Category  |  christian living

Raise the Temperature

When I meet people who have lived overseas, I ask what they noticed about our culture upon their return to our country. Some appreciate our culture’s energy and can-do spirit, while others lament our individuality and lack of social interaction. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses, but we can help shape the culture that shapes us.

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.

Victory

King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.

Starting Over

As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.

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!

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!

Higher Law, Higher Love

A precocious middle-school student asked a soldier visiting her class what he would do if he were ordered to do something wrong. Then she made it personal. “What if they told you to shoot innocent people?”

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.”

Jealousy and Generosity

Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues—a comparison obsession. He writes: “Business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. . . . I have interviewed hundreds of HNAPs (high-need-for-achievement-professionals) about this phenomenon and discovered that comparing has reached almost epidemic proportions. This is bad for individuals and bad for companies [and it leads to diminished satisfaction].” It’s also especially bad for believers in Jesus.

On the Fringe

I was once invited to an authors’ party in London. It was a posh affair with caviar and oysters and a private view of a fashion exhibition. Celebrities milled through the crowd and everyone else looked like a celebrity due to their chic fashion sense.

Taming Anger

I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon! Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!”

Full of Joy

In his classic book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton writes: “[Children] want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

Related Topics

christian living > angels

stairway to heaven

While traveling in Paris, my husband and I decided to enjoy the view atop the Arch of Triumph. Choosing adventure over ease, we elected to climb the 284 stairs to reach the sky-high destination instead of taking the elevator. A good part of the climb required us to step up ever-higher in what seemed like an endless spiral staircase. When we emerged at the apex, we relished the panoramic view of the city—a view made possible by our 162-foot ascent!

preparing the way

On July 21, 2013, media outlets worldwide held their collective breath as they waited for the birth of the child of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The baby was third in line to the British throne, and so when Prince George was born the next day there was hardly a newspaper or news program that didn’t herald the announcement front and center.

plastic soldiers and HVAs

Our two young boys wanted a nativity set, so we got a small one to place in their room. One night my wife went to tuck them in bed, only to find that Liam (age 5) had posted little plastic soldiers to guard the nativity. “They’re making sure baby Jesus is safe,” he announced.

christian living > bible study

Knowing the Deeper Things

As scientists have continued to search the Mariana Trench, which lies 26,000 feet under the Pacific Ocean’s surface, they’ve discovered a new species of fish never seen before—one which researchers describe as a mix between a puppy, an angel, and an eel. It’s mind-boggling and humbling to think that even after so much time and effort has been spent trying to understand this planet, there’s still so much that we don’t know about all that God has created.

not fiction

Recently a store that’s part of a huge retail chain labeled its Bibles as “fiction.” A pastor shopping for a gift came across the Bibles and saw “Fiction” written on the price tag. So he took a pic and posted it on social media with the comment: “[Name withheld] has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION. Hmm.” The retailer has since apologized, saying the Bibles were mislabeled and the mistake had been corrected.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

christian living > blame

Jesus and the Junk

We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well-kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision-trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.

Shaming Shame

I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. It’s hard to put into words the agony of those moments when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find my clothes and sheets were soaked. Ashamed, I would scurry about, trying to quietly change the sheets and my clothes—doing my best to hide the evidence. But it was found out each time, and I felt a deep sense of worthlessness, failure, and disapproval.

Solution to Scorn

In his article “The Price of Public Shaming in the Internet Age,” Todd Leopold asks, “Do you believe in forgiveness? Do you believe in second chances? Of course you do. Everybody makes mistakes. To err is human, to forgive divine. Right? Not in the age of social media.”

christian living > competition

Conquering Criticism

During the closing seconds of an American football game, the referee had to make a very difficult, game-deciding call. His decision resulted in one team winning and the other facing the bitter sting of a loss. Furious fans from the losing team ridiculed and threatened the ref for days and weeks. In time he experienced panic attacks and even considered suicide. Doctors diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder.

