You’ve heard the stories. A man purchased an old picture frame for $4.00 at a flea market. He later discovered that hidden in the frame was an original first edition of the Declaration of Independence, worth more than $1 million. There was the Chinese bowl purchased for just $3.00. It was pretty but thought to be of little value, yet it turned out to be an authentic relic from the Northern Song Dynasty and later sold at Sotheby’s for more than $2 million.
Then there was the headliner in 2014 about a California family that discovered a can of old gold coins in their backyard—1,427 coins to be exact. The genuine gold coins dated from 1847 to 1894 and were worth more than $10 million.
Jesus captured this “discover-the-treasure principle” in Matthew 13:44. He said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”1
Literally Jesus compares the discoveries in the Bible about kingdom living as comparable to discovering treasures. In an age when people are obsessed with lotteries, gambling, winning, and wishing for wealth, Jesus assures us that there is a legitimate way to discover true wealth and eternal riches—study the Word of God.
In the Bible one can find true wealth that will bring dividends in this life and the life to come. How can one extract this timeless wealth from Bible study?
Ellen White offers seven principles from Christ’s Object Lessons that will aid us in discovering scriptural treasures; that is, if one puts forth the effort and truly desires the rewards:
1. Daily discipline: “We have seen only the glimmering of divine glory and of the infinitude of knowledge and wisdom; we have, as it were, been working on the surface of the mine, when rich golden ore is beneath the surface, to reward the one who will dig for it.”2 Goal—reap after sowing.
2. Earnest exploration: “If men would be obedient, they would understand the plan of God’s government. The heavenly world would open its chambers of grace and glory for exploration.”3 Goal—consistent willing obedience.
3. Spiritual strategy: “If conviction comes as you search, if you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the truth, do not misinterpret the truth in order to suit your own belief, but accept the light given.”4 Goal—immediate personal application.
4. Investigative initiative: “As we study the Scriptures, we should pray for the light of God’s Holy Spirit to shine upon the word, that we may see and appreciate its treasures.”5 Goal—prayerful Spirit cooperation.
5. Righteous resilience: “He who would seek successfully for the hidden treasure must rise to higher pursuits than the things of this world.”6 Goal—seek heavenly perspective.
6. Experimental education: “It [experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ] gives to man the mastery of himself, bringing every impulse and passion of the lower nature under the control of the higher powers of the mind.”7Goal—desiring increasing Christlikeness.
7. Selfless sharing: “And as they make known the rich treasures of God’s grace, more and still more of the grace of Christ will be imparted to them. . . . More of the treasures of truth and grace will be revealed to them to be given to the world.”8 Goal—Receive by giving.
So, here’s the opportunity. The Word of God is true. If we study and desire the pure milk of the Word (see 1 Peter 2:2), we will grow. We will discover truths and be enriched with the treasures and riches of God’s Word. Since we know the above promises to be true, let’s search for the treasures, reap the rewards, and then share with others.
Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., resides in Laurel, Maryland. He is director of Research and Development for the Regional Conference Retirement Plan/Office of Regional Conference Ministries. His wife, Dr. Susan Baker, is an educator and practicing physical therapist.
1 Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 113.
3] Ibid., p. 114.
4 Ibid., p. 112.
5 Ibid., p. 113.
6 Ibid., p. 112.
7 Ibid., p. 114.
8 Ibid., p. 125.
At one of my previous jobs, I was part of our campus CERT: Community Emergency Response Team. My few classroom training sessions taught me what would be expected in the event of a large-scale crisis in our community, what our biggest risk factors were, and tips on being an effective part of the response team. I even got a backpack stuffed with emergency supplies, which to this day I still have within easy reach, should I ever need it.
It also meant I had the opportunity to participate in a disaster drill.
On that day, I and my fellow trainees reported to a staged emergency situation. People scattered across the scene were in various states of “faux” shock and injury; some had even spent the morning with makeup artists applying fake blood and bruises for a truly realistic experience.
Despite knowing it was only a drill, my adrenaline was through the roof. I knew no lives were really at stake, but realizing that someday they might be drove me to focus on the task at hand as though everything I was seeing was real. I had a job to do, and I had to do it well.
Having received my assignment, I grabbed a hard hat and took off in the direction I’d been pointed. All along the way there were people pretending to cry, calling out for help, and responders moving with intention. I plowed past tarps and tables, focused only on the area I’d been sent toward.
I then heard a familiar voice calling me urgently. I turned and saw a friend headed toward me with a furrowed brow.
“Someone is badly hurt. We need your help!” my friend said, gesturing. I hesitated; I had been told to report to a completely different area, and they needed me too. When my friend urged again, I agreed and followed him around the building. When he stopped, I looked at him, confused. “Where’s the injured person?” I asked.
My friend grinned at me and shrugged. “There isn’t anyone. I was just told to distract as many responders as I could.”
Though the disaster drill was memorable in many ways, the biggest lesson I learned during that experience was through the sneaky thespianism of my friend: Beware of distractions.
Like my desire to help the (fictional) injured person, not all distractions are bad; it could be the ministry I volunteer for pulling me away from my family, or a valuable professional opportunity keeping me from spending personal time with God. But if I’ve paid attention to Christ’s training, teaching me what my focus should be and where I should be headed, those distractions—those squirrels and shiny things—won’t be successful. I’ll continue toward the place I’ve been called to serve, disaster (and distraction) averted.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copy edits for various church entities around the world.
“And God, please let us know how we can help those who have been affected by the storm,” I prayed as my family gathered around for morning worship.
As soon as the words came out, I mentally kicked myself. Why do you think you can do anything to help? I was in poor health, barely strong enough to fix my family’s dinner. Certainly, I wouldn’t be cutting up tree branches and cleaning up debris. We were struggling financially. Our shoestring budget barely included enough for food and bills, let alone extras; so, I wouldn’t be able to contribute financially. My husband was scheduled to work an extra-long day; he wouldn’t be able to devote any time to being the answer to my prayer.
Yet I longed to do something to help those whose lives had been interrupted by the severe windstorm that had hit our corner of Tennessee.
Perhaps it was because I knew what it was like to be in an area devastated by a storm. Only a few months before, a tornado had destroyed 12 houses in our neighborhood. Amid the destruction, I was inspired by neighbors pulling together to help one another. I had sat on my front porch and waited for the news as my husband and a neighbor ran to pull other neighbors out from under the rubble. When we learned everyone was OK, efforts turned toward cleanup. My husband bought a chainsaw and helped our next-door neighbors cut up a fallen tree between our yards. And as we waited for electricity to come back on, we became accustomed to the Red Cross meal deliveries throughout our neighborhood.
Though this most recent windstorm wasn’t as severe and hadn’t caused any damage to our own neighborhood, still my heart went out to those who’d been affected by it. Concluding, however, that there was absolutely nothing I could do, I went about my day, forgetting about my “stupid” prayer.
“Does anybody have a chainsaw I could borrow?” Kent, one of my local friends, posted on Facebook.
Always happy to help, I told Kent he could use the one we’d just recently purchased if he could stop by my house to pick it up. A few hours later he was standing outside my garage as I located the chainsaw and handed it over.
“Thank you so much!” he exclaimed. “My neighbors are trapped at home. I’m going to use this to cut up the tree that blocked their driveway after last night’s storm.”
Suddenly I remembered my prayer. It hadn’t been so stupid after all! God wasn’t looking for the strongest person. He wasn’t looking for the richest person or the person with the most free time. He was looking for someone who was willing.
On that day, when I was sure there was nothing I could do to help, God found a role for me.
Lori Futcher is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and speaker living in Nampa, Idaho.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. There are decisions to be made—some require courage, while others are deeply unpopular. Sometimes God asks me to extend mercy when all I want is vengeance. Other times I’m supposed to hold a certain line when everything inside wants to crumble. As someone with people-pleasing tendencies, this journey has stretched and strengthened me in ways I hadn’t foreseen.
Decisions need to be made for the betterment of the ministry, not for what feels good to me. This means we move forward based on principle, with integrity and kindness, regardless of personal desire. For a woman who doesn’t like others to be upset with her, the learning curve felt like a battering ram instead of a climb up a flight of stairs. Throughout the years, callouses began to form as protection from being hurt again.
Leadership is lonely. I remember attending an Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) convention soon after Greg and I had been promoted at 3ABN, when a church leader I respected walked up to Greg and me, extended his hand, and said, “Congratulations on your new positions. I’m sorry. You’ll find leadership is lonely.” I smiled and nodded, but I didn’t comprehend his words in the slightest. Didn’t we have the opportunity to make a difference? To spread the gospel?
As the years passed, reality set in, and I realized he was right. Whom do you trust? I discovered more hidden agendas than seemed possible. For someone who always thought the best of others, I was in for a rude awakening. When someone was nice, I discovered it often meant they wanted something my position could offer. Gradually, cynicism began to take root in my heart. People aren’t interested in me for me; they just want something I can give them. I began to close up and hold others at a distance. It was safer this way.
I don’t know how long this would have continued if something hadn’t occurred to open my heart again. One night, Greg stopped at work and discovered a package lying outside my office door. It was a birthday package for me from a couple in church whom I rarely saw anymore. Years before, I had taught their daughter piano lessons. The mom had a knack for gift giving, always somehow finding the perfect gift. I sat on the living room floor, surrounded by colored tissue paper as I unwrapped my gift. The card had a sticker that simply said, “You are loved.” As the tears rolled down my cheeks I thought of this couple. They were quiet and unassuming. They had never sought to impress me or gain any favor. They had never changed.
