The mood in the church was heavy as believers in my city gathered to mourn the horror of a racist demonstration in America and its deadly aftermath. As we united to grieve and pray, a question seemed to hang in the air: What does it mean to hope during days like this—when evil is on full display and when the justice of God’s kingdom seems far away?
“Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul,” poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. Hope, as she describes it, is a gift that simply comes. No matter how dark or cold the storm, hope gently finds us, warming us and singing a wordless song, but never expecting anything in return.
The story is told of a king who was looking for satisfaction in life. His advisors told him to wear the shirt of a contented man for a day, and he would be cured of his discontent. His men searched the kingdom for a contented man so they could bring his shirt to the king, but they returned empty-handed. The king was furious. In response, his men told the king, “We found a contented man, but he does not own a shirt.”
In the 1950s, a promising running back at Florida State University dreamed of a professional career in American football. But an injury prematurely ended these ambitions, leaving the young man adrift. During that uncertain period, he enrolled in various acting classes, surprised by how much he enjoyed the craft. That young man was Burt Reynolds, who would go on to become one of the most famous US actors of the 1970s and 1980s. Few realize that Reynolds’ acting career began with the death of a dream.
In March 2015, the magazine Australian Popular Science reported that a company is hoping to “resurrect” people by the year 2045 through artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. Their goal is “to store data of conversational styles, behavioral patterns, thought processes, and information about how your body functions from the inside-out.” Then they’ll code this information, have it built into an artificial body, and use the brain of a “deceased human.” In many ways, what was previously science fiction is becoming reality.
My best friend from college, now a missionary in France, stopped to see me during one of her furloughs. I remember her telling me that she had to leave by 4:00 p.m. As she prepared to depart, the wind started to pick up. Menacing clouds rolled in. She ran to her car, and we quickly waved our goodbyes. About five minutes later, the winds roared to life and shortly after, it grew dark as night. Concern for my friend’s safety gripped me as I surveyed the storm. I’d never seen anything like it—nearly pitch black during the daytime. Fortunately, my friend made it home safe.
Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Ascent of the Blessed depicts souls being escorted from a place of darkness through a tunnel leading to dazzling light. At the end of the tunnel awaits a radiant being. The painting portrays a phenomenon often described by those who have had a near-death experience—a “tunnel of light” leading to what seems to be heaven.
First words can be significant and transformative. The first words ever heard over a telephone were spoken by Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the new technology. On March 10, 1876, Bell called his assistant, Thomas Watson, and said: “Mr. Watson, come here.” On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey composed the very first words on Twitter, that “global water-cooler meeting place” of news and culture. It was a succinct message: “Just setting up my twttr.”
An amazing phenomenon has recently been discovered: As a sperm meets an egg at human conception, a flash of light is emitted! Researchers have actually captured these mini-fireworks on film.
Since my children have been able to speak, I’ve recorded things they’ve said in a red notebook which now features a bent cover and curled page corners. A few times each year we read through the entries and reminisce about the (mostly) funny and (occasionally) insightful things the kids said as toddlers and young children. Some of the entries mark moments I still recall, but others would be lost forever if it weren’t for the “red notebook.”
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?
In The Newlywed Game, a popular game show in the US that ran from 1966 up until 2013, newly married couples were asked questions to determine how well the spouses knew each other. As I reflected on the program, I was reminded of how amazing it is that we have an intimate relationship with God—who both knows us perfectly and helps us to know Him.
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.
Since 1883, semper fidelis (always faithful) has been the motto of the US Marine Corps. The toy figure Gumby, based on an animated character from a TV show, has been with us since the 1950s.
My son and I constructed a model of the solar system in which each planet is aligned near the next. Looking at this contraption, one might think that real planets aren’t very far from each other. But that’s not the case: if the Sun was the size of a basketball, the bb-sized Earth would be located 31 yards away, and the small planetoid Pluto would be 1,232 yards away! The distances between planets are vast, almost beyond our ability to comprehend.