Although a man murdered nearly all of a woman’s family in the Rwandan genocide, they’re now next-door neighbors. He says, “Ever since I [confessed] my crimes and ask[ed] her for forgiveness, she has never once called me a killer. . . . She has set me free.”
“Where will the word / resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words from T. S. Eliot’s haunting poem “Ash Wednesday” lament a world of people so hardened and afraid that they “walk among noise and deny the voice.” The poem echoes the thought of John 1, where the light of Jesus persistently shines in the darkness of a world that will not recognize Him (Isaiah 55:5,10).
I winced the moment I said it. I meant to be funny, but it came out mean. My comment sagged heavy on my heart when I went to bed and was still draped there when I awoke. I thought, My motives were pure, but my words were clumsy. Such self-talk purchased momentary relief, but soon enough the pain of my words began to haunt my heart again. After twenty-four hours of trying to let myself off the hook, I finally admitted what I had known all along. What I said was wrong. I had been a jerk.
My friend was overjoyed. Following years of failed procedures, she was going to give birth to a daughter. With only weeks to go, however, my friend discovered her husband was having an affair. The weight of pain threatened to drown all hope of happiness.
“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.
John Oliver, the host of HBO’s popular TV show Last Week Tonight, made the news when he forgave fifteen million dollars in debt. He did this to show the unsavory nature of buying debt and collecting on it. He purchased the massive debt at the price of just $.004 for every dollar. Because he owned the debt, Oliver had the legal right to collect it. Instead, he generously abolished it.
Actually, I’m divorced.” My friend’s eyes fell as he spoke. This was not something he enjoyed telling others. “I’m not sure what happened. We were both wrong. It all just fell apart.” As our conversation continued, he shared that his wife’s departure had crushed him.
“It was a bit painful. I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.” Those words from Ian McKellen, the actor who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gandalf in the movie trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, help explain why he cancelled a book contract for his autobiography. It was too painful.
When artist Gary Sweeney decided to sell the home his family had owned for seventy years, he created a unique way of saying goodbye. Sweeney selected and enlarged one hundred family photos, placing them on pieces of plywood. He attached the plywood to the home’s exterior—covering the entire structure in memories.
A pair of 5-year-old boys with a fascination for luxury cars decided to try to buy one—a real one. First, they used small sand spades to dig under the playground fence at the school they attended—burrowing each day until they made their escape. Once free, they walked more than a mile to a car showroom. There, the boys met a woman and told her they wanted to buy a Jaguar—with no money. She took them to the police, who promptly returned them to their parents.
Aiko stopped sleeping with her boyfriend when she gave her life to Jesus. Eventually he broke up with her and later she fell in love with a man who was a devoted believer in Jesus. She was much happier, yet felt guilty because of her previous lifestyle. She cried out to her friend Midori, “I just wish I could have a fresh start. I want to be reborn!”
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.
A security agency set up an open Wi-Fi network in a public area in London. When people connected to the network, they were presented with the usual lengthy terms and conditions. But there was a hidden, devilish catch—a clause stating that users of the Wi-Fi were “giving permanent ownership of the user’s firstborn child” to the agency. Six people clicked right through the clause and accepted the terms.
In the children’s book series How to Train Your Dragon, the protagonist Hiccup has a cousin named Snotlout who’s as mean as they get. Snotlout is determined to inherit the tribal chieftaincy in Hiccup’s place, and embarks on a number of schemes to sabotage his cousin. But Hiccup consistently chooses to reach out to Snotlout. Even after Snotlout’s father rejects him for his wickedness, Hiccup doesn’t give up on him. Eventually, Hiccup’s faith is rewarded as Snotlout shows the colors of a true friend.
Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix toward him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”