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.”
O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.
Good things can happen when we experience awe. In 2015, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that goose bump-eliciting awe helps people move from self-interest to deeper awareness of others and their concerns. In essence, awe leads to blessing!
In Jesus’ Love. He closed his email message with those words. And as I read them, I realized how poignant they were. For this young man—who I had seen come to a saving faith in Jesus, who I’d baptized, whose faith was maturing—was back home for a stay in his birth country, a place not known for kindness toward believers in Jesus. He mentioned receiving “strange looks” from nationals as he prayed before his meal in a restaurant, the coolness his friend showed toward his faith, and that he was lonely. So I strived to encourage him by writing, “I’m so proud of you. God is using you to spread His presence in your city!”
I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom