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This week’s illustration

The right ending

In 1997, a struggling Internet company called Amazon was losing money hand over fist. Many people weren’t ready to purchase books over the Internet. Many didn’t even know there was such a company.

In an effort to get readers to visit the website, Amazon invited noted author John Updike to begin and end a mystery story. He submitted the opening to a novel he’d begun in 1960 and never finished, about a magazine editor named Miss Tasso Polk. For each of the next 45 days, the public was invited to submit the story’s next paragraph. Thousands entered every day, and each day’s winner won a thousand dollars. The next day’s contestants returned daily for the next month and a half to see what strange new direction the story had taken and how they might respond. Often the story seemed to pin prospective writers into a corner, even reaching a dead end. “Now you get out of this mess,” each author seemed to say.

With 45 different authors’ new paragraphs pieced together, the story took many twists and turns. “The strangest twist,” Updike remembered, “was when Miss Polk gets into a taxi and is driven, in short order, to an estate with a cobbled driveway and a grove of boxwoods and elms. Elms! In Manhattan!”

But eventually the story was finished, the mystery was solved, and thanks to the ending written by Updike, all was well!

Our lives sometimes take surprising turns as well, as though someone were throwing in a new and unexpected paragraph in our life’s story, sometimes even seeming to write us into a corner. But as we follow Jesus, we can trust our heavenly Father to write an ending in which, for us, all is well.

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