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.
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.
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.
During a hard time for my family, tears came to my eyes when Alabama’s hit song “Angels Among Us” came on the radio. The song describes how, in our darkest times, when we feel lost and alone, God can use the kindness of others to give us just enough hope to keep hanging on, to keep believing in a God of love. As the words washed over me, I was reassured by remembering how in the hardest times God has always reached out to me through others’ love.
Being on staff at various churches has allowed me to hear a variety of stories. One type I dread is about family members who haven’t spoken to each other for a long time. There’s been a breakdown in communication. I hear, “I have no idea what I did. He (or she) just stopped talking to me. My letters, phone calls, and e-mails aren’t returned.” Indeed, it’s a crushing experience when communication and love between family members falls apart.
When a family in our church lost their home to a fire, fellow church members sprang into action with clothes, shelter and gift cards. Then they helped with the painful process of sifting through the ruins to salvage valuables and memories. Our church put into practice what the apostle Paul instructed: “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
During World War I, German and English soldiers were locked in battle on the Western Front. Thousands of troops on both sides had been killed, and any kind of understanding between the bitter enemies seemed impossible. Yet, on Christmas Day of 1914, something remarkable happened. Soldiers on both sides emerged from their trenches and celebrated Christmas together, singing carols and even engaging in a game of football. For a brief moment, Christmas helped enemies remember their shared values and humanity.
As my friend and I were talking while she was washing the dishes after dinner, I looked up and noticed a wooden plaque above the sink. Engraved on it were the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” After I asked her why she chose to display that verse, she told me it reminds her to honour God through every situation, even when she’s washing dishes!
Talking with a colleague at a Christian school, I was reminded how easy it can be to judge others. Accustomed to the short hairstyles of most of our students, he was offended by the creative haircut of a visiting teen. Challenging his assumptions, I reminded him that our perception of others’ appearance isn’t an accurate way to gauge a mature, spiritual life in Christ.
A missionary pilot from an African nation visited our church to talk about how God was using the aeroplane our congregation had helped purchase for his ministry. He’d studied aviation in our city and, upon graduation, returned to Africa to use the plane as an air ambulance. The roads in his country are in bad condition, and there’s a distressing lack of medical care in the rural villages from which he transports patients. Without air transport, people would die because they have no access to basic medical care or medicine.
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.
More than a dozen families had committed to share life together in a local community. They were so devoted to one another that they bought houses in the same neighborhood. Eventually, one of the men in this group received an excellent job offer in a large city hundreds of miles away. He didn’t, however, immediately take the new position. Instead, he went to his community to seek their wisdom, advice, and prayer about the move. Within a matter of days, all of them sensed he should take the job. But, to his delight, the consensus was that if he moved, five to six of the families would also move with him.
Soldiers in the US Army are expected to live by seven values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. And new recruits are also expected to abide by all of these values—not just the ones they agree with. A private can’t say to a commander, “I like all of these values . . . except duty. I don’t want to do that.” I imagine that would result in a whole lot of push-ups!
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.