Every Christian has a story to tell. Some conversion testimonies are more dramatic and spectacular than others. Some claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, or that He healed them of a terminal disease. My simple story is that 45 years ago, someone shared the gospel with me and I believed. There was no thunder and lightning, but my heart was changed forever.
The Grand Teton Mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offer one of the most spectacular views in all of the United States. Geologists believe the mountains there might have formed as a result of several earthquakes along a fault line. They believe earthquakes caused the land to drop on one side of the fault but move upward on the other side. Looking up from the lower side provides a unique and magnificent view where no foothills block the sight of the mountains.
Sin will always hurt. One couple found this to be true in a painfully embarrassing way. The two were arrested after they attempted to sell stolen goods at a pawnshop. The only problem with their plan was that the goods happened to be from the house of the pawnshop owner. The owner recognized the items, went home to find that his house had indeed been broken into, and reported the duo to the police—leading to their arrest.
There I was, shaking hands with the president of the Republic of Iceland! As my boss introduced me to him at a private dinner I had the privilege to attend, my mind went blank as I tried to remember the few words I’d memorized in Icelandic. It made me incredibly nervous to be in the presence of the leader of a country.
If you have the opportunity to meet the Queen of England, don’t start the encounter with a bear hug or a hearty slap on the back. Keeping one’s distance is a sign of respect for this special lady. Although a courteous handshake might be allowed, people are generally advised not to touch the queen.
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.”
Two news stories caught my attention on the same day. In one, a homeless man shivered under an archway on a cold, rainy evening. Half-drunk, he was shocked when someone offered to pay for a night of lodging. With a bit of help, this man became a social studies teacher, a volunteer, and even starred in a play! In the other story, someone cruelly taunted a homeless man by showing him cash and then burning up the paper money as the destitute man watched.
“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).
Between 2013 and 2016, South Africa experienced a devastating drought with the driest period on record. With little or no rain, the effects of death could be seen everywhere. Crops withered, livestock perished, and people suffered as food became scarce and rivers and dams dried up. The country was a sad-looking, brown dust bowl until the rains finally came. When the skies opened, the entire nation celebrated as new life was birthed. Lush, green grass that had lain dormant for three years now pushed its way up through the cracked, dry ground, and within days it was on glorious display throughout the country.
The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.
“Pastor, the results came out positive. My wife has breast cancer.” When a congregation member broke this news to me one Sunday morning, I was speechless. What could I possibly say to comfort my friend in light of this bitter news? After a moment of silence, I quickly remembered the words that most comforted me when my own wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so with a level voice, I replied, “I want you to know that I’m here for both of you, no matter what.” He wore the same expression of gratitude that I had worn years before when a friend encouraged me with those identical words.
What is she thinking? The wedding is one week away! That thought raced through my mind as I worked on my piano music for a marriage ceremony. Though I’d tried for weeks to nail down song titles, keys, and more with the other wedding musician, the silence was deafening.
Many years ago, a poor orphan advertised her piano recitals in order to raise funds. Posters boldly declared that she was a pupil of the celebrated Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt—a blatant lie. To her horror, she discovered that Liszt was coming to the village where she was giving the concert. With trepidation she requested an interview with him, sobbed out her confession, and awaited his stern rebuke. Liszt acknowledged that she had been wrong, but recognized her repentance and asked her to play for him. At first she stumbled over her notes, but as she grew in confidence, she played well. He corrected her a few times and said, “My dear, now I have given you a lesson. You are a pupil of Liszt. Go on with your concert and put on the program that the last piece will be played, not by the pupil, but by the master.”
A woman was running in a half-marathon in Ontario, Canada. It was a warm-up for the Detroit Marathon, the race in which she hoped to qualify for the renowned Boston Marathon. Somehow she missed the turn for the half-marathon and instead ran twenty-six miles—the complete marathon! Not only did she complete it, she posted the fastest time for a female runner and automatically qualified to run the Boston Marathon.
In the wake of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti in 2010, one philosopher wrote, “For those who believe in an all-good, all-powerful God, we’ve seen that they face a question that remains pressing after all these centuries, and which is now horribly underscored by the horrors in Haiti. If a deity exists, why didn’t he prevent this?”