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.

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> 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

Sweet Music

O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.

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!

> 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.

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