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.
Keith Getty, cowriter of the classic modern hymn “In Christ Alone,” says that believers in Jesus “want to sing deep things about God.” He would like to see local churches using a rich repertoire of both traditional and new songs—music that can truly carry us through life and its challenges. Getty encourages pastors to select forty to fifty songs they want their people to grow old singing, then make sure they sing them at least twice each year.
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!
Research reveals that the average person speaks between 5,000 and 15,000 words each day. Depending on which research findings you read, the number could be even higher, varying between 5,000 and 40,000! Whatever the actual number is, one thing is sure: Most of us use a lot of words. Who knew we were so chatty?
If you were given an extra day each week, how would you use it? To read books, volunteer with a charity, perhaps catch up on sleep? In truth, I’d probably spend that extra day working. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t think that’s the healthiest of confessions.
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.
At times I’m hesitant to invite others to pray for me. If, for example, I say, “Please pray for me, I’m experiencing a spiritual attack in a certain area,” do I sound arrogant? Do I sound as if I think I’ve done something so important the enemy’s trying to stop me? Am I possibly calling something a spiritual attack that’s actually a consequence of something I’ve done or haven’t done? Will friends and ministry partners grow weary of repeated requests for prayer? Are my prayer needs too personal to share?
If you watch Orthodox Jews pray at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, you might wonder about the leather band wrapped around their forearms and the box strapped to their heads. The objects are called the tefillin, worn during a prayer ritual that some believe dates back to the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). The process to don the tefillin is very elaborate and must be performed in an exacting manner. This illustrates that in Jesus’ time, Jewish prayer was very focused on the “how”—praying in a specific way.
A pastor went to a local coffee shop and placed a sign that read “Free Prayer” on his table. Soon a customer asked the minister to pray for a need. Since then, the pastor has gone to a coffee shop weekly to intercede for others. Some pour out their hearts, such as a man whose wife had left him and who had lost several friends and family to death. Regarding this man and others, the pastor states, “Sometimes we have to move beyond the shadows of a steeple to take care of our people.”
Sometimes I receive unexpected Facebook messages from people I haven’t talked to in a long time or from those I don’t know well. Some ask me about what it takes to be a writer or if I’d be willing to read something they’ve written. Others message me with prayer requests or life updates. But every now and then, I get a message of encouragement or unexpected good news. Someone thought of me, appreciated me, and simply wanted to tell me! Sometimes they want to know if I’ll use my gifts to minister in their church or ministry. It’s good news right out of the blue—totally unexpected.
Evangelist George Mueller was on a ship when a thick fog settled over the ocean. It was Wednesday, and Mueller told the captain he had to be to his destination by Saturday. “Impossible,” he said. Mueller then bowed in prayer. When he stood up, the captain asked if he too could pray. “No,” Mueller said. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second, I believe He has. And there is no need whatever for you to pray about it. . . . Get up, captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” Indeed, it had vanished.
As shots rang out, assistant high school football coach Frank Hall had to choose whether to run toward or away from the sound. This self-proclaimed “regular guy”—afraid of confrontations, heights, roller coasters, and scary movies, and who practically jumps through the ceiling when his kids startle him—chose to charge the gunman, his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!” The 17-year-old gunman, who had already killed three students and wounded three more in the school, was startled by Hall’s blitz. He shot at Hall, missed, and then ran outside, where police apprehended him on a nearby road.
Who do you turn to in moments of deep distress? Some seek the counsel and comfort of family—a spouse, parents, siblings; and some call on close friends. We appreciate the words of advice, but mostly the comforting presence of those who know us. It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to go it alone.