Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
Many Christians are familiar with the classic hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” The first line of the song reads, “When peace like a river attendeth my way.” But, for most of us, peace isn’t a mighty and strong river. It’s more like a feather that can be easily pushed aside by the concerns and worries of life. For me, holding on to peace in the midst of turmoil is like trying to catch a piece of dust in the air!
Near the closing of the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is standing alone at the foot of the grave of his dearly beloved Jenny: “You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. . . . Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There’s one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I’ll never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we’ll never sing anything.”
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
In his book Simply Jesus, theologian N. T. Wright writes, “When God does big things, the little people get drawn in too.” One of my favorite examples of this is found in the book of Matthew.
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.
In a recent email, a woman named Renee told me how she and her husband had unsuccessfully spent years trying to start a family. After numerous rounds of in vitro fertilization treatment and several years waiting to adopt, they were exhausted from the ordeal and considering bringing the journey to an end. Knowing that my wife and I had walked a similar path, Renee asked a question. “How do you give up on a dream of parenthood without regretting what might have been?”
In 2014, a pod of pilot whales was found floundering in perilously shallow water off the shore of Florida in the US. Forty or fifty short-finned whales remained close to a narrow shoreline—choosing not to swim out to the deeper waters, where they would be safe. Several of the blackfish were ill, which caused conservationists to worry. Pilot whales are intensely loyal creatures, and when one in their group is sick or in jeopardy, the rest of the pod simply will not leave. They form a circle and stay close together.
A strange phenomenon is occurring all around me as I write this article. Tucked into the warm splendor of my niece’s living room, I’m observing ants occasionally crawling and darting about on the walls. Why is this strange? Well, there’s nearly 2 feet of snow outside her home, and it was -19°F a few days ago. So I’ve been wondering, How are these tiny creatures surviving? It appears they’re doing so by sticking together, working together, and dwelling in the warmth found inside the house.
Heart attacks are the No. 1 cause of death in many parts of the world. In the US, a heart attack occurs every 20 seconds, with someone dying from heart disease every 34 seconds. In Singapore, one in three deaths is due to heart disease or stroke. We need to pay careful attention to what medical professionals are saying about heart attack prevention: reduce stress, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and watch your diet. “Guard your heart above all else” is instruction that we ignore to our own peril (Proverbs 4:23).
A few months after his son’s tragic death, my friend told me that people who had been close were now avoiding him and his family. He said it was as if people no longer wanted to be around them. I asked him why he thought the poor comforters were acting this way. His answer troubled me, for I knew it was the hard truth: “When people don’t feel they can fix a situation, they try to pretend it’s not there. They feel embarrassed.”
God loves us. Most of us know this. But how many of us feel it? Paul knew that understanding God’s love was a difficult proposition. He believed supernatural revelation was required even to get started (Ephesians 3:16,18). God’s love is so large and our comprehension so small. How can we ever truly understand His love for us?