Four years ago tonight I received a startling phone call from my grandma.
“Pray for Amanda,” she began. “I don’t have all of the details, but she was in a skiing accident—hit a tree, I think—and is being rushed to the hospital.”
Amanda (pictured above, left, with her sister Allison) is my cousin—my mom’s sister’s daughter. Sixteen years old at the time, she was with her high school ensemble on their way to sing at a youth conference. En route, the group stopped for a planned skiing activity.
A few minutes after that first call, Grandma called again. Before she could even say it, I knew. Through a tight throat and tears she said what none of us ever wanted to hear, “Our Amanda is in Heaven.”
That was four years ago, and I still miss Amanda. Just this past Christmas, as our extended family gathered, I thought of Amanda and her bubbly enthusiasm that would have been overflowing into every activity, every conversation, every event that she engaged in. Continue reading
“I have just finished reading the Bible through, today, for the fortieth time in forty years.”—Hudson Taylor
I remember like it was yesterday when I read that quote (from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, page 240). I could take you to the exact spot in our basement where I was sitting when those words tugged my heart.
Actually, they didn’t tug. They captured. They resolved.
I was thirteen or fourteen years old, and something inside of me said, “If Hudson Taylor could read the Bible through once a year for forty years, I can too. And in forty years, I want to be able to say the same.”
Yesterday, I reached the halfway mark—twenty times through. Continue reading
Several years before I was born, an eighteen-year-old girl was visited in the hospital by an old friend from high school friend named Dody. In the time that had passed since they had seen each other, Dody had changed, and Joanne couldn’t help but notice.
“Dody, your face looks so…so pretty.”
“That’s because Jesus has changed my life. I trusted Him, and He has changed me.”
Dody’s countenance of joy was so compelling that as soon as Joanne was released from the hospital, she made a call to the Baptist pastor of the church where her grandmother had attended and asked for an appointment. Continue reading
I’m not eavesdropping, but I can’t help overhearing snippets of the conversations walking past me. I’m on a layover and am sitting in a row of chairs along a long hallway between terminals in the airport. There’s a steady stream of people walking by, but they mostly come just a few at a time, so I can easily overhear their conversations.
Catching just single sentences or parts of phrases is either disturbing or humorous. Here, you can sit by me for a few moments—I typed some snippets verbatim as people walked by.
- “I’m trying to figure out how to take the apartment.”
- “I feel bad for you.”
- “Oh, I’m sure she’ll be back.”
- “Just recently, we…”
- “And the banana was smashed a little bit because…”
- “We’ll put it on when it’s time to.”
And the classic one, just before two girls stepped on the elevator nearby: Continue reading
Did you ever notice that the most commonly correct answer in Sunday school is “Pray and read your Bible”? I first picked up on this in second grade.
“How can we obey God?” the teacher would ask.
Hands would shoot up. But as soon as the first person answered, “Pray and read your Bible,” the hands lowered.
“What does Jesus want us to do?” the teacher would ask.
Again, hands all over the room.
And again, first person who answered got it correct—“Pray and read your Bible.”
This answer began to seem so routine to me that I remember trying to come up with a more creative one—usually something along the lines of “Be nice to your brothers and sisters” or “Go to church.”
A few years later, I began to think that even those answers were becoming annoyingly predictable. How could the answer to every question be the same? Was there nothing more to the Christian life than “pray and read your Bible?” Continue reading
Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the second to the last row of a little girls’ class, helping with childcare during Spiritual Leadership Conference. We had already played games and spent some time on the playground, and now we were listening to a lesson.
(As a side note, one of the great blessings to me of this conference was hearing the lesson taught from our newly published Children’s Curriculum. I had briefly previewed this curriculum, but it was a joy to hear it taught and see firsthand how well the story held the children’s attention and how well they related to the application.)
Minutes into the lesson, a fourth grade girl next to me became restless and distracted. As she started talking to the others around her, I motioned for her to listen to the teacher. But with the wise nod of a fourth grader, she assured me, “I already know this story.” Continue reading
We didn’t eat sugar in our house growing up. But we did eat cloves. Okay—we didn’t eat cloves; I did.
It all started when my mom gave them to us in church (instead of breath mints) to help us stay awake. She recommended that we suck on them, which my sisters did; but I found they were much more effective when chewed.
Years later, in college, I found I was often struggling to stay awake during class and even at work. With a very full schedule, sleep was at a premium. I remembered the value of cloves, and I filled a small container to keep on my person. It really helped—even if some people did make fun of my odd habit. I always offered they could try one, but they usually declined. At least I could stay awake—when I really needed to!
But the ultimate in clove-eating came this week when I ate them…because I was hungry! I was waiting on someone for lunch and experiencing starvation-like pains in the meantime. (Well, maybe not starvation-like, but pretty severe!)
In desperation, I searched my desk drawers for something…anything…to eat, and that is when I saw my old container of cloves. And, yes, I ate them—not just one or two, but probably fifteen or twenty. (Incidentally, I found that cloves have a way of warming your stomach on the inside—quite helpful for short-term hunger control!) Continue reading
“There is a reward for whoever finds Dad’s keys first.” These words, occasionally spoken by my mom when I was growing up, were like music to my ears! You might think that I would have looked just as diligently for the keys before the reward was offered—when I first heard they were missing. And, truthfully, I did look. But there was something about the promise of a reward that added zeal to my search.
In Hebrews 11:6, God promises a reward for those who diligently seek Him: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing that God is who He has declared Himself to be and that He rewards those who will seek to know Him personally.
But it goes a step further—faith is actually reaching for the reward. In other words, if we truly believe that God rewards those who seek Him, and if we count that reward worthy of the effort, it will affect our actions. We will make seeking Him a priority. Continue reading