I like to watch birds at play, so years ago I built a small sanctuary in our backyard to attract them. For several months I enjoyed the sight of my feathered friends feeding and flitting about—until a Cooper’s Hawk made my bird refuge his private hunting reserve.
Such is life: Just about the time we settle down to take our ease, something or someone comes along to unsettle our nests. Why, we ask, must so much of life be a vale of tears?
I’ve heard many answers to that old question, but lately I’m satisfied with just one: “All the discipline of the world is to make [us] children, that God may be revealed to [us]” (George MacDonald, Life Essential). When we become like children, we begin trusting, resting solely in the love of our Father in heaven, seeking to know Him and to be like Him.
Cares and sorrow may follow us all the days of our lives, but “we do not lose heart. . . . For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Can we not rejoice, then, with such an end in view?
Charlie Sifford is an important name in American sports. He became the first African-American playing member of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour, joining a sport that, until 1961, had a “whites only” clause in its by-laws. Enduring racial injustice and harassment, Sifford earned his place at the game’s highest level, won two tournaments, and in 2004 was the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Charlie Sifford opened the doors of professional golf for players of all ethnicities.
Opening doors is also a theme at the heart of the gospel mission. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The word nations (v. 19) is from the Greek word ethnos, which is also the source of the word ethnic. In other words, “Go and make disciples of all ethnicities.” Jesus’ work on the cross opened the way to the Father for everyone.
Now we have the privilege of caring for others as God has cared for us. We can open the door for someone who never dreamed they’d be welcomed personally into the house and family of God.
My father was critically injured when he took a bullet in the leg as a second lieutenant leading his men on Hill 609 in North Africa during World War II. Dad was never again 100 percent physically. I was born several years after this, and when I was young I didn’t even know he had been wounded. I found out later when someone told me. Although he felt constant pain in his leg, my dad never complained about it, and he never used it as an excuse for not providing for our family.
My parents loved the Savior and raised us to love, trust, and serve Him. Through good times and bad, they simply trusted God, worked hard, and loved us unconditionally. Proverbs 14:26 says that “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (niv). My dad did that for our family. No matter what difficulties he faced, he provided a safe place for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
We parents can provide a safe haven for our families with the help of our perfect heavenly Father, whose love for His children is deep and eternal.
“What a wonderful funeral!” Cindy remarked as we walked out. Helen, our friend, had died. And friend after friend celebrated her by sharing stories of her all-around fun behavior. But Helen’s life wasn’t all jokes and laughter. Her nephew spoke of her faith in Jesus and her care for others. She had taken him into her home when he was young and struggling. Now in his twenties, he said of his Aunt Helen, “She was like a mom to me. She never gave up on me in my struggles. I am sure that if it wasn’t for her, I would have lost my faith.” Wow! What an influence! Helen leaned on Jesus and wanted her nephew to trust Him too.
I tend to get stuck in my ways, so anything that diverts me from my routines and plans can be very annoying. Worse yet, life’s diversions are sometimes unsettling and painful. But God, who said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8), knows that He often needs to divert us in order to make more of our lives than we would have if we had stuck to our original plans.
Recently, my husband and I were reacquainted with a young man we had known as a child many years ago. We fondly reminisced about a Christmas program when Matthew had sung—in a perfect boy soprano—the song “All Is Well” by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith. It was a wonderful memory of a song beautifully sung.
A friend described his grandmother as one of the greatest influences in his life. Throughout his adult years, he has kept her portrait next to his desk to remind himself of her unconditional love. “I really do believe,” he said, “that she helped me learn how to love.”
College students rent a house from my sister and her husband. One night, a thief attempted to break in. When the young woman living there called the police to tell them that a break-in was in progress, the operator responded in an unusual way: “You’ll have to call back in the morning. We’re just too busy right now.” That response was very disturbing! The young woman had done the right thing by calling the police, but for some reason her plea for help was disregarded. That kind of indifference is upsetting.
From my home in Colorado, I recently used Google Maps to “wander around” the neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, where my family lived 2 decades ago. A satellite image on my computer screen enabled me to identify roads, landmarks, and buildings. In some cases, I got a street-level view, as if I were standing on the ground there.