the question

Here’s something you will never read in an obituary: “Susan Abernathy is survived by Harold, her husband of 47 years, three children, and six grandchildren. Susan was treasurer of the West Kalloon Realtor’s Association, director of numerous Vacation Bible Schools, and finished the human race in 823rd place.

quitting time

Sorting through some old papers, I found a yellowed pay-stub that showed I had worked 100 hours in the span of 7 days. It’s crazy—I know, since there are only 168 hours in a week. As I fingered the faded document, I tried to recall the project that had required so much of my time many years ago. I looked…

christian living > conflict

Conquering Criticism

During the closing seconds of an American football game, the referee had to make a very difficult, game-deciding call. His decision resulted in one team winning and the other facing the bitter sting of a loss. Furious fans from the losing team ridiculed and threatened the ref for days and weeks. In time he experienced panic attacks and even considered suicide. Doctors diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Every Step

In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.

Valued

We anticipated an amusing evening at church. Whether it would be the antics of our own kids or someone else’s, we were confident the kid-driven event would elicit laughter. Sure enough, laughter rang out, but my husband and I sat stunned and tried to hide our dismay. What had appeared to others as a funny comment had actually been a joke at my husband’s expense. Though we had felt tension with the couple in charge of the program, the episode exposed the depth of the chasm.

christian living > decisions/choices

Raise the Temperature

When I meet people who have lived overseas, I ask what they noticed about our culture upon their return to our country. Some appreciate our culture’s energy and can-do spirit, while others lament our individuality and lack of social interaction. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses, but we can help shape the culture that shapes us.

Higher Law, Higher Love

A precocious middle-school student asked a soldier visiting her class what he would do if he were ordered to do something wrong. Then she made it personal. “What if they told you to shoot innocent people?”

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.

christian living > emotions

Awe

Good things can happen when we experience awe. In 2015, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that goose bump-eliciting awe helps people move from self-interest to deeper awareness of others and their concerns. In essence, awe leads to blessing!

Resilience

In recent years, researchers have begun exploring what leads to human resilience. What helps someone bounce back after physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma? Psychologist Martin Seligman suggests four main factors:

No Easy Answers

A couple found themselves in a no-win situation. During an intense drought, they faced a $500 fine if they watered their lawn more than twice a week. So in time it turned brown. Local officials noticed and informed them that—in spite of the drought—they were required to keep their grass “looking healthy and green” or face (you guessed it) a $500 fine.

christian living > fasting

Coram Deo

Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.

Fasting Focus

Many years ago I was the youth minister of a church. I was in over my head, burning out quickly, and in need of time with God. So I arranged a retreat for a few days at a friend’s cabin in the country.

prayer for revival

Blasio Kugosi was tired. This schoolteacher from Rwanda was tired of simply sitting back in quiet discouragement over the lack of spiritual fervor in the church and his own spiritual life. So in 1935, Kugosi fasted and prayed for a week. During that time, God transformed him.

christian living > fellowship

No Lone Rangers

My country esteems “rugged individualism”—the idea that truly strong people do things on their own. The icon of this peculiar value was the Lone Ranger, a famous fictional cowboy of radio and the silver screen, and a solitary masked hero that protected others from harm. But it’s interesting to note that the Lone Ranger was hardly alone. He had a trusty horse named Silver and a constant companion named Tonto. Because of this, the supposedly “Lone” Ranger had more friends than many people do!

Good Influence

We have two 5-month-old puppies that are energetic and love to explore. Azusa, the female, is the one filled with true wanderlust. Seymour simply becomes her partner in crime when he tries to keep up in a wild game of chase. From the same litter, they sleep together, eat out of the same bowl, and nestle against each other for comfort. Seymour’s affinity to follow his sister out the door, however, shows that misplaced loyalty can lead one astray.

Saving Solitude

Several years ago I read about people who paid $2,500 per night at specific hotels in order to be disconnected from the Internet, their cell phones, and all other types of technology that pierce the silence. They were willing to pay a lot of money to obtain what they hoped would be some peace of mind—even if it was temporary. They were willing to pay a hefty price for some silence and solitude.

christian living > finances

Simple Things

It was 2 a.m. and we’d just completed 26 hours of air travel—including connections. Lines of bleary-eyed passengers queued to get through customs. Most of us had just one thing on our mind—getting home and falling into bed.

