• Topic > Relationships

    Crushed and Beautiful

    At first glance I dismissed the painting Consider the Lilies by Makoto Fujimura as a simple, monochromatic painting featuring a lily seemingly hiding in the background. However, the painting came alive when I learned it was actually painted with more than eighty layers of finely crushed minerals in a style of Japanese art known as Nihonga, a style Fujimura calls “slow art.” Looking closely reveals layers of complexity and beauty. Fujimura explains that he sees the gospel echoed in the technique of making “beauty through brokenness,” just as Jesus’ suffering brought the world wholeness and hope.

    God loves to take aspects of our…

    The Marriage Metaphor

    After twenty-two years together, I sometimes wonder how my marriage to Merryn works. I’m a writer, Merryn is a statistician; I work with words, she works with numbers. I want beauty, she wants function. We come from different worlds.

    Merryn arrives to appointments early, I’m occasionally late. I try new things on the menu, she orders the same. After twenty minutes at an art gallery I’m just getting started, while Merryn is already in the cafe downstairs wondering how much longer I’ll be. We give each other many opportunities to learn patience!

    We do have things in common—a shared sense of humor,…

    Humility Is the Truth

    Reflecting one day on why God values humility so highly, sixteenth-century believer Teresa of Avila suddenly realized the answer: “It is because God is the supreme Truth, and humility is the truth . . . nothing good in us springs from ourselves. Rather, it comes from the waters of grace, near which the soul remains, like a tree planted by a river, and from that Sun which gives life to our works.” Teresa concluded that it’s by prayer that we anchor ourselves in that reality, for “the whole foundation of prayer is humility. The more we humble ourselves in prayer,…

    Discerning Right Paths

    One writer referred to Brazilian skateboarder Felipe Gustavo as “one of the most legendary skateboarders on the planet.” No one would have believed this would be Gustavo’s future when he was sixteen. Gustavo’s dad believed his son needed to pursue his dream of skating professionally, but they didn’t have the money. So his dad sold their car, and took his son to the renowned Tampa Am skating competition in Florida. No one had heard of Gustavo . . . until he won. And the victory catapulted him into an amazing career.

    Gustavo’s dad had the capacity to see his son’s heart…

    Life-Giving Correction

    A treat we grew to love when we lived in England was Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars. When we returned to the States, I was dismayed to discover the U.S. distributor of Cadbury chocolate uses a different recipe and does not allow for any importer to supply the original UK version. You can buy Cadbury chocolate in the US, but it’s not the authentic version. 

    Authenticity. It’s something I can taste in my chocolate but earnestly long to be true of me as well as a believer in Jesus. 

    Authentic faith is a quality Paul commends his disciple Timothy for in the…

    In This Together

    Kelly was battling brain cancer when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Then fluid developed around her heart and lungs and she had to be hospitalized again. Her family couldn’t visit because of the pandemic. Her husband, Dave, vowed to do something.

    Gathering loved ones together, Dave asked them to make large signs with messages. They did. Wearing masks, twenty people stood on the street outside the hospital holding signs: “BEST MOM!” “LOVE YOU.” “WE ARE WITH U.” With the help of a nurse, Kelly made her way to a fourth-floor window. “All we could see was a facemask and a waving hand,”…

    God Knows

    A couple who stopped to admire a large abstract painting noticed open paint cans and brushes underneath it. Assuming it was a “work in progress” that anyone could help create, they stroked in some color and left. The artist, though, had purposefully left the supplies there as part of the finished work’s display. After reviewing video footage of the incident, the gallery acknowledged the misunderstanding and didn’t press charges.

    The Israelites who lived east of the Jordan created a misunderstanding when they built a massive altar next to the river. The western tribes viewed this as rebellion against God—everyone knew the…

    A Humble Snack

    The bag of snack chips was small, but it taught an American missionary a big lesson. Working one evening  in the Dominican Republic, she arrived  at a church meeting and opened her chips when a woman she hardly knew reached and grabbed a few from the bag. Others helped themselves, too.

    How rude, the missionary thought. Then she realized a humbling lesson. She didn’t yet understand the culture where she’d agreed to serve. Rather than emphasizing individualism, as in the United States, she learned that life in the Dominican Republic is lived in community. Sharing one’s food and goods is how people…

    You Can Do It!

    Encouragement is like oxygen—we can’t live without it. This was true for nine-year-old James Savage. The boy swam more than two miles from the San Francisco shoreline to Alcatraz Island and back, breaking the record for the youngest person to accomplish the feat. But thirty minutes into the swim, the choppy, frigid waters made James want to quit. However, a fleet of paddlers called out, “You can do it!” The words gave him the boost he needed to finish his goal.

    When the choppy, frigid waters of tribulation made believers in Jesus want to give up, Paul and Barnabas encouraged them…

    He Knows My Heart

    After a customer at a grocery store self-checkout station had completed her transaction, I made my way to the station and proceeded to scan my goods. Unexpectedly, a visibly angry person confronted me. I’d failed to notice that she was actually next in line for checkout. Recognizing my mistake, I sincerely said, “I’m sorry.” She replied (though not limited to these words), “No, you’re not!”

    Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were wrong, acknowledged it, and tried to make things right—only to be rebuffed? It doesn’t feel good to be misunderstood or misjudged, and the closer we…

    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.…

    Set Apart

    In November 1742, a riot broke out in Staffordshire, England, to protest against the gospel message Charles Wesley was preaching. It seems Charles and his brother John were changing some longstanding church traditions, and that was too much for many of the townsfolk.

    When John Wesley heard about the riot, he hurried to Staffordshire to help his brother. Soon an unruly crowd surrounded the place where John was staying. Courageously, he met face to face with their leaders, speaking with them so serenely that one by one their anger was assuaged.

    John Wesley’s gentle and quiet spirit calmed a potentially savage mob.…

    Run Away

    The introductory lesson on aikido, a traditional Japanese form of martial arts, was an eye-opener. The sensei, or teacher, told us that when faced with an attacker, our first response should be to “run away.” “Only if you can’t run away, then you fight,” he said seriously.

    Run away? I was taken aback. Why was this highly-skilled self-defense instructor telling us to run away from a fight? It seemed counterintuitive—until he explained that the best form of self-defense is to avoid fighting in the first place. Of course!

    When several men came to arrest Jesus, Peter responded as some of us might have by drawing…

    Uncommon Courage

    In 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence, Italy, escaped an attack on his life. His countrymen sparked a war when they tried to retaliate for the attack on their leader. As the situation worsened, the cruel King Ferrante I of Naples became Lorenzo’s enemy, but a courageous act by Lorenzo changed everything. He visited the king unarmed and alone. This bravery, paired with his charm and brilliance, won Ferrante’s admiration and ended the war. 

    Daniel also helped a king experience a change of heart. No one in Babylon could describe or interpret a troubling dream King Nebuchadnezzar had. This…

    What Counts

    My friend recounted how she’d pointedly been asked by a fellow believer and colleague which political party she belonged to. His aim in asking the question seemed to be to predict whether he agreed with her on any number of issues currently dividing their community. In an effort to find common ground between them, she simply replied, “Since we’re both believers, I’d rather focus on our unity in Christ.”

    People were also divided in Paul’s day, though over different issues. Topics such as what foods were permissible to eat and which days were holy brought disagreement among the Christians in Rome.…