Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
One time when I was high up a mountain in Norway, God chose to rescue me from an untimely death. At the time it felt anything but pleasant, but God knew that I was in spiritual bondage and that I needed to be saved—largely from myself. He was aware that I was spiritually dead and needed to wake up to my predicament. So he sent a series of extremely uncomfortable events my way in order that I might see what I truly needed—Him!
My cousin Tracy has the ability to make any destination feel like home. As a young single woman, I had moved to an apartment in England. I was there for a few months when Tracy arrived from Australia. Although I’d been given furniture to fill my small rental, I was still sleeping on top of one of the beds in a sleeping bag. Tracy had been with me just a few days when I returned from work to find the house redecorated with proper bedding, a tablecloth for the dining room table, and a new vase filled with fresh cut flowers. She had transformed my sparse living space into a cozy home away from home.
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.
The Bible presents many suffering people who were miraculously healed in response to prayers. Miriam was healed of leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15). King Hezekiah, who was terminally ill, was given 15 years more to live (2 Kings 20:1-7). Job suffered too (Job 2:7)—enduring months of it before he was restored (Job 42:10).
I recently read an article that lists 12 common half-truths many of us have accepted as facts. Here are a few: peanuts aren’t really nuts (they’re legumes), a palm tree isn’t a tree (it’s a plant), a koala bear isn’t really a bear (it’s a marsupial), and a penny is actually worth more than one cent—costing about two cents to make. Whether they are of consequence or not, we find ourselves swimming in half-truths.
People frequently leave advertisements on my doorstep for services such as landscaping, gutter cleaning, and pest control. One day I found a different sort of pamphlet on my welcome mat—one full of Bible verses, all of which seemed to be correct. The leaflet also identified Jesus in its copy. But as I looked closer, however, I noticed that the words did not describe Him accurately. The publisher of the pamphlet denied that Jesus is truly God.
When I went to Bible college, I had a wife, two daughters, and absolutely no money! We were confident that God had called me to attend college even though we weren’t sure exactly why. After we determined that we couldn’t afford a house near the college, we brought our need to Him.
I was talking with a friend whose marriage had ended in divorce. For years he tried to apologize and to rebuild a relationship that was broken. His wife, however, was bitter over an event that she couldn’t forgive—or forget. The event involved a loving act he had done to help her, but she didn’t see it that way. And her heart became stone.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
Nine-year-old Willie might have saved his life simply by singing a praise song. The boy was kidnapped from his driveway by a stranger. But the kidnapper then dropped him off unharmed after driving around for hours. Willie says he continued to sing the song “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker until the kidnapper grew tired of cursing and telling him to shut up.
In his book Simply Jesus, theologian N. T. Wright writes, “When God does big things, the little people get drawn in too.” One of my favorite examples of this is found in the book of Matthew.