My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”
Luciano Faggiano bought a building to house his new restaurant venture. Unfortunately, sewage kept backing up through a toilet. So he and his sons began digging a trench in order to find the broken sewage pipe. After a week, they couldn’t find the problem. Frustration with the project quickly turned into excitement, however, when they unearthed an archaeological treasure. The men discovered an underground world of rooms, including tombs, a Franciscan chapel, and many other artifacts—some that predated Jesus. Oh, and eventually they did manage to fix the broken sewage pipe!
Not long ago I was certain that God was moving my husband and me in a specific direction. Two different sources, without consulting one another, encouraged us to pursue the same opportunity. So we did. Doors flew open as we kept moving forward. We were encouraged and excited, for what we never thought would happen was coming together right before our very eyes. As we bathed the whole process in prayer, God seemed to be honoring our requests. Until the eleventh hour, that is. That’s when the final door was slammed shut in our faces. We were shocked, and felt cheated and tricked by God. There was absolutely no way to make our dream a reality.
She told me that she was depressed. It was so bad that she had attempted suicide more than once. And even though she wasn’t at a dangerously dark state at that moment, she was still in a deep hole. Struggling with sleep, she hadn’t enjoyed a good night’s rest in a long, long time.
It was a great tragedy for our whole community. My daughter’s first-grade teacher died in childbirth, along with her baby. She was just 36 years old. It broke my heart to see her in a casket with the baby in her arms.
The woman lost weight and began to feel attractive again. Soon she grew tired of her husband and their life—a life that included four small children. She felt that she had married too young and never had the chance to explore what was out there. Eventually, she threw away family stability—the love and devotion of her husband and the kids’ well-being—to satisfy her desires. When her marital vows became inconvenient, she violated them.
Well-known seminary president Haddon Robinson was meeting with a wealthy donor to seek a sizable contribution. (I assume that it was for a ministry project.) When Robinson asked for a specific amount, the donor said something like this: “I was prepared to give you much more if you had asked.”
In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.
Sadly, all of us—even the best of us—have prejudices. I was shocked to one day realize my own prejudice against a Christian denomination. I’d been deeply hurt by people in it, and any time the denomination’s name came up, words like “Pharisees,” “legalists,” and “unloving” came to mind. I basically thought, Can anything good come from that denomination?
I remember being deeply upset and stressed out because of mounting medical bills after we had our third daughter. I couldn’t sleep for several nights as I was trying to figure out how we’d pay the bills. My muscles were tense. I was exhausted. The stress was getting to me. And so I cried out to God.
Greg Boyle helped launch Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Geared specifically to help former gang members, it’s one of the biggest and most successful ministries in the United States. Boyle knows a lot about loving and caring for others. In his book Tattoos on the Heart, he writes: “Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself.”
Several years ago I read about people who paid $2,500 per night at specific hotels in order to be disconnected from the Internet, their cell phones, and all other types of technology that pierce the silence. They were willing to pay a lot of money to obtain what they hoped would be some peace of mind—even if it was temporary. They were willing to pay a hefty price for some silence and solitude.
Last summer we planted rosebushes in the backyard in honor of my Abuelita—my grandmother. She was like a mother to me, and even though she died 10 years ago I still miss her terribly. Wild and sweet-smelling roses grew around her house. The roses I was planting would be a beautiful and constant reminder of her—a tribute.
During the Middle Ages, some monks kept a skull on their desks to remind them of their mortality and eventual death. The bony paperweight was a vivid reminder that life is fleeting and that they needed to keep their priorities in line.