My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.
A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.
Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
The Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).
Jean Vanier was an accomplished naval officer who had recently completed a PhD, and whose family oozed with prestige (his father had been the Governor General of Canada). Yet, living in the small French village of Trosly-Breuil, Vanier was alone and downhearted. His pastor encouraged him to invite two disabled men to live with him, and L’Arche (communities where disabled and those who Vanier calls “temporarily-abled” share friendship and life together) was born. Fifty years later, L’Arche communities exist around the world.
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
One day during class, Adrionna Harris noticed something disturbing—one of her young classmates cutting himself with a small razor. As she perceived it to be a grave situation, she did what she thought was the right thing to do—stepped in, took the razor from him, and threw it away. But instead of receiving praise, her compassionate act earned her a 10-day suspension. Asked if she would do it again, Adrionna replied: “Even if I got in trouble, it didn’t matter because I was helping him . . . I would do it again even if I got suspended.”
A few years ago, my husband and a friend of his attempted the Three Peaks Challenge—climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England, and Wales within 24 hours. This included scaling Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 meters. It was sunny at the foot of Ben Nevis as the men, dressed in just T-shirts and shorts, started their ascent. As they approached the summit, however, the weather changed; they hit ice and thick fog and their skimpy clothing simply wasn’t enough. They made it down the mountain, but the challenge was off.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
Sociologists at one university recently completed a study on regret. In it, they examined whether people felt more regret over what they had done or what they had failed to do. The researchers found that people’s regrets over their actions or inactions were roughly even when asked about the past week. Nearly the same number said, “I wish I hadn’t done that” as those who said “I wish I had done that.” But when asked to consider their life’s largest regrets, the vast majority said they were more troubled about missed opportunities. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ ”
What do soldiers, athletes, and farmers have in common? Discipline. Soldiers go through drills day in and day out. They want to be battle ready. Athletes undergo strict training so they can compete in the race. Farmers work from the rising of the sun until it sets, patiently toiling in hope of a bountiful harvest.