The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. It means to take joy in another’s misery. We can sometimes feel schadenfreude when someone else slips up. A politician we don’t admire stumbles over his words. A famous person who has great wealth suddenly goes bankrupt. Part of us feels sad, but we might also secretly enjoy the turn of events.
The story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue always puzzled me. How was it possible for a king to erect a statue and then demand that everyone bow down to it? (Daniel 3:1,5). The whole story seemed silly. And that was before the Veggie Tales video version, which substituted the statue with a chocolate bunny. Have you heard the “Bunny Song”? “The bunny, the bunny, yeah, I love the bunny. I gave everything that I had for the bunny!”
Five years ago, in a burst of renovating energy, my husband and I decided to install tile flooring in our kitchen. Cold to the feet on winter mornings, hard on the joints year round, but easy to clean, tile was our choice again when we moved a year ago. Enduring the heavy traffic through our house, its strength has proven unyielding—even to the point of being ruthless when anything breakable happens to fall on it.
An article published in Fortune magazine addressed the values of some young adults—attitudes which pervade much of today’s culture, including the church. “On the Fast Track to the Good Life” noted that many young adults view success as being at the top of a major corporation, believe in themselves and their abilities and lack humility, view any relationship that slows their ascent up the corporate ladder as an anchor preventing their success, don’t value loyalty, and believe little can be learned from previous generations.
As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines:
I once had a boss who wielded the ultimate power in our organization. It was his goal to make sure we never forgot who was in charge. Though he was successful in gaining an iron grip within our office, the net result was that this man was very lonely. How different it could have been if he had humbled himself and formed friendly relationships with his employees!
This week I bought $30 worth of toilet paper in order to qualify for a mail-in rebate. The rebate form told me to address my envelope to “Road to Glory.” Really? I hadn’t slain a dragon or won a championship. I had merely purchased TP. So I laughed at the ridiculous title as I wrote it on the envelope.
This is the last snack I’m going to eat today, you tell yourself. Then 5 minutes later you’re looking for another one! Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar Fat, reveals how food companies study ways to “help” people crave junk food. Some of the food industry’s biggest names hire “crave consultants” to determine people’s “bliss points”—the conditions when food companies can optimize consumers’ cravings. One popular company spends $30 million a year to determine the bliss points of consumers.
I once wrote a book based on a collection of letters that François Fénelon (a French pastor from the 17th century) wrote to a younger friend who was serving in the morally corrupt court of King Louis XIV. Fénelon’s fatherly posture and his call for unflinching devotion to God captured me. Words like this are standard Fénelon fare: “Becoming a follower of God is hard because it requires that we submit ourselves fully to a God who is other than us. We must let go of our insistence that we know best what we need. We must let go of our demands that God act when and how we demand.”
My friend noticed that his maple tree was shedding leaves prematurely. The tree doctor told him his tree was suffering from a girdling root. It had taken 30 years, but the offending root had encircled the tree and was now slowly choking it. If my friend didn’t dig down and hack the root off, the tree would die.
Ready for a Bible quiz? Which king: attained national influence at age 16; was a genius in military deployment and national security; invented new military weapons; had true vision for commercial and business development; and possessed the Midas touch in husbandry and agriculture?
We got really good,” Raleigh Becket bragged. He and his brother piloted a “Jaeger,” a huge battle robot that fought massive, dinosaurlike creatures named Kaiju as depicted in the movie Pacific Rim. In their arrogance, the brothers defied orders and went on a reckless mission battling a huge Kaiju alone. The massive beast destroyed their Jaeger, causing it to come crashing down in defeat. Raleigh’s brother was then killed by the monster while his brother could only watch in horror.
Writer and media consultant Phil Cooke was on a business trip to Calgary, Canada. More than a thousand miles from home, he thought he was walking around in total anonymity until someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Aren’t you Phil Cooke?” The man who made the inquiry had read Cooke’s books and followed him through social media. Phil wasn’t doing anything that could have damaged his reputation, but the interaction did remind him of the unfortunate stories of executives, pastors, politicians, and others who have crossed a moral line when they thought no one was watching.
As a kid, I enjoyed helping my mom in the kitchen— especially when it came time for our holiday baking. One tool that fascinated me was the sifter. My mom stored it in a large plastic bag that kept it clean and caught any remnants of flour dust from previous projects. Turning the handle, I’d watch as the heavy clump of flour met with the metal pieces and screening to become a soft, light product.
Have you ever wanted to take a quick peek at someone else’s mail? Maybe it was an envelope from a doctor’s office that held the results of a family member’s recent medical tests. Or perhaps it was a letter addressed to your parents from an estranged family member. As you held the envelope in your hands, the temptation to open it might have felt overwhelming.