It’s easy to think the world has never been as dangerously divided as it is now. We can’t agree about how to address wars in the Middle East or how to help refugees fleeing the conflicts. The world’s superpowers seem to be edging ever closer toward the plains of Armageddon.
I know of a man who passionately desires to be a pastor. He’s worked in youth ministry, camp ministry, and even alongside pastors in the church. He’s well-regarded by those with whom he interacts, having willingly volunteered his time while faithfully loving his wife and children. And yet, he’s been unable to find the right place to serve fulltime. Several churches “nearly” called on him. But he’s yet to receive a ministry role in any official capacity.
In American football, the start of a play is usually hard-hitting as players strive to overpower their opponents. But at the close of a middle school game in 2016, the quarterback simply stood up and started casually walking toward his opponent’s goal line. The opposing team was tricked by his calm demeanor and let him walk for twenty yards before realizing what was going on, and by then it was too late. The quarterback scored and his team won the game—all because he started the play in a way that no one expected.
When I reflect on the times in my life when I’ve been most devoted to digging deeply into Scripture, I’m struck by the joy, courage, contentment, and confidence in God that resulted. For example, when I was in high school, I seldom went anywhere without a pack of index cards on which I’d handwritten Bible verses. I was a competitive distance runner at the time, and as I logged many long miles I carried the verses with me and committed passage after passage to memory. As I meditated on Scripture the miles flew by and my life, faith, and attitude were renewed, shaping a heart and mind bent toward God.
As I was getting ready to pay an auto mechanic for his services a few years ago, he handed me a receipt. The words PAID IN FULL had been stamped in red in the middle of it. I was shocked! How could this be possible? Stunned, I asked the mechanic who had paid for my car repairs, for it wasn’t a small amount. He simply said that the benefactor wanted to remain anonymous, and I was free to take my keys and drive away.
In his memoir Townie, novelist Andre Dubus III shared that his father, also a renowned writer, would write every single morning. After he finished, “He’d count how many words he’d gotten and record the number. After each total, whether it was fifteen hundred or fifty, he wrote ‘Thank you.’ ” This writer had learned the art of gratitude, and it shaped his work—allowing him to see and then write about rich experiences of hope, humanity, and grace.
An excerpt attributed to a renowned Christian apologist and author appeared in one of my social media feeds. Because I respect the person who shared the content and because the language reflected the author’s voice, I momentarily believed the quote was authentic.
After walking into a sandwich shop, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to reach out to the young man who took our order. Unsure of how to start, I gathered my food and followed my husband to the patio area. Shortly after we sat down, the same young man came outside to sweep the area. I set aside my fear and began an unscripted conversation. In this unexpected moment, God provided the opportunity for us to discuss how Jesus’ love and the power of the Holy Spirit could help the young man overcome the situations he was facing.
Geel is a charming town in Belgium with a unique population—a significant percentage of the people there have a diagnosis of mental illness. Host families to these persons are given no details of their guests’ diagnoses. Instead, they welcome their guests into the community like anyone else. “I have seen coffee served in a cafe with as much deference to actively hallucinating psychotics as to anyone else,” one observer described. Not surprisingly, people with mental illness flourish in Geel.
For many years Estelle and her husband worked as missionaries, relying on the financial generosity of others while they shared the love of God through their ministry. Money was often tight. On one occasion, Estelle went into her room to pray about their lack of funds. Opening her Bible, she read these words: “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19). In that moment, the verse felt like a promise to her from God.
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.
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.
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.