For someone accustomed to ulterior motives, this gift and its simplicity somehow restored my faith in the goodness of others. Just because a few people manipulate, it doesn’t mean that’s the majority. A few bad apples shouldn’t sour my perception of life or of others. Just because you’ve been hurt, it doesn’t mean you still can’t love or trust again.
Am I more cautious? Certainly.
Have I discovered beautiful people whom I can trust? Most definitely.
So, I’m seeking to follow in the footsteps of my Master: to lead with kindness and compassion, based on principle. And to trust the rest to Him.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.
I’m not fond of heights. I’m not petrified, but if given the opportunity, I’ll avoid them. This past summer when my family took a trip to British Columbia and Alaska, I discovered it wasn’t uncommon to find yourself on a mountain. The higher the better, it would seem, because clearly it’s all about the view. Since my traveling companions didn’t have similar issues with height, they planned excursions around places that involved being off the ground.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our group thought it would be a lovely place to spend Sabbath. And they were right. It’s beautiful—a lovely forest with huge trees and wooden boardwalk paths with reflecting ponds. But people don’t go to Capilano Park for these features. As its name might suggest, they go for the bridge. A suspension bridge.
As you might suspect, I wasn’t a fan of this adventure. Initially I said, “No.” I would wait for the others. There were, however, two important factors to consider. First, there’s more to this park, but most of it is on the other side of the bridge. If you come and you don’t cross the bridge, you’re spending all your time watching people go through a gift shop or buying hot dogs. Second, there was my 6-year-old grandson, Connor.
While the adults in our group were having a bit of fun with my fear along with a mix of encouragement, Connor simply came up, took my hand, and said, “I’ll walk you across, and you will be safe. Just take my hand.”
I had a death grip on the bridge, and people stacked up behind us because we were moving so slow (in the picture, left/middle, I’m in a white jacket with blue backpack; Connor is just in front). And yes, the bridge swayed side to side and up and down, especially when someone thought it would be fun to jump on it. But that leads me to the first lesson.
To be totally honest, Connor made the trip across the bridge more challenging than it might have been because of the difference between his height and mine as well as his idea that pulling me across was the best option; but he held my hand and asked me to trust him. For me, that was worth crossing the bridge. When we come across those who are frightened or need help, be supportive. Do your part, even if it means only holding someone’s hand.
On the following weekend we were back in Vancouver again. Of course, someone in our group thought an excursion up a mountain in a gondola would be super fun to do. This time I drew the line. Even though there was much cajoling, I sat contentedly at the bottom and read a book while the rest of the group went up the mountain. When grandson Connor came down, he ran over to me and said, “I have something for you, Grammie. I didn’t want you to miss out even though you were scared. I made this for you.” He then produced the old cell phone he was given to take pictures and videos, and on his own, with no prompting from his parents, he made a video of the gondola trip.1
Connor’s thoughtful video of the Sea to Sky Gondola experience continues to make my stomach lurch each time I watch it, but it also reminds me that this little boy didn’t judge my fear; he thought only of a way to make me feel included. And it worked! I didn’t go on the ride, but I could understand when the rest of the group chatted about their experience. How often do we think of including others? Just a small thing, but it can make a big difference.
One of my favorite excursions during our trip was going gold panning. It was said we were working in the very stream where it all started. Reportedly, 1,000 pounds of gold were taken out of these waters and carried down the mountain, launching the Gold Rush of 1896. A school bus driver from Texas who drove all the way to Alaska to spend his summer leading tours and panning for gold acted as our teacher and guide (shown at right).
A 30-minute process of panning for gold yielded about 20 gold flakes, which I was able to bring home. For a moment I felt lucky and rich. I must admit that it was a bit addicting. The water temperature was about 37 degrees (Fahrenheit) and it was raining, but I could have stood there longer hunting for buried treasure.
But in this case I’m not referring to a treasure that fades or can be lost or stolen, but to one that lasts. Studying the Scriptures is just like panning for gold. It isn’t a quick process. It takes time, skill, and care. But be someone who invests their time in digging for scriptural golden nuggets and store up your treasure in heaven.
My family went to Alaska with preconceived ideas that originated with calendar pictures, social media, and YouTube. We thought that the sun shone every day in the summer and that there was an animal around every corner. In reality, Alaska can be wet—very wet. Annual rainfall in the areas we visited is 10 feet or more. There was thick cloud cover where sometimes the clouds were no longer in the sky but literally hovering off the ground, giving a new meaning to walking in the clouds. While we were there, the temperatures never got much higher than 58 degrees (Fahrenheit). And animals? For us, nary an animal or bird, unless you paid someone to go find them.
