The Laingsburg flood of 1981 was the worst of its kind in South African history. In two days nearly half a meter (almost 17 inches) of rain fell, 104 people died, and 184 houses were destroyed. The town of Laingsburg was built close to the “dry river bed” of the Buffalo River. What the town engineers failed to realize, however, is that this relatively small river floods its banks every 100 years or so. Although the local farmers were initially grateful for the rain, their relief soon turned to dread as a six-meter (almost twenty-foot) wall of water rushed through the town, carrying with it people, animals, houses, and belongings.
I was 8 years old when we went to South Africa’s Kruger National Park as a family. We’d seen many amazing animals but no lion as we concluded our safari by car, and I felt bitterly disappointed. As we stopped at the exit gate, I took one last look down the dusty road behind us and there she was! Without thinking, I jumped out of the car and began running towards her shouting, “Lion, it’s a lion!”
With her heart pounding, she leaned her back against the door. Her thoughts reeled as she thought through her next move. Accustomed to seeing men enter her doorway covertly, she wasn’t surprised by the stealthy moves of her two visitors (Joshua 2:1). After all, she was Rahab, a prostitute. But when the two men crossed the threshold of her home, their imposing figures indicated they were not there for business as usual. She now found herself face to face with two men of an altogether different kind.
Vancouver, Canada, artist Wendy Tsao transformed some popular dolls into worthy role models for young girls. Straight out of the box, the dolls wore revealing clothes and heavy makeup. But Tsao removed the eye shadow and lipstick. She stitched new outfits to match the new identities she gave the dolls. Tsao recreated one doll to be Jane Goodall, a famous wildlife scientist. Another became Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first female Canadian astronaut.
I knew someone who had a difficult time believing she would ever truly experience God’s goodness and faithfulness (Joel 2:23). She grew up with an emotionally and physically abusive mother and absent father. In addition, she had been sexually assaulted by numerous men. In time, she thought she’d overcome the tragedy of her childhood and early adulthood. But even though she was faithful to Jesus and did her best to serve others, she couldn’t easily shake some of the dark influences that shadowed her.
Whenever my boys feel shame or are uncomfortable, they’ll often look away or bury their head in their chest. If they’re wearing a hoodie, they’ll pull it over their head, as if trying to become invisible. I have a similar impulse. When I’m ashamed or feel vulnerable, defeated, or hopeless, it’s easy to try to hide. With my sons, I draw close to them and calmly say, “Look up at me. I need to see your eyes.”
I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!
While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard.” That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!
It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.
What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10-by- 15-foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.
Tom, the manager of a car dealership, navigated Jacob around the showroom floor. Pausing at a restored Ford Ranchero pickup truck—one of Tom’s classic vehicles—tears began streaming down Jacob’s face. He then shared the happy memory of working on a farm in his youth. Year after year, no matter the weather, the farmer picked him up in a truck just like that one. Jacob would sit in the back while the farmer and his dog sat up front.
On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”
Tiptoeing around construction projects, I joined my husband as he talked with church members working on renovations to our building. As I waited patiently for them to finish, I noticed a little hole in my husband’s glove just below the knuckle of his finger. He explained that the guard on the high-powered grinder had moved while he was using it. The diamonds on his wedding band took the force of the fast-spinning blade. His finger spared, the only signs of the accident were the reduced size of the diamonds and the small hole in his glove.
King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.