As a second-grader at a mission school in Ghana, I didn’t fare too well. Our two teachers gallantly juggled lesson plans for students spanning seven grades. This academic effort took place in a two-room cinderblock structure with an aluminum roof that began to broil us by noon each day. Distractions waged war on my 7-year-old attention span, and they were winning—handily.
Most of us have things we’re hoping for in life, but what are you ultimately hoping for? Paul told Titus to “look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus2:13). Do you believe that Jesus will return to this earth? Do you want Him to come?
Oswald Chambers once said, “It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide.” So after we receive Jesus as our Savior, what is it that God requires of us? What should we be doing?
When counseling young couples who are preparing for marriage, I always ask these questions: “Why do you love each other? Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with this person?” What I really want to hear is a flash of passion, a quake of desire. I don’t merely want to hear rational judgments (“We complement each other,” “Our families approve,” “I think we’d have the necessary elements for a successful family”). These observations are good, but I also want to hear how their souls yearn for one another, how they become more of their true selves in each other’s presence. I want to hear some indication that all they are is engaged in their transforming relationship that will culminate in marriage.
A friend and I once did an 8-day walk in the north of England. Much of our second day’s walk was done in view of Dunstanburgh Castle, a giant 14th-century fort now in ruins. The castle was built by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, with a purpose: to declare Thomas’ wealth and glory. In many ways he succeeded. Seven centuries later, the castle keeps Thomas’ name alive. But in the most important sense he failed. A sign in front of the castle remembers Thomas as an “arrogant and unpopular” man.
One of our sons has endured bullies on his elementary school bus. Two weeks ago, he walked into the kitchen after school and with a quivering lip said, “I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.” It’s been hard for him to learn how to protect himself while also staying open to forgiveness (if the bullies show repentance) and the possibility of extending friendship to them.
My friend is a highly qualified mountaineer who has climbed some of the world’s greatest rock and ice routes, including the famous north walls of the Eiger and Matterhorn. So does he teach his clients how to climb better by demonstrating specialized equipment, showing them how to pull themselves up with two fingers on steep walls of rock, or how to place ice axes into ice that’s only a quarter-inch thick? You would think so, but he actually spends the first few days teaching them how to walk! Most people assume they have the basics sorted out, but—in fact—they can’t even walk properly, and that will prevent them from climbing to their full potential.
As I greeted my friend, I asked, “How are you?” She immediately began to wipe away tears. Burdened with loneliness, she had watched as countless younger friends had married over the years—but she had not. As two more were set to wed soon, she wondered why she remained alone. Her heart’s desire remains, but as each year slips by, her fears of growing old alone intensify.
Carrie Stuart Parks is a talented writer and an award-winning artist. But you may want to think twice before signing up to become her next work of art. Parks is an FBI-trained forensic artist. Most of her “artwork” is comprised of the drawings she has made of criminals through eyewitness accounts and the human faces she has rendered after viewing the remains of unidentified victims.
In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbors and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighborhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.
Starting as dancing droplets on the windshield, the rain increased in intensity as we drove down the road. My husband turned on the windshield wipers but then quickly turned them off. He did this over and over. When I looked at him quizzically, he explained that the passenger side wiper had stopped moving in sync with the one on the driver’s side. Turning them on long enough for both to move would have resulted in them striking against each other.
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!).
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.”
A group of churches in our city came together to do a neighborhood cleanup. The shared project went so well that they now exchange choirs and praise bands and have multichurch picnics. Oh sure, there are things they disagree on. But to them, Jesus is a reason for unity.