One of our excursions was a boat ride to find sea otters and whales. The rain was persistent for most of the trip. I prayed to see a whale. I wasn’t asking for much. Just one whale that would pop up alongside the boat and we’d all go “Wow!” We’d snap our pictures and rejoice. But for a long time what we saw were only whale flukes. I’d prayed to see a whale, and it also was my birthday, and for whatever reason God hadn’t seen fit to answer that prayer in spite of my circumstances. But at the end of the day I joined up with my daughter, who’d taken a similar but separate excursion. She and her husband had seen two whales, no tails, but they were too far away for pictures. And the boat had been so rocky that people had gotten seasick. We’d had smooth waters and had seen seven whales, with the opportunity to get several tail shots.
My prayers had been answered. No, the whales didn’t jump out of the water or swim alongside the boat, but if you saw in the news what happened in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in July 2022, where a whale breached right next to and fell on top of a boat, one realizes that not having a whale jump up right next to your boat might actually be a good thing.
And finally, I mentioned the weather. For the first couple of days of our vacation it was a tad discouraging. Cold, wet, clouds, rain, and more clouds. But my mind kept remembering when we first flew into Vancouver. It was the beginning of sunset on Friday evening. We hadn’t planned on arriving so close to the Sabbath, but our airline had other ideas. What we saw was a spectacular scene of the sun beginning to set across the clouds. But as the plane descended, all the splendor disappeared, and it became dark, rainy, and overcast. There was no beauty, yet we knew it was there, just above us, because we’d just experienced it.
I realized that no matter how dark and dreary our days, how cold or rainy it is, how much the sun is hidden from our eyes, from heaven’s vantage point (top down) the sun is always shining, and the clouds are always fluffy and white. It’s always on the other side waiting.
Even in our darkest hours we can remember the blessings that God has given us, just as we experienced beauty before darkness. This becomes the most important lesson of all—God is there. He’s always the same. And He’s prepared a place that elevates us beyond this earth and all its dreariness.
Oh, and then I won’t be afraid of heights anymore!
1 To view Connor’s video, see the online version of this article at adventistreview.org/feature/ lessons-learned-on-a-trip-to-alaska.
2 To see footage of this event, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LT4bE6vXc8
While in Australia, Ellen White visited a young man who’d taken sick during the prayer meeting the evening before. She prayed with him and brought words of comfort. Before leaving, she went into the next room, where his sister, an invalid for seven months, lay. After visiting, she noted: “The mother of the invalids had her hands full, and she looked pale and careworn. She needed our sympathies and prayers.”2
Ellen White recognized the mother’s experience, not only because she had been a caregiver herself, but because she had required much attention throughout her own life, starting as a young child. At the age of 9 she was struck in the face by a stone thrown by an angry girl.
“I have no recollection of anything further for some time after the accident. My mother said that I noticed nothing, but lay in a stupor for three weeks. No one but herself thought it possible for me to recover.”3
Her mother cared for her, and when others, including attending physicians, gave up all hope, Ellen’s mother tenaciously held to her complete recovery. Later Ellen White remarked:
“While in Portland, . . . I visited localities of special interest in connection with my early life, among them the spot where I met with the accident that has made me a lifelong invalid. This misfortune, which for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth was the means of turning my eyes to heaven.”4
Caregiving seemed to be an integral part of families in the nineteenth century. Medicine had not advanced to what it is today, and many unhealthy practices led not only to sickness but death. In the White home this was also the case. She records her experience with Nathaniel White, her brother-in-law, who lived with the family:
“Nathaniel was triumphant in God through the day, although he was very sick. He said he wished someone to be with him to lift him that day. He said he wanted them with him every moment. His wish was granted. I did not attend to anything else that day, but sat in his room and entertained him by reading the Bible and conversing with him.”5
When there are children in the home, sickness seems inevitable. Before the advance of medicine, children were often the worst afflicted. Many families buried their children before they ever reached their fifth birthday. The Whites had four boys, the youngest born in 1860. From all appearances he was a big, healthy baby boy who weighed more than 12 pounds at five weeks. On a trip to the country the baby contracted erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin easily treated today but often fatal to infants in 1860. James was away from home, leaving the young mother fighting for her baby’s life.
“I put a letter in the [post] office yesterday for you [James] and told you that we were all well but Monday night our child has taken sick in the night and all day yesterday was very sick—dangerous. . . . He is a very sick child. I thought you ought to know this and then you could do as you pleased about returning. Sister Benedict was with me all day yesterday. Sat up with the child all night and is with me today.”6
“My dear babe was a great sufferer. Twenty-four days and nights we anxiously watched over him, using all the remedies we could for his recovery, and earnestly presenting his case to the Lord. At times I could not control my feelings as I witnessed his sufferings. Much of my time was spent in tears, and humble supplication to God.”7 Sadly, the infant, John Herbert White, died.
Three years later the parents found themselves as caregivers again when a diphtheria epidemic threatened. Two of their three boys were seriously ill. The then-current practice of applying a poultice of Spanish flies with turpentine to the throat seemed unwise to the Whites, especially after learning health practices that were more what God would intend: fresh air, water, and sunlight.
