My family is planning a walking tour of Scotland. I’m eager to take the meandering paths and the side roads—to encounter parts of the Scottish Highlands that we would miss if we simply stuck with a bus tour. Some things are experienced better by taking the crooked path.
Andrew Leisewitz is a loving husband, father, and elder in our church. He’s also an internationally respected veterinary professor. But even professors have to pay tolls on some roads in South Africa. One day Andrew left his wallet at home, so he had to go from car to car asking for money at the toll booth. The booth clerks and most of the drivers were unsympathetic to his dilemma. In that moment, it didn’t matter that Andrew is a well-respected professor; he had to humble himself and ask for help.
Students at the University College in Dublin watched as a mother duck waddled over a cement wall and landed one meter below. For her, it was nothing special. But for the yellow-feathered babies following her, it was an inconceivable feat. The ducklings peeped and milled around on the ledge above their mother. Finally one little duck jumped, landed on his side, and rolled to his feet. He chose to follow his mother, and his leap led to his siblings doing the same thing. Soon they all bounded from the ledge and trailed behind their mother as they continued their journey.
Our family truly enjoys the thrills and adrenaline rush found in taking amusement park rides. One recent ride we braved included a 170-foot drop. During the intense ride, I lost my bearings at one point and had no idea where we were headed. I was no longer in control, but simply hurtling down a twisting, turning track.
Dave gazed at the magnificent network of trails reaching into the Canadian wetlands before him. At the swampier sections, timbers strategically placed between patches of terra firma served to keep hikers dry—in theory.
Steven and his dad regularly took their motorcycles for a ride along the East coast of South Africa, past the bathers and the fishermen, till they reached the deserted sand and sea. One day, after climbing their favorite sand dune, they competed to see who could make it back down in the least amount of jumps. On the 18th jump, Steven heard a bloodcurdling scream from behind. His father had landed on a hidden tree stump and sheared off part of his heel. The experience has left Steven cautious with his own children, allowing them to play on sand dunes, but warning them never to jump down one.
As we pause and reflect on another 12 months gone by, we’re often quick to aim for greater balance in all areas during the new year. Author and pastor Andy Stanley suggests that we aim to find a rhythm in the changing seasons of life. Instead of trying to carve out equal amounts of time for each activity in order to attain and maintain a balanced lifestyle, there are seasons which require us to work longer or shorter hours, spend less or exercise more, cut out or add certain foods to our diet, and so on.
With an estimated 6 billion copies sold, the Bible is the world’s best-selling book. The average American owns three or four copies of the Bible. In a 2012 survey, however, 18 percent of churchgoers revealed that they rarely or never read the Bible, and 22 percent said they did so just once a month. Only 19 percent said they read the Bible every day. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society, said: “There are probably five Bibles on every shelf in American homes. Americans buy the Bibles . . . they just don’t read [them].”
In his landmark books Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith surveyed American young adults and found that most held to what he called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.” They’re deists because they believe God doesn’t interfere in our lives unless we need His help to solve a problem. They’re moralistic because they believe God wants us to be good and kind to each other. And their view is therapeutic because it makes them feel good about themselves.
Ever heard of “swarm intelligence”? Ant colonies use it to establish the quickest paths between food and their nests. Scout ants leave a trail of pheromones (a chemical substance) as they make their way to edibles. More ants follow, causing the scent on the trails to become even stronger. Over time, the best routes become more popular and scented, while the less-efficient paths steadily decrease in both the number of ants traversing them and the pheromones left behind. “Swarm intelligence” allows ant colonies to consistently find the best paths to the nourishment they need.
Gordon Hempton is one of the world’s few acoustic ecologists. He travels the world recording what he calls “the last quiet places,” places completely untouched by modern human sound. Hempton records remote locations on the other side of the world as well as nearby wonders, such as the sound of the tide washing over a piece of spruce driftwood in a national park. He describes silence not as the lack of noise (there is no such thing, the earth itself emits sound), but rather as presence (the capacity to be fully attentive to the space where you are).
The year 2013 had hardly begun before I felt as if I needed a vacation. A house renovation, a book launch, a trip to Ethiopia, and two speaking trips to Australia had left the year with little free space. In the midst of the busyness, I picked up a book one night and found this delightful paraphrase of Psalm 23:1-6 by Japanese poet Toki Miyashina: