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News That Illustrates for Sunday, July 27th - August 3rd

Lego Pieces on the Beach, the Cyclist Who Wouldn't Quit, and a Spider Blowtorch

Lego Pieces Wash Up from the Deep Sea
A beach near Perranporth, Cornwall (in Great Britain) is unlike any other stretch of coast in the world. Not for its breakers or sand, but for what washes up in the surf: Tens of thousands of toy Lego bricks. A shipping container filled with millions of Lego pieces went under the waves off the coast in 1997, and the brightly colored plastic building toys—fittingly, many of them nautical or pirate themed—have been washing up ever since. Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who studies ocean currents, has been watching for signs of the plastic toys appearing elsewhere—it would have taken about three years, for example, for some of the bricks to be carried to Florida. But so far, it seems that the strip of sand in Cornwall is the only place to beachcomb for Lego pieces. Ebbesmeyer still sees a lesson here though: "'The most profound lesson I've learned from the Lego story is that things that go to the bottom of the sea don't always stay there' … The incident is a perfect example of how even when inside a steel container, sunken items don't stay sunken. They can be carried around the world, seemingly randomly, but subject to the planet's currents and tides." It's a principle that extends to spiritual life, too. What seems sunken far into the deep is rarely truly gone—for good or for bad. The experiences that shape us may sometimes seem inaccessible, but still often follow the currents and tides of our lives: washing up gradually into the visible world. The question is what we will do when we come across signs of them in our lives, sticking up out of the sand?

PREACHING ANGLES: Healing; Secrets; Trauma; Wounds

Tour de France Cyclist Refused to Quit
In a world that often struggles with perseverance, stories of true tenacity are worth paying attention to. The New York Times recently highlighted the amazing story of an American cyclist in this year's Tour de France. Andrew Talansky was in two terrifying crashes that took away any chances at winning the race. Bandaged, and so stiff that he needed help to remove his cycling jersey, Talansky had every reason to give up. But instead, motivated by his drive to finish and support his teammates, he pushed through the 115 mile stage from Besançon two days later—"The rider who would not quit when he probably should have." 51 miles from the end of the day's leg, the rest of the riders sped up and left him behind, pedaling with only a few support staff and the "broom car," which cares for riders who abandon the race. "Talansky was now facing a deadline. Under the Tour's time elimination rule, he had to cross the finish line no more than 37 minutes 17 seconds later, or he would not be allowed to start Thursday. … Ashen-faced, Talansky crossed the line 32:05 after Gallopin, receiving loud cheers from the spectators who had stayed." We are often confronted with trials in our lives that can derail our dreams of even making it to the finish line. Can we change our definition of success to faithfulness and perseverance rather than winning?

PREACHING ANGLES: Dedication; Endurance; Perseverance

Tangled Web: When a "Solution" is More Dangerous than the Problem.
Some silly people are terrified of spiders. If you're one of them, then a recent story from the New York Times is for you. Apparently, a Seattle man tried to kill a spider in his laundry room with a homemade blow torch—"a very dangerous can of spray paint set aflame by a lighter"). Big mistake. The result? He burned his house down. A Seattle man burned his house down last night after bringing a gun to a knife fight with a small pest on his wall. More specifically: he brought a flamethrower to a fight with a spider. By the time the fire department put out the blaze that ensued, it had caused $40,000 in damages to the house and $20,000 to property inside. It is unclear if the spider survived." This "solution" was definitely worse than the problem. Same for many of our lives—the fixes we come up with are often foolish, ill-advised, or downright dangerous. We feel lonely, so we turn to the "company" of pornography or an abusive relationship to "solve" the issue. We feel insignificant, so we turn for affirmation on social media, leading to the original problem spiraling out of control. What we need is a solution bigger than the problems we face, and ultimately, there's only one—Jesus.

