Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.
If I’m hiking and camping out for several days, campfires are vital. And the most important thing I carry with me as I begin each day is a handful of charred sticks from the previous night’s fire. They’re the very best fire starters—no need to find tinder or other sticks. I just spark the charred ends, blow on them, and pile on a few fresh logs.
I was thinking about some friends who are facing trials. Jake is about to lose his job because he won’t compromise his convictions. Sheryl has been unemployed and soon her government assistance will run out. Sam had surgery to fuse together two vertebrae in his spine, but now he’s feeling numbness on his right side.
It was early spring and the ice on Lake Michigan had thawed. After a long, cold winter, a few of us hardy anglers were eager to fish again. As we hit the water, the skies were sunny and the massive lake was calm. Conditions were ideal, but not for long. Shortly after setting our lines, the wind kicked up. It didn’t take long for it to start getting uncomfortably “nautical.” Before the waves could build to dangerous heights, we reluctantly pulled in our lines, fired up the boat engine, and motored back toward the quiet harbor waters.
Last summer we planted rosebushes in the backyard in honor of my Abuelita—my grandmother. She was like a mother to me, and even though she died 10 years ago I still miss her terribly. Wild and sweet-smelling roses grew around her house. The roses I was planting would be a beautiful and constant reminder of her—a tribute.
South Africa’s electrical grid has long been stretched, but when a coal silo at a power station collapsed, it led to months of widespread blackouts across the country. The power outages were initially frustrating, but citizens quickly adapted to the daily 2-hour blackouts and worked around those times. Generators were employed, people bought fewer perishable foods, and they were careful to make sure the washing-machine cycle would finish before the electricity went off for the day.
Yesterday I received a double dose of bad news. In the span of 5 minutes, the words in two emails left me disappointed and doubting that a project I had worked on for years would come to fruition. I wanted to quit. What’s the use? I felt like going back to bed and starting the day over again.
My first—and very brief—job out of college was with an after-school mentoring program that trained kids in woodworking. When I was asked during the interview if I could teach woodworking, I responded in the affirmative: “Sure!” How hard can it be? I thought to myself. But I had never worked with wood. So when I attempted my first project and mangled a piece of fine wood with a belt sander, my boss took one look at it and fired me on the spot! Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about.
One time when I was high up a mountain in Norway, God chose to rescue me from an untimely death. At the time it felt anything but pleasant, but God knew that I was in spiritual bondage and that I needed to be saved—largely from myself. He was aware that I was spiritually dead and needed to wake up to my predicament. So he sent a series of extremely uncomfortable events my way in order that I might see what I truly needed—Him!
In a recent email, a woman named Renee told me how she and her husband had unsuccessfully spent years trying to start a family. After numerous rounds of in vitro fertilization treatment and several years waiting to adopt, they were exhausted from the ordeal and considering bringing the journey to an end. Knowing that my wife and I had walked a similar path, Renee asked a question. “How do you give up on a dream of parenthood without regretting what might have been?”
A strange phenomenon is occurring all around me as I write this article. Tucked into the warm splendor of my niece’s living room, I’m observing ants occasionally crawling and darting about on the walls. Why is this strange? Well, there’s nearly 2 feet of snow outside her home, and it was -19°F a few days ago. So I’ve been wondering, How are these tiny creatures surviving? It appears they’re doing so by sticking together, working together, and dwelling in the warmth found inside the house.
My vitamins come in three fruity flavors. Fortunately, someone designed them to look and taste more like candy than health aids. The contents include stuff like vitamin B-6, niacin, and folic acid. Each serving contains enough supplements to last for one day. Every morning I have to consume another dose because my body has been busy using up yesterday’s vitamin supply.
A man dealing with despair confessed to a Bible teacher, “My life is really in bad shape.” “How bad?” asked the teacher. Burying his head in his hands, the man moaned, “I’ll tell you how bad—I’ve got nothing left but God.”
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.
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.