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    “Make It Your Own, Dawg!”

    On June 11, 2002, the singing competition American Idol debuted. Each week, hopefuls performed their own versions of popular songs, and the viewing audience voted on who advanced to the next round of the competition.

    As one of the panel judges on the show, Randy Jackson’s signature feedback was this zinger: “You made that song your own, dawg!” He lavished that praise when a singer took a familiar tune, learned it inside out, and then performed it in a new way that gave it unique, personal spin. To “make it their own” was to own it completely and creatively, and then…

    Traveling Mercies

    You might start your journey in the southwest United States in a dusty town called Why, Arizona. Heading cross-country would take you through Uncertain, Texas. Bearing northeast, you’d make a rest stop in Dismal, Tennessee. Ultimately, you’d reach your destination—Panic, Pennsylvania. These are real places across the landscape of America, though not likely a trip you’d ever choose to take.

    Sometimes this is exactly what the journey of life feels like. We easily identify with the Israelites’ tough life in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:7)—life can be hard. But do we see the other parallels? We create our own itinerary, turning from…

    Walking with Others

    Billy, a loving and loyal dog, became an internet star in 2020. His owner, Russell, had broken his ankle and was using crutches to walk. Soon the dog also began to hobble when walking with his owner. Concerned, Russell took Billy to the vet, who said there was nothing wrong with him! He ran freely when he was by himself. It turned out that the dog faked a limp when he walked with his owner. That’s what you call trying to truly identify with someone’s pain!

    Coming alongside others is forefront in the apostle Paul’s instructions to the church in Rome.…

    How Are You?

    Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.

    Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus…

    Investing in Others

    When a corporation offered one thousand frequent flier miles for every ten purchases of one of their foods, one man realized their cheapest product was individual cups of chocolate pudding. He bought more than twelve thousand. For $3,000 (US), he received gold status and a lifetime supply of air miles for himself and his family. He also donated the pudding to charity, which netted him an $800 tax write-off. Genius!

    Jesus told a controversial parable about a cunning manager who, as he was being fired, reduced what debtors owed his master. The man knew he could rely on their help later…

    Age Is Just a Number

    Youthfulness shouldn’t stop anyone from achievement. It certainly didn’t stop eleven-year-old Mikaila. Instead of putting up a lemonade stand, Mikaila opened a lemonade business. Me & the Bees Lemonade started with her grandmother’s recipe and eventually earned a $60,000 investment from investors on the television show Shark Tank. She also signed a contract with a major grocer to sell her lemonade at fifty-five of the chain’s stores.

    Mikaila’s drive and dreams point us back to Paul’s words to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12).

    Timothy, though not a child like Mikaila, was likely…

    Making Every Moment Count

    The halted hands of a pocket watch in a library’s archives at the University of North Carolina tell a harrowing tale. They mark the exact moment (8:19 and 56 seconds) the watch’s owner Elisha Mitchell slipped and fell to his death at a waterfall in the Appalachian Mountains on the morning of June 27, 1857.

    Mitchell, a professor at the university, was gathering data to defend his (correct) claim that the peak he was on—which now bears his name, Mount Mitchell—was the highest one east of the Mississippi. His grave is located at the mountain’s summit, not far from where he…

    Chatty Bus

    In 2019, the Oxford Bus Company launched the instantly popular “Chatty Bus,” a bus with designated people on board willing to talk with interested passengers. The route was initiated in response to government research which found that thirty percent of Britons go at least one day each week without a meaningful conversation.

    Many of us have likely experienced the loneliness that comes from not having someone to talk to in a time of need. As I reflect on the value of important conversations in my life, I’m especially reminded of discussions that were full of grace. Those times brought me joy…

    Real Hospitality

    “Kumain ka na ba?” (Have you eaten?)

    This is what you’ll always hear as a visitor in many homes in the Philippines, where I’m from. It’s the Filipino way of expressing care and kindness for our guests. And regardless of your reply, your host will always prepare something for you to eat. Filipinos believe that true kindness isn’t just saying the standard greeting, but also going beyond words to show real hospitality.

    Rebekah, too, knew all about being kind. Her daily chores included drawing water from the well outside town and carrying the heavy jar of water home. When Abraham’s servant, who…

    Parking Lot Quarrel

    The scene in the parking lot might have been funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Two drivers were arguing loudly over one of their cars that was blocking the passage of the other, and harsh words were being exchanged.

    What made it especially painful to watch was that this quarrel was taking place in the parking lot of a church. The two men had possibly just heard a sermon about love, patience, or forgiveness, but it was all forgotten in the heat of the moment.

    Passing by, I shook my head—then quickly realized I was no better. How many times had I…

    Tackling Indecision

    We live in a world that offers a wide range of choices—from paper towels to life insurance. In 2004, Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a book titled The Paradox of Choice in which he argued that while freedom of choice is important to our well-being, too many choices can lead to overload and indecision. While the stakes are certainly lower when deciding on which paper towel to buy, indecision can become debilitating when making major decisions that impact the course of our lives. So how can we overcome indecision and move forward confidently in living for Jesus?

    As believers in Christ, seeking…

    Unshakable Faith

    Kevin walked into the nursing facility after his dad passed away to pick up his belongings. The staff handed him two small boxes. He said he realized that day that it really didn’t take an abundance of possessions to be happy. 

    His dad, Larry, had been carefree and always ready with a smile and an encouraging word for others. The reason for his happiness was another “possession” that didn’t fit into a box: an unshakable faith in his Redeemer, Jesus. 

    Jesus urges us to “store up . . . treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He didn’t say we couldn’t own a home…

    Getting What We Want

    Aaron Burr anxiously awaited the result of the tie-breaking vote from the US House of Representatives. Deadlocked with Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 race for the presidency, Burr had reason to believe that the House would declare him the winner. However, he lost, and bitterness gnawed at his soul. Nurturing grievances against Alexander Hamilton for not supporting his candidacy, Burr killed Hamilton in a gun duel less than four years later. Outraged by the killing, his country turned its back on him, and Burr died a dour old man.

    Political power plays are a tragic part of history. When King David…

    Love Wherever We Go

    I sat on the pier during a vacation, reading my Bible and watching my husband fish. A young man approached us, suggesting we use different bait. He glanced at me as he fidgeted from one foot to another and said, “I’ve been in jail,” He pointed to my Bible and sighed. “Do you think God really cares about people like me?”

    Opening to Matthew 25, I read aloud that Jesus talked about His followers visiting those in prison.

    “It says that? About being in prison?” Tears brimmed his eyes when I shared how God considers kindness toward His children a personal act…

    The Whatevers

    Every Friday evening, the national news my family views concludes the broadcast by highlighting an uplifting story. In contrast to the rest of the news, it’s always a breath of fresh air. A recent “good” Friday story focused on a reporter who had suffered from COVID-19, fully recovered, and then decided to donate plasma to possibly help others in their fight against the virus. At the time the jury was still out on how effective antibodies would be. But when many of us felt helpless and even in light of the discomfort of donating plasma (via needle), she felt it…