During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.
Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.
Ahead of me, two rows of cars waited for the traffic light to turn from red to green. Beside us, in the turn lane, a third line of vehicles awaited a green arrow so they could turn left.
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.
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.
You have to stick with that movie, even when it gets rough.” My friend pulled The Shawshank Redemption from the DVD player as he spoke. “The rough stuff is what makes the ending so hopeful.”
In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.
Talking plants? Recent studies have shown that plants can communicate through airborne chemicals and underground networks of fungi. They can even warn neighboring plants about dangers in their environment. And we’ve gone millennia without knowing this!
A police officer rescued a deer whose head had become lodged within a discarded light globe. The officer’s first attempt to pull the plastic object off the frightened animal’s head failed, although it came free during a second try. Officials estimate that the animal had been caught with the globe on its head for at least one full day!
Jordan is a third-generation farmer who is taking over his father’s apple orchards. Recently we were talking about all the agricultural metaphors in the Bible. “On the farm, I learn so many spiritual lessons,” he said. As we conversed further, we discussed John 12:24—in which Jesus talks about the harvest that results from a single seed being buried in the ground. The wisdom found in that verse was encouraging, because during that season of life I was feeling emotionally dead—like a seed buried in the ground.
Maurice Andre was one of the best trumpet players the world has known. He once said that a good trumpet player had to be “like a matador in a bull ring.” He continued, “I see flutists and oboists go on the stage gingerly. If you do that with the trumpet you’re finished.” I believe he was saying that only a certain personality type possesses what it takes to succeed as a trumpet player. Trumpeters can’t hide; every note is heard by every listener! If you don’t have the God-given disposition to handle that, it can truly destroy you.
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.
Docci maintains the property at a radio station where I work. He went to school for only a few years before his father forced him to work with the family’s cows. He eventually ran away to the city, where he found a job with a man who taught him a trade and about faith in Jesus. When Pastor Kevin, a dear friend of the radio station, died, the station manager employed Docci. Although Docci had very little education, the manager knew that the training Docci had received from Kevin made him a great asset.
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.