The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.
As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!
In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.
One day as I drove by a vineyard located several miles from my house, I noticed a sign that read: Fieldworkers needed. For just a moment I imagined myself hard at work, standing between rows of vines with the sun on my neck and sweat on my face. I could almost smell the fruit ripening in the summer heat and feel myself snapping clusters of grapes from beneath broad leaves.
The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.
My great-grandfather was a Romanian sailor on the King Carol I warship during World War II. On October 10, 1941, he was one of twenty-one sailors who lost their lives when the ship hit a mine and sank near Varna, Bulgaria. Until the beginning of World War I, King Carol I had served as a cruise ship. Once the war started, the ship was transformed into a warship with guns and special armor for launching mines and grenades. While I’m proud and thankful for the legacy my great-grandfather left, I know that I am also engaged in war. It is a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Just as King Carol I was especially armored for war, I need to arm myself for the spiritual battles I face.
Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.
In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.
A few years ago, writer Maureen Dowd was in Australia to promote her book Are Men Necessary? At one event, Dowd and a female interviewer were on stage when a member of the audience asked if a podium blocking her view could be moved. In an instant, two men heaved aside the heavy podium as the audience began to laugh. “Are men necessary?” the interviewer quipped, “I think the question has been answered.”
If there’s a frustration more annoying than overly complex or—worse—incomplete instructions, I’m not sure what it is. Automated answering systems, perhaps? “Your call is important to us. Please listen carefully to . . . blah, blah, blah.” That’s why I so appreciated this serene simplicity from a New Zealand-based company: “If the GPS has been recently used, you should get a fix almost immediately. If it hasn’t, put the GPS outside with a clear view of the sky and have a cup of tea.”
Most people and animals escaped the flames of a fire that destroyed the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. A black cat named Tux, however, was left behind. Firefighters eventually found the feline, unharmed, inside an overturned stove. The firefighters suggested that an explosion must have blown an opening in the appliance, allowing Tux to jump inside. This safe place allowed him to survive the blaze.
I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter seconds away from intense pain. She had poked her little finger in the space where two parts of a folding door were hinged together. With her free hand, she was about to close the door on her finger! When I asked what she was doing, she replied, “I’m testing my courage.” She was seeing how close she could come to having her finger pinched before backing off. Thankfully, I put an end to her painful experiment.
Movie director James Cameron has been responsible for some of the most popular movies of all time: The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar, and others. But what many people don’t know is that far from being removed from the details of filmmaking, Cameron is heavily involved with almost every aspect of the process, from cinematography to creative design. Drawing from his earlier experience as a designer, Cameron even played a key role in developing some of the fantastic special effects that are the centerpiece of his most famous films.
“Mom, I have an idea for a painting.” A spiritual representation of the restorative work of God, the picture had formed in my son’s mind during a worship service and included Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones. Though this most recent design was out of the ordinary for both Micah and his painting instructor, she willingly coached him from the beginning sketch to the final brushstroke.
A physical trainer friend of mine will sometimes present his clients with a weightlifting bar with a large amount of weight on each end. He then instructs them to lift the bar, and—of course—they can’t. Next, he tells them to try and lift the weight several times a day for several weeks. After the allotted time, they return and unfailingly report that they can lift the weight over their heads. They often remark that, at first, they never thought this growth in power would be possible!