As a teenager, I traveled from the United States to London on a school-sponsored trip. Just 14 years old, I regrettably paid more attention to my meals and classmates than to the impressive sights around me. One day, however, I encountered the ruins of a Roman wall. I was awestruck, and my attention was temporarily diverted from typical teenage interests. It was humbling to touch something so ancient. The moss and stone seemed sacred, and I felt as if I were standing on holy ground.
A private high school has instituted a “no foul language” pledge—only to female students. According to the school’s principal, the girls had been using the foulest language. (Hmm, I’m guessing the boys were guilty too!) So they were asked to raise their right hands and say: “I do solemnly swear not to use profanities of any kind within the walls and properties of Queen of Peace High School.” So, in essence, the students swore not to swear (to speak profanity).
It was a holy place, a sacred place, a place unlike any other temple. Before there had come the marble and gold, altars and precious stones, columns, walls, and the Holy of Holies, it was a place of divine-human intimacy. The construction costs were relatively small, it had no great beauty, and it was nothing anyone would envy.
The Bible is full of contrasts. We read that our holy “God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). But a few chapters later we find that God “lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). John also wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Fire burns and is dangerous. Love delights and protects. So how can God be both holy and love?
My husband and I recently saw a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. Standing outside the gym where he worked out, he highlighted the facility’s offerings. His words revealed his sense of ownership of the exercise facility. Though he wasn’t a financial stockholder, he had found identity, purpose, and a place to belong amid the mats lined with barbells and other strength-training equipment. This place had become his community and a big part of his life.
I joined the line inside the bank and waited to talk with the teller. Within minutes it was my turn, and the teller asked if I was a “privileged customer” of the bank. It dawned on me at that moment that I was in the wrong line. Soon I was standing at the back of a long line of regular customers. I simply lacked the credentials to get priority service.
What is a minute? Simply a measurement of time. There are 60 in an hour, 1,440 in a day. But during those 60 clicks of the second hand, a tidal wave of thoughts with their accompanying emotional responses can sweep over you. Today, during one particular minute, a feeling of dread hit me hard. Why? I was deeply afraid that I’d done something wrong.
In 2012, thanks to a rapper named Drake and the supercharged vehicle of social media, “YOLO” became a popular acronym. It stands for “You Only Live Once.” Though the message of YOLO is test the limits, it became a justification to live life irresponsibly. The answer to drunk driving, parking illegally, disrespecting parents, and missing class was simply YOLO. Its underlying meaning is that my life is mine and I get to live it how I want to.
A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.
Uncle Mark (not his real name) had his big toe removed because his arteries had become blocked after years of smoking 60 cigarettes a day. My husband and I used the traumatic event to talk to our kids about the consequences of destructive habits. We realized just how much Uncle Mark’s story had impacted them when a few days later we heard our son telling another family member to quit smoking or his big toe would need to be cut off!
Zechariah lived out a twofold identity as both priest and prophet. The grandson of the priest Iddo and the head priest of his family (Zechariah 1:1; Nehemiah 12:1,16), he was prophetically called to encourage the people of Judah with God’s words (Zechariah 1:13-17). In addition, he told them to repent (Zechariah 1:3-4), renew their efforts for God (Zechariah 8:12-13), and follow His ways (Zechariah 7:8-10).
Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.
C. S. Lewis grasped the essence of humanity and captured it in these choice words found in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He then penned the poignant, biblically accurate fact that each of us will either become an “immortal horror” or an “everlasting splendor.”
One of our favorite family vacation sites is a beautiful beach community located in an adjoining state. We like to go there during the “off season” when few tourists are around. Though the ocean water is a little chilly, we enjoy swimming in an indoor pool. Also, there’s a lazy river that surrounds the pool and holds a special appeal for our kids. They’ve tried to swim against its current over the years, only to be carried in the opposite direction.