A Protestant denomination is proposing a new liturgy for christenings. The old ceremony asked parents and godparents two questions: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” The new liturgy summarizes both in one question: “Do you reject evil, in all its many forms and all its empty promises?”
The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.
The alarm clock rang promptly at 7 in the morning. Sophie woke up with a bad headache, but she thought nothing of it. She pushed away the covers and got out of bed. Suddenly, as a stroke devastated her brain, darkness descended and she collapsed to the floor. Sadly, situations like this one have been a reality for many people over the years.
When the temperature dipped to -27 degrees Celsius in my city, newscasters cautioned the public against going outside. An authority in a neighboring state declared, “In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.” After hearing warnings such as these, my husband said what I was thinking: “I think I want to go outside . . . just to feel what it’s like.”
During a visit to an art institute, I observed a German suit of armor made in 1521. None of the other defensive ensembles seemed as complete as this one. It featured vented metal to cover the face; a curved breastplate to deflect blows; metal that continued down the arms, hands, and covered each finger; leg shields that were seamlessly fitted to metal shoes. The craftsman had imagined every possible offensive strike and addressed each in his design.
While away from home on a lengthy work assignment, I attended a church quite different from my one back home. For instance, my adopted church observed communion (the Lord’s Supper) every time they met. Instead of the pastor or elders serving, ordinary members of the church shared responsibility for distributing the bread and wine.
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.
When a supervolcano erupts—and thankfully that’s extremely rare—it leaves behind a massive basin known as a caldera. But they are so huge we tend to overlook them completely. As geophysicist Bob Smith described the 45-mile wide Yellowstone caldera, “The size is so immense that people don’t appreciate it.”
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.
Yed Anikpo created an app called Heartpoints to help Christians track their spiritual progress. Users of the app can review their daily history to rejoice over victories and to repent of sins. According to Anikpo, “Heartpoints [can] help us capture [what] makes up our walk today so that we can examine it and use [it] to inform . . . our pilgrimage tomorrow.”
The French philosopher Voltaire suspected that he would win the lottery in 1729. With a statistician friend he calculated that the jackpot would be much greater than the cost of all the tickets. They pooled their money with other friends, bought as many tickets as possible, won, and split the prize money. Outwitting the Parisian government paid big—Voltaire received over a million francs. But some people might think he didn’t play totally fair.
Jacob was on the run from his brother. Frightened and alone, he walked as far as he could, then grabbed a rock for a pillow. Dreaming that God was standing on the top of a stairway, Jacob heard Him promise, “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15). He saw angels ascending and descending the stairway—going out to patrol the world and coming back to report what they had done (Job 1:6, 2:1; Hebrews 1:14).
While in college, the great missionary Adoniram Judson lost his faith when he fell under the spell of Jacob Eames, a deist who believed that God never interferes in our lives. When he was on a trip, Judson stayed at a village inn next door to a man who was dying. The man’s groans kept Judson awake and he began to think about death. Was he ready to meet God? The next morning Judson learned that the man had died. He asked the innkeeper if he knew who the man was. “Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames . . . Jacob Eames.”
I love excellence and I even battle against perfectionism from time to time. But there are times I find speed more desirable than precision. As evidence, behind every picture on my walls is a cluster of tiny pinholes. It’s no wonder that the occasional picture falls from its place. After all, I can’t expect much from a technique that relies on a hairbrush in lieu of a hammer, and a good eye instead of a tape measure. My attempts simply seemed faster than measured accuracy.