Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.
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.”
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!
I enjoy reading lists of names in the Bible. In the past, they seemed pointless to me. In fact, I would skim over them to get to the “meaty” stuff in the passage. One day, however, I realized that all those names were there for a reason. God had selected individuals and involved them by name in His Word. What an honor when your name was chosen for positive reasons!
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).
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
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 Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).
Jean Vanier was an accomplished naval officer who had recently completed a PhD, and whose family oozed with prestige (his father had been the Governor General of Canada). Yet, living in the small French village of Trosly-Breuil, Vanier was alone and downhearted. His pastor encouraged him to invite two disabled men to live with him, and L’Arche (communities where disabled and those who Vanier calls “temporarily-abled” share friendship and life together) was born. Fifty years later, L’Arche communities exist around the world.
Do you love God? Just think about it. How can a lowly person draw near, much less talk about being in a love relationship with such a high and exalted Being? It blows my mind. A classic hymn describes God as “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.” Perhaps God’s “otherness” explains why we often feel so inadequate in claiming that we love Him.
Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
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.