If you have the opportunity to meet the Queen of England, don’t start the encounter with a bear hug or a hearty slap on the back. Keeping one’s distance is a sign of respect for this special lady. Although a courteous handshake might be allowed, people are generally advised not to touch the queen.
National Geographic has detailed the unimaginable killing force of pythons. These snakes have been known to kill large creatures: crocodiles, hyenas, and sometimes—even humans. According to experts, pythons kill their prey by cutting off the blood flow, a quick though agonizing death. “The heart . . . doesn’t have enough strength to push against the pressure,” one vertebrate ecologist said. The deadly snake literally squeezes the life out of its victims.
The view from our backyard is what clinched the deal for us. Having house hunted for ages, the rolling green hill captured the hearts of my husband and I. One morning, as I stood in our kitchen and looked up at the hill, I noticed what seemed to be a monument at the top. We pulled on our hiking boots and set off to investigate. Instead of a monument, however, we discovered a ventilation pipe. Turns out our rolling, green hill is in fact an old mine dump with a ventilation pipe to allow methane gas to escape.
Finlandia, composed in 1899, possessed the original title Finland Awakes. Sibelius’ brilliant masterpiece was part of the cultural resistance of Finland’s aggressive neighbor to the east. The symphonic poem begins ominously as brass and percussion swell to a raucous din. But sixty seconds into the clamor, the music softens to an elegant, peaceful beauty—harbinger of a better future for the nation. Finland would indeed awaken.
I once was treated to a makeover in which a generous friend not only bought me gorgeous clothes, but arranged for a swanky haircut and new makeup. Giggling and thanking her, I swished around my stylish tresses. My friend knew I had recently made some life changes so that I could better follow Christ and wanted to celebrate by helping me feel beautiful not only on the inside but on the outside too. It was a truly special moment. I knew that those who follow Jesus don’t need a makeover to reveal God’s presence to others, but my friend’s gesture gave me a visual reminder that when we submit our lives to Him our lives are transformed.
The movie Self/less tells the fictional story of a wealthy, dying man trying to attain immortality by transferring his consciousness to a younger man’s “host” body. While things go well at first, it eventually becomes clear that all is not as it should be, as the memories of the younger man begin surfacing in the wealthy man’s mind, resulting in some dire complications.
In an annual custom dating back to Medieval England, the mayor of the town of High Wycombe attends a weighing-in ceremony where residents witness whether their representative has been getting fat on taxpayers’ money. If the mayor has remained the same weight or has lost weight, the crowd cheers; but if he has put on weight, the crowd jeers at his obvious “overindulgence” throughout the year. In times past, the crowd would go so far as to pelt the offending mayor with rotten tomatoes and fruit.
When we arrive at school each morning, my kids unclick their seatbelts, heave their backpacks onto one shoulder, and climb out of the car. But before my son shuts the door, I call after them: “I love you!” I want my children to face the challenges of each day knowing that I support and care for them.
The myth of the Chinese New Year festival tells of a demon, Nian, who lived in the mountains. On the first day of the year, Nian would come into the village, steal the children, and eat livestock and grain. One day, an old man visited the village and gave the horrified people a solution. They were to hang red signs on their doors and make loud music—things the demon didn’t like. The Chinese word for New Year Guo Nian (过年) literally means “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian.”
After feeling a stinging sensation on my left leg, I discovered three tiny bite marks. I thought the culprit was some harmless insect and didn’t pay much attention to it. After a few days, however, the site of the bite turned deep red and was surrounded by a larger pink area. Within a week a blister formed, the skin hardened, and pain set in. I became concerned and decided to see a doctor. It turned out that the insect had been a poisonous spider—a brown recluse! To combat the effects, I was immediately given some strong antibiotics.
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.”
Digital footprint. A phrase that describes an ever- present reality didn’t even exist until recently. At the school where I teach, one of our technology leaders challenged us to consider whether our students grasped the permanency of where they go and what they do online. As she spoke, my mind pondered this question: If my digital footprint were a trail to follow, where would it lead others?
In 2015 a city decided it was time to clean up something that was attracting unwanted visitors. So a maintenance crew began the tedious work of removing more than one million pieces of gum—weighing more than a ton—stuck to the iconic “Gum Wall.” What began twenty years before, when patrons began sticking gum on the wall while waiting in line for the local theater, had turned into a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the wall was also popular with the local rat population!
My parents didn’t have much money, so when Dad gave me a small pocketknife, I treasured it. The gift came with one caveat though. Because I was only eight years old, I couldn’t use it—I could only carry it in my pocket!
“Mom, I have an idea for a painting.” A spiritual representation of the restorative work of God, the picture had formed in my son’s mind during a worship service and included Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones. Though this most recent design was out of the ordinary for both Micah and his painting instructor, she willingly coached him from the beginning sketch to the final brushstroke.