman empire. His army wreaked havoc on Rome until they were surrounded and captured. Rome declared that the entire army of slaves could go free if they revealed their infamous leader Spartacus. It was decreed that Spartacus was all Rome wanted and they planned to crucify him. In one of Hollywood’s most powerful scenes, Douglas stands up as the condemned leader, only to find his best friend, played by Tony Curtis, stands up at the same time and yells, “I’m Spartacus!” Immediately, a third member of the army stands claiming to be Spartacus. Then individually, and in groups, the entire army stands as Spartacus (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q). Rather than accept freedom, this army of slaves stands to defend their leader, which means they will all be crucified. It’s a glimpse of devotion, but to see a real picture of devotion, we need to look no further than the Cross where we see what Christ has sacrificed for us.
The Week, 2/21/20, p.35
February 2020
41
EVANGELISM
Francine Rivers is a New York Times Bestselling author who has written numerous books, most notably Redeeming Love, which is a novel inspired by the book of Hosea. Although her parents were Christians and involved in a church, Rivers said, “I had head knowledge, but it didn’t transform me.” In adulthood, faith was nothing more than an afterthought. Her marriage was unraveling and headed for divorce so they moved to North Carolina near family to see if they could work things out. The couple, with their three children, moved into a rental house. The 8-year-old boy next door met them and said, “Have I got a church for you!” They started attending the church with their neighbors and that became the hinge-point of her life. She said, “I think I was saved as a child, but there’s a difference between having a Savior and having a Lord.” She explained, “That changed everything for me. I’d been relying on my own way of doing things and trying to fix things on my own. Now I was living for God, not myself.” Millions of people have been impacted by that transformation in her life because the common thread of her books is redemption. If God can use a little boy of 8 to usher in eternal change, He can use any of us if we will make ourselves available to Him.
Today’s Christian Living, November 2018, p.6
February 2020
42
GOD
Ben Hart won an unusual case against the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in mid-February 2020. He sued the state for not permitting his requested license plate, “IM GOD.” The transportation department said it violated anti-discrimination guidelines, but a federal judge ruled that “vanity plates” are private speech protected by the First Amendment. Kentucky must now pay Hart more than $150,000 and the avowed atheist can drive around claiming to be God. The First Commandment (Exodus 20:2-3) is more important than the First Amendment, but sadly, many don’t believe it.
Beaumont Enterprise, 2/20/20, p.A2
February 2020
43
KNOWLEDGE
Lou Scofield is listed in Best Lawyers in America and is also among Texas Super Lawyers. He’s never at a loss for words and can speak on most any subject, yet he’s wisely written, “If we knew half of what we think we know we’d be brilliant.” We are indeed less knowledgeable than we think.
A Word From Lou, Lou Scofield, 2019, p.79
February 2020
44
RELATIONSHIPS
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. In a 2019 interview she explained how Facebook did something few companies ever consider; they changed their mission statement. Facebook has over 2.5 billion active users and is the most popular social media platform in the world. With that scope and influence, and the realization that their previous plan to make the world “more open and connected” wasn’t enough, Facebook revealed their new mission statement in 2017: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Whether in industry, schools, neighborhoods, families, or churches, we face that ongoing challenge to help people build community rather than just be connected.
Fight For It, North Point Community Church, 5/12/19
February 2020
45
SELF
Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) was a missionary who served in India for 55 years without ever taking a furlough. She was the author of many books and made this insightful comment, “Those who think too much of themselves don’t think enough.” In response we must ask, are we thinking enough?
Today’s Christian Living, November 2018, p.57
February 2020
46
SKEPTICISM
On February 22, 2020, Mike Hughes’ life came to a tragic end. The California resident died in his home-built rocket shortly after liftoff. The 64-year-old, known as “Mad” Mike, was determined to reach outer space to see for himself if the earth is round. In a video he’d posted, Hughes said, “I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it. I don’t know if the world is flat or round.” Skepticism may push us to discover truth, but far more often it actually suppresses the truth.
Beaumont Enterprise, 2/24/20, p.A2
February 2020
47
USEFULNESS
Harrison Ford has been plying his trade as an actor for five decades, and spent the first 15 years of his career doing carpentry in-between jobs. He had no idea he’d pack up his tools for good when he took on the role of Han Solo in the 1977 surprise hit Star Wars. He then gained another blockbuster role as Indiana Jones when Tom Selleck had to give it up because he couldn’t get out of his contract for Magnum, P.I. In a recent interview, Ford closed out the conversation with those words he gives to anyone asking him for advice of any kind. The veteran actor said the best advice he can give is, “Learn how to be useful. It’ll take a lot of mystery out of life.”
Parade, 2/23/20, Cover Story
February 2020
48
CONFLICT
A marriage counselor described one particularly argumentative couple as “a hockey game without a referee.”
Beaumont Enterprise, 11/3/19, p.SC3
February 2020
49
PEOPLE
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was one of the most accomplished violinists of his day. A high society woman in Chicago invited him to play at an event she was hosting so he told her his fee was $3,000. She accepted, but added, “But of course, it’s understood that you will refrain from mixing with my guests.” Kreisler wrote back, “In that case, madam, the fee will be only $2,000.”
Obie’s Opus, Obie Yadgar, 2007, p.61
February 2020
50
TECHNOLOGY
Jack hollered, “HELLO” at Echo Point only to hear, “Your echo is very important to us and will be answered in the order it was received. For quality and training purposes your echo may be recorded.”
