Not long after the fall of the Iron Curtain, I traveled to Ukraine with a Christian ministry. One evening, I met with two college students who peppered me with questions about faith and God. I was struck by their open and earnest searching, because they had lived for years under a communist regime in which God and religion were outlawed. They weren’t looking for easy answers, but simply wanted to figure out what they believed.
A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”
On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”
Thanks to journalist Swagat Thorat, India has a newspaper for its blind citizens. An estimated 24,000 visually impaired people read the biweekly braille publication. Thorat believes that the ability to read articles about current events is important. He named the newspaper Sparshdnyan, which means: knowledge by touch.
Near the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a villain shoots Indiana’s father to motivate the distressed son to enter a booby-trapped temple and retrieve the Holy Grail. “The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now,” he said. “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.” I deplore what the evil man did, but he was on to something: What we believe determines what we do.
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.”
Mark 5:25-34 contains what I call my “If only I” steps. They’re the desperately needed, often last-resort, actions I often take to reach out to Jesus and find the healing and deeper intimacy I need.
Today was a day of gladness; tonight has been difficult. A seemingly small event had unleashed a torrent of emotion in me. The day before, my husband and I had received difficult news. Being stirred with faith, during the daylight hours I had grabbed on to the inexplicable determination and joy God placed in my heart—even in that difficult place. As the day turned into evening, though, I didn’t feel victorious. I felt lonely, discouraged, and frustrated.
On the homepage of a website I discovered recently, all the global natural disasters for the current year are graphically presented on a world map. Icons reveal landslides, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, erupting volcanoes, windstorms, and more. It’s sobering to see the number of natural disasters that affect people around the globe!
At the beginning of the classic book The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was enjoying a comfortable and predictable life in his home in the Shire—until the mysterious Gandalf dropped in for a surprise visit. Gandalf turned to Bilbo and said, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Bilbo replied, “I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! We don’t want any adventures here, thank you.”
Have you ever felt as if no one was there for you when you faced a difficult and trying time? Perhaps King David’s words reflect what you were feeling: “I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me” (Psalm 142:4).
In 1942, more than 250,000 Jews were transported by the Nazis from Warsaw to the death camp in Treblinka, Poland. Most of these Jews were killed. A social worker named Irena Sendler, however, posed as a nurse to get into the Warsaw ghetto and rescue children. She managed to smuggle more than 2,500 to safety. In hopes of reuniting the children with their families after the war concluded, she hid the children’s names in two jars buried under an apple tree.
While in college, the great missionary Adoniram Judson lost his faith when he fell under the spell of Jacob Eames, a deist who believed that God never interferes in our lives. When he was on a trip, Judson stayed at a village inn next door to a man who was dying. The man’s groans kept Judson awake and he began to think about death. Was he ready to meet God? The next morning Judson learned that the man had died. He asked the innkeeper if he knew who the man was. “Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames . . . Jacob Eames.”