I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.
A website claims that it can help you make connections to your past as you learn more of your ancestry. They offer to take you, the customer, on a journey through your family genealogy that will “cross generations and continents, all to reveal the untold story of how you became you.”
Have you ever been asked to do something you didn’t feel qualified to do—something you felt that God was asking you to do? I usually feel this way in the midst of a hard conversation. The moment truth-telling becomes necessary or when I feel compelled to speak to someone who has hurt me, I especially sense the nudging of God. I feel unqualified to do what He wants—to speak the truth in love in the hopes of winning the other person back (Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15).
Augustine’s Confessions traces his journey through misspent youth, false religion, and finally to Jesus. As a man with much to confess, Augustine was sometimes tempted to be defensive. A translation of one of his prayers says: “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.”
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln said these words near the end of the US Civil War as part of his second inaugural speech: “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
They sit beside each other on a straw mat—he in beige trousers and a white-and-purple shirt, she in a blue-and-yellow dress. “I participated in the killing of the son of this woman,” says Francois, one of thousands of Hutu men that perpetrated crimes against Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “He killed my child,” says Epiphanie, “then he came to ask my pardon.”
My conversation with the woman had turned from the care of our Maltese poodle to her ex-husband and her estranged mother. “I can’t forgive my mother; she abused me terribly. And my husband abandoned me when I was ill.” Although she longed to be free of the two people who had left her among the walking wounded, she couldn’t forgive them and so bitterness clung to her like a rotting stench—seeping through her pained words and weary eyes.
He shouldn’t have been there, but the pain and isolation made him desperate. Was this the sum total of his life—to scream “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone came near him? To wear torn clothes to signal his diseased state . . . to feel so alone?
Dale’s neighborhood is home to many newcomers to his country. He loves the cultural richness but has felt a disconnection from it. So recently he prayed: “Lord, please use me to reach my neighborhood.” And he felt God’s simple, gentle nudge: Be a friend.
Popular movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent explore what the world might be like on the other side of the apocalypse. These gritty movies try to imagine how those who have suffered through a cosmic catastrophe could pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.
During his final pizza delivery of the night, three young men robbed and pistol-whipped 19-year-old Brady (causing a gash on his head that required 70 stitches). Fast forward 5 years. In June 2014, Brady and one of the young men who had assaulted him are the best of friends! Brady, a believer in Jesus, reached out to Marcellous—extending forgiveness and friendship. Marcellous credits Brady for helping him to finish high school and leaving gang-life behind.
Something about my 4-year-old daughter’s outfit looked odd. Taking a closer look, I noticed that her pockets were packed with stones. While our family had been roaming an outdoor area, she had been picking up pebbles and saving them. I had to empty her pockets; it was making it hard for her to walk!
In 1943, Charles Brown was piloting a crippled aircraft when he saw another plane off his wingtip. The other pilot made eye contact with Brown and escorted his plane to safety before saluting and flying away. The story gets better—for Charles Brown was piloting a US bomber over the skies of Germany, and the other pilot was a German flying ace named Franz Stigler! Stigler treated Brown as a friend even though they were supposed to be enemies.
My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.
Jean Vanier was an accomplished naval officer who had recently completed a PhD, and whose family oozed with prestige (his father had been the Governor General of Canada). Yet, living in the small French village of Trosly-Breuil, Vanier was alone and downhearted. His pastor encouraged him to invite two disabled men to live with him, and L’Arche (communities where disabled and those who Vanier calls “temporarily-abled” share friendship and life together) was born. Fifty years later, L’Arche communities exist around the world.