The mood in the church was heavy as believers in my city gathered to mourn the horror of a racist demonstration in America and its deadly aftermath. As we united to grieve and pray, a question seemed to hang in the air: What does it mean to hope during days like this—when evil is on full display and when the justice of God’s kingdom seems far away?
Four year old David climbed into bed one night and folded his hands to pray. “Dear God, thank You for Lego Star Wars,” he said. “General Grievous has four lightsabers! Watch.” He stood up on the bed and began a dramatic rendition of a battle in the air using imaginary lightsabers. His mum tried not to laugh as she watched. David finished his performance, dropped back down on the bed and folded his hands again. “Amen!”
Jesus’ life was full of surprises that defied everyone’s expectations. From an obscure village, He emerged as a miracle-working teacher who built His kingdom with sinners and the sick. Then, when His purposes seemed defeated by His shocking crucifixion, this apparent defeat was reversed with His resurrection only three days later!
The song “You Are My One Thing,” by songwriter Hannah McClure voices a deep cry of the heart to walk closely with God and experience His presence. The lyrics are a beautiful reminder of how our relationship with God can transform our lives. Hannah says that the song came out of a season when God was calling her back to remember the time where she’d first experienced the depth of His love for her.
When we first welcomed a fifteen-year-old Chinese exchange student into our family, we thought it would be for only one year of high school. But years later he’s still part of the family. And we’ve added his younger brother to our growing group. Both young men were quiet and a bit reclusive when they first arrived—adapting to a new culture. But it’s been beautiful to see their hearts open to God’s love and to our own. Their faces now typically display smiles, and laughter effortlessly spills from their lips.
Following World War I, there was no more accomplished golfer than Bobby Jones. In 1930, he achieved the Grand Slam by winning the US Open, British Open, US Amateur, and British Amateur championships—all in the same year! The golfing world was stunned, however, when shortly following those victories Jones decided to retire from golf. He didn’t decide to hang up the spikes because his skills had diminished in any way. Instead, the talented athlete made his decision because he had accomplished the greatest feat in golf at the time and had nothing left to prove. He simply chose to give his golf career a rest.
Golf, with its myriad rules and special victor jackets, is marked by tradition and sportsmanship. But feuds between golfers can be surprisingly bitter, perhaps few more so than the rift between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. So when Garcia won his first major tournament in 2017, commentators expected Woods to scoff and point out how his own accomplishments dwarfed his rival’s. But instead, he tweeted brief but sincere congratulations to Garcia, calling the victory “well-earned.” One can only wonder how Garcia reacted to this unexpected response!
On the evening before his sister’s marriage in 1882, Scottish preacher George Matheson experienced great pain and loneliness. He’d relied on his sister for help with his work as a church leader, so he may have been worried and distraught over how he would cope without her. His emotions were probably also intensified by the memories of some years before when his fiancée, after learning he was going blind, broke off their engagement. That evening Matheson turned his anguish to prayer and, in mere minutes, wrote the now-beloved hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” He who’d felt abandoned found love and rest in the One who would never leave him.
“The self-esteem movement has failed us,” argues Simon Smart in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Smart describes how, in reaction to the (often humiliatingly) performance-based way people’s worth was assessed in the past, culture shifted to emphasize self-esteem. The problem, Smart explains, is that the self-esteem movement implied “you can find everything you need from within yourself”—which ironically left many “feeling deeply inadequate,” isolated, and unprepared for the world’s harsh realities.
Although God’s unconditional love is the foundation of faith in Jesus, really believing in unearned love isn’t easy. As Dale Ryan, CEO of Christian Recovery International, points out, even jokes depicting St. Peter’s questions at the “pearly gates” reveal an assumption that God’s love is extended based on our beliefs.
It’s easy to downplay how traumatic a broken heart can be. But the reality is that being rejected by another person can have a profoundly negative impact on the well-being of a person. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that in the two months following a breakup, 40 percent of those affected are clinically depressed, and 12 percent moderately or severely so. When we’re rejected, it’s hard not to feel unimportant and unloved.
Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Ascent of the Blessed depicts souls being escorted from a place of darkness through a tunnel leading to dazzling light. At the end of the tunnel awaits a radiant being. The painting portrays a phenomenon often described by those who have had a near-death experience—a “tunnel of light” leading to what seems to be heaven.
An amazing phenomenon has recently been discovered: As a sperm meets an egg at human conception, a flash of light is emitted! Researchers have actually captured these mini-fireworks on film.
When we arrive at school each morning, my kids unclick their seatbelts, heave their backpacks onto one shoulder, and climb out of the car. But before my son shuts the door, I call after them: “I love you!” I want my children to face the challenges of each day knowing that I support and care for them.
Many years ago, my pastor was talking with a church youth group about “masks.” He asked the students to state what God would see under their masks, should they choose to remove them. What was under their façades? Most gave superficial answers, but one, a senior in high school, had a much more profound response. She had experienced a painful life that included a suicide attempt and had found trouble nearly everywhere she went. Quietly she said, “I think God would see brokenness, but he would also see beauty.”