There’s a big, green button at the paint counter of my local hardware store. When you press it, an assistant is supposed to serve you within 60 seconds. If they’re late, you get a discount on your paint.
Recently, three of my son’s soccer teammates spent the weekend with us. On Saturday, the boys decided to paddle their canoes to the home of some friends of mine. Though they weren’t expecting guests, the Andersons showered the boys with hospitality when they arrived at their dock.
I read an online obituary for a friend’s father. My heart ached for my friend as I imagined how painful it would be to lose a parent. I sent him an email of condolence and was surprised by his quick response. “It’s been a tough year, but I’m rejoicing in our hope in Christ.” Even as he mourned, he spoke of hope and faith.
According to Christian tradition, Telemachus was a fourth-century monk who jumped into a Roman Coliseum to stop a gladiator fight, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed for his efforts, but his act of courage, compassion, and conviction triggered the end of the violent “games.” It’s said that Telemachus was divinely inspired to visit Rome, and he stayed true to his calling.
The CEO quickly scanned the email from a company that makes and installs wooden doors. His community radio station needed new doors, but money was tight. Out of a sense of obligation, he hit the “reply” button and asked for a quote on a set of double doors. Moments later, he got a response. Turns out, Andrew hadn’t read the email all the way through to the end. The company had in fact offered the radio station a free set of doors!
In one of Aesop’s Fables, a ravenous fox notices some grapes hanging on a vine. He leaps into the air, but he can’t reach the fruit. Dejected, he trots off and remarks, “Oh you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.”
When I signed up to become a chaplain in the British Royal Navy as a middle-aged man, the venture could have appeared to be a silly idea—something I should have never attempted. Surely I could have earned a living in a much safer and less strenuous environment. And yet, I felt compelled to pursue what I believe was God’s calling—choosing to rely on Him to strengthen me along the way.
While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard.” That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!
It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.
In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”
In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.
When I speak at high schools, one question I’m frequently asked is, “If God loves us, why do so many people suffer in the world?” In responding to my listeners, I challenge the idea that God best expresses His love to us by giving us things and simply making our lives easy. This inaccurate way of viewing how He operates exists and persists both inside and outside of the church.
I’m the point person for the visitation team at my church. This means that I visit people in the hospital, at their homes, and in hospice. I also solicit volunteers to go out and visit others and provide encouragement, spiritual conversations, and prayer. Being ill can be a lonely path for many—especially the elderly. Yet younger people can also contract serious illnesses and experience difficulties.
Recently, I’ve had to intervene in several blowups between my two sons. The result of such events inevitably leads to their losing the privilege of spending time with friends, loss of their allowances, and more. They’re learning that the failure to work out their differences peaceably can be costly. Thankfully, I’ve also had opportunities to lavish generosity on both boys, to surprise them with a gift they would never have expected. I’m trying to teach them that both my correction and my generosity are gifts from me to them. Both emerge from my love toward them and for them.