Early in his career, former Ku Klux Klan (a white supremacist group) leader Johnny Lee Clary met African-American Reverend Wade Watts at a radio station debate. “Hello Mr. Clary,” Reverend Watts said before they went on air. “I just want you to know that I love you and Jesus loves you.”
I’ve known and looked up to a special friend for many years. She’s a ministry leader and also the wife of a ministry leader. My admiration runs deep not because of the global ministry she helps to lead but because of the profound and sacrificial love that she, along with her husband, have lavished on their children, particularly a (former) prodigal son.
Sadly, all of us—even the best of us—have prejudices. I was shocked to one day realize my own prejudice against a Christian denomination. I’d been deeply hurt by people in it, and any time the denomination’s name came up, words like “Pharisees,” “legalists,” and “unloving” came to mind. I basically thought, Can anything good come from that denomination?
In my corner of the world, one of the most popular Christmas practices is to decorate one’s home inside and outside. Many put up real or artificial pine trees, adorn them with all sorts of colorful ornaments, and top them off with an angel or star. Some string up enough lights on the outside of their houses to illuminate a small city. Others simply hang evergreen boughs over their windows and doors.
On a recent trip into the city, I noticed people stationed on several street corners. Their clean, coordinated T-shirts announced a common goal—to help end homelessness. One of them approached me offering information. As I paused there on the street, I noticed a homeless man standing just a few feet away. I saw his scruffy outfit and downcast look. Although the advocates for the homeless were doing a good thing, they seemed oblivious to the man. No one spoke to him or offered him food.
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.