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

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Blending In

While on vacation, my daughter and I strolled on the beach in the cool of the evening. Interrupting her mid-sentence, I tapped her arm and pointed. “Look over there!” What appeared to be sand moving back and forth proved—upon closer inspection—to be a tiny crab scuttling across the beach. Its beige color, tiny size, and quick reflexes provided protection against being seen, much less caught. The small creature wanted to survive, not stand out.

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

> daily devotional

Laughter

A group of villagers gathered around a massive rig in rural Uganda to watch as a well was being dug on their behalf. Twelve hours later, when the drilling machine struck water, the men, women, and children danced, laughed, and voiced their thanks to God for having a clean water source for the first time in their lives.

Powerful Patience

A few years ago, I drove to the Grand Canyon in the US. As we marveled at the natural beauty before us, we had to strain our eyes to see the little ribbon of water winding its way through the bottom of the massive canyon, one of the tributaries of the Colorado River. It was that tributary, some believe, that helped to patiently carve and make manifest the immense and majestic marvel we now viewed—the likes of which no human has ever been able to create!

Overwhelmed

Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.

> 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

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

Freedom from Stress

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

> 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

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

The Last Stop

My friend says our lives are like trains. We make various “stops” for school, college, job, marriage, and family. At each stop we spend time with others who have stepped off. When we graduate or change jobs, we say goodbye to the people at that junction and step back onto the train. Only a handful of people stay with us all the way to the end. These are the most important people in our lives, the people who receive most of our time and attention.

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world