We were sure that we, and our civilization, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels, and heaven.” Peter Hitchens said those words in describing his younger years when he and his brother Christopher Hitchens, who would become an outspoken atheist, were moving from nominal faith to atheism. Peter ceremonially burned a Bible at age fifteen to declare his disbelief in God.
During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.
My carpenter friend accidentally cut off a car as he made a lane change. The man driving the car came alongside my friend’s vehicle, shook his fist in anger, and sped off. My friend felt bad and wanted to somehow atone for his driving mistake.
“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.
What’s your favorite way to listen to tunes? From vinyl albums to 8-track cartridges to cassettes to compact discs (CDs) to MP3s, we’ve enjoyed our music in ever-changing ways over the years. These days, however, more and more young adults are reaching back to buy vinyl records again with 12,000,000 units sold in 2015 alone. These fans are all about a music experience that lets them view and hold on to an album, not simply download songs into a device. Though vinyl might seem ancient and passé to some music lovers, for others it’s classic and timeless.
In 2011, a Brazilian fisherman came across a struggling penguin. The tiny creature’s feathers were soaked with oil and it desperately needed food. So the man took the sickly bird home and cared for it. Once it was healthy, he released it and the bird swam happily away.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
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.”
A friend died unexpectedly, leaving behind his wife and several children. I talked with his widow (also a dear friend) just a few days after his death. She was heartbroken, but also amazed that God had already used her husband’s death to inspire two individuals to receive salvation in Jesus. She then explained that she had gathered her children together and said something like this: “It’s okay to be angry and to express your emotions to God, but please don’t let this affect your faith in Him. How tragic would it be if you turned away from God even as these people turned to Him?”
Nicky Cruz was full of hatred and bitterness. His parents practiced witchcraft and mentally abused their son as he grew up in Puerto Rico. His mother even called him “Son of Satan.” Sent to live with his brother in New York City at age 15, Nicky soon joined a gang. His violent and cunning ways led to his becoming their warlord.
Nothing moved him anymore. Though he ran one of the top skateboard teams in the world and had enjoyed lots of money, drugs, sex, and had dove headlong into every pleasure he chose, Ryan Ries felt empty.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
She glanced at him with a tender smile and began reading the carefully crafted words held in her trembling hands. The vows revealed a deep love for the young man standing before her. Toward the end of her lyrical, beautiful expressions, she said, “I promise to love you under all circumstances, the good times and the hard times—whatever it may be—for the rest of my days.”
In March 2015, a woman in Spain posted some pictures on Facebook of a boy she’d cared for as a foster parent. She’d met the boy nearly 30 years earlier while volunteering at a juvenile daycare. The child had been abandoned, and the woman ended up caring for him until he was 6. Not able to adopt the child, the two were separated. But years later, after 3 days and 50,000 views of her Facebook post, they were reunited.