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    Honest to God

    My three-year-old grandson’s day was off to a rotten start. He couldn’t find his favorite shirt. The shoes he wanted to wear were too hot. He fussed and fumed at his grandmother and then sat down to cry.

    “Why are you so upset?” I asked him. We talked for a while and after he calmed down, I gently inquired, “Have you been good for Grandma?” He looked thoughtfully at his shoes and responded, “No, I was bad. I’m sorry.”

    My heart went out to him. Instead of denying what he had done, he was honest. In the following moments we asked Jesus…

    Vanity on Fire

    In February 1497, a Monk named Girolama Savonarola started a fire. Leading up to this, he and his followers spent several months collecting items that they thought might entice people to sin or neglect their religious duties—including artwork, cosmetics, instruments, and dresses. On the appointed day, thousands of vanity items were gathered at a public square in Florence, Italy, and set on fire. The event has come to be known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.

    Savonarola might have found inspiration for his extreme actions in some shocking statements from the Sermon on the Mount. “If your right eye causes you…

    In Our Weakness

    Although Anne Sheafe Miller died in 1999 at the age of 90, she nearly passed away in 1942 after developing septicaemia following a miscarriage and all treatments proved to be unsuccessful. When a patient at the same hospital mentioned his connection to a scientist who’d been working on a new wonder drug. Anne’s doctor pressed the government to release a tiny amount for Anne. Within a day, her temperature was back to normal! Penicillin had saved Anne’s life.

    Since the fall, all human beings have experienced a devastating spiritual condition brought about by sin (Romans 5:12). Only the death and resurrection…

    Objects in Mirror

    “Must. Go. Faster.” That’s what Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, says in an iconic scene from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park as he and two other characters flee in a Jeep from a rampaging tyrannosaurus. When the driver looks in the rearview mirror, he sees the raging reptile’s jaw—right above the words: “OBJECTS IN MIRROR MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.”

    The scene is a masterful combination of intensity and grim humor. But sometimes the “monsters” from our own past feel like they’ll never stop pursuing us. We look in the “mirror” of our lives and see our mistakes…

    Divine Escape

    Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery The Clocks features antagonists who commit a series of murders. Although their initial plot targeted a single victim, they found it necessary to take more lives in order to cover up the original crime. When confronted by Poirot, one of the conspirators confessed, lamenting, “It was only supposed to be the one murder.”

    Like the schemers in the story, the chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus’s day formed a conspiracy of their own. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38–44), they called an emergency meeting and plotted to take His life (11:45–53). But they didn’t…

    The Crooked Steeple

    Turns out that crooked church steeples make people nervous. When we visited with some friends, they shared how, after a fierce windstorm, their church’s proud steeple was . . . crooked, causing some alarm.

    Of course, the church quickly repaired the flagging spire, but the humorous image got me thinking. Often church is seen as a place where everything is expected to look perfect; it’s not seen as a place where we can show up… crooked. Right?

    But in a fallen, broken world, all of us are “crooked,” each with our own collection of natural weaknesses. We might be tempted to keep…

    A Kind Critique

    During a landscape painting class I took, the teacher, a highly experienced professional artist, assessed my first assignment. He stood silently in front of my painting, one hand cupping his chin. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to say it’s terrible.

    But he didn’t.

    He said he liked the color scheme and the feeling of openness. Then he mentioned that the trees in the distance could be lightened. A cluster of weeds needed softer edges. He had the authority to criticize my work based on the rules of perspective and color, yet his critique was truthful and kind.

    Jesus, who was perfectly qualified…

    Washed Clean

    I couldn’t believe it. A black gel pen had hidden itself in the folds of my white towels and survived the washing machine, only to explode in the dryer. Ugly black stains were everywhere. My white towels were ruined. No amount of bleach would be able to remove the dark stains.

    As I reluctantly consigned the towels to the rag pile, I was reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s lament describing the damaging effects of sin. By rejecting God and turning to idols (Jeremiah 2:13), Jeremiah declared that the people of Israel had caused a permanent stain in their relationship with…

    Who Is That?

    When a man installed a security camera outside his house, he checked the video feature to ensure that the system was working. He was alarmed to see a broad-shouldered figure in dark clothing wandering around his yard. He watched intently to see what the man would do. Somehow, though, the interloper seemed familiar. Finally he realized he was not watching a stranger roam his property, but a recording of himself in his own back yard!

    What might we see if we could step out of our skin and observe ourselves in certain situations? When David’s heart was hardened and he needed…

    Need a New Heart?

    The news was grim.

    My father had been having chest pains, so his doctor had ordered a test to peer into his heart. The result? Blockage in three arteries.

    Triple-bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14. My dad, though anxious, saw that date as a hopeful sign: “I’m getting a new heart for Valentine’s Day!” And he did! The surgery went perfectly, restoring life-giving blood flow to his struggling heart. A “new” heart. A second chance.

    My father’s surgery reminded me that God offers us a new life as well. Because sin clogs our spiritual “arteries”—our capacity to connect with God—we need spiritual…

    Watch Out!

    I grew up in warm southern cities, so when I moved north, it took me a while to learn how to drive safely during the long, snowy months. In my first hard winter, I ended up stranded in a snowdrift three times! But after several years of practice, I began to feel comfortable driving in wintry conditions. In fact, I felt a little too comfortable. I stopped being as vigilant. And that’s when I hit a patch of black ice and skidded into a telephone pole on the side of the road.

    Thankfully, no one was hurt, but I learned something…

    Swept Away

    When he invented the pencil eraser, British engineer Edward Nairne was reaching instead for a piece of bread. Crusts of bread were used then, in 1770, to erase marks on paper. Picking up a piece of latex rubber by mistake, Nairne found it erased his error, leaving rubberized “crumbs” easily swept away by hand.

    With us too the worst errors of our lives can be swept away. It’s the Lord—the Bread of Life—who cleans them with His own life, promising never to remember our sins. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake,” says Isaiah…

    Great News!

    The article in the local newspaper was short but heartwarming. After attending a faith-based program on building stronger family ties, a group of prison inmates were given a rare treat of an open visit with their families. Some hadn’t seen their children in years. Instead of talking through a glass panel, they could touch and hold their loved ones. The tears flowed freely as families grew closer and wounds began to heal.

     

    For most readers, it was just a story. But for these families, holding one another was a life-changing event—and for some, the process of forgiveness and reconciliation was begun.

    God’s…

    Restored

    A 2003 infestation of Mormon Crickets caused more than $25 million in lost crops. The crickets came in such numbers that people couldn’t so much as take a step without finding one underfoot. The grasshopper-like insect, named for attacking the crops of the Utah pioneers in 1848, can eat an astounding thirty-eight pounds of plant material in their lifetimes, despite being merely two to three inches long. The impact of infestations on famers’ livelihoods—and the overall economy of a state or country—can be devastating.

    The Old Testament prophet, Joel, described a horde of similar insects ravaging the entire nation of Judah…

    Eyes Tightly Shut

    He knew he shouldn’t have done it. I could clearly see he knew it was wrong: it was written all over his face! As I sat down to discuss his wrongdoing with him, my nephew quickly squeezed his eyes shut. There he sat, thinking—with three-year-old logic—that if he couldn’t see me, then I must not be able to see him. And if he was invisible to me, then he could avoid the conversation (and consequences) he anticipated.

    I’m so glad I could see him in that moment. While I couldn’t condone his actions, and we needed to talk about it, I really…

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