The handwritten prayer request was heartbreaking in its seeming impossibility: “Please pray—I have multiple sclerosis, weak muscles, trouble swallowing, increased pain, diminishing sight.” The woman’s body was breaking down, and I could sense despair in her plea for intercession.
In 2010, my brothers and I cele- brated our dad’s 90th birthday. We hosted an open house with great food and fellowship. In the living room, family and friends took up banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, and Irish drum to play and sing all afternoon. A big cake was prepared with this written on it in frosting: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord—Psalm 112:1. Happy 90th birthday, Hal.”
Before the electronic gadgets and distractions of today, the long summer days of my boyhood were brightened each week when the bookmobile arrived. It was a bus lined with book-filled shelves that were transported from the regional library to neighborhoods so that those without transportation could access them. Because of the bookmobile, I spent many a happy summer day reading books that would otherwise have been inaccessible. To this day, I am thankful for the love of books that the bookmobile fostered in me.
A rallying cry often heard today in our economically challenged world is “Less and less.” Governments are called to balance their budgets. People are urged to use less energy and decrease consumption of limited resources. It is good advice that we should all heed. In the realm of faith, however, there are no shortages of love and grace and strength. Therefore, as followers of Christ, we are urged to demonstrate His love in our lives in ever-increasing measure.
Years ago I saw a cartoon that depicted a sour, disgruntled, elderly gentleman standing in rumpled pajamas and robe at his apartment door. He had just secured the door for the night with four locks, two deadbolts, and a chain latch. Later he noticed a small white envelope stuck beneath the door. On the envelope was a large sticker in the shape of a heart. It was a valentine. Love had found a way.
When my daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, a bug!” I looked where she was pointing and saw the largest spider I have ever encountered outside of a pet shop. Both the spider and I knew that he would not be allowed to stay in our house. And yet, as I faced him, I found I could not take one step closer to end the standoff. My pulse quickened. I swallowed and gave myself a pep-talk. Still, fear kept me frozen in place.
After 10 years of renting in a charming location, we discovered that our landlord suddenly needed to sell the house. I asked God to change the circumstances and make it possible for my wife and me to stay in this place we’d made home, where we’d watched our children grow up. But God said no.
While our family was living in Kenya in the 1980s, we drove a young woman from Nairobi to visit her parents who lived near Lake Victoria. On the way, we stopped in the city of Kisumu to leave our luggage at a hotel where we would stay after taking her home. When our friend saw our hotel room that we considered an average-size room with two beds, she said, “All this for only five of you?” What we considered ordinary, she saw as luxurious. Riches are relative, and some of us who live in prosperous nations have a tendency to complain about a standard of living that others would gladly embrace.
Recently I walked into a hotel lobby that featured the largest arrangement of fresh flowers I have ever seen. It was bursting with color, perfectly arranged, and its fragrance was amazing. It stopped me in my tracks, and I lingered for a moment to admire its beauty. It made me think that there is something about abundance that captures our hearts. Think of the inviting beauty of a bowl overflowing with colorful fruit, or a countertop covered with three or four pies ready for enjoyment after a bountiful Thanksgiving meal.