Single-Eyed Focus

Luciano Faggiano bought a building to house his new restaurant venture. Unfortunately, sewage kept backing up through a toilet. So he and his sons began digging a trench in order to find the broken sewage pipe. After a week, they couldn’t find the problem. Frustration with the project quickly turned into excitement, however, when they unearthed an archaeological treasure. The men discovered an underground world of rooms, including tombs, a Franciscan chapel, and many other artifacts—some that predated Jesus. Oh, and eventually they did manage to fix the broken sewage pipe!

The Sin of Pretending

In 2008, a man was killed in a car crash in New Zealand. The autopsy revealed he’d been driving without wearing a seatbelt, having installed a fake belt which went over one shoulder so that it appeared to any passing motorist or police car that he was actually wearing a real one. He was pretending to comply with the law, but according to the coroner his subterfuge cost him his life.

christian living > generosity

Rich in Good Works

An audition for a singing competition on TV captured my attention. Strumming on a guitar he’d learned to play just a year earlier, a young man named Anderson wowed the judges when he performed his original song, “My Best Friend.”

All We Need

Dan Price announced in April 2015 that he would slash his CEO salary by roughly 90 percent so he could raise the salaries of his workforce (approximately 120 employees). By doing so, Price proposed that by 2017 everyone working for him would make at least $70,000 per year. To make this happen, his salary dropped from $1,000,000 to $70,000 per year—matching his employee’s minimum compensation. Price did this because he wanted his employees to have all they need. News of this generosity spread quickly because it is remarkable and unusual in corporate culture.

Go the Extra Mile

Three boys hatched a plan to earn enough money to buy their own brand-new bicycles. Their strategy was to call around their neighborhood, offering to do yard work or run an errand in exchange for a small amount of cash.

christian living > giving

True Sacrifice

The Giving Pledge,” formed in 2009 by billionaire founders Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, is a campaign to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give away most of their cash to help others. Buffett himself is taking the lead and plans to donate 99 percent of his wealth by the time he dies. This is an incredibly generous act! But it’s interesting to note that his present worth is $72.3 billion, meaning that if he gives away 99 percent of his wealth, he’ll still have $700 million remaining.

Religious Actors

It’s likely that during Jesus’ day, just a few hours walk from where He gave His Sermon on the Mount, stood the great theater of Sepphoris. The governor of Galilee, Herod Antipas, had turned the hilltop town into a cosmopolitan center full of markets, synagogues, public baths, and temples. It boasted paved streets, frescoed walls, and beautiful mosaics.

Celebrate!

Last Christmas I read an article from a religious thinker I admire. She attempted to make the case that we should avoid the exuberant celebration of Christmas—particularly gift-giving. Her familiar complaints? The consumerism and hustle and bustle of the holidays. As we take an axe to consumerism or greed, however, we must not unwittingly also take the axe to joy. In the next few days, you’ll likely give someone a Christmas gift that feels at least a little lavish or unnecessary. You may receive one as well. I believe this mirrors the generosity of God. Certainly, joy doesn’t require expensive gifts. But joy does provide for a gregarious and generous posture toward others.

christian living > grace

The Unhappy Sin

Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.

What Sets Us Free

Recently I did some major damage to my shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments were torn and I had to have physical therapy for a few months. The therapist made an interesting statement as he massaged and manipulated the injury site: “You have to get blood to the damaged areas; it’s the only way to heal it, even if it’s painful.” The only way to put right what is broken is to force blood into those areas, no matter how difficult the task, and allow the blood to carry away the scar tissue and heal the injury.

Voice of Reason

Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.

christian living > gratefulness

Jealousy and Generosity

Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues—a comparison obsession. He writes: “Business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. . . . I have interviewed hundreds of HNAPs (high-need-for-achievement-professionals) about this phenomenon and discovered that comparing has reached almost epidemic proportions. This is bad for individuals and bad for companies [and it leads to diminished satisfaction].” It’s also especially bad for believers in Jesus.

