In 2014, a man opened fire with a handgun during a meeting with his caseworker and psychiatrist at a hospital. Sadly, the caseworker was mortally wounded, while the psychiatrist—who returned fire with his own handgun—received minor injuries. The gunman, who was subdued at the scene, indicated that he opened fire because he’d been offended by the hospital’s “no guns” policy.
As a preacher, I’m rightly concerned with the content of each of my Sunday sermons. I must confess, however, that I can fall into the trap of being overly concerned with what people think of my message—not whether or not the message is clearly understood or whether the people and the Lord Himself are blessed by what I say. I can become more concerned with the goal of having church members like what I say and approve of my message. Sometimes a furrowed brow in the congregation, especially from someone I know and respect spiritually, can seriously interrupt my flow and cause me no small amount of consternation.
Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict the wise men visiting the Christ-child. But I think the story is bigger than the way it’s presented. The wise men’s journey is also a paradigm for our spiritual journey.
As my wife tried to get home from visiting our daughter over the holidays, bad weather shut down numerous flights. After 2 days, she had a fistful of boarding passes for planes that couldn’t leave the ground, and she joined thousands of weary travelers scrambling for places to stay.
When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”
I talked with a former British elite forces soldier who had faced many battles and emerged unscathed. He said, “I don’t believe in God.” I challenged him by saying these familiar words: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”
As the story goes, a man was hiking alone when he slipped and fell down a steep cliff. In desperation, he grabbed a tree limb and began shouting for help. Finally, he heard a booming voice answer, “Yes, I’m here.” The hiker was elated. “Who are you?” “It’s the Lord.” “Oh, thank you, Lord!” the hiker gasped. “What do you want me to do?” “Let go.” The terrified hiker couldn’t release the only security he thought he had, so finally he meekly asked, “Is there anyone else up there?” Life is tough. Circumstances often seem unfair, and there are times when we feel close to death. It’s usually in the midst of these moments of desperation that God urges us to “let go” of our feeble solutions and trust Him. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Paul shares an intimate account of the difficult time he had in Asia and of how he felt close to death. He also reminds his readers, however, that God is our source of comfort and that we can use our growth through trials to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
At the beginning of the classic book The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was enjoying a comfortable and predictable life in his home in the Shire—until the mysterious Gandalf dropped in for a surprise visit. Gandalf turned to Bilbo and said, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Bilbo replied, “I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! We don’t want any adventures here, thank you.”
Sleep. It’s one of the most underrated pleasures in life. There’s nothing like a good night’s rest or napping on a rainy day. My bed feels like a refuge—a small sanctuary from the cares of life.
An ex-racehorse at my stable, Dawson, is a talented jumper, but he struggles with overanticipation. Whenever we begin a ride, he speeds up, dances in place, and tries to anticipate my commands, not because he’s being defiant but because he’s eager to…
Palmer Chinchen, author of True Religion, tells of the time when he went whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River. As he and his brothers were preparing to make their way down the watery roller coaster, the guide gave them some very helpful advice: “When—not if—the raft flips, stay in the rough water. You’ll be tempted to swim toward the stagnant water at the edge of the banks. Don’t do it, because it is in the stagnant water that the crocs wait for you. They are large and hungry. So when the raft flips, stay in the rough water.”
His soft hair brushing against my chin, the tiny bundle snuggled on my shoulder. Though I’m well past the baby stage with our own children, I so enjoy these tender times with friends’ babies. Even when they’re fussy, I enjoy the opportunity to nestle them close—especially when I can feel the tension leave their little bodies as they relax in slumber. At the same time, these precious moments encourage me to let go of everything that previously seemed foreboding or demanding.
My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2012. I shared with a friend about the challenges this situation had posed for me. As we talked, he gently told me that this is the cross I have to carry. “Carrying your cross” means living with sickness or a child with a disability, or financial problems, or any difficult circumstance of life. But when Jesus tells us to carry our own crosses, is He referring to life’s burdens?
On April 15, 1865, family, physicians, and government officials crowded around the bedside of US President Abraham Lincoln. He was unconscious and close to death from an assassin’s fatal bullet.