Steven and his dad regularly took their motorcycles for a ride along the East coast of South Africa, past the bathers and the fishermen, till they reached the deserted sand and sea. One day, after climbing their favorite sand dune, they competed to see who could make it back down in the least amount of jumps. On the 18th jump, Steven heard a bloodcurdling scream from behind. His father had landed on a hidden tree stump and sheared off part of his heel. The experience has left Steven cautious with his own children, allowing them to play on sand dunes, but warning them never to jump down one.
As we pause and reflect on another 12 months gone by, we’re often quick to aim for greater balance in all areas during the new year. Author and pastor Andy Stanley suggests that we aim to find a rhythm in the changing seasons of life. Instead of trying to carve out equal amounts of time for each activity in order to attain and maintain a balanced lifestyle, there are seasons which require us to work longer or shorter hours, spend less or exercise more, cut out or add certain foods to our diet, and so on.
With an estimated 6 billion copies sold, the Bible is the world’s best-selling book. The average American owns three or four copies of the Bible. In a 2012 survey, however, 18 percent of churchgoers revealed that they rarely or never read the Bible, and 22 percent said they did so just once a month. Only 19 percent said they read the Bible every day. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society, said: “There are probably five Bibles on every shelf in American homes. Americans buy the Bibles . . . they just don’t read [them].”
In his landmark books Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith surveyed American young adults and found that most held to what he called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.” They’re deists because they believe God doesn’t interfere in our lives unless we need His help to solve a problem. They’re moralistic because they believe God wants us to be good and kind to each other. And their view is therapeutic because it makes them feel good about themselves.
Ever heard of “swarm intelligence”? Ant colonies use it to establish the quickest paths between food and their nests. Scout ants leave a trail of pheromones (a chemical substance) as they make their way to edibles. More ants follow, causing the scent on the trails to become even stronger. Over time, the best routes become more popular and scented, while the less-efficient paths steadily decrease in both the number of ants traversing them and the pheromones left behind. “Swarm intelligence” allows ant colonies to consistently find the best paths to the nourishment they need.
Gordon Hempton is one of the world’s few acoustic ecologists. He travels the world recording what he calls “the last quiet places,” places completely untouched by modern human sound. Hempton records remote locations on the other side of the world as well as nearby wonders, such as the sound of the tide washing over a piece of spruce driftwood in a national park. He describes silence not as the lack of noise (there is no such thing, the earth itself emits sound), but rather as presence (the capacity to be fully attentive to the space where you are).
The year 2013 had hardly begun before I felt as if I needed a vacation. A house renovation, a book launch, a trip to Ethiopia, and two speaking trips to Australia had left the year with little free space. In the midst of the busyness, I picked up a book one night and found this delightful paraphrase of Psalm 23:1-6 by Japanese poet Toki Miyashina:
Ever suffered from paralysis of analysis? New graduates stepping into the workforce often experience its symptoms. They hope God will tell them exactly what their job should be. They wish He would show them beyond any shadow of a doubt that they’re making the best choice. So some of them hesitate to send out their resumé to even one company.
In my work with radio, I’m always listening for new talent and have at times foolishly chosen to work with people because of their impressive experience or larger-than-life personalities. Previous poor judgments have taught me to stop and listen to that “still small voice.” Now I check in with the Lord before being simply swept away by a person’s charisma and impressive words.
A group of us were sharing dinner and then we gave testimonies about a God who loves His people enough to speak His dreams into their hearts. We heard of an apartment complex for single mothers. A wedding barn and a Christian campground. A new local church being established. Common to all was the desire that God’s name would be made great through each respective leap of faith.
Following college, I spent several years in sports ministry and developed close friendships with a handful of professional and Olympic athletes. In talking with these friends over the past year, each of them commented that after they retired from athletic competition they struggled to know what to do next with their lives.
Finishing well. It’s an idea we typically reserve for those approaching the last few years of life. But as a wise, older man (now with Jesus) once pointed out to me, finishing well is not simply for the elderly. In fact, it’s the choices we make now—years before we say our final “goodbyes”—that will help determine how we complete our years on earth.