In 1882, Antoni Gaudí began construction on the Sagrada Família, a basilica in Barcelona slated for completion in 2026. The National Geographic reports that at the time of Gaudí’s unexpected death, less than 25 percent of the exterior was finished. Even if he had not died prematurely, Gaudí knew he’d never see the completed work; but it didn’t bother him. He believed he was working for God. Whenever asked about the immense time for the project, he answered, “My client is not in a hurry.”
“Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul,” poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. Hope, as she describes it, is a gift that simply comes. No matter how dark or cold the storm, hope gently finds us, warming us and singing a wordless song, but never expecting anything in return.
In the 1950s, a promising running back at Florida State University dreamed of a professional career in American football. But an injury prematurely ended these ambitions, leaving the young man adrift. During that uncertain period, he enrolled in various acting classes, surprised by how much he enjoyed the craft. That young man was Burt Reynolds, who would go on to become one of the most famous US actors of the 1970s and 1980s. Few realize that Reynolds’ acting career began with the death of a dream.
My best friend from college, now a missionary in France, stopped to see me during one of her furloughs. I remember her telling me that she had to leave by 4:00 p.m. As she prepared to depart, the wind started to pick up. Menacing clouds rolled in. She ran to her car, and we quickly waved our goodbyes. About five minutes later, the winds roared to life and shortly after, it grew dark as night. Concern for my friend’s safety gripped me as I surveyed the storm. I’d never seen anything like it—nearly pitch black during the daytime. Fortunately, my friend made it home safe.
“Where will the word / resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words from T. S. Eliot’s haunting poem “Ash Wednesday” lament a world of people so hardened and afraid that they “walk among noise and deny the voice.” The poem echoes the thought of John 1, where the light of Jesus persistently shines in the darkness of a world that will not recognize Him (Isaiah 55:5,10).
Since 1883, semper fidelis (always faithful) has been the motto of the US Marine Corps. The toy figure Gumby, based on an animated character from a TV show, has been with us since the 1950s.
The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.
As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!
In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.
One day as I drove by a vineyard located several miles from my house, I noticed a sign that read: Fieldworkers needed. For just a moment I imagined myself hard at work, standing between rows of vines with the sun on my neck and sweat on my face. I could almost smell the fruit ripening in the summer heat and feel myself snapping clusters of grapes from beneath broad leaves.
The only thing Julius Kettle didn’t enjoy about returning home from boarding school on weekends was the countless rocks he had to gather. His father was gradually turning their family farm into a structure that looked much like a castle, built from the rocks of the land—rocks that Julius had to collect. Years later my folks bought the property, and when I now look at the castle-house, I can’t help but marvel at how skillfully it was crafted.
My great-grandfather was a Romanian sailor on the King Carol I warship during World War II. On October 10, 1941, he was one of twenty-one sailors who lost their lives when the ship hit a mine and sank near Varna, Bulgaria. Until the beginning of World War I, King Carol I had served as a cruise ship. Once the war started, the ship was transformed into a warship with guns and special armor for launching mines and grenades. While I’m proud and thankful for the legacy my great-grandfather left, I know that I am also engaged in war. It is a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Just as King Carol I was especially armored for war, I need to arm myself for the spiritual battles I face.
Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.
In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.
A few years ago, writer Maureen Dowd was in Australia to promote her book Are Men Necessary? At one event, Dowd and a female interviewer were on stage when a member of the audience asked if a podium blocking her view could be moved. In an instant, two men heaved aside the heavy podium as the audience began to laugh. “Are men necessary?” the interviewer quipped, “I think the question has been answered.”