“We’re throwing open our front door
and inviting you in, as we invite Him in.”

UPDATE: Praise, patience and prayers
Who’s complaining? I am! …but then I remember this.
In the darkness of this Good Friday—watch and pray
When where you sit matters more than where you step
I GIVE UP: Why I thank God for my Lenten fails
Will you stop and pray for this little boy today?
A radical response to a radical evil
Would Jesus Vaccinate?
Just where do you think you’re going in those shoes?
How to keep walking humbly with your dog, er, your God

UPDATE: Praise, patience and prayers

By Abigail McConnell

Several weeks ago I wrote about Praise, a little boy in Kenya with a tumor growing behind his eye, and I wanted to give you an update.

Well, I have good news and bad news. 

The good news is that the biopsy came back benign —  no cancer.  PRAISE GOD! 

The bad news is that surgery to remove the tumor continues to be delayed again and again. While the reasons for the setbacks aren’t clear, the patience of Humphrey, Auntie Pauline, and the others at KCK who love and care for Praise, is remarkable.  Week after week, they bring him to every scheduled clinic appointment, hoping this will be the day. Only to be sent home again, with another appointment date in hand, another team of doctors, another set of maybe’s.

How can they be so patient? I get antsy waiting for the stoplight to turn green or sitting through a 30-second TV commercial. And I really don’t sit patiently in the unknown.

“We don’t understand all the delays,” Humphrey writes, “but we trust God has a purpose for them…”

Right, that. Patience is possible when we realize that nothing — not even the frustrating, the painful, or the unjust — falls outside of God’s purpose.

So we pray. And we pray with patience, that what little Praise is having to endure will be redeemed by God’s purposes, and that he would be made well.

One more thing: Could you let them know you’re praying too? Just add it in the comments section as an encouragement for Praise, Humphrey, Pauline and the others at KCK.  It might just make all the waiting a little easier. 

And after all, maybe YOU AND I are part of God’s purpose in this too?

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Who’s complaining? I am! …but then I remember this.

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

I have a complaint. I have several, actually. But you haven’t got all day, so I’ll stick to the one I’m thinking of right now.

My older daughter’s fourth grade class has 31 kids in it. This is too big! The teacher spends more time on crowd control than she does on teaching. It’s easy for kids to fall through the cracks, to hide out in the back, to zone out. Behavior problems sprout up.

Students perform best when the class size is capped at 20. Anecdotal evidence bears it out, but there are also hard research numbers. My daughter’s teacher agrees that the class is too big. “Feel free to mention it to administration,” she said, when I complained.

School administration says there’s not enough money to pay for the correct amount of teachers. So they hire fewer teachers, and pack more kids into each class. It’s not our problem to solve, they say—this is a political issue. Government funds are being funneled away from education. Last fall, I was briefly hopeful that this might change. In my state’s governor’s election, one of the candidates campaigned to redirect the money flow back to education. From the stump, he talked about minimizing class sizes. I voted for him, but he lost in a landslide. I complained a lot that day.

Here’s another, totally unrelated gripe. Last one, I promise.

Lately my Bible study group has been studying the ancient Israelites, and my complaint is this: Everybody’s always putting them down. All around me, people shake their heads at the misbehavior and ingratitude of God’s people. They say that God’s people complained too much.

But when I read Exodus or Numbers or Deuteronomy, I totally relate to these frustrated people. I think their grievances are pretty legitimate. They have no water in the hot, hot desert.  They find water—but psych!—it’s undrinkable. They have crackers (and only crackers) for every meal, every day for 40 years. They’re living in tents. They never know when that damn cloud’s going to move again. When they complain, God sends fatal plagues, or sets them on fire, or unleashes venomous snakes in their camp. How can you not feel for these people?

Really, they just longed for a regular, comfortable life. Is a little water too much to ask for? Could we maybe get some cheese with these crackers? What’s with the withholding of basic comforts?

“I exist,” God tells His people. “You keep forgetting me. I’m the one who made you. I’m actually here right now—invisible, yes—but I’m leading you.”

God’s main concern in these chapters is to remind people that He exists. He uses the peoples’ longing for a regular, comfortable life to grab their attention. He takes things away, hoping that they’ll come looking for Him when they want them back.