Today’s Christian Living, November 2018, p.54
February 2020
51
BURDENS
Sheila Walsh is a singer, author, Bible teacher, and television host. In her 2020 book, Praying Women, she wrote of her only pregnancy. She married in her late 30s and then began praying fervently for a child. It wasn’t until she was 39 that she became pregnant. She was ecstatic and told everyone, even complete strangers. Because she wouldn’t deliver until she was 40, additional tests were required. The doctor later called and asked for Walsh and her husband to come in. She explained, “Your baby is incompatible with life.” They sat in stunned silence and then the whole conversation became like a foreign language. She couldn’t hear or understand what was being said. The doctor’s mouth was moving but it was like she was under a glass dome…until she suggested terminating the pregnancy. Walsh snapped back to reality and replied, “No! Absolutely not. This little one will have every day God has planned for him to live.” She spiraled into depression not understanding why God gave her the child she’d pleaded for, but was now taking him away. Weeks went by until she woke up one morning and drove to the beach in Southern California near their home. She walked to the water’s edge and poured out her heart to God. She prayed, “I don’t know how this will end, but I’m not letting go of You for one moment. You didn’t promise me happiness, but You did promise You would never leave me. I’m not letting go. I’m not giving up. You and me – we’re in this together.” It was her turning point. She prayed relentlessly “not for a perfect outcome but for the presence of a perfect Father.” At the 35th week of her pregnancy, the doctor called and explained how there had been a charting error. The report she received was actually that of another 40-year-old patient. There had never been anything wrong with the baby boy in her womb. Walsh fell to her knees and thanked God, and then prayed for the other woman who would be getting horrible news. She wrote, “I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I’ve often wondered if I was allowed to carry her burden for a while.” Carrying the burden of someone else can be one of life’s greatest gift – for them and for us. She named her son Christian, and he’s now a grown man.
Praying Women, Sheila Walsh, 2020, p.51
March 2020
52
CRITICAL SPIRIT
While watching her brother Linus read a book in the Peanuts comic strip, Lucy declared, “It’s very strange. It happens just by looking at you.” Linus asked in reply, “What happens?” To which his feisty sister answered, “I can feel a criticism coming on.” In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a central character named Mr. Darcy is described as a man “who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish.” Whether from the funny pages or a classic piece of literature, we are reminded of the pervasive, pernicious nature of criticism and critical spirits.
Humility, C.J. Mahaney, 2005, p.97
March 2020
53
MARRIAGE
The novelty of a Leap Year afforded a rather unusual event in the small town of Hell, Michigan (about 20 miles from Ann Arbor). Organizers from this community put together a mass wedding ceremony conducted by Revered Yvonne Williams at 2:29 on 2/29/20. 29 couples assembled to exchange vows and rings in Hell for free on that day at that time. The minister stated, “When you get married in Hell, there’s nowhere for your marriage to go but up.” Even if it’s not Leap Year, anyone can get married in Hell, Michigan, but it takes the power of Heaven to produce a fulfilling marriage that honors the One who created marriage…and everything else.
USA Today, 2/24/20, p.4A
March 2020
54
MIRACLES
Cecil B. DeMille’s epic, The Ten Commandments, was released in a special Blu-ray collector’s edition on March 10, 2020. The release included the original 1923 silent movie plus the fully restored 1956 classic with voices, music & sound effects. Several unique vignettes were noted: DeMille cast Charlton Heston as Moses after seeing Michelangelo’s statue of Moses and thought the actor resembled it; the voice for God in the burning bush scene was none other than Heston’s; baby Moses was Heston’s little 3-month-old son Fraser. The movie won an Oscar for its special effects and the most dramatic was that of the Red Sea parting. To create an illusion of the sea actually parting, DeMille used two massive tanks and flooded them with 350,000 gallons of water mixed with gelatin to thicken the substance, and then added huge wind machines. The scene was filmed as the tanks filled up, then the footage was shown in reverse to create the appearance of the Red Sea parting. As human beings, we can create illusions of miracles, but only God can do the real thing…and He can do it in forward or reverse.
Parade, 3/8/20, p.2
March 2020
55
PARENTING
It takes serious stamina to be a parent these days. Research discovered today’s parents are so busy that they eat more than 150 meals a year standing up. If you’re a 3-mealer per day, that’s over 14% of your meals.
Beaumont Enterprise, 8/11/19, p.B6
March 2020
56
PERSPECTIVE
It was G.K. Chesterton who said this about perspective: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.”
The Week, 10/4/19, p.23
March 2020
57
SMILING
Smile at someone and they’ll probably smile back because smiling is powerful. And, it might just help you live longer. On February 23, 2020, Chitetsu Watanabe died in Niigate, Japan as the oldest man on earth. He was born on March 5, 1907, just a little over three years after the Wright brothers flew for the first time on December 17, 1903. When Watanabe was recognized as the oldest living man by Guinness World Records, he became a celebrity and was asked about his secret to longevity. The Supercentenarian explained the key was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.” He died just ten days short of being 113 and made a very good case for smiling often.
SmithsonianMag.com, 2/26/20
March 2020
58
CREATIVITY
Comedian Todd Williams noted on Twitter, “If IKEA and LEGO combined forces, our children could make our furniture.”
Reader’s Digest, June 2016, p.25
March 2020
59
IMPROVEMENT
In the popular comic strip Zits, the three main teenage male characters are perpetually trying to succeed with their disastrous band. When given the opportunity to play at the assisted living facility where Hector’s grandmother lives, Pierce and Jeremy are unenthused. Hector then challenges them saying the only way their band will improve is by playing in front of people. Pierce lays down his drumsticks and confusingly asks, “Wait, we’re trying to get BETTER?” Jeremy then sighs, “Seems like something we should have voted on.” Not everyone sees the need for improvement, and some won’t entertain the idea without first voting on it.
Houston Chronicle, 3/5/20, p.D11
March 2020
60
POLITICS
While Adlai Stevenson campaigned for the Democratic nomination in the 1950s, a zealous supporter yelled, “Every thinking American will vote for you!” Steven-son replied, “That’s not enough, I need a majority.”
