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    Mercy’s Lament

    Her father blamed his illness on witchcraft. It was AIDS. When he died, his daughter, ten-year-old Mercy, grew even closer to her mother. But her mother was sick too, and three years later she died. From then on, Mercy’s sister raised the five siblings. That’s when Mercy began to keep a journal of her deep pain.

    The prophet Jeremiah kept a record of his pain too. In the grim book of Lamentations, he wrote of atrocities perpetrated on Judah by the Babylonian army. Jeremiah’s heart was especially grieved for the youngest victims. “My heart is poured out on the ground,” he…

    No Line to Love

    Sometimes when my Labrador retriever wants attention, he’ll take something of mine and parade it in front of me. One morning as I was writing at the desk with my back turned, Max snatched my wallet and ran off. But realizing I hadn’t seen him do it, he returned and nudged me with his nose—wallet in mouth, eyes dancing, tail wagging, taunting me to play.

    Max’s antics made me laugh, but they also reminded me of my limitations when it comes to being attentive to others. So often I’ve intended to spend time with family or friends, but other things occupy…

    Prompted to Pray

    “Several years ago I was prompted to pray for you often, and I wonder why.”

    That text message from an old friend came with a photo of a note in her Bible: “Pray for James. Cover mind, thoughts, words.” Beside my name she recorded three separate years.

    I looked at the years and caught my breath. I wrote back and asked what month she began to pray. She responded, “Sometime around July.”

    That was the month I was preparing to leave home for extended study abroad. I would be facing an unfamiliar culture and language and have my faith challenged like never before.…

    Asking God

    When my husband, Dan, was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t find the “right” way to ask God to heal him. In my limited view, other people in the world had such serious problems—war, famine, poverty, natural disasters. Then one day, during our morning prayer time, I heard my husband humbly ask, “Dear Lord, please heal my disease.” 

    It was such a simple but heartfelt plea that it reminded me to stop complicating every prayer request, because the Lord perfectly hears our righteous cries for help. As David simply asked, “Turn, Lord, and deliver me. Save me because of your unfailing love”…

    Haystack Prayers

    Samuel Mills and four of his friends often gathered together to pray for God to send people into the world to share the good news of Jesus. One August day in 1806, after returning from their prayer meeting, they got caught in a thunderstorm and took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. Their weekly prayer gathering then became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which resulted in a global mission movement. Today the Haystack Prayer Monument stands at Williams College in Massachusetts as a reminder of what God can do in answer to prayer.

    Our heavenly Father is delighted when…

    It’s Slippery Out Here!

    Years ago, when I was learning to ski, I followed my son Josh down what appeared to be a gentle slope. With my eyes on him I failed to notice he turned down the steepest hill on the mountain, and I found myself careening down the slope, completely out of control. I cratered, of course.

    Psalm 141 addresses a similar deceit by which we find ourselves slipping down sin’s slope. Prayer is one of the ways we stay alert to those slopes: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” (141:4) is a plea that echoes the Lord’s…

    Live. Pray. Love.

    Influenced by devout Christian parents, track star Jesse Owens lived as a courageous man of faith. During the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Owens, one of the few African-Americans on the US team, received four gold medals in the presence of hate-filled Nazis and their leader, Hitler. He also befriended fellow athlete Luz Long, a German. Surrounded by Nazi propaganda, Owens’ simple act of living out his faith impacted Luz’s life. Later, in a letter to Owens, Luz Long wrote: “That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew…

    Rescuing Villains

    The comic book hero is as popular as ever. In 2017 alone, six superhero movies accounted for more than $4 billion (US) in box office sales. But why are people so drawn to big action flicks?

    Maybe it’s because, in part, such stories resemble God’s Big Story. There’s a hero, a villain, a people in need of rescue, and plenty of riveting action.

    In this story, the biggest villain is Satan, the enemy of our souls. But there are lots of “little” villains as well. In the book of Daniel, for example, one is Nebuchadnezzar, the tyrannical king of much of the…

    Clear Communication

    While traveling in Asia, my iPad (containing my reading material and many work documents) suddenly died, a condition described as “the black screen of death.” Seeking help, I found a computer shop and encountered another problem—I don’t speak Chinese and the shop’s technician didn’t speak English. The solution? He pulled up a software program in which he typed in Chinese, but I could read it in English. The process reversed as I responded in English and he read in Chinese. The software allowed us to communicate clearly, even in different languages.

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m unable to communicate and express…

    Abby’s Prayer

    When Abby was a sophomore in high school, she and her mom heard a news story about a young man who’d been critically injured in a plane accident—an accident that took the lives of his father and stepmother. Although they didn’t know this person, Abby’s mom said, “We just need to pray for him and his family.” And they did.

    Fast forward a few years, and one day Abby walked into a class at her university. A male student offered her the seat next to him. That student was Austin Hatch, the plane crash victim Abby had prayed for. Soon they…

    Praying the Distance

    Kevin wiped a tear from his eye as he held out a slip of paper for my wife, Cari, to read. He knew Cari and I were praying for our daughter to return to faith in Jesus. “This note was found in my mother’s Bible after her death, and I hope it encourages you,” he said. At the top of the note were the words, “For my son, Kevin.” Below them was a prayer for his salvation.

    “I carry this with me in my own Bible today,” Kevin explained. “My mother prayed for my salvation for over thirty-five years. I was…

    Praying and Growing

    When my friend David’s wife developed Alzheimer’s disease, the changes it brought to his life made him bitter. He needed to retire early to care for her; and as the disease progressed, she required increasingly more care.

    “I was so angry at God,” he told me. “But the more I prayed about it, the more He showed me my heart and how I had been selfish for most of our marriage.” Tears welled in his eyes as he confessed, “She’s been sick ten years, but God has helped me see things differently. Now, everything I do out of love for her,…

    The Battle

    As artillery rounds fell around him with an earth-shaking whoomp, the young soldier prayed fervently, “Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll go to that Bible school Mom wanted me to.” God honored his focused prayer. My dad survived World War II, went to Moody Bible Institute, and invested his life in ministry.

    Another warrior endured a different kind of crisis that drove him to God, but his problems arose when he avoided combat. As King David’s troops fought the Ammonites, David was back at his palace casting more than just a glance at another man’s wife (see 2 Samuel 11).…

    Good Works Prepared

    When a burly stranger approached my wife and me on a street abroad, we shrunk back in fear. Our holiday had been going badly; we had been yelled at, cheated, and extorted from several times. Were we going to be shaken down again? To our surprise, the man just wanted to show us where to get the best view of his city. Then he gave us a chocolate bar, smiled, and left. That little gesture made our day—and saved the whole trip. It made us grateful—both to the man and to God for cheering us up.

    What had made the man…

    It’s Good to Ask

    My father has always had a directional sense I’ve envied. He’s just instinctively known where north, south, east, and west were. It’s like he was born with that sense. And he’s always been right. Until the night he wasn’t.

    That was the night my father got lost. He and my mother attended an event in an unfamiliar town and left after dark. He was convinced he knew the way back to the highway, but he didn’t. He got turned around, then confused, and ultimately frustrated. My mother reassured him, “I know it’s hard, but ask your phone for directions. It’s okay.”

    For…

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