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Family Trademarks

The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.

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Confident Access

Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island located about a half-mile off the coast of Normandy, France. For centuries it has been the site of an abbey and monastery that has attracted religious pilgrims. Until the construction of a causeway, it was notorious for its dangerous access that resulted in the death of some pilgrims. At low tide it is encompassed by sand banks, and at high tide it is surrounded by water. Accessing the island was a cause for fear.

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Courageous And Consistent

While reading the obituary of Eugene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960 to 1968, I was struck by two things. First, for many years Patterson was a fearless voice for civil rights during a time when many opposed racial equality. In addition, he wrote a column every day for 8 years. That’s 2,922 newspaper columns! Day after day, year after year. Courage and consistency were key factors in the impact of his life.

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Divine Perspective

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

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The Work Of Our Hands

Spring had just turned into summer and crops were beginning to produce fruit as our train rolled across the fertile landscape of West Michigan’s shoreline. Strawberries had ripened, and people were kneeling in the morning dew to pick the sweet fruit. Blueberry bushes were soaking up sunshine from the sky and nutrients from the earth.

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Looking For Zacchaeus

Alf Clark walks the city streets looking for Zacchaeus. Well, not the actual one in the Bible—Jesus already found him. Alf and some friends who serve with an urban ministry do what Jesus did in Luke 19. They go purposefully through town to meet with and help those in need.

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He Calls The Stars By Name

On a plateau high above the Atacama Desert in Chile, the world’s largest radio telescope is giving astronomers a view of the universe never seen before. In an Associated Press article, Luis Andres Henao spoke of scientists from many countries “looking for clues about the dawn of the cosmos—from the coldest gases and dust where galaxies are formed and stars are born to the energy produced by the Big Bang.”

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Waving The White Flag

Recently, while watching a video of a church service held in South America, I noticed something I had never seen before in church. As the pastor passionately called his flock to yield their lives to Jesus, one of the parishioners took a white hankie out of his pocket and started waving it in the air. Then another, and another. With tears running down their cheeks, they were expressing full surrender to Christ.

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Lasting Regrets

While I was talking with a gifted pianist, she asked me if I played any musical instruments. When I responded, “I play the radio,” she laughed and asked if I had ever wanted to play any instrument. My embarrassed answer was, “I took piano lessons as a boy but gave it up.” Now, in my adult years, I regret not continuing with the piano. I love music and wish I could play today. That conversation was a fresh reminder to me that life is often constituted by the choices we make—and some of them produce regret.

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Water For The World

Although 70 percent of the world is covered by water, less than 1 percent of it is drinkable by humans. Water conservation and sanitation are crucial matters in many parts of the world, as all life depends on having sanitary water.

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Small Ways In Small Places

Often I meet with people who serve in what they think are seemingly small ways in small places. They are frequently discouraged by loneliness, feeling that their acts of service are insignificant. When I hear them speak, I think of one of the angels in C. S. Lewis’ book Out of the Silent Planet. He said: “My people have a law never to speak of sizes or numbers to you. . . . It makes you do reverence to nothings and pass by what is really great.”

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Whoppers Or Adventures?

My grandfather loved to tell stories, and I loved to listen. Papaw had two kinds of tales. “Whoppers” were stories with a whiff of truth, but which changed with each new telling. “Adventures” were stories that really happened, and the facts never changed when retold. One day my grandfather told a story that just seemed too far-fetched to be true. “Whopper,” I declared, but my grandfather insisted it was true. Although his telling never varied, I simply couldn’t believe it, it was that unusual.

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Living Bridges

People who live in Cherrapunji, India, have developed a unique way to get across the many rivers and streams in their land. They grow bridges from the roots of rubber trees. These “living bridges” take between 10 to 15 years to mature, but once they are established, they are extremely stable and last for hundreds of years.

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Lookin’ Good!

After trying on my new sunglasses in the car one day, my daughter handed them back and said, “These are not sunglasses, Mom. They’re just fashion lenses. Let me guess,” she teased, “you bought them because you look cute in them.”

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Feeling Chained?

Boethius lived in sixth-century Italy and served the royal court as a highly skilled politician. Unfortunately, he fell into disfavor with the king. He was accused of treason and imprisoned. While awaiting execution, he asked for writing materials so he could compose his reflections. Later, these became an enduring spiritual classic on consolation.

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True Loyalty

By one estimate, more than 14 trillion frequent-flyer miles have been accumulated by people worldwide. It all started in the early 1980s, when airlines began the first frequent-flyer programs to encourage repeat business by rewarding customers for their loyalty. Accumulated miles could be redeemed for free travel, goods, and services, so it wasn’t long before people began planning their travel based as much on personal reward as on price or schedule.

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Grain On The Mountaintop

I’ve been on a number of mountaintops in the US in my time, and I can tell you that not much grows up there. The summits of mountains are bare rock and lichen. That’s not where you would normally find an abundance of grain.

