During the school holidays, we drove out to the seaside town of Scarborough on the northeast coast of England. As we walked along the beach, we were fascinated by the sight of all the boats stranded in the harbor. The tide was out and the boats stood upright in the sand. Anyone wanting to navigate one of them would have to wait for the powerful, surging waters of the tide to come in again.
Just as some people have to sleep beneath mosquito nets to ward off the little bloodsuckers, some parrotfish spin cocoons of mucus before they nod off. They secrete the mucus “sleeping bag” around themselves for protection from predators.
If I asked you to hum the melody of Amazing Grace, it’s likely you would know it. It’s a well-known song that reminds us about God’s astonishing forgiveness. His grace gave us spiritual sight when we were blind—allowing us to draw near to Him. God’s grace makes us shiver in reverence of Him, but it also eases our fears. As the song says, God’s grace is truly amazing!
The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.
Unsolicited emails are as annoying as a swarm of insects. Perhaps you made an online purchase and later received a stream of follow-up emails enticing you to buy other products. There’s only one way to try to stop them—unsubscribe!
As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!
In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.
One day as I drove by a vineyard located several miles from my house, I noticed a sign that read: Fieldworkers needed. For just a moment I imagined myself hard at work, standing between rows of vines with the sun on my neck and sweat on my face. I could almost smell the fruit ripening in the summer heat and feel myself snapping clusters of grapes from beneath broad leaves.
The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.
Deep in the African bush lives a missionary couple named Bob and Martha, who have served in Namalu (a village in Karomoja, Uganda) for more than fifteen years. Despite formidable challenges such as surrounding tribal conflicts, it is here that they’ve chosen to raise their children and joyfully lead a vibrant ministry.
My great-grandfather was a Romanian sailor on the King Carol I warship during World War II. On October 10, 1941, he was one of twenty-one sailors who lost their lives when the ship hit a mine and sank near Varna, Bulgaria. Until the beginning of World War I, King Carol I had served as a cruise ship. Once the war started, the ship was transformed into a warship with guns and special armor for launching mines and grenades. While I’m proud and thankful for the legacy my great-grandfather left, I know that I am also engaged in war. It is a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Just as King Carol I was especially armored for war, I need to arm myself for the spiritual battles I face.
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.
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.
A few years ago, writer Maureen Dowd was in Australia to promote her book Are Men Necessary? At one event, Dowd and a female interviewer were on stage when a member of the audience asked if a podium blocking her view could be moved. In an instant, two men heaved aside the heavy podium as the audience began to laugh. “Are men necessary?” the interviewer quipped, “I think the question has been answered.”
If there’s a frustration more annoying than overly complex or—worse—incomplete instructions, I’m not sure what it is. Automated answering systems, perhaps? “Your call is important to us. Please listen carefully to . . . blah, blah, blah.” That’s why I so appreciated this serene simplicity from a New Zealand-based company: “If the GPS has been recently used, you should get a fix almost immediately. If it hasn’t, put the GPS outside with a clear view of the sky and have a cup of tea.”