“Art people are so weird!” my friend exclaimed. She was telling me about her experiences in art class during her first semester as a graphics design major. I smiled. At the time, I’d just completed my creative writing degree, so I laughed and said, “I don’t know if writers are weird. If they are, I guess I am too!”
When a busy mother asks her teenager to clean her room, the daughter replies in an irritated voice, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” The mother retorts, “You are busy. I’m busy too. But you’re busy with your own stuff, while I’m busy with everyone else’s stuff!”
During a conference, believers in Jesus discussed differing perspectives on the relationship between Scripture and science. Although we disagreed about important matters, it was obvious the participants on all sides loved Jesus. We didn’t let our differences disguise our bond as members of God’s family. In fact, our unity seemed even sweeter because it shone within our differences.
During two different semesters, I taught a “Discipleship Ministries” course to pastors and lay leaders at our local seminary. As we were reading through the Sermon on the Mount, memorizing Romans 12, and reading through Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, one of my students said he’d been convicted. For the first time, he truly understood how Jesus wanted him to live out his faith in his workplace—a place where he’d often been tempted to harbor contempt toward moody and rude customers.
Elizabeth Stone wrote that having a child is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Indeed. My biggest fear is that my children might walk away from God.
While sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic’s shop, I watched a segment on the waiting room’s television about a “Secret Santa.” Each year he gives away $100,000 in $100 bills to strangers. In the segment I viewed, the “Secret Santa” was in a grocery store handing $100 to a female senior citizen. It turned out that the woman had been suffering greatly as she battled stage IV cancer. She was surprised and overwhelmed by the “Secret Santa’s” gift, but more so by the kindness that motivated him to give it.
Every Wednesday evening from 6 to 7, rain or shine—or even snow—our little band of disciples gathers in our church’s tiny chapel to pray. Our prayer meeting is open to everyone, but there are usually just four to ten people who gather together.
A poll released in early 2017 revealed that nearly one in five Americans define themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Though it’s difficult to nail down what exactly that means, the phrase generally reveals a person’s subjective sense of some higher power or essence but no commitment to any tangible religious tradition or community.
During the fourteen years I’ve lived and served in East Africa, I’ve had a few opportunities to join others on safaris. Typically, we’ve encountered large herds of elephants, Cape buffalo, zebras, and gazelles.
I’ve learned through various job and ministry experiences that being surrounded by others too long can often lead to exhaustion, anxiety, or stress. There are other relationships, however, that create a sense of rest in our lives even though the investment in those individuals makes demands on our time and energy.
When I was growing up, my mother established a wonderful pattern for our family. Every night before bed, she would gather us around her, open the Bible, and have us take turns reading a few verses. Afterwards we would all briefly discuss the passage, and then we would pray together. No matter how tired she was, my mother would always bring us to the Scriptures.
Being on staff at various churches has allowed me to hear a variety of stories. One type I dread is about family members who haven’t spoken to each other for a long time. There’s been a breakdown in communication. I hear, “I have no idea what I did. He (or she) just stopped talking to me. My letters, phone calls, and e-mails aren’t returned.” Indeed, it’s a crushing experience when communication and love between family members falls apart.
One summer break during college, I went with three friends to the Grand Canyon for a rim-to-rim hike. Carrying a sixty-pound pack through suffocating heat, we trekked mile after mile, snaking down the Kaibab Trail and across the scorching canyon floor. At one point, I blacked out and awoke moments later with my friends gazing down at me. They pulled me to a safe spot, took the pack off my back, and had me eat Starbursts candy (sugar was just what I needed). That escapade could have gone very differently if I’d been hiking alone!
Augustus, the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2:1, was a divisive figure. He instituted the imperial cult— religious worship of emperors—which would later cause the death of many Christians. But he was also the leader who established the Pax Romana, a period of relative peace in that part of the world. Before then, the Roman Empire was continually seeking to expand and conquer. Augustus’ idea of peace, for nations to seek to live in relative harmony, was completely novel to the aggressive Roman Empire.
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.