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“No Grace”

I have nicknamed our car “No Grace.” Sunday mornings are the worst. I load the car with all the stuff I need for church, get myself in my seat, close the door, and Jay starts backing out of the garage. While I am still getting settled, the seat belt warning starts buzzing. “Please,” I say to it, “all I need is another minute.” The answer, apparently, is no, because it continues buzzing until I am buckled in.

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The Power Of A Name

Nicknames are often descriptive of some noticeable aspect of a person’s character or physical attributes. Growing up, my elementary school friends brutally called me “liver lips” since at that stage of development my lips seemed disproportionately large. Needless to say, I have always been glad that the name didn’t stick.

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Paranoia In Reverse

I remember watching television news reports in 1991 as the nonviolent revolution took place in the streets of Moscow. Russians who had grown up in totalitarianism suddenly declared, “We will act as if we are free,” taking to the streets and staring down tanks. The contrast between the faces of the leaders inside and the masses outside showed who was really afraid, and who was really free.

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Look To The Hills

Atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, stands Christ the Redeemer, one of the tallest statues of Christ in the world. Standing 30 meters tall, with arms spreading 28 meters, this sculpture weighs 635 metric tons. It can be seen day or night from almost anywhere in the city. One look to the hills brings this figure of Christ the Redeemer into view.

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Asking Different Questions

When tragedy strikes, questions follow. Our loss of a loved one may lead us to ask God any number of pointed questions: “Why did You let this happen?” “Whose fault was this?” “Don’t You care about my pain?” Believe me, as the grieving father of a teenager who died tragically I have asked these very questions.

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Uncertain Times

During a major economic downturn several years ago, many people lost their jobs. Sadly, my brother-in-law was one of them. Writing to me about their situation, my sister shared that although there were uncertainties, they had peace because they knew that God would care for them.

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The Jaws Of Death

Lauren Kornacki is glad she took that summer CPR class, but she probably never thought she would have to use it so soon and on someone she loves. Her father was repairing his car when the jack slipped and the car fell on him. Lauren, a 22-year-old, reportedly heroically lifted the 3,300-pound car enough to pull him from underneath! Then she kept him alive with CPR until the paramedics arrived.

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Not A Hitching Post

You may have heard the saying, “The past is supposed to be a guidepost, not a hitching post.” It’s easy to become tied to memories of “the good old days” instead of using our experiences to find direction for the road ahead. We are all susceptible to the paralyzing effects of nostalgia—a longing for what used to be.

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The Growth Chart

If my family ever moves from the house where we live now, I want to unhinge the pantry door and take it with me! That door is special because it shows how my children have grown over the years. Every few months, my husband and I place our children against the door and pencil a mark just above their heads. According to our growth chart, my daughter shot up 4 inches in just 1 year!

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Dependence Day

In the US, the Fourth of July is a national holiday when outdoor grills are heated up; beaches are packed; and cities and towns have parades and fireworks displays, picnics, and patriotic celebrations. All of this is in remembrance of July 4, 1776, when the 13 American colonies declared their independence.

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Tender Loving Care

Max runs a small farm as a hobby. Recently when he checked on the cows he is raising, he was surprised to see a newborn calf! When he bought the cattle, he had no idea one was pregnant. Sadly, the mother cow had complications and died shortly after her calf was born. Immediately, Max purchased some powdered milk so he could feed the calf from a bottle. “The calf thinks I’m its mother!” Max said.

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A Lesson In Worry

My friend handed me a tall glass of water and told me to hold it. The longer I held it, the heavier it felt. Finally my hand grew tired, and I had to put the glass down. “I’ve learned that worry can be like holding that glass,” she said. “The longer I worry about something, the more my fears weigh me down.”

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Who Is This Man?

When Kelly Steinhaus visited Harvard Square to ask college students what they thought of Jesus, the answers were respectful of Him. One said He was “a person who took care of people.” Another said, “He sounds like a cool guy.” Others rejected Him outright: “He was just a guy. I don’t think He was the Savior.” And “I do not accept any faith system that says, ‘I am the only way to God.’” Some people thoughtfully question who Jesus is and some reject Him.

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The Big Comeback

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Chad Pennington is a former American football player who has suffered multiple career-threatening injuries. Twice, his injuries forced him to endure surgery, months of physical therapy, and weeks of training to get back onto the field. Yet, both times he not only returned to playing but he also excelled at such a high level that he was named Comeback Player of the Year in the National Football League. For Pennington, his efforts were an expression of his determination to return to football.

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Focus On The Process

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

In William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, he says that many writers suffer from “the tyranny of the final product.” They are so concerned with selling their article or book, they neglect learning the process of how to think, plan, and organize. A jumbled manuscript, Zinsser believes, is produced when “the writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to run the race.”

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Make It Attractive

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

The story is told of a young boy who, during a bygone era, was aboard a passenger train attempting to make money selling apples. He made his way through the train car, saying, “Apples! Would you like to buy an apple?” When he got to the rear of the car, he still had a bagful of apples and no money.