When I think about this, I find it’s easier to imagine Him talking like me, and not like King James. “I exist,” He tells His people. “You keep forgetting me. I’m the one who made you. I’m actually here right now—invisible, yes—but I’m leading you. And there’s a plan that involves a Promised Land. And by the way, the Promised Land is super-comfortable. But before I let you in, there’s a catch. You have to believe that I exist. You have to stop forgetting me.”

Several times, throughout dozens of chapters, the people hear this message. He helps them to believe, by doing things like parting the Red Sea. (“See what I did for you!”) Then they go about their lives, and forget. So God does things to get their attention. No water! (“Remember me!”) No quail! (“Remember who gives you food!”) Why all these strange rules?! (“Remember, I exist. Remember, you need me.”)

Of course the peoples’ complaints are reasonable. Water is a basic need. God purposely made this basic need scarce, so that people would look for the One who created water. When they don’t look for Him, when they complain instead, He gets angry. And He sends plagues and things. Because this lesson—“I exist!”—is deadly serious. It’s for their own good, a matter of life and death.

I forget about God all the time. I’m striving through my life, checking items off lists, getting things done, or trying to. I can see that there are too many kids in my daughter’s class, and it’s yet another problem that needs to be solved. First step: recognize the issue and start complaining about it. Raise awareness. Who can I complain to? Second step: keep complaining until I figure out how to change this.

In a world without God, this is a reasonable approach. It beats sitting around, letting school administrators and politicians take advantage of you.

But what if there is a God, and He’s orchestrated my circumstances? What if I’m on a path whose course He’s set? What if all of my ministrations are just things He lets me do, things He uses to shape my character?

Life would be better if this was true. I want this to be true. If this was true, then the first step would be: Pray for the class size situation to resolve itself. Next step: pray that God would show me whether this is something I can change. Next step: Look and listen for His answer, while being prayerfully dependent on Him.

If God exists, then it’s in my best interest to see all things from His point of view, and to cede all my burdens to Him. It’s in my best interest to “do everything without complaining or arguing.” I don’t want to have to dodge snakes to learn this lesson.

The last thing I have to say isn’t a complaint. It’s an expression of admiration. My younger daughter is on a Christian softball team of kids ages 6-9. Some of them can hit. Some of them just swing and swing and miss and miss. One or two of them can field the ball. Most can’t. This is a league for kids who very probably aren’t going to get a softball scholarship to college.

But their coach smiles all the time. He throws pitch after hopeful pitch, encouraging them as they swing and miss. We parents sit on bleachers and smile uncomfortably while the ball slips through the legs of our children. Oops, missed it again! Not once, and I mean never, has the coach complained. This guy is doing things God’s way.

I have no complaints.

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In the darkness of this Good Friday—watch and pray

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

It seems to happen every year. Death and tragedy right around Easter.  For several years growing up, it seemed like our church lost a member every Holy Week.  Surely it was not every year, but it felt like we often got a dose of death that turned us from joyous to somber, darkening the Easter pastels we had already adorned our homes with. As an adult, on this Good Friday, I think a reminder that death is real is not a bad thing. There can be no joy in the resurrection if death is not real to us.

But it’s not just natural death. This season seems rife with senseless violence. With tragedy. How many April mornings have I been sitting at my computer frantically finishing up tax returns only to be derailed when I open my internet browser? There was Virginia Tech. There was the Boston Marathon. And now this. Now a college in Kenya, and my heart is sick.

I read now that nearly 150 students are dead, executed immediately when they identified themselves as Christians. JUST LIE! My heart screams. I immediately feel ashamed for thinking that. But I know that that is what I would do, to be honest. And that’s what I would tell my Timothy, my Kenyan sponsored son, to do if he were to find himself face to face with a Somali militant. He only lives a few hours away. I wonder if that’s a college he could potentially attend in a few years. My hands are shaking while I think about it. Just do what you have to do to survive. That’s what I would tell Timothy and my own kids.  Just get out alive — live to fight another day. That’s what I wanted to tell the people in that building on CNN. I know it’s too late, though. All I can do is watch and pray.

Watch and pray. 

