The other day our 8-year-old son asked why we no longer put him in the time-out corner. I said it was because that form of discipline no longer worked well. As the twins have gotten older, we’ve had to find new ways to reward and discipline them. Whatever worked when they were 4 years old is no longer effective.
I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.
“What are you reading?” a friend asked. “A fairy tale,” I replied. “Oh, I love fairy tales,” she said and leaned over to read the title of the story. “Ewww!” she said, “What a grim title.” I was reading “The Glass Coffin” in the book Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Apparently the word coffin turned her off.
When asked what’s the coolest thing about being the commander-in-chief, US President Barack Obama said, “For me, I think the coolest thing is that if there is somebody interesting who’s doing anything—a scientist, a sports figure, a writer, anybody in the world—if I want to call them up they will answer my phone call. That’s a pretty cool thing.” His response followed a question from a reporter’s daughter who said she thought the coolest part of being president would be spending time with pop-singers Beyoncé and Jay Z.
In the 1880s, Daeida Wilcox and her husband bought 160 acres of land with the aim of creating a town. But this wouldn’t be any old town. Daeida’s dream was that “Hollywood” would be nothing less than a Christian utopia—free of alcohol and guns, a place of peace.
After reaching the top of Dog Tooth Peak in the Sierra Nevada National Forest in the US, Larry Bishop began his descent. On his way down, he took a tumble off the trail and landed on a slim ledge of granite. Staying on that perch required him to cling to the side of the mountain for 52 hours—the alternative was a 10,000-foot drop! Eventually, Larry was airlifted to safety when a member of a rescue team risked his own life to reach him.
In the fall of 2003, a string of wildfires claimed two dozen lives in the US. The flames had spread fast, and firefighters begged people to leave their homes in Southern California. But many hesitated. Some wanted to take the time to pack clothes, while others wanted to battle the inferno with garden hoses.
When our washing machine malfunctioned, it spewed water through a heating vent and into our basement—drenching wallboard and carpeting. To prevent mold, we had to hire a company that set up special fans inside our house. The company’s motto read: “We will make it like new.”
A spiritual mentor once asked a disheartened young man, “What do you like about yourself?” He looked down and stared at his feet in silence. Minutes later, he finally shared a few things he had done. The mentor patiently shifted the focus away from external behaviors to who the young man was as a person.
The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright points out the imbalance of spending 40 days observing Lent while spending one day celebrating Easter. He suggests, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.”
I hate them. They’re _______!” (He used a euphemism for scum.) As I continued to converse with the teen, it became clear that he strongly disliked a certain group of students at school because of the way they talked and acted. The offending ones were unpleasant for him to be around and my young friend had no love for them. Although a believer in Jesus, he couldn’t stand to be around people he viewed as scum.
Having proceeded with my fellow teachers to our seating for our school’s graduation ceremony, I was amused to find I was sitting directly behind the band. Just 18 inches stood between me and some skilled trumpet players. I wondered how my ears would fare after the first few measures of “Pomp and Circumstance.” And later I stood in wonder as we began a congregational hymn. I couldn’t hear myself singing, however. Only the sound of the majestic brass instruments resonated off the church walls.