Archives: February 2017

From a Distance

Salvador Dalí’s Madonna painting allows you to see different images based on your proximity to the canvas. Viewed up close, the grey and pink dots are abstract, but from a distance of six feet, an image of Mary and Jesus emerge. Viewed from an even greater distance—fifty feet—the painting looks like a giant ear; Dalí called it, “the ear of an angel.”

Based on a True Story

I told my hairstylist that I was going to see the movie Miracles from Heaven, the story of a young girl who after falling thirty feet headfirst into a hollowed-out tree was miraculously healed of her incurable illness. The stylist had heard it was “based on a true story,” but said that “could simply mean the child fell from a tree.”

New Beginnings

One of the most exciting journeys I’ve ever embarked on was relocating to the United States as a teenager. I was anxious to experience everything the US had to offer, but also nervous about fitting in at my new school. Although not everything went according to plan, I eventually settled in and began a new phase of my life.

What’s Important

In March 2016, thirty-six-year-old Adam LaRoche, the first baseman for the Chicago White Sox professional baseball team in the US, resigned after he was told not to bring his fourteen-year-old son into the team’s clubhouse as often as had been his practice. LaRoche walked away from a $13-million contract. Simply put, he refused to place money or fame before family. He announced his retirement in a tweet that read, “Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #FamilyFirst.”

Choosing to Forget

“It was a bit painful. I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.” Those words from Ian McKellen, the actor who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gandalf in the movie trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, help explain why he cancelled a book contract for his autobiography. It was too painful.

Not About Fame

I spent much of my post-college career as a sports journalist—regularly talking with Olympic and professional athletes who professed and modeled a life devoted to Jesus. It wasn’t until I had interviewed well over one hundred athletes that I realized I was more apt to share their testimonies with others than I was to share my own. I believed friends and acquaintances would rather hear about the athletes’ journeys than hear about mine.

Faithful and True

With just a few lines of text, the relationship was over. Because I failed to open their messages, they notified me that my “email relationship” with their company and all its brands was “ending.” A humorous marketing ploy, the company’s response reminded me how much of our world today rests on superficial communication and tenuous commitment.

Living Houses of Prayer

A new kind of conversion is taking place in England and Europe. Due to a steady decline of Christian belief and the high costs of maintaining churches, the ancient structures are being converted into bars and other commercial buildings. Some are even being used as mosques.

Test of Courage

I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter seconds away from intense pain. She had poked her little finger in the space where two parts of a folding door were hinged together. With her free hand, she was about to close the door on her finger! When I asked what she was doing, she replied, “I’m testing my courage.” She was seeing how close she could come to having her finger pinched before backing off. Thankfully, I put an end to her painful experiment.

Calling on the Caller

One of my favorite lines in Donita K. Paul’s Realm Walkers book series is, “The called must call upon the caller.” I don’t usually pause to ponder wording in the middle of an action-packed book, but this line left me thinking about what it means to be called.

Only the Beginning

We introduced our sons to the TV series Lost in which marooned passengers from a crashed jetliner try to survive on a mysterious island. It didn’t take long for our boys to start to groan at the end of each episode, aware of how masterful the writers were at creating cliffhangers. There appears to be no ending, only a series of new beginnings.

Disciplined for Freedom

My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.

What Will We Become?

I spent my birthday this year at a conference with my husband and some friends. At the end of the conference, I enjoyed taking some time to talk with an acquaintance that is a year younger than I am. As we chatted, he said, “The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish by now.” Then he wistfully remarked, “I may never accomplish it.”

Taking the Hate

“I stopped believing in God because of the Bible,” said the soup kitchen volunteer. “I couldn’t get over how many times it says God hates people!” I know that volunteer and find him to be a thoughtful young man. But is he right?

Not a Distant God

Movie director James Cameron has been responsible for some of the most popular movies of all time: The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar, and others. But what many people don’t know is that far from being removed from the details of filmmaking, Cameron is heavily involved with almost every aspect of the process, from cinematography to creative design. Drawing from his earlier experience as a designer, Cameron even played a key role in developing some of the fantastic special effects that are the centerpiece of his most famous films.

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> christian living

Upending

A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

Running the Race

In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles in eighty hours—setting the world record for distance running without sleep. Ten years later, Rob Young, nicknamed the “Marathon Man,” broke the record by covering nearly 374 miles in eighty-eight hours. Young, who had endured abuse by his father as a child, said he ran with two goals in mind: to test the limits of human endurance and to help the world become a better place for kids.

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.

> daily devotional

Far Greater Love

During a major sports competition, a male sprinter jumped the gun, resulting in a false start and immediate disqualification from the event. His responses included tearing off his sprinter’s bib, writhing on the ground, and weeping in a curled-up position at the side of the track. A female sprinter was running well in her event when she slipped coming over a hurdle on a rain-slicked track and fell to the ground. Her race for all intents and purposes was over, but she got up and finished it with a look of calm determination on her face.

Upending

A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

Unappreciated?

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.

> 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

Entering into God’s Rest

My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.

You Have a Choice

You mean, I can choose to believe in Jesus?” my young Nepali friend asked in surprise as I was giving her a ride to the grocery store. She was an international student at the same university I was attending and had been coming for several months to a weekly Bible study. As we were discussing her thoughts regarding the study, she suddenly became shocked by the realization that she could choose what to believe. She had grown up in a culture where faith was something she was born into, with no choice given to her.

Philip Flunked

In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.

> health

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Something More Powerful

When France’s ministry of health realized that 17.8 percent of French women smoked while pregnant, they came up with a plan. For a trial period of thirty-six months, seventeen French hospitals paid women up to 300 euros to stop smoking during their pregnancies. Of the 612 participants, 22.5 percent of the women gave up their cigarettes.

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.

> relationships

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.