The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.
Many of our neighbors’ experiences have left them wondering how to reconcile what they know of the church with what they know of God. They’ve tasted harshness in place of conviction, rejection in lieu of love, and isolation instead of family. Sadly, refraining from any local church involvement has become a norm for them.
A UK survey revealed that 96 percent of the generous donors surveyed gave to charity because they wanted to give back to society and tackle inequality. And 71 percent said they gave because of their faith.
My carpenter friend accidentally cut off a car as he made a lane change. The man driving the car came alongside my friend’s vehicle, shook his fist in anger, and sped off. My friend felt bad and wanted to somehow atone for his driving mistake.
The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic seems like a woeful tale of inevitability. But the truth remains that the demise of the massive ship could have been prevented had its crew listened to others. Ships in the area had tried to warn the Titanic that they were steaming into a field of ice, but the radio operator was so overwhelmed with work that he disregarded these messages and famously wired back, “Shut up, shut up. I am busy . . .” (a comical response had it not been for its catastrophic consequences).
My daughter and I were savoring a school musical performance we’d just witnessed while walking to our car. Our happiness came to a screeching halt, however, as we watched a man approach a waiting vehicle and denigrate the driver for failing to pull forward far enough into the student loading zone. The diatribe was brief, but painful, particularly because it took place in the context of Christian community.
An elderly woman’s two daughters dropped by one day to clean her home. Both made the house sparkle, but the first daughter left the impression that her work was a burden. The second was cheery and made her mother feel that her sacrifice was a joy. Both daughters did the same tasks, but the first seemed to do them out of duty alone. The second revealed that her labors were out of love for her mother.
Writer James Bryan Smith tells the story of how author and speaker Brennan Manning came to better understand the deep love of God. Brennan had a best friend named Ray. They hung around, double-dated, and even bought a car together. In time they enlisted and served in the same military unit.
In 2011, a Brazilian fisherman came across a struggling penguin. The tiny creature’s feathers were soaked with oil and it desperately needed food. So the man took the sickly bird home and cared for it. Once it was healthy, he released it and the bird swam happily away.
Every year during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter), many churches follow Jesus’ example during the Last Supper by washing one another’s feet. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and told them to imitate what He had done. Washing feet is a prayerful and powerful act, but it can also upset our sense of pride, personal space, and privacy. It can be truly unsettling.
“And what do you do, Susan?” I asked over dinner. “Oh, not much,” she said. Approaching the question differently, I asked Susan what she’d done that week. Her answer made me feel exhausted!
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite books. A fictional account about the narrator’s trip to hell and heaven, I love the imagery and the lessons we can glean about what is and what’s not truly important. At one point on his journey deeper and deeper into the heavenly landscape, the narrator notices a huge parade. Musicians, girls, boys, and all sorts of animals are parading in honor of a lady of great renown.
In 2013, a jet crashed in San Francisco, resulting in three tragic deaths. One young woman died not from injuries caused by the crash, but from being run over by a rescue vehicle that rushed to the scene. City authorities conducted an investigation and determined that the death was accidental and that the driver would not face criminal charges. But the board of the airline involved took a very different approach to this tragedy: They called a public press conference and bowed low in apology. Even though they may not have been individually responsible for the girl’s death, they felt they shared responsibility as the leaders of the company.
At times I’m hesitant to invite others to pray for me. If, for example, I say, “Please pray for me, I’m experiencing a spiritual attack in a certain area,” do I sound arrogant? Do I sound as if I think I’ve done something so important the enemy’s trying to stop me? Am I possibly calling something a spiritual attack that’s actually a consequence of something I’ve done or haven’t done? Will friends and ministry partners grow weary of repeated requests for prayer? Are my prayer needs too personal to share?
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place