Author  |  tim gustafson

just one thing right

"I prayed really hard,” she said, “‘Please, God, could just one thing go right for me?’ And one hour later I got a horrid case of the flu!” At the precipice of bitterness, she had legitimate questions. She cried out to God. And she got what seemed to be a divine prank!

Suffering touches all of us. But when someone…

red barn in the andes

All roads may lead to Rome, but the most dangerous road leads to Coroico, a terminal stop on Bolivia’s El Camino de la Muerte—the Road of Death. The road may be deadly, but it’s also spectacular. Clinging to the sides of the verdant, misty Andes Mountains, the sliver of highway slices through panoramic vistas and tiptoes along unforgiving drop-offs that…

living in fear

The subtitle under Genesis 26 in my Bible reads: “Isaac Deceives Abimelech.” Pardon my irreverence, but it might just as well have read: “Isaac Nearly Pimps His Wife.”

Isaac is such a patriarch of the faith that he makes the final cut when we speak of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Yet at a time when he should…

weeds

As a child growing up in Ghana’s Upper Region, I used to help Mom and Dad in their garden. To this day, the aroma of tomatoes ripening on the vine makes me nostalgic for tropical climes and simpler times.

Dad, who had attended an agricultural school, used to coach me as I worked. “A weed is any plant that’s not…

sin management

We once lived across the road from Aman Nature Park, which was wonderful—except for the raccoons. Oh sure, they’re fascinating creatures. But the masklike band of black across their eyes should have alerted us to one vital detail: Raccoons are felons in fur. And the scene of the crime was our yard.

When we suspected raccoons of being responsible for…

weary

I found him wearying. He incessantly “shared” stories of the personal wrongs done to him with anyone who would listen, and frankly, it had become a burden. So I started avoiding him. Yes, I know that’s not what Jesus would do. But it’s what I did.

I know others in far worse circumstances than he—yet they’re a delight to be…

loaded questions

If making your guest squirm uncomfortably is the measure of success, then the TV journalist performed magnificently. Referring to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the reporter asserted to a religious leader: “Either God is all-powerful and He doesn’t care about the people of Japan and their suffering, or He does care about the people but He’s not really powerful.…

upstairs downstairs

Walk into her house and a showcase living room quickly commands your attention. Ornate, expensive furniture populates rooms tastefully embellished with understated artwork. A lavish floral arrangement adorns a perfectly lit breakfast nook.

But no one ever sits on the furniture. The flower-shaped soaps in the soap dish never clean anyone’s hands; the towels in the kitchen and bathroom don’t…

phantom lions

When I was a child, my dad would scare my brother and me by hiding in a thicket and growling like a lion. Living in the bush country of Africa, the possibility of encountering a carnivorous feline was real to us. Regardless, we would laugh delightedly whenever we heard the growl—thrilled by Dad’s act.

One day, a young friend came…

free solo

A recent article in National Geographic Magazine published remarkable images of climbers as they scaled the sheer rock face of Yosemite’s 2,916- ft. (889 meters) El Capitan. Astonishingly, some of the climbers make portions of the ascent without safety ropes in a death-taunting exercise known as “free solo.” These guys literally live on the edge.

Some of the most hard-core climbers…

perfect parents

I don’t know what else I can do!” my exasperated friend sulked. “I set high standards for my kids and hold them accountable for their actions, and all they do is hate me. What did I do to deserve this?” He noted how he has always been “hard” (his word) on his son so that he would do great things.…

before the eulogy

In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper slinked off for a few days away without telling anyone. Back home, their distraught loved ones assumed they had drowned, so they held a funeral. The boys—being boys—sneaked back into town and watched the funeral from the rafters of the church. There they enjoyed hearing the good…

the small stuff

How has your ministry been able to thrive in these tough economic times?” someone asked the leader of a nonprofit organization. “It’s because of the small gifts,” he said without hesitation. “The big gifts dry up when things get tough. But we have a lot of people who make small donations, and they give faithfully out of what they have.”…

enemies

I am forced to preach under something of a handicap this morning,” said Dr. Martin Luther King on a November day in 1957. His physician had instructed him to stay in bed, but King insisted on speaking.

Paraphrasing the words of Jesus, he declared to the congregation at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama: “You have heard that it…

questions

A recent televised interview captured my attention. The author of a controversial book kept responding to questions by saying, “That’s a great question.” And then he would orbit that “great question” without ever landing on an answer.

Jesus surely frustrated the “interviewers” who came to see Him in Matthew 21. “By what authority are you doing all these things?” they…