My worst fears came upon me the day I landed in the hospital. I dreaded entering the huge, ominous health factory, where impersonal doctors would study my symptoms with a distant professional look, and nurses would appear at my bedside at the strangest hours to stick me with a thermometer, an injection, or a cup of weak coffee.
God, get me out of here!
Have you ever wanted to do something to help someone or longed to make a difference in the world, only to have your good intentions sidetracked by thoughts of why your efforts wouldn’t work?
One such occasion happened last summer when my wife and I stopped to eat at a fast food restaurant that serves fried chicken. After placing our order, we brought our trays of food to a table in the middle of the dining area.
One winter some years ago, a group of friends and I were traveling on a mountain road in a passenger van in the southern United States. It was past dusk on a Friday evening, and we were heading to a ski resort a few hours away. We were nearly there when someone pulled up next to us at a stop sign and motioned to the driver to roll the window down.
“Pretty sure your back tire’s losing air,” he said. “I can take a look if you’d like.”
Good listening takes effort. Notice the traits of the people whom you enjoy talking to, the good listeners. They show their interest with their eyes, posture, and the ways they react. It’s a sort of indescribable mood that says, I enjoy listening to you. You’re important to me. A calmness and patience about them tells you, Take your time. I have nothing more vital to do at the moment than to hear what you have to say.
In this weary world of ours, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the recurring bad news of terrorism, war, natural disasters, and suffering. The message of Christmas—peace on earth and goodwill toward men—has never been more relevant. And yet I know I sometimes feel my efforts are like a drop of water in the ocean of what needs to be done to truly make a difference.
I was sitting in a friend’s living room when I noticed some crimson red flowers in a vase on the coffee table. I was almost spellbound by their loveliness, and as I gazed at this beautiful creation, I seemed to hear God’s voice telling me, I want you to be like those flowers.
When I was eight years old, my family and I watched a BBC documentary featuring a group of British WW2 veterans who had fought in North Africa. Throughout the film, the veterans related their wartime experiences, most of which were accounts of withstanding hunger, terror, and deprivation on the path to victory. Although these stories were moving, the most unforgettable one for me was a different sort of tale. It was related by a frail, white-haired gentleman who smiled warmly and said that his most unforgettable experience was when he was gifted a peach!
A few years ago, Activated published a special series on what Paul in his letter to the Galatians called the fruit of the Spirit.1 One issue was published for each of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.2 It occurred to us that we hadn’t explored the concept of fruit itself, and this issue will be devoted to that topic.
When I came in for my nursing shift in the department for Alzheimer’s sufferers, one patient was very agitated and wouldn’t sit still. I could have given her some medication to calm her, but as she wasn’t aggressive or in pain, I instead walked around with her for a while. It was an aimless stroll; I would stop at times to look at paintings, show her a teddy bear, look out the window, etc., but mostly we just walked.
“He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of God’s nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.”1
Jesus described Himself as “the light of the world,”2 but have you ever contemplated what that means? Jesus is the radiant brilliance of the Father that shines into our lives, manifesting the love and nature of God, illumining our way to the Father so that we can experience and ultimately come to understand who God is.