“I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, What did we bring to the world?” Tony Fadell, who helped create the iPhone, voiced those words of concern over the self-absorption that can come with too much ‘iFocus’ in our use of technology. He noted that communication devices—though capable of much good—are designed to meet individual needs and aren’t always about what’s best for healthy family and community relationships.
As many have sadly experienced firsthand, an all-too-real problem is the failure of Christian communities to really embody Christ’s love. Author Mary DeMuth describes how, in an insidious way, spiritually abusive leaders can even distort the gospel into a “culture of fear and shame.” Such leaders use guilt and fear to manipulate others into compliance with their own rules.
Researcher Brené Brown describes encountering in her work a unique group of people who seemed able to find significant joy and purpose in their lives regardless of their circumstances. The common thread uniting such people? Vulnerability. Perhaps counterintuitively, Brown found that those most willing to face their insecurities were also those most rooted in a secure sense of love and belonging.
When we first welcomed a fifteen-year-old Chinese exchange student into our family, we thought it would be for only one year of high school. But years later he’s still part of the family. And we’ve added his younger brother to our growing group. Both young men were quiet and a bit reclusive when they first arrived—adapting to a new culture. But it’s been beautiful to see their hearts open to God’s love and to our own. Their faces now typically display smiles, and laughter effortlessly spills from their lips.
Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.
It’s been said that more is caught than taught. That was true for my siblings and I as we witnessed our parents caring for their parents. My grandmothers, both widows, lived in homes adjacent to our own—purchased by my father and mother. And in time, a grandmother’s sister-in-law also came to live in our little community. All three were doted on by Mom and Dad.
Although God’s unconditional love is the foundation of faith in Jesus, really believing in unearned love isn’t easy. As Dale Ryan, CEO of Christian Recovery International, points out, even jokes depicting St. Peter’s questions at the “pearly gates” reveal an assumption that God’s love is extended based on our beliefs.
My friend Tracy was returning on a bus from a pro- life rally. Her three boys accompanied her. A conversation took place on that bus ride that will stay with Tracy for the rest of her life.
I need to apologize most often to those to whom I’m closest—my family. They are the ones dearest to me but can also be the ones I’m most likely to hurt through my pride or selfishness. When this happens, I need to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to confess my wrongdoing, asking them and God to forgive me. Then I can be freed from the weight of my sin.
The bundle of hyperactivity known as Liam was making a day of terrorizing his older (and much calmer) brother. Finally, Mom had enough of it, and Liam earned the mother of all timeouts. Well, at least for the rest of the morning.
An American family welcomed the opportunity to host an Eastern-European girl for a month. As their time together came to an end, the couple decided to engage in the long and costly process of adopting her, for in a few years she would be deemed too old for her orphanage. My friends loved her and feared she would have fallen prey to human trafficking—the sad fate of a large number of young women who “age out” of the system. The couple extended the love of Christ to her and made her their daughter and heir.
The British TV series As Time Goes By tells the story of a couple separated by war and reunited 38 years later. The show chronicles how the man and woman come together to form a deep, loving relationship. Through the ups and downs, the couple never loses sight of the fact that they were granted a second chance at love.
For years, Denise referred warmly to her sibling Carolyn as “my little sister.” Carolyn faced significant cognitive challenges, but she loved life and brought joy to everyone who knew her. She loved Jesus too!
At seven-feet, three inches tall, Connor Vanover truly stands out, as do his two seven-foot brothers! He says it’s a constant reality to be “looked at all the time . . . . Most of the time people are nice about it. . . . It’s just good to have brothers to fall back on.”