Many years ago, a poor orphan advertised her piano recitals in order to raise funds. Posters boldly declared that she was a pupil of the celebrated Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt—a blatant lie. To her horror, she discovered that Liszt was coming to the village where she was giving the concert. With trepidation she requested an interview with him, sobbed out her confession, and awaited his stern rebuke. Liszt acknowledged that she had been wrong, but recognized her repentance and asked her to play for him. At first she stumbled over her notes, but as she grew in confidence, she played well. He corrected her a few times and said, “My dear, now I have given you a lesson. You are a pupil of Liszt. Go on with your concert and put on the program that the last piece will be played, not by the pupil, but by the master.”
A woman was running in a half-marathon in Ontario, Canada. It was a warm-up for the Detroit Marathon, the race in which she hoped to qualify for the renowned Boston Marathon. Somehow she missed the turn for the half-marathon and instead ran twenty-six miles—the complete marathon! Not only did she complete it, she posted the fastest time for a female runner and automatically qualified to run the Boston Marathon.
In Greek mythology, the island of Sirens was where beautiful temptresses ensnared passing sailors with their sweet songs. The music led the men to the shore where they were shipwrecked and destroyed. Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax, but being curious and to avoid being tempted, he instructed them to bind him to the mast. Upon hearing the song of the Sirens, Odysseus commanded his crew to release him, but they refused and bound him tighter. Jason of the Argonauts, on the other hand, hired a skilled musician to play a tune as his ship sailed within earshot of Sirens. His boat floated by with the crew unaffected by the alluring tunes.
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.
Agriculture is a vital sector in the South African economy. So when it was blighted by a harsh drought in 2015, it seemed that the entire nation mobilized in earnest prayer and drastic action. When ordinary people saw heartbreaking images of starving animals and desperate farmers on TV, they filled water bottles and drove hundreds of kilometers to deliver them to the thirsty. Farmers who had grain and hay bales stocked their trucks and shared with those in need. When calamity struck, the community sought God and rallied for much-needed relief.
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!”
In the space of two days, I saw two chameleons—one bright green and the other dark brown. When my daughter called me over to see the brown one on a tree trunk, it took me a while to find it—further reinforcing my understanding of the way a chameleon changes color to blend in with its environment as a form of camouflage.
Heather Kampf is an exceptional runner with impressive credentials. She once took first place in a 600-meter race after falling flat on her face! In the final 200 meters, just as she took the lead, Heather tripped and fell hard, leaving her at the back of the pack. She could easily have become discouraged and accepted what everyone was thinking—her race was over. But she didn’t stay down. Instead, Heather sprang up and immediately started catching up. To the amazement of everyone watching, she went on to win the race.
My husband’s job offer was a welcome answer to prayer, allowing him to spend more time with our family. It required a big move though—the third in 7 years. His work had previously taken us to the Middle East and South Africa, and now, with the prospect of returning to England, we felt cautiously excited. In the midst of all the logistics, important decisions, piles of paperwork that had to be completed, and the packing of all our belongings into shipping boxes, we also had an overwhelming sense of God’s “perfect peace.”
The CEO quickly scanned the email from a company that makes and installs wooden doors. His community radio station needed new doors, but money was tight. Out of a sense of obligation, he hit the “reply” button and asked for a quote on a set of double doors. Moments later, he got a response. Turns out, Andrew hadn’t read the email all the way through to the end. The company had in fact offered the radio station a free set of doors!
The small car shook as Frank pushed down hard on the accelerator while fixing his eyes on the headlights coming toward him. Having Christlike parents who ran a counseling organization, you would think that Frank would have had the skills to navigate his way through the trials and temptations of life. But his sinful choices, including the abuse of alcohol, had taken their toll, and he resolved to silence the shame and guilt. As he prepared to pull into the lane of an oncoming truck to end his pain, however, he was suddenly stopped by the palpable presence of God.
An organization in South Africa began a compassionate project many years ago. The group buys houses in impoverished areas and paints them red. They then hire house parents who live in the red houses, providing beacons of light to the troubled communities. Over the years, these houses have become havens for children at risk and other hurting people in need of a safe place, a hot meal, a listening ear, and a warm hug.
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.
As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.
When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.