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    Failed Again

    Back in my sermon-making days I approached some Sunday mornings feeling like a lowly worm. During the week before, I had not been the best husband, father, or friend. I felt that before God could use me again I had to establish a track record of right living. So I vowed to get through the sermon as best I could and try to live better the coming week. 

     

    That was not the right approach. In Galatians 3 it’s said that God continually supplies us with His Spirit and works powerfully through us as a free gift—not because we’ve done anything or…

    On the Bubble

    A news article in May 1970 contained one of the first uses of the idiom “on the bubble.” Referring to a state of uncertainty, the expression was used in relation to rookie race car driver Steve Krisiloff. He’d been “on the bubble,” having posted a slow qualifying lap for the Indianapolis 500. Later, it was confirmed that his time—though the slowest of those who qualified—allowed him to compete in the race.

    We can feel at times that we’re “on the bubble,” uncertain we have what it takes to compete in or finish the race of life. When we’re feeling that way…

    Through the Waters

    The movie The Free State of Jones tells the US Civil War story of Newton Knight and some Confederate deserters and slaves who aided the Union Army and then resisted slaveholders after the war. Many herald Newton as the hero, but two slaves first saved his life after his desertion. They carried Knight deep into a secluded swampland and tended a leg wound he suffered while fleeing Confederate forces. If they’d abandoned him, he would have died.

    The people of Judah were wounded and desperate, facing enemies and feeling helpless. Israel had been overtaken by Assyria, and Isaiah prophesied that one day…

    Run Toward Challenge

    Tom chased the young men who were stealing his poor friend’s rickety bike. He didn’t have a plan. He only knew he needed to get that bike. To his surprise, the three thieves looked his way, dropped the bike and backed away. Tom was both relieved and impressed with himself as he picked up the bike and turned around. That’s when he saw Jeff, his tall and muscular friend who had been trailing close behind.

    Elisha’s servant panicked when he saw his town surrounded by an enemy army. He ran to Elisha, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” Elisha…

    The Would-Be Woodcutter

    One year, when I was in college, I cut, stacked, sold, and delivered firewood. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. So I have a good deal of empathy for the hapless logger in the 2 Kings 6 story.

    Elisha’s school for prophets had prospered, and their meeting place had become too small. Someone suggested they go into the woods, cut logs, and enlarge their facilities. Elisha agreed and accompanied the workers. Things were going remarkably well until someone’s axhead fell into the water.

    Some have suggested that Elisha simply probed in the water with his stick until he…

    The Picture of Despair

    During the Great Depression in the United States, famed photographer Dorothea Lange snapped a photo of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. This well-known photograph, “Migrant Mother,” is the picture of a mother’s despair in the aftermath of the failed pea harvest. Lange took it in Nipomo, California, while working for the Farm Security Administration, hoping to make them aware of the needs of the desperate seasonal farm laborers.

    The book of Lamentations presents another snapshot of despair—that of Judah in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem. Before the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept in to destroy the city, the people…

    Unexpected Change

    In January 1943, warm Chinook winds hit Spearfish, South Dakota, raising the temperatures from –4° to 45°F (–20° to 7° C) over a two-minute span. That drastic weather change—a swing of 49 degrees—took place in just two minutes. The widest temperature change recorded in the USA over a 24-hour period is an incredible 103°F (57°C). On January 15, 1972, Loma, Montana, saw the temperature jump from −54° to 49°F (–48° to 9°C).

    Sudden change, however, is not simply a weather phenomenon. It is sometimes the very nature of life. James reminds us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we…

    Pierced Love

    She’d called. She’d texted. Now Carla stood outside her brother’s gated entry, unable to rouse him to answer. Burdened with depression and fighting addiction, her brother had hidden himself away in his home, walled off from help. In a desperate attempt to penetrate his isolation, Carla gathered several of his favorite foods along with encouraging Scriptures and lowered the bundle over the fence.

    But as the package left her grip, it snagged on one of the gate spikes, tearing an opening and sending its contents onto the gravel below. Her well-intended, love-filled offering spilled out in seeming waste. Would her brother…

    A Place of Belonging

    Some years after the tragic loss of their first spouses, Robbie and Sabrina fell in love, married, and combined their two families. They built a new home and named it Havilah (a Hebrew word meaning “writhing in pain” and “to bring forth”). It signifies the making of something beautiful through pain. The couple says they didn’t build the home to forget their past but “to bring life from the ashes, to celebrate hope.” For them, “it is a place of belonging, a place to celebrate life and where we all cling to the promise of a future.”

    That’s a beautiful picture of…

    The Miracle of White Snow

    In the seventeenth century, Sir Isaac Newton used a prism to study how light helps us see different colors. He found that when light passes through an object, the object appears to possess a specific color. While a single ice crystal looks translucent, snow is made up of many ice crystals smashed together. When light passes through all of the crystals, snow appears to be white.

    The Bible mentions something else that has a certain color—sin. Through the prophet Isaiah, God confronted the sins of the people of Judah and described their sin as “like scarlet” and as “red as crimson.”…

    Full Attention

    Technology today seems to demand our constant attention. The modern “miracle” of the internet (now easily accessible via the smartphone) gives us the amazing capacity to access humanity’s collective learning in the palm of our hand. But for many, such constant access can come at a cost.

    Writer Linda Stone has coined the phrase “continual partial attention” to describe the modern impulse to always need to know what’s happening ‘out there,’ to make sure we’re not missing anything. If that sounds like it could produce chronic anxiety, you’re right!

    Although the apostle Paul struggled with different reasons for anxiety, he knew that…

    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…

    Strengthened in Song

    When French villagers helped Jewish refugees hide from Nazis during World War II, some sang songs in the dense forest surrounding their town—letting the refugees know it was safe to come out from hiding. These brave townspeople of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon had answered the call of local pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, to offer wartime refuge to Jews on their windswept plateau known as “La Montagne Protestante.” Their musical signal became just one feature of the villagers’ bravery that helped save up to 3,000 Jews from almost certain death.

    In another dangerous time, David sang when his enemy Saul sent…

    No More Running

    On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.

    Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.

    But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I’ve never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants…

    How to Find Peace

    “What do you think about peace?” my friend asked as we ate lunch together. “Peace?” I said, puzzled. “I’m not sure—why do you ask?” He answered, “Well, as you jiggled your foot during the church service I wondered if you’re agitated about something. Have you considered the peace God gives to those who love Him?”

    That day some years ago, I was a bit hurt by my friend’s question, but it started me on a journey. I began exploring the Bible to see how God’s people embraced this gift of well-being, of peace, even in the midst of hardship. As I…

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