“The symptoms had overtaken their children very rapidly, and the Whites lost little time in carrying out—scrupulously—the directions of Dr. Jackson. . . . By following Jackson’s method of treating diphtheria, which involved the better part of Friday night, on Sabbath morning they saw that they could safely leave the sick children in the hands of those who helped in the home. . . . Sabbath evening they returned to Battle Creek for another night of broken sleep as they treated and watched over the children.”8
The prescribed hydrotherapy treatment was an intensive round of hot baths alternated with wrapping the patient in cool damp cloths, and vigorous rubbing of the skin. It demanded much of caregivers. After finishing treatments such as this on their sons with what James White described as “perfect success,” the treatment was completely outlined in the Review for all members to understand and apply.9
Ellen White’s longest responsibilities of caregiving came in 1865, when her husband unexpectedly suffered a stroke. They had been on an early-morning walk when they stopped to examine corn in a neighbor’s garden. James went flush, his arm dropped to his side, and he was unable to speak, other than to say one word, “Pray.”
Ellen White cared for her husband for five weeks at home with some help from friends in Battle Creek. She instinctively felt that hydrotherapy treatments were what would restore him back to health, but alone, it seemed more than she could undertake for an extended time.
“My vital energies were too much exhausted for me to attempt to use water in my husband’s case. His wearing labors had long been bringing about the result, and could we expect God to work a miracle to heal him without our using the means or agencies he had provided for us? As there was no one in Battle Creek who dared take the responsibility of administering water in my husband’s case, we felt that it might be duty to take him to Dansville, N.Y., where he could rest, and water be applied by those well skilled in its use.”10
While there was some criticism of her decision to take James to what was viewed as a “secular” institution, Ellen saw no other choice. It was not only a matter of getting help and support, but it was also for herself as well. She realized that caregivers needed support.
“ ‘Our Home’ at Dansville was the only place I could think of where we could go and be free from business and care. Were we to go among those of our faith anywhere, they would not be prepared to realize our worn-out condition, especially the condition of my husband. We have so long borne the burden of the work which has compelled us to act with that determination of character, which has known nothing of turning aside, giving back, and yielding to circumstances, that our brethren and sisters would be unprepared to understand that we must be free from every anxiety, and that they must not trouble us with questions requiring thought, nor introduce to us matters which would in the least excite or depress the mind. We chose to go to Dansville, and be, as it were, isolated from our brethren, and lost in a certain sense to the work and cause of God, and to feel no responsibility resting upon us of the cause in which we had unitedly labored with all our energies for twenty years.”11
While in Dansville, Ellen White continued to care for her husband between treatments.
“My husband could obtain but little rest or sleep nights. He suffered with the most extreme nervousness. I could not sew or knit in his room, or converse but very little, as he was easily agitated, and his brain confused almost beyond endurance. He required almost constant care, and the Lord gave me strength according to my need.”12
Noting how James’s care was taking its toll on his wife, eventually one of the physicians sent a progress report to the Review suggesting the family come to assist her. For three months she, with her family, worked toward moving James to better health. While there were moments that appeared encouraging, eventually she felt what was needed was for James to be back in his faith community. They returned to Battle Creek.
“We felt that angels of God were all around us. We went comfortably and safely to the [Niagara] Falls, where we changed for a sleeping car. . . . I felt too much responsibility to sleep much. The words ‘Gentle angels round me glide, hopes of glory round me bide’ were in my mind much of the time during the night.”13
James did not make the progress she had hoped. It soon became apparent that her work was being hindered because of care for him. This, she felt, was not what God wanted, but rather Satan’s attempt to stop the work entirely. Ellen’s solution was to take James with her wherever she went, including to her preaching appointments.
“I always took my husband with me when I went out driving. And I took him with me when I went to preach at any place. I had a regular circuit of meetings. I could not persuade him to go into the desk while I preached. Finally, after many, many months, I said to him, ‘Now, my husband, you are going into the desk today.’ He did not want to go, but I would not yield. I took him up into the desk with me. That day he spoke to the people. Although the meetinghouse was filled with unbelievers, for half an hour I could not refrain from weeping. My heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude. I knew that the victory had been gained.”14
James still needed encouragement and with determination and tenacity, not unlike how her mother dealt with Ellen as a child, she pushed James even further. Ignoring the pleas and counsel of everyone, including James’s parents, she decided, in the deepest cold of a Michigan winter, to go on a preaching tour. Bundling him up in the sleigh, she drove the team forward.
“As long as life is left in him and me, I will make every exertion for him. That brain, that noble, masterly mind, shall not [be] left in ruin. God will care for him, for me, for my children. Satan shall not exult over us. You will yet see us standing side by side in the sacred desk, speaking the words of truth unto eternal life.”15
During this trip she insisted that he take two walks a day. On a particularly snowy day she borrowed a pair of boots, then walked a quarter mile in them and back again. She then invited him for a walk.