This Holy Week I have spent the beginning of each morning reading the Passion story from each  Gospel — one a day. Peter, the Rock, did exactly what I would be inclined to do. And he did not even have a gun pointed at him. Just a little servant girl asking a question. The details of the story vary, but in all of the Gospels Peter’s anger flares. I can identify with that. He is there to see what happens to Jesus but his sense of self-preservation is strong as anyone’s. And who is this little girl anyway to threaten to expose him? Things are falling apart around him, and he is not just going to let her lead him to the same fate as Jesus. That would be so pointless. And painful. In my reading this morning, Luke tells us that Jesus made eye contact with Peter the moment that he denied Jesus the third time. That’s when Peter fell apart. I can identify with that as well.

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few days thinking about the women in the Passion stories.  A few are mentioned — Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome — that we know nothing else about. I find that odd. After all, they did not have a part of the crucifixion except as witnesses.  They just watched. That’s all they could do.

I want to find a way to protect us, to make sure that the world cannot touch us. But all I can do is watch and pray.
But why were they there?  How could a mother have the stomach to watch her sons’ friend and rabbi be executed in the most gruesome of ways? Maybe the women were there (unlike so many of Jesus’ disciples) because they believed that Jesus would get out of it somehow. He certainly was capable of miracles. I think if I were one of these women I would have stood in shock long after Jesus died and his body was carried away. My mind would be searching for an alternate ending because this could not be it. This was not how it was supposed to go with Jesus. I would have been devastated, but would I have fallen into despair? Or would I, like Abraham figure that God had worked out another ending, one so unreal that my mind couldn’t conceive it? I think considering Jesus’ last words to the women that Good Friday that I would have fallen into despair. He said, “Weep for yourselves and for your children, for the time will come when you will say ‘Blessed are the childless women.’” And then, “For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

What will happen indeed?

Now we know. Why should I be surprised that the world that could crucify the Living Lord is capable of such insanity and violence? And he is right, I do cry for myself and my children. I want to find a way to protect us, to make sure that the world cannot touch us. But all I can do is watch and pray.

Last night I went to my church to pray for an hour, one leg of a prayer vigil running from Maundy Thursday until tonight’s Good Friday service. The point is to replicate the night Jesus spent with his three closest friends praying in Gethsemane. Actually, Jesus prayed — his disciples kept falling asleep. When he finds them asleep the first time he says, “Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Watch and pray. This is the phrase that stuck out to me, that keeps coming to me. Jesus isn’t asking them to do anything but watch and pray. When he is arrested, one of the disciples begins to fight but Jesus stops him. He does not ask for nor does he need anyone to do his work for him. Just watch and pray.

But on Good Friday, Jesus does not seem to be in control. He does not even defend himself to the Sanhedrin or to Pilate! Why doesn’t he just bring down those 12 legions of angels he claims are at his disposal? Those around him waste no time mockingly pointing out that he could save others but not himself. Why not?! Jesus, do something! Do something!

He does not ask for nor does he need anyone to do his work for him. Just watch and pray.

I imagine Salome going home in a trance that night, hope shattered, and understanding maybe for the first time just how evil this world can be. There are women and men walking around in much the same way in a small Kenyan town today. I see them on my computer screen. They congregate on the sides of the streets, watching. And here, on the other side of the world, I watch and pray, too.

Jesus tells me to do that in order not to fall into temptation. What temptation, I wonder? The temptation to pretend that we’re doing OK for the most part. We’re not. The temptation to believe that if we take enough care we can insulate ourselves from the evil of the world. We can’t. The temptation to think that we know how God is going to make this all work out all right. We don’t. The temptation to believe that we don’t need him. We do. Desperately.

So the women watched and prayed and cried and wailed and mourned. And when they returned to the tomb on Easter they must have still felt broken to the core. They expected to find Jesus’ ruined body, but instead they found a rolled away stone and an empty tomb. Their confusion gave way to understanding, and then euphoria.

I cannot make any sense of the senselessness of the world. But because that tomb was empty, I believe that God can and will. Today and all the Good Fridays of our lives, God is working for his purposes even when the darkness makes it so very hard to see.  And maybe, just maybe, it will become clearer the more I watch and pray.

