Archives: January 2013

let go

I spent the summer of 1992 tumbling, somersaulting, and plowing over the waters of Strom Thurmond Lake in South Carolina. Belying any grand designs, I was simply trying to learn how to water-ski. A painful endeavor, it revealed the deep level of determination I carry within me. One of my greatest errors lay in my refusal to let go of the rope and admit defeat when I had fallen. It was not a pretty sight.

risk it

What’s one thing you hope to hear God say to you in heaven? I’m guessing it’s these words: “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). This verse is quoted so often that it’s invaluable that we understand its meaning.

you choose Q: I feel depressed and angry, how can I get out of this hole?

Q: "I feel depressed and angry. How can I get out of this hole?"  —Olga

A: Anger like sorrow is a normal human emotion. It’s not necessarily a sin to be angry, and at times, not getting angry is sin.

As God’s children, we are to love what God loves, and to be angry what God is angry with. God gets angry…

squash the beef

During a promotional event, two 73-year-old former Canadian Football League players got into a fistfight on stage. They had a “beef” (a grudge or feud between friends, family members, or enemies) dating back to a controversial championship football game in November 1963. After one of the senior citizens knocked the other off the stage, the crowd yelled at him to “let it go!” In essence, they were telling him to “squash the beef.”

January 28, 2013

What has helped you grow in your love for God?

faith and death

One of the most powerful scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the time when the fellowship must go through the mines of Moria, into the dark caverns underneath the mountain. They descend into this subterranean world where many had died from the evil powers lurking beneath the earth. Fearful, Frodo wondered if they must travel into this harrowing place. Gandalf told him and his companions that it was the only way.

expecting fruit

My neighbor planted some apple tree seedlings. Several years later, the mature trees bore fruit. But there was a problem. The first bushel of apples my neighbor picked contained some unwanted guests . . . uh, pests. Worms were found, leading his wife to conclude that a few bad apples do indeed spoil the whole bunch! Since that fateful day, the only things that have munched on my neighbor’s apples are wild deer (and worms).

human chameleon

Chinese performance artist Liu Bolin is known as “the invisible man” or “the human chameleon” because he blends himself into his surroundings. To do this, he covers his entire body in paint which perfectly matches his chosen backdrop. Liu has painted himself into real-life scenes which include graphitized walls, supermarket shelves, and even telephone booths.

work

The first thing you notice are the nets. They stretch tautly between buildings, hung to catch workers who might attempt to leap to their deaths. This is Foxconn, the behemoth factory in Shenzhen, China, where throngs of young Chinese manufacture iPads, iPhones, and computers for the world. As the nets attest, the job isn’t always fulfilling.

serve your oppressor

A few years ago some young men stole my car. They crashed it, damaging it beyond repair, and I was never compensated for it. I even had to pay to have the car towed away from the crash site! By rights, those thieves should have replaced what they stole.

dinner and a sinner

Several years ago, while vacationing in Washington, DC, my family noticed a large crowd forming in front of a popular downtown theater. The word on the street was that Colin Powell, the United States Secretary of State at the time, was coming to the theater that evening to watch a play. We quickly learned that watching high-ranking public officials come and go was a favorite pastime of tourists.

freely given

At the end of a long day, I took a quick moment to get a jumpstart on my work email—striving to preempt any surprises I might face at 8 o’clock the next morning. Frustration ebbed throughout my tired mind as I read an email that contained complaints and feelings of entitlement from a student known to be immature in his responses to life’s challenges. I wanted to send back a veiled sting of reproach, but instead I crawled into bed to think through my response. Getting to the root of my frustrations, I nixed my first inclinations and seized the opportunity to model grace.

January 21, 2013

Recent  research reveals that divorce has had a profound effect on children and their lack of interest in attending church and seeking God. Why do you feel this is the case?

rebuilding the altar

Each New Year promises the opportunity to start afresh—the prospect of a new beginning. The Israelites had been a rebellious and disobedient people. After 70 years of exile, they were allowed to return home to Judea. They were also given the necessary help and resources to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1). They could start afresh with God. But how do you start afresh with Him?

keep all

I love knowledge. As a child, after stumbling across a picture Bible in the library, I wanted to read the real Bible. I had the impression that it was simply a thick book with tiny words, full of information like an encyclopedia. But as I read the real Bible, I realized that knowledge is good but wisdom is much, much better.

Related Topics

> christian living

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

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.

> daily devotional

He Will Handle It

When I take my kids to a playground, they tumble out of the car and race to the swings or slides. I usually sit on a bench with my purse, containing important medicine, close by. The meds aren’t for me; they’re for my daughter. She has a health condition that can go from bad to worse in seconds. I carry her meds because I don’t want her to have to think about them while she’s playing. How could she dangle from the monkey bars while holding her EpiPen auto-injectors? How could she grasp the metal ropes of a swing while juggling a medication bag?

Always Loved

In spite of my many fatherly mess-ups (and lately I feel as if I’ve had more than a few), my deepest hope for my two sons is that they will know I love them, and that my love comes from God. If you want to prod me to tears, get me to talk about my hopes for my sons. There are few places where I could feel more anxiety than when I consider the uncertain future: Will they grow up to be good men? Will they follow truth and life? But what I do know, without doubt, is that I love my boys fiercely—that I have always done so and will always love them.

Run with It!

Siobhan Dowd, a British author of young adult novels, died of cancer at age 47. After her death another author, Patrick Ness, was commissioned to finish one of her unpublished stories. A Monster Calls was published in 2011. It was a stunning success, winning both the Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medals, prestigious book awards in the UK. In the introduction, Ness says, “I felt—and feel—as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it.’ ”

> 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

Climb On!

George Mallory was an English mountaineer who was last seen heading toward the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. It’s possible he actually reached its peak but succumbed to the weather on the way down. We’ll never know what happened, for the details passed with the great explorer. Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” This may make no sense to most people, but to a mountaineer it is perfectly logical. Climbing the mountain is something to strive toward that’s an end in itself. The impressive peak is all the fuel Mallory and countless other mountaineers have ever needed.

Real Faith

I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!

If It’s Really You . . .

A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”

> 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.”