Archives: November 2012

generational investment

Standing quietly in the back, I am moved by the sight. Arms reach upward, voices carry throughout the room, and a tireless energy reverberates to the sound of the drum. Passionate and full of promise, they are far more than a group of teenagers. They are sons and daughters of God—the generation now, not next.

eutychus’ example

I must admit I was having a hard time staying awake. The guest speaker had been monotonously droning on for 45 minutes. According to the outline provided, he wasn’t even halfway through the sermon! “It isn’t my fault if I fall asleep,” I whispered to my wife. “Don’t be a Eutychus!” she replied, even as she poked me with her pen to keep me awake.

harmony

A group of young adults had spent many hours studying Scripture together and serving side-by- side. Needless to say, there was a close bond forming between them. But an issue threatened to break up their camaraderie. They couldn’t see eye-to-eye on how it should be handled. Suddenly, they weren’t as united as before. A few of them decided to get everyone together for a dinner to clear the air. They all learned some important lessons about unity—a key idea in Psalm 133.

life . . . with God

Every month, more than 500,000 people Google “meaning of life.” Why am I here? They find answers ranging from “Life has no meaning” to “The meaning of life is whatever you make it.”

November 26, 2012

What’s a good way to encourage a friend who’s feeling down due to the loss of a family member or friend?

oblivious

Dante Autullo had no idea that a 3.5-inch nail was embedded in his brain. He was totally oblivious. Having accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun in January 2012, Autullo thought he had only suffered a small cut . . . so he went back to work! Later, he started to feel nauseous and doctors subsequently found the nail lodged in the center of his brain. Amazingly, Dante came through surgery with no side effects, but with a new titanium plate in his skull.

ghost car

In 1939, General Motors created a “ghost car”—a transparent vehicle with a body made of Plexiglas. The see-through outer shell of the Pontiac Deluxe Six revealed a custom chrome-plated dashboard, a spare tire lodged in the trunk, and even the door-locking mechanisms. The “ghost car” debuted at the New York World’s Fair and then traveled to various dealerships before finding a semi-permanent parking spot inside the Smithsonian Institute. In 2011, it sold at an auction for $308,000.

history’s steady tune

George Jellinek, former host of The Vocal Scene radio program, says “the history of a people is found in its songs.” Years ago, music was a crucial way for slaves in the US to recount their stories, and music was central to the way the Civil Rights movement retold its vision. If you want to know a culture or its people, you have to know the music they used to pass along their stories. This is how the people in ancient Israel used the Psalms—their stories and prayers helped them to remember God, particularly in the long years when God was silent.

the glory of Jesus

Wedding receptions. I’m not opposed to attending them. But, honestly, if I can avoid going to one, you’ll get no complaints from me. (Note: This does not apply to the day when either of my daughters marry!)

queen for a day

Following a meeting at Mildmay Uganda—a specialized center that provides holistic outpatient care for HIV and AIDS patients—I was summoned by Mildmay’s public relations director. “We are welcoming the Queen of England to Mildmay tomorrow,” she said. “Our pediatric patients are preparing to demonstrate their native costumes and traditional dances for Her Majesty. Would you kindly serve as the queen for the children’s final dress rehearsal?”

more

Tom Brady has model-like good looks, is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and has led his football team to three championships. But it’s still not enough. Brady confessed during an interview, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t—this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” The interviewer asked, “What’s the answer?” Brady responded, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”

when walls fall

Every Monday evening at 8:30 p.m., the walls of my house begin to vibrate. Far from any earthquake tremors, my house instead responds to the sound of my husband and the young men in his small group as they begin their time of worship in song. As I sit upstairs, I love to hear their deep voices resonating throughout the house. It’s the sound of strength.

November 19, 2012

What are you thankful for today?

was i there?

I’ve never experienced what it means to be opposed or persecuted for my religious beliefs. Without a doubt, I’m thankful that I live in a country where there’s both freedom and safety to practice my faith. Yet, in more than 50 countries around the world, no less than 200 million Christians are vigorously opposed and ruthlessly persecuted. Many thousands have died horrible deaths, simply because they loved Jesus.

lousy comforters

I’m often tongue-tied when I attend a funeral or visit someone in the hospital. As soon as I open my mouth, it concerns me that I’m sounding like one of Job’s friends. They were better comforters when they kept their mouths shut rather than when they opened them (Job 2:11-13). Their advice and consolation to Job sounded like the exact words I might have spoken. They argued forcefully and their arguments seemed so pious, leading Philip Yancey to comment: “If today we had only Job 3–37, we would judge the three friends as the true heroes of the book.” But God was angry with them (Job 42:7).

Related Topics

> christian living

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

Empty Spaces

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit is attracted to empty spaces. Let me explain . . .

> daily devotional

The Lost Virtue

There’s a big, green button at the paint counter of my local hardware store. When you press it, an assistant is supposed to serve you within 60 seconds. If they’re late, you get a discount on your paint.

Words of Life

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” That saying has been used to cushion the blow of unpleasant words for more than 100 years. We know, however, that harsh words can pierce our hearts and shatter our spirits. Bruises and broken bones can heal with time, but a broken heart and crushed spirit caused by harsh statements aren’t easily mended. Some wounds can even prove to be fatal.

Kindness and Hospitality

Recently, three of my son’s soccer teammates spent the weekend with us. On Saturday, the boys decided to paddle their canoes to the home of some friends of mine. Though they weren’t expecting guests, the Andersons showered the boys with hospitality when they arrived at their dock.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Lessons from the Young

On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”

Shielded

Tiptoeing around construction projects, I joined my husband as he talked with church members working on renovations to our building. As I waited patiently for them to finish, I noticed a little hole in my husband’s glove just below the knuckle of his finger. He explained that the guard on the high-powered grinder had moved while he was using it. The diamonds on his wedding band took the force of the fast-spinning blade. His finger spared, the only signs of the accident were the reduced size of the diamonds and the small hole in his glove.

John’s Question

I had plans for how my life was supposed to work out,” my friend David said. “And when things didn’t go as planned, I became bitter and resentful.” Who can relate to David? I definitely can! Often I find myself imposing my expectations on God as rights, and then sulking when they aren’t realized.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”