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When where you sit matters more than where you step

By Leigh Sain

Spring has sprung here in the south. And after 900 cold, wet winter days with no outside play time for my wild boys, I am a bit in love this new season. Mostly because it has brought freedom to open the front door and let the wildings take their leaping ninja-fighting selves outside.

For five minutes life is a bit calmer, and then I notice an odd thing happening with my littlest guy. He is spending these glorious new spring days crying. Constantly. Right out in the middle of our cul-de-sac. Right in the middle of this bustling boy mecca filled with seven boys ranging in age from 12 to 5. My little one stands and screams and swipes at his tear-stained face declaring loudly that everything is NOT FAIR! Not fair because this band of boys has separated into itself into “the little kids” and “the big kids.” His brothers are big kids and he is not.

“I want to see the brothers play!” he wails, as his little Power Ranger-costumed friends watch anxiously from the driveway. I suggest that he join them, because they have swords and masks and wouldn’t that be cool? But he can’t answer me. He can’t decide. He just keeps running back and forth around the circle while each group tries to call him or to shoo him.  He is unsettled, angry and loud.

Suddenly it seems to be what everyone wants to know: What will you do with yourself now that all your boys are in school?

And as I watch him race about, something in me seems to know it well, that inability to settle, that restless wandering.

Funny, how often God gives me glimpses of myself through that glass front door. I can clearly see the problem. This little guy has finally been given the freedom to play outside, to do anything, go anywhere. The thing he was begging for during the cold rainy days of winter has been handed freely to him. But instead of embracing it, he’s losing it. He’s just wandering and crying and lamenting that playtime is over now, and it is unfair because he never got to do anything! The uncertainty and the circles have claimed all his time. Now the sun is sinking low behind the pines, declaring an end to these untethered hours. And it did not go the way it should have.

Yes, I get it, really I do. Because you see, I too am learning how freedom is such an odd thing. With my boys getting older, I am being handed new pieces of time that are my own.  Twelve years of being a stay at home mom have left me with very few moments to contemplate what’s next. But suddenly it seems to be what everyone wants to know:  What will you do with yourself now that all your boys are in school? Will you go back to teaching? Hey, maybe you could head this committee next year or perhaps you could take charge of this event since you have more time? These questioners are well-meaning, but inadvertently I find myself in an unsettled season of decision making. What does God want me to do next? Where is he leading me? And why can’t I find the words to answer these questions?

Maybe you’ve had to make decisions too? Little ones, big ones, ones for yourself, ones for your kids? So you know how there is this relentless pull to get it just right. To use the freedom you have been given well and make good choices. Because isn’t this just what you wanted? To choose for yourself which way you should go?

And it can be hard to know how to move when you are blessed with the gift of choice. The trajectories life lays out in front of you can all start to look good. And don’t we all just want to choose correctly? Follow the right lead and step out in faith towards the work God has prepared for us. But what if I pick the wrong path? What if I choose one way and the other way was actually better?  What if God actually intended for me to do something else? What if …  You can start to come unwound in the choosing. And I wonder why God made it like this. Why doesn’t he just tell us outright how it should go?

The sweaty little one continues to proclaim that he will not come in for supper until he gets to play. And I marvel at how much I want to make it easier for him. How much I want to convey the wise decision; the fun that could be had if only he would just settle with the Power Rangers and give up chasing the long-legged crowd.  But there’s this: He must learn to do it on his own.  It must be his, this choosing.

And God knows that to be true about us, too. He knows that in the wavering, in the times of our lives where pathways seem unclear, where freedom gives us choices. He knows that our choosing to follow Him anyway — it must come from our own hearts or it is not real at all.

I begin to see it. The thing that is stealing my peace. And maybe yours too? The wavering. The chasing. All the wanting of more, and seeking the perfect solution.
The tantrums eventually calm and later that night, the same boy smells of soap and toothpaste as he tucks the length of his five-year-old self into my lap. And we read. The story he picks is from the children’s Bible, it is of Elijah, the prophet and the Israelites. He asks a thousand questions about the mountains, and why are the boys wearing dresses? And it catches me off guard, how I come undone when I read the words that Elijah hurls at God’s chosen people on the top of Mt. Carmel. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.  If Baal is God follow him!” (1Kings 18:21)  But why do you waver?

