Many years ago, a relative repeatedly attacked my faith in Jesus. His words and criticism—bathed in cynicism—deeply hurt me. Although he passed away more than a decade ago, and I’ve forgiven him, there are still times I feel as if this relative is standing next to me—belittling me for following Jesus.
Some big interviews lay ahead as I continued my quest to join the UK’s Royal Navy as a chaplain. That included psychometric tests, practical leadership tasks, planning exercises, and the writing of essays. I needed to take several trains down to the interview location, plan my interview techniques, and practice answers.
When I take my kids to a playground, they tumble out of the car and race to the swings or slides. I usually sit on a bench with my purse, containing important medicine, close by. The meds aren’t for me; they’re for my daughter. She has a health condition that can go from bad to worse in seconds. I carry her meds because I don’t want her to have to think about them while she’s playing. How could she dangle from the monkey bars while holding her EpiPen auto-injectors? How could she grasp the metal ropes of a swing while juggling a medication bag?
A friend once wrote a letter to both bless me and draw me deeper into an honest, true life. My friend quoted lines from the novelist James Kavanaugh: “There are men,” Kavanaugh wrote, “who are too gentle to live among wolves.” My friend invited me, amid a violent and self-protective world, to live with a gentle posture, to refuse to grow hard or defensive. The letter contains words that are among the most powerful a friend has ever shared with me.
My husband’s job offer was a welcome answer to prayer, allowing him to spend more time with our family. It required a big move though—the third in 7 years. His work had previously taken us to the Middle East and South Africa, and now, with the prospect of returning to England, we felt cautiously excited. In the midst of all the logistics, important decisions, piles of paperwork that had to be completed, and the packing of all our belongings into shipping boxes, we also had an overwhelming sense of God’s “perfect peace.”
Move to a new home, or stay at the old address? This question filled my mind for several days as my husband and I discussed the possibilities. A handful of problems were obvious when we toured a prospective home. For instance, a pipe in the basement jutted up from the floor into the middle of a room. And there was an odd odor in the cellar. Still, there were new cupboards and beautiful windows that would let sunlight pour in.
According to the American Institute of Stress, stress- related illnesses cost the US economy $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year. Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stress than they did 5 years ago. Family relationships, job-related challenges, and even academic studies are a few stressors that weigh citizens down.
She told me that she was depressed. It was so bad that she had attempted suicide more than once. And even though she wasn’t at a dangerously dark state at that moment, she was still in a deep hole. Struggling with sleep, she hadn’t enjoyed a good night’s rest in a long, long time.
Our young daughter has developed the habit of singing whenever I cut her toenails. Her musical expression seems to shift her focus from the instinct to pull her foot away to the joy of happy melodies. Research has proven the physiological, neurological, and emotional benefits of singing. So belting out your favorite tune will help elevate your mood, boost your immune system, and benefit your brain.
Recently as I sat in a circle of leaders from our church, a woman asked a simple question, provoking rich discussion. “What are your hopes for our church?” There were several responses, for our little community has many hopes. But on that night this spilled out of me: “I hope we become more and more the kind of people who learn to resist the anxieties of this world because we believe Jesus is with us and that Jesus is doing something with us.”
During a conversation with friends, several in the circle took turns recounting their early experiences with certain words in the Christian vocabulary. One person said, “Whenever I heard the word life mentioned by a Christian or in the Bible, I always thought it was only talking about heaven. I never thought it had much to do with me right now.” Most everyone nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it was difficult to know what there really was to be excited about,” another confessed. “I imagined playing harps somewhere in the clouds, and I felt guilty when the whole idea just didn’t excite me too much.”
Wolves devour lambs. Leopards pounce on goats. A calf is never safe around a lion, and neither is a child! Though very touching, the picture of predators living in harmony with their prey can strike us as naïve. Prophetic pictures of such a scene have been interpreted different ways, but the image is striking. So, how different would things have to be for animals to be able to live like that? Perhaps not that different at all.
Several years ago I read about people who paid $2,500 per night at specific hotels in order to be disconnected from the Internet, their cell phones, and all other types of technology that pierce the silence. They were willing to pay a lot of money to obtain what they hoped would be some peace of mind—even if it was temporary. They were willing to pay a hefty price for some silence and solitude.
In 1893, the inventor of the machine gun was asked if his invention would make wars even more devastating. He replied that he believed they would make wars impossible. Many inventors and great scientists have said similar things over the years, only to discover that this was not the truth. Scientific progress has not slowed the beat of war, but has only made it far more deadly than it had ever been before.
I once met a beautiful East African girl named Mercy, a patient at a hospital where I volunteered in Kampala, Uganda. During one of my visits, the girl’s teenage brother summoned me to his sister’s bed. He explained that their parents had died and he, at age 14, was his sister’s sole caregiver. “I have learned you and a Mzungu man [my friend, David Kuo] gave pillows to the patients last week,” he said. “My sister, named Mercy, wasn’t here when you came. She has never slept on a pillow before. Would you please bring her one?”