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.
The ten-hour drive through the mountains led Dave from school to his home, but the trip robbed him of valuable study time. By driving faster, he could trim the journey to eight hours. That seemed like a pretty good bargain to him.
A Chicago businessman had no idea he was humiliating an “icon in the community.” Outside a local US courthouse, he became angry at a seventy-nine-year-old African-American woman. After arguing with her and calling her Rosa Parks (a famous African-American civil rights activist), he slapped and spit on her. The woman, however, was a judge! The man was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated battery and a hate crime.
In 2013, a jet crashed in San Francisco, resulting in three tragic deaths. One young woman died not from injuries caused by the crash, but from being run over by a rescue vehicle that rushed to the scene. City authorities conducted an investigation and determined that the death was accidental and that the driver would not face criminal charges. But the board of the airline involved took a very different approach to this tragedy: They called a public press conference and bowed low in apology. Even though they may not have been individually responsible for the girl’s death, they felt they shared responsibility as the leaders of the company.
During excavations of an ancient French convent in 2011–2013, archaeologists made a discovery regarding the ancient nature of heart disease. They came across five heart-shaped urns made out of lead, containing embalmed human hearts. Of the four well-preserved hearts, three showed severe signs of atherosclerosis—a heart disease that’s very common today. According to one of the researchers, the fact that humans had atherosclerosis 400 years ago is one of the most important findings of the study. But, then again, human beings have been dealing with spiritually diseased hearts for a long time. . .
Sometimes we can make sweeping generalizations about all sorts of things—or even about people. “No ___________ are friendly,” we might say. “All ___________ are corrupt,” we insist.
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.
It’s obvious,” my brother said. “A southerly wind is a wind that’s blowing toward the South.” I tried to protest. He rushed out and picked up a dictionary, returning with the gleeful smugness of the elder brother. “Read it and weep!” he said. When I read aloud the final phrase of the dictionary entry: “concerning winds, southerly means from a southern direction” he grabbed the book from me. He read the entry again, blinking in disbelief before stalking off dejectedly. He couldn’t accept the truth at first, even after reading it for himself. He had been convinced that he was right.