As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines:
I once had a boss who wielded the ultimate power in our organization. It was his goal to make sure we never forgot who was in charge. Though he was successful in gaining an iron grip within our office, the net result was that this man was very lonely. How different it could have been if he had humbled himself and formed friendly relationships with his employees!
My daughter posed an excellent question to me: What’s the connection between Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job? The first two seem so . . . contradictory. And the book of Job is a saga all its own!
This week I bought $30 worth of toilet paper in order to qualify for a mail-in rebate. The rebate form told me to address my envelope to “Road to Glory.” Really? I hadn’t slain a dragon or won a championship. I had merely purchased TP. So I laughed at the ridiculous title as I wrote it on the envelope.
As a preacher, I’m rightly concerned with the content of each of my Sunday sermons. I must confess, however, that I can fall into the trap of being overly concerned with what people think of my message—not whether or not the message is clearly understood or whether the people and the Lord Himself are blessed by what I say. I can become more concerned with the goal of having church members like what I say and approve of my message. Sometimes a furrowed brow in the congregation, especially from someone I know and respect spiritually, can seriously interrupt my flow and cause me no small amount of consternation.
This is the last snack I’m going to eat today, you tell yourself. Then 5 minutes later you’re looking for another one! Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar Fat, reveals how food companies study ways to “help” people crave junk food. Some of the food industry’s biggest names hire “crave consultants” to determine people’s “bliss points”—the conditions when food companies can optimize consumers’ cravings. One popular company spends $30 million a year to determine the bliss points of consumers.
I once wrote a book based on a collection of letters that François Fénelon (a French pastor from the 17th century) wrote to a younger friend who was serving in the morally corrupt court of King Louis XIV. Fénelon’s fatherly posture and his call for unflinching devotion to God captured me. Words like this are standard Fénelon fare: “Becoming a follower of God is hard because it requires that we submit ourselves fully to a God who is other than us. We must let go of our insistence that we know best what we need. We must let go of our demands that God act when and how we demand.”
My friend noticed that his maple tree was shedding leaves prematurely. The tree doctor told him his tree was suffering from a girdling root. It had taken 30 years, but the offending root had encircled the tree and was now slowly choking it. If my friend didn’t dig down and hack the root off, the tree would die.
Ready for a Bible quiz? Which king: attained national influence at age 16; was a genius in military deployment and national security; invented new military weapons; had true vision for commercial and business development; and possessed the Midas touch in husbandry and agriculture?
We got really good,” Raleigh Becket bragged. He and his brother piloted a “Jaeger,” a huge battle robot that fought massive, dinosaurlike creatures named Kaiju as depicted in the movie Pacific Rim. In their arrogance, the brothers defied orders and went on a reckless mission battling a huge Kaiju alone. The massive beast destroyed their Jaeger, causing it to come crashing down in defeat. Raleigh’s brother was then killed by the monster while his brother could only watch in horror.
In the classic 1991 animated movie Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is the town’s strapping, egotistical hero. He’s a “manly man” admired by the locals and desired by many of the town’s younger women. Most seem to be huge fans of Gaston and overlook his obnoxious ways, except for the young and beautiful Belle.
Writer and media consultant Phil Cooke was on a business trip to Calgary, Canada. More than a thousand miles from home, he thought he was walking around in total anonymity until someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Aren’t you Phil Cooke?” The man who made the inquiry had read Cooke’s books and followed him through social media. Phil wasn’t doing anything that could have damaged his reputation, but the interaction did remind him of the unfortunate stories of executives, pastors, politicians, and others who have crossed a moral line when they thought no one was watching.
As a kid, I enjoyed helping my mom in the kitchen— especially when it came time for our holiday baking. One tool that fascinated me was the sifter. My mom stored it in a large plastic bag that kept it clean and caught any remnants of flour dust from previous projects. Turning the handle, I’d watch as the heavy clump of flour met with the metal pieces and screening to become a soft, light product.
I have to admit, with some shame, that I’ve Googled my own name. I know, I know—it’s immature and narcissistic. I think I—and others like me—do this because we want some living proof that we’re significant and important in some way.