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    The Lost Envelope

    We were on the way home from a visit with family in another state when I found it. I was pumping gas when I noticed a dirty, bulky envelope on the ground. I grabbed it, dirt and all, and looked inside. To my surprise, it contained one hundred dollars.

    Hazardous Materials

    The sound of a siren increased to an ear-piercing level as an emergency vehicle sped by my car. Its flashing lights glared through my windshield, illuminating the words “hazardous materials” printed on the side of the truck. Later, I learned it had been racing to a science laboratory where a 400-gallon container of sulfuric acid had begun to leak. Emergency workers had to contain the substance immediately because of its ability to damage whatever it came in contact with.

    As I thought about this news story, I wondered what would happen if sirens blared every time a harsh or critical word…

    God Talk

    A study conducted by the Barna Group in 2018 found that most Americans don’t like to talk about God. Only seven percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly — and practicing Christians in America aren’t that different. Only thirteen percent of regular churchgoers say they have a spiritual conversation about once a week.

    Perhaps it’s not surprising that spiritual conversations are on the decline. Talking about God can be dangerous. Whether because of a polarized political climate, because disagreement might cause a rift in a relationship, or because a spiritual conversation might cause you to realize a change…

    The Approval of One

    When the legendary composer Guiseppi Verdi (1813–1901) was young, a hunger for approval drove him toward success. Warren Wiersbe wrote of him, “When Verdi produced his first opera in Florence, the composer stood by himself in the shadows and kept his eye on the face of one man in the audience—the great Rossini. It mattered not to Verdi whether the people in the hall were cheering him or jeering him; all he wanted was a smile of approval from the master musician.”

    Whose approval do we seek? A parent? A boss? A love interest? For Paul, there was but one answer.…

    Fruitful to the End

    Although Lenore was ninety-four years young, her mind was sharp, her smile was bright, and her contagious love for Jesus was felt by those whose lives she touched. It wasn’t uncommon to find her in the company of the youth of our church; her presence and participation were sources of joy and encouragement. Lenore’s life was so vibrant that her death caught us off guard. Like a runner with energy at the end of the race, she sprinted across life’s finish line. Her energy and zeal were such that, just days before her death, she completed a sixteen-week course that…

    This Is Me

    The powerful song, “This is Me,” is an unforgettable showtune featured in The Greatest Showman, the smash movie musical loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum and his traveling circus. The lyrics, sung by characters in the film who’d suffered verbal taunts and abuse for failing to conform to societal norms, describe words as destructive bullets and knives that leave scars.

    The song’s popularity points to how many people bear the invisible, but real, wounds caused by weaponized words.

    James understood the potential danger of our words to cause destructive and long-lasting harm, calling the tongue “a restless evil, full of…

    Finding a Quiet Life

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all heard some variation of that question as children. Some of us continue to hear it as adults. The question is born in curiosity, and the specific answer is often heard as an indication of ambition. My answers morphed over the years, starting with a cowboy, then a truck driver, followed by a soldier, and I entered college set on becoming a doctor. However, I cannot recall one time that someone suggested or I consciously considered pursuing “a quiet life.”

    Yet that is exactly what Paul told the believers in…

    Worth the Wait

    Outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo is a statue commemorating an Akita dog named Hachiko. Hachiko is remembered for unusual faithfulness to his owner, a university professor who commuted from the station daily. The dog accompanied him on his walk there in the morning and came back to meet him every afternoon just as his train arrived.

    One day the professor didn’t return to the station; sadly, he’d died at work. But for the rest of his life—more than nine years—Hachiko showed up at the same time as the afternoon train. Day after day, regardless of weather, the dog waited…

    God’s Heart for Hypocrites

    “I’d be very disappointed if one of our team members did that,” said a cricket player, referring to a South African cricketer who’d cheated in a match in 2016. But only two years later, that same player was caught in a nearly identical scandal.

    Few things rankle us more than hypocrisy. But in the story of Judah in Genesis 38, Judah’s hypocritical behavior nearly had deadly consequences. After two of his sons died soon after marrying Tamar, Judah had quietly abandoned his duty to provide for her needs (vv. 8–11). In desperation, Tamar disguised herself by wearing a prostitute’s veil, and Judah…

    Don’t Feed the Trolls

    Ever heard the expression, “Don’t feed the trolls”? “Trolls” refers to a new problem in today’s digital world—online users who repeatedly post intentionally inflammatory and hurtful comments on news or social media discussion boards. But ignoring such comments—not “feeding” the trolls—makes it harder for them to derail a conversation.

    Of course, it’s nothing new to encounter people who aren’t genuinely interested in productive conversation. “Don’t feed the trolls” could almost be a modern equivalent of Proverbs 26:4, which warns that arguing with an arrogant, unreceptive person risks stooping to their level.

    And yet . . . even the most seemingly stubborn person…

    Tongue Tamers

    In West with the Night, author Beryl Markham detailed her work with Camciscan, a feisty stallion she was tasked with taming. She’d met her match with Camciscan. No matter what strategy she employed, she could never fully tame the proud stallion, chalking up only one victory over his stubborn will.

    How many of us feel this way in the battle to tame our tongues? While James likens the tongue to the bit in a horse’s mouth or a ship’s rudder (James 3:3–4), he also laments, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (v.…

    Walking Backward

    I stumbled upon footage from a British newsreel crew who filmed six-year-old Flannery O’Connor on her family farm in 1932. Flannery, who would go on to become an acclaimed US writer, caught the crew’s curiosity because she’d taught a chicken to walk backwards. Apart from the novelty of the feat, I thought this glimpse of history was a perfect metaphor. Flannery, due to both her literary sensibilities and her spiritual convictions, spent her thirty-nine years definitely walking backwards—thinking and writing in a counter-cultural way. Publishers and readers were entirely baffled by how her biblical themes ran counter to the religious…

    Jesus in Disguise

    My son Geoff recently participated in a “homeless simulation.” He spent three days and two nights living on the streets of his city, sleeping outside in below freezing temperatures. Without food, money, or shelter, he relied on the kindness of strangers for his basic needs. On one of those days his only food was a sandwich, bought by a man who heard him asking for stale bread at a fast-food restaurant.

    Geoff told me later it was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, yet it profoundly impacted his outlook on others. He spent the day after his “simulation” seeking…

    Practicing What We Preach

    Pastor and spiritual writer Eugene Peterson had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Swiss physician and highly respected pastoral counselor Paul Tournier. Peterson had read the doctor’s works, and admired his approach to healing. The lecture left a deep impression on Peterson. As he listened, he had the feeling that Tournier lived what he spoke and spoke what he lived. Peterson chose this word to describe his experience: “Congruence. It is the best word I can come up with.”

    Congruence – it’s what some refer to as “practicing what you preach” or “walking your talk.” John stresses that if any of…

    Words that Wound

    “Skinny bones, skinny bones,” the boy taunted. “Stick,” another chimed. In return, I could have chanted “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But even as a little girl, I knew the popular rhyme wasn’t true. Unkind, thoughtless words did hurt—sometimes badly, leaving wounds that went deeper and lasted much longer than a welt from a stone or stick.

    Hannah certainly knew the sting of thoughtless words. Her husband Elkanah loved her, but she had no children, while his second wife, Peninnah, had many. In a culture where a woman’s worth was often assessed based…

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