We’ve had some uninvited houseguests for years. I’m talking about ants. Although we’ve tried to make it clear that they’re unwelcome, they keep coming over unannounced. We’ve found only one thing that prevents them from stopping by every day—a mixture of poison and sugar sprinkled around the perimeter of our home. Combining the two ingredients means that the ants gobble up the toxin along with the sweet stuff, and experience the lethal results.
Deep in the African bush lives a missionary couple named Bob and Martha, who have served in Namalu (a village in Karomoja, Uganda) for more than fifteen years. Despite formidable challenges such as surrounding tribal conflicts, it is here that they’ve chosen to raise their children and joyfully lead a vibrant ministry.
“Pastor accused of hurting man in a road rage incident,” read the headline. My first response was to think, As a believer in Jesus, why wasn’t the pastor more forgiving? Why didn’t he show self-control when provoked? Then the realization hit me that I’m equally capable of such behavior. There have been too many times when I’ve been behind the wheel and my daughter has had to remind me, “Chill, Dad, chill.”
As we travel country roads observing fields and farms, my husband and I marvel at the beauty we see and also the potential dangers involved in driving down these lanes. On either side of the roads are deep ditches. I imagine their purpose is to drain the fields of water and keep the roadways from being flooded or washed away. If drivers should slide off the icy pavement into a ditch or for a split-second take their eyes off the road, however, it could prove to be fatal.
The film Bridge of Spies tells the true story of a lawyer who was selected by his government to defend an arrested foreign spy. As the lawyer strived for a fair trial, he found himself caught in a moral quandary. With both countries standing on the brink of nuclear war, his government wasn’t interested in a rigorous defense. They simply wanted the spy convicted and sent to the electric chair.
A pedestrian is startled as a car screeches to an abrupt halt—just inches from his body. He lifts his head and thumbs from his glowing smartphone screen, scowls at the driver, and keeps walking. This scene plays out every day somewhere in the world. Texting walkers are the latest concern—doing something called wexting.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.
Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.
I received an email from a close friend with the subject line “I’m too old for this!” His email told of his recent ordeal riding a roller coaster with his 12-year-old son. He said that the ride lasted only a minute, but it was miserable. He didn’t get physically sick, but he also didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.
Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.
Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.
Every so often my wife and I will flip through family pictures and note how much our two boys have changed. I’m amazed at how small and childlike they were not so long ago. We’ve lived through these years with them and have witnessed their development. Yet their transformation has been so woven into the rhythm of our lives, we don’t notice the changes until we look back.