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First Things First It's easy to think of ourselves first; to put our interests and concerns over those of the people around us. This is especially true for people we don't know. It's easy to view them as "anonymous" and "unimportant," sort of like wallpaper or background noise. They're just there, blending in with the scenery.
Orange Delight Oranges are one of my favorite winter foods. I look forward to January when they become ripe enough to eat. For 12 years we lived in a coastal region of southern California and had a naval orange tree in our backyard. Nothing compares to being able to walk over to a tree to personally harvest part of your breakfast. The flavor of the tree-ripened fruit explodes in your mouth! It's wonderful!
Ultimate Freedom Many today view freedom as the absence of law. In their view laws are restrictive and confining. I recently read an article by a guy who wants to do away with the weekly cycle. He argues that it is archaic and out of step with 21st century culture, and he argues that it needs to be abolished.
Need to Slow Down? For non-New Yorkers, Central Park is a dangerous place full of muggers and rapists. But for people who live there, Central Park is trees and spacious lawns. It's the one place in the city where young couples can saunter together, a place where you can slow down, listen to bird song, soak up the sun and be at rest.
Neonatal Prayers A few months back I hovered anxiously over an incubator, its blue rays to combat hyperbilirubinemia casting a surreal glow over a tiny form squirming silently against formidable odds. “Baby Hafich A” – Miles Douglas – and his twin sister Audrey weigh a scant total of four pounds one ounce...
Lonely People John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, is the world's leading expert on loneliness. In his landmark book, Loneliness, released in 2008, he revealed just how profoundly the epidemic of loneliness is affecting the basic functions of human physiology.
It Could Be You Do you vicariously participate in life from afar? Do you spend most of your days wishing, hoping and dreaming, but never realizing fulfillment and satisfaction? Do you want to make a difference in other people's lives? If so, you're on the right track.You were not meant to be a spectator but a participant in life!
Walking with God Halfway between standing and kneeling by my bed one day recently, the words "O for a closer walk with God" came strongly to mind. It was early one morning and I had just gotten up, but I was feeling exhausted. It was still very dark outside and I was tempted to get back under the covers, but I resisted and I began to dialogue with God.
Respect for Life Several years ago I was privileged to be able to walk among the graves of American soldiers in Normandy, France. No doubt you have seen pictures of the thousands of bright white crosses contrasting with the green grass at the American cemetery in Normandy where the D-Day invasion of WWII began.
What Am I Here for? If you're asking this question and you're not in a tux at the altar or wincing in the dentist chair, kudos to you. Not only are you among the small minority of people who value themselves enough to ask. You are also setting yourself up for more of the good stuff, like sanity and significance.
Tired of Being Stressed? You might think Yosemite's natural beauty would automatically have protected it from exploitation and over development. In reality, from the very beginning, Yosemite has needed active protection. Early entrepreneurs saw the area as a place for making money from hotels, sheep grazing and logging. Later, the Hetch...
Genuine Fraud In his book "Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium," psychic Mark Edward offers some fascinating thoughts on the hunger in our culture for community and spiritual truth. Edward admits that for decades he peddled what he called "junkyard superstition ... to the gullible, the lonely, the hopeful, and the dim."
Maps and Doctrines I was reading in my devotional time this morning about doctrine. The Bible tells us: "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). But have you noticed how boring doctrines can be at times? Usually they're not very exciting! People want a feeling; they want to experience Christianity.
Wake Up Call Are your kids giving you a hard time? I once read about a 12-year-old girl who “set her sleeping mother’s bed on fire and took off in the family car to fake an abduction of herself and her two younger siblings.” You know you’re having a bad day when you wake up to find your bed on fire!
Don't Forget the Roots When you see a healthy tree, the tendency is to appreciate the beauty that you see. That’s not a bad thing. Whether it has a tall smooth trunk, perfectly shaped leaves, or colorful flowers, we praise what we see. In describing a beautiful tree, you wouldn’t gush over the roots.
