• Topic > Christian Living > Hope & Joy >

    Unchanging

    My wife Cari and I recently traveled to Santa Barbara, California—the city where we met and fell in love thirty-five years ago—to attend our college reunion. We planned to visit several places where we had spent some of the best hours of our youth together. But when we arrived at the location of our favorite Mexican restaurant, we found a building supply store there. A wrought iron plaque hung on the wall commemorating the restaurant and its four decades of service to the community.

    I gazed on the barren but still familiar sidewalk, once dotted cheerfully with colorful tables and bright…

    Great Things!

    On November 9, 1989, the world was astonished by the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall that had divided Berlin, Germany, was coming down and the city that had been divided for twenty-eight years would be united again. Though the epicenter of joy was Germany, an onlooking world shared in the exuberance. Something great had taken place!

    When Israel returned to her homeland in 538 bc after being exiled for almost seventy years, it was also momentous. Psalm 126 begins with an over-the-shoulder look at that joy-filled time in the history of Israel. The experience was marked…

    Playing with Joy

    One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach. One year, as his team was threading its way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament, well-meaning folks around town asked, “Are you going to win it all this year?” Both players and coaches felt the pressure, so Brian adopted a mantra: “Play with joy!”

    I thought of the apostle Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus: “That I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24 nkjv). His aim was to complete the tasks Jesus had given him. I have made these words my mantra and my prayer: “May…

    Destroying the Shroud

    A brutal car wreck devastated Mary Ann Franco. Though she survived, the injuries left her completely blind. “All I could see was blackness,” Franco explained. Twenty-one years later, she injured her back in a fall. After waking from surgery (which had nothing to do with her eyes), miraculously, her sight had returned! For the first time in more than two decades, Franco saw her daughter’s face. The neurosurgeon insisted there was no scientific explanation for her restored vision. The darkness that seemed so final gave way to beauty and light.

    The Scriptures, as well as our experience, tell us that a…

    Knocking Down Pins

    I was immediately intrigued when I noticed a tattoo of a bowling ball knocking down pins on my friend Erin’s ankle. Erin was inspired to get this unique tattoo after listening to Sara Groves’s song, “Setting Up the Pins.” The clever lyrics encourage listeners to find joy in the repetitive, routine tasks that sometimes feel as pointless as manually setting up bowling pins over and over again, only to have someone knock them down.

    Laundry. Cooking. Mowing the lawn. Life seems full of tasks that, once completed, just have to been done again—and again. This isn’t a new struggle but an…

    When All Seems Lost

    In just six months, Gerald’s life fell apart. An economic crisis destroyed his business and wealth, while a tragic accident took his son’s life. Overcome by shock, his mother had a heart attack and died, his wife went into depression, and his two young daughters remained inconsolable. All he could do was echo the words of the psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

    The only thing that kept Gerald going was the hope that God, who raised Jesus to life, would one day deliver him and his family from their pain to an eternal life…

    Biblical Prescription

    Greg and Elizabeth have a regular “Joke Night” with their four school-age children. Each child brings several jokes they have read or heard (or made up themselves!) during the week to tell at the dinner table. This tradition has created joyful memories of fun shared around the table. Greg and Elizabeth even noticed the laughter was healthy for their children, lifting their spirits on difficult days.

    The benefit of joyful conversation around the dinner table was observed by C.S. Lewis, who wrote, “The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.”

    The wisdom of…

    Serving the Smallest

    The video showed a man kneeling beside a busy freeway during an out of control brush fire. He was clapping his hands and pleading with something to come. What was it? A dog? Moments later a bunny hopped into the picture. The man scooped up the scared rabbit and scampered to safety.

    How did the rescue of such a small thing make national news? That is why. There is something endearing about compassion shown to the least of these. It takes a big heart to make room for the smallest creature.

    Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a man who…

    Hope Restored

    Does the sun rise in the east? Is the sky blue? Is the ocean salty? Is the atomic weight of Cobalt 58.9? Okay, that last one you might only know if you’re a science geek or tend to dabble in trivia, but the other questions have an obvious answer: “Yes.” In fact, questions like those are usually mixed with a hint of sarcasm.

    If we’re not careful our modern, sometimes jaded ears can hear a bit of sarcasm in Jesus’s question to an invalid: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). The obvious answer would seem to be, “Are you…

    Are You There?

    When his wife contracted a terminal illness, Michael longed for her to experience the peace he had through his relationship with God. He had shared his faith with her, but she wasn’t interested. One day, as he walked through a local bookstore, a title caught his eye: God, Are You There? Unsure how his wife would respond to the book, he walked in and out of the store several times before finally buying it. To his surprise, she accepted it.

    The book touched her, and she began to read the Bible too. Two weeks later, Michael’s wife passed away—at peace with God…

    Joy in Hard Places

    Whenever she was unable to take my phone call, I’d hear my friend’s voicemail recording inviting me to leave her a message. The recording cheerfully concluded, “Make it a great day!” As I reflected on her words, I realized that while it’s not within our power to make every day “great”—some circumstances truly are devastating—a closer look might reveal something redeeming and beautiful in my day, whether things are going well or poorly.

    Habakkuk wasn’t experiencing easy circumstances. As a prophet, God had shown him coming days when none of the crops or livestock—on which God’s people depended—would be fruitful (v.…

    Rip the Heavens

    In a recent conversation, where a friend shared with me that she’d abandoned her faith, I heard a familiar complaint: how can I believe in a God who doesn’t ever seem to do anything? This gut-wrenching question appears for most of us at one point or another, as we read of violence in the news and as we carry our own heartbreak. My friend’s distress revealed her intense need for God to act on her behalf, a longing we’ve all likely felt.

    Israel knew this terrain well. The Babylonian Empire overwhelmed Israel, crushing them with an iron fist and turning Jerusalem into…

    A Song in the Night

    My father’s life was one of longing. He longed for wholeness, even as Parkinson’s gradually crippled more and more of his mind and body. He longed for peace, but was tormented by the deep pain of depression. He longed to feel loved and cherished, but often felt utterly alone.

    He found himself less alone when he read the words of Psalm 42, his favorite psalm. Like him, the psalmist knew a desperate longing, an unquenched thirst for healing (vv. 1–2). Like him, the psalmist knew a sadness that felt like it never went away (v. 3), leaving times of pure joy…

    Hope’s Sure Foundation

    Lessons on faith can come from unexpected places—like the one I learned from my 110-pound, black Labrador retriever, “Bear.” Bear’s large metal water bowl was located in a corner of the kitchen. Whenever it was empty, he wouldn’t bark or paw at it. Instead, he would lie down quietly beside it and wait. Sometimes he would have to wait several minutes, but Bear had learned to trust that I would eventually walk into the room, see him there, and provide what he needed. His simple faith in me reminded me of my need to place more trust in God.

    The Bible…

    New Year, New Priorities

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the cello. But I’ve never found the time to enroll in a class. Or, perhaps more accurately, I haven’t made the time for it. I had thought that in heaven I could probably master that instrument. In the meantime, I wanted to focus on using my time in the particular ways God has called me to serve Him now.

    Life is short, and we often feel the pressure to make the most of our time on Earth before it slips away. But what does that really mean? 

    As King Solomon contemplated the meaning of…

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