In the middle of the twentieth century, Japan and America were embroiled in a bitter war which only came to an end with the detonation of two nuclear bombs. Yet in the decades that followed, these two countries worked hard to forge peace not only through the ceasing of hostility, but through military and economic cooperation and cultural exchange. Today, the two former enemies are close allies.
In August 1999, Georgina’s mother opened the hatch door in the church wall and carefully placed her baby inside a ‘baby bin’. She hoped her daughter would now finally be given the care she needed.
Reminiscent of an era we wish were bygone, individuals consumed with hatred and prejudice carried torches and shouted slogans from a hideous time in America’s racial history as they marched across a university lawn. Barely twenty-four hours later, the governor of the state in which the school is located declared a state of emergency due to violent clashes. Only the base depravity of sin decries the life of another as less valuable, less human—and only the power of the cross brings us deliverance.
After coming to faith in Jesus, John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”, made the dramatic change from being a slave trader to influencing the eighteenth-century movement to abolish slavery in England. But he didn’t fully turn to Jesus in the moments when he first famously cried out to God when he thought his ship was sinking. In fact, Newton admitted that he probably wasn’t a true believer until much later.
In 2017, two surveys highlighted the growing number of lonely people in the UK. One report claimed that some eight million men felt lonely at least once a week, with an estimated three million experiencing it every day. Another survey of more than 2,000 people suggested that nearly 75 percent of young people with disabilities suffered from loneliness.
In a previous ministry position, I was responsible for directing pastoral care at a church. My job was to remind people of God’s presence through my presence and prayers as well as to oversee those offering care to others. When someone was sick or dying, a family was going through a crisis, or a newborn baby was brought home, I was there to offer care, as well as discover if and how our church family could help further.
Researcher Brené Brown describes encountering in her work a unique group of people who seemed able to find significant joy and purpose in their lives regardless of their circumstances. The common thread uniting such people? Vulnerability. Perhaps counterintuitively, Brown found that those most willing to face their insecurities were also those most rooted in a secure sense of love and belonging.
A man had served as a leader within his local church for many years. But then he stopped his involvement altogether. He’d prayed for God to heal his cancer-stricken wife, but her condition had only gotten worse. In the mysterious absence of healing, this man concluded that God didn’t care. These painful circumstances caused him to doubt God’s love itself.
While dying of cancer, a seven-year-old Ugandan child named Okello Dikens became a leader. Though he wasn’t at the helm of a company, he exercised a profound influence through his example of faith, kindness, and service.
One of my favorite TV commercials of all time involves a man and a woman sitting in a conference room together. The man suddenly proclaims his attraction to her. While the woman is surprised, she responds that she feels the same way. But then the man turns his head toward her, revealing that he was actually talking to someone else on the phone via an earpiece—his passionate proclamation wasn’t meant for her. Oops!
I love how joy can bubble up, unbidden. It can surprise me when I walk next to a gurgling brook or when I catch a glimpse of the faces of family and friends. Even when I fret about the friend whose feelings I’ve hurt, I can seek God’s help and peace as I release to Him my anxiety and receive the gift of His joy.
After the cross finished its cruel work, Jesus’ bewildered friends laid His ravaged body in a cold tomb. Night fell, and an eerie silence descended. Jesus’ followers huddled in grief and confusion. What do you do when your entire world crumbles with violent implosion? What’s left when everything you thought you knew, everything you’d hoped in, lies smoldering in ashes? What do you do when God has died?
The song “You Are My One Thing,” by songwriter Hannah McClure voices a deep cry of the heart to walk closely with God and experience His presence. The lyrics are a beautiful reminder of how our relationship with God can transform our lives. Hannah says that the song came out of a season when God was calling her back to remember the time where she’d first experienced the depth of His love for her.
When we first welcomed a fifteen-year-old Chinese exchange student into our family, we thought it would be for only one year of high school. But years later he’s still part of the family. And we’ve added his younger brother to our growing group. Both young men were quiet and a bit reclusive when they first arrived—adapting to a new culture. But it’s been beautiful to see their hearts open to God’s love and to our own. Their faces now typically display smiles, and laughter effortlessly spills from their lips.