A friend once wrote a letter to both bless me and draw me deeper into an honest, true life. My friend quoted lines from the novelist James Kavanaugh: “There are men,” Kavanaugh wrote, “who are too gentle to live among wolves.” My friend invited me, amid a violent and self-protective world, to live with a gentle posture, to refuse to grow hard or defensive. The letter contains words that are among the most powerful a friend has ever shared with me.
My husband’s job offer was a welcome answer to prayer, allowing him to spend more time with our family. It required a big move though—the third in 7 years. His work had previously taken us to the Middle East and South Africa, and now, with the prospect of returning to England, we felt cautiously excited. In the midst of all the logistics, important decisions, piles of paperwork that had to be completed, and the packing of all our belongings into shipping boxes, we also had an overwhelming sense of God’s “perfect peace.”
Move to a new home, or stay at the old address? This question filled my mind for several days as my husband and I discussed the possibilities. A handful of problems were obvious when we toured a prospective home. For instance, a pipe in the basement jutted up from the floor into the middle of a room. And there was an odd odor in the cellar. Still, there were new cupboards and beautiful windows that would let sunlight pour in.
According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.
Recently as I sat in a circle of leaders from our church, a woman asked a simple question, provoking rich discussion. “What are your hopes for our church?” There were several responses, for our little community has many hopes. But on that night this spilled out of me: “I hope we become more and more the kind of people who learn to resist the anxieties of this world because we believe Jesus is with us and that Jesus is doing something with us.”
During a conversation with friends, several in the circle took turns recounting their early experiences with certain words in the Christian vocabulary. One person said, “Whenever I heard the word life mentioned by a Christian or in the Bible, I always thought it was only talking about heaven. I never thought it had much to do with me right now.” Most everyone nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it was difficult to know what there really was to be excited about,” another confessed. “I imagined playing harps somewhere in the clouds, and I felt guilty when the whole idea just didn’t excite me too much.”
Wolves devour lambs. Leopards pounce on goats. A calf is never safe around a lion, and neither is a child! Though very touching, the picture of predators living in harmony with their prey can strike us as naïve. Prophetic pictures of such a scene have been interpreted different ways, but the image is striking. So, how different would things have to be for animals to be able to live like that? Perhaps not that different at all.
In 1893, the inventor of the machine gun was asked if his invention would make wars even more devastating. He replied that he believed they would make wars impossible. Many inventors and great scientists have said similar things over the years, only to discover that this was not the truth. Scientific progress has not slowed the beat of war, but has only made it far more deadly than it had ever been before.
I once met a beautiful East African girl named Mercy, a patient at a hospital where I volunteered in Kampala, Uganda. During one of my visits, the girl’s teenage brother summoned me to his sister’s bed. He explained that their parents had died and he, at age 14, was his sister’s sole caregiver. “I have learned you and a Mzungu man [my friend, David Kuo] gave pillows to the patients last week,” he said. “My sister, named Mercy, wasn’t here when you came. She has never slept on a pillow before. Would you please bring her one?”
South Africa’s electrical grid has long been stretched, but when a coal silo at a power station collapsed, it led to months of widespread blackouts across the country. The power outages were initially frustrating, but citizens quickly adapted to the daily 2-hour blackouts and worked around those times. Generators were employed, people bought fewer perishable foods, and they were careful to make sure the washing-machine cycle would finish before the electricity went off for the day.
An antivirus update for my laptop kept blocking the last phase of my radio recordings—the words I spoke between songs. I tried restoring the computer to an earlier date, prior to the update, which worked for one session of recordings. But when I tried to record another radio show, the antivirus once again stopped me from saving my work. In the end, I restored the laptop to a time when it worked properly, uninstalled the antivirus, and reinstalled a different one. The new antivirus is now working well alongside my recording software and I can save my work without hindrance. Phew!
As the father of four children, I tell them four words nearly every day: “You should be thankful!” I say it to them during dinner when they turn up their noses at vegetables. I say it to them when they want to get a toy that “all” their friends have. For my kids, and I suspect for many of us, giving thanks to God is an individual discipline—the proper response to what He’s done.
Many Christians are familiar with the classic hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” The first line of the song reads, “When peace like a river attendeth my way.” But, for most of us, peace isn’t a mighty and strong river. It’s more like a feather that can be easily pushed aside by the concerns and worries of life. For me, holding on to peace in the midst of turmoil is like trying to catch a piece of dust in the air!