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.
Nelson Mandela didn’t just acknowledge that the treatment of black Africans in South Africa was a terrible injustice—he went to great lengths to reverse it. He endured prison for twenty-seven years, confined with little to eat and being forced to labor for long hours—including pounding gravel. After he was set free in 1990, he continued to work tirelessly to dismantle apartheid and establish a more just government in South Africa.
In 1988, François Pasquier returned to France after spending time away from his homeland. Hoping to reconnect with his friends, he invited them to a picnic in a public park. Pasquier asked everyone to wear white so that they could identify one another. The dinner was a success, and the guests decided to reconvene the following year with more friends. Diner en Blanc has now grown to an annual dinner party of some 10,000 attendees. People still dress in white so they will stand out from those not attending the dinner.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is a marvel to behold. Clad all in stainless steel, the 630-foot arch is the tallest of these types of structures in the entire world. When it was constructed in the 1960s, both feet of the arch were erected simultaneously, and joined at their very center. But had the construction of either foot of the arch been off by even a fraction, the two halves of the arch would have missed making a perfect union. Such a marvel of engineering required incredibly careful planning and thorough execution.
Siobhan Dowd, a British author of young adult novels, died of cancer at age 47. After her death another author, Patrick Ness, was commissioned to finish one of her unpublished stories. A Monster Calls was published in 2011. It was a stunning success, winning both the Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medals, prestigious book awards in the UK. In the introduction, Ness says, “I felt—and feel—as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it.’ ”
In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.
Rick Vuyst hosts a local call-in radio gardening show in my hometown. Vuyst, who identifies himself an “entre-manure,” weekly “soils” the airwaves with gardening advice. But don’t let his “cracked pot” puns fool you. If you’re having problems with your lawn or plants, this master gardener can help, often telling listeners who have called in, “Thank you very ‘mulch.’ ”