Never Stop Praying

Just over a year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to be faithful in prayer. The New Year came and I was off to a good start. But as the days got busier, I struggled to stay focused during my morning prayers, and my body began begging for more sleep. Yawn.

the blessings of God

Recently, my wife and I embarked on a plan to reach out to people who are different from us—spiritually, ethnically, and otherwise. Why take on this challenge? We’ve experienced the grace and blessing of God, and we want to bless Him by loving others who are also made in His image. It’s interesting, however, that even as we’ve strived to bless Him, we’ve been greatly blessed by God through these new relationships!

christian living > greed

The Unhappy Sin

Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.

Hard Questions

One Saturday afternoon, a group of teenagers gathered in a cafeteria to ask one another some hard questions based on Philippians 2:3-4. Some of the difficult queries included: On a scale of 1 to 10, how selfish are you? How often do you take an interest in others too? Would someone describe you as humble or proud? Why?

if only i had . . .

Even as a child, I can remember coveting things that other people possessed. One day I was playing at my cousin’s house when one of his toys caught my eye. I begged to take it home, and when my parents refused me the pleasure, I cried and created quite a scene.

christian living > holiness

Fit for a King

A man known as the “king of cocaine” built an island hideaway known to the locals as the big house. It featured a marble lobby and an enormous pool ringed by palm trees. The now-deceased man’s estate included multiple waterfront dwellings where 300 guests could lodge in luxury. Gardens, boats, and a helicopter landing pad all displayed the “king’s” immense but wrongly amassed wealth.

Holy, Holy, Holy . . .

Theologian R. C. Sproul once wrote, “When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is . . . separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”

My Wake-up Call

It’s been a tiring week. Filling in for the Breakfast Show radio host meant that I set my alarm for 4:40 each morning, ensuring that I’d be at the radio studios by 5:30. I was looking forward to waking up later on Saturday, but at 4:40 I heard the buzz of an alarm. Annoyed at what I thought was my husband’s alarm, I begged him to turn it off and then realized it was my own alarm blaring its unwelcome wake-up call. I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm the night before and now I lay wide awake, frustrated with myself and embarrassed that I’d blamed my husband for the rude awakening.

christian living > humility

Coram Deo

Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.

Washed

Steady rains had transformed the hardened terrain of our backyard into a soaked softness. Walking outside, I felt the coolness of the water and mud squishing between my toes. Our dogs had been digging in a small area, so I decided to move a few cement blocks to block the patch of ground from their reach. My work left me covered with moist dirt and grass. Deciding to wash before heading indoors, I watched the clear stream of water make my skin clean once again.

Jesus Stayed Here

Raffles Hotel in Singapore is a legendary 5-star hotel that boasts a long list of distinguished former guests, including King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and the King of Pop Music—Michael Jackson. Immortalized by writers like Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway, there are suites named after personalities who were associated with the hotel: Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward, Pablo Neruda, and W. Somerset Maugham, who is reputed to have spent his days writing at the hotel.

christian living > idolatry

Starting Points & End Results

In the movie Castaway, a man was stranded on a desert island for 4 years following a plane crash. After his rescue, the authorities told him that their initial efforts following the crash had failed because they had searched in the wrong area—thinking that the plane had gone down 400 miles from where it crashed. Since their starting point was completely wrong, they had little chance of success even though their efforts were admirable.

So Many Choices

Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “It’s bad enough for me to make choices that hurt my own relationship with God. How much more serious is it to be the cause of someone else deciding to sin? . . . I choose the pathway of holiness for God’s sake and for my own sake.”

two questions

Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit and it was now time for him to face the music. God walked through the garden and “called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Genesis 3:9). Later, when God came to confront Cain for killing Abel, He asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). This reminds us that those who reject God are apt to wound others.

christian living > jealousy

Jealousy and Generosity

Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues—a comparison obsession. He writes: “Business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. . . . I have interviewed hundreds of HNAPs (high-need-for-achievement-professionals) about this phenomenon and discovered that comparing has reached almost epidemic proportions. This is bad for individuals and bad for companies [and it leads to diminished satisfaction].” It’s also especially bad for believers in Jesus.