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Do No Harm

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Many consider the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates as the father of Western medicine. He understood the importance of following moral principles in the practice of medicine, and is credited with writing the Hippocratic Oath, which still serves as an ethical guide for today’s medical doctors. One key concept of the oath is “to do no harm.” It implies that a physician will do only what he thinks will benefit his patients.

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Roadside Assistance

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

An acquaintance of mine was hunting with friends near Balmoral, the country estate of the queen of England. As they walked, he twisted his ankle so badly that he couldn’t go on, so he told his friends to continue and he would wait by the side of the road.

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Wisdom From Above

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

If Kiera Wilmot had performed her experiment during her high school science class, it might have earned her an A. But instead she was charged with causing an explosion. Although she had planned to have her teacher approve the experiment, her classmates persuaded her to perform it outside the classroom. When she mixed chemicals inside a plastic bottle, it exploded and she unintentionally unsettled some fellow students.

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Veins Of Gold

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

While visiting the charming Cotswold area of England, I purchased some bone china mugs as souvenirs. I used them carefully, but eventually one fell into the sink and shattered. I thought about that mug recently when I learned about the Japanese art of Kintsugi.

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Restored By The Master

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Over the centuries, many attempts have been made to restore damaged and time-worn masterpieces of art. While some of these efforts have skillfully preserved the original work of artists, others have actually damaged many works of genius, including ancient Greek statues and at least two paintings by da Vinci.

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The Day My Dad Met Jesus

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

My grandfather, my father, and his brothers were all tough men who, understandably, didn’t appreciate people who “got up in their faces about faith.” When my father, Howard, was diagnosed with a rapid and deadly cancer, I was so concerned that I took every opportunity to talk to him about Jesus’ love. Inevitably he would end the discussion with a polite but firm: “I know what I need to know.”

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World’s Fastest Walkers

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

According to a study measuring the pace of life of cities in 32 countries, people in the biggest hurry live here in Singapore. We walk 60 feet in 10:55 seconds, compared to 12:00 seconds for New Yorkers and 31:60 seconds for those living in the African city of Blantyre, Malawi.

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Forgotten Memories

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Recently, a friend from my youth emailed me a picture of our junior high track team. The grainy black-and-white snapshot showed a vaguely familiar group of teens with our two coaches. I was instantly swept back in time to happy memories of running the mile and the half-mile in track meets. Yet even as I enjoyed remembering those days, I found myself thinking about how easily I had forgotten them and moved on to other things.

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Meet Shrek

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Shrek was a renegade sheep. He went missing from his flock and remained lost for 6 years. The person who found him living in a cave on a high and rugged place in New Zealand didn’t recognize him as a sheep. “He looked like some biblical creature,” he said. In a way, he was. Shrek was a picture of what happens to sheep who become separated from their shepherd.

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Smile!

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

A recent study that I read concluded that smiling can be good for your health. Research shows that smiling slows down the heart and reduces stress.

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The Light Of The Lamb

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

For countless generations people have looked to the sun and moon to light the day and the night. Whether illuminating our path or providing the life-giving radiance for fruitful crops and the nutrients our bodies need, the sun and moon are part of God’s marvelous provision of light. The book of Genesis tells us that God gave “the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” (Gen. 1:16).

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The World’s Children

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

After a group of high schoolers visited an orphanage during a ministry trip, one student was visibly upset. When asked why, he said it reminded him of his own situation 10 years earlier.

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Teaching By Example

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

While waiting for an eye examination, I was struck by a statement I saw in the optometrist’s office: “Eighty percent of everything children learn in their first 12 years is through their eyes.” I began thinking of all that children visually process through reading, television, film, events, surroundings, and observing the behavior of others, especially their families. On this Father’s Day, we often think about the powerful influence of a dad.

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Rock-Solid

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

It was a sad day in May 2003 when “The Old Man of the Mountain” broke apart and slid down the mountainside. This 40-foot profile of an old man’s face, carved by nature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, had long been an attraction to tourists, a solid presence for residents, and the official state emblem. It was written about by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short story The Great Stone Face.

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We’re Safe

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

The United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky, is a fortified building that stores 5,000 tons of gold bullion and other precious items entrusted to the federal government. Fort Knox is protected by a 22-ton door and layers of physical security: alarms, video cameras, minefields, barbed razor wire, electric fences, armed guards, and unmarked Apache helicopters. Based on the level of security, Fort Knox is considered one of the safest places on earth.

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Keep Calm And Carry On

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Keep calm and call mom.” “Keep calm and eat bacon.” “Keep calm and put the kettle on.” These sayings originate from the phrase: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This message first appeared in Great Britain as World War II began in 1939. British officials printed it on posters designed to offset panic and discouragement during the war.

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An Honest Heart

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

I came across an epitaph on an old gravestone in a cemetery the other day. It read, “J. Holgate: An honest man.”

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