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    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…

    Something to Brag About

    What does it mean to be real? That’s the very big question answered in the small children’s book—The Velveteen Rabbit. It is the story of toys in a nursery, and the journey of a velveteen rabbit to becoming real by allowing himself to be loved by a child. One of the other toys is the old and wise Skin Horse. He “had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by and by break . . . and pass away.” They looked and sounded impressive, but their boasting eventually amounted to nothing when it came…

    Playing with Joy

    One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach. One year, as his team was threading its way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament, well-meaning folks around town asked, “Are you going to win it all this year?” Both players and coaches felt the pressure, so Brian adopted a mantra: “Play with joy!”

    I thought of the apostle Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus: “That I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24 nkjv). His aim was to complete the tasks Jesus had given him. I have made these words my mantra and my prayer: “May…

    Unexpected Winners

    Perhaps the most preposterous, spellbinding moment in the 2018 Winter Olympics was when the Czech Republic’s world champion snowboarder Ester Ledecka won an event in a completely different sport: skiing! And she took the first-place gold medal even though she had the unenviable position of skiing 26th—a feat believed to be basically impossible.

    Amazingly, Ledecka qualified to race the women’s super-G—an event that combines downhill skiing with a slalom course. After she won by .01 of a second on borrowed skis, the cameras showed she was just as shocked as the media and other contestants who had assumed the winner would be…

    Fluff and Other Stuff

    Winnie the Pooh famously said, “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

    I’ve learned over the years that Winnie might be on to something. When someone won’t listen to you even though following your counsel would be to their advantage, it may be that their reticence is nothing more than a small piece of fluff in their ear. Or there may be another hindrance: Some folks find it hard to listen well because they are broken and discouraged.

    Moses said…

    More than a Symbol

    On the verge of making team history, University of Iowa basketball star Jordan Bohannon intentionally missed the free throw that would have broken a twenty-five-year-old school record. Why? In 1993, days after Iowa’s Chris Street had made thirty-four free throws in a row, he lost his life in a car crash. Bohannon chose to honor Street’s memory by not breaking his record.

    Bohannon showed a keen awareness of things more important than his own advancement. We see similar values in the life of the young warrior David. Hiding in a cave with his ragtag army, David longed for a drink from…

    Gentle Yet Powerful

    As the enemy occupation of the Netherlands grew, Anne Frank and her family bravely prepared and then moved to a secret hiding place to escape the danger. They remained there two years during World War II before being found and sent to concentration camps. Yet Anne, writing in what became her famous Diary of a Young Girl said this: “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”

    Gentleness can be a complicated issue as we deal with real life.

    In Isaiah 40 we get a picture of God that shows Him to be both gentle…

    Shelve Them and Move On

    I’m reminded of some wise advice a radio broadcaster friend once gave me. Early on in his career, as my friend struggled to know how to deal with both criticism and praise, he felt that God was encouraging him to shelve both. What’s the essence of what he took to heart? Learn what you can from criticism and accept praise. Then shelve both and humbly move on in God’s grace and power.                      

    Criticism and praise stir in us powerful emotions that, if left unchecked, can lead to either self-loathing or an overinflated ego. In Proverbs we read of the benefits of encouragement…

    Giving Credit

    In the early 1960s, some unusual paintings featuring a person or animal with huge, sad eyes became popular. Some considered the work “kitschy”—or tacky—but others delighted in it. As the artist’s husband began to promote his wife’s creations, the couple grew quite prosperous. But the artist’s signature—Margaret Keane—didn’t appear on her work. Instead, Margaret’s husband presented his wife’s work as his own. Margaret fearfully remained silent about the fraud for twenty years until the couple’s marriage ended. It took a courtroom “paint-off” between them to prove the true artist’s identity.

    The man’s deception was clearly wrong, but even as followers of…

    Following the Leader

    In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live not far from an Air Force Base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.

    Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: how can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch…

    "By the Grace of God I Am What I Am"

    The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator. To complain over our incompetence is to accuse God falsely of having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining from God’s perspective those things that sound so humble to men. You will be amazed at how unbelievably inappropriate and disrespectful they are to Him.

    The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances

    We know that all things work together for good to those who love God… —Romans 8:28

    The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can’t understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God brings you to places, among people,…

    Asking for Help

    Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions.

    The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine.

    That’s because Jesus asked it. Hearing a blind beggar call out to Him on the Jericho Road, Jesus stopped to…

    The Divine Commandment of Life

    . . . be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect —Matthew 5:48

    Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your …

    The Right Way to Pray

    I admire people who record prayer requests in journals tattered from daily handling, those who keep track of every prayer and praise and then faithfully update their lists. I’m inspired by those who gather with others to pray and whose kneeling wears out the carpet at their bedsides. For years, I tried to copy their styles, to simulate a perfect prayer life, and to imitate the eloquence of the so-much-more-articulate-than-me folks. I strived to unravel what I thought was a mystery, as I longed to learn the right way to pray.

    Eventually, I learned that our Lord simply desires prayer that…

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