In 2011, a Brazilian fisherman came across a struggling penguin. The tiny creature’s feathers were soaked with oil and it desperately needed food. So the man took the sickly bird home and cared for it. Once it was healthy, he released it and the bird swam happily away.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
A pastor went to a local coffee shop and placed a sign that read “Free Prayer” on his table. Soon a customer asked the minister to pray for a need. Since then, the pastor has gone to a coffee shop weekly to intercede for others. Some pour out their hearts, such as a man whose wife had left him and who had lost several friends and family to death. Regarding this man and others, the pastor states, “Sometimes we have to move beyond the shadows of a steeple to take care of our people.”
A friend died unexpectedly, leaving behind his wife and several children. I talked with his widow (also a dear friend) just a few days after his death. She was heartbroken, but also amazed that God had already used her husband’s death to inspire two individuals to receive salvation in Jesus. She then explained that she had gathered her children together and said something like this: “It’s okay to be angry and to express your emotions to God, but please don’t let this affect your faith in Him. How tragic would it be if you turned away from God even as these people turned to Him?”
Nicky Cruz was full of hatred and bitterness. His parents practiced witchcraft and mentally abused their son as he grew up in Puerto Rico. His mother even called him “Son of Satan.” Sent to live with his brother in New York City at age 15, Nicky soon joined a gang. His violent and cunning ways led to his becoming their warlord.
Nothing moved him anymore. Though he ran one of the top skateboard teams in the world and had enjoyed lots of money, drugs, sex, and had dove headlong into every pleasure he chose, Ryan Ries felt empty.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
She glanced at him with a tender smile and began reading the carefully crafted words held in her trembling hands. The vows revealed a deep love for the young man standing before her. Toward the end of her lyrical, beautiful expressions, she said, “I promise to love you under all circumstances, the good times and the hard times—whatever it may be—for the rest of my days.”
In March 2015, a woman in Spain posted some pictures on Facebook of a boy she’d cared for as a foster parent. She’d met the boy nearly 30 years earlier while volunteering at a juvenile daycare. The child had been abandoned, and the woman ended up caring for him until he was 6. Not able to adopt the child, the two were separated. But years later, after 3 days and 50,000 views of her Facebook post, they were reunited.
A famous epitaph that doubles as a pun can be found in the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona (US). It reads, “HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE.” The Wells, Fargo & Co. station agent died in an Old-West gun battle with another man in the late 1800s.
In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.
In the movie Frozen, a young princess named Elsa has the truly chilling ability to freeze anything she chooses. But then she accidentally harms her beloved sister Anna with her gift. Not being able to control her freezing ways, Elsa eventually hides in her own lonely ice castle. In the end, however, the princess finds that the personal touch of love allows her to see her gift reach its full potential—under control and as a blessing to others.
Kris Silbaugh plays American football with just one hand. What’s more, he plays receiver—a position that’s all about using two hands. A receiver must catch passes thrown to him by a quarterback and then run with the football before being tackled by the defense. In 2015, the young man set the all-time receiving yards record at his high school, having amassed more than 912 receiving yards (the previous record) for his career. Born without a left hand due to a birth defect, Silbaugh says, “It has never stopped me. I just don’t let it—never have.”
King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.
Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”