Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opens with the struggles of Jean Valjean, a man ostracized by society because he was an ex-convict. Myriel, the town’s bishop, gave him shelter one night, but Valjean fled with Myriel’s silverware. When Valjean was caught by the police, however, the bishop said that he had given the silverware to Valjean. He then gave Valjean two silver candlesticks, as if he had meant to give them as well. After the police set Valjean free, Myriel told him that he should use money from selling the candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.
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.
While spending a few days in the great outdoors, a bird woke me up one morning before dawn. His persistent singing eventually roused the rest of his winged friends, who also sang until the trees teemed with excitement. It was as if the first tweets I heard were a lullaby for the night animals and an alarm clock for the day creatures. One bird appeared to prepare an entire forest for the sun to rise.
The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.
My daughter and I were savoring a school musical performance we’d just witnessed while walking to our car. Our happiness came to a screeching halt, however, as we watched a man approach a waiting vehicle and denigrate the driver for failing to pull forward far enough into the student loading zone. The diatribe was brief, but painful, particularly because it took place in the context of Christian community.
Every year during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter), many churches follow Jesus’ example during the Last Supper by washing one another’s feet. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and told them to imitate what He had done. Washing feet is a prayerful and powerful act, but it can also upset our sense of pride, personal space, and privacy. It can be truly unsettling.
According to The Wall Street Journal, there’s a new fad among top-level executives. It’s called humility. One former leader states that humility “is the flavor du jour.” Companies prize humble leaders because they listen well and share the limelight. Of course, the leaders have to actually be humble. Fakers abound, like a former executive who constantly stole the limelight from subordinates. According to one observer, “He didn’t understand the humility part of being humble.”
When we watch TV or engage in social media, we’re bombarded with images of individuals doing things we disagree with. Sometimes their actions are even illegal or immoral, and we may find ourselves thinking, I’d never do a thing like that! or, How can anyone even consider doing such a thing?
Eric Liddell, the great Scottish sprinter and missionary to China, won a gold medal in the 1924 400-meter Olympic finals. He was hailed as a national hero in his home country and accolades were heaped upon him worldwide. He could have stayed at home and been treated as royalty for the rest of his life. Instead, he took a boat to China and died in obscurity in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, having turned his back on recognition from anyone . . . except the Savior he obeyed.
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.
In 1947, Major and Mrs. Ian Thomas opened Capernwray Hall in England to their first Bible school students. What makes this event extraordinary was the fact that the first students were German. Only 2 years earlier, not only had England and Germany been at war, but Major Thomas had fought in the conflict! His ability to forget the past but also to offer the hand of friendship and the love of Jesus to citizens of a former enemy nation is a beautiful example.
Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.
Steady rains had transformed the hardened terrain of our backyard into a soaked softness. Walking outside, I felt the coolness of the water and mud squishing between my toes. Our dogs had been digging in a small area, so I decided to move a few cement blocks to block the patch of ground from their reach. My work left me covered with moist dirt and grass. Deciding to wash before heading indoors, I watched the clear stream of water make my skin clean once again.
Raffles Hotel in Singapore is a legendary 5-star hotel that boasts a long list of distinguished former guests, including King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and the King of Pop Music—Michael Jackson. Immortalized by writers like Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway, there are suites named after personalities who were associated with the hotel: Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward, Pablo Neruda, and W. Somerset Maugham, who is reputed to have spent his days writing at the hotel.