After the US entered World War II in 1941, Estelle tried to talk her boyfriend Sidney out of joining the Army. But he enlisted and began his training in April of the following year. For the next 3 years he wrote her love letters—525 in all. Then in March 1945, she learned that her beloved fiancé had been killed in combat.
Astronomers discovered a star in the sky that has cooled and compressed into a giant diamond. The largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found on Earth is the Cullinan Diamond—at over 3,100 carats. So how many carats are in the cosmic diamond?—10 billion trillion trillion carats!
The documentary film Young@Heart gives a rollicking look at a senior chorus of 24 singers whose average age is 80. Filled with humor and poignant moments, the film includes this remarkable singing group’s deeply moving performance at a New England prison. When the concert concludes, the singers walk into the audience, greeting the surprised prisoners with handshakes and hugs.
In his classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller gives a striking picture of the care and gentleness of a shepherd. In verse 3 when David says, “He restores my soul,” he uses language every shepherd would understand.
We Christians can sometimes be a joyless lot, preoccupied with maintaining our dignity. That’s an odd attitude, though, since we’re joined to a God who has given us His wonderful gift of joy and laughter.
As a pastor, I was often asked to lead funeral services. Typically, the funeral director would give me a 3 x 5 index card with all the particulars about the deceased so I would be informed about him or her. I never got used to that, however. As practical and necessary as it may have been, it seemed a bit trite to take a person’s earthly sojourn and reduce it to an index card. Life is too big for that.
An organizational consultant in New York says that his graduate students typically recall only 5 percent of the main ideas in a presentation of graphs and charts, while they generally remember half of the stories told in the same presentation. There is a growing consensus among communication experts about the power of the personal touch in relating an experience. While facts and figures often put listeners to sleep, an illustration from real life can motivate them to action. Author Annette Simmons says, “The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity.”
The elderly woman didn’t like the way her pastor prayed each Sunday morning, so she told him. It bothered her that before he preached he would confess to God that he had sinned the week before. “Pastor,” she said, “I don’t like to think my pastor sins.”
The space shuttle reenters Earth’s atmosphere at more than 25 times the speed of sound! Friction from wind resistance raises the spacecraft’s outer temperature to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep the shuttle from burning up, 34,000 separate tiles protect its underbelly. These tiles must be virtually indestructible against high-speed friction.
I once viewed the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 as a kind of sop Jesus threw to the unfortunates: “Well, since you aren’t rich, and your health is bad, and your face is wet with tears, I’ll toss out a few nice phrases to make you feel better.”
Remember the story of The Little Engine That Could? That determined little train climbed the steep hill by chanting positively, “I think I can. I think I can.” And then, as it gained more resolve, it declared, “I know I can. I know I can.”
Every time Susan opens her mouth, it sounds like the blare of an ambulance siren. This TV commercial uses humor to indicate that a dental problem could reveal a more serious physical ailment. So she’d better see her dentist soon!
In the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Europe, an armada of Allied ships assaulted the beaches of Normandy, France. Simultaneously, thousands of airplanes dropped paratroopers into the action. Along with the paratroopers, the Allies also dropped hundreds of rubber dummies behind the enemy lines. Called “Ruperts,” these dummies were intended to simulate an attack to confuse the enemy. As the Ruperts landed, some German outposts were tricked into fighting the “paradummies,” creating a vital crack in the walls of Fortress Europe.
At age 94, Pastor Willis was admitted into a care facility. From his wheelchair, he shared with joy how God had given him a new mission field to share the gospel. When he was bedridden a few years later, he spoke with enthusiasm of being in the best possible position to look up to God. When he died at age 100, Pastor Willis left behind a legacy of one who sang a new song of praise at every turn of his earthly life.
