Susanna Wesley strived to spend as much time in prayer as in her many other activities. She led Sunday afternoon church during her husband’s travels, homeschooled her ten children, and kept written records of her time with God. She did this despite facing grief, poverty, health issues, and the challenge of often being apart from her spouse due to his travels. Hard-pressed to find privacy in a full house of ten children, she often prayed with an apron over her head. Her example, however, laid the foundation for the prolific ministries of her sons John and Charles.
My professor surprised our class one day when he said, “Jesus died for cows.” He didn’t mean we should evangelize cattle. But, he explained, since cows are part of the creation “subjected to God’s curse” (Romans 8:20) as a result of human sin, cows belong to the world that “has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). That means cows are part of the “everything” God is bringing “under the authority of Christ,” having “reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).
Inspired by Polynesian mythology, the Disney animated movie Moana skillfully depicts the story of a brave teenager who strives to save her people from hunger and ultimate destruction. A selfish demigod had stolen the heart of “Te Fiti,” the goddess of creation. Because her heart was stolen, the world began to die. After a dangerous journey, Moana returns the heart to Te Fiti who is then transformed. Instead of death, Te Fiti provides life and hope to Moana and her people.
While sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic’s shop, I watched a segment on the waiting room’s television about a “Secret Santa.” Each year he gives away $100,000 in $100 bills to strangers. In the segment I viewed, the “Secret Santa” was in a grocery store handing $100 to a female senior citizen. It turned out that the woman had been suffering greatly as she battled stage IV cancer. She was surprised and overwhelmed by the “Secret Santa’s” gift, but more so by the kindness that motivated him to give it.
Not long ago, scientists believed that the effects of trauma and stress affected only the generation that had experienced their effects. But recent research indicates that children are also affected by their parents’ trauma: the impact of such events passed down to future generations. So exactly how far in the future can the effects of trauma be felt?
As a teen, I knew I wanted to attend college, so I tried to earn good grades. Later, like many high school seniors, I worked through test exercises to ready myself for entrance exams. I chewed through pencils (and my nails) trying to perfect admissions essays. In the end, this preparation—along with God’s blessing—allowed me to gain access to the school I was hoping to attend.
Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17 year old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”
“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.
Every Christian has a story to tell. Some conversion testimonies are more dramatic and spectacular than others. Some claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, or that He healed them of a terminal disease. My simple story is that 45 years ago, someone shared the gospel with me and I believed. There was no thunder and lightning, but my heart was changed forever.
My coworkers bring me great joy; we’re like family. In large part, it’s the reason I’ve chosen to keep working where I do, even though my organization has experienced numerous transitions. But I know this isn’t typical; a job often is a difficult place to find strong relationships. For some, work is simply a way to put food on the table.
Comforting anyone who’s lost a loved one is difficult, but the challenge is particularly hard for those who work with children whose parents have died. In such situations, one might think that it’s best to help children forget the trauma they’ve endured. But therapists have discovered that the opposite is actually true—remembrance helps children cope with their loss. Remembering all the good memories they shared with their parents helps them see their past with joy and their future with hope.
“Risen Lord, teach us to trust: the power of your cross.” I read the words of this liturgy after a week of heartbreaking news in my country, the kind of week when trust is difficult. For many people today, despair feels easier than hope, and fear and hatred feel more powerful than love.
The children in my church love to sing action songs. With joy and enthusiasm, they act out the lyrics. Seeing their exuberant childlike faith, I’m challenged to believe that because Jesus is with me, I can rejoice in the trials and pains of life.
I’ve witnessed church conflict close up, and it’s often not pretty. Accusation and counteraccusation, name-calling, gossip, betrayal, and heartache—all of these can oppose the fullness of life that God has brought. Unresolved conflict among God’s people can not only rip apart its members, but can also weaken and destroy our witness to a watching world.