During a hard time for my family, tears came to my eyes when Alabama’s hit song “Angels Among Us” came on the radio. The song describes how, in our darkest times, when we feel lost and alone, God can use the kindness of others to give us just enough hope to keep hanging on, to keep believing in a God of love. As the words washed over me, I was reassured by remembering how in the hardest times God has always reached out to me through others’ love.
During World War I, German and English soldiers were locked in battle on the Western Front. Thousands of troops on both sides had been killed, and any kind of understanding between the bitter enemies seemed impossible. Yet, on Christmas Day of 1914, something remarkable happened. Soldiers on both sides emerged from their trenches and celebrated Christmas together, singing carols and even engaging in a game of football. For a brief moment, Christmas helped enemies remember their shared values and humanity.
I took a personality test to determine if my dominant trait is sanguine (enthusiastic, adventurous), choleric (goal-oriented, project-minded), melancholic (organized, cautious) or phlegmatic (people person, peacemaker). It became pretty clear that I’m a bit of a choleric-phlegmatic mix.
When I was a young child, my dad’s mother fell ill and came to live with our family. “Gran” had diabetes and was too weak to walk. Because we lived in a flat high up in a building with no lift, my father carried her up and down the stairs. Mum prepared special meals for her, bathed her, cut her nails and gave her regular insulin injections.
My wife grabbed hold of one end of the rope, and I held the other. Facing each other, we began pulling on the taut cord. Why this two-person tug of war? We were helping some couples see what conflict in marriage can be like. But then—no longer tugging—one of us took a step towards the other. Soon both of us moved to the centre of the now slackening rope until our hands met in unity.
In the movie When a Man Loves a Woman, Michael is married to an alcoholic named Alice who becomes dangerously reckless when intoxicated. After every drunken binge, Michael would pick up the broken pieces and patch Alice back together.
In a previous ministry position, I was responsible for directing pastoral care at a church. My job was to remind people of God’s presence through my presence and prayers as well as to oversee those offering care to others. When someone was sick or dying, a family was going through a crisis, or a newborn baby was brought home, I was there to offer care, as well as discover if and how our church family could help further.
While dying of cancer, a seven-year-old Ugandan child named Okello Dikens became a leader. Though he wasn’t at the helm of a company, he exercised a profound influence through his example of faith, kindness, and service.
In his short story “The Hurt Man,” Wendell Berry recounts how Nancy Beechum welcomed a complete stranger into her home after he stumbled up the street, bloodied, with a crowd of fierce, angry men chasing him. Nancy opened her door and washed the clotted blood from his body. She pressed the white rags, now crimson, onto his cuts. The hurt man trembled as Nancy spoke gently to him: ”You’re going to be all right.”
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.
In his landmark books Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith surveyed American young adults and found that most held to what he called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.” They’re deists because they believe God doesn’t interfere in our lives unless we need His help to solve a problem. They’re moralistic because they believe God wants us to be good and kind to each other. And their view is therapeutic because it makes them feel good about themselves.
There was a season when my son Wasswa and I had 12 little guests at our dinner table in Uganda every night for 3 consecutive years. Previous to our sharing dinner with them, the children had often gone entire days without food. They began coming to our house when they heard that I would feed them. Many of the boys and girls—some as young as 3 years old—walked nearly 5 miles to reach our home, so I gave them a ride home each evening.
The late film director Krzysztof Kieslowski was once interviewing actors for a film. During an interview, a young actress described to him how she’d go out and walk the streets of Paris when she felt sad.
In the spring of 2013, North Korean church leaders requested that believers around the world pray for their country and the Christians who live there. They called for this intercession due to the saber-rattling of North Korea’s government, which had been conducting military exercises with war written all over them. One North Korean church leader stated at the time, “I would like to thank the many brothers and sisters around the world for their continuous love and support. We know that our journey will not be an easy one. . . . Please pray for us.”
Q: I pray for people at my church. How long is too long to continue praying for someone? If you constantly feel the need is it okay to continue? —Donna
A: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for,” Jesus promised in Matthew 7:7. Knowing that we lack endurance and can be easily distracted and often discouraged, Jesus…