Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned artist, author, and speaker, became a quadriplegic as the result of an accident in 1967. She admits that every morning she wakes up tired and convinced that she can’t face another day with quadriplegia. But she takes her weakness to God, seeking His grace, and continues to serve others—her joy in Jesus radiating through her smile.
Julie Stroyne, a trauma nurse, had just gotten married and immediately after the reception was walking with her wedding party in downtown Pittsburgh. Suddenly she spotted an unconscious woman on a bench. Still in her wedding dress, Stroyne kicked off her shoes and jumped into action in an effort to save the woman’s life. It didn’t matter that she was celebrating her wedding. As a nurse, she was ready to serve.
Prior to moving to East Africa, I spent hours praying, seeking counsel, and preparing for a new lifestyle and ministry. Loneliness, limited amenities, leaving friends, and cultural adjustments were among the challenges I expected. Soon, however, I realized that while my love for the Ugandan people remained constant, the hardships, constant giving of my time and energy, and responsibilities of life in a foreign land were taking a toll beyond what I’d anticipated.
The trailer for the epic World War II movie Saving Private Ryan contains these words: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men was saving . . . one.” Jesus similarly told a parable about a shepherd who searched for one lost lamb. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Christ told the story to illustrate how God won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” who’s lost, but I normally don’t see myself as “the one” needing to be found. I’m among those in the fold who think they are doing “just fine.” I’m the trained counselor who helps people, armed with the mission as a believer in Jesus to help and serve others who are lost.
In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles in eighty hours—setting the world record for distance running without sleep. Ten years later, Rob Young, nicknamed the “Marathon Man,” broke the record by covering nearly 374 miles in eighty-eight hours. Young, who had endured abuse by his father as a child, said he ran with two goals in mind: to test the limits of human endurance and to help the world become a better place for kids.
Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.
There’s a fictional story that makes the rounds every once in a while: An elderly woman is looking for her car in a parking lot. When she finally locates it, she is shocked to discover three men sitting inside. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a gun, causing the frightened men to flee. The woman feels quite proud of herself as she gets in the car. Attempting to put her key in the ignition, she finds it doesn’t fit. Checking her license plate, she realizes the car isn’t hers. She had unjustly driven away the men from a car that was rightly theirs!
A pastor friend told my husband and me that he’s considering leaving the ministry because he feels as if his efforts haven’t resulted in heart change for any of his congregants—that their priorities remained out of step with God’s. After my husband and I prayed for him, he told us that we had encouraged him. Even so, I’m not confident that he’ll remain in fulltime pastoral ministry.
Photographer Oliver Curtis’ exhibit Volte-face (“about turn”) interacts with iconic landmarks—only his images capture what’s found in the opposite direction. So, when he arrived at Stonehenge, he turned 180 degrees before taking his pictures, capturing images that are typically ignored. Curtis says the photos “send [our] gaze elsewhere and . . . favor the incidental over the monumental.”
Deep in the African bush lives a missionary couple named Bob and Martha, who have served in Namalu (a village in Karomoja, Uganda) for more than fifteen years. Despite formidable challenges such as surrounding tribal conflicts, it is here that they’ve chosen to raise their children and joyfully lead a vibrant ministry.
If there’s a frustration more annoying than overly complex or—worse—incomplete instructions, I’m not sure what it is. Automated answering systems, perhaps? “Your call is important to us. Please listen carefully to . . . blah, blah, blah.” That’s why I so appreciated this serene simplicity from a New Zealand-based company: “If the GPS has been recently used, you should get a fix almost immediately. If it hasn’t, put the GPS outside with a clear view of the sky and have a cup of tea.”
An elderly woman’s two daughters dropped by one day to clean her home. Both made the house sparkle, but the first daughter left the impression that her work was a burden. The second was cheery and made her mother feel that her sacrifice was a joy. Both daughters did the same tasks, but the first seemed to do them out of duty alone. The second revealed that her labors were out of love for her mother.
Writer James Bryan Smith tells the story of how author and speaker Brennan Manning came to better understand the deep love of God. Brennan had a best friend named Ray. They hung around, double-dated, and even bought a car together. In time they enlisted and served in the same military unit.
“And what do you do, Susan?” I asked over dinner. “Oh, not much,” she said. Approaching the question differently, I asked Susan what she’d done that week. Her answer made me feel exhausted!
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite books. A fictional account about the narrator’s trip to hell and heaven, I love the imagery and the lessons we can glean about what is and what’s not truly important. At one point on his journey deeper and deeper into the heavenly landscape, the narrator notices a huge parade. Musicians, girls, boys, and all sorts of animals are parading in honor of a lady of great renown.