Going Nowhere Fast When was the last time you took the time to just sit and do nothing? Waiting in line, at a traffic light, or for a medical appointment doesn’t count. Seriously, when was the last time you walked into a room, sat down, and did nothing - for awhile? Scheduled, or unscheduled? Or, when was the last time you went for a walk on the beach, a stroll through the woods, or sat on an isolated hilltop?
Are You Content? I've been thinking contentment recently. Another word for contentment is being satisfied. Are you satisfied with what you have? Are you content? Looking at my life, I find that discontentment, or not being content, frequently creeps up. In fact, it’s a temptation that pulls at my mind on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly.
Conquering Your Fears I cringed lower into the seat of my grey metal desk, yearning for the faded yellow floor to swallow me into oblivion. A crimson heat spread from my forehead to my neck; my legs trembled uncontrollably. I struggled to bring my lurching stomach under control - vomiting all over my classmates was about the only thing that could worsen this nightmare.
The Sliding Door One Saturday night in mid February I was surprised to find a honeybee perched on the back of the living room couch. Mistaking it for a cockroach, I was about to smash it when I noticed it was a bee. Totally lethargic, it allowed me to scoop it into a small Tupperware bowl and transport it to the outside porch.
The White Robe In the early 80s, after spending a year as an intern pastor at a church in Orlando, Florida, Linda and I were asked to move to a small two-church district in a part of northern Florida that seemed more like Georgia. The coastline had no beaches, the population was scattered, and 90% of the county consisted of...
Alien Invasion News Flash! On Halloween night, 1938, Orson Wells and the Mercury Theater aired a dramatization of H.G. Well's famous tale, "War of the Worlds," which described a Martian invasion of the Earth. It seemed frighteningly real! The program used staged news bulletins to interrupt a scheduled broadcast to inform listeners of the unfolding drama. For a moment, imagine what it was like.
Our Identity Have you ever reached a point where you felt like stress and worry would consume you? I reached that place a few weeks ago. I was struggling to keep up with a never-ending to-do list, and all I could think about as I opened my eyes each morning was, “how am I ever going to get through this day?”
Jesus Matters Ultimately, the only thing that matters is Jesus! Seeing and knowing him, following, obeying, sharing, and praising him mean more than money, career, health, beauty, family or friends. The top and bottom lines of life have to do with Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
Soul Sifting I have a rather unromantic confession to make: The best day of my life was not my wedding day. In fact, it has nothing directly to do with my wife or marriage. It's not a magic moment, a party, or any celebratory moment either. The best thing that ever happened to me was losing it all on a normal day five years ago.
Help for The Weary Where there is a prince you can be sure there’s a kingdom. Jesus is the Prince of the Kingdom of Peace. Our physical bodies currently reside in a kingdom of darkness (anarchy, disease, death, and war). Through Christ’s death we’ve been given a passport to the Kingdom of Peace. The question is, has yours been validated?
A Cheerful Heart Three or four times a week I walk around my country neighborhood. I pass horse farms, a goat farm, and a llama farm. I take exercising seriously, so to get my quota of movement I usually am rushing to make sure I cover four-plus miles. After my walk-run, many time I still feel tense as I rush to my next activity or appointment.
Ten Years After On the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I found myself wondering why it ever happened. I grew up proud that America was recognized the world over as a protector of truth, liberty and justice. Perhaps I was naive, but I truly believed that our national goals and policies were based on a doctrine of fairness and unbiased resolve.
God and Earthquakes After the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti in 2010 television preacher Pat Robertson claimed it was caused supernaturally. After the 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, Glenn Beck suggested it was caused by God. He went on to say, “Whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus--there’s a message being sent.”
The Unsettling Savior Jesus was radically out of sync with the norm. Instead of playing by the rules he replaced them with ones that shattered the status quo. Little wonder that he was a threat to the religious elite. Everything he stood for challenged their existence. Just place yourself in the Pharisee's shoes (but don't wear them too long)...
Why I am a Christian I’ve tried for two years to figure out why I am a Christian, and have only in the last month started to articulate what binds me to this faith. I am a Christian because of the stories. Other people have their own reasons: My friend Karl insists he’s a Christian because of his...
Spiritual Autism In past years I have experienced working or living near people who either had family members diagnosed on the autism disorder spectrum, or in whom I saw symptoms of those behaviors. The media also exposes us to more about this disorder as some celebrity families have championed the cause for research and treatment.
Salt In the Fridge Several days into our visit, I rummaged through the refrigerator trying to make room for some large items. I started pulling things off the top shelf, and rarely am I surprised since the man stores many grocery items in his refrigerator. Behind several items—juice, biscuit mix, flour, or jam—the salt appeared. Salt in the refrigerator.
On Being Mute Thirteen days ago, I lost my voice. At first it was simply croaky, squeaky and scratchy. By the next day, however, it was gone. Days of coughing and fever wore it away until there wasn’t any possibility of sounding more than a whisper. One week into my muteness at a second doctor’s visit and she proclaimed: “You may not get your voice back for two more weeks.” I am discouraged. I have cancelled almost two weeks of counseling clients.
The Mightiest Sword On Oct. 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV barged into an Amish one-room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania brandishing a gun. His ensuing shooting spree killed five girls, age 6 to 13. To finish off, he took his own life. That very day, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls warned some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.”
The Refiner's Fire It was October of the year 2007. We had just read a chapter on patience in Gavin Anthony’s book, "The Refiner’s Fire." My husband, a newly diagnosed cancer patient, said to me, “I resonate with Gavin. I feel it is not my place to question or to tell God when to heal me. I need to be patient and let God do His work in me—in His own time.
Post-op Ponderings It wasn't a major surgery, really, but they had to put me under for it. One of my (small) appendages was virtually removed and reattached, and they thought it best I remained unconscious for that experience. I agreed. I planned a full week of work. Recovery period? Two weeks by all normal accounts, but for me, one day should do it. Thank God I am not like other men. I can recover from having a body part removed and reattached in ONE DAY!
Autumnal Morning After a restless night, today I wake up with peace and tranquility in my soul. I looked east and noticed a few clouds in the horizon that covered the sun but with the passing of every second the light was intensifying. The sunlight was coming through my living room window announcing it was coming out.
Pathological Perfectionism Are you pick, pick, picking your way through life? Do you strive to be thorough? Do you hate making mistakes? Many people pursue excellence as if their lives depended on it. They strain themselves to maintain a flawless image. Unable to accept their humanity, they try to be perfect. How very tiring . . . and tiresome! Perfectionists are the loneliest people in the world. Go figure.
As You Are "Christians should be more like drug addicts." My husband told me this during our family devotions. I had that thought in the back of my mind the past couple years, I just didn't know how to express it. Now he conveyed the thought perfectly. As a Bible worker, my husband has the heroic yet daunting task of going out into the streets of the urban jungle, knocking on doors that slam in his face...
Joyful Greetings! It is indeed a joy to announce that I PASSED my counseling certification exam! I was hesitant to let anyone know I even took the test, given that it was so difficult and I didn't want to set myself up for embarrassment. But I'm less forgetful than I thought! I passed! Quick, someone buy me a bouquet of roses.
Ready to Die? The photograph is memorable for what it says about one individual's willingness to stand for a belief. The person in the photo is a young Chinese man, standing alone and tall in front of a line of tanks. The tanks have all stopped, uncertain of how to proceed in the face of such strong convictions.
The Farmer's Faith Today I'm in a farmhouse in Illinois after coming out here for my nephew's graduation. There are hundreds and hundreds of acres of flat fields around us. All of the fields are dirt brown, but a few have a small hint of green. I walked over to one such field and saw the reason for the green.