Reader’s Digest, June 2016, p.25
March 2020
61
ACCOUNTABILITY
Zoom Video Conferencing literally zoomed during the COVID-19 crisis as we all scrambled for ways to communicate in groups. Businesses, leaders, Bible study classes, and physicians learned to use the app to connect while sheltering in place. Participants feel a little like they’re on the iconic game show Hollywood Squares with each person’s face displayed in a little square on the screen. It’s been a great tool, but beware…Zoom offers an “attendee attention tracking” feature that can be activated to detect if you’re paying attention. Those tweeting, answering email, or multitasking during the Zoom conference can be ratted out by the app to let the boss or supervisor know they’re not engaged. I’d hate to see the results if that feature was turned on during one of my sermons, but more accurately, God is continuously aware of our every thought and action (Psalm 139:1-4) so we better give Him our undivided attention.
USA Today, 3/23/20, p.4B
March 2020
62
EFFORT
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994) said, “One man can make a difference, and every man should try.”
Saturday Evening Post, March/April 2020, p.58
March 2020
63
EMPATHY
Judith Jagger was pulling into her Ohio cancer center for another round of chemotherapy when she inadvertently veered too far out of her lane in the parking area. A woman was coming the opposite way and let her anger be known with her gestures and her mouth. Judith started to cry and wondered why this lady didn’t have the decency to realize that everyone trying to park there is dealing with cancer. She later came to realize that this woman was battling cancer too, so she was probably feeling the exact same way. Empathy begins when we start to comprehend the pain of others.
Reader’s Digest, April 2016, p.28
March 2020
64
GOD
Ronnie Floyd has written, “’But God’ is one of the greatest phrases in the New Testament. In Ephesians 2:4-5, we’re reminded of our hopeless estate, “But God…made us alive with Christ.” In a similar passage, Matthew 19:26, Jesus confirmed our limitations and then noted, “but with God all things are possible.” Hope and strength will never be found in us, “but God” is our eternal answer.
Living Fit, Ronnie Floyd, 2018, p.33
March 2020
65
PERSEVERANCE
Christi Wadle is a writer from Houston that recently wrote a beautiful tribute about her brother David, who died of Hunter’s syndrome in 2010. This rare disease affects 2,000 people worldwide and wreaks havoc because of an enzyme deficiency preventing the breakdown of sugars. It creates stiff joints, curled hands, a distended abdomen, enlarged liver & spleen, and in David’s case, hearing loss, stunted growth and difficulty walking. But that never stopped him because he was tough and determined. After graduating from High School, David was able to function independently in his own apartment and worked at a movie theater. He eventually earned an associate’s degree by taking one class per semester, which led to a part-time job at an engineering company that he held for six months before dying at 31. Wadle said her brother never asked, “Why me?” He just kept moving forward. A defining moment of his perseverance occurred when as a boy he wanted to be a BMX racer. Knowing the challenges of riding a bicycle through rough terrain with his condition, his mother asked, “What will you do if you fall down?” David replied simply, “I’ll get up.” This young boy who struggled to open a Coke can, had trouble turning a door handle to open a door, and dreamed of a day when he could put on his socks by himself, understood the essence of perseverance better than most of us who face far fewer obstacles and challenges. Just…get up.
Houston Chronicle, 3/6/20, p.A17
March 2020
66
PRAYER
Aram was exhausted from the shoveling job he’d been working on for his next-door-neighbor. Mrs. Back invited the young boy in for a piece of pie and a cold glass of milk. It was delicious and refreshing, but he simply wanted to get paid and go home. But before he could escape, the 80-year-old widow insisted on a second helping, all the while talking to him as she slowly moved through the kitchen. None of the neighborhood kids wanted to get stuck listening to Mrs. Back because she seemed oblivious to the fact that they didn’t like listening to her lengthy monologues. Ten years later, Aram became a Christian while attending a bachelor party at Harvard Square. Several days later he felt compelled to tell Mrs. Back. He hadn’t told anybody about his life-changing decision and now he sensed the need to let her know. She was in her backyard hanging up clothes to dry so he walked to the fence and asked her, “Mrs. Back, do you know what it means to be ‘born again?’” Her late husband was a pastor so she smiled and replied, “Why, yes I do.” Aram told her he had given his life to Christ and Mrs. Back asked that he stay right there. The 90-year-old woman hobbled to her back door and was gone for about ten minutes before emerging with a piece of chocolate cake. She smiled and insisted that he eat it as she celebrated with him. After several minutes, Mrs. Back told Aram, “For the last fifteen years, since you moved in, I have prayed every day for you and for Paul (Aram’s friend who lived on the other side of her house). I prayed every day that you would come to know Jesus.” Prayer matters!
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey, 2006, p.310
March 2020
67
SHARING
When the pandemic took off, so did toilet paper. It was about as scarce as gold, even though there was an abundance of it stored in a number of bathroom cabinets all across America. To combat this disturbing phenomenon, Jonny Blue took to the streets in Southern California and tried to rectify the problem. He held up a homemade cardboard sign that read, “Share your toilet paper.” Drivers honked in support and stopped to give him a few rolls, but just as quickly as receiving them, Blue passed them on to other drivers who were in short supply. The physical therapist from Encinitas, California said his impromptu toilet paper exchange was spawned by his desire to “encourage people to be better.”
USA Today, 3/18/20, p.5D
March 2020
68
BOREDOM
Pan Shancu is a marathoner in China who hit the wall of boredom while being sequestered in his tiny apartment for the government imposed COVID-19 quarantine in 2020. He said, “I have not been outside for many days, but today I could not bear sitting around anymore.” He shuffled around the furniture and created a 26-foot track on which he ran 6,250 laps - 31 miles in circles. He clocked a time of 4 hours, 48 minutes, and 44 seconds. Afterwards Shancu reported, “I am sweating all over, feels great!”
The Week, 2/28/20, p.12
March 2020
69
HOARDING
COVID kicked off a hoarding epidemic, so teachers began using this new concept for math. Question: If you have six apples in one hand and seven apples in the other hand, what do you have? Answer: Seriously big hands.
AARP, March 2020, p.46
March 2020
70
OPPORTUNITIES
Comedienne Lily Tomlin put a new twist on the advice to seize opportunities. She said, “Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.”
