Popular movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent explore what the world might be like on the other side of the apocalypse. These gritty movies try to imagine how those who have suffered through a cosmic catastrophe could pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.
One of my jobs, being a rock-climbing instructor, includes helping people overcome their fear of heights. I explain to them that the real issue isn’t falling, but hitting the ground. Then I remind my clients that they have the proper safety equipment and good anchor points—making it impossible for them to drop. One thing they need to grasp is that their mind is actually lying to them, and that they can override their panicky thoughts. Being up high is not dangerous in itself; it’s only dangerous without the right safety equipment. Talking this through with them can take a long time, but they usually end up pressing on.
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.
Some dear friends of mine lost their little boy, Raphael, to death after just 8 weeks of life. Although my heart broke for them and I longed to be a comfort, I had no idea how to ease their pain.
Recently, after I had a terse interaction with my oldest son, my wife brought me aside and said, “I think you were a little hard on him. You really swelled up and charged into the situation with a lot of force.” It wasn’t that my son didn’t need to be corrected (he did), but the way I dealt with him didn’t express the gentleness my son needed.
Taking his dark, weathered hands in mine, we bowed to pray. As a custodian (him) and as a teacher (me), our different life experiences intersected in my tiny office this week. His mother had been sick for some time, and the disease that had previously been confined to one area had now spread to her entire body. Confident of God’s ability to heal, we prayed for Him to restore her body—and we also asked for the miracle of comfort that supersedes death. Tonight, her son sits by her bedside and knows he will soon have to say goodbye. For now, anyway.
Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases in Jesus’ day. It sentenced a person who was afflicted with it to an isolated and lonely existence. Jewish ceremonial laws forbid people from having physical contact with lepers. It required those with the disease to live “outside the camp,” isolated from their family and neighbors (Leviticus 14:2-3). If lepers were to venture out into the general public, they were to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that people would know to keep their distance (Leviticus 13:45-46).
I love collecting old books. There’s something exciting about holding in my hands a work that’s been thumbed through over the years by others. In my mind, each tome has a story to tell far beyond the words on its pages—if only it could talk!
In the midst of the rain and cold of an icy winter in 2014, more than 800 illegal shack-dwelling families were evicted from their homes along the southwest coast of South Africa. Although the eviction followed a high court order to prevent further land invasions and had come after many years of wrangling between land owners and the city council, the timing and the method of the eviction caused a public outcry. There appeared to be a lack of compassion shown by the leaders involved.
Students at the University College in Dublin watched as a mother duck waddled over a cement wall and landed one meter below. For her, it was nothing special. But for the yellow-feathered babies following her, it was an inconceivable feat. The ducklings peeped and milled around on the ledge above their mother. Finally one little duck jumped, landed on his side, and rolled to his feet. He chose to follow his mother, and his leap led to his siblings doing the same thing. Soon they all bounded from the ledge and trailed behind their mother as they continued their journey.
During Valentine’s Day each year, nearly $18.6 billion dollars are spent—$1.6 billion of which is spent on candy and $4.4 billion spent on jewelry! We’re so driven by consumerism these days that we can come to believe that romantic love revolves around gifts. We can even begin to think that the best way to know if someone really cares about us is if they’re willing to buy something we want (and even better, something really expensive!).
Our family truly enjoys the thrills and adrenaline rush found in taking amusement park rides. One recent ride we braved included a 170-foot drop. During the intense ride, I lost my bearings at one point and had no idea where we were headed. I was no longer in control, but simply hurtling down a twisting, turning track.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
The headmaster of a British primary school wrote a letter to encourage his students after a long and hard week of testing. He said, “The school is proud of you as you have demonstrated a huge amount of commitment and tried your very best during a tricky week. These tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who drew up the tests do not know each of you. . . . These people do not know you try, every day, to be your very best. Remember that there are many ways of being smart.”
In 1915, Dr. Frank Laubach’s church commissioned him to serve as a missionary in Manila, Philippines, and as a professor at Union Theological Seminary (Manila). When he and another man were being considered for the office of seminary president, a vote was held to determine which candidate would win. Dr. Laubach did what he thought honorable; he voted for his opponent.Consequently, he lost the election by one vote—his own. He became disappointed, depressed, and even questioned God. Yet God used that incident to redirect his life. Eventually, Dr. Laubach developed a literacy program that taught an estimated 60 million people to read.