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Autumn Moments

Poets have long used the seasons as metaphors for our lives. Spring is seen as a time of new beginnings and potential; summer is a time of growth and success; autumn is the harvest season when we reap the fruits of our labors; and winter is a time of endings and rest.

Everything Matters

So many of us struggle to feel that our work—the ways we spend the majority of our time and the way we pay our bills—has lasting spiritual value. This is remarkable, given how often Scripture insists that everything we do matters to God.

Burning Your Instrument

As I watched a talent show on TV, I was greatly impressed by a gifted musical group. Collectively, the musicians played more than 15 different instruments. Videos of their spirited blend of Irish-influenced music and dance consistently go viral. The 12 siblings who comprise the uber-talented Willis Clan have appeared on other television programs, and they even have their own successful reality TV show.

Stop Painting Your Bucket

A friend who worked for a Christian organization was known for his perfectionistic work habits. One day as he was finishing some work on a backhoe, a large piece of excavating equipment, he began preparing to paint its large metal bucket. This was an unnecessary part of the job, as the fresh paint would scrape off as soon as the backhoe began digging into rocky soil. As my friend raised his spray gun for the first coat, his boss called to him, “Don’t paint the bucket!”

Real Stewardship

Rick Vuyst hosts a local call-in radio gardening show in my hometown. Vuyst, who identifies himself an “entre-manure,” weekly “soils” the airwaves with gardening advice. But don’t let his “cracked pot” puns fool you. If you’re having problems with your lawn or plants, this master gardener can help, often telling listeners who have called in, “Thank you very ‘mulch.’ ”

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”

Coram Deo

Coram Deo. Christians in the 16th century used this simple Latin phrase to capture a profound idea. Coram Deo means “before the face of God.” It says we live before the One who sees all that we are and do. And it says we should act accordingly. Living before the face of God means we walk with integrity under His loving eyes. It means His smile is all that really matters to us.

“Follow Me!”

Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.

“He Is So Good!”

I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom

Do Something!

When I was a kid, my dad encouraged me to be courageous and not play it safe. He could see how tempted I was to overthink a situation or to hedge my bets. “Do something!” he would say. Then in jest, he would add: “Even if it’s wrong, do something!”

Pause Points

Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, shows how doctors can use a checklist to save lives during surgery. Gawande’s checklist includes three vital “pause points”: before anesthesia, before incision, and before leaving the operating room.

Paint Your Leaf

In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

called and equipped

One of the most famous and influential preachers of the gospel in US history was D. L. Moody. The preacher, who lived in the 19th century, also founded Moody Bible Institute and began publishing Christian books—scarce at the time. Both MBI and Moody Publishers continue to function more than a century after his death. Surely such a renowned believer in Jesus was highly trained and educated! But that doesn’t describe Moody. He had very little education and worked as a humble shoe salesman for years before his conversion.

bring on the bees

Bees can identify certain scents from nearly 3 miles away. Because of their keen sense of smell, ability to fly, and minimal bodyweight, they make ideal bomb-sniffers. Croatian scientist Nikola Kezic has trained bees to detect TNT—an explosive used in his country’s many active landmines. He trains the bees by mixing tiny amounts of TNT with sugar. When the bees are released over a minefield, they’ll fly to areas where they smell the explosive—hoping to find some sweet dessert!

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> christian living

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

> daily devotional

Fireworks and Mercy

Setting off fireworks after a home team hits a home run is nothing new in pro baseball stadiums, but igniting fireworks after the visiting team hits a homer? No way! But in a game between two major league baseball teams, after a player on the visiting team hit a baseball over the outfield fence for a home run, the fireworks guy mistakenly pushed a button that created a spectacular pyrotechnic display.

Happy at You

My 3-year-old daughter caught me staring at her. “Mommy, why are you looking at me like that?” “Because I love you and delight in you,” I said. “God looks at you that way too.” “You mean, God looks happy at me?” she earnestly inquired. “Yes!” I said. “God always looks happy at you,” I emphasized. “Then I look happy at Jesus, at you, at daddy, and [my] sisters,” she concluded. When she finished, I think she could see me beaming with happiness. I want my three daughters to know deep down that God delights in them and loves them “with an everlasting love” (Psalm 37:23, 149:4; Jeremiah 31:3).

The Shepherd’s Voice

As a pastor, I’ve seen this happen on several occasions during a service: a mother hears a faint cry from beyond the sanctuary, gets up, walks toward the rear of the room, and immediately goes to the nursery where her child is being cared for. Without anyone telling her, she knew that it was her baby who cried out and she needed to go and relieve the childcare volunteer by providing care for her precious child. Studies have shown that mothers are especially attuned to the cries of their own children and can often identify their kid’s cries from those of other children with 100 percent accuracy!

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Climb On!

George Mallory was an English mountaineer who was last seen heading toward the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. It’s possible he actually reached its peak but succumbed to the weather on the way down. We’ll never know what happened, for the details passed with the great explorer. Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” This may make no sense to most people, but to a mountaineer it is perfectly logical. Climbing the mountain is something to strive toward that’s an end in itself. The impressive peak is all the fuel Mallory and countless other mountaineers have ever needed.

Real Faith

I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!

If It’s Really You . . .

A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships


Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”