Category  |  relationships

Judgment and Obedience

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

Famously Anxious

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!

In the Details

Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.

A Home for All

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, one of the brightest stories was the International Olympic Committee’s decision to field the first-ever team of Refugee Olympic Athletes, a team of athletes who have no country. Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, explained the decision: “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes.” Ten Olympians comprised the squad—refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

You Have a Choice

You mean, I can choose to believe in Jesus?” my young Nepali friend asked in surprise as I was giving her a ride to the grocery store. She was an international student at the same university I was attending and had been coming for several months to a weekly Bible study. As we were discussing her thoughts regarding the study, she suddenly became shocked by the realization that she could choose what to believe. She had grown up in a culture where faith was something she was born into, with no choice given to her.

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Together Forever

A Chinese translator told a visiting theologian that her Buddhist parents admired the teachings of Jesus, but they were offended by the idea that someone had to believe in Him to be saved. They worried that their Christian daughter now believed her ancestors were in hell. The translator said, “Revering my ancestors means much to me, and I want to assure my parents that I do not want to dishonor my family heritage. So please tell me what I, as a Christian, can say to my parents about this.”

Reflections of Marriage

Our pastor read this verse during a sermon: “It’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Quite happily wed himself, he followed the reading by saying, “Marriage complicates things.” Seconds later, a masculine voice emitted a long exaggerated “Aaaaamen.” The congregation broke into laughter.

Passing By

During a political election year, a tow truck driver was called to assist a woman who was stranded with a broken-down vehicle. But the truck driver, upon seeing a bumper sticker on the car for a candidate he disliked, informed the motorist that he wouldn’t help her and drove away. His actions remind me how we sometimes choose to ignore those who need our help.

Rest Affects

One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.

Bubbles

Sarah sometimes wonders if she only believes in Jesus because she’s surrounded by family and friends who also do. She asked, “Am I a Christian because it’s true or because I live in a Christian bubble?”

Ultimate Authority

During a recent presidential election year in my country, I found myself disappointed by the behavior of some of our Christian leaders. They told us to put our hope in Jesus, but their words and actions indicated they were putting their hope in “Caesar”—in political power.

Related Topics

relationships > accountability

Running the Race

By lap three of seven I was already exhausted. My trainer told me to give 80 percent of my best effort at first and build up to “200 percent on the final lap!” As I rounded the bend before that last lap, he shouted, “I need you to be throwing up at the finish line!” Unfortunately, I duly obliged. But I finished well and clocked a great time.

Shared Responsibility

In 2013, a jet crashed in San Francisco, resulting in three tragic deaths. One young woman died not from injuries caused by the crash, but from being run over by a rescue vehicle that rushed to the scene. City authorities conducted an investigation and determined that the death was accidental and that the driver would not face criminal charges. But the board of the airline involved took a very different approach to this tragedy: They called a public press conference and bowed low in apology. Even though they may not have been individually responsible for the girl’s death, they felt they shared responsibility as the leaders of the company.

Blinding Blue Pants

Oh, Dad . . . Dad,” he said with equal parts love and horror. Pointing at his father’s shocking blue pants, he went on: “It looks like you’re an aging youth pastor trying to look young.”

relationships > adoption

A Special Mom

Most people would agree that mothers are very special people. In many countries, we even set aside a date on the calendar—Mother’s Day—to celebrate them. As I was thinking about my own mom, I remembered another mother who’s truly worth knowing. Jochebed protected her newborn—“a special baby”—because she loved him (Exodus 2:2). The law of a power-hungry king required baby Moses to be drowned. But due to her deep faith in God, she was “not afraid to disobey the king’s command” (Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23). Moses was saved in an amazing way! By God’s providence, Jochebed became Moses’ nursemaid. And when Moses was older, he was “taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). The infant in peril became a prince of privilege (Exodus 2:7-10).

