In my childhood farmyard in Pleasant Hill, New York, we always had an abundance of chickens roaming around looking for worms and bugs, scratching the ground for seeds, and generally living an easygoing, happy life. That’s one reason why, in spite of a modest food budget, I still always buy free-range eggs. I believe that happy chickens create better eggs.
One thing I noticed at an early age was that there is a definite pecking order among chickens. Most chickens are social, humble creatures that mind their own business. But some chickens run around puffing out their chests, lording it over the other chickens … and plucking their tail feathers.
This should be easy, I thought as I prepared to enter high school. I didn’t expect to have any problems making friends or interacting with my classmates. Unfortunately, my confidence was shattered on the very first day of school, when I met the boy seated next to me in class.
Sean was about my height but twice my weight. He was careless in his studies, never studied for exams, and yelled and cursed at teachers and students alike. He bragged endlessly about the violent computer games he played every chance he got, and their influence was evident in his angry, destructive behavior. I quickly wished I didn’t have to sit next to him.
Several years ago, I spent two weeks in Sahrawi refugee camps near the oasis city of Tindouf, in southwest Algeria. Ten of us, from teenagers to fifty-somethings, had made the trip from our base in Granada, Spain, to speak and perform in the camps’ schools and community centers.
The Sahrawi people are the remnant of the nomadic tribes that roamed the deserts and coasts of the former Western Sahara. During the 100 years that they lived under Spanish rule, they became accustomed to living in more stationary situations and built large communities like Smara.
In one of the most powerful and poetic chapters of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul describes the sort of love Christians are meant to embody: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”1
Longsuffering heads the list, and I think that’s significant because to love freely and consistently in the other ways Paul names requires a readiness to go the distance. We can’t reserve our love for certain situations or special people, and we can’t withdraw it when people disappoint or fail. Longsuffering is both a prerequisite and the bottom line.
"Mari-i-i-i-ie!" My husband Ivo's stressed voice rings through the house. "Where did you say my green shirt was again?"
“It’s in the closet, on the left side, between your white shirts and your jacket.”
“I can’t find it!”
I follow his voice up the stairs and into our room.
There are some people that we like more than others; and let's face it, some people like us more than other people do.
When I worked as a nurse in the emergency room of a hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, I was quite self-assured and felt I could deal with pretty much any situation. I liked the action, the adrenaline rush, and always volunteered for the toughest cases.
We used to get some of the same patients over and over again—alcoholics, drug abusers, derelicts. I was young and I didn’t mind them. Some of them were actually nice, funny, lonely guys who simply needed a warm bed and were genuinely sorry for making a mess of their lives. They would usually be on their best behavior if they were treated with care.
Overworked and underappreciated. It’s sad whenever that can be said of anyone, but even sadder when it describes people who deserve extra appreciation for sacrificially giving of themselves day after day. I’m thinking at the moment of one group in particular—women.
It’s a complicated and demanding business, being a woman these days. Women make up a large percentage of the workforce and account for more of the average family’s earnings than they used to. More women worldwide are leaders in the political and professional sectors than ever before. At the same time, women are expected to continue to fill their traditional roles in the family and community—roles that in some ways have become tougher in these challenging modern times. An increasing number also carry the responsibility of raising children alone. In all, far more is expected of women today than even one or two generations ago.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.Against such there is no law."1
“If my brother offends me, how many times shall I forgive him?” someone once asked Jesus, before offering a hopeful guess. “Seven times?”
“No, seventy times seven!” was Jesus’ reply.2 In other words, we should never stop forgiving.