When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
As my wife tried to get home from visiting our daughter over the holidays, bad weather shut down numerous flights. After 2 days, she had a fistful of boarding passes for planes that couldn’t leave the ground, and she joined thousands of weary travelers scrambling for places to stay.
Nehemiah was grieved at the report of the dire state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). He shared God’s heart for the holy city, but could do nothing about it in his position as a cupbearer for the king in far-off Susa. Then, his opportunity to make a difference came in a most unexpected way: by risking his life in making a request of the king (Nehemiah 2:4-5). A cupbearer wasn’t even permitted to express unhappiness on his face, let alone describe his grief because of the state of his far-off home. To say anything was to court death. But Nehemiah did.
Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17-year-old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”
Many odd and antiquated laws can be found around the world. In the UK, it’s an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing a British monarch upside-down, and in England specifically, it’s illegal to eat mince pies on the 25th of December. In one US state, women must get written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth. In Milan, it’s a legal requirement to smile at all times—except for funerals and hospital visits.
Forty years ago, as the violence in Vietnam rained down on his village, an explosion killed Ho Van Thanh’s wife and two of his children. In fear and desperation, Thanh scooped up his infant son, Ho Van Lang, and fled into the jungle. For 4 decades, father and son lived far from civilization, carving a rudimentary life out of the land. Recently, villagers exploring some 25 miles from their homes happened upon the two. Thanh, now 82, was very ill, and the villagers reached out to help him.
A young man wavered between two worlds. Would he roll with the gangs in his neighborhood, or walk with Christ? Although his father struggled with addiction and his mother suffered from schizophrenia, his grandmother prayed for and encouraged him to follow Jesus. Christian hip-hop artist FLAME admits that there was a time in his life that he tried to fit into both worlds. But today he has a degree in biblical counseling and is attending seminary. And his top-selling albums contain street-savvy beats and inspiring Christian messages.
She burned down her house and lives off the land in Africa. Her name is Jja Ja Nakibuuka. Leprosy has claimed her fingers and toes. She owns nothing, so children sometimes offer her food and small presents. When she greets the children and their mothers, Jja Ja Nakibuuka always says the same thing: “God is good, and He is coming back.”
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was 15 years old. When my dad found out, he was heartbroken because of his differing religious beliefs. He couldn’t sleep well for the next several nights. He felt that he had failed as a father because he couldn’t keep his family together. His daughter had deserted the family tradition and chose to follow a “Western god.”
When people become comatose, one of the many concerns is to keep their muscles from degenerating. Atrophy sets in quickly when there is no movement. On the other hand, most exercise trainers will tell you that muscle grows after it has been under stress. Strenuous exercise makes small tears in the muscle tissue. As it heals, the muscle grows stronger or larger than it was before the ordeal. Some pain is necessary for our bodies to retain vigor.
A few years ago, I worked as a supply (substitute) teacher in Birmingham, England. I initially embraced the help of the teaching assistant, but when she started taking over in class I was tempted to give in to resentment and insecurity. Instead, I decided to act in a way opposite to what I felt by vocalizing my genuine appreciation of her, praying for her, and challenging her in love. When it came time for me to leave my position, she gave me a gift and a thank you card. Acting in the opposite spirit had disarmed a teaching assistant who might have felt threatened and unappreciated.