A friend of mine grew up in a rural part of Hawaii where her family had no electricity. As a child, the dark hours of the night frightened her. Without streetlights or the occasional lamp-lit window, it was easy to imagine a scary ogre or hungry beast lurking around the corner. Eventually, my friend left Hawaii to attend college in another region of the US. Although modern lighting brightened the evening hours, her fear of the dark persisted. Finally, as a married adult with children, she began to ask God to help her overcome her fear, and He answered her prayers. She’s no longer afraid of the dark!
I heard a story about a college student who became trapped in a 17-inch space between two buildings. After zigzagging up a fire escape, he planned to jump from one rooftop to another. Instead, he fell into the slim chasm—dropping three stories until he was wedged in the narrow space between the buildings, unable to move. Finally, rescuers bored a hole through one of the buildings and pulled him to safety.
A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!
Our pastor read this verse during a sermon: “It’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Quite happily wed himself, he followed the reading by saying, “Marriage complicates things.” Seconds later, a masculine voice emitted a long exaggerated “Aaaaamen.” The congregation broke into laughter.
Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.
If I asked you to hum the melody of Amazing Grace, it’s likely you would know it. It’s a well-known song that reminds us about God’s astonishing forgiveness. His grace gave us spiritual sight when we were blind—allowing us to draw near to Him. God’s grace makes us shiver in reverence of Him, but it also eases our fears. As the song says, God’s grace is truly amazing!
We’ve had some uninvited houseguests for years. I’m talking about ants. Although we’ve tried to make it clear that they’re unwelcome, they keep coming over unannounced. We’ve found only one thing that prevents them from stopping by every day—a mixture of poison and sugar sprinkled around the perimeter of our home. Combining the two ingredients means that the ants gobble up the toxin along with the sweet stuff, and experience the lethal results.
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.
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.
Molly DeLuca was playing in her backyard with the German shepherd her family had recently adopted. Suddenly, the canine leaped in front of her and began jumping up and down. He was protecting Molly from a rattlesnake that had slithered onto the scene. Later, the dog was rushed to the veterinarian where the family learned that he’d been bitten three times by the reptile. Amazingly, he made a complete recovery.
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.
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.
National Football League player Joe Anderson was released from his first team due to injuries. But possessing a powerful physique, Anderson knew he was uniquely qualified for an athletic career. To try and join a new team, he stood outside an NFL sports stadium holding a hand-made sign. The sign read: “ . . . starving for SUCCESS!!!” and had hashtags: #whateverittakes and #ibelieve. During his job quest, which ended successfully, he commented: “I’m outside [the stadium] . . . every morning, because I know what type of gift God has blessed me with!”
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.