We go from one problem to the next problem, one crisis to the next crisis. Just when things are settling down, here comes another one. It’s tough. Problems aren’t my favorite part of life. But, hey, they are teachers. Adversity offers many opportunities to learn. It’s amazing what we will realize after a time of struggle. There are a few reoccurring themes that have held true to the end, that have been my teachers. These are part of what I have learned from my personal journey of loss, pain, discovery, and healing. Feel free make a print copy.
Life is quite different now than from the way it used to be. My generation, the baby boomers, pursued the American dream. We believed in a job well-done and being rewarded for the effort. The younger generation is looking at values from a different perspective. Young people today, the millennials, care more about the environment and open acceptance for all people and less about being prosperous and fitting a mold or living a carbon copy life. One generation reacts to the previous generation and then goes about living life from a different angle.
There are some areas that apply to ALL generations. Maybe it’s logic, maybe it’s just common sense, or maybe it’s a reaction, but some things need to be said. In some respects it seems we are forgetting what is wise or prudent and doing what feels right and good for the moment. People are living in the moment. Some are forgetting to prepare for the future. I think people need to slow down and think this thing through. What are the pros and cons, what makes sense in the long run, where will we be ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?
Confessions (Oxford University Press, 2009 edition (400 AD))
This book surprised me. I enjoyed reading it cover to cover although I expected it to be dry and rather dull. The confessions are a personal narrative by Augustine of Hippo about his spiritual journey. It is written like he is talking to God about his life and we are privileged to get to listen in. I have to say, I thought Augustine’s take on life in the times in which he lived not all that different from the belief and practices of the millennials of our times. That, in itself, was fascinating to me. Born in Africa, and then later, at age 17, educated in Carthage, Augustine had a diverse background. Augustine lived loose and fast with life. He fathers a son with his long-term mistress. He prides himself on his intellectual ability; he is a brilliant fellow. In his Confessions it is as if Augustine is taking us through his thought processes and concerns as he wends his way to faith. It is similar to reading a journal but one with great insight and clarity about life and his part in it. We see glimpses into past history where Christianity is finding its way in and out of culture and popularity.
Augustine argues some of the same arguments we still toss around. We see him participate in public oratory as participates in debate in the public square. The popular philosophical thought of the day is attractive to him and the appeal of the Manichean religious belief hooks him (to his mother’s despair). He takes the Catholic church to task as he looks at religious philosophy and says, why and how? Then he meets Ambrose, a teacher of rhetoric like Augustine, but a man of faith. In the man Ambrose he finds a different sort of religious person. His confessions lead us to his time of conversion and beyond. Much is philosophical in nature. All changes at the point of conversion. Monica, his mother, is finally at peace. In many respects she has lived her life for her son. Monica devoted herself to seeking God for her son’s repentance and salvation. She figures into Augustine’s story as a major player, a person who both helped and irritated her son. He could not escape her concern and prayers.
The Man Who Believed God: The Story of Hudson Taylor (1929, first edition)
Missionaries and their stories are familiar to me. My mother often would give my siblings and me missionary stories in book form as gifts during our childhood. I had my favorites, of course, I liked the ones with action and some of the missionaries were more adventurous than others. Most lived sacrificial lives. The story of Hudson Taylor was a familiar one to me. He was a well-known missionary to the Chinese people and was the founder of the China Inland Mission. He spoke the Chinese language, Mandarin, and several of the dialects. His life’s work was to share Christ with the people who lived in China. His dedication and resourcefulness to this cause was novel even for those days. Hudson Taylor has remained one of the great missionaries of all time in the Protestant tradition.
A few years back, I came across an old copy of the book I am featuring, The Man Who Believed God: The Story of Hudson Taylor. It was like reading the story anew now that much life has passed since I first read his story. This compelling story is about a Christian man who devotes his life to loving, helping, and evangelizing the people in his adopted country. He truly is captive to his devotion to God and to the people he seeks to enlighten with gospel of Christ. But it is not easy by any means. The journey of faith that he embarks on will eventually cost him dearly in the loss of family members through illness and death and in other areas of hardship. But he is faithful to the end. I was particularly fascinated by the account of his remarkable conversion when he was a teenager. He had no intention to follow his parents in Christian faith. He was happy about his unbelief. His mother devotes herself to prayer on his behalf. Then one day the written word in a Christian pamphlet causes him to reconsider the issue. He converts. This young man doesn’t just recite the prayer, he is all in. His conversion completely changes the trajectory of his life.