Carrie Stuart Parks is a talented writer and an award-winning artist. But you may want to think twice before signing up to become her next work of art. Parks is an FBI-trained forensic artist. Most of her “artwork” is comprised of the drawings she has made of criminals through eyewitness accounts and the human faces she has rendered after viewing the remains of unidentified victims.
In 2003, the Crafton family—dad, mom, two daughters, and a son—sold their home and possessions and set out on a sailing voyage in which they traveled 30,000 miles over 83 months. The family says the experience, something not practical or possible for most of us, drew them closer together and made their lives feel more open and spacious. Before setting sail, parents Tom and Kathleen realized that their successful careers and two houses, though providing the external symbols of success, weren’t making for the life they desired. So they headed for open waters.
What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”
Kitsch Jesus” is very popular. In paintings and posters, he’s portrayed as having straight teeth, perfect skin, bright blue eyes, and long, flowing hair. He’s often in soft focus, sitting in a peaceful sunlit field and is almost always gazing lovingly at the lamb he cradles in his arms. “Kitsch Jesus” wears long, white robes even when he’s painted in a modern setting, and occasionally he holds a shepherd’s staff. “Kitsch Jesus” rarely has a care in the world and never sports a furrowed brow. He’s a lavender-scented, greeting-card Jesus who is all pixies and daisies and skipping through the fields.
Rather than use the closing “Faithfully yours,” many Ugandans end their correspondence with “Faith full,” followed by their name. Each time I’m the recipient of a letter with that closing (which is often in a country where many people still communicate with pen and paper), I ponder what it truly looks like to be “faith full”—to have a heart that brims with confidence in the Lord.
Cornelius was praying when he had a vision of an angel who told him to invite the apostle Peter to his home (Acts 10:2-6). The Roman officer sent his servants to find the apostle, making it clear that Cornelius and his family were ready to hear Peter’s message (Acts 10:22). Having had his own divine guidance (Acts 10:9-21), Peter went with them, shared the gospel, and Cornelius’ whole family became believers (Acts 10:23-48). The event is one beautiful, divinely arranged appointment.
Adopting two boys from Russia opened Russell Moore’s eyes to the privilege of being a child of God. People would ask, “Are they really brothers?” “Have you met their real mom?” Moore simply replied, “Of course they’re brothers. They’re both in our family. And their real mom is my wife.”
Organized religion is not for me,” a friend said to me recently. I have been praying for this friend’s salvation for more than 15 years, and every time we get together I pray that God will use me to lead her closer to Jesus. But she still seems so skeptical, and I’m afraid of saying anything that might sour our relationship.
The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.
Marcus was a convicted criminal on death row. He had previously apologized to the family of the teenager he raped and murdered. Now, just before he was executed by lethal injection, he said, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” Apparently, during his time in prison he had received Jesus as his Savior. His words remind me of a certain criminal who died next to Jesus 2,000 years ago.
I hate them. They’re _______!” (He used a euphemism for scum.) As I continued to converse with the teen, it became clear that he strongly disliked a certain group of students at school because of the way they talked and acted. The offending ones were unpleasant for him to be around and my young friend had no love for them. Although a believer in Jesus, he couldn’t stand to be around people he viewed as scum.
Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
Marcus Mumford wouldn’t call himself a Christian. At least he declined to do so during a Rolling Stone magazine interview. In that conversation, the award-winning songwriter and musician said that the word Christian is linked with religious images he doesn’t like. He compared himself to people who claim to love Christ and say that Jesus is awesome, but who are not Christians.
Having proceeded with my fellow teachers to our seating for our school’s graduation ceremony, I was amused to find I was sitting directly behind the band. Just 18 inches stood between me and some skilled trumpet players. I wondered how my ears would fare after the first few measures of “Pomp and Circumstance.” And later I stood in wonder as we began a congregational hymn. I couldn’t hear myself singing, however. Only the sound of the majestic brass instruments resonated off the church walls.
It’s popular today to dismiss all religions as merely an accident of birth. If a person is born in Pakistan, the odds are that she will be a Muslim. India produces Hindus, Thailand makes Buddhists, Brazilians tend to be Catholics, and so on. Have you wondered if the only reason you believe in Jesus is due to the influence of your parents or others? Is becoming a believer simply about being born in the right family?