“On my return, I asked my husband to take a walk. He said he could not go out in such weather. ‘Oh, yes, you can,’ I replied. ‘Surely you can step in my tracks.’ He was a man who had great respect for women; and when he saw my tracks, he thought that if a woman could walk in that snow, he could. That morning he took his usual walk.”16
In addition, she recognized the need to exercise not only his body but his mind.
“Often brethren came to us for counsel. My husband wanted to see no one. He much preferred to go into another room when company came. But usually before he could realize that anyone had come, I brought the visitor before him, and would say, ‘Husband, here is a brother who has come to ask a question, and as you can answer it much better than I can, I have brought him to you.’ Of course, he could not help himself then. He had to remain in the room to answer the question. In this way, and in many other ways, I made him exercise his mind. If he had not been made to use his mind, in a little while it would have completely failed.”17
“After eighteen months of constant cooperation with God in the effort to restore my husband to health, I took him home again. Presenting him to his parents, I said, ‘Father, Mother, here is your son.’
“ ‘Ellen,’ said his mother, ‘you have no one but God and yourself to thank for this wonderful restoration. Your energies have accomplished it.’
“After his recovery, my husband lived for a number of years, during which time he did the best work of his life. Did not those added years of usefulness repay me manyfold for the eighteen months of painstaking care?
“I have given you this brief recital of personal experience, in order to show you that I know something about the use of natural means for the restoration of the sick. God will work wonders for every one of us if we work in faith, acting as we believe, that when we cooperate with Him, He is ready to do His part.”18
1 This article shares experiences from Ellen White’s life that relate to her acting as a caregiver to family members. It is not intended to be used as counsel from her on how to be a caregiver or the types of decisions that should be made with those who are in need of skilled care.
2 Ellen G. White, Experiences in Australia (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 2015), p. 19.
3 Ellen G. White, Life Sketches (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 18.
4 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Nov. 25, 1884.
5 Ellen G. White letter 10, 1853, in The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2014), pp. 343, 344.
6 Ellen G. White letter 15, 1860, in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Early Years (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985), vol. 1, p. 430.
7 Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts (Battle Creek, Mich.: James White, 1860), vol. 2, p. 296.
8 Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1986), vol. 2, p. 14.
9 Review and Herald, Feb. 17, 1863.
10 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Feb. 20, 1866.
12 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Feb. 27, 1866.
14 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 2, p. 307.
15 Ellen G. White manuscript 1, 1867, in Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), vol. 6, pp. 300, 301.
16 E. G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 307.
18 Ibid., p. 308.
About a decade ago I ran the North Pole Marathon Grand Slam. The Grand Slam involves running marathons on each of the seven continents and on an iced-over section of the Arctic Ocean of the North Pole. It was a satisfying accomplishment, but that was then. I still exercise daily, watch my diet, and routinely seek wellness. But I now find fulfillment in less taxing ventures.
It is a fact that as we age, our strength and dexterity diminish. We see the effects of violating this principle when a once-active athlete tries to do, in later years, what he or she once did in prime. It’s called the “push-me-and-you’ll-pay effect.” If you excessively strain the body, the response will be immediate—pains, spasms, or a serious injury.
Maintaining quality of life and graceful aging requires some essential basic skills. We begin to learn these skills in our early years, refine them during middle years, and, effortlessly or effortfully, continue them in later years. I borrow the formal concept of basic life skills from my wife, a physical therapist, and call them the FEMIS Factors (Function, Education, Mobility, Independence, Safety) for ease of memory.
To maximize the FEMIS Factors into enriching life, two empowering Bible principles are helpful. First is Paul’s “work it out” principle (see Phil. 2:12). Meaning, we have a responsibility to do our cooperative part in our salvation and self-improvement. Second is Ellen White’s “master the basics” mindset. Here we intentionally learn the practical essentials of life (i.e., mind, body, spirit, social) for temporal and eternal service.*
As we mature, these basic skills become increasingly valuable. They increase in worth as we progress throughout life. If we lose any of them through accident, illness, or disability, we will probably spend significant time seeking to regain or compensate for them. Here they are:
1. Function. This is the ability to effectively do the basic activities of daily living (ADL), such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting. Function also includes the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), such as cooking, housecleaning, shopping, and personal finance.
2. Education. This includes continuous lifelong learning and growth in the mental, physical, social, and spiritual domains, along with the occupational and financial realities. All these make up the core of life’s advancement and activities. A primary goal of life is to be always learning, growing, progressing. Always developing and improving.
3. Mobility. Movement, range of motion, activity, and exercise remain vitally important throughout life. They help us to perform life activities, facilitate management of stress, increase sociability, boost brain performance, and improve sleep and energy levels. Basic mobility is necessary at each stage of life.
4. Independence. Independence is the tendency to practice self-efficacy and personal initiation. This results in successful performance of the purpose of your life, and it flows into the functions of service and goodness for God and society. Independence results in the wonderful practice of thinking and acting autonomously, ideally, for good and noble outcomes.
