“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.
A poll released in early 2017 revealed that nearly one in five Americans define themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Though it’s difficult to nail down what exactly that means, the phrase generally reveals a person’s subjective sense of some higher power or essence but no commitment to any tangible religious tradition or community.
After reading an encouraging and inspiring passage from the Old Testament, I suddenly felt the urge to praise God. Finding myself bursting into worship was a beautiful, unexpected experience. Although my problems weren’t suddenly solved, I felt an immense peace and confidence in God’s presence with me.
The Grand Teton Mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offer one of the most spectacular views in all of the United States. Geologists believe the mountains there might have formed as a result of several earthquakes along a fault line. They believe earthquakes caused the land to drop on one side of the fault but move upward on the other side. Looking up from the lower side provides a unique and magnificent view where no foothills block the sight of the mountains.
With my focus on my computer screen, I was vaguely aware of the worship music playing softly in my headphones. But after the first chords of a powerful song began to play, I could suddenly feel the strength of God’s presence filling my heart just as it had the first time I’d heard it. My soul was like parched ground, cracked from the trials of ministry, and the delicate notes and powerful lyrics refreshed me during a season when I felt like giving up.
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.
Sometimes we can feel guilty about our prayer lives. No matter how much we pray, we’re sure it’s never enough. We think we should pray more, but the phone’s ringing or emails are piling up or our toddler just squeezed syrup in her hair. What can we do? Consider this: You just might be praying more than you think!
If my mother could have chosen a super-power, it would have been invisibility. Mom did things the right way every time. She didn’t want anyone to notice anything amiss. Then again, she didn’t want anyone to notice anything at all! Mom was a textbook introvert.
Facing transition in my current job, I’ve been diligently asking God for direction. Feeling called to take a leap of faith, I wonder how others will respond to my decision. As I was ruminating over the circumstances with my son, he said, “Mom, you are a Lucy,” referring to the Prince Caspian segment of The Chronicles of Narnia. “She could see Aslan when the others couldn’t, and he told her to follow him regardless.”
While I was leading a Bible class for those who didn’t yet believe in Jesus, a participant asked, “How many gods are there in this world?” Hoping to give an answer, I Googled for help. I believe there’s only one true God, but one person gave this clever answer: Seven billion gods. There are seven billion people in this world. And everyone has a personal god.
When I was growing up, my family attended an occasional professional baseball game and often watched the college basketball playoffs on TV. Overall, sports were a peripheral pastime, a practice that continued with my kids. But our daughter has become a diehard NBA Golden State Warriors basketball fan. She’s a faithful follower of her team and can hold her own in a discussion of players, stats, and the Warriors’ winning seasons.
It was the night before a job fair, and my husband was discouraged. Past attempts to land a job had failed, and he felt that meeting with recruiters would only lead to more dead ends. But he realized God was greater than his fears (Isaiah 41:10), so before practicing possible interview questions, we decided to meditate on specific, encouraging passages of Scripture. We also prayed and recounted God’s numerous blessings. By the end of the evening, we both experienced a sense of peace even amid our fears.
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has observed that many believers in Jesus “think they have a relationship with God that they go to church to have expressed. . . . I think that’s to get it exactly backwards.” A local church isn’t merely a gathering of people who already have a relationship with Jesus. Meeting together is central to that relationship.
In 1995, Gary Chapman published his influential book The Five Love Languages. In it, Chapman argues that love isn’t expressed through a single means, but that each of us has different ways in which we express and receive love—what he calls love languages. With this, he dramatically expanded the ways in which we understood how to love and be loved by those around us!