As I watched a talent show on TV, I was greatly impressed by a gifted musical group. Collectively, the musicians played more than 15 different instruments. Videos of their spirited blend of Irish-influenced music and dance consistently go viral. The 12 siblings who comprise the uber-talented Willis Clan have appeared on other television programs, and they even have their own successful reality TV show.
A friend who worked for a Christian organization was known for his perfectionistic work habits. One day as he was finishing some work on a backhoe, a large piece of excavating equipment, he began preparing to paint its large metal bucket. This was an unnecessary part of the job, as the fresh paint would scrape off as soon as the backhoe began digging into rocky soil. As my friend raised his spray gun for the first coat, his boss called to him, “Don’t paint the bucket!”
Rick Vuyst hosts a local call-in radio gardening show in my hometown. Vuyst, who identifies himself an “entre-manure,” weekly “soils” the airwaves with gardening advice. But don’t let his “cracked pot” puns fool you. If you’re having problems with your lawn or plants, this master gardener can help, often telling listeners who have called in, “Thank you very ‘mulch.’ ”
Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”
Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.
Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.
I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom
When I was a kid, my dad encouraged me to be courageous and not play it safe. He could see how tempted I was to overthink a situation or to hedge my bets. “Do something!” he would say. Then in jest, he would add: “Even if it’s wrong, do something!”
Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, shows how doctors can use a checklist to save lives during surgery. Gawande’s checklist includes three vital “pause points”: before anesthesia, before incision, and before leaving the operating room.
In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”
My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?
One of the most famous and influential preachers of the gospel in US history was D. L. Moody. The preacher, who lived in the 19th century, also founded Moody Bible Institute and began publishing Christian books—scarce at the time. Both MBI and Moody Publishers continue to function more than a century after his death. Surely such a renowned believer in Jesus was highly trained and educated! But that doesn’t describe Moody. He had very little education and worked as a humble shoe salesman for years before his conversion.
Bees can identify certain scents from nearly 3 miles away. Because of their keen sense of smell, ability to fly, and minimal bodyweight, they make ideal bomb-sniffers. Croatian scientist Nikola Kezic has trained bees to detect TNT—an explosive used in his country’s many active landmines. He trains the bees by mixing tiny amounts of TNT with sugar. When the bees are released over a minefield, they’ll fly to areas where they smell the explosive—hoping to find some sweet dessert!
The African impala is a deerlike creature that can jump to a height of 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) and cover a distance greater than 11 meters (36 feet) in one bound. Yet the impala can be kept in a zoo enclosure with just a 1-meter-high wall. Why? Because it isn’t tall enough to peer over the barrier, and it won’t jump if it can’t see where its feet will land.
I never wanted to be the pastor of a church. So when I was approached by the elders of my congregation and asked to consider the role, I immediately refused—telling them quite clearly that being a minister was not my calling. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be no good at it. The whole idea didn’t appeal to me, and so—in my mind—God would certainly not require me to follow such a path.