I overheard someone speaking harshly to another. Though their comments weren’t directed at me, I considered intervening. To guard against the temptation to speak to the offender in an equally unedifying manner, I began repeating in my head: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control . . . ” In this provoking situation, the Spirit’s power helped me to remain calm and keep a tight rein on my tongue.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) and John Wesley (1703–1791) lived more than a century apart and in very different contexts. But both created a means of self-examination to aid in their spiritual transformation. Ignatius recommended that those in the religious order he formed pray an “examen” prayer twice a day to open themselves to the Holy Spirit and to discern the movements of their soul either toward or away from God. John Wesley, similarly, formed a series of twenty-two questions that he and his small group in Oxford asked themselves each night, including, “Did the Bible live in me today? Am I enjoying prayer?” Both men longed to be changed and molded by the Spirit to be more like Jesus.
Piloting an aircraft can be challenging, but for bush pilots who are trained to take off and land in remote areas, it’s especially hard. Those who fly in colder climates can face whiteout conditions in which it’s impossible to navigate by sight. In these situations, the pilots are trained to rely on their instruments, not their senses. They know that their instruments are more reliable than their personal judgment.
Since my children have been able to speak, I’ve recorded things they’ve said in a red notebook which now features a bent cover and curled page corners. A few times each year we read through the entries and reminisce about the (mostly) funny and (occasionally) insightful things the kids said as toddlers and young children. Some of the entries mark moments I still recall, but others would be lost forever if it weren’t for the “red notebook.”
Scientists at Stanford University once conducted a study to measure voice recognition. During the study, twenty-four children heard three audio clips. The clips were less than one second long and contained unintelligible words. One clip was of the mother of each child, while the other two featured voices of women they didn’t know. Despite the brevity of the voice samples, the children identified their mothers’ voices 97 percent of the time!
A rod and a staff—they feel like strange comforts. You think of a sheep in a dark valley with predators all around, and the push of a rod or a wrench of a staff are the only encouragements. They can be a comfort ultimately, but at the time they don’t feel like it.” A friend and I were discussing Psalm 23, highlighting an often overlooked part of it. How, I wondered, can we find consolation in these images of correction? (Psalm 23:4).
At the height of an African government’s struggle with a terrorist rebel group, the president turned to the church for help. As people began to pray, an army chaplain declared that the war wouldn’t be won in battle, but through prayer. Thus began “Operation Gideon.” A team of intercessors gathered for several weeks of prayer and fasting. In time, a systematic breakdown of the rebel group’s influence occurred.
I’ve been mentored by some wonderful leaders over the years. Their encouragement, challenges, criticism, and timely discipline have enabled me to grow and mature. From godly parents and inspirational teachers to leaders in church and the workplace, I’m immensely grateful for their wise counsel. It can be easy to criticize those in authority, but a wise friend once challenged me to prioritize learning from and valuing them.
Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson has remarked. Yet fear is one of the most powerful and consistent forces in human behavior. Even outward obedience can be driven more by fear than love. What does it even mean, we might wonder, to live without being motivated by fear?
In American football, the start of a play is usually hard-hitting as players strive to overpower their opponents. But at the close of a middle school game in 2016, the quarterback simply stood up and started casually walking toward his opponent’s goal line. The opposing team was tricked by his calm demeanor and let him walk for twenty yards before realizing what was going on, and by then it was too late. The quarterback scored and his team won the game—all because he started the play in a way that no one expected.
In March 2016, thirty-six-year-old Adam LaRoche, the first baseman for the Chicago White Sox professional baseball team in the US, resigned after he was told not to bring his fourteen-year-old son into the team’s clubhouse as often as had been his practice. LaRoche walked away from a $13-million contract. Simply put, he refused to place money or fame before family. He announced his retirement in a tweet that read, “Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #FamilyFirst.”
One of my favorite lines in Donita K. Paul’s Realm Walkers book series is, “The called must call upon the caller.” I don’t usually pause to ponder wording in the middle of an action-packed book, but this line left me thinking about what it means to be called.
My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.
“Pastor accused of hurting man in a road rage incident,” read the headline. My first response was to think, As a believer in Jesus, why wasn’t the pastor more forgiving? Why didn’t he show self-control when provoked? Then the realization hit me that I’m equally capable of such behavior. There have been too many times when I’ve been behind the wheel and my daughter has had to remind me, “Chill, Dad, chill.”
A friend and I once did an eight-day hike from Lindisfarne Island to Durham in north England. We went to learn about the godly men and women who had brought Christianity to the region—people like Aidan, Cuthbert, and Bede. I also took the pilgrimage because I was searching for direction.