From the time I first encountered Magic Eye stereograms (posters that show one obvious picture, but supposedly reveal more if you stare at them long enough), they’ve only frustrated me. I sat in front of one for what seemed like hours while everyone coached me, telling me to look through the image, then past the image, and then telling me to cross my eyes and look harder. No matter what I tried, I simply couldn’t see what, I’m told, was right there in front of me.
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.”
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!
My twenty-something friends and I sometimes joke about the struggles of “adulting”—slang for doing adult responsibilities like maintaining a vehicle and home, cooking, paying bills, and planning. We grew up assuming these skills would come naturally with age, but they haven’t come naturally; it’s been a lot of work!
I don’t recommend gambling—it’s a fast way to become poor. Gamblers don’t always win, even when they do. In 2016, a woman was playing a slot machine when it rang up a US $43 million jackpot. When she went to collect her winnings, the casino said the machine had malfunctioned. Local law prohibited giving her the money, so the casino offered her a steak dinner instead. From US $43 million to a hearty meal! Now that’s disappointing.
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.
I have a friend, a nurse, who recently went to Thessaloniki, Greece, to work in three refugee camps, primarily serving mothers and young babies who were far from home in the bitter cold. The overwhelming majority of the refugees are from Syria, where their villages and cities, once places of laughter and life, are now mostly rubble. In an email, my friend attached an image of one of the refugee tents where someone had scribbled on the outside: “We are not refugees, we are prisoners here. We want a better life.”
In the 1940s, George de Mestral faced an issue only too familiar to dog owners: After a walk in the woods, his dog’s fur was riddled with cockleburs—thorny seeds which are nearly impossible to remove. But de Mestral realized that more than simply an inconvenience, perhaps the design of the cockleburs could inspire something useful. In time, he invented VELCRO® brand fasteners which are widely used for fabric and more. This is just one example among many of inventors who used the wonders of the natural world to provide inspiration for their creations.
“The cable isn’t working!” exclaimed the event organizer with a panicked look on her face. I was speaking at a women’s conference and had arrived early to set up my laptop. The organizer tried to connect my laptop to the projector and found the cable connection didn’t fit. I told her, “Don’t worry. I have the right cable with me.” Thankfully, in my preparations for the event I had packed the needed component. I was grateful to have the right connection!
A rod and a staff—they feel like strange comforts. You think of a sheep in a dark valley with predators all around, and the push of a rod or a wrench of a staff are the only encouragements. They can be a comfort ultimately, but at the time they don’t feel like it.” A friend and I were discussing Psalm 23, highlighting an often overlooked part of it. How, I wondered, can we find consolation in these images of correction? (Psalm 23:4).
Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a great deal of political upheaval. While such turmoil isn’t new, many are wrestling with what kind of leaders to trust and how to hold our leaders accountable for governing in ways that are good for everyone—not merely for a select few who hold the purse strings or wield power.
For nearly a century, two towering ash trees have shaded our house and stood like sentinels watching over it. Within the last decade, however, one of the ashes suffered a mortal wound, and in the intervening years the rot and carpenter ants did their business. The arborist told us there was no saving the tree and we took it down. Since we wanted to plant another seedling (a weeping willow) in its place, we had to grind the stump completely out of the ground. “You’ll have to get rid of that stump,” the arborist said, “or nothing else will grow there.”
A “love calculator” can be found on the Internet. As strange as it may sound, all you’re instructed to do once you’re on the website is to key in your name and the name of the person you’re interested in, and the love meter calculates your “love percentage”—supposedly revealing your chances of a successful romantic relationship. I wonder how many have naïvely tried to find true love using this website!
What makes grass grow thick and green? Would you believe that part of the answer is lightning? The main ingredient in most fertilizers is nitrogen, and the air is full of it. But grass can’t access the nitrogen in the air until lightning moves through it. Lightning heats the air and splits nitrogen into separate molecules. The molecules of nitrogen then join with oxygen and hydrogen and fall as rain—nourishing the vegetation. Who knew that lightning is one of God’s messengers to make the world green?