5. Safety. Often overlooked, this crucial skill strategically improves our overall ability to wisely manage risk, harm, danger, and crises. It means we are individually, socially, and morally careful and proactive. Safety is a practical and crucial skill that preserves one’s continual existence and longevity.
So, the FEMIS Factors purposefully focus attention and energy on these fundamental threads that continue throughout life. These skills may take various forms and priority in the different stages. Nevertheless, vigilant improvement in these areas need to be conscientiously maintained throughout life.
Think about these FEMIS Factors. Analyze how they are working with you. Prioritize and improve them. Refine and share them. With diligence and intentionality, they can add a fresh, exciting perspective to your life, leadership, and witness.
Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., resides in Laurel, Maryland. He is director of Research and Development for the Regional Conference Retirement Plan/Office of Regional Conference Ministries. His wife, Dr. Susan Baker, is an educator and practicing physical therapist.
* Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903, 1952), pp. 221, 222).
A few months ago I was getting acquainted with a new colleague, talking about our ministry passions and theological perspectives, and suddenly, with an understated sense of confidence, he said to me, “You’re a conservative.”
His statement caught me off guard—partly because I was wondering what gave him such confidence to say that about me, and also because it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone apply that label to me. With a bit of apprehension, I hesitatingly responded, “Yes . . . I guess you could say that.”
Of course, such labels are notoriously fickle and are mostly moving targets. We’ll always find someone who’s more conservative than we are, as well as someone who’s more liberal. Indeed, one person’s liberal is another person’s conservative, and vice versa.
I’m sure, to this colleague, my deep love for the Adventist theological paradigm communicates I’m conservative. Or the fact that I love Scripture, believing it’s fully inspired by God, assures him of that as well. Or perhaps even more poignantly, the fact that I love to read and quote Ellen White, believing she had a special message from God, indicates I carry conservative credentials.
All those things aside, though, the conversation got me wondering: What, exactly, does it mean to be conservative?
Typically, of course, a conservative is one who wants to conserve and preserve the past. They want to hold on to traditions and maintain institutions.
Yet even here, conservatives are always selective about the things they want to conserve. They don’t just indiscriminately try to conserve everything from the past. Many of the most avowed conservatives still drive motorized vehicles, have cell phones, and use the Internet. They’re also often known for not spending much time worrying about conserving nature or the environment.
I think for many Adventists, a conservative is one who tries to preserve a certain style of dress, particular types of music, a specific diet, and certain scenarios about the end times. These are, in many ways, often considered the defining issues that determine whether a person is conservative or liberal.
Whether or not these particular issues are ones that are worth conserving, I do think that focusing on them can easily get in the way of our seeking to conserve that which is most important. To me, being conservative starts and ends with being clear on what the most important thing is to conserve.
And what is that one thing? At the risk of being overly simplistic, and being utterly underwhelming, I’d propose it’s this: the story of God’s love. That’s it. That’s what I want to conserve.
I want to make sure we preserve the story of God’s generosity—that God is gracious and large-hearted; that He valued human beings at the price of Jesus, encouraging us to live in light of this amazing news. I also never want to lose sight of the fact that we’re forgiven, that God is seeking to bring restoration to humanity, that He is trying to eternally reconcile the universe to Himself (what our sanctuary message is really all about). I want to conserve the beautiful thought that He has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that He wants us to pursue healthy relationships with one another—free from shame and condemnation and judgment.
All this, by the way, is woven throughout our Fundamental Beliefs as Adventists—if only we’d interpret them accordingly, keeping the big picture in mind instead of relating to them as detached bits of doctrinal facts that we must give mental assent to and forcefully guard.
So, let’s conserve what’s most important: the story of God’s love. And to whatever degree anything else we’re trying to conserve distracts us from this, perhaps it’s time to leave those things behind so we can truly be conservative of what God deems most worthy.
Shawn Brace is a pastor and author in Bangor, Maine, whose most recent book, The Table I Long For (Signs Publishing), details his and his church’s recent journey into a mission-centered life. He is also a D.Phil. student at the University of Oxford, researching nineteenth-century American Christianity.
Was there not enough time in a five-hour Passion Play about Christ to portray the resurrection of Christ?
This was one of many questions I carried into the Bavarian night air following a June 29 performance of the 2022 Oberammergau Passion Play.
Held once per decade (but delayed this time from 2020), the world-famous play is rooted in a 1633 plague that ravaged the small German village. Praying to God to be spared further death, the citizenry promised “to perform the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ every tenth year in so far as no one was to die of the plague anymore.”1 This year alone, Oberammergau will draw 450,000 visitors: an enormous opportunity for sacred influence.
This year’s version of the Oberammergau Passion Play lasts more than five hours with a cast of 2,000. With beautiful sets, powerful choir music, and gifted actors, the play focuses heavily on the humanity of Jesus: His compassionate heart, His teachings about kindness and social justice, and most of all His sufferings—culminating in an extended and agonizing crucifixion scene.
