Scientists at Stanford University once conducted a study to measure voice recognition. During the study, twenty-four children heard three audio clips. The clips were less than one second long and contained unintelligible words. One clip was of the mother of each child, while the other two featured voices of women they didn’t know. Despite the brevity of the voice samples, the children identified their mothers’ voices 97 percent of the time!
Years ago, a stray cat began to visit my parents’ house. After several back-door bowls of milk, they decided to adopt him and name him Theo. He enjoyed being petted and fed, but he often left for days and returned with bloodied ears, smelling like a trashcan. But my parents were always happy when he came home.
Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”
A ministry leader once tried an interesting communication experiment. Holding giant whiteboards and some markers, he engaged passersby on his city’s streets. On one whiteboard, people were asked to write what they wanted to tell the church. The messages weren’t very kind. On the other board, people were asked to write, “What do you want to say to Jesus?” To Him they wrote surprisingly tender messages such as, “I miss you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”
In 1988, François Pasquier returned to France after spending time away from his homeland. Hoping to reconnect with his friends, he invited them to a picnic in a public park. Pasquier asked everyone to wear white so that they could identify one another. The dinner was a success, and the guests decided to reconvene the following year with more friends. Diner en Blanc has now grown to an annual dinner party of some 10,000 attendees. People still dress in white so they will stand out from those not attending the dinner.
One morning before getting out of bed, I heard a radio announcer commenting on something other than news headlines and traffic backups. She was describing the sunrise, saying it was incredible and even camera-worthy. Sure enough, a glance out the window revealed an exquisite array of colors and light. Low lavender clouds embedded in a pale yellow sky grazed rooftops in the distance. To the north, fire-colored clouds hovered against a deep, turquoise backdrop.
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs baseball team won the World Series (North America’s pro baseball championship) for the first time since 1908. After their win, people everywhere declared that “the Curse” had been lifted. The curse supposedly originated in 1945, when William Sianis tried to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field during a game. Guards denied them access and Sianis reportedly said, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
A friend of mine grew up in a rural part of Hawaii where her family had no electricity. As a child, the dark hours of the night frightened her. Without streetlights or the occasional lamp-lit window, it was easy to imagine a scary ogre or hungry beast lurking around the corner. Eventually, my friend left Hawaii to attend college in another region of the US. Although modern lighting brightened the evening hours, her fear of the dark persisted. Finally, as a married adult with children, she began to ask God to help her overcome her fear, and He answered her prayers. She’s no longer afraid of the dark!
I heard a story about a college student who became trapped in a 17-inch space between two buildings. After zigzagging up a fire escape, he planned to jump from one rooftop to another. Instead, he fell into the slim chasm—dropping three stories until he was wedged in the narrow space between the buildings, unable to move. Finally, rescuers bored a hole through one of the buildings and pulled him to safety.
A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!
Our pastor read this verse during a sermon: “It’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Quite happily wed himself, he followed the reading by saying, “Marriage complicates things.” Seconds later, a masculine voice emitted a long exaggerated “Aaaaamen.” The congregation broke into laughter.
Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.
If I asked you to hum the melody of Amazing Grace, it’s likely you would know it. It’s a well-known song that reminds us about God’s astonishing forgiveness. His grace gave us spiritual sight when we were blind—allowing us to draw near to Him. God’s grace makes us shiver in reverence of Him, but it also eases our fears. As the song says, God’s grace is truly amazing!