As a teenager I occasionally had moments of spontaneous helpfulness. I’d wake up and say to myself, “Today I am going to clean the kitchen for Mom.” Deeply satisfied with my initiative, I would spend the day soaking in the satisfaction of being a wonderful son. Then I’d return home from school and my mother would greet me, ask how my day had gone and tell me she needed me to clean the kitchen.
In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, I have always been struck by the pronouncements of Philip’s boldness. As a young Christian, I was often called to this kind of boldness: to go out to the stranger and the foreigner and declare the good works of God.
But revisiting this passage I am struck by how weak Philip is--and how necessary this is to his ministry.
Our oldest son was baptized when he was six. For two years before that he’d been asking questions about who God was and praying prayers of his own making. So his mother and I set him upon the road of discipleship.
Lauren Winner first drew widespread literary attention in 2004 with the spritely spiritual memoir Girl Meets God: A Memoir, which told the story of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to a Christianity of a Jesus-loving-Anglican-intellectual-evangelical kind. That book, with its fun and its chatty tone, snuck up on me like a charming guest at a cocktail party.
A study of HIV-positive men and women showed that those who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater chance of survival than those who didn’t. The researchers began interviewing people at the mid-stage of their disease. The researchers asked participants whether they prayed, meditated, went to religious services, were grateful to God for what they had, or believed that God could forgive them for wrongdoing. The findings showed that the way people focus on the meaning of life and relate to God can affect health, even in the case of HIV. Roughly one-fifth of the participants engaged in “positive spiritual reframing” of their disease, seeing it as a way God was using them, for example. These people had a survival rate four times greater than that of the others (Atlantic, May 6).