The woman lost weight and began to feel attractive again. Soon she grew tired of her husband and their life—a life that included four small children. She felt that she had married too young and never had the chance to explore what was out there. Eventually, she threw away family stability—the love and devotion of her husband and the kids’ well-being—to satisfy her desires. When her marital vows became inconvenient, she violated them.
For two of my friends, this yuletide season will be a difficult one. They’ve both lost loved ones during this period, and the festive season reminds them of the painful absence. Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyous during Christmas.
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.
In 1996 I was a press manager for the Olympic Village, home to athletes from 192 countries who were competing in the Atlanta Games. One of my responsibilities was to escort heads of state and Hollywood celebrities through the village so they could mingle with the Olympians.
In 2003, the Crafton family—dad, mom, two daughters, and a son—sold their home and possessions and set out on a sailing voyage in which they traveled 30,000 miles over 83 months. The family says the experience, something not practical or possible for most of us, drew them closer together and made their lives feel more open and spacious. Before setting sail, parents Tom and Kathleen realized that their successful careers and two houses, though providing the external symbols of success, weren’t making for the life they desired. So they headed for open waters.
For all its warts and challenges, the church is still the body of Christ—the means that God has established for His kingdom to grow on earth. Renowned pastor and theologian John Stott wrote: “The church lies at the center of the purpose of God. God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself to build his church.”
Growing up, Easter Sunday was always a day of joy and celebration. The rich worship at church and wonderful feast at home made for one happy day. But recently I’ve been reflecting on the fact that Resurrection Sunday once elicited a very different emotion: fear.
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
The UK foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic in 2001 wrought more destruction to the British farming community than any event in history. Some believers prayed that Christian farmers would be miraculously protected, while others prayed that their witness for Jesus would be strong, no matter what happened.