As an educator, each spring I feel the promise of summer break beckoning me. I appreciate the respite from the usual demand to complete projects, grade papers, and participate in countless meetings. With more opportunities for quiet, summertime reminds me how often busyness can tempt me to see each commitment as merely a task to be checked off a list. Choosing to instead be present in the moment allows me to savor uncomplicated joy.
On the evening before his sister’s marriage in 1882, Scottish preacher George Matheson experienced great pain and loneliness. He’d relied on his sister for help with his work as a church leader, so he may have been worried and distraught over how he would cope without her. His emotions were probably also intensified by the memories of some years before when his fiancée, after learning he was going blind, broke off their engagement. That evening Matheson turned his anguish to prayer and, in mere minutes, wrote the now-beloved hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” He who’d felt abandoned found love and rest in the One who would never leave him.
Some close friends recently went through a difficult season in which they struggled financially and emotionally. Yet when all was said and done, the trying time caused them to make positive changes to avoid catastrophe further down the line. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, their challenge was an expression of God’s goodness.
When I glimpse a palette of vivid colors painted across the sky or take in the delicate design of a daffodil, I love to ponder God as Creator. Beauty can draw us to experience awe when we see His imprint in nature. Even if we’re surrounded by concrete with no green in sight, we may hear some melodious birdsong and remember that God is our Maker.
Few of us would think we’d done anything significant after attending a prayer meeting, much less that one day a monument would be built to commemorate what we did. College student Samuel Mills would surely have felt the same way.
Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”
“Miracles are everywhere,” declared the actress who portrayed Christy Beam in the movie Miracles from Heaven. The film is based on the true life experiences of the Beam family after middle daughter Annabel contracted an incurable intestinal disorder that was inexplicably healed after a death-defying fall. Christy realized that in focusing on the illness, she’d missed other “miracles” the family had encountered before her healing. Although miracles are typically defined only as clearly supernatural interventions, Christy recognized that events that helped her family survive the trial were equally amazing because they revealed God’s hand in the midst of their pain.
Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.
As I processed the news that my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, one thought that came to my mind was, Wow, what more amazing miracles does God want to do in and through my mom? When she told me the results of the biopsy, I was thousands of miles away from her, yet somehow I had peace knowing that God was in control of the situation. After seeing Him carry my mom through a painful divorce and the loss of a child, I had no doubt that He would once again unfold His power and faithfulness in her life.
We were sure that we, and our civilization, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels, and heaven.” Peter Hitchens said those words in describing his younger years when he and his brother Christopher Hitchens, who would become an outspoken atheist, were moving from nominal faith to atheism. Peter ceremonially burned a Bible at age fifteen to declare his disbelief in God.
Early in our marriage, my wife, Kristen, and I hiked a mountain trail. The day was full of color, with a hot, yellow sun overhead, lush evergreens on each side, and copper-colored soil beneath our feet. We came upon a tree on which numerous hikers had carved their initials. Filled with the joy of our new life together and the beauty of the natural world, we felt like leaving a memorial too. Using the teeth of my car key, I scratched “A + K” into the bark.
The Microsoft Corporation conducted a study on the human attention span, with somewhat funny and humiliating results. The researchers found that the modern person has an attention span of about 8 seconds, partly the result of the constant media bombardment that we endure on a regular basis. Compare this with the attention of a goldfish—9 seconds.
Occasionally I tell people that my wife attended university on a dodgeball scholarship. Some people naively react with, “Oh, really?” Others call me on it. “Dodgeball? Seriously? When did that become a scholarship sport?”
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
My daughter posed an excellent question to me: What’s the connection between Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job? The first two seem so . . . contradictory. And the book of Job is a saga all its own!