As a child, I was told that I should put my hands together and close my eyes to pray. So I used to scrunch up my eyes and clench my fingers together to be even more earnest as I asked God for the things on my heart. The harder I worked at praying this way, the more God would answer—or so I thought!
On beaches around the globe, you can find people sporting shorts, flip-flops, and headphones as they comb the seashore with metal detectors. While many sun-lovers return from a day at the beach with a tan and a few seashells, these modern-day treasure hunters often bring back something more valuable—gold, mostly in the form of lost jewelry.
A Chinese aristocrat by the name of Kung Yu, who lived several hundred years before Jesus was born, was known for his intelligence and diligence in his studies. Yet, he was humble and unafraid to ask questions of people who were not as well-educated. After his death, the Duke of Wei awarded him the honorable title of Wen (which means “refined” and “literary” in Chinese). So he became known as Kung Wen Zi.
Growing up, Easter Sunday was always a day of joy and celebration. The rich worship at church and wonderful feast at home made for one happy day. But recently I’ve been reflecting on the fact that Resurrection Sunday once elicited a very different emotion: fear.
Bible scholars disagree on the exact number, but most believe that Jesus has fulfilled some 350 Old Testament prophecies—stretching from Genesis to Malachi. And hundreds more will be fulfilled in the future. In his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell shared a study that shows that the probability of a person fulfilling just one prophecy is 1 in 300,000; and for 8 fulfilled prophecies, the odds are an astronomical 1 in 1017 or 100,000,000,000,000,000!
Many Christians are familiar with the classic hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” The first line of the song reads, “When peace like a river attendeth my way.” But, for most of us, peace isn’t a mighty and strong river. It’s more like a feather that can be easily pushed aside by the concerns and worries of life. For me, holding on to peace in the midst of turmoil is like trying to catch a piece of dust in the air!
Near the closing of the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is standing alone at the foot of the grave of his dearly beloved Jenny: “You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. . . . Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
People frequently leave advertisements on my doorstep for services such as landscaping, gutter cleaning, and pest control. One day I found a different sort of pamphlet on my welcome mat—one full of Bible verses, all of which seemed to be correct. The leaflet also identified Jesus in its copy. But as I looked closer, however, I noticed that the words did not describe Him accurately. The publisher of the pamphlet denied that Jesus is truly God.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
In his book Simply Jesus, theologian N. T. Wright writes, “When God does big things, the little people get drawn in too.” One of my favorite examples of this is found in the book of Matthew.
In 2010, researchers simulated a category 3 hurricane to test the strength of two houses—one built according to normal construction standards for the region and the other built with a reinforced roof and floors. The researchers turned on giant fans to create wind gusts of 110 miles per hour for more than 10 minutes.
Snuggled in blankets, we settled in for one of the worst ice storms our usually temperate climate had ever experienced. Roads had been closed, schools cancelled, and citizens warned to stay safely inside their homes. With our power out, we cooked pizza rolls in the fireplace, watched movies with our reserve computer battery, and slept under layers of blankets to keep warm. In the middle of the night, however, I awakened to loud intermittent cracking sounds. Layers of ice and snow had taxed the boughs of the tall trees behind our house. Unable to bear the burden, they were taking turns crashing to the snowy ground below.