Writer James Bryan Smith tells the story of how author and speaker Brennan Manning came to better understand the deep love of God. Brennan had a best friend named Ray. They hung around, double-dated, and even bought a car together. In time they enlisted and served in the same military unit.
“And what do you do, Susan?” I asked over dinner. “Oh, not much,” she said. Approaching the question differently, I asked Susan what she’d done that week. Her answer made me feel exhausted!
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite books. A fictional account about the narrator’s trip to hell and heaven, I love the imagery and the lessons we can glean about what is and what’s not truly important. At one point on his journey deeper and deeper into the heavenly landscape, the narrator notices a huge parade. Musicians, girls, boys, and all sorts of animals are parading in honor of a lady of great renown.
According to The Wall Street Journal, there’s a new fad among top-level executives. It’s called humility. One former leader states that humility “is the flavor du jour.” Companies prize humble leaders because they listen well and share the limelight. Of course, the leaders have to actually be humble. Fakers abound, like a former executive who constantly stole the limelight from subordinates. According to one observer, “He didn’t understand the humility part of being humble.”
“You can’t get blood from a rock.” That saying, used sometimes in my part of the world, means that we can’t get from another person or situation what simply isn’t there. For example, I might say, “I can’t get blood from a rock” when I’m trying to collect a debt from someone who doesn’t have the money to repay me. Trying to acquire cash from someone who isn’t capable of providing it is impossible.
Renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) left an unusual last will and testament. Because he found English spelling rules unnecessarily confusing (which they are!), he requested that the United Kingdom adopt a phonetic alphabet he had created to simplify things. He even left a large portion of his estate to implement the plan. Schoolchildren would have been forever grateful to Shaw, but alas, the courts deemed the request “impossible.” The money went to other causes.
As my sister reads books, she regularly highlights sentences and jots down notes in the margins. One day, while riding a train, she was underlining a passage when she overheard a mother reprimanding her child for doodling in a book. My sister quickly put her pen away, not wanting the toddler to ignore her mother’s words by following her example. The child simply wasn’t capable of understanding the difference between a book loaned from the library and a purchased copy—the difference between vandalism and making personal notes in the margin.
From overhead, a security camera captured an unseen force as it buckled the floor of the National Corvette Museum in the US. Suddenly a sinkhole yawned from below, devouring several prized sports cars. Among the buried vehicles was the one-millionth Corvette ever produced.
I opened a letter from our mortgage lender and, instead of a bill, found a check! Our escrow account had accrued a surplus, and the bank had sent us a check for the amount. The previous month had been overly busy, and I had been unable to take on any freelance work during those weeks. But we strived to remain faithful in our giving, and now God had provided. I was holding a check with a value that exceeded what we had lost due to my inability to work more hours.
In 2015, Derrick Rose, an All-Star guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA), faced another surgery after he tore the medial meniscus in his right knee for the second time in 15 months. The meniscus is a relatively obscure part of the human body, yet this essential piece of cartilage not only threatened Rose’s career, but also hurt his team’s chances of a championship and dashed the hopes of the city where he plays. What a large impact from such a small thing!
I’m a late convert to the Lord’s Prayer. Unlike others, I didn’t grow up reciting it regularly at church or school. Only recently have I discovered its power as a daily prayer. And when I get to the line “Give us today the food we need” (Matthew 6:11), three things strike me:
A man who owned a car dealership became better “known for the cars he kept than the ones he sold.” During his 5 decades running the dealership, he held on to select cars that customers traded in, and quite a few new models too, amassing a collection of more than 500 automobiles that he kept parked on a farm. Right before the man died in 2014, his collection sold by auction. The sale drew 25,000 people, was filmed for TV’s History channel, and raised $2.8 million (US). It’s obvious that the owner was really into collecting cars. Yet, when he died, he wasn’t able to take any of them with him.
It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.
In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”
The title of Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction has its origins in a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Raised in a Christian family, Nietzsche turned to atheism and later surprisingly wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results . . . in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”