I begin to see it. The thing that is stealing my peace. And maybe yours too? The wavering. The chasing. All the wanting of more, and seeking the perfect solution. I am those Israelites, chasing after my worthless idols. I am my little guy running from place to place trying to find the one thing that will satisfy me the most. And it won’t work, this chasing. Because my worth, your worth, will never be found in the way we make the right choice.

This pajama clad damp-headed boy, he gazes up at me and grins. “I think tomorrow I will just be a little kid,” he says confidently out of nowhere. Like maybe he gets it, too. Still curled into my lap. The quiet decision is made.

I smile slowly, though, because I know a thing or two about decisions. I know that it will not be so easy tomorrow. When the lines are drawn in the cul-de-sac again and the action is swirling on around him; he will falter, he will cry, he will not know. He will have to come back and sit again to be reminded how it should go. And maybe that’s it.

Because I don’t know. I just don’t. I can see that these decisions about what comes next are not simply “two roads diverged in the woods” kinds of decisions, where I can step forward and never look back. How I use this time I have been given, how I answer all of these requests flying at me each day affects more roads than just my own. So, I waver, I wonder, I circle my space and wring my hands. Yes? No? Maybe? I take halting steps. But maybe it isn’t so much about where I am stepping as it is about where I am sitting.

Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is this: where am I going to sit when the choices need making? Whose face will I look at before I take a step? Where will I put my eyes? Jesus, he suffered, he died and he rose again that I might have this freedom, freedom to draw in close to my Maker. And it is all that matters.

Elijah’s words keep ringing in my ears. “If the Lord is God follow him …”  Yes. But how?

In the dark of bedtime prayers with little hands tucked into mine, God whispers truth to my wayward soul. “Sit with me awhile and it will all make more sense. Come back and sit with me before you go racing about with all your choosing. Follow me, by drawing near to me, constantly. Make circles each day that continually turn your eyes back to me. Then when you don’t know what to do, you will know me and that will make all the difference.”

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart. And I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

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I GIVE UP: Why I thank God for my Lenten fails

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

If there is one thing Christians do that garners the most eye-rolls and jokes from non-Christians, it has to be the practice of giving up something for Lent.  ”So wait,” they say.  ”You gave up Starbucks to make Jesus happy?  I’m sure he really cares.”

As a former Catholic, I have a colorful history of religious practices built around Lent.  I do not like to use the word “religious” to describe any part of my faith, but it applies here.  “Religion” is how we act or try to act in response to God.  And I’ve run the gamut of Lenten religion.  I’ve given up things.  Some years I’ve added things instead.  It was not compulsory.  Once I started butting heads with the Catholic Church at the wee age of 14, I refused to do just about anything it told me to do.  But when Lent came around, even during the college years when the Church had no hold on me whatsoever, I felt an almost magnetic pull to return.  I needed to go get those ashes.  And I needed to prepare for Easter.  Giving something up was a response to that feeling that preparation was in order.

Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, is all about preparation.  Once November hits, it is impossible to forget that Christmas is coming.  And that’s a good thing.  It is harder with Good Friday and Easter but I think so many of us realize that we need to be thinking ahead to those days and what they mean.  So we put in place these abstinences to help us focus.

“Do you seriously consider going without chocolate at all comparable to Jesus’ dying on the cross?”
It can be muddy spiritual water, though, because sometimes we do the giving up before we consider why are doing it.  Ask a hundred people why they give something up, and I bet you get a hundred answers.  ”I sacrifice to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for me.”  Or “I go without to be reminded of what life would be like without God.”  That sounds good, but as the naysayers would counter, do you seriously consider going without chocolate at all comparable to Jesus’ dying on the cross?

Some people are gluttons for punishment and really want to suffer.  (My mom used to give up coffee every year and I felt like we were all being punished.)  Others use the time to work on their personal vices.  They know it’s time to quit smoking, for example, and they treat the process as a spiritual one, asking God to be their strength and resolve.  And, while you don’t hear people say this, I think that there probably is a bit of atoning going on, too.  ”I want to do be better so I can be deserving of God.”  Hmmm.

