If you have something to hide, Mike Slattery may have the solution. Several years ago, a cell-phone company wanted to erect an antenna on his property and disguise it as a pine tree. Mike had a better idea and built a fake barn with vinyl panels that allow the radio waves to pass through them. He developed that concept into a company that builds structures to hide antennas for aesthetic and security reasons. Slattery is convinced that many of his neighbors still have no idea what’s inside his barn (The Gazette, Colorado Springs).
As I waited to make a right-hand turn at a busy intersection, an ambulance appeared over the crest of a hill, speeding in my direction. Someone behind me honked, urging me into the crossroads. I knew the ambulance would be unlikely to stop and that it could have been disastrous to make my turn. So I kept my foot on the brake pedal and stayed put.
Elizabeth’s story was moving, to say the least. Following a terribly humiliating experience in Massachusetts, she caught a bus to New Jersey to escape her embarrassment. Weeping uncontrollably, she hardly noticed that the bus had made a stop along the way. A passenger sitting behind her, a total stranger, began making his way off the bus when he suddenly stopped, turned, and walked back to Elizabeth. He saw her tears and handed her his Bible, saying that he thought she might need it. He was right. But not only did she need the Bible, she needed the Christ it speaks of. Elizabeth received Him as a result of this simple act of compassion by a stranger who gave a gift.
A popular song from years ago titled “From a Distance” envisions a world of harmony and peace. It says, “God is watching us from a distance.” Indeed God is watching us, but not from a distance. He is present, in the room with you, right in front of you, gazing at you with unbounded love in His eyes.
Mark Wilkinson purchased a 16-foot boat for fishing and recreation. Apparently he was not superstitious, because he christened his boat Titanic II after the ill-fated luxury ship that hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. Titanic II’s maiden voyage out of a harbor in Dorset, England, went well. But when Wilkinson headed back, the boat started taking on water. Soon he was clinging to a rail waiting for rescue. Wilkinson reportedly said, “It’s all a bit embarrassing, and I got pretty fed up with people asking me if I had hit an iceberg.” This was followed by an eyewitness who said, “It wasn’t a very big boat—I think an ice cube could have sunk it!”
Imagine looking through your fam- ily tree and finding this description of your ancestor: “A prostitute, she harbored enemies of the government in her house. When she was confronted by the authorities, she lied about it.”
Every summer, thousands of Good Morning America viewers cast their votes to select “The Most Beautiful Place in America.” I was delighted when the winner for 2011 was announced—Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in my home state of Michigan. Admittedly, I didn’t expect the winning location to be in my own backyard. It reminded me of the time my wife, Martie, and I visited Niagara Falls. A man nearby watched our tourist behavior and quipped, “Ain’t nothin’ to it. I see it every day.”
Perhaps the most painful statement a person can hear is, “I don’t love you anymore.” Those words end relationships, break hearts, and shatter dreams. Often, people who have been betrayed guard themselves against future pain by deciding not to trust anyone’s love again. That settled conviction may even include the love of God.
In Lansing, Michigan, during the winter, we don’t get many sunny days. But last year God blessed us with one of those beautiful days, and it seemed that almost everyone was thanking God, except me. As I left my office, a man said, “What a wonderful day we’re having. This is a gift from God!” To which I replied, “Yes, but we’re getting snow later this week.” What ingratitude!
One autumn afternoon I drove past a field where a farmer had parked some massive machinery by the side of the road. A yellow caution sign read: “Harvest in Progress.” As I glanced over at the field, I knew instantly what the farmer had planted several months ago—tiny kernels of corn. I knew this because he was preparing to drive his harvesting equipment through acres of mature cornstalks.
In Isaiah 18, it appears that the whole world is set to battle God’s people. Yet what is the response of the Almighty One? “I will take My rest, and I will look from My dwelling place” (v.4). His stillness may appear to have been an acceptance of the conspiracy against them. But it wasn’t. God’s response was His reminder that He acts in His timing—at just the right time according to His will.
My first bike had one gear. Whether I was going fast or slow, uphill or downhill, that gear did everything. My next bike had three gears: one for level surfaces, one for going uphill, and one for going downhill. My third bike had ten gears, allowing me an even broader range of choices. Even though my last bike had several gears to choose from, I didn’t use all of them every time I rode. Some were best suited for starting and climbing, others were reserved for gaining speed, and others were best for a leisurely pace. But the thing about gears is this: Even though I wasn’t using all of them at the time, it didn’t mean I would never need them.
I met a man who was absolutely convinced that God couldn’t forgive him for the things he’d done. An older man took him under his wing, and a year later, I was delighted that the younger man had not only accepted Jesus as his Savior but was also consuming Scripture ravenously. Three years later, though, when I talked with him, I noticed that his enthusiasm had been replaced by grumbling: “I just don’t understand how God can let evil people prosper while so many of His children (including himself, he might have added) are struggling to make ends meet.” The grumbling ate at the joy of his faith.
