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.”
One Sunday morning, my friend Sally announced some upcoming women’s events to our congregation. Sitting in the back, I made sure she could see my smiling face. Later she exclaimed, “You smiled at me the whole time!” I admitted that the “encouraging smile” idea had come from someone else—my friend Suzy. Several months before, Suzy had beamed at me during a short presentation I made to the church family.
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!”
In 1993, Bill and Susie Mosca founded an essay contest. The winner received the couple’s bed and breakfast facility. Janice Sage’s entry took first place and she acquired the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. After 22 years of hosting guests, maintaining buildings, and managing finances, Janice wanted to retire. Because, as she said, “There are a lot of talented people that . . . . just can’t go out and buy an inn like this,” she also decided to give it away to a worthy person through an essay contest.
Since so many people are desperate for work, I’m grateful for my husband’s job. But his retail work with its agonizingly long hours can be ruthless on a family. Accustomed to evening meals and weekends together, my doing life almost as a single mom has seemed like a very long 4 years. One evening, I was feeling particularly tired and sighed to my father that I didn’t know how to pray anymore. After many years of praying for a breakthrough in his own life, he knew how I felt and encouraged me from God’s Word—renewing my hope and resolve.
I love collecting old books. There’s something exciting about holding in my hands a work that’s been thumbed through over the years by others. In my mind, each tome has a story to tell far beyond the words on its pages—if only it could talk!
The headmaster of a British primary school wrote a letter to encourage his students after a long and hard week of testing. He said, “The school is proud of you as you have demonstrated a huge amount of commitment and tried your very best during a tricky week. These tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who drew up the tests do not know each of you. . . . These people do not know you try, every day, to be your very best. Remember that there are many ways of being smart.”
One Saturday last year, my family rode our bikes to the downtown city market. Each weekend, the market takes over a parking lot and presents a diverse group of vendors’ booths. The place overflows with organic produce, baked goods, and every imaginable artisan craft creation (jewelry, paintings, woodwork, and more).
In the early 1990s, the South African Broadcasting Corporation concluded its official programming at midnight and then played music through the night. Upon hearing songs with a Christian message being played, a man discovered that a young woman was selecting the overnight music, so he and his church provided her with a vast collection of spiritually-themed songs. Thus, Christ-centered music was played overnight on the three national television stations for years. By her actions, one seemingly insignificant woman made a big difference in the lives of many listeners.
Do you love God? Just think about it. How can a lowly person draw near, much less talk about being in a love relationship with such a high and exalted Being? It blows my mind. A classic hymn describes God as “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” Perhaps God’s “otherness” explains why we often feel so inadequate in claiming that we love Him.
On October 31, 2003, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off the North Shore in Hawaii. Bethany survived, but she lost her left arm and more than 60 percent of her blood in the assault.
Charles complained to his friend about some lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but his friend gave him an honest assessment. “Your back isn’t your problem,” he pointed out. “It’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”
Ashley Munroe penned the message “You’re beautiful” on nearly 2,000 notes and then placed one on each locker in her high school. Via surveillance cameras, school authorities saw Ashley distributing the notes. The principal assumed she was causing trouble and suspended her. Several hundred students, however, signed a petition to help Ashley avoid punishment. Perhaps her best reward was hearing from a girl who had planned to commit suicide that day but did not because of Ashley’s message.
Nehemiah was grieved at the report of the dire state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). He shared God’s heart for the holy city, but could do nothing about it in his position as a cupbearer for the king in far-off Susa. Then, his opportunity to make a difference came in a most unexpected way: by risking his life in making a request of the king (Nehemiah 2:4-5). A cupbearer wasn’t even permitted to express unhappiness on his face, let alone describe his grief because of the state of his far-off home. To say anything was to court death. But Nehemiah did.
In the movie Saving Mr. Banks, writer Pamela Lyndon (P. L.) Travers reluctantly agrees to allow Walt Disney to bring her beloved character Mary Poppins to the silver screen. Carrying deep emotional wounds, P. L. is controlling and cantankerous—causing the film adaptation of Mary Poppins to be a difficult proposition for all those involved in the production. Unlike her literary character who could magically take flight, Travers—trapped within a cloud of bitter thoughts and memories—almost prevents the movie version of Mary Poppins from getting off the ground.