“It was a bit painful. I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.” Those words from Ian McKellen, the actor who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gandalf in the movie trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, help explain why he cancelled a book contract for his autobiography. It was too painful.
A new kind of conversion is taking place in England and Europe. Due to a steady decline of Christian belief and the high costs of maintaining churches, the ancient structures are being converted into bars and other commercial buildings. Some are even being used as mosques.
“When you hear the hard news, there are two diverging roads from which to choose. One’s despair—don’t go there. There is hope!” I wrote those lyrics as part of a song that shares what I’ve learned through a lengthy battle with cancer. Today I was talking with a thirty-year-old husband whose wife just found out she has breast cancer. As I strived to give him comfort and counsel, what I shared can be summed up in these words: Because of God, there is hope.
Friends often remind me, “You’re not alone.” “God is with you,” they say. “Yes,” I answer. “He is.” Yet there are times—mostly when I’m pressed to accomplish a daunting task without anyone physically present to help me, or when I’m alone for extended periods of time—that I wonder, “Is God here with me?” And, if so, “What does His presence truly mean?”
A mother bird began a construction project on top of an outdoor light near our garage. During the building process, she dropped bits of debris everywhere. She also dive-bombed our children as they played in the driveway. When we realized she would need to find another place to live, my husband gently moved her nest into the grass. She tried to rebuild twice in the same spot before finally relocating. Despite the bird’s tenacity, she was no match for a couple who didn’t want to share an address!
One of my favorite Old Testament professors once shared this startling statistic: 40 percent of the psalms in the Bible are songs of lament in which the authors present their heartache and pain to God. But in the catalog of modern worship music, only 5 percent of songs could be considered lament, even by the most generous standards. My prof believes that part of the reason we don’t know how to lament is because modern worship tends to focus more on celebration and less on lamentation.
Two passages in Luke 1 are often called “songs” because of their similarity to the Old Testament psalms. The Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) is well known. But the “Benedictus” (Luke 1:67-79), which is taken from blessed or praise, the first word in the Latin translation, is less known. Filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions, the Benedictus speaks of the work of the Messiah and the work of His messenger (Luke 1:69,80).
For seven years, I was at home fulltime with our kids. While I did freelance work to bring in some income, I enjoyed the flexibility and routine of that season. Meals were normally served on time, I was able to deep clean my house regularly, and I enjoyed throwing baby showers and other ways of blessing others. When I returned to fulltime work, my state of normal changed, and I had to shift my expectations.
On New Year’s Eve, Brittany was working hard at her restaurant job when she suddenly went into labor. Her son was the first baby born in her city that year, but that wasn’t the most remarkable thing about the birth. According to Brittany, neither she nor her husband had any idea she was pregnant. The baby was a surprise!
Trust. Scripture reveals that we can trust God in all things (Proverbs 3:5), but it can still be difficult at times. We tell ourselves, Trust! But we lack hope. We tell ourselves, God will deal with it! But then we falter and engage in worry.
After yet another loss, the bewildered football coach for the Hull City Tigers said, “I don’t know if this is a mentality thing, but our accumulation of points against the lower-down teams is crazy. Whether it’s mentality or complacency, I don’t know.” The Tigers should have been winning games. Instead, they were losing to lower-ranked clubs, causing their coach to wonder if his players cared.
I long for the cold embrace of death,” tweeted my friend’s teenage son—feigning mock despair. Apparently his second-hour high school orchestra class was dragging on too long. So he put into practice what he had learned in his first-hour class: creative writing.
The book Ulysses by James Joyce is often hailed as a masterpiece of modern fiction, but to some it’s a strange if not wholly incomprehensible book. Joyce himself was considered odd as well. His preferred writing position was to lie down on his stomach and use an oversized pencil, his face only inches away from the page. Many viewed this as nothing more than the curious behavior of a strange man. But the fact is that there was good reason behind his behavior: Joyce was nearly blind and was forced to write in this manner in order to see the page clearly.
A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”
According to Christian tradition, Telemachus was a fourth-century monk who jumped into a Roman Coliseum to stop a gladiator fight, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed for his efforts, but his act of courage, compassion, and conviction triggered the end of the violent “games.” It’s said that Telemachus was divinely inspired to visit Rome, and he stayed true to his calling.