Near the conclusion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Frodo is on the verge of completing his mission to destroy the Ring of Power. With the fate of Middle Earth hanging in the balance, all that’s left is to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.
A wistful sigh escaped from the young mother as she made lunch for her daughter. Staring at the empty basket on the table in their cramped living space, she thought, We can’t even afford fruit. Then she said out loud, “If we could just have a basket of fruit, I would feel rich!”
For more than a decade now my family and I have lived in rental homes. This has made it possible for us to be ready to pack up and move whenever God revealed His next plans for us. Recently, however, we’ve been asked to leave our current home as the owner has new plans for it. It’s a beautiful house on a very large plot in the middle of a forest, so we’ve grown very fond of living there. But after 6 years we’re saying goodbye and don’t yet know where we’re headed.
By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
The 2010 French film Of Gods and Men recounts the inspiring and tragic story of nine Trappist monks who lived in the small Algerian monastery of Tibhirine. For years, the various religious communities lived in friendship. As the political climate deteriorated, however, radical elements took advantage and gained power. The Brothers debated whether they should escape Algeria, but eventually they determined that God would not have them abandon their village. Then, after midnight on March 27, 1996, militants overwhelmed the monastery and captured seven of the Brothers, all of whom lost their lives.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
In 1915, Dr. Frank Laubach’s church commissioned him to serve as a missionary in Manila, Philippines, and as a professor at Union Theological Seminary (Manila). When he and another man were being considered for the office of seminary president, a vote was held to determine which candidate would win. Dr. Laubach did what he thought honorable; he voted for his opponent.Consequently, he lost the election by one vote—his own. He became disappointed, depressed, and even questioned God. Yet God used that incident to redirect his life. Eventually, Dr. Laubach developed a literacy program that taught an estimated 60 million people to read.
Years ago, God put it on the hearts of my wife and me that I should attend Bible college. We didn’t fully know why or how, but we trusted that He had a plan. Our problem was that we were in a tough financial condition. We were literally praying for food to feed our family week by week. Then the due date for the payment of the tuition fees arrived, and we didn’t have a penny to put toward the cost.
I took the day off from work to experience some much-needed silence and solitude. My life was brimming with good things: family, friends, and ministry in the church. I had much to be thankful for, but internally I was struggling with one thing—something I wanted to talk to God about it.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
Austin Hatch survived two plane crashes before his 20th birthday! In 2003, a private plane went down, killing his mother and siblings. In 2011, another small plane crashed, and he lost his father and stepmother. After this second tragedy, Austin was in a coma for 2 months.
My cousin Tracy has the ability to make any destination feel like home. As a young single woman, I had moved to an apartment in England. I was there for a few months when Tracy arrived from Australia. Although I’d been given furniture to fill my small rental, I was still sleeping on top of one of the beds in a sleeping bag. Tracy had been with me just a few days when I returned from work to find the house redecorated with proper bedding, a tablecloth for the dining room table, and a new vase filled with fresh cut flowers. She had transformed my sparse living space into a cozy home away from home.
When I went to Bible college, I had a wife, two daughters, and absolutely no money! We were confident that God had called me to attend college even though we weren’t sure exactly why. After we determined that we couldn’t afford a house near the college, we brought our need to Him.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
Even as a child, I can remember coveting things that other people possessed. One day I was playing at my cousin’s house when one of his toys caught my eye. I begged to take it home, and when my parents refused me the pleasure, I cried and created quite a scene.