Every Christian has a story to tell. Some conversion testimonies are more dramatic and spectacular than others. Some claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, or that He healed them of a terminal disease. My simple story is that 45 years ago, someone shared the gospel with me and I believed. There was no thunder and lightning, but my heart was changed forever.
Shortly after he invented the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell reportedly said, “I do not think I am exaggerating the possibilities of this invention when I tell you that it is my firm belief that one day there will be a telephone in every major town in America.” One telephone in every town? If he only knew. Bell needed to dream bigger.
In October 2017, the Twitter hashtag #metoo reached epic status, but the movement began in 2006 with Tarana Burke’s efforts to bring the reality of sexual assault before the public eye. Recently, my husband and I met with a longtime friend who shared with us her own pain of having been sexually abused by family members at a young age. As we listened, we felt led to tell her that, while God is a God of mercy who could forgive those who had hurt her, He also felt deep anger toward the injustice of the pain created in her life by the violation she’d experienced.
Hanging up the phone, I gathered a few items and waited for my husband to arrive. He’d just called from the church where he and our son had been working on a few building repairs. From the brief exchange, I learned that our son had been in an accident but was stable enough for us to drive him to the hospital. Even with uncertainties pounding in my mind, I knew in that moment how important it was to make my worship stronger than my worries. The supremacy of God and His goodness had not changed.
After cancer took the life of a Ugandan child I’d been caring for during his final months, the boy’s family and village leaders gathered to decide how to thank me for what I’d done on behalf of one of their own. They concluded that the best way to express gratitude, while also consoling me as I grieved the loss of the child I dearly loved, would be to give me his younger brother.
One of my favorite moments of the year is on Christmas Eve when, at the conclusion of our church’s candlelight service, we erupt with the powerful song “Joy to the World.” Because our church practices Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) as a season of preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we wait to unleash this song until that holy moment—then our voices raise the rafters. The song is the perfect conclusion to Advent, since joy is at the heart of everything Jesus does for us.
Jesus’ life was full of surprises that defied everyone’s expectations. From an obscure village, He emerged as a miracle-working teacher who built His kingdom with sinners and the sick. Then, when His purposes seemed defeated by His shocking crucifixion, this apparent defeat was reversed with His resurrection only three days later!
The song “You Are My One Thing,” by songwriter Hannah McClure voices a deep cry of the heart to walk closely with God and experience His presence. The lyrics are a beautiful reminder of how our relationship with God can transform our lives. Hannah says that the song came out of a season when God was calling her back to remember the time where she’d first experienced the depth of His love for her.
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.
I know you have a plan, God, but why does it hurt so much? I closed my eyes and flopped onto my bunk bed in my dorm room. It was my final semester in college, and it wasn’t going as I had hoped. I was busier than I wanted to be, and two of my closest friends were battling depression while others were also struggling.
Golf, with its myriad rules and special victor jackets, is marked by tradition and sportsmanship. But feuds between golfers can be surprisingly bitter, perhaps few more so than the rift between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. So when Garcia won his first major tournament in 2017, commentators expected Woods to scoff and point out how his own accomplishments dwarfed his rival’s. But instead, he tweeted brief but sincere congratulations to Garcia, calling the victory “well-earned.” One can only wonder how Garcia reacted to this unexpected response!
“God means us to delight in his world. . . . Just observe. And remember. And compare. And be always looking to God with thankfulness and worship for having placed you in such a delightful corner of the universe as the planet Earth.” These were the last words Paul Brand’s father wrote to him before his death. They had a profound effect on Paul’s life. He eventually became a missionary doctor in India and was well known for his pioneering work in the treatment of leprosy. He never forgot his father’s urging to enjoy and delight in God’s creation.
Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer-winning author of Gilead and Home, has, in addition to her marvelous fiction, also spent much time pondering the current plight of modern America. Robinson has especially contemplated Christian faith in these times, and how modern pressures erode and distort our faith in insidious ways. Though there are numerous causes for our predicament, Robinson suggests that these questions always return her to a two-part conviction: “First, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”
The lead singer of a local Christian band shared how he sat in a doctor’s office awaiting test results. Alone in the waiting room, he cried out to God and felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Like others in the audience, I leaned forward, expecting a joyful proclamation that the result of the cancer test was negative. Instead, the testimony ended with a quiet prayer of gratitude that God answered when he’d called, confirming the promise that He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). For this believer, the test results took a backseat to resting in the knowledge that God was with Him.