The Unhappy Sin

Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.

Certain Goodness

As my sister and I were growing up, our parents taught us about the love of Jesus and to enjoy intimate prayer with Him. As I grew older, sometimes life’s varied challenges pressed hard on me, and my prayers became requests based on need rather than tender dialogues with the One who delights in giving to His children (Matthew 7:11). In other words, my prayers were based on circumstances rather than on God’s character. Over time, I’ve learned to ask according not only to His will but also His goodness.

christian living > lying

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!

father of lies

Paulo Coelho’s book The Pilgrimage recounts the story of Coelho walking the famous Camino pilgrimage route between France and Spain with a guide. I bought the book, but I wasn’t prepared for what I read.

just a little?

People living in the sunny state of Florida in the US are dealing with a slow-moving but destructive creature. The Giant African snail, which can grow as big as a rat, is wreaking havoc as it gnaws through the stucco exterior of homes and devours every plant in its path. What’s more, the snails produce 1,200 eggs a year and leave a disgusting trail of slime and excrement wherever they go. These slow-moving, somewhat small pests have become a big problem real fast!

christian living > mercy

The First Witnesses

Who was the first group of people to be invited to see the Christ-child? Who was the first eyewitness of the resurrected Christ?

Ignoring Discouraging Words

Many people are familiar with the book Gone with the Wind, and even more have viewed the movie adaptation that was filmed in 1939 starring famous Hollywood actor Clark Gable. But what many people don’t realize is that the novel written by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times by publishers before finally being accepted. It went on to sell 30 million copies. What if Margaret Mitchell had given up after her 38th rejection, as most of us probably would have done?

the gritty road

Automakers use features like leather seats, more horsepower, and media accessories to entice new car buyers. One feature that’s gaining popularity for purchasers is quiet cabins. While this is a wonderful feature for those at the wheel, it also means that they’re less aware of what’s going on around them. In a sealed cabin, it’s easy to ignore the blaring horns of other drivers and not realize that you’re driving far too fast. Being a good driver means that we stay connected to those around us and are aware of their situation as well as our own, even if this creates an inconvenience for us.

christian living > patience

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!

Wait for Him

Typically, I merely skim my Facebook feed. But today I found myself taking time to reflect on a friend’s post that read: “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” I know what it means to wait for a phone call, to wait in line, to wait for an answer from a friend or colleague. But it’s been a long time since I’ve grappled with what it means for my soul to wait for the Lord.

Burst from the Heavens

In November 2014, police found a 13-year-old boy who had been missing for 4 years. The heart- wrenching story grew even more shocking when police revealed that the boy’s father and stepmother had the boy all the time—hidden behind a fake wall in their house during most hours of each day. For 4 long years the boy waited to be found, waited to be reunited with his mother.

christian living > persecution

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!

Hope Awakening

In her blog, Gayla wrote about rescuing a cactus from the garbage bins of an apartment building in her neighborhood. She found a single stem that showed some signs of life. With some pruning, the seemingly dead plant blossomed once again and is now thriving. She shared the details of the cactus transformation in order to help those who think that their cacti are beyond hope.

In Jesus’ Love

In Jesus’ Love. He closed his email message with those words. And as I read them, I realized how poignant they were. For this young man—who I had seen come to a saving faith in Jesus, who I’d baptized, whose faith was maturing—was back home for a stay in his birth country, a place not known for kindness toward believers in Jesus. He mentioned receiving “strange looks” from nationals as he prayed before his meal in a restaurant, the coolness his friend showed toward his faith, and that he was lonely. So I strived to encourage him by writing, “I’m so proud of you. God is using you to spread His presence in your city!”

christian living > praise

Life and Loss

Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

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.

“He Is So Good!”

