Recently as I sat in a circle of leaders from our church, a woman asked a simple question, provoking rich discussion. “What are your hopes for our church?” There were several responses, for our little community has many hopes. But on that night this spilled out of me: “I hope we become more and more the kind of people who learn to resist the anxieties of this world because we believe Jesus is with us and that Jesus is doing something with us.”
Kim Nguyen was preparing for her doctoral exams in Old Testament when she learned that she would need surgery on her eyes. She should have recovered in 2 weeks, but 6 months later she still couldn’t see. She feared that her dream of teaching the Bible was slipping away. How could she write her dissertation if she couldn’t see? How would she find work to pay back her student loans?
On Christmas Eve in 1968, Apollo VIII became the first manned vehicle to circle the moon. Because it was nearly Christmas, the 3-man crew was asked to say something appropriate to mark their historic mission. From thousands of miles in outer space, Genesis 1:1-10 was broadcast to earth: “In the beginning God . . .” In his autobiography Countdown, Frank Bowman, one of the three Apollo VIII astronauts, explains why they read from the Scriptures: “There was one more impression we wanted to transmit: our feeling of closeness to the Creator of all things.”
When I visited the land of Israel, I was surprised by the small size of the Sea of Galilee. This was no sea, but merely a lake some 21 kilometers long and 13 kilometers wide. I could easily see across to the other side. How could a storm on this tiny body of water terrify the disciples? Talk about a tempest in a teapot! I scoffed at their fear—until I saw the size of an ancient boat.
If you’re unsure how to get from point A to point B, what do you do? Recently I discovered the Google Maps app. Key in your starting point, enter your ending point, and voil?! The application will get you there. I have one gripe, however. It sometimes takes me the long way to my destination because it doesn’t always factor in the latest road conditions or take into account which roads are open for shortcuts.
I remember being deeply upset and stressed out because of mounting medical bills after we had our third daughter. I couldn’t sleep for several nights as I was trying to figure out how we’d pay the bills. My muscles were tense. I was exhausted. The stress was getting to me. And so I cried out to God.
As a Chinese man, when I told my father that I was giving my children Greek names, he reminded me to make sure they would be meaningful and nice-sounding. Most important, my kids were to have the same family name. Ah, so many first names to choose from!
The movie Unbroken is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, World War II prisoner of war, and devout Christian. As the last scene of the movie was being filmed, a storm threatened to block the sunlight needed to shoot it. Director Angelina Jolie, impacted by Louis’ faith, did something she had never done before. In front of the whole film crew, the self-proclaimed agnostic dropped to her knees and prayed out loud for a miracle.
In 1996 I was a press manager for the Olympic Village, home to athletes from 192 countries who were competing in the Atlanta Games. One of my responsibilities was to escort heads of state and Hollywood celebrities through the village so they could mingle with the Olympians.
David Willis hadn’t been in the bookshop long when he walked downstairs and found the lights were turned off and the doors were locked. He was trapped inside the store. Being in the age of social media, he cried out for help on Twitter: “Hi. I’ve been locked inside your Trafalgar Square bookstore for 2 hours now. Please let me out.” He was rescued not too long after his tweet!
Several years ago I read about people who paid $2,500 per night at specific hotels in order to be disconnected from the Internet, their cell phones, and all other types of technology that pierce the silence. They were willing to pay a lot of money to obtain what they hoped would be some peace of mind—even if it was temporary. They were willing to pay a hefty price for some silence and solitude.
I once met a beautiful East African girl named Mercy, a patient at a hospital where I volunteered in Kampala, Uganda. During one of my visits, the girl’s teenage brother summoned me to his sister’s bed. He explained that their parents had died and he, at age 14, was his sister’s sole caregiver. “I have learned you and a Mzungu man [my friend, David Kuo] gave pillows to the patients last week,” he said. “My sister, named Mercy, wasn’t here when you came. She has never slept on a pillow before. Would you please bring her one?”
In December 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met LeBron James, the most famous basketball player in the US. Despite the fact that one of his nicknames is “King James,” he is in fact not royalty, and protocol demanded that he should not touch the Duke or Duchess. Not knowing this, LeBron put his arm around the couple and posed for a photograph. This was a shocking break in decorum for some, but the royal couple seemed comfortable and shared that they enjoyed meeting “King” James.
South Africa’s electrical grid has long been stretched, but when a coal silo at a power station collapsed, it led to months of widespread blackouts across the country. The power outages were initially frustrating, but citizens quickly adapted to the daily 2-hour blackouts and worked around those times. Generators were employed, people bought fewer perishable foods, and they were careful to make sure the washing-machine cycle would finish before the electricity went off for the day.
Recently a highly respected journalist from the Middle East reflected on the many complicating issues and unjust events that have led to distrust among political factions in the region. The difficulty that truly captivated me was how belligerent rhetoric and vicious violence will escalate whenever issues become explicitly religious. “We can deal with cultural and even ethnic divides, but whenever God comes into the picture, there’s no way to control the conflict,” the journalist stated. As a result, leaders exert much energy attempting to keep references to God out of political disputes.