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iPhone blamed for woman’s death

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Ma Ailun, 23, a former flight attendant for China Southern Airlines, taking a photo of herself using her iPhone (Credit: Ma Ailun via Weibo)

When does the news change your life?

A woman in China was killed by an electric shock when she answered a call on her iPhone 5 while it was charging.  Her sister tweeted, “I want to warn everyone else not to make phone calls when your mobile phone is recharging.”  Her tweet was reposted more than 3,000 times.  A member of our staff read this story yesterday, then got a call while her cell phone was charging.  Rather than pick up the phone, she used the speaker function to take the call.  She changed her routine because of the tragedy in China.

Sometimes the news troubles us, as with the continued violence in Egypt.  Sometimes it encourages us, as with the capture of a major drug lord in Mexico.  Sometimes it interests us for no practical reason at all, as with the discovery of a new moon orbiting Neptune.  But we pay the most attention when it affects us personally.

Many of us will change the way we use charging cell phones.  Believing that God redeems all he allows, what else are we to learn from this tragedy?  One fact is obvious: tomorrow is promised to no one.  The most important decision we can make today is to find and fulfill our God-given passion and purpose for this day.  How?

For many years I have been blessed by the ministry of Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian.  Conversant in five languages, he taught at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard before he became pastor of L’Arche, a community for the mentally and physically challenged near Toronto.  How was he able to discern God’s surprising call?

Discernment is a new compilation of his meditations not found elsewhere in print.  Here we learn that Father Nouwen was led by God through personal time with him: “Every morning, alone or in the company of others, I spend at least one hour in quiet prayer and meditation. . . . without this one hour a day for God, my life loses its coherence, and I start experiencing my days as a series of random incidents and accidents rather than divine appointments and encounters.”

Father Nouwen also heard God’s voice in the lives of others: “The sixteenth-century saint and founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, was converted to Christ by reading books about the lives of the saints.  I can understand why, because every time I read the life of a saint I experience a powerful call to be as loving and devoted as that holy one of God was in life.”

He was the author of more than 40 books, but his call was no less significant than yours.  God can use each of us to change our culture for his Kingdom, if we are willing to be used.  Father Nouwen: “Discerning my vocation has taken me around the world and required much prayer and conversation with others.  Yet every step was part of reaffirming who I am in God and that I have a purpose to fulfill which is uniquely mine.  We all do.”