Near the epic conclusion of Tolkien’s Return of the King, Frodo stands on the threshold of destroying the “One Ring of Power.” All he has to do is throw it into the consuming fires of Mount Doom. But the hobbit can’t do it. He holds on to the ring, powerless to let go despite the ring’s destructive power.
Poet Carl Sandburg has said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” This thought rings true for many of us. Despite the diapers, frequent feedings, and sleepless nights, infants give renewed hope for the future.
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.
“But how are we going to go on without you?” my youth group student asked on my last day as the pastor. I was touched, but I also knew that God loved these kids and would provide the perfect pastor for them, which is precisely what happened. Only weeks after my departure, a replacement was hired who was actually far better qualified than me for youth work. As much as I hate to admit it, my leaving was probably the best thing for that ministry!
I need to apologize most often to those to whom I’m closest—my family. They are the ones dearest to me but can also be the ones I’m most likely to hurt through my pride or selfishness. When this happens, I need to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to confess my wrongdoing, asking them and God to forgive me. Then I can be freed from the weight of my sin.
National Geographic has detailed the unimaginable killing force of pythons. These snakes have been known to kill large creatures: crocodiles, hyenas, and sometimes—even humans. According to experts, pythons kill their prey by cutting off the blood flow, a quick though agonizing death. “The heart . . . doesn’t have enough strength to push against the pressure,” one vertebrate ecologist said. The deadly snake literally squeezes the life out of its victims.
Finlandia, composed in 1899, possessed the original title Finland Awakes. Sibelius’ brilliant masterpiece was part of the cultural resistance of Finland’s aggressive neighbor to the east. The symphonic poem begins ominously as brass and percussion swell to a raucous din. But sixty seconds into the clamor, the music softens to an elegant, peaceful beauty—harbinger of a better future for the nation. Finland would indeed awaken.
Some close friends recently went through a difficult season in which they struggled financially and emotionally. Yet when all was said and done, the trying time caused them to make positive changes to avoid catastrophe further down the line. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, their challenge was an expression of God’s goodness.
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.
During our lifetimes we might occasionally find ourselves uttering the words, “It’s finished!” For the student who just took a final exam, it means “I’m done with that class,” or perhaps even “I’m finally graduating!” For the project manager, it could mean, “The project is successfully completed.” For the husband ending a conflict with his wife, it could declare, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” For someone caring for a dying loved one, it might mean, “Your father has passed on.”
The movie Self/less tells the fictional story of a wealthy, dying man trying to attain immortality by transferring his consciousness to a younger man’s “host” body. While things go well at first, it eventually becomes clear that all is not as it should be, as the memories of the younger man begin surfacing in the wealthy man’s mind, resulting in some dire complications.
In Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney undergoes a harrowing struggle to survive after being stranded on Mars. Using his skills as a botanist, Watney manages to create ingenious solutions for each crisis he faces. In one particularly compelling moment, Watney gazes in wonder at the first green sprout he’d managed to coax to life in the barren planet.
Because I’ve worked in youth ministry as well as in private and public education, I’ve witnessed on many occasions the sacrificial love of a parent for a child. There have been times, however, when parents’ hopes for a child have revealed mixed motives. Whether from a desire to prove their own worth or a deep-seated fear of failure, parents’ well-meaning intentions can be misguided and their sacrifice self-centered.
In an annual custom dating back to Medieval England, the mayor of the town of High Wycombe attends a weighing-in ceremony where residents witness whether their representative has been getting fat on taxpayers’ money. If the mayor has remained the same weight or has lost weight, the crowd cheers; but if he has put on weight, the crowd jeers at his obvious “overindulgence” throughout the year. In times past, the crowd would go so far as to pelt the offending mayor with rotten tomatoes and fruit.
When we arrive at school each morning, my kids unclick their seatbelts, heave their backpacks onto one shoulder, and climb out of the car. But before my son shuts the door, I call after them: “I love you!” I want my children to face the challenges of each day knowing that I support and care for them.