Sitting near the front of our church every Sunday you’ll find a family with a teenage son who personifies joy. Landon never says anything more than “hi” due to his special needs. But he loves music!
It was a cold December when my father’s health began to dramatically fail. The joy of Christmas was a bit muted. Two weeks later on his ninetieth birthday, my dad went to be with his Savior. There were tears of grief, but there was also joy. My father had been set free from the ravages of disease. And when he took his last breath, he enjoyed a truly new day in Jesus’ presence!
Many years ago, a love-struck groom on a military base penned a love letter to his young bride. But then the letter was lost by the postal service. Forty-six years later, a crew dismantling an old post office discovered it. They turned it over to the postmaster who found the man and his wife and gave it to them days after their fiftieth wedding anniversary! The love expressed in the letter had endured the test of several decades.
An amazing phenomenon has recently been discovered: As a sperm meets an egg at human conception, a flash of light is emitted! Researchers have actually captured these mini-fireworks on film.
Recently, several books have helped me grapple with systemic injustices woven into many social systems. One book cataloged how our criminal justice system can often be stacked against those at the margins. Another shared how the working poor have often been neglected and abused while those in power have profited from their misfortune. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we wade into this disturbing information. And these are only two urgent issues. What are we to do? How are we to make things right?
The song “Go Light Your World,” has long been a favorite of mine for its portrayal of the power of the gospel. The lyrics, echoing Matthew 5’s image of believers as the light of the world, provocatively invite the church to actively seek out—even run to—places of pain that are in need of the hope of the gospel.
In an annual custom dating back to Medieval England, the mayor of the town of High Wycombe attends a weighing-in ceremony where residents witness whether their representative has been getting fat on taxpayers’ money. If the mayor has remained the same weight or has lost weight, the crowd cheers; but if he has put on weight, the crowd jeers at his obvious “overindulgence” throughout the year. In times past, the crowd would go so far as to pelt the offending mayor with rotten tomatoes and fruit.
Coming from a family where I was the oldest of five children, I just assumed my husband and I would easily begin having children soon after our wedding day. Our hopes began to fade however as month after long month passed with no joyful news. One morning, however, my hair stylist asked, “Have you had a baby recently?” I was shocked. She explained that the quality of my hair indicated that my body had experienced a rush of hormones, leaving her to wonder whether I’d recently given birth. I hadn’t, of course, but I soon found out I was pregnant—with twins! In the midst of my fear and sadness I heard news that ignited hope of a future filled with joy.
All too soon, we’ll be hearing New Year’s resolutions. Check out this clever social media post from several years ago: “Increase my relationship status from ‘forever alone’ to ‘slightly desperate.’ ”
The British TV series As Time Goes By tells the story of a couple separated by war and reunited 38 years later. The show chronicles how the man and woman come together to form a deep, loving relationship. Through the ups and downs, the couple never loses sight of the fact that they were granted a second chance at love.
The myth of the Chinese New Year festival tells of a demon, Nian, who lived in the mountains. On the first day of the year, Nian would come into the village, steal the children, and eat livestock and grain. One day, an old man visited the village and gave the horrified people a solution. They were to hang red signs on their doors and make loud music—things the demon didn’t like. The Chinese word for New Year Guo Nian (过年) literally means “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian.”
In a 2016 Washington Post article, Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist Howard A. Smith wrote that “the universe, far from being a collection of random accidents, appears to be stupendously perfect and fine-tuned for life.” Smith went on to describe the unique ways Earth is designed—that it doesn’t seem to be simply a random little planet as some would believe.
I have a friend, a nurse, who recently went to Thessaloniki, Greece, to work in three refugee camps, primarily serving mothers and young babies who were far from home in the bitter cold. The overwhelming majority of the refugees are from Syria, where their villages and cities, once places of laughter and life, are now mostly rubble. In an email, my friend attached an image of one of the refugee tents where someone had scribbled on the outside: “We are not refugees, we are prisoners here. We want a better life.”
“Where will the word / resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words from T. S. Eliot’s haunting poem “Ash Wednesday” lament a world of people so hardened and afraid that they “walk among noise and deny the voice.” The poem echoes the thought of John 1, where the light of Jesus persistently shines in the darkness of a world that will not recognize Him (Isaiah 55:5,10).