When he was a teenager, my son asked me one of those questions that make you earn your pay as a parent. “Dad,” Steve inquired, “if God has existed for eternity, what was He doing before He created the universe?”
Recently I was reading about how easy it is to mishandle the message of the Bible. We may try to make it support what we already believe is true instead of allowing it to speak to us with God’s intended message. Some people use the Bible to defend one side of an issue, while others use the Bible to attack that same issue. Both quote Scripture to support their views, but both can’t be right.
I’ve heard people say, “I’m not afraid of death because I’m confident that I’m going to heaven; it’s the dying process that scares me!” Yes, as Christians, we look forward to heaven but may be afraid of dying. We need not be ashamed to admit that. It is natural to be afraid of the pain that comes with dying, of being separated from our loved ones, of possibly impoverishing our families, and of regret over missed earthly opportunities.
When a section of fence around our house blew down in a howling March wind, my first reaction was to blame the man who built it for me only a few months before. On further reflection, I knew the fault was mine. As the fence was nearing completion, I told him there was no need to replace four existing posts from the previous fence with new ones set in concrete. “Just attach the new fence to the old posts,” I said. “It will be fine.” It was—until the winds came.
The walls of the Mitchell Corn Palace exhibit beautiful murals every year. Scenes include birds in flight, Conestoga wagons heading West, Native American teepees, and rural settings. There is one peculiarity about these murals though—they are made out of corn, seeds, and grasses. The outside murals are replaced each year with a new theme, partly because hungry birds eat from them.
My wife, Shirley, and I enjoyed a cruise along the fjords of Norway in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. As we journeyed northward, we stopped in numerous towns and villages, often visiting churches. Among them was a 12th-century church that our guide described proudly as “still a working church.” I asked, “What do you mean?” She referred to the days of the state church, when the state-appointed pastors simply collected their paychecks but no one attended the services. But this church had been faithfully holding worship services and actively serving the Lord for almost 1,000 years!
An 85-year-old woman, all alone in a convent, got trapped inside an elevator for 4 nights and 3 days. Fortunately, she had a jar of water, some celery sticks, and a few cough drops. After she tried unsuccessfully to open the elevator doors and get a cell phone signal, she decided to turn to God in prayer. “It was either panic or pray,” she later told CNN. In her distress, she relied on God and waited till she was rescued.
Samuel, who was 4, had finished eating his dinner and asked if he could be dismissed from the table. He wanted to go outside to play. But he was too young to be out alone, so his mother said, “No. You can’t go outside by yourself. You need to wait for me to finish and go with you.” His quick reply: “But, Mommy, Jesus is with me!”
During my first year of seminary, I listened as a new friend described her life. Abandoned by her husband, she was raising two small children alone. Earning just over minimum wage, she had little chance of escaping the poverty and dangers she described in her neighborhood.
When my daughter Debbie was a little girl, she took ballet lessons. One dance exercise involved jumping over a rolled-up gym mat. Debbie’s first attempt resulted in her bouncing off this hurdle. For a moment she sat on the floor stunned, and then she began to cry. Immediately, I darted out to help her up and spoke soothing words to her. Then, holding her hand, I ran with her until she successfully jumped over the rolled-up mat. Debbie needed my encouragement to clear that hurdle.
You’d think I would have my mother’s fingerprints embedded in my knee from all the times she squeezed my leg in church and whispered in no uncertain terms, “Be still.” Like any boy, I had a bad case of the wiggles in places like church. So for years, when I read, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), I thought of it in terms of not being antsy.
An unusual list called The 100 Least Powerful People in the World appeared in the online publication 24/7 Wall St. Among those selected were corporate executives, sports figures, politicians, and celebrities who shared one common characteristic—they used to be powerful. Some were victims of circumstances, others made poor business decisions, while others lost their influence because of moral failure.
When I was young, I thought the cost of living in my parents’ home was too high. Looking back, I laugh at how ridiculous it was to complain. My parents never charged me a cent for living at home. The only “cost” was obedience. I simply had to obey rules like clean up after myself, be polite, tell the truth, and go to church. The rules weren’t difficult, but I still had trouble obeying them. My parents didn’t kick me out for my disobedience, however. They just kept reminding me that the rules were to protect me, not harm me, and sometimes they made the rules stricter to protect me from myself.
While I was visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, two trees caught my attention. Though the leaves on the surrounding trees were not moving, the leaves of these trees were fluttering with just the slightest hint of a breeze. I pointed them out to my wife, and she told me they were called quaking aspens. I was struck by the visual effect of those shaking leaves. While all the other trees appeared calm and steady, the quaking aspen leaves shook, even with only the faintest breeze.