Archives: May 2013

one before the other

The question I felt needed to be answered affirmatively before I married Miska was this: Can I live without her? My intentions were romantic and chivalrous, but my focus was dead wrong. I discovered that there was probably nobody that I literally could not live without. In time, I found the better question to ask myself: Do I want to live without Miska?

mirror, mirror

When it comes to physical appearance, we’re constantly bombarded with advice. And truth be told, the suggestions found on magazine covers, in TV commercials, and voiced by store clerks—among other sources—bother me. They’re all trying to nudge me to pursue that perfect look.

40 days

Forty is a significant number in the Bible. The great flood of Genesis was the result of 40 days of rain (Genesis 7:4). Moses was with God for 40 days receiving the Law (Exodus 24:18). Spies explored the land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25). The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years (Numbers 32:13). Jonah warned of judgment in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days as He began His ministry (Luke 4:2), and He appeared to the disciples for 40 days as He concluded it (Acts 1:3). So one Bible teacher suggests that when you see the number 40 in Scripture, it means that God is doing something significant.

May 28, 2013

What is the best advice you would give to a couple who are getting married?

worry less

According to the World Health Organization, Americans are more prone to anxiety than people in other nations. The study revealed that 31 percent of Americans suffer from this disorder at some point in their lifetime. The chief culprits that lead to this anxiety are money, work, and the pressure to achieve and succeed. According to the study, Americans’ anxiety is five times higher than that of people in Third World nations.

make the time

Are you busy? We can easily become overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that loom over us on any given day. We have calendar apps, appointment reminders, and handy lists to keep us organized. I enjoy finding new ways to use my time wisely and stay on task, but I have to be careful not to put my trust in my plans over the One who holds the plan. More importantly, I need to understand that while life often “just happens,” I must approach it with intentionality.

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.”

the greatest gift

My 9-year-old Ugandan son and I often list the things he’s done the past few years—activities that he could not have done if he were still orphaned and living in extreme poverty. In his village, he never would have received a formal education, eaten sushi, gone surfing, read books, flown in an airplane, played tennis, or even had running water and electricity in his home.

where are you looking?

Saulo was 16 when he drove the getaway car for a robbery that ended in murder. Now 32, Saulo says, “I remember sitting in the county jail, and it really sunk in: ‘Wow, I’m not going home,’ and [I] realized what I did. I didn’t want to live. I couldn’t believe what I did.”

relative peace

A 60-year-old man, atop a John Deere tractor, charged at his 69-year-old brother-in-law who was harvesting hay astride his own tractor. The collision resulted in a damaged tire and the tractor-crasher’s arrest. One law enforcement official commented, “We’ve responded on prior occasions to calls because of differences between the families.” While it’s a bit unclear what the man hoped to accomplish by confronting and crunching his brother-in-law, the story shows that family feuds can escalate to ridiculous levels if they’re not resolved.

knowing our place

I recently read of a man who started a church and saw it grow and flourish over the years. But unlike some pastors whose fingers have to be pried from the pulpit, this man began grooming a younger man to take over his church. Why? Because he felt God was calling him to do so. And, at just 51 years old, this healthy, dynamic pastor humbly moved on as his 30-year-old protégé took his place.

not broken

As someone who has logged a lot of time in the coastal waters of Florida, I’ve always enjoyed seeing bottlenose dolphins up close in the wild. That’s one reason I was particularly drawn to the movie Dolphin Tale.

May 20, 2013

What encouraging words from a pastor, teacher, or mentor proved to be life-changing for you? Why?

read this! from an ODJ reader in Indonesia . . .

indonesia"I am really thankful for your ministries, especially for ODJOur Daily Journey helps me to meditate on God's words and make concrete acts through the questions in 'next' section.  . . . I really enjoy using ODJ." —Yolanda, Indonesia

youth ministry 101

If you read some recent books on youth ministry, it’s hard not to get the sense that this part of church ministry is experiencing some major struggles. And nearly everyone has an opinion about how youth ministry should be improved. Parents, youth workers, and young people themselves have expectations and demands that don’t always overlap. So, what should we do?

Related Topics

> christian living

Genuine Love

I doubt that any word gets tossed around in our world with such frequency and flippancy as love. It’s common for us to justify selfish behavior or whitewash actions harmful to others all in the name of some weak notion of “love.” Too often our actions performed under the guise of love have nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of it.

Straight Up

Carefully lifting each piece of paper, I sorted the stacks on my desk—again. I searched through file drawers, bookcases, computer folders, and email messages while praying fervently that the missing item would be found. Disappointed and frustrated, I took a deep breath and informed my supervisor before emailing the originator of the document for another copy. My prayers were answered in an unexpected fashion when I received a message in reply letting me know that the item hadn’t yet been sent to me!

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.

> daily devotional

Always

On September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was one of 44 people who were killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after being hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists.

Seasons of Grief

Last year I received two pieces of extremely sad news within a few hours. First came the news that a dear friend died of a sudden heart attack. Steve, who was only 60 years old, was a good man who loved Jesus and his family. A few hours later brought the tragic news of a dearly loved couple whose marriage collapsed under the weight of an adulterous affair.

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.

> 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

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.

He Saw Something

It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!

Stay or Run Away?

Waiting in a long line to ride a roller coaster, I considered turning back several times. When it was finally my turn to board, the safety bar in the seat I was to occupy wouldn’t release properly. I was afraid of getting stuck, but I hopped in anyway. When the safety bar came down too tightly on my lap, I felt trapped and scared! I considered waving my hand and asking to be excused from the ride. But an attendant announced over the loudspeaker, “You can scream and you can shout, but there’s no way we’ll let you out.”

> 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.