After months of intense stress at my job, as well as a busy season with family and ministry, I was exhausted—and more than just physically. Reflecting on the prior six months, I realized that, although I had tried to be consistent in my work ethic, I didn’t consistently take time to rest. Responsibility is an important part of life, but disorder sets in when responsibilities become the chain holding us captive to self-reliance.
After an appointment, I reached for my phone to see the messages I had missed. “Do you have a minute to pray over me?” The text was simple, but knowing the season of life my friend was in, I quickly dialed her number. Our relationship had been built over many years, and though there were moments invested when I was uncertain of the outcome in her life, she was now not only walking in truth but, in turn, using her God-given gifts to reach out to others.
Though I haven’t spent much time playing it over the past twenty years, I still take out my violin every so often. I keep it stored in a temperature-consistent closet, safely enclosed in a velvet case. Even so, the small tuning fork I keep in the case has been needed on more than one occasion. The vibrations from the tuning fork create the tone I need to set my A-string pitch. I can then tune the other three strings and hear a true and resonant sound as I pull the bow across the strings.
Tim Keller aptly expressed the spiritual state of humanity when he wrote, “Everything that troubles [us] is a result of idolatry. And what is idolatry? It’s taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.” View nearly any form of visual media today and you’ll see that we’ve exchanged our worship of the Creator for the created. We were designed by God to respond to beauty—His beauty. But the promise of perfection and the temptation of power draw us to lesser gods. Food, sex, fashion, you name it. Our bodies have become our idols.
As I was overseeing several small groups in my local church, I experienced a painful conflict with another leader, who ultimately left my team. While I needed to face my own failings, I later heard an incomplete version of what had gone wrong between the leader and myself from one of her group members. Truth had been lost in a shadow of accusations.
Because I’ve worked in youth ministry as well as in private and public education, I’ve witnessed on many occasions the sacrificial love of a parent for a child. There have been times, however, when parents’ hopes for a child have revealed mixed motives. Whether from a desire to prove their own worth or a deep-seated fear of failure, parents’ well-meaning intentions can be misguided and their sacrifice self-centered.
Tonight as I sit here writing, one of our family dogs lays curled up on the ottoman at my feet. I’m his favorite of all our family members, though—in truth—it probably has something to do with my keeping his food bowl full! Seymour loves to be outside, but his preferred activity is to rest all seventy-five pounds of his sweet self on my lap. On especially busy days, he remains near me, patiently waiting until I sit down.
Bribery. We typically associate it with a financial exchange or the awarding of position—be it political or otherwise. Human brokenness, however, also lends itself to bribery of the heart. Whether it’s relational manipulation or the promise of belonging, each of us has probably encountered emotional extortion somewhere along life’s path.
Focused, she bustled past me in the canned goods aisle. Her Bluetooth device behind her ear, she filled her grocery cart while carrying on a phone conversation. I saw her again while I was in the self-checkout lane. Cool and collected, her ability to multitask seemed admirable on the surface. However, her curt tone toward a cashier revealed that the woman’s need to be on task had left her unable to care about others.
Darkness wrapped the jet in a quiet comfort, while a few reading lights remained on. Though it was late in the evening and passengers were trying to sleep, the loud chatter of two young women could be heard above the hum of the plane’s engine. Suddenly, an older woman seated in front of them turned around and sharply exclaimed, “Would you two be quiet!” Taken aback, they looked around to see who had heard and began laughing disrespectfully. Turning to glare once more, the disrupted sleeper settled back in her seat.
After walking into a sandwich shop, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to reach out to the young man who took our order. Unsure of how to start, I gathered my food and followed my husband to the patio area. Shortly after we sat down, the same young man came outside to sweep the area. I set aside my fear and began an unscripted conversation. In this unexpected moment, God provided the opportunity for us to discuss how Jesus’ love and the power of the Holy Spirit could help the young man overcome the situations he was facing.
Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.
Gales of laughter spill throughout the room as our daughter doubles over in delight after having bested her dad in their game of “got you.” Keeping points, they look for opportunities to scare each other. Though well into her teen years, my daughter finds great pleasure in scoring a point, while I find great joy in hearing the natural, unhindered delight of those I love.
The spot began as a small discoloration on the baseboard adjacent to one of our bedroom doors. Unsure of what caused it, we dismissed it as an unidentified spill. After a lengthy stretch of rainy days, however, the three-inch spot had not only grown, but the baseboard on the opposite side of the door began to yellow as well. The bowing wood and the musty smell of damp carpet hastened our investigation, and we discovered that our original assessment had neglected to capture the full picture. Overflow from the rain had seeped into the doorframe of our back porch, resulting in damage that had now become plain to see.
Digital footprint. A phrase that describes an ever- present reality didn’t even exist until recently. At the school where I teach, one of our technology leaders challenged us to consider whether our students grasped the permanency of where they go and what they do online. As she spoke, my mind pondered this question: If my digital footprint were a trail to follow, where would it lead others?