• Topic > Relationships

    The Father’s Blessing

    Recently, several people within our church—those who had experienced poor relationships with their fathers—asked me to stand in as a loving, father figure and offer a blessing over them. The blessing asked forgiveness for the ways a father can hurt his children by setting too high expectations or being distant or failing to offer tender presence and affirmation. It also pronounced delight, admiration, and abundant love. As I shared the blessing, I wept. I realized how I still needed to receive such words, and how much my children need them too.

    The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as our Father, a…

    Canceled Debts

    In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.

    For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that the Lord called for debts to be forgiven every seven…

    Gifts from Above

    According to an old story, a man born in 270 AD named Nicholas heard about a father who was so poor that he couldn’t feed his three daughters, much less provide for their future marriages. Wanting to assist the father, but hoping to keep his help a secret, Nicholas threw a bag of gold through an open window, which landed in a sock or shoe drying on the hearth. That man was known as St. Nicholas, who later became the inspiration for Santa Claus.

    When I heard that story of a gift coming down from above, I thought of God the…

    Braided Together

    A friend gave me a houseplant she had owned for more than forty years. The plant was equal to my height, and it produced large leaves from three separate spindly trunks. Over time, the weight of the leaves had caused all three of the main stalks to curve down toward the floor. To straighten them, I put a wedge under the plant’s pot and placed it near a window so the sunlight could draw the leaves upward and help cure its bad posture.

    Shortly after receiving the plant, I saw one just like it in a waiting room at a local…

    Just a Touch

    It was just a touch, but it made all the difference to Colin. As his small team was preparing to do charitable work in a region known for hostility to Christians, his stress level began to rise dangerously. When he shared his worries with a teammate, his friend stopped, placed his hand on his shoulder, and shared a few encouraging words with him. Colin now looks back on that brief touch as a turning point, a powerful reminder of the simple truth that God was with him.

    John, the close friend and disciple of Jesus, had been banished to the desolate…

    Catching Foxes

    The first time a bat invaded our home we dismissed it as a fluke. But after a second nighttime visit, I read up on the little critters and discovered they don’t need much of an opening to pay humans a visit. I had assumed they would need a gaping hole, but I discovered that if they find a gap as small as the side of a coin they’ll let themselves in.

    So I loaded up my caulk gun and went on a mission. I went around the house and closed up every tiny opening I could find.

    In Songs of Songs 2:15,…

    Touched by Grace

    In Leif Enger’s novel Peace Like a River, Jeremiah Land is a single father of three working as a janitor at a local school. He is also a man of deep, sometimes miraculous, faith. Throughout the book, his faith is often tested.

    Jeremiah’s school is run by Chester Holden, a mean-spirited superintendent with a skin condition. Despite Jeremiah’s excellent work ethic—mopping up a sewage spill without complaint, picking up broken bottles the superintendent smashed—Holden wants him gone. One day, in front of all the students, he accuses Jeremiah of drunkenness and fires him. It’s a humiliating scene.

    How does Jeremiah respond? He could…

    Lincoln’s Pockets

    The night Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater, his pockets contained the following: two spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and eight newspaper clippings, including several that praised him and his policies.

    I wonder what the Confederate money was doing in the President’s pocket, but I have little doubt about the glowing news stories. Everyone needs encouragement, even a great leader like Lincoln! Can you see him, in the moments before the fateful play, perhaps reading them to his wife?

    Who do you know who needs encouragement? Everyone!…

    The Power of Encouragement

    When he was a young boy, Benjamin West attempted to draw a picture of his sister, but he succeeded only in making a mess. His mother saw his creation, kissed him on the head, and remarked, “Why, it’s Sally!” He would later say that it was that kiss that made him an artist—and the great American painter he would become. Such is the power of encouragement!

    Like a child learning to paint, Paul didn’t have much credibility early on in his ministry, but Barnabas affirmed his calling. It was through Barnabas’ encouragement that the church accepted Saul as a fellow believer…

    Making Things Whole

    In the documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, author Berry spoke of how divorce describes the state of our world. We’re divorced from one another, from our history, from the land. Things that should be whole are split apart. When asked what we should do about this sad fact, Berry said, “We can’t put everything back together. We just take two things and put them together.” We take two things broken apart and make them one again.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus tells us (v. 9). To make peace is to bring shalom. And shalom refers to the world being set right.…

    Untying the Rope

    A Christian organization works to promote the healing nature of forgiveness. One of their activities involves a skit in which a person who has been wronged is strapped back to back with a rope to the wrongdoer. Only the one sinned against can untie the rope. No matter what she does, she’s got someone on her back. Without forgiveness—without untying the rope—she cannot escape.

    Offering forgiveness to someone who comes to us in sorrow for their wrongdoing begins the process of releasing us and them from the bitterness and pain that can cling to us over wrongs we’ve suffered. In Genesis,…

    A Living Memorial of Kindness

    I grew up in a church full of traditions. One came into play when a beloved family member or friend died. Often a church pew or possibly a painting in a hallway showed up not longer after with a brass plate affixed: “In Memory of . . .” The deceased’s name would be etched there, a shining reminder of a life passed on. I always appreciated those memorials. And I still do. Yet at the same time they’ve always given me pause because they are static, an inanimate object, in a very literal sense something “not alive.” Is there a way…

    Throwing Stones

    Lisa felt no sympathy for those who cheated on their husband or wife . . . until after she found herself deeply unsatisfied with her marriage and struggling to resist a dangerous attraction. That painful experience helped develop in her a new compassion for others and greater understanding of Jesus’s words: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7).

    Jesus was teaching in the temple courts when He made that powerful statement. A group of teachers of the law and Pharisees had just dragged a woman caught in adultery before Him…

    The Best Strategy for Life

    As we watched my daughter’s basketball game from the bleachers, I heard the coach utter a single word to the girls on the court: Doubles. Immediately, their defensive strategy shifted from one-on-one to two of their players teaming against their tallest ball-holding opponent. They were successful in thwarting her efforts to shoot and score, eventually taking the ball down the court to their own basket.

    When Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, grapples with the toils and frustrations of the world, he too acknowledges that having a companion in our labors yields “a good return” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). While a person battling alone…

    When You’re Not Chosen

    My friend’s Facebook post announced he had finished a project. Others congratulated him, but his post knifed my heart. That project was supposed to be mine. I had been passed over, and I wasn’t sure why.

    Poor Joseph. He was passed over by God, and he knew why. Joseph was one of two men in the running to replace Judas. The disciples prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen” (Acts 1:24). God chose the other guy. Then He announced His decision to the group, when “the lot fell to Matthias” (v. 26).

    As the…

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