The 2010 French film Of Gods and Men recounts the inspiring and tragic story of nine Trappist monks who lived in the small Algerian monastery of Tibhirine. For years, the various religious communities lived in friendship. As the political climate deteriorated, however, radical elements took advantage and gained power. The Brothers debated whether they should escape Algeria, but eventually they determined that God would not have them abandon their village. Then, after midnight on March 27, 1996, militants overwhelmed the monastery and captured seven of the Brothers, all of whom lost their lives.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
Years ago, God put it on the hearts of my wife and me that I should attend Bible college. We didn’t fully know why or how, but we trusted that He had a plan. Our problem was that we were in a tough financial condition. We were literally praying for food to feed our family week by week. Then the due date for the payment of the tuition fees arrived, and we didn’t have a penny to put toward the cost.
I took the day off from work to experience some much-needed silence and solitude. My life was brimming with good things: family, friends, and ministry in the church. I had much to be thankful for, but internally I was struggling with one thing—something I wanted to talk to God about it.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
When I went to Bible college, I had a wife, two daughters, and absolutely no money! We were confident that God had called me to attend college even though we weren’t sure exactly why. After we determined that we couldn’t afford a house near the college, we brought our need to Him.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
Glen, a longtime family friend, took a spill inside his home and fractured his neck. Fortunately, he didn’t need surgery. His doctor fitted him with a neck brace and instructed him not to bend, lift, or turn until his neck had healed. This meant that he had to move his entire body to see anything outside his direct line of sight. He could focus only on what was directly in front of him.
My vitamins come in three fruity flavors. Fortunately, someone designed them to look and taste more like candy than health aids. The contents include stuff like vitamin B-6, niacin, and folic acid. Each serving contains enough supplements to last for one day. Every morning I have to consume another dose because my body has been busy using up yesterday’s vitamin supply.
A few years ago, my husband and a friend of his attempted the Three Peaks Challenge—climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England, and Wales within 24 hours. This included scaling Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 meters. It was sunny at the foot of Ben Nevis as the men, dressed in just T-shirts and shorts, started their ascent. As they approached the summit, however, the weather changed; they hit ice and thick fog and their skimpy clothing simply wasn’t enough. They made it down the mountain, but the challenge was off.
The other day I read two passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers with similar messages. They caused me to recognize more deeply the consequences of disobeying God and failing to heed His warnings. Put succinctly: Moving forward without God’s leading, permission, or assistance, regardless of how we justify our words or actions, will lead to His judgment.
In the movie Saving Mr. Banks, writer Pamela Lyndon (P. L.) Travers reluctantly agrees to allow Walt Disney to bring her beloved character Mary Poppins to the silver screen. Carrying deep emotional wounds, P. L. is controlling and cantankerous—causing the film adaptation of Mary Poppins to be a difficult proposition for all those involved in the production. Unlike her literary character who could magically take flight, Travers—trapped within a cloud of bitter thoughts and memories—almost prevents the movie version of Mary Poppins from getting off the ground.
The effects of an ice storm led to the loss of electricity to my house one morning. Late that night, as we returned home from showering in a nearby athletic facility, we pulled into our street and saw our lights were back on. Yea! We hadn’t realized how dependent we were on electric power until we lost it, and we resolved not to take it for granted again.
Harrison Odjegba Okene had been trapped 100 feet underwater for more than 72 hours. His air and his hope were running thin. The Nigerian was a cook on a tugboat that sank in the Atlantic Ocean in May 2013, leading to the deaths of the 11 other crew members. Harrison, however, found his way to a small cabin with a small, dwindling air pocket where he shivered as temperatures plummeted. Comforted by psalms he had memorized, prayers to God, and memories of his wife, Harrison clung to life. When rescue divers arrived, they pulled four corpses out of the water and assumed Harrison would be the fifth. But when a diver reached for Harrison’s hand, he was surprised when Harrison reached back!