Finishing up a long day’s work, I pressed the touch screen on my computer one last time and saw a date that was very familiar. Just like that it hit me: Today is my dad’s birthday. Quickly my thoughts went to my mom. Widowed 20 years ago, my mother is a living testimony of God’s provision and strength for those who come face to face with life’s hard unpredictability.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the problem of evil. I watch the news and see atrocities committed against the innocent (Psalm 73:3-16). People in my town, nation, and the world don’t have food to eat or access to good medical care. Natural disasters swallow people alive. Children face cruel words and actions. Wars break out with devastating effects. And then I receive news that a child or a young person I know has died before he or she has really had a chance to live, that families I know are breaking up, and that friends are in deep financial distress.
Bob Goff traveled to a country where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. In response, he chose to live out the call of Isaiah 58:3 by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Goff founded Restore International to “fight for freedom and human rights, working to improve educational opportunities and to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend.” For more than a decade, Restore has helped to free those in bonded labor and sex trafficking, along with other exploited men, women, and children in select troubled countries.
My friend Stephanie opened a resale shop in a small town. She planned to funnel the proceeds to a ministry for unwed teenage mothers. Soon another secondhand store opened nearby. The owners of that store began buying Stephanie’s items and reselling them at higher prices. Stephanie knew it was underhanded, but she found that it allowed her to get to know them and tell them about Jesus. And God has prospered her business despite the actions of those who could be considered enemies.
During Valentine’s Day each year, nearly $18.6 billion dollars are spent—$1.6 billion of which is spent on candy and $4.4 billion spent on jewelry! We’re so driven by consumerism these days that we can come to believe that romantic love revolves around gifts. We can even begin to think that the best way to know if someone really cares about us is if they’re willing to buy something we want (and even better, something really expensive!).
In C. S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children are once again summoned from our world back to Narnia—this time to help Prince Caspian. At first, Lucy is the only one in all of Narnia who can see and hear Aslan—the great lion and creator king of Narnia. Initially, she sees brief flashes, but soon young Lucy is convinced that she sees him.
In Mumbai, India, a boy named Lakhan lives with his elderly grandmother, Sakubai. Lakhan has cerebral palsy and is deaf. With no home or family to help care for him and Sakubai, they slept on the pavement behind a small bus stop. A published photo shows 9-year-old Lakhan tied to a pole—the only way his grandmother could ensure his safety when she went out to search for work. Sakubai explained her drastic action: “[Lakhan] is deaf, so he would not be able to hear the traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he’d get killed.” Thankfully, a group that works with special-needs children heard the story, secured a room where both grandson and grandmother could live, and helped the grandmother obtain a job.
As I stood deep in the bush of rural Uganda watching a rig I’d contracted to drill a well for 700 impoverished villagers, an elderly man approached me. He grasped my hands and in broken English said, “If you could open my heart and view inside, you would see happiness on top of happiness on top of happiness for this water God has provided.”
The Bible is full of contrasts. We read that our holy “God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). But a few chapters later we find that God “lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). John also wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Fire burns and is dangerous. Love delights and protects. So how can God be both holy and love?
If you’ve ever watched an actor at work or tried acting yourself, you may have heard the expression, “What’s my motivation?” It’s a question that’s an important part of method acting, for one’s motivation will lead to it being done well.
Commotio cordis, which normally leads to cardiac arrest, is caused by an abrupt and blunt hit to the chest. Often it occurs as an object strikes an individual near the heart during the “window of vulnerability”—a 10- to 30-millisecond moment between heartbeats. The medical condition, usually experienced by boys and young men as they play sports, often results in death.
The Bible presents many suffering people who were miraculously healed in response to prayers. Miriam was healed of leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15). King Hezekiah, who was terminally ill, was given 15 years more to live (2 Kings 20:1-7). Job suffered too (Job 2:7)—enduring months of it before he was restored (Job 42:10).
I was talking with a friend whose marriage had ended in divorce. For years he tried to apologize and to rebuild a relationship that was broken. His wife, however, was bitter over an event that she couldn’t forgive—or forget. The event involved a loving act he had done to help her, but she didn’t see it that way. And her heart became stone.
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
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.