Reader’s Digest, June 2016, p.25
March 2020
71
CHURCH
As we gathered for Christmas in 2019, nobody could have imagined we wouldn’t be able to congregate for Easter. We just assumed we’d come together for the Resurrection after having celebrated the Incarnation just a few months earlier. For many, these are the two main times they amble in to church. And for a number of others, they presume the church will always be there when they transition to a less chaotic season of life and have more time for it. Although Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) didn’t attend church nor profess faith in Christ, he wrote two thoughts that are apropos for us all. He said, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” He also noted, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Huxley died the same day as C.S. Lewis, November 22, 1963. Both were brilliant thinkers steeped in humanistic thought as highly educated adults, but Lewis came to realize he could not ignore the facts about Christ or take for granted what He did. We should consider Huxley’s two comments and follow Lewis’ example.
The Little Red Book of Wisdom, Mark DeMoss, 2011, p.99
April 2020
72
EASTER
Jonathan Wainwright was the only U.S. General to be captured in WWII. General Douglas MacArthur had given the orders, “No surrender. Fight to the end.” But intense fighting in the Philippines pushed Wainwright to surrender. For months in a Mongolia POW camp, he was immersed in self-condemnation for having surrendered to the enemy. His body deteriorated under the harsh conditions and he was forced to hobble around on a cane. When MacArthur ultimately prevailed, the Japanese were forced to surrender. Wainwright was now free, but he continued to live as a prisoner because the news had not reached Mongolia. An Allied plane landed near the POW camp and an American officer walked to the fence. He saluted Wainwright and said, “General, Japan has surrendered.” With this new information, Wainwright stood tall, limped to the commandant’s office and declared, “My commander-in-chief has defeated your commander-in-chief. I am in control now. I order you to surrender!” Without a shot being fired, the Japanese commandant laid down his weapon and surrendered to the emaciated, weak man he had once controlled. The power of that transaction was not dependent upon Wainwright’s strength, but on the truth of what had occurred. When Jesus arose from the grave, His actions declared victory and liberation for anyone who will accept the truth of what He has done. The Grace Walk Devotional,
Steve McVey, 2013, p.181
April 2020
73
EASTER
In the introduction to his sermon The Sympathy of the Two Worlds, Charles Spurgeon stated, “The only full heart is the overflowing heart.” His statement challenges us to truthfully ask, “Is my heart really full?”
Spurgeon.org
April 2020
74
RESURRECTION
Many people look at Jesus’ resurrection with skepticism or outright disbelief. They argue that we must focus on that which is certain or scientifically verifiable. Ironically, the field of science actually confirms uncertainty. The “Uncertainty Principle” is a key scientific principle and it states that we cannot know both the speed and location of subatomic particles. Aspects of these fundamental building blocks of life escape the most brilliant minds so it shouldn’t surprise us that there are limits to our finite under-standing. We’re all free to reject the evidence of Christ and His resurrection, but it can’t be done with certainty. It requires faith.
God’s Not Dead, Rice Brooks, 2013, p.159
April 2020
75
SACRIFICE
In May of 2006, Dr. Samuel Weinstein performed one of the most unusual surgeries of his storied career. The pediatric cardiothoracic chief surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York had traveled to El Salvador for life-saving procedures on needy children. Through the ministry of Heart Care International, Dr. Weinstein was set up to operate on the heart of 8-year-old Francisco Fernandez. Although the surgery was going well, the young boy was bleeding a lot and they didn’t have an adequate supply of medicine to slow the blood loss. He also had a very rare blood type, B-negative, which only 2% of people have. Uniquely, Dr. Weinstein had the same blood type so he stepped away from the operating table and gave a pint of blood while his colleagues continued. Twenty minutes later, he rehydrated, ate a Pop-Tart, and then completed the successful operation with his own blood saving the boy’s life. On a scale infinitely larger, Christ gave His blood to save the life of every sinner who accepts the indescribable gift of God’s love and forgiveness.
Leadership Journal, Fall 2006, p.71
April 2020
76
SALVATION
Dr. Francis Collins is a medical doctor & geneticist who was appointed by President Clinton to head the Human Genome Project. His team successfully decoded the three billion genes of human DNA. Collins spent much of his early life looking at Jesus as a fairy tale suitable only for bedtime stories. But as his career evolved, he was deeply impacted by the faith he saw in some of his desperately ill patients. He researched history and was amazed at the evidence concerning Christ. Collins wondered how a rational scientist could believe in such “difficult stuff” like the resurrection. He concluded. “If Christ really was the Son of God, as He explicitly claimed, then surely of all those who had ever walked the earth, He could suspend the laws of nature if He needed to do so to achieve a more important purpose.” Ultimately, it wasn’t the evidence that held him back, but his pride. Collins wrote, “My desire to draw close to God was blocked by my own pride and sinfulness, which in turn was an inevitable consequence of my own selfish desire to be in control.” Understanding the incomparable value of exchanging his pride and control for God’s grace eventually led Collins to embrace Christ as Lord. Dr. Collins’ story mirrors so many in that we realize it’s not the evidence that prevents us from believing in the resurrected Christ, it’s often our pride.
The Language of God, Francis Collins, 2006, p.221
April 2020
77
FAITH
For Easter in 2019, Ikea began selling a 3-piece “Self-Assembly Milk Chocolate Bunny.” The Swedish home furniture retailer created this novelty so buyers could attach the ears to a slot on the head and a stand for the legs. It’s chocolate, and it’s an abstract looking rabbit, but the buyer is reminded that assembly is required. Faith can’t be given to us or experienced for us by another. It requires “self-assembly.”
People, 3/25/19, p.6
April 2020
78
BUSYNESS
An unexpected result of the COVID-19 pandemic was the quieting of our planet. Seismologist were intrigued by what their seismographs revealed. During the shut-down of so much activity around the world, the earth itself actually became less active. In some places, the vibrations caused by human activity dropped 33% and left the earth a much more tranquil planet. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to be still so we can recognize God. Maybe the forced stillness will ultimately remind the nations to exalt Him.
NYTimes.com
April 2020
79
GOD
For those not accustomed to playing games on their phone or tablet, a certain app called “Pocket God” may be unfamiliar. For just 99¢ at the App Store you can pretend you are God over a remote island. It’s your choice to be cruel or kind as you exercise infinite powers over the islanders subjected to you. You’re in charge, so do as you please…and see how you would operate as God. Of course, we don’t need an app to do what this game from Bolt Creative suggests. All it takes is a problem, disappointment, or pandemic and we begin to speculate how we’d handle things differently if we were God. And sometimes we even remind Him that He’s wrong. That first temptation in the Garden of Eden teaches us about the danger of trying to be God, or trying to put Him in our pocket.
Apple.com
April 2020
80
POSSESSIONS
About six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, Billy Graham came to New Orleans with his son Franklin for an event called Celebration of Hope. They surveyed the hardest hit areas and saw the storms’ carnage. The media was in tow so someone asked the senior evangelist, “Mr. Graham, what can we learn from Katrina?” Dr. Graham, 87-years-old at the time, replied, “That there’s much more to life than material things.” All these years later the same message holds true regardless of the circumstances.
The Little Red Book of Wisdom, Mark DeVoss, 2011, p.102
April 2020
81
PRIDE
At his press conference on April 17, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo carelessly declared that God was inconsequential in the pandemic. Addressing the changing trend of COVID-19 in New York, Cuomo said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that…That’s how it works. It’s math. And if you don’t continue to do that, you’re going to see that number go back up. And that will be a tragedy if that number goes back up.” Extemporaneous communication accompanied by exhaustion can be a bad combination, so hopefully the governor wasn’t dismissing God like a set of used hospital gloves. Two things did stand out though: the major media didn’t even mention his remarks about God, and it reflects the opinion of many Americans…even those claiming to be Christians. It’s easy to dogpile Cuomo for what he said, and his words should be challenged, but too often we repeat the sentiment with our actions rather than our words. As we pray for spiritual awakening throughout the world, let’s confess our transgressions of not honoring God as the giver of every good gift.
NationalReview.com
April 2020
82
RELATIONSHIPS
Telecommunications providers ramped up for higher volume on the Internet once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but they weren’t prepared for the big surprise with voice calls. Using the phone to talk with someone has been in steady decline for years as email, texting, and social media have been supplanting the use of vocal cords. But a virus dramatically reversed that trend. When the pandemic took off in April of 2020, Verizon started handling about 800 million calls per day. That’s more than twice the number of calls made on Mother’s Day, which is historically one of the year’s busiest days for phone calls. Length of calls also went up by 33% in contrast to the average time before people started sheltering in place. Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, said, “We’ve become a nation that calls like never before. We are craving human voice.” Verizon’s chief technology officer, Kyle Malady, echoed the same observation: “The move to staying at home has reignited people’s hunger to stay connected, voice to voice.” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s executive vice president of technology and operations said, “Voice is the new killer app. It’s been a real surprise.” A global pandemic helped us relearn something about what matters most.
NYTimes.com
April 2020
83
SALVATION
April 17, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the splashdown of Apollo 13. That historic flight was dubbed a “successful failure” by flight director Gene Krantz who insisted that “failure is not an option.” At 7:07 p.m. on April 13, 1970, an oxygen tank exploded and instantly changed the moon voyagers’ mission. Astronaut Jack Swigert stated, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Mission Control didn’t understand what he said, so Commander Jim Lovell repeated, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” That phrase was slightly altered for Ron Howard’s 1995 epic movie about Apollo 13 and it became a catchphrase for a crisis, “Houston, we have a problem.” Uniquely, those words were uttered by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, who played Jim Lovell in the movie, and it was Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson who became two of the first celebrities to ‘have a problem’ with COVID-19. Before that oxygen tank exploded two-thirds of the way to the moon, those three crew members faced 50-50 odds of a successful mission. After the explosion, their odds plummeted. In their time of desperation, they didn’t call for Paris, Rio, Hong Kong or Sydney. Houston was their only lifeline so they stated their problem and depended on Houston’s Mission Control to save them. Our problem of sin cannot be handled by anyone other than Jesus (John 14:6/Acts 4:12) so it only makes sense that we should call for Him to save us.
Beaumont Enterprise, 4/13/20, p.A5
April 2020
84
BILLS
Long before anybody could imagine a pandemic, the Landlord Protection Agency posted the following excuses people had given for dodging rent: “I didn’t pay the rent because I’m saving up to move.” “My last landlord had no problem with me paying late. This seems to be a real big issue with you.” “I’m getting very tired of paying this rent every month. You’ll just have to wait.” Truthfully, we’re all tired of paying bills every month.
Reader’s Digest, May 2017, p.69
April 2020
85
FRUSTRATION
In a Peanuts comic, Lucy storms into the room where Linus is watching TV and screams, “I CAN’T GET ALONG WITH THIS FAMILY!! I GIVE UP!!” Linus pensively asks, “Where do you go to give up?”
Houston Chronicle, 4/25/20, p.D5
April 2020
86
GUIDANCE
Ann Cappello was driving in unfamiliar territory so she activated her GPS. While crossing a bridge, it said, “Make a right turn.”
Reader’s Digest, May 2017, p.93
April 2020
87
SOCIAL DISTANCING
News anchor Julie Banderas tweeted: “How long is this social distancing supposed to last? My husband keeps trying to get into the house.”
Houston Chronicle, 3/27/20, pA2
April 2020
88
DUPLICITY
May 19, 2020 marked the 25th anniversary for the epic war movie Braveheart. Mel Gibson directed and starred in the blockbuster drama about Scottish rebel leader William Wallace. To this day many people still repeat that famous last word Wallace cried out before the executioner’s blade ended his life: “Freedom!” To create the movie’s massive battle scenes, Gibson actually used Ireland instead of Scotland and employed 1,800 members of the Irish Defence Forces. Computer generated crowds were not yet mastered so Gibson dressed the troops as the English army one day and then had them arrayed as Scottish rebels the next. Reflecting back on that time years ago, Gibson laughed, “They were playing both sides…It was crazy.” It is indeed crazy when we dabble in duplicity and alter who we are from one day to the next.
USA Today, 5/13/20, p.6B
May 2020
89
KINDNESS
Free-floating hostility is residual anger that carries over from situations or circumstances and manifests itself in seemingly inappropriate ways. The abrupt altering of our daily lives during the pandemic prevented us from doing many things we take for granted, and consequentially left each of us more irritable than we might care to admit. This powder-keg of pent-up frustrations actually spread faster than the virus, so it’s always good to remember initiatives like 1-4-3 Day. In 2019, Pennsylvania established a new tradition for honoring Fred Rogers (1928-2003), who spent most of his life in the keystone state and wielded his world-wide influence as Mr. Rogers from the WQED studio in Pittsburgh. Roger’s favorite phrase was, “I love you,” so the day was formed from the number of letters in each word of that phrase, and then put together to create the 143rd day of the year (May 23rd most years and May 22nd in Leap Years). It’s an occasion for people to demonstrate love for others by doing tangible acts of kindness and gratitude. The University of Pittsburgh recalled the legacy of Rogers’ kindness by sending out a tweet on 1-4-3 Day 2020 that stated, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind, the second way is to be kind and the third way is to be kind.” When frustrations are running high, kindness is a wonderful way to temper tempers.
Beaumont Enterprise, 5/24/20, p.A14
May 2020
90
LIFE
The global spread of COVID-19 taxed the supply chain of many goods and services, including that of coffins. To help address the shortage, ABC Displays in Colombia developed a cardboard hospital bed with metal railings that can be converted into a coffin. The temporary beds cost just $85 and can hold up to 330 pounds. It’s hard to imagine lying on a bed that might be used for your burial, but it is a stark reminder that our life on earth is temporary at best.
Examiner, 5/21/20, p.21B
May 2020
91
OVERCOMING
In 2020, Maria Branyas was not only the oldest woman in Spain, but was also one of the oldest survivors of COVID-19. While living in a nursing home in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, Maria tested positive in April 2020 and her family feared the worst. At least 17 other residents at her facility died from the virus, so they assumed a similar fate. But she survived in one of the world’s hardest hit countries. After beating the odds, the 113-year-old Maria said, “As far as my health, I feel good, with the little issues everyone has as we get older, but I feel fine.” It’s hard to imagine that this is the second global pandemic Maria has survived. She was born on March 4, 1907 in San Francisco and remembers crossing the Atlantic on a boat during World War I when the Spanish Flu was ravaging the world a century ago. Her story of overcoming should inspire us all and foster some much-needed encouragement.
Houston Chronicle, 5/16/20, p.A2
May 2020
92
PERSEVERANCE
May 25, 2020 marked the 85th anniversary for Babe Ruth’s final homerun. On that historic day at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, George Herman Ruth actually hit his last three homeruns – numbers 712, 713 & 714. The famed ballplayer, who left an indelible mark on baseball, understood the power of perseverance. He said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” It’s true on the field and in life.
Parade, 5/17/20, p.6
May 2020
93
TEMPTATION
Many people watched Sweden as they approached COVID-19 differently than much of the world. They enforced few restraints and came up with some creative ways for trying to prevent the virus from spreading. In Lund, Sweden, officials were concerned about people gathering in the city’s central park for Walpurgis Night on April 30, 2020. It’s a traditional celebration of warmer days and shorter nights that includes picnics and bonfires. To discourage the normal gathering of 30,000 people in the park, they spread chicken manure all over it. Mayor Philip Sandberg explained, “We don’t want Lund to become an epicenter for the spread of the disease.” To defeat temptation, you need a strong and unpleasant deterrent.
Examiner, 5/21/20, p.21B
May 2020
94
VICTORY
One of the greatest feel-good moments in a sports movie is when Roy Hobbs hits the game-winning homerun that blows out the stadium lights in The Natural. Grown men choke up watching the 1984 drama starring Robert Redford when he hits his last “Goodbye Mr. Spalding” and circles the bases with sparks pouring onto the field. But there’s a major flaw. Hobbs’ vaulted hit would have been in the top of the 9th inning since he was playing for the New York Knights, the visiting team. Admittedly, it would be tough to finish the night-game with all of the lights blown out, but even though bat-boy Bobby Savoy was able to pick a “winner” for Hobbs, the Chicago Cubs would’ve still had their turn to bat as the home team. Hobbs played for the good guys, but the theatrics of that movie remind us that we live in a world where it sometimes feels like the game is over and we’ve lost…but the Lord hasn’t yet batted for the last time.
Parade, 5/17/20, p.7
May 2020
95
COMMUNICATION
Early in the process of adapting to new norms of the pandemic, Michael Knight posted this humorous note to ease some of the tensions. “They said a mask and gloves were enough to go to the grocery store. They lied. Everyone else had clothes on.” Sometimes messages aren’t clearly communicated.
Houston Chronicle, 3/27/20, p.A2
May 2020
96
ENVY
Novelist Arnold Bennett understood the power of envy when he wrote, “A true friend is one who likes you despite your achievements.”
The Week, 5/29/20, p.17
May 2020
97
GRADUATE ADVICE
Comedian John McDowell said, “It’s important to have a good vocabulary. If I had known the difference between the words antidote and anecdote, one of my good friends would still be living.”
Reader’s Digest, January 2014, p.77
May 2020
98
PESSIMISM
A pessimistic cat: “You only live once.”
