In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
Edward Kimball was a Sunday school teacher determined to win his class to Christ. A young Dwight Moody would fall asleep during his lessons, but Kimball remained resolute and even met Moody at the shoe store where he worked and urged him to give his life to Christ. Kimball left the store thinking he’d failed miserably, but because of that encounter, Dwight Lyman Moody did commit his life to Christ, and he became one of the most prolific preachers of his time. Moody’s conversion and ministry places him in a select group of influential evangelists who were used by God to bring millions to Christ: Frederick Brotherton Meyer, J. Wilbur Chapman, Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham, and Billy Graham.
For the past 2 years, I’ve served in a church in the urban heart of a large city. It’s a difficult ministry that calls one to have deep compassion and an open heart for others—things that don’t come naturally to me. I often feel woefully unqualified and wonder how I can be the person of grace and compassion that I need to be.
The lighthouse keepers had survived harsh and lonely conditions on a meager salary, endured the incessant roar of the foghorn, and rowed their lifeboat onto stormy seas to rescue sailors. But the keepers had also resisted efforts to install a new lens that would have doubled the amount of light their station could have cast. Why? The keepers had made a financial arrangement with the maker of the old lens, and they didn’t want to lose the cash—even if it would have saved lives.
When I agreed to help start a book club at my church, I was excited about choosing the titles and discussing the literary works. I wavered, however, when I had to decide where to hold the meetings. (My house often has cluttered countertops and my kitchen appliances don’t always sparkle.) Thankfully, one Sunday morning, a woman in my church offered to host the meetings at her home. I sensed a genuine spirit of hospitality, and I gratefully accepted her proposal.
Accompanied by a cool breeze, the sunlight slowly spread over the horizon. It was a beautiful morning to plant. Grabbing various tools, my husband and I set out to rake back mulch and dig some holes. We had carefully selected plants that would work in the various growing environments our yard offered. Though the work had been strenuous, I later found it rewarding to stand back and see the fruits of our labor—a beautiful array of bushes, flowers, and trees.
Following a mass shooting in which a dozen victims were murdered, a writer lamented that the horrific event received a lack of media coverage and national attention. “What number of dead here would it have taken to give the nation pause?” Cynthia McCabe lamented in a blog post. While some people moved on quickly from reflecting on the senseless crime and those affected by it, many individuals, organizations, and churches demonstrated compassion for those affected by the tragedy. That includes my friend Heidi who—along with other members of her local church—chose to remember the victims in a tangible way.
When I was growing up, my family often became frustrated because I would take whatever I wanted into my possession. If anything went missing, the invariable response was to “look in Gina’s room,” for I was sure to have nabbed it. In a just vindication of their frustrations, my hairbrush now shows up in my daughter’s room, my scissors can be found in my son’s art case, and my phone charger is in my husband’s possession as much as my own.
Our young daughter Katelyn enjoys playing solitaire, but she lacks the patience to persist through the difficult points in the game. Instead of trying to solve being “stuck,” she’ll simply start a new game. I’ve challenged her not to give up but to seek the next available move.
The X Prize Foundation attempts to solve the world’s problems by offering large cash prizes to whatever team can fix them first. Winning teams have built a spacecraft that can fly beyond the earth’s atmosphere twice in 2 weeks and cars that achieve 100 miles per gallon. Other teams are trying to land a robot on the moon, build a machine that can quickly sequence each person’s genome, and create a portable device that can diagnose a patient’s condition. These goals will most likely be met, for people will work hard for $10 million.