Several years ago, one of my friends authored a book and a few months after it was released, I asked her how many books had been sold. She replied: “Well, the publisher made enough to cover the cost of my advance.“ In other words, the book hadn’t made a profit. It wasn’t until I wrote a book that I appreciated just how awkward it feels to get the “how many books have you sold” question. It’s like being asked about your salary, your weight, or why you aren’t having a drink at the party. For better or worse, the answer…
It was my junior year of college and I didn’t have the money I needed to pay off my tuition for the fall semester. I was a couple hundred dollars short and there was no Plan B. Believe it or not, I had no student loans. I was fortunate enough to have a scholarship that covered half of my tuition. And thanks to going to a state university, the bill was low enough that I could make the payments by working 25 hours a week as an errand runner at the hospital. Somehow, though, I hadn’t saved enough money to…
I was a poor law student living on $300 a month, and as soon as I saw the police cars down the road, I instinctively put my foot on the break. I couldn’t afford a ticket. It was just a police checkpoint though. I slowed down, stopped beside the officer, and handed him my driver’s license. He furrowed his brow.
My seven-month-old nephew Canaan was dying and nobody knew it, including his doctor, who had misdiagnosed his digestive issues. The real issue was Hirschsprung’s disease, one of the leading causes of death for kids like Canaan, who has Down Syndrome.
Today is the 15th birthday of a young man named Canaan Rogers. This birthday was not supposed to happen. When Canaan, my nephew, was seven months old, he nearly died because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis of a serious illness. By the time the doctors figured out what was really going on, it was too late. Canaan was all but gone.
I stared at the TV and fought back tears while watching a CBS news interview with American missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham, who were haggard, filthy, and appeared to be disoriented. The couple, who were missionaries in the Philippines, decided to spend one night at a resort to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. But that night they were kidnapped by terrorists, and a year later, they were being dragged through the Philippine jungle. One of their fellow hostages had been beheaded.
Seven years ago, I was having a conversation at a birthday party when I suddenly felt like I was in a dream. My voice felt far off, the room looked two-dimensional, and I couldn’t get my eyes to focus. Fifteen seconds later it stopped, but that episode was only the beginning. I started having a variety of other bizarre experiences. Sometimes it seemed like I was watching a scratched DVD — other times I would lose my words mid-sentence or forget how to type.
One day last year, I was in a little convenience store in downtown D.C., where I quickly grabbed a drink and headed to the cash register. Three ladies were working, and when I looked at the youngest of the three (in the center of the photo) a simple phrase came into my head and seemed like it was just for her: Don’t settle for less.
When I was little, our family hit hard times and we didn’t even have money for groceries. I was just five years old, so I wasn’t sure what was going on — all I knew was that the cabinets were empty.
In 2009, I was at a friend’s birthday party when my vision suddenly became distorted. I could hear and see everyone, but it felt like I was in a dream. About 15 seconds later, I came out of it. I walked over to my friend, who’s a doctor, and tried to describe what happened. “Maybe you’ve got superpowers,” he said, and we both chuckled. Soon thereafter, I stopped chuckling.
This morning, my daughters and I were talking about the birth of Jesus, and I was trying to think of a way to capture the wonder of it. I mean, it’s one thing to say “God became a man” – but I wanted them to get it, to grasp how bizarre it was that the God of the universe humbled Himself and moved into the body of a vulnerable baby boy.
The other day, I arrived at the bus stop where four ladies were indiscriminately passing out New Testament Bibles. When one of the ladies offered me a Bible, I tried to decline. But she was insistent, so I tried to change the subject.
The other day, my family and I were driving down the highway when a massive flock of birds rose from a lake and flew over the car, endlessly blanketing the early evening sky.
Christmas of 2002 was rough for me. I was in law school, and unlike many other students, I had taken out the absolute minimum amount of loans to avoid years of indebtedness after graduation. I was eventually grateful for that, but in the middle of my second semester, I was literally pulling together change to pay for groceries.
The other day, I had a phone conversation with a priest who serves an extremely impoverished population. He also has a ministry in which he teaches people how to be more aware of themselves and God during their daily lives. The way we ended up on the phone is so random that it’s not even worth it to explain, but what stood out to me was how joyful, sharp, and engaged he was – especially as he talked about the Holy Spirit. I admire people who can concretely talk about the Holy Spirit; because although He feels closer than my skin sometimes, at other…