When a boyfriend and I ended our dating relationship, I lamented, “I’ll never meet another man who enjoys grilling food like he did.” As shallow (and embarrassing) as that sounds, I thought I’d forfeited my opportunity to be with a gourmet chef. A few weeks later though, while in a store that sold a variety of grills, it dawned on me that my former boyfriend wasn’t the only gifted griller out there!
The story of the criminal crucified with Jesus is one of Scriptures’ most dramatic conversion stories (Luke 23:32-43). About to die, the man had no time to clean up his life. Yet, because he believed in Jesus, he went to be with Him (Luke 23:42-43).
“I want to follow Jesus,” said my new Chinese friend. His wife nodded in agreement. At the end of a conference, I had felt prompted to share more about Jesus with this couple. After I had invited them to believe in Him, to my joy they had accepted. I encouraged them to pray in Chinese, assuring them God could understand their heart language. With tears in my eyes, I witnessed the couple talking with their Creator for the first time.
Recently, several books have helped me grapple with systemic injustices woven into many social systems. One book cataloged how our criminal justice system can often be stacked against those at the margins. Another shared how the working poor have often been neglected and abused while those in power have profited from their misfortune. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we wade into this disturbing information. And these are only two urgent issues. What are we to do? How are we to make things right?
Loneliness. Lynsi Snyder felt it engulf her at age eighteen when her father died. Trying to fill the void, she abused substances, was married and divorced three times, and ended up still feeling alone and like a “piece of trash.”
Are you close to someone who seems particularly far from God? It might help to keep in mind that this person is probably not less reachable than Paul, who claimed he was the worst of sinners because he had persecuted God’s people (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Paul realized if God could save him, He could reach anyone.
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.”
Graeme was part of a group of self-proclaimed Satanists at my school. By God’s grace, he came to Jesus during an outreach event, began growing in his faith, and eagerly attended church youth groups. But one day I noticed he looked quite sad. When I asked why, he said his parents didn’t approve of his newfound faith. They wanted him to go back to his former way of life that included partying.
You have to stick with that movie, even when it gets rough.” My friend pulled The Shawshank Redemption from the DVD player as he spoke. “The rough stuff is what makes the ending so hopeful.”
I happened upon a website featuring sculptures made out of old toys, plastic spoons, typewriters, soda cans, and even hangers. In an introduction to these garbage-turned-artwork pieces, Vitaly Friedman wrote this about the artists: “These talented individuals see possibility in the things we throw away every day. Instead of heading to the art supply store they just collect common trash and turn it into works of amazing art.”
I told my hairstylist that I was going to see the movie Miracles from Heaven, the story of a young girl who after falling thirty feet headfirst into a hollowed-out tree was miraculously healed of her incurable illness. The stylist had heard it was “based on a true story,” but said that “could simply mean the child fell from a tree.”
“It was a bit painful. I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.” Those words from Ian McKellen, the actor who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gandalf in the movie trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, help explain why he cancelled a book contract for his autobiography. It was too painful.
I spent much of my post-college career as a sports journalist—regularly talking with Olympic and professional athletes who professed and modeled a life devoted to Jesus. It wasn’t until I had interviewed well over one hundred athletes that I realized I was more apt to share their testimonies with others than I was to share my own. I believed friends and acquaintances would rather hear about the athletes’ journeys than hear about mine.
“I stopped believing in God because of the Bible,” said the soup kitchen volunteer. “I couldn’t get over how many times it says God hates people!” I know that volunteer and find him to be a thoughtful young man. But is he right?