Yet the Passion Play’s newest script (which the playbook described as constantly changing, even during rehearsals) takes concerning steps further and further from the historic script—and from Scripture itself. The 2022 version of the Oberammergau Passion Play is much more than creative license; it’s destructive license that raises questions about whether the village’s promise of 1633 is still truly being kept, in both spirit and truth.
1. The 2022 play opens with the Sadducee high priests Caiaphas and Annas arguing with Jesus about Sabbathbreaking and the traditions of the elders. In the Gospels, these are obviously Pharisee arguments. It’s an immediate red flag; are the writers this cavalier or simply uninformed? Ironically, Caiaphas accuses Jesus of twisting the words of Scripture to His purpose, when in reality it was Jesus who told the secular, political Sadducees that they knew “neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29, ESV).2
2. Still within the early minutes of the play, we hear the following dialog in sequence: Joseph of Arimathea says, “Rabbi, we know You are a great teacher” (which Nicodemus actually said); Judas responds, “He speaks, but you do not accept His testimony” (which Jesus actually said); Nicodemus responds, “Are You the One we have been waiting for?” (which John the Baptist actually said); Peter responds, “Go and report what you hear and see: The blind can see, the lame walk . . .” (which Jesus actually said). Within this same section, Jesus says, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (which Paul actually said—about his personal need for grace). This troubling pattern of scriptural revision continues throughout the five-hour play.
3. During the interrogations of Jesus, Herod Antipas attempts to talk Pontius Pilate into releasing Jesus. The ridiculousness of this exchange is beyond comprehension. Herod describes Jesus as “a simpleminded person and completely incapable of the crimes that you are accusing Him of. If He did or said something that is against the law, He did so because of His naivete.” When Pilate pushes back, Herod responds: “Just let Him go!”
4. There is no visible resurrection of Jesus in this year’s Passion Play, as there used to be. The tomb itself is not depicted, nor a victorious Christ emerging from the tomb; instead, only the women being told by an angel figure that Jesus has been resurrected—and Mary proclaiming that she believes. That’s it. The playbook explains the contemporary decision to move away from the visible resurrection of Jesus: “The final scene of the play emphasizes the theological principle: the resurrection is a ‘mystery of faith.’”
The problem with this explanation is that the Gospels themselves don’t present the Resurrection as a mystery of faith, but as a historical event.
The other problem is that long ago, in 1633, the villagers of Oberammergau promised “to perform the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.” Are the modern villagers of Oberammergau ready to return to that promise in 2030?
2 Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is an Adventist author and professor who leads biblical tours for all ages.
In her book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, Sarah Bessey talks about what she calls “the theology of place.” She says, “No one ever mention[s] the holy work of staying. . . . The modern church [has] always taught us to forsake all for the Gospel and go.”1
Initially, I interpreted her point as meaning that travel to far-off places isn’t the only path to mission; that there’s value in preaching the gospel from home too. But while she may have indirectly meant that, in this particular chapter her focus was on community.
“The act of staying and living in our place has an impact on us . . . theologically,” Bessey explains. “The places where we live life matter to our spiritual formation. . . . We are shaped by our community, by our rootedness, our geography, by our families, and by the complex web of connections and history that emerge only by staying.”2
In other words, our walk with God is directly impacted by our community. And if we don’t stay in one place long enough to build that community, we’re missing out on a pretty big part of who God is.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one. . . . For if they fall, one will lift up the other. . . . And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (NRSV).3
My deepest, most meaningful friendships have been forged from community, whether it be family, classmates, colleagues, or fellow church members. And my loneliest and most discouraging moments have been in the wake of cross-country moves, in the void between the community I had left behind and the one I had yet to discover. In those dark places it could feel like not even God was there. Once I found my people I realized God had been there; I just couldn’t see Him. My community showed me where He was again.
The catch is that community doesn’t just happen. Simply walking into church Sabbath morning and plopping down in a pew doesn’t bring people together emotionally any more than simply standing on the basketball court doesn’t make you part of the team. Community takes commitment and honesty and compromise. It takes engagement, time, and a conscious effort to notice and address needs at both the group and individual levels. It asks tough questions and gives even tougher answers. It means admitting imperfection and taking off our masks.
But it also means having a place to belong, a place to be real, and providing the same for others. It means strong arms and straight talk. It means letting people in and discovering the grace and love of God through the care and compassion of others—and being able to authentically offer the same in return. It’s becoming the “gospel made flesh” in today’s modern world—allowing Christ to shine through the gift of companionship.
Community requires the holy work of staying. Because while some of us are definitely called to go, some of us are called to stay put and make the going easier for others.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copy edits for various church entities around the world.
1 Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith (New York: Howard Books, 2015), pp. 118, 119.
2 Ibid., p. 118.
3 Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.