In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbors and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighborhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.
Dale’s neighborhood is home to many newcomers to his country. He loves the cultural richness but has felt a disconnection from it. So recently he prayed: “Lord, please use me to reach my neighborhood.” And he felt God’s simple, gentle nudge: Be a friend.
The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.
If the book of Judges were turned into a miniseries, we wouldn’t permit young children to view it. The book shows life in early Israel as violent, ugly, and self-serving. Villains abounded. One such bad guy was Abimelech, the son of the heroic Gideon (see Judges 9:1-5,50-56). Spoiler alert: He killed all his brothers except one and usurped power for himself. He also met an interesting demise.
Dave gazed at the magnificent network of trails reaching into the Canadian wetlands before him. At the swampier sections, timbers strategically placed between patches of terra firma served to keep hikers dry—in theory.
My friend’s son loves building things. One time when he was just 10 years old, he tried to construct a treehouse from scratch. Although the structure looked pretty sound, upon close inspection its mounting wasn’t true. My friend’s son needed knowledge and instruction to create a wooden dwelling that was structurally solid and would last.
A group of churches in our city came together to do a neighborhood cleanup. The shared project went so well that they now exchange choirs and praise bands and have multichurch picnics. Oh sure, there are things they disagree on. But to them, Jesus is a reason for unity.
In some hills of the USA’s mid-South, much of life is lived on the front porch. Neighbors stop by unannounced for a glass of sweet tea or cup of coffee. No invitation is ever necessary.
My colleagues and I were eating dinner with an author when she posed this question: “What do you like least about your job?” I had been working in publishing for several years, and instantly I knew my answer. “I don’t like crushing people’s dreams,” I said. “I don’t like telling them that their manuscript ‘doesn’t meet our needs.’ ”
As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines:
Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.