Adopted

Pastor Adrian and his wife, Antoinette, had two biological sons and then adopted baby Rosie several years ago. For most of Adrian’s life, he has dealt with nose bleeds—an affliction his sons have inherited. One day, little Rosie ran into the house holding her nose and grinning from ear to ear as she said, “See, Daddy, my nose is bleeding—just like Mark and John!” For Rosie, a nosebleed was another way of identifying with her adopted family.

mother robin

Thousands of Indonesian women refer to Robin Lim as “Mother Robin” because she helped them through pregnancy and childbirth. Without her care and access to the clinics she established, the women wouldn’t have been able to afford the care they needed. Lim says, “Every baby’s first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world isn’t there yet.”

relationships > community

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

A Home for All

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, one of the brightest stories was the International Olympic Committee’s decision to field the first-ever team of Refugee Olympic Athletes, a team of athletes who have no country. Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, explained the decision: “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes.” Ten Olympians comprised the squad—refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

Bubbles

Sarah sometimes wonders if she only believes in Jesus because she’s surrounded by family and friends who also do. She asked, “Am I a Christian because it’s true or because I live in a Christian bubble?”

relationships > dating

compatibility in Christ

Get married. Make babies.” That’s the annual clarion call from the Singapore government due to a declining population challenge. As a single woman living in this small country, I know the message is targeted at me.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

temptations we face

This is the last snack I’m going to eat today, you tell yourself. Then 5 minutes later you’re looking for another one! Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar Fat, reveals how food companies study ways to “help” people crave junk food. Some of the food industry’s biggest names hire “crave consultants” to determine people’s “bliss points”—the conditions when food companies can optimize consumers’ cravings. One popular company spends $30 million a year to determine the bliss points of consumers.

relationships > difficult relationships

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Because of Sunday

What would you do if you only had one week to live? Would you touch base with a few friends? Spend time with your family?

relationships > divorce

Loving Correction

In an interview on a popular website, an author was asked about her divorce and remarriage. The divorce had devastated her and her ex-husband, she said. She had believed marriage was a lifelong commitment and still did, and she had sought pastoral guidance as to whether remarriage to her new husband was right. I finished the article and scrolled down to the comments section.

always

I was talking with a friend whose marriage had ended in divorce. For years he tried to apologize and to rebuild a relationship that was broken. His wife, however, was bitter over an event that she couldn’t forgive—or forget. The event involved a loving act he had done to help her, but she didn’t see it that way. And her heart became stone.

changeless

She said to him, “I don’t want to try to fix our marriage. It’s over.” What had started with such high hopes and evident love was now a cold, lifeless thing. My friend desired to see renewal and restoration in their relationship, but his wife made it clear that the two of them had changed and that their marriage would soon end.

relationships > employer/employee

Rest Affects

One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.

lazy living

Humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow.” The tale of the grasshopper and the ant by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is a stark reminder of the detrimental impact of lazy living. Throughout the summer, the ant worked hard, gathering and storing food for the winter. The lazy grasshopper laughed at him, saying it was time to play and sing. When winter gripped the land, however, the grasshopper had no food and begged the ant to let him have some, but there was no excess to share.

stealing vs. working

When my twin sister and I were 5 years old, we began counting the money we had in our piggybanks. It turned out that one of us had more than the other. To our young minds, this just wasn’t right. So, we decided to balance our accounts by helping ourselves to our mother’s money!

relationships > enemies

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Passing By

During a political election year, a tow truck driver was called to assist a woman who was stranded with a broken-down vehicle. But the truck driver, upon seeing a bumper sticker on the car for a candidate he disliked, informed the motorist that he wouldn’t help her and drove away. His actions remind me how we sometimes choose to ignore those who need our help.

Go the Extra Mile

Three boys hatched a plan to earn enough money to buy their own brand-new bicycles. Their strategy was to call around their neighborhood, offering to do yard work or run an errand in exchange for a small amount of cash.

relationships > family

Famously Anxious

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!

You Have a Choice

You mean, I can choose to believe in Jesus?” my young Nepali friend asked in surprise as I was giving her a ride to the grocery store. She was an international student at the same university I was attending and had been coming for several months to a weekly Bible study. As we were discussing her thoughts regarding the study, she suddenly became shocked by the realization that she could choose what to believe. She had grown up in a culture where faith was something she was born into, with no choice given to her.

Together Forever

A Chinese translator told a visiting theologian that her Buddhist parents admired the teachings of Jesus, but they were offended by the idea that someone had to believe in Him to be saved. They worried that their Christian daughter now believed her ancestors were in hell. The translator said, “Revering my ancestors means much to me, and I want to assure my parents that I do not want to dishonor my family heritage. So please tell me what I, as a Christian, can say to my parents about this.”

relationships > friendship

Lifting the Lonely

I’m lonely,” wrote Augusten Burroughs in one of his edgy memoirs. “And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs.” I’ve seen Burroughs’ quote shared multiple times on social media. Clearly, he’s expressed a feeling many of us share.

