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In the December 1987 Life magazine, Brad Darrach wrote: "Meryl Streep is gray with cold. In Ironweed, her new movie, she plays a ragged derelict who dies in a cheap hotel room, and for more than half an hour before the scene she has been hugging a huge bag of ice cubes in an agonizing effort to experience how it feels to be a corpse. Now the camera begins to turn. Jack Nicholson, her derelict lover, sobs and screams and shakes her body. But through take after take-and between takes too-Meryl just lies there like an iced mackerel. Frightened, a member of the crew whispers to the director, Hector Babenco, 'What's going on? She's not breathing!'
"Babenco gives a start. In Meryl's body there is absolutely no sign of life! He hesitates, then lets the scene proceed. Yet even after the shot is made and the set struck, Meryl continues to lie there, gray and still. Only after 10 minutes have passed does she slowly, slowly emerge from the coma-like state into which she has deliberately sunk. Babenco is amazed. 'Now that,' he mutters in amazement, 'is acting! That is an actress!'"
Total dedication amazes people. How wonderful to be so dedicated to Christ that people will say, "Now that is a Christian!"
A former police officer tells of the tactics of roving bands of thieves: "They enter the store as a group. One or two separate themselves from the group, and the others start a loud commotion in another section of the store. This grabs the attention of the clerks and customers. As all eyes are turned to the disturbance, the accomplices fill their pockets with merchandise and cash, leaving before anyone suspects.
"Hours-sometimes even days-later, the victimized merchant realizes things are missing and calls the police. Too late."
How often this effective strategy is used by the Evil One! We are seduced into paying attention to the distractions, while evil agents ransack our lives. In times when well-publicized sins have captured our attention, we do well to check our own moral pockets to see if we have anything left.
- Tom McHaffie
In 1818, Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis was born into a world of dying women. The finest hospitals lost one out of six young mothers to the scourge of "childbed fever." A doctor's daily routine began in the dissecting room where he performed autopsies. From there he made his way to the hospital to examine expectant mothers without ever pausing to wash his hands. Dr. Semmelweis was the first man in history to associate such examinations with the resultant infection and death. His own practice was to wash with a chlorine solution, and after eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers-about one in fifty.
He spent the vigor of his life lecturing and debating with his colleagues. Once he argued, "Puerperal fever is caused by decomposed material conveyed to a wound. … I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am asking you only to wash. . . . For God's sake, wash your hands."
But virtually no one believed him. Doctors and midwives had been delivering babies for thousands of years without washing, and no outspoken Hungarian was going to change them now! Semmelweis died insane at the age of 47, his wash basins discarded, his colleagues laughing in his face, and the death rattle of a thousand women ringing in his ears.
"Wash me!" was the anguished prayer of King David. "Wash!" was the message of John the Baptist. "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me," said the towel-draped Jesus to Peter. Without our being washed clean, we all die from the contamination of sin. For God's sake, wash.
- Boyce Mouton
Carl Junction, Missouri
Dennis Fulton, former pilot with the Wings of Caring ministry in Zaire, tells of landing a newly purchased Cessna 402 at one of his regular stops in the back country. As always, the villagers excitedly gathered around the plane, but this time Dennis was approached by two men carrying a live chicken.
One had the bird by the feet, and the other had it by the head, and before either the chicken or Dennis knew what was happening, the fowl's head and body parted company. The man with the flopping chicken corpse began swinging it over his head, round and round, with predictable results. Dressed in a freshly pressed white shirt, Dennis was splattered with chicken blood, as were the plane and the villagers.
When Dennis asked what that meant, a native explained that for generations, the splattered blood had signified an end to suffering. To the people of Zaire, the Cessna promised hope and help of all kinds.
In a graphic way, the splattered blood of that chicken, signifying the end of suffering, was a fitting reminder of the blood Christ shed to end the suffering of a world caught in the grip of sin.
- John Martyn
Dr. George Sweeting wrote in Special Sermons for Special Days: "Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.
"I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss."
The finest attractions of this world become deadly when we become overly attached to them. They may take us to our destruction if we cannot give them up. And as Sweeting observed, "Oh, the danger of delay!"
- Philip Williams
In How Life Imitates the World Series, Dave Bosewell tells a story about Earl Weaver, former manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Sports fans will enjoy how he handled star Reggie Jackson. Weaver had a rule that no one could steal a base unless given the steal sign. This upset Jackson because he felt he knew the pitchers and catchers well enough to judge who he could and could not steal off of. So one game he decided to steal without a sign. He got a good jump off the pitcher and easily beat the throw to second base. As he shook the dirt off his uniform, Jackson smiled with delight, feeling he had vindicated his judgment to his manager.
Later Weaver took Jackson aside and explained why he hadn't given the steal sign. First, the next batter was Lee May, his best power hitter other than Jackson. When Jackson stole second, first base was left open, so the other team walked May intentionally, taking the bat out of his hands.
Second, the following batter hadn't been strong against that pitcher, so Weaver felt he had to send up a pinch hitter to try to drive in the men on base. That left Weaver without bench strength later in the game when he needed it. The problem was, Jackson saw only his relationship to the pitcher and catcher. Weaver was watching the whole game.
We, too, see only so far, but God sees the bigger picture. When he sends us a signal, it's wise to obey, no matter what we may think we know.
- Marty Masten
Recently National Geographic ran an article about the Alaskan bull moose. The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon, are broken. That ensures defeat.
The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk.
There is a lesson here for us. Spiritual battles await. Satan will choose a season to attack. Will we be victorious, or will we fall? Much depends on what we do now-before the wars begin. The bull-moose principle: Enduring faith, strength, and wisdom for trials are best developed before they're needed.
- Craig Brian Larson
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Charles Osgood told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret's stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth's stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists but had given up hope of ever playing again.
The director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed.
What a picture of the church's needing to work together! What one member cannot do alone, perhaps two or more could do together-in harmony.
- Don Higginbotham
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