Happiness is a Choice We know a precious nurse who constantly gives herself to her patients in a positive, nurturing and uplifting spirit. She gives happiness, joy and hope to others while they are in the process of recovering. You can look at her and not be aware of the suffering in her own personal life.
Precious In His Sight Our daughter is excited because in January she gets a Monday off from school. When I asked her, she had no idea why school is closed on that day—she's just excited about a free day! To many in our country, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is simply a day to get out of school or off from work.
Revolutionary Prayer Here is intimacy that revolutionizes prayer: "God with us." The thunderous God of Mount Sinai has indeed humbled Himself to walk in our streets, live in our homes, attend our schools, work in our offices and factories, patrol our hallways, participate in our churches and die outside our gates.
Evil Money It's clear that money isn't inherently evil, but people can be when one of their only purposes in life is to get more of it. A wealthy person with a spiritual heart can be such a blessing to everyone around them. A wealthy person without a conscience who claims to be a believer can make Christianity look pretty evil.
Loving Yourself My friend Pamela saw herself as one giant failure. Her negative feelings about her past, present, and future enveloped her like a heavy fog. She saw no way out. When I visited her in the hospital, she couldn't look me in the face. She was bowed down with shame. "God is fed up with me," she whispered.
Is This All There Is? In short, nothing in the world itself offers us the solution to our problems. To the contrary, the world itself and all that springs from it (war, disease, suffering, and death) is the problem. Thus, unless we have something that transcends this world—that will take us above it, past it, and beyond it—then our fate is as hopeless as this world's.
Forever Destroyed? Most of the traditional beliefs about hell—the place in the middle of the earth, the eternal place of torment, even the devil's pitchfork—come to us from the Greeks. These beliefs were picked up and assimilated either by the Jews through Alexander the Great or by the Romans. But what does the Bible say about hell?
Divine Intervention Joe was born into a healthy, happy family with several siblings and both parents present. His father's work provided a comfortable upbringing. Joe's life was going just fine until his early teen years when he started hanging around an uncle five years his senior. That's how he was introduced to marijuana.
Where Else Would I Be? Christmas is a time to bring the whole family together, to share great fellowship, share great food, make heart-stirring memories all while celebrating the reason for the season. However, oftentimes, bringing the whole family together can also result in a different kind of sharing, a sharing that can run through the whole family like wildfire.
Anger Control If you are like most people. hardly a day goes by that you don't encounter situations that make you angry--people who break line, hectic traffic, an employer who criticizes and blames unjustly, your best friend's betrayal, your spouse's infidelities, your child's deviant lifestyle, or sexual abuse.
Soul Truth As scientists probe ever deeper into the biochemical reactions within our brain, the notion of the soul as a separate entity becomes increasingly suspect. Francis Crick, who with James Watson discovered the double helix of DNA 50 years ago has spent many years researching consciousness, partly with the goal of disproving the soul.
Everyone Wants My Body Everybody wants my body. Some, so they can fill me with beer. Others, so they can adjust my appearance to match their definition of “beautiful.” Still others harangue and wheedle about how I must reduce my cholesterol, increase my carbs, reduce my carbs, drink flax seed tea, or purchase new running shoes from only their company.
Our Calm in the Storm Two young men found themselves in a fierce battle during the days of the Vietnam war. Bullets whistled overhead, and bombs shattered the earth. This didn't seem to faze one of the soldiers. When his buddy asked how he could be so calm, he replied with a grin, "It just reminds me of home."
Fears, Big or Small When I was six years old, I went with my family to visit a butterfly museum. As we walked through the indoor rainforest, my mom, dad and sister all whispered in amazement, allowing the butterflies to land on them. I, on the other hand, screamed and cried in agonizing terror while the mammoth-sized beasts flew around me.
He is Faithful As the month wound down, I found myself left with more days than dough. "Please, Lord, you've always been faithful. I need help with my finances, and you're the only one I can depend on." As a single woman disabled with lupus and living on a fixed income, I frequently struggle with my finances. I believe in tithing though, and I trust that God blesses me for putting Him first.
