Last year, I went trick-or-treating for the first time in my life. Up until that point, as a matter of principle, I never even handed out candy on Halloween.
When I was in college, I lived with the perpetual fear that somehow I had missed the salvation boat, that although I had placed my trust in Jesus, in the end, I would come before God’s throne, and He would shake His head and say, “I’m sorry, but you just thought you were saved.”
I once knew this guy who regularly started conversations like this: “Have you got a minute? I need your prayers.” Except there was never any prayer involved – it was just a religious intro to gossip.
When I was in my 20s, I intensely struggled with a sense of unworthiness before God; yet at the same time, I felt like I was just good enough to deserve His love because I was so well-behaved. It was a stressful way to live, and eventually, it took its toll.
Last night, I was having a conversation with my neighbor, and all of a sudden, I panicked. I couldn’t understand him, and I didn’t have the guts to tell him that he wasn’t making any sense. I politely smiled and pretended I was following him, but I was lost and wanted to wrap up things without me looking stupid. The problem was, we were speaking Spanish; and he didn’t realize it, but he was talking over my head.
Let’s play a game. I’ll describe someone, and you tell me who I’m talking about. 1. He’s an old man with a long, white beard. 2. He sees everything you do. 3. He keeps a list of your deeds, good and bad. 4. He lives in a far-off, magical kingdom you couldn’t find if you tried. 5. He never allows himself to be seen; and 6. All the movies about him are fairly lame.
I vividly remember the last church service I attended before I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I was sitting with a couple thousand strangers in a megachurch when the thought crossed my mind: Why am I here? I could watch this on the internet. And after the service ended, I walked into the church’s multi-acre parking lot and drove away, never to return to church services again (or so I thought).
I’ve had close friendships with countless Christians in my lifetime, and if there’s one thing we’ve all got in common, it’s that we’ve all got some bad habit, some addictive sin, some hangup that we just can’t seem to overcome. People struggle with all kinds of things — rage, overeating, jealousy, passive-aggressive behavior, and porn addiction, to name a few.
I took an etiquette class several years ago in which the instructor told us that compliments must never be specific, because they already embarrass people as it is. The embarrassment only increases with the specificity of the compliment. This is not good for me.
There’s nothing like trying to get on a loaded city bus when there’s a mob of people waiting at the bus stop. When that happens, everybody just crams into the bus and surrenders their personal space – well, most people do.
Although my three-year-old daughter, Renee, is improving, for the better part of her life, she has antagonized her four-year-old sister, Daniela, quite a lot. She will do things like walk up to her sister and gratuitously punch her or sneak up and pull a pillow out from under her sister’s head just for fun.
A few years ago, I had a Mormon friend who invited me to attend a service at his church (also known as a “ward”). I had visited a Mormon church service in high school, so I knew what to expect — or so I thought.
The other day, my wife and I were driving down a two-lane road in the country when we got stuck behind a big ol’ Mack truck that was stuck behind a slowly-moving tractor. We figured we would be in for a long wait – we did not anticipate, however, that we were about to watch a truck driver nearly kill somebody.
In 2007, my fiancé and I almost left the church I had been a part of for two years. I was happy there, but we had just gotten engaged, and we figured we might be better off if we just started over at a new church. In retrospect, we weren’t very thoughtful about the whole thing at all – actually, we were pretty much just feeling our way through the decision, which is what I think a lot of people do when they leave churches, and naturally so. Emotions are oftentimes the clearest things in our minds when we’re making these decisions.
On Sunday, I was taking my daughters downstairs to their Sunday School class when I passed a couple of women on their way up to the sanctuary. One of the two women was looking down; the other was holding her arm and whispering into her ear. It seemed odd to me, but I was most concerned that the visitors feel comfortable; and I just assumed that the woman looking down had a disability or something. She didn’t.