Once while on a trip visiting some friends in a village in China, we trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of a waterfall. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by the beautiful vision of a rushing curtain of white water flowing over gray rocks. Spectacular!
“The cable isn’t working!” exclaimed the event organizer with a panicked look on her face. I was speaking at a women’s conference and had arrived early to set up my laptop. The organizer tried to connect my laptop to the projector and found the cable connection didn’t fit. I told her, “Don’t worry. I have the right cable with me.” Thankfully, in my preparations for the event I had packed the needed component. I was grateful to have the right connection!
What makes grass grow thick and green? Would you believe that part of the answer is lightning? The main ingredient in most fertilizers is nitrogen, and the air is full of it. But grass can’t access the nitrogen in the air until lightning moves through it. Lightning heats the air and splits nitrogen into separate molecules. The molecules of nitrogen then join with oxygen and hydrogen and fall as rain—nourishing the vegetation. Who knew that lightning is one of God’s messengers to make the world green?
In The Newlywed Game, a popular game show in the US that ran from 1966 up until 2013, newly married couples were asked questions to determine how well the spouses knew each other. As I reflected on the program, I was reminded of how amazing it is that we have an intimate relationship with God—who both knows us perfectly and helps us to know Him.
As I first listened to the Christian song “Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole, the image my mind conjured up was of a sinful me cowering before a spotless God ablaze in holiness. The thought of Him seeing me through His pure and perfect eyes left me squirming and uncomfortable—certain He wouldn’t find much good there. When the lyrics finally registered, however, I realized that my guilt had caused me to miss the song’s message of hope. Although I can often only see my failures, God sees something beautiful and goes out of His way to wake me up to that fact.
For many years Estelle and her husband worked as missionaries, relying on the financial generosity of others while they shared the love of God through their ministry. Money was often tight. On one occasion, Estelle went into her room to pray about their lack of funds. Opening her Bible, she read these words: “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19). In that moment, the verse felt like a promise to her from God.
Following a long season of loss, hardship, transition, and illness, my heart and mind were in a fragile place. Though my assurance that Jesus Christ is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) remained intact, I had many questions about what it meant to fully trust Him in the day-to-day aspects of life.
When I was a young child, I thought that thunder and lightning were separate phenomena that just happened to occur at the same time. It was only years later that a science teacher explained to me that lightning and thunder are directly connected to one another—that the rapid heating and cooling of the air during a lightning strike causes a massive atmospheric boom which we hear as thunder. In other words, you would never have thunder if lightning didn’t strike first.
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.
My eldest daughter is extremely helpful at home—caring for her younger siblings and even baking cakes for their birthdays. But in her desire to be helpful, she sometimes takes on things that she shouldn’t—such as trying to discipline her siblings or demand that they sit up straight at the table. When she does those things, I have to tell her to stop. This isn’t necessarily because what she’s trying to promote is wrong, but because what she’s taking on is her parents’ role and too heavy for her shoulders.
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.
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!
Many years ago, a poor orphan advertised her piano recitals in order to raise funds. Posters boldly declared that she was a pupil of the celebrated Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt—a blatant lie. To her horror, she discovered that Liszt was coming to the village where she was giving the concert. With trepidation she requested an interview with him, sobbed out her confession, and awaited his stern rebuke. Liszt acknowledged that she had been wrong, but recognized her repentance and asked her to play for him. At first she stumbled over her notes, but as she grew in confidence, she played well. He corrected her a few times and said, “My dear, now I have given you a lesson. You are a pupil of Liszt. Go on with your concert and put on the program that the last piece will be played, not by the pupil, but by the master.”
A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.
Friends often remind me, “You’re not alone.” “God is with you,” they say. “Yes,” I answer. “He is.” Yet there are times—mostly when I’m pressed to accomplish a daunting task without anyone physically present to help me, or when I’m alone for extended periods of time—that I wonder, “Is God here with me?” And, if so, “What does His presence truly mean?”