Wolves devour lambs. Leopards pounce on goats. A calf is never safe around a lion, and neither is a child! Though very touching, the picture of predators living in harmony with their prey can strike us as naïve. Prophetic pictures of such a scene have been interpreted different ways, but the image is striking. So, how different would things have to be for animals to be able to live like that? Perhaps not that different at all.
In 1996 I was a press manager for the Olympic Village, home to athletes from 192 countries who were competing in the Atlanta Games. One of my responsibilities was to escort heads of state and Hollywood celebrities through the village so they could mingle with the Olympians.
While traveling in Paris, my husband and I decided to enjoy the view atop the Arch of Triumph. Choosing adventure over ease, we elected to climb the 284 stairs to reach the sky-high destination instead of taking the elevator. A good part of the climb required us to step up ever-higher in what seemed like an endless spiral staircase. When we emerged at the apex, we relished the panoramic view of the city—a view made possible by our 162-foot ascent!
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.
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.
Life can be difficult. At times, burdens, disappointments, and uncertainties can seem too difficult to bear. Poet Annie Johnson Flint poignantly captured the struggles of life in her poem “One Day at a Time”:
Recently, our family took a trip to visit my parents in a distant state. Our two boys love their “Grams” and “Pa,” so they were excited to see their grandparents. They were also excited to miss a week of school, to travel by aircraft, and because we had tickets for all of the guys in the family to attend a local university football game. As you can imagine, my boys counted the days leading up to the trip, something that was both excruciating and immensely exciting for them.
One of my favorite songs is the 1993 Grammy award-winning Tears in Heaven. It’s an intimate song that Eric Clapton wrote to help him heal from the loss and pain of the accidental death of his 4-year-old son. Rooted in tragedy and grief, Eric expresses the hope of seeing his son again. He wrote of a place beyond this world, a place beyond tears—heaven. This song has touched me deeply. Like Clapton, we face painful, heartbreaking moments in life—times that make us long for the day when we’ll cry no more.
Just 5 and 7 years old, Liam and Elias eagerly awaited darkness and a fireworks display. Dancing with anticipation in a meadow, they pacified their impatience by marveling at the pyrotechnic sideshows of fellow holiday celebrants. Cherry bombs, sparklers, Roman candles, and fireworks of dubious legality violated the dusk.
The Dead Sea in Israel is a one-of-a-kind place to take a dip. Tourists who enter its waters immediately realize that swimming aids aren’t necessary. Yep, there’s no need to tread water in the Dead Sea. Due to its exceptionally high concentration of salt, people simply float on its surface like apples bobbing in a barrel of water.
Ancient civilizations were terrified by the ocean. To them, the sea was a stormy, unpredictable place where swells swallowed up courageous sailors. So it’s not surprising that the religions of the Ancient Near East all contained accounts about how their god defeated the evil sea of chaos and its seven-headed monster—often portrayed as a dragon or serpent. Whether it was the Mesopotamian Marduk slaying Tiamat, goddess of the sea, or the Canaanite Baal cutting off the heads of the oceanic chaos monster, the ancients made a point of saying that their god had triumphed over evil.