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.
Gladiator contains an inspiring scene set just before a battle. The Roman general Maximus exhorts his troops with these words: “Remember, what we do in life echoes in eternity!” He encouraged his men to conduct themselves with the kind of valor that would cause them to be remembered long after their death. But he also knew that their conduct in the present could affect their future.
Artist Jim LePage created a piece of artwork for every book of the Bible. As he read the Scriptures to prepare for this project, he applied his imagination to each scene—processing it visually as if it was a movie and he was the director. His artwork was born from this inventive approach to Bible study. Although Jim admits that some of his work is quite edgy, I think he would agree that his ability to be creative comes from the ultimate Creator Himself—God.
Here in Britain, the houses of famous people are often commemorated with a small blue plaque. On a house in my town of Oxford reads one such sign: “C. S. LEWIS, Scholar and Author, lived here 1930–1963.” Many contemporary British writers, scientists, politicians, and others dream of having a blue plaque on their house one day to commemorate their lives.
Humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow.” The tale of the grasshopper and the ant by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is a stark reminder of the detrimental impact of lazy living. Throughout the summer, the ant worked hard, gathering and storing food for the winter. The lazy grasshopper laughed at him, saying it was time to play and sing. When winter gripped the land, however, the grasshopper had no food and begged the ant to let him have some, but there was no excess to share.
Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.