My son and I constructed a model of the solar system in which each planet is aligned near the next. Looking at this contraption, one might think that real planets aren’t very far from each other. But that’s not the case: if the Sun was the size of a basketball, the bb-sized Earth would be located 31 yards away, and the small planetoid Pluto would be 1,232 yards away! The distances between planets are vast, almost beyond our ability to comprehend.
Our faces can give clues to our life experiences. They reveal our emotions, hint at our age, and indicate whether or not we’ve led difficult lives. They can also hint at whether or not we’ve been with God. I once had a co-worker at my workplace ask why I was so joyful and smiling all the time. His question caught me off guard; I wasn’t aware my face was revealing anything. I paused, and then answered, “Jesus.” He laughed off my reply and then asked, “No, really, why?” I reiterated, “Jesus.”
“Miracles are everywhere,” declared the actress who portrayed Christy Beam in the movie Miracles from Heaven. The film is based on the true life experiences of the Beam family after middle daughter Annabel contracted an incurable intestinal disorder that was inexplicably healed after a death-defying fall. Christy realized that in focusing on the illness, she’d missed other “miracles” the family had encountered before her healing. Although miracles are typically defined only as clearly supernatural interventions, Christy recognized that events that helped her family survive the trial were equally amazing because they revealed God’s hand in the midst of their pain.
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.
It hurts to be misunderstood, especially when we’re trying our best to love. We might go the extra mile to help, yet our co-worker suspects we have an ulterior motive. We share some hard truth, as kindly as we can, and our friend responds by shutting us out of her life.
During the dark days of the communist regime in Romania, a light shone from the souls of believers in Jesus. Two believers, Nicolae Moldoveanu and Richard Wurmbrand, were lying face down on the ground in a prison courtyard on a cold December day. Their crime was their belief in Christ. To distract himself from the cold, Nicolae prayed that God would give him a song. Once they were finally allowed to return to their cell, he shared the song with Richard: “Not only future heaven to be in my speech daily, but may I have heaven and a holy celebration in life right here!”
Sleep deprivation has become a serious health issue around the world. A survey of South Koreans found that 17 percent had at least three nights of insomnia each week. Another study in Hong Kong revealed nearly 12 percent have insomnia. In the UK, 50 percent of Britons fail to get enough sleep; and 30 percent of American adults have symptoms of insomnia, including 10 percent who experience challenges in their daily activities due to a lack of real rest.
My first car was a secondhand mini panel van. My dad spent hours fixing it, including the final touch of painting the hood a pretty powder blue. He didn’t want me driving the car yet, but I decided to take it for a quick spin. Dad hadn’t completely refastened the hood, and as the car picked up speed, it blew off and I drove over it! I couldn’t believe it—the hood of my beautiful “new” car was ruined. I tried to bump out the dents myself, but finally—tearfully—told my dad. He hugged me, said it would be okay, and we both worked on getting the dents out of the hood and respraying it.
One rainy autumn day, my son’s vehicle left the road, went airborne at 70 mph (112 km), and found a lone tree beyond a drainage ditch. For the next hour, rescue workers toiled to pry him from his shredded car. By God’s grace, he survived.
In his book Hitler’s Cross, Pastor Erwin Lutzer shares these heart-wrenching words from a man who lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust: “We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. . . . We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.”
For decades I’ve had a fascination with Scotland. Perhaps it’s the depiction of William Wallace’s heroics in the movie Braveheart or the scenery of the Highlands. Maybe it’s because my dad once talked about the Scottish clan from which we trace our family history. I’ve thought often of the place and carried numerous perceptions about the people and the land. However, perceptions and reality are always different. I had to put my feet on that lush soil, hear the cadence of the language, and eat Scottish food in order to know what the place is truly like. To know anything true, we have to experience the reality—not merely read or think about it.
“I’ve learned more about God from the tears of homeless women than any . . . systematic theology books ever taught me,” said Shane Claiborne, explaining what drew him to sharing life in community with the poor. His words take me back to the first time I attended a church service in a poverty and violence-stricken neighborhood in Chicago. During the service, several people stood up to testify of their grief and longing for their community’s healing. As we prayed and worshiped with a depth I had never experienced, I realized that I too was broken and deeply in need of this kind of community—where pain is freely shared and together we encounter the One who meets us in our brokenness.
Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a countercultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”
Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.
My friend was walking through a sculpture park when she saw the sculptor Rodin’s statue of Eve, which captures the moment Eve understood what she had done against God. My friend wept at Eve’s desperate, twisting figure, shattered by shame and fear, hanging her head and raising her hand in an attempt to block Him from smiting her.