How we ended up housing twenty chickens in our kitchen began with a misunderstanding. When I ordered chicks, the local feed store said that twelve would arrive in early June with the rest coming a month later. While I wasn’t sure where we’d put them, at least we’d...
In this time of social distancing when I can’t be in church or hang out with friends as much as I’d like, I’ve been spending more time reading. On Sunday mornings my family gathers around our kitchen table to read the Bible and a contemporary edition of John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Before bed, I turn to either Andrew Murray’s 19th century devotional on prayer (loaned to me by a friend) or to author Maggie Wallem Rowe’s brand new devotional This Life We Share (NavPress, 2020).
According to this week’s news, the extreme safety measures put into place around the world during the pandemic have saved an estimated 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom. They have also prevented an estimated 60 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. One of them could have been mine. Or yours.
For the past couple of weeks, my family has been helping me prepare my gardens for summer. Truth be told, I’m not a great gardener, but having grown up on a farm, I find the well-being of my soul is tied to how much time I spend near the soil. So every year since we gave up city living, my husband and kids have been slowly helping me tame the wilderness that surrounds our home.
In 1832 a small vessel, the Messenger of Peace, anchored off Manu’a, an island in the South Pacific. Aboard was John Williams, a British evangelist whose mission was to share the gospel with local islanders, many of whom had little contact with passing ships. As Williams’s ship neared shore, several canoes rowed out to meet it.
Last week, I climbed in the passenger seat of our minivan and strapped in my seatbelt as my 17-year-old daughter, Lydia, slid behind the wheel. Not normally one for thrill rides, I leave most student-driving lessons to my husband, Dana. But I was on a mission.
The early followers of Jesus knew about hard times. They knew about fear and uncertainty, hunger and want. They knew what it was like to be isolated from friends and family and neighbors – whether because of their message, or because they were in prison or because they were far from home. They also knew what it’s like to wonder what new trouble or trial the next day may bring.
Is God listening? The Psalms are full of promises that God hears us when we pray. Check out the following ten prayers, taken from the New Living Translation, that assure us God hears our prayers:
Mercy – the one word I find myself repeatedly praying this week. Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on our medical workers and migrants and people living in refugee resettlement camps. Have mercy on the poorest of the poor who live without doctors in the developing world. Have mercy on our government officials and grocery store clerks and farmers and elderly and frail. Lord, have mercy on us.
Growing up, I often felt the need to take care of myself. I had an amazing Mom, but she was also single and amazingly busy finishing college, running a farm and working to put food on the table. A memory I cannot shake is of finding her bent over her desk, head in her hands, weeping over a stack of bills.
“Maybe we shouldn’t go,” I said to my husband, Dana, shivering under the clear winter sky as we stood on our walkway, halfway between our house and the car.
“You’re sick,” he said. “We’re going.”
Some wisdom comes only through suffering. Many of us would rather bury pain, to lock it up somewhere dark and deep where we hope it won’t be able to hurt us anymore. And then, there are writers. Whether from a desire to make sense of an experience or to say, “See? You are not alone,” writers often feel duty-bound to type out life’s hardest moments and bind them between the pages of a book.
She came into their family as an infant, after spending the first months of her life in a hospital. They nursed her through life-threatening medical conditions and loved her like their own for nearly three years all while knowing that they might not be able to keep her – because that’s what you do when you sign up to be a foster family.
There’s nothing quite like reading a book about a true event on the anniversary of when it took place. That’s what happened this week as I was reading Janet and Geoff Benge’s biography, Nate Saint: On a Wing and a Prayer, with my family. Here was a Pennsylvania kid who used his love of flying and military aviation experience to serve missionaries living in a remote area of the Amazon rain forest.
It is a year that I am not sorry to see go. The personal losses have been too high, the political climate too volcanic, the rewards of hard work seemingly too few and far between. So it was only fitting that my husband broke a rib one day before Christmas, temporarily confining him to the couch, and we all got sick.
Yes, there really are only twelve days ‘til Christmas. So, unless you’ve got a partridge and a pear tree, a handful of spare rings and some leaping lords lying about, it’s time to get busy. With the convenience of the Internet, it’s tempting to order gifts online, but I’m a huge fan of supporting local businesses, which sponsor youth programs, employ neighbors and build communities. So, I’ve put together a last-minute shopping guide sure to cover everyone on your list and to be a whole lot more memorable than clicking a button on your computer screen.
This weekend marks the first Sunday of Advent, a spiritual season of preparation for Christmas. About this time, I usually thumb through my collection of holiday books to select a liturgical guide to read with my family each week to remind us that Christmas is about more than the gifts we’ll find under the tree.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays – and not just because of the pie. I love gathering with family and friends, sharing a bountiful meal and heading out in the crisp November air for a post-Thanksgiving walk, all long-held traditions. But for those who have experienced pain and loss, Thanksgiving can be a raw reminder of what – or who – is missing around the table.
I no longer saw the cross as a symbol of faith reflecting the risen Lord. I saw it as the instrument of torture for which it was designed. I saw how it has been used by the church to torture others.
As I near the end of my first academic quarter teaching middle- and high-school English at a local Christian school, I have been thinking about how we measure success. An academic grade is one way – and one that as a creative person I am not very fond of.