• Topic > Relationships

    Talking Bananas

    Never give up. Be the reason someone smiles. You’re amazing. It isn’t where you came from—it’s where you’re going that counts. Some schoolchildren in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found these messages and more written on bananas in their lunchroom. Cafeteria manager Stacey Truman took the time to write the encouraging notes on fruit, which the kids dubbed, “talking bananas.”

    This caring outreach reminds me of Barnabas’s heart for the “spiritual youngsters” in the ancient city of Antioch (Acts 11:22–24). Barnabas was famous for his ability to inspire people. Known as a good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, he prompted the…

    Together We Win

    In the middle of the night, Pastor Samuel Baggaga received a call asking him to come to the home of a church member. When he arrived, he found a house engulfed by fire. The father, though burned himself, had reentered the home to rescue one of his children and emerged with an unconscious daughter. The hospital, in this rural Ugandan setting, was six miles (10 kilometers) away. With no transportation available, the pastor and the father started running to the hospital with the child. When one of them tired from carrying the injured girl, the other one took over. Together…

    Sacred Gathering

    Our group of friends reunited for a long weekend together on the shores of a lake in Washington state. The days were spent playing in the water and sharing meals, but it was the evening conversations I treasured the most. As darkness fell, our hearts opened to one another with uncommon depth and vulnerability, sharing the pains of faltering marriages and the aftermath of trauma some of our children were enduring. Without glossing over the brokenness of our realities, we pointed one another to God and His faithfulness throughout such extreme difficulties. Those evenings are among the most sacred in…

    Chosen to Forgive

    As a middle-schooler, Patrick Ireland first sensed God had chosen him for something. But what? Later as a survivor of the horrific Columbine High School massacre where thirteen were killed and twenty-four wounded, including Patrick, he began to understand an answer.

    Through his long recovery, Patrick learned that clinging to bitterness causes further wounding. God showed Patrick that the key to forgiveness is to stop focusing on what others have done to us and to focus on what Jesus has done for us. Christ’s words on the cross toward His tormenters, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they…

    Talking Tables

    Loneliness is one of the greatest threats to our sense of well-being, affecting our health through our behaviors on social media, food consumption, and the like. One study suggests that nearly two-thirds of all people—regardless of age or gender—feel lonely at least some of the time. One British supermarket has created “talking tables” in their store cafés as a way to foster connection between people. Those looking for human interaction simply seat themselves at a table designated for that purpose, joining others or indicating a desire to be joined. Conversation ensues, providing a sense of connection and community.

    The people of…

    Impossible Forgiveness

    Liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where Nazis exterminated nearly 50,000 women: O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us; remember the fruits we brought thanks to this suffering, our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this; and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have born be their forgiveness.

    I can’t imagine the fear and pain inflicted…

    The Saddest Goose

    Why is there a football in the parking lot? I wondered. But as I got closer, I realized the greyish lump wasn’t a football: it was a goose—the saddest Canada goose I’d ever seen.
    Geese often congregate on the lawn near my workplace in the spring and fall. But today there was only one, its neck arced back and its head tucked beneath a wing. Where are your buddies? I thought. Poor thing was all alone. It looked so lonely, I wanted to give it a hug. (Note: don’t try this.)

    I’ve rarely seen a goose completely alone like my lonesome feathered…

    From Pity to Praise

    At a coat drive for children, excited kids searched gratefully for their favorite colors and proper sizes. They also gained self-esteem, an organizer said—with new coats boosting their acceptance by peers and school attendance on winter days.

    The apostle Paul seemed to need a coat, as well, when he wrote Timothy, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Timothy 4:13). Held in a cold Roman prison, Paul needed warmth but also companionship. “No one came to my support,” he lamented, “but everyone deserted me” when he faced a Roman judge (v. 16). His words pierce our hearts…

    Healing Words

    A recent study has shown that encouraging words from a health-care provider can help patients recuperate faster from their ailments. A simple experiment exposed volunteer study participants to a skin allergen to make them itch and then compared the reactions between those who received assurance from their physician and those who didn’t. Patients who received encouragement from their doctors had less discomfort and itching than their counterparts.  

    The writer of Proverbs knew how important encouraging words are. “Gracious words” bring “healing to the bones,” he wrote (Proverbs 16: 24). The positive effect of words isn’t limited to our health: when we…

    Two Are Better

    In the 1997 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, two women fought to stay on their feet as they hobbled toward the finish line. Exhausted, the runners persevered on wobbly legs, until Sian Welch bumped into Wendy Ingraham. They both dropped to the ground. Struggling to stand, they stumbled forward, only to fall again about twenty meters from the finish line. When Ingraham began to crawl, the crowd applauded. When her competitor followed suit, they cheered louder. Ingraham crossed the finish line in fourth place. She slumped into the outstretched arms of her supporters. Then she turned and reached out to her…

    Nearby Neighbors

    Our neighborhood, like many others, uses a website to help neighbors connect immediately with those surrounding them. In my neighborhood, members warn one another of mountain lion sightings and wildfire evacuation orders, as well as supply one another with child care when the need arises. It has even proven to be a resource for locating runaway pets. By leveraging the power of the internet, those living near one another are connecting again in ways that are often lost in today’s fast-paced world.

    Being in relationship with those who live nearby was also important long ago, in the days of King Solomon.…

    In It Together

    During a two month period in 1994, as many as one million Tutsis were slain in Rwanda by Hutu tribe members bent on killing their fellow countrymen. In the wake of this horrific genocide, Bishop Geoffrey Rwubusisi approached his wife about reaching out to women whose loved ones had been slain. Mary’s reply was, “All I want to do is cry.” She too had lost members of her family. The bishop’s response was that of a wise leader and caring husband: “Mary, gather the women together and cry with them.” He knew his wife’s pain had prepared her to uniquely…

    Friendship Bench

    In the south central African country of Zimbabwe, war trauma and high unemployment can leave people in despair—until they find hope on a bench. A friendship bench. Hopeless people can go there to talk with trained “grandmothers”—elderly women taught to listen to people struggling with depression, known in that nation’s Shona language as kufungisisa, or “thinking too much.”

    The Friendship Bench Project is being launched in other places, including Zanzibar, Malawi, London, and New York City. “We were thrilled to bits with the results,” said one London researcher. A New York counselor agreed. “Before you know it, you’re not on a…

    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…

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