PREACHING ANGLES: Addiction; Jesus Christ; Problems

Want To Be Happy? Love Generously
A recent article in The New York Times, titled "Love People, Not Pleasure," tackles the issue of love from the perspective of happiness. Offering some refreshing cultural wisdom, writer Arthur C. Brooks delves deep into many of the perceived causes of unhappiness (mostly life circumstances), and their perceived cures (summing up, mostly getting more of whatever you think that you lack). "[W]hen people say, 'I am an unhappy person,'" Brooks writes, "they are really doing sums, whether they realize it or not. They are saying, 'My unhappiness is x, my happiness is y, and x > y.'" But that arithmetic doesn't tell the whole story, as is proved by the rich and famous still grasping for ever-elusive happiness, which seems to be no respecter of the rich or poor. Brooks, after looking down dead-end after dead-end, offers a solution that is remarkably Christian—rather than loving things and using people, happiness is found when we love people and use things, letting go of our materialism, and leading lives of generosity and charity. Happiness may not be the highest Christian virtue. It is not arithmetically guaranteed for disciples of Jesus in this life. But this little op-ed from the Times is on to something eternal. Our hearts will always take their satisfaction from giving generously, loving people with charity and self-forgetfulness.

PREACHING ANGLES: Giving; Generosity; Happiness; Joy; Money

Workers Mistake Dead Man for Mannequin
Like something out of a dark 80s comedy film, workers tasked with cleaning out a hoarder's house near Tampa Bay, Florida mistook the body of a suicide victim hanging in a garage for a mannequin, taking it to a local dump. A worker at the facility caught their serious mistake, prompting a police investigation that cleared the workers of any crime, but clarified exactly how far removed from natural processes of human death people in our culture are today. County Sherriff Al Nienhuis commented on the situation: "I think it's important to realize that … most people, they either have seen someone who has very recently passed … or they see them at a funeral home[.] Obviously, this body was not anything close to either of those." Our culture hides death away at every turn. But death, a hard fact of life in a fallen world, will one day be vanquished by Christ's limitless life. While we wait in hope of that day, we should not be a people who shy away, unfamiliar with the processes of "the last enemy to be defeated."

PREACHING ANGLES: Death; Mortality; Resurrection

After Gaza and Ukraine Violence, How Do We Make Sense of The World?
Last week was a tragic and violent one in the news, with notable stories including the intense fighting and civilian casualties in Gaza, and the destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over embattled Ukraine, causing the deaths of all 298 aboard, including 80 children. A piece run in UK paper The Guardian compares the two stories, noting that interest in the MH17 tragedy was far higher—at least on The Guardian's site—than news about the Gaza conflict. Writer Jonathan Freedland ventures why: "It's not hard to fathom why the Malaysian jet strikes the louder chord. As the preacher might put it, 'There but for the grace of God go I.' Stated baldly, most of us will never live in Gaza, but we know it could have been us boarding that plane in Amsterdam." Yes, it could have been us, as we see pictures of children's drawings, luggage, and playing cards scattered with charred debris across a Ukrainian meadow. But what do we do with that realization? Freedland notes that it's common to oversimplify the issue—to blame one side or the other, to look away if at all possible—to avoid the feeling that life is somehow arbitrary, that it could have been us shot down by a Russian missile. We don't want to think of the reality of that. The Christian, though, has a better way. We can look a violent, arbitrary world in the eye, for all its tragedy, and proclaim that God—whatever the mysteries of his work may be—remains sovereign over all things. His ways might not always be easy, but he can be trusted.

PREACHING ANGLES: Evil; Sovereignty of God; Suffering

Your Time in the Sun/Son
There is a new app that calculates your sunburn risk. You fill in your region, enter your skin type, and say whether you are wearing sunscreen or not. The app then calculates the UV index for your location and tells you how quickly your skill will burn. There is even a timer for tanning! This is great for those summer trips to the beach. "When you tap the Start button as you go outside, it starts a timer in a colorful alert bar to tell you how much time you have left to spend in the sun and when more sunscreen is needed. When it is time to seek shade or reapply lotion, it will alert you visually and with sounds." What about the alert to spend more time with the Son (you knew that lame pun was coming)? How has your exposure to the Son been lately? Is your time causing you to burn more on the inside, allowing the Holy Spirit to fan into flame your love for the Son?

PREACHING ANGLES: Devotion; Quiet times; Spiritual Disciplines

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