I don’t know about you, but I need things to look forward to. The concept of hope in something and belief that something good is just around the corner is foundational to the human spirit. Nothing is more depressing and sad than meeting and interacting with someone who has lost all hope or maybe never really had any in the first place. As I have watched so many stories about the tragedy in Haiti, I was really struck by a news story about kids making toys out of trash and kites out of cellophane plastic. Somehow, even in the worst of circumstances, we human beings have a way of finding joy. Unfortunately, as I have grown older, I have realized more and more how some things that I look forward to are really short-lived and temporal. The real joy and contentment have come from those things of eternal value. So with this week’s post, I thought I would share a few things (both temporal and eternal) that I look forward to and encourage you to comment about some things that you look forward to as well.
1. The first spring flower. We live on a hillside here in eastern Pennsylvania, and I never know when that first crocus or daffodil will burst forth from the once frozen soil and surprise us all. For some reason, I always have to stop and admire that first flower and then take a moment to thank God for his faithfulness in making sure that new flowers do bloom every spring.
2. Opening day of baseball season. There is something special in the crack of the bat that signifies the start of the first official game of baseball each year. I am a real sucker for tradition and love the fact that baseball (even with the steroids problems) remains a game that my boys and I can go to and enjoy in the same way that my grandfather and I did many years ago.
3. A great new book by one of my favorite authors. I am so glad that God has gifted people like Tim Keller, Philip Yancey, Josh Harris (I love his new book Dug Down Deep), Donald Miller, and many others to keep writing fresh new and necessary books. As a bookstore person, I love to browse the New Books section to see what has just come out that might make a difference in my life, or in someone else’s.
4. The first barbecue of the year. I realize that some people do grill year round, but my family has always put the grill away during the winter with the prospect of that first great barbecue to look forward to in the spring. Like many guys, I enjoy grilling just about any kind of meat and trying to keep it from falling into the coals so it won’t catch on fire. I have tried to perfect the technique of cleaning off any meat that “accidentally” falls on the ground knowing that a little dirt is good for what ails ya. Somehow my family seems to find a way to ensure that I eat that piece of meat anyway.
5. The first sunny 72-degree day with no humidity. I sometimes refer to this as the perfect day. These days do not happen all that often, but they are usually worth the wait. Normally the day starts at a cooler temperature, and around noon or so I will notice how blue the sky is and how good it feels—and then I look at the temperature, which somehow is always right around 72 degrees on those days. What a good God we serve who makes days like this every year without fail just to bring us pleasure.
6. Helping a child find their first Bible. While working in the bookstore, one of my greatest thrills was helping a child select their first Bible. This was normally done in cooperation with their parent, but often the child had a significant role in the final decision. What a powerful moment it was to hear them say, “I want this one,” and then see the child read some favorite part of the Bible to their parent. Every now and again I sneak back into one of our stores looking forward to helping another child and parent make this important and life impacting choice.
7. Finding a great manuscript. As a publisher, I am overwhelmed by the number of book submissions we get as a small publishing house. Many of these are written by well-meaning people who may have a good idea, but are not great writers. I look forward to getting those rare manuscripts that are well written by passionate authors with a platform that we can enhance. God has been very good to CLC in allowing us to find a remarkable number of these great books over the years. Who knows what God will bring our way this year.
8. Praying with a stranger. This may sound like an odd thing to look forward to, but it has been one of the greatest joys of my ministry over these last few years. Often in our work, we have people who will share their burdens with us as and ask for a book recommendation. I always do my best to find something that will meet their needs, but also like to stop and pray with them as well. I did this quite often when I was the manager of one of our stores and did not realize the impact I was making on other people’s lives. One day a woman came into the store (who I did not recognize) and thanked me for praying with her three years previously for a struggle that she had been having with cancer. She came in to tell me that she had now been in remission for a couple of years. What an incredible privilege this is for me and one that I look forward to experiencing again this year.
9. Rediscovering God’s Word. I am always amazed at how the Bible and the inspired authors who wrote it can come alive in a new way every day. What a joy it is to read a passage that I have read many times before and discover some new truth or relevant application to my life. I see that the Bible really is alive and active as the Holy Spirit opens my eyes to what the authors of each book meant to convey and then shows me how it can make a difference in my life too. What a great thing it is that God gave us His Word to study and be encouraged by daily.
10. Gospel-transformed lives. There is nothing I look forward to more than seeing a life transformed by the truth of the gospel. That includes my own life transformation as well. Over the years I have been blessed to see people come to faith for the first time though a thorough understanding of the saving grace of the good news. Somehow though, it seems that I get just as excited as I see others “getting” the reality of the gospel for the first time many years after they have first accepted Jesus as Savior. The gospel has the power not just to save, but to transform lives as well. What a testimony of hope in a broken and dying world that the gospel can bring new life to a dead marriage or failed relationship.
If you have read this far, I challenge you to add your own comments on things that you look forward to. May you also experience the hope of the gospel as a reality in your life.