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.
As I walked into my house, my teeth began chattering as soon as the door closed behind me. Because it was warm outdoors, the frigid air inside was shocking. However, the cool temperature set on the thermostat indicated something more to me than the temperature in our home. For more than twenty years my husband and I have debated how cool the thermostat should be set. The coolness of our house reminded me how the atmosphere of a room can be determined by the choices of those who enter it.
Susanna Wesley strived to spend as much time in prayer as in her many other activities. She led Sunday afternoon church during her husband’s travels, homeschooled her ten children, and kept written records of her time with God. She did this despite facing grief, poverty, health issues, and the challenge of often being apart from her spouse due to his travels. Hard-pressed to find privacy in a full house of ten children, she often prayed with an apron over her head. Her example, however, laid the foundation for the prolific ministries of her sons John and Charles.
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.
My coworkers bring me great joy; we’re like family. In large part, it’s the reason I’ve chosen to keep working where I do, even though my organization has experienced numerous transitions. But I know this isn’t typical; a job often is a difficult place to find strong relationships. For some, work is simply a way to put food on the table.
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.
“Do you still hope for peace?” a Rolling Stone interviewer asked singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1984. “There isn’t going to be any peace,” Dylan replied. His response drew criticism from certain quarters for being “fatalistic”. Dylan’s detractors aside, peace remains ever elusive.
I’ve recently become familiar with the growing popularity of the concept of “self-compassion”—accepting ourselves as we are and giving ourselves the compassion and grace to heal and grow, no matter how long that takes.
Brian Jackson lives for adventure. For years he’s led expeditions into some of the most extreme environments on the planet. Having trekked thousands of miles across many continents, he loves nothing more than setting foot where no known human has ever been before. In 2014, he and his team made the ascent of a previously unclimbed peak in the Himalayas, setting foot where no human has probably set foot before.
I love the powerful song “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The song captures a unique vision of true peace. Like a firmly planted tree, being deeply rooted in God gives us the courage to stand firm for His justice—even when we’re surrounded by powerful forces of corruption.
I found myself in a tense, combustible situation—standing between two groups of angry people who were nose to nose, boiling over with rage and hatred. One group spewed vile, dehumanizing words at the other; then that group spewed vile, dehumanizing words back. In that volatile space, both groups completely lost perspective of the other’s humanity. Locked in an intractable posture of opposition, neither side would acknowledge any common ground. Neither side would consider there might be some way to resolve their differences or even begin any kind of constructive conversation. Both sides felt wronged and wanted only to punish their foe.
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.
Headlines are typically marked by depressing, shocking and salacious news. In an article with the tongue-in-cheek title of “Pastor Exposed as Faithful to Wife of 17 Years”, Megan Hill points out that, while lament is appropriate when faith leaders behave immorally, we must also remember to find encouragement in the many examples of faithful Christian leaders with healthy marriages. Such daily faithfulness is simply not seen as newsworthy.
John Calvin (1509–64), in his commentary on 2 Peter 1:4, suggests, “The purpose of the Gospel is to make us sooner or later like God . . . a kind of deification.” Many scholars have speculated about what the reformer meant here. Did he really mean that in some mysterious way we can share God’s nature? Most agree that Calvin’s words are based on the idea of being “engrafted” into God through Jesus. Because of Christ living within us through His Spirit (see John 14:20), believers can pursue spiritual growth and transformation.