And maybe having unclear or ulterior motivations isn’t that bad.  When I was in Catholic school, we were given a list of religious exercises we could do in preparation for Lent.  Each item had a point value (I’m not kidding) and we would tally up our points, though I don’t recall if there was a grand prize.  I do remember that one of the items on the list was to go into the sanctuary and walk the Stations of the Cross.   When we had been sent out to recess on particularly cold days, I would walk the Stations just to get warm.  Would I ever have done that for the “right” reason?  Probably not.  But I know that that practice made a positive impression on me regardless.

As an adult, I’ve had some years where I have been disciplined in my approach to Lent and others when I have basically disregarded it.  Lent coincides with tax season, and working 70 hour weeks as a tax preparer, I often felt like I had already given up everything enjoyable in my life.  There certainly was no room in those years to add anything.

What did I give up this year, you ask?  Gin.  And martinis.  You can laugh, as I certainly am writing this.  Andy and I have had some laughs over it, too.  We joke about whether me not drinking gin for 40 days is somehow going to offset the fact that I am mentally sinning every moment of every day.

Thank God that I am measured by who Jesus is and what he has done and not by what I have done.
So why did I give it up?  Well, it brings some dark truths about me into the light.  Last weekend, when it was so beautifully warm outside, Andy made a gin drink and I asked him for a sip.  He said, “Sure, if it’s worth it to you to go to hell for.”  Ha ha, right?  Obviously we don’t think that’s how it works.  But you know what?  I had forgotten in that moment that I had given it up.  One little vow and I am so impulsive that I almost broke it.  And why gin AND martinis, you ask?  Isn’t that repetitive?  It is repetitive but here is what I know about myself.  I love a gin martini and the point is to give those up, but if I only give up gin, I know I will just have vodka martini instead.  I am such a Pharisee.

My lack of self-control and my willingness to break the rules I set myself — it really is pathetic.  Paul said it better when he wrote: “For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.”  (Romans 7:18-19)

I am an accountant which means I like to measure things.  And I believe in the adage that we manage what we measure.  I have two apps on my phone with that in mind.  One counts my daily calories.  (A friend and I have an agreement that if one of us should suddenly die, the other is to delete all the  information from that app on her deceased friend’s phone.)  The other is a habit app.  I set the habits I would like to develop and then I check them off the list when I do them each day.  These aren’t big habits, mind you.  We are talking about eating vegetables, drinking water, and walking the dog.  These are all things I thought I did an OK job on but wanted to do better.  Do you know what I found out once I started keeping track?  For one thing, I do not do an OK job at all.  These things that I thought I did every day, I actually was rarely doing.  Also, when it comes to calories and to my daily habits, I do fine during the week but on the weekends … The weekends are killing me.

I hadn’t realized it was this bad until I tried to do better and saw my behavior as it really is.  I thought to myself, No amount of good four days a week can balance the bad of the other three days.

That’s when it hit me.  No amount of anything good that I do will offset my bad on the scales of righteousness.  Thank God that I am measured by who Jesus is and what he has done and not by what I have done.

So why do I give things up for Lent?  Not to self-improve or be worthy in God’s eyes.  I set tiny limits on myself and then marvel at my struggle to stay within them.  I realize how depraved I really am and how hopeless it would be for me to try to achieve righteousness through my own works.  Then I give thanks that I don’t have to.

When Jesus goes to the cross on Good Friday, I cry because I hate that I could not save myself and that he had to.  I cry because I know I am not worthy of that kind of love.  And when he rises on Easter I rejoice because he has raised me with him.

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Will you stop and pray for this little boy today?

There’s this boy I know in Kenya. His story might just break your heart.

He lives off a dirt road, in a small house with a dozen or so other kids.  At four, he lost both parents. His grandmother couldn’t care for him and released him to an orphanage. A few months ago his caretakers noticed something wrong with the boy’s left eye, something causing it to bulge out. Turns out he has a tumor. And it is growing.

But this is Kenya, remember, and things here move slow, sometimes even slower than a tumor. He’s being well cared for, but the complications of his case and the lack of surgeons available caused his treatment to get stalled. But the tumor was not. It keeps growing, and now the boy is in pain.