Biting Words Is "cannibalism" possible within the confines of those who call themselves Christians? Perhaps not in a physical sense, but the apostle eludes to the idea that it can happen in the spiritual and relational realm. He aptly uses the words "bite" and "devour" in Galations 5:14-15, and I'm pretty sure that he's not speaking about using a knife and fork.
True Poverty The story is told of a father of a wealthy family who took his son on a trip to the country to show his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
Worry Pills In her article titled "Listening to Xanax," reporter Lisa Miller chronicles "how Americans learned to stop worrying about worry and pop its pills instead." Miller acknowledges that depression can be a "serious medical problem" that requires medication, but her article focuses on the use of drugs to deal with "low-grade anxiety" about ordinary life.
Junk or Treasure? There is was, gleaming white, and poking out of a discarded box in the dumpster. I couldn't believe my eyes! A year ago in May my family attended a graduation at a school that shall remain nameless. After the festivities, and after everyone had gone home, I took a stroll out by the dumpsters that were parked in the back of the dormitories.
It's My Choice When the United States won the war of independence from Great Britain, it became a “sovereign state.” Notice the word “reign” in “sovereign,” indicating that we in the United States reign over ourselves. This freedom to self-govern came as a free gift to us, but at the ultimate cost to a host of forgotten soldiers.
Killing Spree A nation is shocked during the holiday season while the news media serves up a mind-numbing barrage of details in blurring, rapid-fire succession. 20 students, (most of them 6 or 7 years of age,) 6 adults, and a perpetrator are dead after a tragic shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14th.
A Trojan Horse I've been using a Mac for years and have never worried about getting a virus, until last night. I didn't click on a strange link or get a wormy email from anyone. I was looking at some table lamps on several websites that came up after I executed a Google search, and one of them gave me a Trojan Horse virus.
Molly's Story In Dennis Rainey's book "Stepping Up," he tells the story about the short life of his granddaughter Molly. Born with a brain aneurism, Molly lived only seven days. As difficult as those seven days were, Molly's parents and grandparents held firmly to their trust in God, confident that they will see Molly again in the future to come.
Yottabytes and More It is interesting and somewhat amusing--the efforts we humans make to collect and store data--much of which never gets seen or used again. I have so many photos that I've taken over the years and stored on external hard drives that are inaccessible because I have no organized way to retrieve.
The Song It’s amazing that all it takes is a song. Maybe I’m in the grocery store, or driving down the road. Maybe it’s during a party at a friend’s house, or while wandering through the mall. Sometimes it only takes a few bars of the melody for me to be transported. Like jumping on a bullet train of memories. And suddenly, just like that, I’m somewhere else. Transported by the song.
To Be Content Contentment or satisfaction often seems like the ideal we always want but never attain. We often rate our lives on the satisfaction scale of one to ten. Now, it's easy to rationalize our satisfaction (or lack of it) by saying that if one area of our life was better, then we'd be satisfied in all the other areas.
Have Mercy As Jesus was nearing the city of Jericho, I was sitting there in my usual spot hoping I could collect enough change to buy something for dinner. This has been my daily routine for years--ever since I lost my sight through a freak accident when I was in my 20s. Now I'm well into my 50s, and over the years...
Eyes Wide Open It’s sad how as adults we have lost the awe and wonder of the simple things in life. I saw a little girl at work today pick up a Christmas gift bag from under our office tree, hold it up to her ear and shake it, desperately trying to see through the decorated paper bag, a look of curiosity...
Heaven for Calvin If you follow the harum-scarum exploits of six-year-old Calvin in Bill Watterson’s cartoon strip, this kid is extremely difficult to please. A desperate dad, hoping vainly that this time will be different, carts his wife, wayward son, and stuffed toy tiger Hobbes to a distant vacation with canoe rides, towering mountain scenery, and bracing swims in the shimmering lake.