My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”
So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.
A good friend broke my double bass—a large, expensive, stringed instrument used in orchestras and jazz bands. We were loading up the van before traveling to a gig and he carelessly set the bass down on an incline. The wind was blowing that night and the hollow, wooden instrument toppled, resulting in multiple breaks.
We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well-kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision-trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.
I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. It’s hard to put into words the agony of those moments when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find my clothes and sheets were soaked. Ashamed, I would scurry about, trying to quietly change the sheets and my clothes—doing my best to hide the evidence. But it was found out each time, and I felt a deep sense of worthlessness, failure, and disapproval.
A newly elected senator vows to be a new kind of politician, but by the time he runs again he’s in the pocket of special interest groups. An actress goes to Hollywood to star in wholesome movies, but soon she compromises. Both started out trying to reach the world, but instead they lost their way.
One Saturday afternoon, a group of teenagers gathered in a cafeteria to ask one another some hard questions based on Philippians 2:3-4. Some of the difficult queries included: On a scale of 1 to 10, how selfish are you? How often do you take an interest in others too? Would someone describe you as humble or proud? Why?
Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.
In 2008, a man was killed in a car crash in New Zealand. The autopsy revealed he’d been driving without wearing a seatbelt, having installed a fake belt which went over one shoulder so that it appeared to any passing motorist or police car that he was actually wearing a real one. He was pretending to comply with the law, but according to the coroner his subterfuge cost him his life.
A friend of mine got divorced after her husband left her for another woman. Years later I was talking with her father when the subject of their broken marriage came up. “That’s when [vulgar word] was still around,” he said. “That’s what I like to call him: [vulgar word].”
I recently received news that the cancer I’ve been battling off and on for 12 years has returned for the fifth time. So now my wife and I are prayerfully considering treatment possibilities. The therapy employed last time included a bone marrow transplant. And now with that normally last line of defense crossed, my doctor tells me we’re in “uncharted territory.” My lymphoma has continued to threaten to take my life. That’s why I’m glad I already was dead—but am now alive in Jesus.
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.
I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.