At the beginning of each new year, experts give their predictions about the economy, politics, weather, and a host of other topics. Will there be war or peace? Poverty or prosperity? Progress or stagnation? People everywhere are hoping that this year will be better than last, but no one knows what will happen.
At a nature center, I watched my friend’s rosy-cheeked toddler pat the side of a large glass box. Inside the box, a bull snake named Billy slithered slowly, eyeing the little girl. Billy’s body was as thick as my forearm and he sported brown and yellow markings. Although I knew Billy could not escape from his container, seeing a menacing-looking creature so close to a small child made me shudder.
In 1859, during the turbulent years prior to America’s Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had the opportunity to speak to the Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As he spoke, he shared with them the story of an ancient monarch’s search for a sentence that was “true and appropriate in all times and situations.” His wise men, faced with this heady challenge, gave him the sentence, “And this, too, shall pass away.”
On a recent trip to England, my wife and I visited Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. The house is more than 400 years old, and it was the childhood and family home of William Shakespeare’s wife.
Two of Australia’s indigenous creatures, kangaroos and emus, have something in common—they seldom move backward. Kangaroos, because of the shape of their body and the length of their strong tail, can bounce along with forward movement, but they cannot shift easily into reverse. Emus can run fast on their strong legs, but the joints in their knees seem to make backward movement difficult. Both animals appear on Australia’s coat of arms as a symbol that the nation is to be ever moving forward and making progress.
Some people say that the Bible is just a collection of fairy tales. A boy slaying a giant. A man swallowed by a big fish. Noah’s boat-building experience. Even some religious people think that these events are just nice stories with a good moral.
The fifteenth-century theologian Thomas à Kempis said, “Who is so wise as to have perfect knowledge of all things? Therefore, trust not too much to your own opinion, but be ready also to hear the opinions of others. Though your own opinion be good, yet if for the love of God you forego it and follow that of another, you shall the more profit thereby.” Thomas recognized the importance of seeking the opinions of trusted advisors when making plans for life.
An ancient painting I saw recently made a deep impression on me. Its title, Anastasis, means “resurrection,” and it depicts the triumph of Christ’s victory over death in a stunning way. The Lord Jesus, newly emerged from the tomb, is pulling Adam and Eve out of their coffins to eternal life. What is so amazing about this artwork is the way it shows how spiritual and physical death, the result of the fall, were dramatically reversed by the risen Christ.
Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? I know this sounds as if I’m longing for the good old days when cheerfully unrealistic movies featured characters like this fictional nanny, but what I’m really longing for are people with a vision for the future that is realistically optimistic. I yearn for joyful, creative people who can show us the positive side of what we consider negative, who can remind us that “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”