As a second-grader at a mission school in Ghana, I didn’t fare too well. Our two teachers gallantly juggled lesson plans for students spanning seven grades. This academic effort took place in a two-room cinderblock structure with an aluminum roof that began to broil us by noon each day. Distractions waged war on my 7-year-old attention span, and they were winning—handily.
When I read the account of the unmerciful servant, it’s easy for me to condemn the first servant’s actions (Matthew 18:28). But his actions aren’t as impossible for me to imitate as I would like to believe. For instance, when we experience road rage (that particular anger that comes sweeping over us while we’re driving), we can act in ways that are remarkably similar to the first servant. We can do things that make little sense. People look at us and shake their heads in disbelief and embarrassment, thinking, What’s wrong with that guy? We might think similar things when we consider the first servant.
A young boy and his stepdad had trouble connecting with each other due to the fact that they were complete opposites. The man was outgoing; the boy was reserved. The man loved to get up early to fish; the youngster loved to sleep in and play video games all day.
We anticipated an amusing evening at church. Whether it would be the antics of our own kids or someone else’s, we were confident the kid-driven event would elicit laughter. Sure enough, laughter rang out, but my husband and I sat stunned and tried to hide our dismay. What had appeared to others as a funny comment had actually been a joke at my husband’s expense. Though we had felt tension with the couple in charge of the program, the episode exposed the depth of the chasm.
Wanda was a 20-year-old who was living at home but had no real responsibilities. She had a job with a decent income and spent her free time hanging out with friends. All of that collapsed when she became pregnant.
Beauty isn’t skin deep—not for the believer or for those who don’t know Jesus. A movement to see beauty in women of all shapes and sizes and the call to reject the false standards of entertainment and advertising continues to grow. From marketing campaigns using larger-sized models to local groups teaching young girls to be confident without wearing makeup, the message is clear: You are beautiful and you are powerful . . . simply by being you.
The demise of the “high street” shop is one of the most visible signs of the recession in the UK. As you walk down the main street of many towns, you find shop after shop closed and shuttered. Some city councils have recognized the negative social impact of the flopped shops and have installed facades featuring pictures of open stores to try to create the impression of a thriving community. The clever marketing trick might work for those driving down the street, but if you try to walk into one of the false storefronts you realize there’s nothing but an empty building behind the image.
My friend is a highly qualified mountaineer who has climbed some of the world’s greatest rock and ice routes, including the famous north walls of the Eiger and Matterhorn. So does he teach his clients how to climb better by demonstrating specialized equipment, showing them how to pull themselves up with two fingers on steep walls of rock, or how to place ice axes into ice that’s only a quarter-inch thick? You would think so, but he actually spends the first few days teaching them how to walk! Most people assume they have the basics sorted out, but—in fact—they can’t even walk properly, and that will prevent them from climbing to their full potential.
Finishing up a long day’s work, I pressed the touch screen on my computer one last time and saw a date that was very familiar. Just like that it hit me: Today is my dad’s birthday. Quickly my thoughts went to my mom. Widowed 20 years ago, my mother is a living testimony of God’s provision and strength for those who come face to face with life’s hard unpredictability.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the problem of evil. I watch the news and see atrocities committed against the innocent (Psalm 73:3-16). People in my town, nation, and the world don’t have food to eat or access to good medical care. Natural disasters swallow people alive. Children face cruel words and actions. Wars break out with devastating effects. And then I receive news that a child or a young person I know has died before he or she has really had a chance to live, that families I know are breaking up, and that friends are in deep financial distress.
Bob Goff traveled to a country where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. In response, he chose to live out the call of Isaiah 58:3 by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Goff founded Restore International to “fight for freedom and human rights, working to improve educational opportunities and to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend.” For more than a decade, Restore has helped to free those in bonded labor and sex trafficking, along with other exploited men, women, and children in select troubled countries.
My friend Stephanie opened a resale shop in a small town. She planned to funnel the proceeds to a ministry for unwed teenage mothers. Soon another secondhand store opened nearby. The owners of that store began buying Stephanie’s items and reselling them at higher prices. Stephanie knew it was underhanded, but she found that it allowed her to get to know them and tell them about Jesus. And God has prospered her business despite the actions of those who could be considered enemies.
During Valentine’s Day each year, nearly $18.6 billion dollars are spent—$1.6 billion of which is spent on candy and $4.4 billion spent on jewelry! We’re so driven by consumerism these days that we can come to believe that romantic love revolves around gifts. We can even begin to think that the best way to know if someone really cares about us is if they’re willing to buy something we want (and even better, something really expensive!).
In C. S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children are once again summoned from our world back to Narnia—this time to help Prince Caspian. At first, Lucy is the only one in all of Narnia who can see and hear Aslan—the great lion and creator king of Narnia. Initially, she sees brief flashes, but soon young Lucy is convinced that she sees him.
In Mumbai, India, a boy named Lakhan lives with his elderly grandmother, Sakubai. Lakhan has cerebral palsy and is deaf. With no home or family to help care for him and Sakubai, they slept on the pavement behind a small bus stop. A published photo shows 9-year-old Lakhan tied to a pole—the only way his grandmother could ensure his safety when she went out to search for work. Sakubai explained her drastic action: “[Lakhan] is deaf, so he would not be able to hear the traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he’d get killed.” Thankfully, a group that works with special-needs children heard the story, secured a room where both grandson and grandmother could live, and helped the grandmother obtain a job.