Before James Garfield went into politics and became president, he taught at what is now Hiram College in Ohio. The ambidextrous Garfield would amuse his students by writing on a chalkboard with both hands—one in Greek and the other in Latin—at the same time! It is said that on one occasion a father came to Garfield and complained that the academic course at the school was too long and arduous and asked if it could be shortened. “Certainly,” Garfield replied. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years.
In 2004, a painting by Anna Mary Robertson, better known as Grandma Moses, was brought to the Antiques Roadshow for appraisal. Born before the Civil War, Robertson did not take up painting until late in her life. Her primitive style eventually became extremely popular, and her work commanded a high price. The man who brought the painting to be evaluated had lived nearby and his mother was a friend of Grandma Moses. He said, “She was just a wonderful friend of the family. And she would let my mother buy these paintings, which she thought had relatively little value.
If you travel to Greensburg, Kansas, you can pay a visit to what is billed as the “World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well.” Construction on the well began in the 1880s. As the railroads made their way across Kansas, a reliable source of water for the steam engines was essential. The work was done by teams of men using hand tools—shovels, picks, half barrels, pulleys, and rope. As they made their way downward, they lined the well shaft with limestone rock. The finished well is more than one hundred feet deep and more than thirty feet in diameter.
The story is told about a pastor that got up in the pulpit and apologized for the Band-Aid on his face. He said “I was thinking about my sermon while shaving and cut my face.” Afterward the treasurer found a note in the collection plate, “Next time, think about your face and cut the sermon.”
Below are letters that children have written to their pastor.
Please say in your sermon Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson. Sincerely, Pete, age 9
Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.—Carla, age 10
I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister. Yours Sincerely, Arnold, age 8
I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my father didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance? Love Patty, age 10
In his book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University relates the story of a jewelry store owner who was preparing to go on vacation and left tasks for her staff to perform. She had a line of jewelry that hadn’t been selling well, and she wanted the price cut in half. In her haste, however, she left a note that was unclear. When she returned, she was delighted to find that every piece of the jewelry was gone. She was, however, shocked to find that her staff had doubled the price of the jewelry. The pieces that hadn’t been selling went out the door immediately once the price was raised because it changed the way people thought about them.
Our thoughts determine our actions. What seems to us to be shocking and out of character behavior would be explained if we could see the thought processes that had been going on internally. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).
It is impossible to do rightly while thinking wrongly for an extended period of time. What is inside will come out. If you want your life to be marked by righteous actions, you must think righteous thoughts. That is why Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Edwin Cooper was famous across America, yet almost no one knew his real name. Coming from a family of circus clowns, Cooper began performing before audiences when he was just nine years old. After a stint with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, he became a fixture on television in the 1950s as Bozo the Clown. In addition to entertaining both young and old, Cooper had a message for his “buddies and partners” every week: get checked for cancer. Yet Cooper was so busy working that he neglected to follow his own advice.
There are a lot of metals that on the surface look similar to gold. Centuries ago, people discovered that unscrupulous operators would take advantage of this to trick people into paying for worthless metal. In order to determine whether gold was genuine or not, scientists devised an “acid test.” The item that is supposed to be gold is rubbed on a black stone, leaving a mark behind. Gold is what is called a noble metal, meaning that it is resistant to the corrosive effects of acid. If the mark is washed away by the acid, then the metal is not real gold.
Each year on the fourth of July the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Company sponsors a hot dog eating contest. In 2013 Joey Chestnut won the competition for the seventh year in a row, setting a new record by eating 69 hot dogs and buns in just ten minutes. The second runner up “only” managed to eat 51. According to news reports, Chestnut received a prize of $10,000 for his eating performance, and consumed over 20,000 calories during his eating spree.
William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name “O. Henry,” became one of the most popular authors in America at the turn of the last century. He wrote for years, but his literary career really took off from a most unlikely place—prison. Porter had been convicted of embezzlement from the bank where he had worked in Texas (although there is some evidence that it was not theft but carelessness that led to the loss of funds) and was sentenced to five years in prison. While there, he wrote and published some of his best-known stories, establishing himself as a premiere author.