I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom

christian living > pride

Broken Down & Built Up

After winning the Masters in 1997, a pro golfer decided to change his swing, a decision that baffled golf experts. He wouldn’t win a major tournament for 2 years, but he eventually reestablished himself as the number one golfer in the world. The competitor asserted that unlearning his old swing was crucial, for he needed to get rid of bad habits in order to become a better golfer.

“He Is So Good!”

I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom

The Line Between

Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.

christian living > serving others

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.

Simple Tables

I have a friend who has spent most of his life with people who live on society’s margins: People experiencing poverty or homelessness, those who wrestle with addictions or simply exist outside the mainstream, anyone who might be considered an outcast. “That’s where I seem to fit,” my friend says. “On the edges.” He helps believers in Jesus learn how to be in true friendship with those who are different. “This kind of friendship isn’t as complicated as we like to make it,” my friend insists. “Often it’s as simple as knowing someone’s name and how they like their coffee.”

Ox in the Street

Picnics are usually a lot of fun, unless you realize— minutes before you leave—that you’re supposed to bring a dish to share! When this happened to me, I quickly put some meat in a pot, cranked up the heat, and left the kitchen to finish other preparations. Several minutes later, I smelled something burning. I ran to the kitchen, but of course it was too late to salvage the burnt offering.

christian living > sharing Christ

christian living > sin

Starting Over

As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.

Mistaken vs. Hard Hearts

It’s obvious,” my brother said. “A southerly wind is a wind that’s blowing toward the South.” I tried to protest. He rushed out and picked up a dictionary, returning with the gleeful smugness of the elder brother. “Read it and weep!” he said. When I read aloud the final phrase of the dictionary entry: “concerning winds, southerly means from a southern direction” he grabbed the book from me. He read the entry again, blinking in disbelief before stalking off dejectedly. He couldn’t accept the truth at first, even after reading it for himself. He had been convinced that he was right.

Ox in the Street

Picnics are usually a lot of fun, unless you realize— minutes before you leave—that you’re supposed to bring a dish to share! When this happened to me, I quickly put some meat in a pot, cranked up the heat, and left the kitchen to finish other preparations. Several minutes later, I smelled something burning. I ran to the kitchen, but of course it was too late to salvage the burnt offering.

christian living > spiritual battles

Victory

King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.

Spiritual Struggles

Albert Einstein may have suffered from Impostor Syndrome—the tendency for accomplished people to suspect they’re frauds. He said, “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease.” Few among us would question Einstein’s colossal contributions to physics. If he doubted his work, where do the rest of us stand?

Mistakes and Grace

We took one last look at the church hall. It had been full of food and activity just an hour before, but now it was spotlessly clean. So we turned off the lights and left.

christian living > spiritual gifts

Greater Gifts

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.

A Generous Tip

In November 2014, a couple asked a waiter named Carlos for a dish that wasn’t on the menu. As former restaurant workers themselves, they were impressed by him and how he fulfilled their recipe request. The man asked Carlos what he would do if he had the money and time he needed. “I work two jobs. I don’t really have time,” he replied. He did, however, let on that his car needed a $1,500 repair job. Later, Carlos found a $1,500 tip on the table. He said of the generous couple, “Thank God for you and for what you’ve done. . . . It couldn’t have come at a much better time, so I’m eternally grateful.”

Chosen Instruments

My daughter is only 5 years old, but she’s a self- declared “artist.” One day we talked about paintbrushes. I selected two and handed them to her. The first brush was slim, with bristles that ended in a fine point. The other brush was larger and thicker. I explained that artists typically use bigger brushes to fill in large areas, while tiny brushes work better for small spaces and creating details. Painting involves choosing the right tool at the right time in the artistic process.

christian living > temptation

Fighting Temptation

Mimi began working at a brothel in her early 20s. The big money began funding a lavish lifestyle, but working nights meant she lost touch with her friends. Soon things began spiraling out of control.

The Trick of Misdirection

I recently watched a thought-provoking TED (Technology, Education, and Design) talk where a street magician spoke on the power of misdirection. Our brains have difficulty focusing on two things at once, and magicians exploit this by drawing our attention to one thing so that we won’t notice that they’re doing something else. In the video, the speaker so dazzled the audience with a series of magic tricks that they failed to realize that he had actually changed his clothes during the performance!