Reader’s Digest, April 2016, p.18
May 2020
99
FATHERHOOD
Francis Chan and his wife established an expectation for their children that there’s no excuse for failing a test. So, when his oldest daughter came home with a failing grade, she knew there would be dire consequences. She showed her dad the test and then asked, “What are you going to do?” To her surprise, he replied, “We’re going out to dinner. We’re going to a movie and out for ice cream. I want you to experience grace.” Chan explained to her that he understood grace because of the many times and ways God provided undeserving love in the midst of all his failures. He then said, “I want you to see what it’s like to be blessed beyond belief when you really should have been punished.” The next day when she got home from school, she said, “I told my friends what you did.” Chan asked what her friends thought and she remarked, “They wish you were their dad.” Not every failure can be handled the same way, but when grace prevails, people take note and they’re reminded of our gracious Heavenly Father.
Passion, Louie Giglio, 2014, p.72
June 2020
100
FATHERHOOD
Father’s Day always finds a number of people hurting from the paternal relationship they wish they had. Bestselling author David Sedaris doesn’t espouse faith in Christ so his description of his relationship with his dad is doubly sad. He and his father always struggled to connect so he wrote of it this way: “We’re like a pair of bad trapeze artists, reaching for each other’s hands and missing every time.” Such words are hauntingly descriptive of far too many homes. Faith in Christ won’t mend every relationship, but it’s essential for any hope of improvement.
Calypso, David Sedaris, 2018, p.138
June 2020
101
FATHERHOOD
For a People magazine cover-story, Chip Gaines stated, “My kids made me a better man.” The interview included thoughts about how fatherhood had changed the Fixer Upper celebrity. Gaines explained, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to not be selfish - caring about someone else more than you care about yourself. And it’s made me a better team player.” Although Father’s Day is about celebrating our dads, it can be a good time to thank our kids for making us better men.
People, 6/17/19, p.44
June 2020
102
FATHER’S DAY
Even though Father’s Day occurs only once a year, the manual for fatherhood, God’s Word, reminds us of our Heavenly Father’s love every single day. Marketing expert Kerry Nations explains it like this: “The Bible is one long story of a Father so in love with His children that He spared no expense to reclaim them, even though it was the children who went astray.”
Mature Living, June 2018, p.26
June 2020
103
KINDNESS
Annie Glenn’s death on May 19, 2020 sparked news reports all across the country. The centenarian (1920-2020) was married to John Glenn for 73 years (the first American to orbit the earth and long-time senator from Ohio). She was a remarkable advocate for those who stuttered as she did, and she ushered in enormous help for people with speech impediments. Her son David said, “Through all of her life, the most prominent characteristic that my mother embodied, as far as I’m concerned, was how she loved and cared about others.” Journalist Connie Schultz said of her friend, “Annie treated everyone as this amazing surprise standing in front of her.” Imagine what our culture might look like if we treated one another like an amazing surprise.
Houston Chronicle, 6/7/20, p.A17
June 2020
104
MATURITY
Poet Alden Nowlan (1933-1983) insightfully wrote, “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult.” Wise words for today.
Reader’s Digest, February 2016, p.144
June 2020
105
PRESENCE
During his Christmas message at the White House on Sunday, December 16, 1973, Billy Graham spoke of a family in World War II. The father was away at war so the boy’s mother took him into the bedroom each day and showed him a framed portrait of his dad. After doing the same cherished routine for many days, the little boy said, “Mom, wouldn’t it be great if Dad could just step out of the frame?” COVID isolated many family members from seeing each other face-to-face, and it reminded us of the innate need to be present with those we love. Pandemic or not, we need to always keep figuring out ways to “step out of the frame.”
Decision, December 2014, p.20
June 2020
106
SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
In America, we tend to talk about “commitment” to Christ. But in Africa the perspective is different. When questions are asked about a Christian, believers want to know if he or she is “broken.” The interest is not in whether or not they’re knowledgeable, talented, or industrious. They want to know if a Christ follower has been broken of their pride and is walking humbly with the Lord. J.N. Darby wrote, “Pride is the greatest of all evils that beset us, and of all our enemies it is that which dies the slowest and hardest.” Spiritual awakening is always preceded by repentance, and that begins with brokenness over our sin.
Brokenness, Nancy DeMoss, 2002, p.87
June 2020
107
STRESS
A research project by Robert Epstein titled “What Makes a Good Parent” found that a parent’s ability to manage his or her stress was the second most effective parenting technique with only love & affection ranking higher. The way we handle stress in all situations, in & out of the home, is too important to disregard.
HomeLife, May 2019, p.11
June 2020
108
TEACHABILITY
John Wooden (1910-2010) was a legendary college basketball coach at UCLA, but he’s remembered more for the valuable life-lessons he taught throughout his entire life. His wisdom and guidance have permeated countless success stories in sports, business, and life. Upon reflection about his dad, Jim Wooden wrote of his legendary father: “He never stopped thinking about ways to make small improvements. He was always teaching, but he was also always learning.” The continuation of learning facilitates the continuation of growth.
Organize Tomorrow Today, Selk & Bartow, 2015, p.xi
June 2020
109
CONFLICT
Dan was complaining to a colleague about yet another argument with his wife. He said, “She’s very touchy – the least little thing I say seems to set her off.” Dave replied, “You’re lucky. My wife’s a self-starter.”
Laughter, Deborah DeFord, 1997, p.23
June 2020
110
FATHERHOOD
One father explained to his golfing buddies, “My son asked me what it’s like to be a dad, so I carelessly broke the screen on my phone and then made him pay for a new one.”
Reader’s Digest, June 2016, p.17
June 2020
111
PARENTING
In the comic strip Zits, Jeremy’s mom waived to him as he left the house with his friend Pierce. She yelled, “Have fun, guys! Don’t do anything stupid!” The two teenagers then turned to each other and Jeremy asked, “Do your parents give you mixed messages, too?” Pierce replied, “Constantly.”