Heartbreaking. Maybe you’re ready to stop reading because it breaks your heart so much. I hope not, because there’s one more thing:

This boy I know in Kenya? His name is Praise.

A boy named Praise. Read More

A radical response to a radical evil

By Beth Hartt

Have you ever read the Book of Revelation? A little weird, right? I’ve read it 4 times now and it doesn’t get any less weird. Or easier to understand. But for the first time, a verse near the end stopped me in my tracks when I was reading it the other day.

Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Immediately my mind called up the image of 21 men on their knees on a beach in Libya. Twenty-one sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, who were brutally beheaded for being followers of Jesus Christ. The anger welled up inside me—again. Because variations of this same story keep happening over and over, and I am mad. No, furious. And frustrated. I want to see these radicals punished and hurt like they’ve done to countless others. I want somebody, anybody, to do something, to stop this madness.

But I know this is not the response Christ wants me to have. I know that if I let the anger take over, I’m no better than the jihadis. Deep down in my Jesus-loving heart, I know I’m supposed to be praying for them. No, not just for the men on their knees in the sand. That goes without saying.

I’m supposed to be praying for the men standing behind them. Read More

Would Jesus Vaccinate?

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

So, about this recent measles outbreak.

Kids are getting sick from a disease we know how to prevent. This has provoked a lot of anger, and a host of questions. Should people have the right to opt out of vaccinating their children? What if this decision threatens the health of others? Does the government have a right to force people to participate in herd immunity? Does the media have a right to scold anti-vaxxers, because they caused this outbreak?

In my Bible study this year, we are making our way through the life of Moses. God’s been establishing the nation of Israel. It’s a theocracy, with Himself at the helm. So in a sense, we know how God governs, because it’s written down for us. He lays down all kinds of unequivocal laws, and many are of the public health variety.

Sadly, nothing about vaccines. Read More

Just where do you think you’re going in those shoes?

By Leigh Sain

Nineteen years ago this week, I met the boy who would become my husband. On a blind date. While wearing tennis shoes.

My choice of shoes may seem insignificant. But, as my sweet husband relishes in reminding me, it was not a tennis shoe worthy kind of date. It involved dinner. At a restaurant. Most people there were not wearing tennis shoes.

Now, in my defense, it was the 90’s—grunge was in.  I was a student then at a big university where the uniform of the day was sorority shirts, jeans and tennis shoes. He went to a smaller school where the girls wore actual outfits to class. I try to remind him about a lovely sweater I’m sure I wore. This earns me no points, though, because in his mind my Seinfield-esque sweater did not make up for the fact that I was wearing tennis shoes. On a date.

He recounts this story (his version anyway) as dinner’s chaos dances around us. And we laugh at the memory of that long ago awkward evening.  As I listen to him talk, twisting my hair—with its faint streaks of gray—out of my face, I begin to feel my 21-year-old self creeping into my thoughts; all young and overwhelmed by life’s expectations. And suddenly this place, with its chicken cooking, milk spilling, boys tussling to get to their seats first, becomes a bit of a marvel to behold. God really unfolded all of this from that tennis shoe-clad mess of a first date? Read More

How to keep walking humbly with your dog, er, your God

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

It is time to blog again. And, as I search myself, I find no spiritual epiphanies or transformations with which to enlighten you. Not to say that there has been no transformation.

December, the time of noise and wonder, gave way to January, which inexplicably turned into dreary, drab February, before the ink of my New Year’s resolutions had time to dry. But as much as I miss December and dread these cold dark days, I welcome the possibilities that a mostly-empty calendar holds.  Now is the time to rein in my diet, to exercise every day, to get to bed early. Now is the time to get the kids back on track with their daily reading and math facts. Now is time to start blogging again, though honestly I don’t want to. Instead, I am ready to tackle the overflowing closets, the piles of paper, and the email inbox. I have time now to focus on these tasks and it will feel so good to knock them out.

I just have one little thing slowing me down. Actually it is not a little thing at all. She’s a 70-pound puppy that demands more attention than a toddler. Read More

Copyright 2014 The Cul de Sac.

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