On 30 April 2019, Japan’s Emperor Akihito will mark his 85th birthday with a historic act: he will abdicate the throne, something that hasn’t happened in the nation for more than two centuries. While the emperor’s plans are controversial, the larger concern is that the royal line has a diminishing number of heirs, a situation that may eventually develop into a constitutional crisis. These realities are all the more unnerving because the Japanese dynasty is the oldest monarchy in the world, tracing its lineage back to the year 660.
In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s splendid story The Little Prince, a lone pilot crashed in the Sahara. He had no water—only a curious boy from another planet to keep him company. As the man tried desperately to repair his plane, the little prince pestered him with random questions and seemingly idle chatter. The pilot’s exasperation grew until he cried out, “I’m very busy with matters of consequence!”
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!
I hate goodbyes. Especially if I’m close to the one with whom I’m parting ways. I can only imagine the disciples’ pain when Jesus said goodbye, although He assured them He’d see them again soon (John 16:16).
After the cross finished its cruel work, Jesus’ bewildered friends laid His ravaged body in a cold tomb. Night fell, and an eerie silence descended. Jesus’ followers huddled in grief and confusion. What do you do when your entire world crumbles with violent implosion? What’s left when everything you thought you knew, everything you’d hoped in, lies smoldering in ashes? What do you do when God has died?
On the Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion, a woman stood outside of His tomb weeping bitterly. Her dearest friend and mentor had just endured a grisly death. Now it appeared someone had broken into His grave and stolen His battered body (John 20:11-15).
Near the epic conclusion of Tolkien’s Return of the King, Frodo stands on the threshold of destroying the “One Ring of Power.” All he has to do is throw it into the consuming fires of Mount Doom. But the hobbit can’t do it. He holds on to the ring, powerless to let go despite the ring’s destructive power.
The Netflix documentary David and Me tells the story of David McCallum, who in 1986, at only age sixteen, was convicted of murder. But McCallum claimed he was pressured to confess to the crime. And in 2014, DNA tests and forensic analysis on the stolen car revealed that McCallum was innocent. David had spent nearly thirty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
I felt like quitting. I’d given all I had, and it wasn’t enough. I’d failed, and I didn’t feel like trying again. I wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep until forever. How could I possibly keep going?
“The Sermon on the Mount produces despair,” Oswald Chambers said. But he saw that as something good, because at “the point of despair we are willing to come to [Jesus] as paupers to receive from Him.”
“But how are we going to go on without you?” my youth group student asked on my last day as the pastor. I was touched, but I also knew that God loved these kids and would provide the perfect pastor for them, which is precisely what happened. Only weeks after my departure, a replacement was hired who was actually far better qualified than me for youth work. As much as I hate to admit it, my leaving was probably the best thing for that ministry!
Finlandia, composed in 1899, possessed the original title Finland Awakes. Sibelius’ brilliant masterpiece was part of the cultural resistance of Finland’s aggressive neighbor to the east. The symphonic poem begins ominously as brass and percussion swell to a raucous din. But sixty seconds into the clamor, the music softens to an elegant, peaceful beauty—harbinger of a better future for the nation. Finland would indeed awaken.
Water cascades from the top of the Taughannock Falls into a basin 215 feet below. The flow originates from an expansive trench in a wall of sedimentary rock. Trees fringe the top of the wall. During autumn, they adorn the scene with orange, yellow, and red. In the winter, the waterfall’s spray coats the surrounding rock with ice, turning everything a shimmering silver and white.