Every Sunday morning in the foyer, our eyes meet. Her eyes are full of joy, twinkling. Immediately she breaks into song, loudly singing my name, “Mar-le-na!” She ambles over, we hug, and I say, “It is so good to see you.” She always responds with, “It is good to be seen.” And then I remind her, “You know I love you.” And she trustingly offers, “I know you do.” My dear friend, who is seventy-five and dealing with progressing dementia, remains full of the joy of the Lord. She’s childlike in her trust of Jesus and those who love Him.
Poet Christian Wiman, some time after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer, reflected on his ordeal, writing, “I have passed through pain I could never have imagined, pain that seemed to incinerate all my thoughts of God and to leave me sitting there in the ashes, alone.” But he found hope in the powerful presence of Jesus. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). In times of great suffering, Wiman realized, only the One who carried all human suffering can sustain us.
As I waded through a sea of vendors and their handmade crafts at an outdoor market in East Africa, I came across a woman so poor her inventory consisted of only a few cheaply made bracelets. To help her make ends meet, for that day at least, I purchased a few of her items. One of the bracelets I selected had the name “Jesus” woven into it. After paying her, I put it on my wrist and—referring to the name Jesus—said to her, “Sometimes I need a reminder.”
On the evening before his sister’s marriage in 1882, Scottish preacher George Matheson experienced great pain and loneliness. He’d relied on his sister for help with his work as a church leader, so he may have been worried and distraught over how he would cope without her. His emotions were probably also intensified by the memories of some years before when his fiancée, after learning he was going blind, broke off their engagement. That evening Matheson turned his anguish to prayer and, in mere minutes, wrote the now-beloved hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” He who’d felt abandoned found love and rest in the One who would never leave him.
The 1986 film The Mission narrates the story of Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, a former slave trader, who served together in the jungle bordering Argentina and Paraguay. The two moved into this remote country to befriend a tribe with little contact to the outside world. When powerful slavers descended on the village, Gabriel and Mendoza determined to stay. They were called to suffer with—rather than escape from—the tribe’s agonies and violence. Mendoza and Gabriel lost their lives, though their witness echoed with resounding force.
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.
Once while on a trip visiting some friends in a village in China, we trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of a waterfall. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by the beautiful vision of a rushing curtain of white water flowing over gray rocks. Spectacular!
One year, because of a bereavement in our family, we celebrated a different sort of Christmas. Since we weren’t spending the holiday at home, we couldn’t devote the usual time to preparing special meals and gifts. So we tried—some days more successfully than others—to focus on the gift of God becoming Man to be with us. That is, Immanuel, who comforts us in our grief and reassures us that He’s with us, each and every day (Matthew 1:23).
All too soon, we’ll be hearing New Year’s resolutions. Check out this clever social media post from several years ago: “Increase my relationship status from ‘forever alone’ to ‘slightly desperate.’ ”
Piloting an aircraft can be challenging, but for bush pilots who are trained to take off and land in remote areas, it’s especially hard. Those who fly in colder climates can face whiteout conditions in which it’s impossible to navigate by sight. In these situations, the pilots are trained to rely on their instruments, not their senses. They know that their instruments are more reliable than their personal judgment.
Quartz timing is a term we often hear mentioned in reference to watches and clocks. But most of us don’t have the faintest idea of what it means. In a quartz watch, the battery sends an electric signal through a tiny piece of quartz which vibrates at a very precise frequency, exactly 32,768 times per second. The watch uses that fixed vibration rate to keep time. Because the vibration rate is always the same and never changes, quartz timepieces are highly dependable—much more accurate time-keepers than many other types of clocks.
“The cable isn’t working!” exclaimed the event organizer with a panicked look on her face. I was speaking at a women’s conference and had arrived early to set up my laptop. The organizer tried to connect my laptop to the projector and found the cable connection didn’t fit. I told her, “Don’t worry. I have the right cable with me.” Thankfully, in my preparations for the event I had packed the needed component. I was grateful to have the right connection!
The movie Deepwater Horizon depicts the true events of a tragic oil rig explosion that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. The sudden underwater eruption killed eleven crewmembers and created a massive oil spill.
A rod and a staff—they feel like strange comforts. You think of a sheep in a dark valley with predators all around, and the push of a rod or a wrench of a staff are the only encouragements. They can be a comfort ultimately, but at the time they don’t feel like it.” A friend and I were discussing Psalm 23, highlighting an often overlooked part of it. How, I wondered, can we find consolation in these images of correction? (Psalm 23:4).