Clueless at the Light

Ahead of me, two rows of cars waited for the traffic light to turn from red to green. Beside us, in the turn lane, a third line of vehicles awaited a green arrow so they could turn left.

Good Company

To Kill a Mockingbird is a much-loved story about two young children coming of age in the American South, a region wracked by racial conflict and injustice during much of the 20th century. Fans were thrilled when a follow-up novel by author Harper Lee was released. But in Go Set a Watchman, readers were dismayed to find that a beloved and honorable character in the first book had transformed into an unapologetic racist in his later years. This twist forces the reader to confront the character’s evolving beliefs, as well as their own.

relationships > leadership

Judgment and Obedience

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

Ultimate Authority

During a recent presidential election year in my country, I found myself disappointed by the behavior of some of our Christian leaders. They told us to put our hope in Jesus, but their words and actions indicated they were putting their hope in “Caesar”—in political power.

A Way Out

The email began: “All, I try not to overload your reading with too many articles. But when I find one that is so good, I can’t help but to share it with you.”

relationships > marriage

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

relationships > mentoring

Source of Truth

Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.

Purpose

T he Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times advice book bestseller list for one of the longest periods in history. With more than 30 million copies sold, it’s obvious many readers have turned to it as a source for living with meaning.

The Line Between

Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.

relationships > neighbors

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

Passing By

During a political election year, a tow truck driver was called to assist a woman who was stranded with a broken-down vehicle. But the truck driver, upon seeing a bumper sticker on the car for a candidate he disliked, informed the motorist that he wouldn’t help her and drove away. His actions remind me how we sometimes choose to ignore those who need our help.

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

relationships > parenting

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

Famously Anxious

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!

A Special Mom

Most people would agree that mothers are very special people. In many countries, we even set aside a date on the calendar—Mother’s Day—to celebrate them. As I was thinking about my own mom, I remembered another mother who’s truly worth knowing. Jochebed protected her newborn—“a special baby”—because she loved him (Exodus 2:2). The law of a power-hungry king required baby Moses to be drowned. But due to her deep faith in God, she was “not afraid to disobey the king’s command” (Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23). Moses was saved in an amazing way! By God’s providence, Jochebed became Moses’ nursemaid. And when Moses was older, he was “taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). The infant in peril became a prince of privilege (Exodus 2:7-10).

relationships > reconciliation

Driving for Peace

My carpenter friend accidentally cut off a car as he made a lane change. The man driving the car came alongside my friend’s vehicle, shook his fist in anger, and sped off. My friend felt bad and wanted to somehow atone for his driving mistake.

Winning Wars

Yesterday, someone wrote and asked me to help with a large event she’s overseeing. Time constraints made it easy for me to reply, “Sorry, but I’m unavailable.”

Jesus the Reconciler

I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.

relationships > sexuality

boiling water

In the classic tale of the two frogs, one is placed into a pot of boiling water and is so shocked by the experience that it quickly jumps out. The other is lowered into a pot of cold water over a low heat. The heat is gradually turned up to boiling point, but the frog doesn’t realize the subtle change in temperature and allows itself to slowly boil to death.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

an unwed mother

Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!

relationships > singleness

Reflections of Marriage

Our pastor read this verse during a sermon: “It’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Quite happily wed himself, he followed the reading by saying, “Marriage complicates things.” Seconds later, a masculine voice emitted a long exaggerated “Aaaaamen.” The congregation broke into laughter.

the three Cs

I recently heard a speaker who had engaged in an immoral lifestyle in his younger years, but later received Jesus as his Savior. He now oversees a thriving ministry. In his talk, he described “three Cs” that should comprise intimate relationships.

sexual freedom

Nearly half of the children born in my country are born to unwed mothers. One million more are aborted each year. Teenagers can purchase over-the-counter “morning after” pills. Our Supreme Court has ruled that men may marry men and women may marry women, and anyone who says otherwise is injuring them. Few people think they should wait for marriage to have sex, and many who do marry still end up divorcing their spouse.