During the eighth century, a farmhand named Caedmon served at Whitby Abbey in the north of England. One night he had an extraordinary dream. In the dream, someone asked Caedmon to sing a song about creation. Being a farmer and not a singer, he initially refused. But as the dream progressed, he did indeed compose a song praising the Creator.
Sociologists at one university recently completed a study on regret. In it, they examined whether people felt more regret over what they had done or what they had failed to do. The researchers found that people’s regrets over their actions or inactions were roughly even when asked about the past week. Nearly the same number said, “I wish I hadn’t done that” as those who said “I wish I had done that.” But when asked to consider their life’s largest regrets, the vast majority said they were more troubled about missed opportunities. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ ”
The 2013 film Frozen tells the story of a troubled princess named Elsa who possessed a special gift—the power to create ice and snow. We’re not talking about making iced tea. No—with a flick of the wrist, this princess could unleash a blizzard that would instantly turn a warm summer day into a cold winter wonderland.
The effects of an ice storm led to the loss of electricity to my house one morning. Late that night, as we returned home from showering in a nearby athletic facility, we pulled into our street and saw our lights were back on. Yea! We hadn’t realized how dependent we were on electric power until we lost it, and we resolved not to take it for granted again.
During October, the trees come alive with color in my region. One year, a particular tree caught my attention. Like Joseph, it wore a “coat” of many colors. Its top leaves were plum-colored. A little lower, the purple morphed into crimson foliage. The red gave way to robin’s-chest orange, and finally, neon yellow leaves peeked out at the bottom like a petticoat. Although the leaves had radically different colors, they all had sprouted from the same maple tree.
A question I often hear (and also ask myself) regarding diversity is this: “God calls us to reach out to those who are different from us, but how far are we supposed to go?” Is it enough to serve and minister to people who are different, or are we called to do more?
The lighthouse keepers had survived harsh and lonely conditions on a meager salary, endured the incessant roar of the foghorn, and rowed their lifeboat onto stormy seas to rescue sailors. But the keepers had also resisted efforts to install a new lens that would have doubled the amount of light their station could have cast. Why? The keepers had made a financial arrangement with the maker of the old lens, and they didn’t want to lose the cash—even if it would have saved lives.
We often focus on the more controversial aspects of Acts 2:1-47. We question whether the Holy Spirit continues to work in the same way today, or if the miracles found in the passage have ceased; and we wonder if such gifts are necessary for salvation.
Accompanied by a cool breeze, the sunlight slowly spread over the horizon. It was a beautiful morning to plant. Grabbing various tools, my husband and I set out to rake back mulch and dig some holes. We had carefully selected plants that would work in the various growing environments our yard offered. Though the work had been strenuous, I later found it rewarding to stand back and see the fruits of our labor—a beautiful array of bushes, flowers, and trees.
"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
We have a tendency to overestimate ourselves and inflate our positive qualities. Recently, researchers asked nearly a million high school seniors to assess their leadership skills. Seventy percent rated themselves as above average, while only 2 percent rated their leadership skills below average. In another study, 94 percent of college professors rated their work above average. Psychologists call this the “illusionary superiority” effect—where we think we’re better than we really are.
In 2012, a think-tank held a search for 1,000 people of integrity in their country. From that group they identified 20 who they felt could become key governmental leaders. This was in reaction to the widespread dismay over the fact that one-third of the country’s regents and mayors were under investigation for graft. In a country of hundreds of millions, there was no shortage of leader applicants, but the think-tank believed it was imperative that they help elect leaders who possessed integrity.
Maneesh Sethi hired a woman to sit at his computer and watch him as he worked. Armed with a list of his tasks, her job was to slap him if he tried to put off working by checking Facebook or scanning other websites. Later, he employed a tall Swedish man to do the same job—that guy hit a bit harder, according to Maneesh. Oddly, this rather extreme measure worked. Maneesh claims that his “slappers” helped him become 98 percent more productive by preventing procrastination during his workday.