Houston Chronicle, 6/2/20, p.D5
June 2020
112
AMERICA
Astronaut Frank Culbertson was circling the earth in the International Space Station on September 11, 2001. While cameras and eyes were fixed on the two burning towers in New York, he saw something more. Through the crackling communication link to NASA, Commander Culbertson spoke of what he saw from 250 miles above Manhattan. He said, “I just wanted the folks to know that their city still looks very beautiful from space. I know it’s very difficult for everybody in America right now. The country still looks good, and for New Yorkers, your city still looks great from up here.” The remarkable video clip shows a beautiful day in which the great tragedy is evident through the rising smoke, but it also reveals hundreds of millions of people in the United States that were alive and safe. It was a perspective that could only come from someone witnessing the events from above. There is great angst in America today, yet there is much that is good for which we can and should be thankful. Lord, please gives us eyes to see what You see from above, and hearts that are willing to respond appropriately.
Every Job A Parable, John Van Sloten, 2017, p.xv
June 2020
113
DIRECTION
Doug Hissong wrote about a trip he took to go spelunking. On the way, they got lost on an old country road so they pulled over to ask a farmer, “Is this the road to Waynesville?” He replied, “Yes, it is.” They quickly shouted their thanks and accelerated off when they barely heard the farmer say, “But you’re going the wrong way.” It certainly brings a smile, but it should also cause us to seriously evaluate the direction of our lives, families, communities, churches, and country. We may very well be on the right road, but it does us no good if we’re going the wrong way.
Reader’s Digest, June 2017, p.73
June 2020
114
HAPPINESS
The COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted at the University of Chicago in late May 2020, concluded that Americans are the unhappiest they have been in 50 years. And most of the interviews were completed before the death of George Floyd. The findings aren’t really news; just a harsh reminder.
USA Today, 6/17/20, p.3A
June 2020
115
PROBLEMS
A couple of years before his death, Billy Graham (1918-2018) was asked what he thought was the biggest problem of today’s world. The 97-year-old evangelist replied with three words: “the human heart.” He told how the Bible bluntly declares this and then quoted Jeremiah 17:9. He later added that he believed the main challenge for the world has always been the human heart. As noted in a previous issue, Dr. Graham often said, “We don’t have any possibility of solving our problems today, except through Jesus.” Many people are trying to fix the symptoms rather than the problem, and the result will only be greater frustration.
GospelHerald.com; WestgateChurch.com
June 2020
116
TRUST
On Thursday night, November 3, 1988, the Tishomingo Bulldogs were playing their rivals, the Falkner High School Eagles, in Mississippi. In order to secure a spot in the 1A division football playoffs, Tishomingo had to win that game by four points or more. The Bulldogs were 35 yards from the end zone and ahead 16-14 with seven seconds on the clock. Coach Dave Herbert had Lou Gehrig’s disease so he was seated on a flatbed truck along the sidelines contemplating the call for this final play. He knew a fifty-two-yard field goal was out of the question, and it was unlikely they could score on one play from the 35-yard-line. Tishomingo fans were ecstatic about a two-point win because Falkner was their nemesis and these seniors had never beaten them, but Coach Herbert had a different plan. Knowing their best shot for a playoff berth required them to force overtime and try to win by more than four points, Herbert called a play that’s still talked about all these years later in a popular book. The play so confused his team that they were assessed two delay of game penalties, and game film shows turmoil in the huddle as these players couldn’t believe their coach was asking them to throw away their hard-fought win. Coach Herbert’s son was the quarterback and he tried to explain the play but nobody in the huddle wanted to do it. When the play was finally executed, the stands fell silent. Herbert took the snap, and then pitched it to his running back Shane Hill, who ran 52-yards the wrong way. Tony Dawson, the sophomore ball boy, ran down the sidelines stride for stride with Hill yelling, “Shane, you’re going the wrong way!” In stunned silence, Hill slid into Tishomingo’s end zone, oblivious to the fact that he had just completed what would later be hailed as the greatest play in his school’s history. Hill’s stats for that night were negative 26 yards on 10 carries. With the score now tied, overtime began and Tishomingo won the game 22-16 to claim their spot in the playoffs. Coach Herbert was featured on the Today show, Brent Musburger talked about it on CBS’s NFL Today pregame show, and the story was even carried internationally; it went viral long before the Internet. Even though Tishomingo lost 22-14 to the Anguilla Bulldogs a week later in Coach David Herbert’s final game as a coach, that bold play demonstrates foresight to see what most can’t see in the moment, and it speaks of great trust. Those high school football players had to trust their coach for doing something that didn’t make any sense to them at the time. These are the issues of faith. We trust God for seeing what we can’t, while remaining confident that He has our best interest at heart.
Playing For Overtime, Al Ainsworth, 2019, p.194
June 2020
117
UNCERTAINTY
No one has to remind us these are uncertain days, but a few recent quotes from leaders help us realize we aren’t just imagining the uncertainty. Dr. Anthony Fauci asked and answered his own question: “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of really understanding.” Randal Quarles, the Federal Reserve vice chairman stated, “There’s probably never been more uncertainty about the economic outlook.” His boss, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, reiterated the same: “The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on our success in containing the virus.”
Houston Chronicle, 6/10/20, p.A26; 6/20/20,p.B2; 7/2/20, p.B1
June 2020
118
SOCIAL DISTANCING
In a recent Dennis the Menace comic strip, Mr. Wilson hung up the phone and told his wife Martha that “the Coronavirus wants to come over for milk and cookies.” He then explained why he didn’t want their little neighbor stopping by: “I take social distancing very seriously these days. I even stand six feet away when I’m looking at myself in the mirror.” With so many personal opinions being foisted as absolute and sovereign truth these days, we might all do well to practice a little more social distancing from ourselves.
Houston Chronicle, 6/28/20, p.U4
June 2020
119
STANDARDS
While waiting in line for the Space Mountain ride at Disney World, guests were entertained by a woman’s conniving creativity. Her young son wasn’t tall enough for the ride, so she reached into her backpack and pulled out a pair of high heels. The little guy gingerly walked “taller” until he was seated on the galactic rollercoaster. In our world of shifting standards, it seems like a lot of people are toting their own “high heels” so they can alter reality to their own choosing.
Reader’s Digest, June 2017, p.69
June 2020
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