Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.
Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.
When my sister left a high-paying government job after 14 years, many people were surprised. I believe God led her to the job (a long story), used it to train and equip her (another long story), and called her away from it (yet another lengthy tale). In fact, she had to leave her work with no new job in place. There wasn’t time to ponder, because she had loads of projects to finish and hand over. Yet, by God’s grace, she didn’t fret. She was fully convinced that God her Shepherd would provide for her (Psalm 23:1).
Let me be the first to say to you, Happy Ascension Day! Today we commemorate when Jesus’ disciples witnessed their risen Lord being “taken up to heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). It’s understandable if you didn’t know about this special date. Generally speaking, it’s a day on the church calendar that often comes quietly and goes with little attention or fanfare.
When my friend received a traffic ticket for speeding in a construction zone, he decided to contest it in court. As he put it, he was driving below the posted speed limit when another vehicle raced past him. The police officer’s radar gun had recorded the other car’s speed. But the judge would have none of it.
As my sister and I were growing up, our parents taught us about the love of Jesus and to enjoy intimate prayer with Him. As I grew older, sometimes life’s varied challenges pressed hard on me, and my prayers became requests based on need rather than tender dialogues with the One who delights in giving to His children (Matthew 7:11). In other words, my prayers were based on circumstances rather than on God’s character. Over time, I’ve learned to ask according not only to His will but also His goodness.
Not long ago I was certain that God was moving my husband and me in a specific direction. Two different sources, without consulting one another, encouraged us to pursue the same opportunity. So we did. Doors flew open as we kept moving forward. We were encouraged and excited, for what we never thought would happen was coming together right before our very eyes. As we bathed the whole process in prayer, God seemed to be honoring our requests. Until the eleventh hour, that is. That’s when the final door was slammed shut in our faces. We were shocked, and felt cheated and tricked by God. There was absolutely no way to make our dream a reality.
Born at 34 weeks, he was 3 pounds of miracle. Tubes and wires extended from his diminutive body to monitor his steady progress. His vision was restricted by a soft gauze eye mask to protect his eyes from the bilirubin light. He often became frustrated with all the equipment restricting his movement. But when his dad reached through the small opening in the incubator to gently cup his son’s tiny head in his large hand, the mighty warrior in baby form grew still and drifted off to sleep.
Occasionally I tell people that my wife attended university on a dodgeball scholarship. Some people naively react with, “Oh, really?” Others call me on it. “Dodgeball? Seriously? When did that become a scholarship sport?”
The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.
Years ago, when our youngest son was 5, Seth asked during breakfast, “What day is it? Am I going to school today?” “Yes, it’s Tuesday,” my wife answered. An excited smile broke across Seth’s face. “Tuesday?! Today is sharing day!” I asked Seth what he was supposed to share. “Something that begins with the letter D,” he said. I grinned. “Well . . . you could bring . . . Daddy.” “No,” Seth replied matter-of-factly, “you wouldn’t fit in my cubby.”
Flying back from a weeklong trip to Brazil, my husband and I received an unexpected text. The message from the church’s financial secretary revealed that a certified letter from our county’s board of education had arrived. Having planted a church that met at a local high school, we knew the letter had something to do with our rental agreement. For more than a year, it had been the place our church family called home each Sunday. Our dismay grew when we received the contents of the letter—the board wasn’t going to renew our lease for the building past the end of the year, just 3 short months away.
I sat riveted to the screen as my alma mater completed a stunning comeback in a big football game. Just after scoring in the waning seconds, a player knelt and offered a prayer. No grandstanding; no look-at-me celebratory theatrics. Just a quick, humble prayer of gratitude to God before his overjoyed teammates swarmed him.