During the fourteen years I’ve lived and served in East Africa, I’ve had a few opportunities to join others on safaris. Typically, we’ve encountered large herds of elephants, Cape buffalo, zebras, and gazelles.
When I was growing up, my mother established a wonderful pattern for our family. Every night before bed, she would gather us around her, open the Bible, and have us take turns reading a few verses. Afterwards we would all briefly discuss the passage, and then we would pray together. No matter how tired she was, my mother would always bring us to the Scriptures.
Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.
One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”
What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”
In 2011, marine biologists around the globe were fixated on a pod of sperm whales in the North Atlantic Ocean; they had adopted a bottlenose dolphin calf. Jens Krause, a German behavioral ecologist, told one news source that sperm whales have “never been known to mingle this closely with another species.” Apparently the young dolphin had a spinal defect and couldn’t swim fast enough to keep up with other dolphins. But surprisingly, the sperm whales gathered the struggling dolphin into their fold.
When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”
During the summer of 2011, Dave Mull spent nearly 4 hours adrift and alone in the rolling waves of Lake Michigan, clinging only to the handles of a Coleman cooler. The boat Dave had been fishing in had suddenly capsized and sank 5 miles offshore, forcing him and his three companions into the deep, troubled waters. Before Dave became separated from the others, he selflessly surrendered his life jacket to one of his friends who was struggling to hang on to the floating cooler.
When my younger sister was 4 years old, a global dictator (who we’ll call Frank) was constantly in the nightly news and the contents of his angry speeches splattered across newspaper headlines. He was violent—spewing hatred and fear. My sister obviously had little political understanding, but she picked up on our national anxiety and understood that most people believed this dictator to be a dangerous, bad man. One day, my dad (who had taught us that God’s desire was for us to love absolutely everyone), quizzed my sister. “What do you think of Frank?” my dad asked. Perplexed, my sister carefully considered her reply. Finally, she answered. “I love him, but I wouldn’t play with him.”
Q: How do I move God from my head to my heart? I have read so many books, watched so many biblical/theological videos, attended functions, listened to many people on the topic of God—and yet I cannot find Him in my heart-of-hearts. I do not know how to relate to Him on a personal level. —Sharon
A: To “move God from…
Assigned with keeping up my mom’s garden while she was out of town, my kids and I headed into her backyard to see the anticipated jungle. Walking out from the patio, we were greeted by a messy bed of veggies as some of the string-bean tendrils stood out like cowlicks in an otherwise orderly row. As we worked, my son explained the necessity of coaxing the wayward tendrils onto the runners: Left unsupported, the weight of the growing beans would pull the vine to the ground where it would become more vulnerable to pests and its produce would be damaged.
Ty Morin hopes to photograph 788 “friends” by the year 2016. His picture-taking project, entitled “Friend Request: Accepted,” will require him to photograph each of his Facebook friends doing what they love—anything from firefighting to weightlifting. Although many of his friends live in remote regions of the world, he feels it’s important to show up and connect personally with each one—spending at least an hour taking pictures. Through his project, Morin wants to combat the impersonal, superficial nature of online “friending.”
A colleague discovered that her name was used on a website to attract people to attend a Bible seminar. But she hadn’t actually been invited to be the speaker. Immediately, she took action to investigate the matter. Could this be a case of identity theft?
In an online forum, one woman wrote: “I’m single, over 30, and under pressure from parents, friends, and just about everyone around me to get married. Haven’t met the right guy, but still praying to. I’m really looking for ways to cope with this and would really appreciate sound advice.”