As a kid, I loved watching the film Little Lord Fauntleroy. The story focuses on Cedric, a boy growing up in a poor home with his mother in Brooklyn. He discovers the stunning news that he is actually the direct descendant of the Earl of Dorincourt and the heir of a vast fortune. One day he’s a nobody playing “kick the can” on the streets of New York, and then suddenly he’s traveling through an English town to the cries of “Your lordship!” from adoring villagers.
The Pikes Peak Ascent is a challenging mountain foot race, covering 13.32 miles while gaining 7,815 feet in altitude. My good friend Don Wallace ran it 20 times. In his final race, he crossed the finish line one week before his 67th birthday! Instead of training just before a race, Don ran 6 miles a day, year round, with rare exceptions, wherever he happened to be. He’s done that for most of his adult life and continues to this day.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was identified in 2003 in Vietnam. By the time it was brought under control, SARS had spread globally and killed nearly 800 people. One reason for the high mortality rate was that the virus was not recognized initially. But once recognized and understood, SARS was contained.
When I teach writing, I explain that it’s generally better to use short words or phrases first in a series, as in “arts and letters” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Early in my career, I explained to authors that it just sounds better this way, but then I discovered a “rule” about this. And I learned that authors are more likely to accept editorial changes when I can point them to a rule than when I just say, “Trust me.”
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by life. The crushing waves of disappointment, endless debt, debilitating illness, or trouble with people can cause hopelessness, depression, or despair. It happened to Jesus’ disciples. And it has happened to me.
Are you a chronic worrier? Do you worry about bills, the future, health, debt, marriage issues? Has worry so consumed you that you have become “a fret machine”? If this describes you, perhaps you have generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD—a condition marked by a perpetual state of worry about most aspects of life. According to David Barlow, professor of psychology at Boston University, “the key psychological feature of GAD is a state of chronic, uncontrollable worry.” A little anxiety is normal, but constant worry is not.
When E. Stanley Jones, well-known missionary to India, had the opportunity to meet with Mahatma Gandhi, he asked a searching question of India’s revered leader: “How can Christianity make a stronger impact on your country?” Gandhi very thoughtfully replied that three things would be required.
Grading university papers is full of surprises. Sometimes, one of my students will successfully handle a subject and display good writing style, and I feel as if my instruction was worthwhile.
When I was a Bible college student, a name occasionally mentioned in Greek class was that of Granville Sharp. He was a renowned Greek scholar (1735–1813) whose studies resulted in principles of biblical interpretation that continue to guide our understanding of the original language of the New Testament.
When I was in college, my co-worker Bud, a fork-truck driver, often enriched my life with his pithy wisdom. We were eating lunch one day, sitting on the back of his fork truck, when I announced that I was transferring to another school.
A new Web site helps you tell a co-worker what you’re afraid to say in person. Comments like: “A breath mint would be beneficial today” or “Your cell phone ringer is very loud today” or “Your perfume/cologne is very strong on a regular basis.” You confront issues anonymously by having the Web site send an e-mail message for you.
At the beginning of a spiritual retreat, our speaker Matt Heard asked, “How’s your heart?” It stunned me, because I tend to focus on believing with my mind and working with my hands. In the activity of thinking and serving, my heart is pushed to the side. As we were led through the Bible’s repeated emphasis on this crucial center of our lives, I began to grasp his premise that belief and service are, more than anything else, matters of the heart.
When I signed up for a popular Internet social network, I was shocked to be greeted with the words, “You have no friends.” Although I knew it was untrue, I still felt sad for a moment. The idea that anyone, even an impersonal Web site, would call me friendless was upsetting. Friends are essential for our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Let’s say you were really famous. People would want to know all kinds of things about you. Then let’s say you called me up and asked, “How’d you like to write my biography?” Let’s say I agreed. I would be all over you like a moth on a streetlight, buzzing around trying to find out all I could about you. I’d ask you a thousand questions. I would ask for your list of contacts and call everyone on it to find out more about you. Then I would ask you to hand over anything related to your life. Papers. Pictures. The works.