In the movie Castaway, a man was stranded on a desert island for 4 years following a plane crash. After his rescue, the authorities told him that their initial efforts following the crash had failed because they had searched in the wrong area—thinking that the plane had gone down 400 miles from where it crashed. Since their starting point was completely wrong, they had little chance of success even though their efforts were admirable.
We’re in that sweet season of hope and possibilities. No matter how difficult the year may have been, most of us hope for a better and brighter new year. At the end of last year, I knew I would be juggling my job along with the daunting task of handling the responsibilities of a colleague who was going on maternity leave.
It started out with my friend doing a little drinking with friends—hitting a bar after work. But then the heavier drinking began and poor decisions ensued as his abuse of alcohol escalated. His weak relationship with God became nonexistent. Today, my friend’s marriage is in shambles and his relationship with his kids is strained. It’s been hard to see him slip into the abyss by degrees.
The other day our 8-year-old son asked why we no longer put him in the time-out corner. I said it was because that form of discipline no longer worked well. As the twins have gotten older, we’ve had to find new ways to reward and discipline them. Whatever worked when they were 4 years old is no longer effective.
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?
It’s been a tiring week. Filling in for the Breakfast Show radio host meant that I set my alarm for 4:40 each morning, ensuring that I’d be at the radio studios by 5:30. I was looking forward to waking up later on Saturday, but at 4:40 I heard the buzz of an alarm. Annoyed at what I thought was my husband’s alarm, I begged him to turn it off and then realized it was my own alarm blaring its unwelcome wake-up call. I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm the night before and now I lay wide awake, frustrated with myself and embarrassed that I’d blamed my husband for the rude awakening.
When I began training my hunting dog, I kept him very close to me, issued only one command, and made sure to enforce the command, should he not understand or obey. Each time we had success, I would give him a little more freedom and then repeat the command, making sure he received a lot of affirmation and praise for his compliance. These days I can let him loose in the woodlands and be assured that all I have to do is call his name and then give a hand signal and he will do as I tell him without delay—most of the time at least! He hears my voice, he is listening all the time for it, and he wants to obey because he trusts me.
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.
Why should I obey this commandment from God? I pondered. Is it because the consequences of disobeying Him would be bad? Hmm, but is that all? Ah, I see it now—my thinking was turned around. I should have asked, “Why would I disobey?”
When asked what’s the coolest thing about being the commander-in-chief, US President Barack Obama said, “For me, I think the coolest thing is that if there is somebody interesting who’s doing anything—a scientist, a sports figure, a writer, anybody in the world—if I want to call them up they will answer my phone call. That’s a pretty cool thing.” His response followed a question from a reporter’s daughter who said she thought the coolest part of being president would be spending time with pop-singers Beyoncé and Jay Z.
In 2003, the Crafton family—dad, mom, two daughters, and a son—sold their home and possessions and set out on a sailing voyage in which they traveled 30,000 miles over 83 months. The family says the experience, something not practical or possible for most of us, drew them closer together and made their lives feel more open and spacious. Before setting sail, parents Tom and Kathleen realized that their successful careers and two houses, though providing the external symbols of success, weren’t making for the life they desired. So they headed for open waters.
At 14, I had been wandering from Jesus. But then I turned back to Him and went from a rebellious teenager to His passionately enthusiastic disciple. One night, I planned to stay up until God revealed Himself to me. This lasted about 3 hours before I succumbed to tired eyes and fell asleep. The next morning, I was deeply disappointed that a tangible experience with God didn’t take place. For I thought that He would surely respond to the eager expectations of a young girl. Over the years, however, God has revealed Himself to me in many unexpected ways as I’ve surrendered myself to Him.
Gladiator contains an inspiring scene set just before a battle. The Roman general Maximus exhorts his troops with these words: “Remember, what we do in life echoes in eternity!” He encouraged his men to conduct themselves with the kind of valor that would cause them to be remembered long after their death. But he also knew that their conduct in the present could affect their future.
A-poe-la-pi is an elderly Akha, a member of a hill tribe people who live on some mountain ranges in China. During a missions trip, my friends and I visited A-poe-la-pi. He said to us, “Due to the downpour last night, I couldn’t make it to the gathering. Could you share with me God’s Word?” You see, A-poe-la-pi is illiterate, so the weekly gathering is the only way for him to take in Scripture. As we shared, he listened intently. And his earnest attitude reminded me that when we listen to or study the Bible to gain the wisdom of God, we honor Him.
After reaching the top of Dog Tooth Peak in the Sierra Nevada National Forest in the US, Larry Bishop began his descent. On his way down, he took a tumble off the trail and landed on a slim ledge of granite. Staying on that perch required him to cling to the side of the mountain for 52 hours—the alternative was a 10,000-foot drop! Eventually, Larry was airlifted to safety when a member of a rescue team risked his own life to reach him.