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    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,…

    Strength to Let Go

    Once known as the World’s Strongest Man, American weightlifter Paul Anderson set a world record in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, despite a severe inner-ear infection and a 103-degree fever. Falling behind frontrunners, his only chance for a gold medal was to set a new Olympic record in his last event. His first two attempts failed badly.

    So the burly athlete did what even the weakest among us can do. He called on God for extra strength, letting go of his own. As he later said, “It wasn’t making a bargain. I needed help.” With his final lift, he hoisted…

    Relinquishing Control to God

    Picture a mighty oak tree that’s small enough to fit on a kitchen table. That’s what a bonsai looks like—a beautiful ornamental tree that’s a miniature version of what you find wild in nature. There’s no genetic difference between a bonsai and its full-size counterpart. It’s simply that a shallow pot, pruning, and root trimming restrict growth, so the plant remains small.

    While bonsai trees make for wonderful decorative plants, they also illustrate the power of control. It’s true that we can manipulate their growth as the tree responds to its environment. But God is ultimately the One who makes things…

    Called to Grow

    The sea squirt is a strange creature. Found attached to rocks and shells, it looks like a soft plastic tube waving with the current. Drawing its nutrients from the passing water, it lives a passive life far removed from its once active youth.

    The sea squirt starts life as a tadpole with a primitive spinal cord and brain that helps it find food and avoid harm. As a juvenile it spends its days exploring the ocean, but something happens when it reaches adulthood. Settling on its rock, it stops exploring and growing. In a macabre twist, it digests its own brain.

    Spineless,…

    A Teachable Spirit

    It has become sadly “normal” to attack not only the opinions of others but also the person holding the opinion. This can be true in academic circles as well. For this reason, I was stunned when scholar and theologian Richard B. Hays wrote a paper that forcefully took to task a work that he himself had written years earlier! In Reading With the Grain of Scripture, Hays demonstrated great humility of heart as he corrected his own past thinking, now fine-tuned by his lifelong commitment to learning.   

    As the book of Proverbs was being introduced, King Solomon listed the various…

    Wisdom and Understanding

    In 1373, when Julian of Norwich was thirty years old, she became ill and nearly died. When her minister prayed with her, she experienced a number of visions in which she considered Jesus’ crucifixion. After miraculously recovering her health, she spent the next twenty years living in solitude in a side room of the church, praying over and thinking through the experience. She concluded that “love was his meaning”; that is, that Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme manifestation of God’s love.

    Julian’s revelations are famous, but what people often overlook is the time and effort she spent prayerfully working out what…

    Pride and Deception

    Loving God, thank You for Your gentle, nudging correction. With my shoulders slumped over my desk, I murmured those difficult words. I’ve been so arrogant, thinking I could do it all on my own. For months, I’d been enjoying successful work projects, and the accolades lulled me into trusting my capabilities and rejecting God’s leading. It took a challenging project for me to realize I wasn’t as smart as I thought. My proud heart had deceived me into believing that I didn’t need God’s help.

    The powerful kingdom of Edom received discipline from God for its pride. Edom was located amid mountainous terrain,…

    A Good Work

    As a teenager, Charles Spurgeon wrestled with God. He’d grown up going to church, but what was preached seemed bland and meaningless. God was a struggle for him, and Charles, in his own words “rebelled and revolted.” One night a fierce snowstorm forced the sixteen-year-old Spurgeon to seek shelter in a tiny Methodist church. The pastor’s sermon seemed directed at him personally. In that moment, God won the wrestling match, and Charles gave his heart to Jesus.

    Spurgeon later wrote, “long before I began with Christ, He began with me.” In fact, our life with God doesn’t begin with the moment…

    Joyful Learning

    In the city of Mysore, India, there’s a school made of two refurbished train cars connected end-to-end. Local educators teamed up with the South Western Railways Company to buy and remodel the discarded coaches. The units were essentially large metal boxes, unusable until workers installed stairways, fans, lights, and desks. Workers also painted the walls and added colorful murals inside and out. Now, sixty students attend classes there because of the amazing transformation that took place.

    Something even more amazing takes place when we follow the apostle Paul’s command to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As…

    God’s Molded Instruments

    Considered one of the greatest video games ever made, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time published by Nintendo has sold more than seven million copies worldwide. It’s also popularized the ocarina, a tiny, ancient, potato-shaped musical instrument made of clay.

    The ocarina doesn’t look like much of a musical instrument. However, when it’s played—by blowing into its mouthpiece and covering various holes around its misshapen body—it produces a strikingly serene and hauntingly hopeful sound. 

    The ocarina’s maker took a lump of clay, applied pressure and heat to it, and transformed it into an amazing musical instrument. I see a picture of…

    Complete in Christ

    In a popular film, an actor plays a success-driven sports agent whose marriage begins to crumble. Attempting to win his wife, Dorothy, back, he looks into her eyes and says, “You complete me.” It’s a heart-warming message that echoes a tale in Greek philosophy. According to that myth, each of us is a “half” that must find our “other half” to become whole.

    The belief that a romantic partner “completes” us is now part of popular culture. But is it true? I talk to many married couples who still feel incomplete because they haven’t been able to have children, and others…

    Overcoming Envy

    In the film Amadeus, aging composer Antonio Salieri plays some of his music on the piano for a visiting priest. The embarrassed priest confesses he doesn’t recognize the tunes. “What about this one?” Salieri says, playing an instantly familiar melody. “I didn’t know you wrote that,” the priest says. “I didn’t,” Salieri replies. “That was Mozart!” As viewers discover, Mozart’s success has caused deep envy in Salieri—even leading him to play a part in Mozart’s death.

    A song lies at the heart of another envy story. After David’s victory over Goliath, the Israelites heartily sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David…

    Imagine This!

    During the course of a popular home renovation television program, viewers often hear the host say, “Imagine this!” Then she unveils what could be when old things are restored and drab walls and floors are painted or stained. In one episode, after the renovation the homeowner was so overjoyed that, along with other expressions of elation, the words “That’s beautiful!” gushed from her lips three times.

    One of the stunning “Imagine this!” passages in the Bible is Isaiah 65:17–25. What a dazzling re-creation scene! The future renovation of heaven and earth is in view (v. 17), and it’s not merely cosmetic.…

    Our True Selves

    Inside my parents’ old photo album is a picture of a young boy. He has a round face, freckles, and straight light-blond hair. He loves cartoons, hates avocado, and owns just one record, by Abba. Also inside that album are pictures of a teenager. His face is long, not round; his hair is wavy, not straight. He has no freckles, likes avocado, watches movies rather than cartoons, and would never admit to owning an Abba record! The boy and the teenager are little alike. According to science they have different skin, teeth, blood, and bones. And yet they are both…

    Walk, Don’t Run

    I’d see her welcoming the dawn each day. She was our local power walker. As I drove my kids to school, she’d be there on the road’s shoulder. Equipped with an oversized pair of headphones and knee-high, colorful socks, she walked with an alternating movement of arms and feet, always with one foot in contact with the ground. The sport is different from running or jogging. Power walking involves an intentional restraint, a reining in of the body’s natural inclination to run. Although it doesn’t look like it, there’s just as much energy, focus, and power involved as in running…