How much money does a person have to make to be a success? How many awards must an individual receive in order to be deemed successful? According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, even if you achieve Hall of Fame success status like some great athletes, it might not be enough. Brooks said some athletes simply can’t see past themselves:
The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There’s one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I’ll never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we’ll never sing anything.”
During the eighth century, a farmhand named Caedmon served at Whitby Abbey in the north of England. One night he had an extraordinary dream. In the dream, someone asked Caedmon to sing a song about creation. Being a farmer and not a singer, he initially refused. But as the dream progressed, he did indeed compose a song praising the Creator.
Heart attacks are the No. 1 cause of death in many parts of the world. In the US, a heart attack occurs every 20 seconds, with someone dying from heart disease every 34 seconds. In Singapore, one in three deaths is due to heart disease or stroke. We need to pay careful attention to what medical professionals are saying about heart attack prevention: reduce stress, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and watch your diet. “Guard your heart above all else” is instruction that we ignore to our own peril (Proverbs 4:23).
Being a Chinese woman raised in a polytheistic environment, I used to think that Christianity was a Western religion or the “white-man’s religion.” My thought was, We Asians have our own gods. Later, as a young believer in Jesus, I still wondered from time to time if I had forsaken my own roots and believed in a foreign god.
Using “Google Instant Search,” I decided to do an experiment to determine how many letters it would take for their algorithm to recognize that I was searching for references to deity—not pop culture. After starting from scratch, by clearing my browser and search histories, I started typing, and here’s what happened:
From a Distance,” the 1991 Grammy Song of the Year popularized by Bette Midler, describes what the world looks like from a distance: “From a distance the world looks blue and green . . . there is harmony . . . And no one is in need. And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease . . . We are instruments . . . playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.” The song ends with the lingering refrain: “God is watching us from a distance.”
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.
The UK foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic in 2001 wrought more destruction to the British farming community than any event in history. Some believers prayed that Christian farmers would be miraculously protected, while others prayed that their witness for Jesus would be strong, no matter what happened.
On July 21, 2013, media outlets worldwide held their collective breath as they waited for the birth of the child of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The baby was third in line to the British throne, and so when Prince George was born the next day there was hardly a newspaper or news program that didn’t herald the announcement front and center.
According to an Italian newspaper, more and more immigrants are asking for plastic surgery so they can look more “Western.” Some Asians are requesting procedures to reshape eyes and make them rounder; some Africans are undergoing procedures to reduce the size of their lips and reshape their bodies; other ethnicities of darker skin colors are undergoing procedures to lighten their skin because lighter skin is associated with success. These individuals, who aren’t satisfied with their appearances, would likely find it difficult to sing David’s song in Psalm 139:1-24.
Last year, as we were headed to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, my husband and I picked up a few last-minute items at a large grocery store. My musings on the variety of shoppers populating the store on this special night turned to dismay when I headed past an aisle where Christmas items had been stocked only days earlier. Gone were the splashes of green and red. Now pink and red heart-shaped items for Valentine’s Day filled the shelves.