Brutal Betrayal

In October of 2014, Italian authorities arrested a woman for the murder of as many as 38 victims. Most shocking was the revelation that she was the victims’ nurse. Police first charged the woman with the murder of a 78-year-old hospital patient. Later, however, they suspected her involvement in a string of suspicious deaths. News outlets posted a disturbing pic seized by police: a selfie the nurse took of herself (in her hospital scrubs) standing near the body of a recently deceased patient while smiling and making a thumbs-up gesture.

christian living > The Church

Simple Tables

I have a friend who has spent most of his life with people who live on society’s margins: People experiencing poverty or homelessness, those who wrestle with addictions or simply exist outside the mainstream, anyone who might be considered an outcast. “That’s where I seem to fit,” my friend says. “On the edges.” He helps believers in Jesus learn how to be in true friendship with those who are different. “This kind of friendship isn’t as complicated as we like to make it,” my friend insists. “Often it’s as simple as knowing someone’s name and how they like their coffee.”

“Follow Me!”

Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.

Greater Gifts

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.

christian living > the occult

you’re at war!

Neville Chamberlain was duped during World War II. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he appeased Hitler and acquiesced to his demands. Chamberlain believed Hitler was a man of peace who would simply be satisfied with regaining lands that once were part of Germany.

confronting the darkness

“Crazy demons!” Hitting “send” before proofreading, I quickly realized the text my husband received would leave him confused. I had attempted to type out “crazy carline!” to explain my delay in meeting him, but must have hit a few errant letters. Autocorrect on my cell phone took it from there! I have no idea how the text ended up reading “demons” instead of “carline.”

sock puppet and frenemy

Do you use a sock puppet to secretly keep track of your frenemies? Plan to spend your staycation watching vlogs and webisodes?” If you’re not sure what all that means, turn to the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The book of words has just added more than 100 new ones. Two new entries caught my attention: sock puppet and frenemies. A “sock puppet”…

christian living > tongues

using your gift

The 2013 film Frozen tells the story of a troubled princess named Elsa who possessed a special gift—the power to create ice and snow. We’re not talking about making iced tea. No—with a flick of the wrist, this princess could unleash a blizzard that would instantly turn a warm summer day into a cold winter wonderland.

the Spirit’s first gift

We often focus on the more controversial aspects of Acts 2:1-47. We question whether the Holy Spirit continues to work in the same way today, or if the miracles found in the passage have ceased; and we wonder if such gifts are necessary for salvation.

christian living > trials

Hope Awakening

In her blog, Gayla wrote about rescuing a cactus from the garbage bins of an apartment building in her neighborhood. She found a single stem that showed some signs of life. With some pruning, the seemingly dead plant blossomed once again and is now thriving. She shared the details of the cactus transformation in order to help those who think that their cacti are beyond hope.

Ride of Your Life

When motorcycle riders approach a sharp turn in the road, they strive to look beyond it to the direction they want to head. By looking ahead—where they want to go—they can ride smoothly through the turn and continue on their journey.

Pain with a Purpose

I recently watched a viral video in which men were voluntarily subjected to pain similar to what women experience in childbirth. The men began the experiment in good spirits, joking around as electrodes were attached to their abdomens. But as the pain began and eventually increased, they started to grimace and wince in pain—eventually screaming and clutching each other’s hands for emotional support. As I watched the video, I thought about my own wife—the mother of our five kids—and couldn’t help but wonder: How do women endure that kind of suffering?

christian living > wisdom

Last Dance

Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.

Friendly Wounds

I received an email from a close friend with the subject line “I’m too old for this!” His email told of his recent ordeal riding a roller coaster with his 12-year-old son. He said that the ride lasted only a minute, but it was miserable. He didn’t get physically sick, but he also didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.

Voice of Reason

Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.

christian living > work

Coram Deo

Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.

“Follow Me!”

Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.

“He Is So Good!”

I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom