My Messy House (The Monster Who Was Sorry)

Marc Chagall, The Yellow Room, oil on canvas, 1911.

Hey TD!

During this off-weak from TD, we want to continue to lay the groundwork for real enjoyment of the life and call God has for us; and it starts with cleaning house. Please read this Slice of Infinity from Jill Carattini that illustrates what we’re looking for here at TD:

Kathleen Norris tells a story of a little boy who wrote a poem called “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” The poem begins with a confession: he doesn’t like it when his father yells at him. The monster’s response is to throw his sister down the stairs, then to destroy his room, and finally to destroy the whole town. The poem concludes: “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have done all that.’”(1)

The confession of Saint Paul bears a fine resemblance: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but I do what I hate.” Regret has a way of shining the flood lights on the mess within us. Norris further expounds the faithful candor of the child describing his own muddled story: “‘My messy house’ says it all: with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in the fourth-century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on the way toward repentance.”(2)

The journey of a Christian through the many rooms of faith posits countless opportunities to peer at the monster within. There are days in the life of faith when I question whether I am living up to the title of Christian or disciple—or even casual acquaintance. In certain rooms of awareness I find there is no question: I am not. Yet, as G.K. Chesterton wrote in his autobiography, I have only ever found one religion that “dared to go down with me into the depth of myself.”(3) This is precisely the invitation of Christianity. What we find are messy houses, filled with hidden staircases built of excuses, and idols of good deeds atop mantels of false security—in short, the home of Christ in disarray at our own hands.

If we were to remain shut up in this place alone, we might begin to wonder why we should ever hope for anything other than mess and wreckage. Paul’s confession marks the futility of our own efforts to clean the house. But we do not make the journeys to the depths of ourselves alone. In fact, we should not have discovered the messes had they not been shown to us in the first place. We are guided to these places in our consciences, to images of ourselves unadorned, and finally to broken and contrite hearts. Faith in Christ is the opportunity to be searched by the Spirit of Truth, the Breath of Holiness, the God who maneuvers us through messy rooms and sin-stained walls and mercifully exposes monstrous ways. It would indeed be a futile journey if we walked this path alone.

Instead, the very Spirit that shows us the monster in a messy house shows us the one who removes the masks, clears the wreckage, and makes us human again. In a scene from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, Aslan the lion is seen tearing the costume off the child in front of him.(4) The child writhes in pain from the razor sharp claws that feel as though they pierce his very being. With mounting intensity, Aslan rips away layer after layer, until the child is absolutely certain he will die from the agony. But when it is all over and every last layer has been removed, the child delights in the newfound freedom, having long forgotten the weight of the costume he carried.

The journey of a soul through its messiest rooms is not merely a drive-by glimpse of the depths of our sin and our need for repentance; it is not a journey for the sake of guilt or even right-living. It is true that we are shown the weight of our masks and the extent of our messes; we are handed the great encumbrance of our own failures. But all so we can be shown again the one who asks to take them all from us. All so we can be fully human. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Quite mercifully, it is through the dingy windows of a messy house that one has the clearest view of the cross.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace (New York: Riverhead, 1998), 69.
(2) Ibid., 70.
(3) G.K. Chesterton, The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 334.
(4) Story told in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 115-117.

 

Coping With Anxiety

Image result for coping with anxiety

Hey TD!

As school has now officially started for everyone, for many of you that comes with anxiety – anxiety about your performance, your social position, relational drama, and so on. With anxiety comes uncertainty and worry.  The truth is that God will not remove many of the circumstances that we fear; He will, however, be with us and help us walk through them.

Here’s a short article to help ground you with the right thoughts and perspectives as you head back into the new year.  If you prayerfully and humbly work on putting them into practice, things may just turn out better than you thought. Enjoy. – Arthur

In 1 Peter 5:6–7, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Christians spread across the Roman Empire who were suffering persecution from the unbelieving Jews and gentiles: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” In this passage, Peter shows in what way his readers were to face the anxiety they were feeling in this situation: they were to cast their anxiety upon God. By doing so, they would recognize their own powerlessness and weakness, as well as God’s power to take care of them.

“All your anxieties” is a reference Peter makes to the anguish the Christians felt due to the hostility and persecution of the pagans. It included fear of death, fear of suffering, preoccupation with family and friends, and other similar fears. The word translated “anxiety” comes from a Greek word that means “part,” “piece,” or “division.” The anxious heart is divided, pulled in all directions, and in constant affliction.

Christians must “cast on him” all these anxieties; that is, they should put all their preoccupations and fears into the powerful hands of God and rest their afflicted hearts. That is done, in practice, through prayer and petition, in which we confess to God our weaknesses, tell Him of our anguishes and needs, beg for His favor and grace, and rest confident that He has listened to us. It is implicit, although not said, that remaining with these anxieties would be a form of exaltation and pride.

Thomas Schreiner writes:

Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust in is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in His mighty hand, acknowledging that He is Lord and Sovereign over all of life.

Peter encourages his readers to cast their cares on God “because he cares for you.” Even though it didn’t seem like it, God was taking care of them in the midst of their suffering, not necessarily ridding them of pain, but not permitting it to go beyond their limitations and giving them grace to endure and remain faithful. God was not insensitive to their suffering. God’s care for them may also be a reference to what He has prepared for them at the coming of Christ (1:3–7).

This exhortation by Peter reflects the teaching of many psalms that encourage the faithful to unload their burdens on God (Ps. 22:10; 37:5; 55:22), as well as the teachings of the Lord Jesus against anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34). Christians are encouraged to trust in God and rest in Him in the midst of the most terrible of sufferings, confident that the all-powerful God is taking care of them, even though this care is not always perceptible.

Stewarding Our Schedules

Image result for crazy schedules

Hey TD!

As we end summer and start a new school year, demands on our schedule will force us to prioritize and make good use of our time.  I always tell my clients that the greatest commodity we all have is time. Every moment spent is gone forever; we never get any of it back.

The following article from Gabe Fluhrer in Tabletalk Magazine (by Ligonier Ministries) is a good read that will help you steward you your time with the right perspective and understanding.  Enjoy! – Arthur

One of the supreme ironies of modern life is that we are worn out from leisure. The end of summer illustrates this phenomenon. So many of us finish up summer vacation thinking, “I need a break!” When we’re worn out from what should refresh us, the gospel offers hope for burned-out disciples like us.

A WEDDING ON SCHEDULE

Not long ago, our pastor preached a marvelous sermon on the wedding at Cana (John 2). He pointed out a feature of Jesus’ first miracle that I had never noticed. The very fact that Jesus was at a wedding turning water into wine can, and should, and has inspired both adoration and dissertations. But he focused our attention on one particular part of the text. Jesus says to His mother: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). Now, to dispel any fears that Jesus was a misogynist, He was not using the term “woman” in a derisive sense. Instead, it was a term of respect. In any case, John wants us to focus not on what Jesus calls His mother but on what He says to her.

He says, “My hour has not yet come.” Later in the gospel, He will tell us His time has come (17:1). In other words, Jesus kept a schedule. He was never in a rush to be on someone else’s clock. He knew His mission, and He did not deviate from it for passing demands, no matter how pressing they seemed to those around Him. Jesus labored to the point of exhaustion (Mark 4:38), yet He never seemed burned out. What can we learn from our Savior when it comes to our hectic lives?

THE SAVIOR OF SCHEDULES

Here’s a simple, if overlooked, truth: the Savior who kept a schedule is also the Savior of our schedules. As such, we need to commit and recommit our time to Jesus. Details can overwhelm us, and the demands of a busy life can diminish our faith. We are distracted by that device in our pockets that is constantly alerting us, buzzing, beeping, and reminding us that someone always wants some of our time.

But Jesus meets us where we are. His schedule reminds us that the most urgent appointment we have each day doesn’t come with a “remind me fifteen minutes before” option on a drop-down menu. That’s because our days don’t belong to us, ultimately. They belong to God. Therefore, the most important part of our day is every second of it, communing with God instead of being overwhelmed with a crazy busy life.

So this week, let’s “give” our schedules to Jesus (they belong to Him already). Let’s be reminded that He knows everything that will derail our best-laid plans. But instead of stressing about these inevitable failures, let’s rest—what we all need more of—in the knowledge that a divine wisdom, mingled with the greatest love imaginable, keeps watch over every second of our schedules.

 

Learning How to Think

Hey TD!

Now that we are fully vested into the summer, I’d love to encourage you to brush up your mental game, so to speak.  The Apostle Paul exhorts us to not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be TRANSFORMED … how? … by the RENEWING OF OUR MINDS (Rom. 12).  In a culture that is increasingly thinking with its feelings, Ravi Zacharias cautions us to remember that our feelings ought to be connected to thinking, and our thinking ought to be right; if we don’t think rightly, we will feel the repercussions of whatever it is that we’re thinking.  As Proverbs 23:7 comments, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

RZIM’s  Margaret Manning perceptively and honestly challenges us to work through the origins of our own thought patterns with the following contribution to RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Think about it! – Arthur

Learning How to Think

by Margaret Manning Shull

There are patterns of thought that come as natural to us as our daily routines. These patterns of thought emerge from constructs and experiences that color and shape the way in which we view the world and they can emerge in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes we simply repeat what we have heard. Mindless phrases spill out of our mouths forming the patterns of response—even when the response is incongruent with the situation. “It is what it is,” we say, when compassionate silence is called for or “Everything has a reason” when faced with inexplicable chaos.

I recognize in my own life how these patterns of thought belie my true way of viewing the world, much to my chagrin. Oftentimes, they reveal callousness to the suffering of others. I’ll tell someone, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers” as a substitute for tangible assistance. Or my desire to fit every happening into a neat, understandable package compels me to speak when I first should listen.

Alexej von Jawlensky, The Thinking Woman, oil on canvas, 1912.Regardless of the situation, it seems a sad reality that so often these patterns of thought and action revolve around placing the self at the center of everything. Many function as if the world really does revolve around the immediate and urgent demands of living one’s own life. Everything is simply an incursion into the routine of putting me, myself, and I front and center. I automatically feel offended, for example, when cut off in traffic. I instinctively feel slighted or defensive that my very presence doesn’t delight and soothe the unhappy. I groan at the inconvenience of having to wait in another line and when I finally have my turn, I take offense at the clerk who doesn’t smile at me the way in which I think I deserve.

In his lauded address to graduates of Kenyon College, the late author David Foster Wallace exposed the routines of thought and action that place the self at the center.(1) In his remarks regarding the benefits of a liberal arts education in shaping one’s ability to think, he suggests that it is the “most obvious, important realities that are the hardest to talk about.”(2) In other words, one of those obvious realities is that when left to our own devices humans think and behave in self-centered ways. But it is one of those routines of thought that mostly goes unmentioned. He continues, “The choice is really about what to think about and how we think about it…to have just a little critical awareness….Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.”(3) Rarely, Foster Wallace notes, do we think about how we think because what is revealed is that we are basically selfish in action and thought 99% of the time.

But what if we really made thinking about how we think the routine? Foster Wallace conducts a thought experiment to illustrate how this can be done. What if the car that cuts me off in traffic is not about being in my way or being rude to me, but is a father trying to rush his sick son to the hospital or the doctor and I am in his way? What if the person who is critical of me or sullen towards me has only known criticism and neglect her whole life? What if the grocery bagger is not without social skills, but someone who has had little opportunity, whose parents’ have recently split up, and whose general home life is nothing but misery? How different these situations might look if I took the time to think! Indeed, what if my routine became first thinking of the other person?

One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian story is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant and made in the likeness of human beings.”(4) How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day? In so doing, how might that change the very patterns of thought that conspire to keep us living at the center of our own universe, embittered by all the ways we’ve been slighted?

Foster Wallace concludes his address by telling the Kenyon graduates:

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad of petty and unsexy ways every day.”(3)

In a world that isn’t always sure what it thinks about Christianity, Jesus stands inviting us to encounter a very different kind of kingdom at the center of all creation, a kingdom in which he, the suffering servant, is Lord. In this kingdom marked by his living example of sacrifice and care, it is most freeing to discover you are far from alone.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) David Foster Wallace, “This is Water,” Commencement Address, Kenyon College Graduation, Kenyon, Ohio, 2005.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.

 

In Memory of Molly Holt – A True Hero

Hey TD,

Especially in light of our focus on Downward Engagement, you need to read the moving biography of Molly Holt, a life so well lived.  Molly is the daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, the pioneers of international adoption and founders of Holt International, through whom we were able to adopt Stella.

Her life is an inspiration to us all and needs to be emulated by more Christians, to the glory of God.  Please read and then pray for God’s will to be done in your lives. – Arthur

In Memory Of Molly Holt

It is with profound sadness that we share the heartbreaking news that Molly Holt, daughter of Holt founders Harry and Bertha Holt, passed away early in the morning on May 17 in Korea. She was 83 years old. 

In South Korea, Molly was known by many names, from the Mother Teresa of Korea to the Mother of all Korea’s Orphans. Although she devoted her life to caring and advocating for children and adults with medical, developmental and physical needs in Korea, she leaves a legacy that is felt around the world.

Born on November 24, 1935 in Firesteel, South Dakota, Molly was the second eldest daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, who pioneered international adoption in the mid-1950s and later founded Holt International. Molly attended high school in Creswell, Oregon, and later graduated from both the University of Oregon and Sacred Heart Hospital, where she earned a nursing degree in 1956.

The summer of that same year, Molly traveled for the first time to South Korea — fresh out of nursing school, and ready to help her father care for children left orphaned and abandoned in the wake of the Korean War. A devout Christian like her parents, Molly had a vision for her future while in Korea. “I felt that this was where the Lord would have me be for the rest of my life,” she later said.

Molly would go on to spend most of her adult life at the Ilsan Center in Korea, a nurturing, long-term care home that her parents built in the early 1960s for children and adults with special medical, developmental and physical needs. As a nurse and foster mother to the residents of Ilsan, Molly worked to ensure they received the specialized care they needed to reach their potential and live as independently as possible. Through her tireless advocacy, Molly also made it possible for many children in care at Ilsan to join loving, permanent families through adoption. Today, hundreds of families adopt children with special needs every year from countries around the world. But long before it was common, Molly actively sought families for the children who others considered “unadoptable.” Like her parents before her, Molly helped change the culture of adoption by showing that every child is equally worthy of love and acceptance, and that every child deserves to be part of a family.

Only a few times in her life did Molly leave the Ilsan Center for extended periods, and only to pursue additional training so that she could better meet the needs of the children and adult residents of Ilsan. She studied at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, attended Korean language school and Multnomah School of the Bible, did post-graduate work in special education at the University of Oregon, and in December 1991 she earned a master’s degree in special education and rehabilitation from Northern Colorado University. Throughout her life, she received many honors, including a presidential award, the National Order of Civil Merit from Korea in 1981, World Vision’s Bob Pierce award in 1984 and in 2009, for her lifetime of dedication to orphans and people with disabilities, she received the Royal Order of Merit from the king of Norway.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2013, Molly nevertheless remained steadfast in her commitment to the children and adult residents of the Ilsan Center. Despite her declining health, she said that she would devote her remaining life “to the things that she loves with her whole heart.” Molly never married or had children, but to the residents of Ilsan — many of whom are now in their 50s and 60s — Molly was their only family. They called her “Unee,” or big sister, a name that Molly cherished.

“Molly Holt moved so many with her tireless and admirable efforts, especially for those children with mental and physical disabilities,” says Stephen Noerper, senior director of the Korea Society and senior advisor to the United Nations. “As a brother of adopted, special needs siblings, I salute and admire her legacy of service. She offered six decades of tireless devotion, stood as a credit to her brave parents, and touched, formed and grew many through her compassion. The Korea Society and the entire community of those bent on international friendship and support extend deepest condolences to her family and friends and the entire Holt organization. To Molly Holt’s nobility, spirit and service, all tribute and our love and heartfelt prayers.”

Of Molly’s passing, Lee HongKoo, former prime minister of the Republic of Korea, wrote, “The contribution of Molly Holt to humanity and humanism … is a historic achievement. The modern history of Korea will record her achievement with gratitude and admiration. Many of us in Korea join the Holt adoptee community in recording our love and farewell.”

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Molly Holt,” says Oregon senator Ron Wyden. “Although she lived most of her life in Korea, all of us in Oregon consider her an exceptional Oregonian.  Molly leaves a legacy of caring and compassion that will endure for generations to come.  Her devotion to orphaned children in Korea and around the world touched the lives of thousands of children and families and changed the hearts and minds of many more for the better.”

Steve Stirling, president and CEO of MAP International, lived at the Ilsan Center in Korea before he was adopted in 1966, at the age of 11. “I thank God for Molly for faithfully serving those in need through Holt and living in Ilsan to care for disabled residents,” he says. “While we will miss you now, I will rejoice when we unite for eternity in Heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus. So long for now until we meet again in our forever home.”

Please pray for Molly’s family and for the many people who have loved her that they might find peace and comfort in their memories.

Services for Molly will be held in Korea at 10:00 a.m. on May 21 at Holt Ilsan Center of Korea. Molly’s family requests that gifts be made in her honor to the Molly Holt Fund for Children With Special Needs. If you would like to share memories or photos of Molly Holt, please email them to photosubmission@holtinternational.org.

By Robin Munro

How Online Dating Impacts Health

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a "hook-up" culture that's not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

Hey  TD!

I read this article by USC Dornsife’s Susan Bell and thought it an interesting topic of discussion.  It’s not an article written from a Christian perspective, but I think brings up some good points to think through, pray about, and discuss.

What do you think of online dating? What do you think of the research results?  Many in our church have used online dating services, while others swear against it.  What guidelines do we find in the Bible that would help us think about this more clearly?  Does this research have broader implications than just for dating?

This would be great to discuss with your small group members and leaders on several levels!

For better or worse: Looking for love in the internet age

Online dating and social media have revolutionized how we look for love. USC Dornsife’s Julie Albright reveals how this digital technology has far-reaching effects on our health and well-being. [4 ¾ min read]

By creating a seemingly endless choice of romantic partners for its users, online dating apps have facilitated a “hook-up” culture that’s not conducive to settling down and is driving loneliness, anxiety and depression. (Composite: Letty Avila. Image source: iStock.)

When online dating began, there was no swiping left or right, no photo-shopped selfies or alluring videos, just lonely singles pouring out their hearts in internet chat rooms.

Initially, there was a certain shame attached to online dating, Julie Albright says. “But people were really opening up and talking about things, maybe for the first time. It was all about getting to know the inner person, and many people felt like they’d met their soul mate.”

The original stigma may have gone as online dating went mainstream with the dawn of the mobile internet era, but Albright, a lecturer in psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, says everything else has changed, too, as the app economy commodified people and relationships into something far more superficial.

Online dating is now the second or third most common way — depending on age — for Americans to meet romantic partners. In Albright’s upcoming book, Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives are Reshaping the American Dream (Prometheus Books, 2019), she describes how it has altered the landscape of love and romance in the 21st century and reveals how the ways we now look for love are affecting our relationships, our health and our well-being — even the very fabric of society.

 

The loneliness paradox

Online dating creates the idea that there are thousands of romantic possibilities available to us. However, that brings problems of its own, Albright warns, because when faced with a vast array of choices, paradoxically, we’re unable to choose.

“We keep thinking there are endless choices, that maybe someone better will come along,” she said. “But at the end of the day, people who don’t choose are going to end up lonely because they’re not in a relationship. You have to choose and you have to commit to build something.”

But by facilitating a “hookup” culture, dating apps have created an environment that’s not conducive to settling down.

Dating has become a sport, Albright argues, rather than a means to build a long-term relationship.

“You couldn’t talk to 300 women in a night in a bar, but with a dating app, you can throw out a thousand hooks and get 300 bites.”

Traditions like marriage or buying a home, she says, provide a guiding north star by which people can navigate their lives. Now, young digital natives, hyper-attached to digital technologies and no longer choosing commitment and marriage, are unhooking from traditional social structures and are cast adrift — a process Albright calls “coming untethered.”

“Taking the endgame out of courtship changes the dynamic of what dating is about. If you’re just dating in a constant churn, there’s no future and no hope on the horizon,” she said. “Instead, it becomes all about experience.”

The result, Albright argues, is that people find themselves lonely or anxious without knowing why.

“You would think we’re more connected than ever,” Albright says, “yet paradoxically, as we become increasingly enraptured and mesmerized by our devices, we’re separating from one another.”

A warped sense of self

 

Noting that we develop our sense of self through the reflected appraisal of others, Albright warns that people are drifting far from their true selves in constructing their dating profiles. The end result can undermine self-esteem because others are giving validation for a self that the person knows to be false.

This “virtual mirror” is also causing anxiety and depression, Albright notes, as people feel they can never live up to the images they see, even although they’re comparing themselves to an “other” that doesn’t really exist.

Doubly addictive

Even if we know online dating is making us depressed, it’s not easy to stop, Albright argues. She compares using dating apps to playing one-armed bandits in Las Vegas. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and that’s why you keep going back for more,” she says, noting the power of random reinforcement as a behavioral driver.

And that’s not all. Dating apps and social media also fuel a narcissistic desire for attention, satisfying primitive psychological needs for attention, affirmation and validation.

“People can get very hooked on that,” Albright says.

Even if we can overcome our addiction to dating apps, abandoning them in favor of real-life encounters isn’t so easy either. Meeting in real life now makes many people nervous, Albright says, as subtle conversation and flirting skills are lost through lack of practice, causing people to feel increasingly anxious and socially awkward.

As a result, many younger people prefer texting to talking. This can translate into fewer partners as digital hyper-connectivity replaces physical relationships.

The good news

Albright does see some positive aspects to online dating.

Early indicators show that relationships started online may be more successful. Online dating and social media can help people meet someone based on common interests and values that can predict a lasting relationship. They can also enable users to meet potential partners outside their normal social sphere, leading to more interracial relationships.

Postponing marriage may mean couples are more mature and marriages later in life tend to be more stable — good news, too, for older women, who tend to be more successful dating online than younger women.

“Online dating does open up new doors for people by giving them a place to begin again,” Albright says. For older people coming out of a divorce or a long relationship, particularly, and unused to dating, it offers hope.

And Albright’s advice for finding true love?

Avoid creating a false online persona, and take time to develop intimacy. But above all: Switch off your phone.

“Spend time together, get to know each other, look into each other’s eyes and make building that relationship a sacred space. Just make sure it’s without the intrusion of a device.”

Easter Reflection from Ravi – “No More or Not Here?”

Hey TD!

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ has not risen from the dead, we (Christ followers) are to be most pitied.  He’s absolutely right.  Jesus’ bodily resurrection makes all the difference in this world and the next. That’s Easter hope.

World renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias shares some reflections on Easter hope, a hope I hope you’ll have soon.  Enjoy. – Arthur

 

No More or Not Here?

An Easter Reflection from Ravi Zacharias

There is a hotel where I have stayed frequently over the last thirty years. I know many of the staff and every time I return, they give me the best and kindest hospitality. I have found that when you talk to people, you learn so much about life at different economic levels, but all with the same challenges.

One of my favorite people was a bellman called Raj. He took particular care to make sure I never violated my doctor’s orders to not lift heavy suitcases. Whenever I checked in, he would bring my bags and set them up in my room. We often talked politics and spiritual issues. He was a very intelligent gentleman and a great conversationalist. I’ll never forget his statement on politics in his country. “They are not political parties, Sir. They are cartels scheming and manipulating. We pay the price for our foolishness,” he said. Fascinating take.

This time when I stayed there, I didn’t see him the first day so I assumed it was his day off. When I didn’t see him the second day, I asked one of the other bellman if Raj was on vacation.

“Oh no, Sir. He is no more,” came the reply.

Quite surprised at the phrase, I asked if he didn’t work there anymore. The reply came repeating the phrase: “No Sir. He is no more. He died last month.” I was shocked because the man was in his fifties. Evidently he had gone home one night after work, told his wife that he was not feeling well, and went to bed after a very light snack. When she tried to wake him up for breakfast, he had already breathed his last.

“He is no more.”

That phrase is pretty defining, isn’t it? The famed writer Nikos Kazantzakis, who had his run-ins with the church over his very controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ,” asked that the following words be put on his gravestone:

Den elpizo tipota.
Den fovumai tipota.
Elmai eleftheros.

I hope for nothing.
I fear nothing.
I am free.

Very cavalier statements, except that he is not there to defend those propositions. So it is much more meant to impress the reader than tell you anything about the departed one, whether he was justified in what he said or not. And as to his state of mind after death, all of those sentiments are an ultimate category mistake. If he doesn’t exist, attributing those sentiments brings to mind what Aristotle would have said in defining “nothing”: That which rocks dream about. A rock never hopes, fears, or seeks freedom. That is for the living.

The whole message of Easter defines this longing to be. After Jesus rose from the dead, the women went to visit where they had placed the body. The angel they met did not say, “He is no more!” He said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here: He is risen” (Luke 24:5-6).

That statement defines everything about who we are. For the one who has given his or her life to Jesus, we will never ever “Not be!” We are meant to be in his presence eternally. The very phrase “goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with you.” It is the same with “adios”: “Go with God.”

Our hearts long for intimacy. Heaven is the consummate intimacy of the spirit. That is not a category mistake; rather, it defines the ultimate expression of life in its essence. Our spirit in communion with his. The closest thing to a touch felt by the Spirit.

The time will come when we also will have to say goodbye or adios for the last time. When that happens, how wonderful to know that those who speak for us do not have to say, “He is no more.” They can victoriously say, “He is not here; he is risen.”

The gospel message from beginning to end is dependent on this promise of Jesus that he would rise again. That unsealed tomb is the seal of his promise as the giver of eternal life. Over the centuries, skeptics have gone to ludicrous lengths to try and explain why his enemies could not present his body. That would have been all they needed to quash this rumor of his resurrection. But it wasn’t a rumor. It was a fulfilled promise seen by vast numbers, and it changed the course of history.

Luke was a physician. He knew what happened to a body when it died. He writes of the resurrection and the work of the early church. The resurrection was seen and lived out. It was the event that told the world that ultimately history is His Story of what life was meant to be.

The noted writer and atheist turned follower of Jesus A.N. Wilson said that he was at an Easter service when he saw the sham and the hollowness of his life without God. He described his conversion to atheism as “a Damascus road experience” and his return to Jesus as a slow arduous process through doubt and struggle. Part of that struggle made him see the difference of the logic that drove Hitler to his mission and Bonhoeffer to his. The belief and its consequences were worlds apart. He clearly saw the value of life in keeping with the message of Jesus and the hope and the joy of the Christian message. The faith that he once attacked, he now embraced. It all happened in a small church as he heard the message and listened to the hymns. Death was no longer to be feared, not because we are brilliant or daring or write prize-winning books as Kazantzakis did, but because Jesus lives to give us life everlasting. Even the atheist Anthony Flew granted that this was the litmus test of the Christian faith, and if true would define life.

Billy Graham tells the story of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer looking at the ruins of war and saying to Mr. Graham, “Outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.”

The conversion of Saul to Paul and the skeptic Thomas showed how two of the finest thinkers of their time were willing to pay with their lives after seeing the risen Jesus. One went east and the other went west. Today, more bend their knees to Jesus than to any other name.

This same trip that began in one country for me ended in Bangkok, Thailand, two weeks later. Every day as I looked outside my window, I would look scrutinizingly across the Chao Phraya River, because it looked to me like a cemetery on the other side. So I inquired of the bellman if indeed there was a cemetery on the other side of the river. He said he thought so. I hailed a ride and went over there. The main reason was to see perchance if my dear friend Koos Fietje, who was murdered in Thailand in 1981 at the age of 38, could be buried there. Bangkok is a massive city. But I was sure the Christian burial sites would not be many. As I entered, I noticed there were gravestones going back to the 1800s. I walked through the cemetery looking in every direction. Suddenly I came upon the stone you see here in the United States. I was shocked. Koos and I were very close in our undergraduate days. He paid with his life for the gospel. The last time we met was in Bangkok in 1974. He died in 1981. This was 2019. He died at the age of 38. I was standing by his grave 38 years later. Koos served as a missionary with Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

I placed some flowers at his grave and thought back on what a powerful life he had lived. Yes, there were tears.  When I went back, the bellman asked me if I found it. I showed him the picture. He looked at it and said, “What this means?” He was pointing to the verse on the stone, “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” I did my best to explain it to him. I saw a tear in his eye.

Two bellmen. Two weeks apart, two countries apart. Both had a tear. One because of a loss. The other because of a gain. The resurrection of Jesus makes the difference.

The hymn writer said it triumphantly:

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

That is why the Easter greeting is not, “He is no more.” Rather it is, “He is risen!”

And the joyful reply, “He is risen indeed.”

Happy Easter!

Ravi, on behalf of all of us at RZIM