1. A wife who still laughs at my jokes. I am often called upon to speak in front of groups these days and I love to share stories. Occasionally I tell a joke or two. It never ceases to amaze me that when Deb is in the group she is often the one laughing the loudest and sometimes the only one who laughs at all.
2. A mom and dad who still care if I call. When I was growing up, I slept in a room not far from my parents. If I called out in the night, they were right there for me no matter how late it was. These days, it still matters if they hear my voice or not. If I don’t check in at least once a week, I am keenly aware of my failing. Before I travel (which I do a lot more these days) they call to pray with me and I love to hear their voices.
3. A brother who keeps it real. Growing up I always shared a room with my brother. I was the stereotypical “bigger brother” and often drove him crazy. These days, he is my best friend and closest confidant. It is always good to have someone in my life who will remind me that at heart I am really a “fair weather” Philly sports fan as I only watch games when the teams are winning. He is the one person that I can count on to ask the hardest questions and actually take the time to listen no matter what I have to say.
4. Men who hold me accountable. For the last several years, I have been meeting with a group of men every Friday morning. Just this week, we got together with our wives to celebrate the Christmas season. These men are my “band of brothers” who listen to me, counsel me, challenge me, cry with me and pray for me. As I get older, I value their input more and more and look forward to Friday morning as a highlight of each week.
5. People who study God’s word together. No matter how much I read God’s word, I often find myself feeling like the Ethiopian Eunuch who read the words, but needed help to understand what he was reading. I have been blessed to be in a number of small home groups where that is the central focus. These days, I have the privilege of being in a group that actually looks forward to wrestling with the deeper meaning in a given passage. It is not uncommon for one of our members to have several commentaries available for us to help provide context and insight.
I am also grateful for a few more mundane things as well:
6. A good cup of tea. This is probably the result of my British heritage. I have never been a coffee drinker and there is something special about asking for hot tea at a friend’s house and discovering how they make it. In America, I am normally given the choice of a number of exotic tea bags to choose from. In England, I am typically offered tea from a pot that has been steeping and brewed in what I am told is the only correct way to make tea.
7. A pen that writes well. For those who know me, this has been something of a lifelong obsession and a kind of quest to find the perfect pen. Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to loose pens, so the quest begins all over again. There is nothing quite like writing with a pen that flows smoothly, does not smudge and never seems to run out of ink. Given that I have to sign so many documents these days, the quest continues apace.
8. A car that is reliable. I have an unfortunate history with cars. My first car was the “exploding” Ford Pinto and it was given to me, so how could I refuse. I should have known better when I could actually see the ground because of the rusting inside the car. Over the years, I have paid my fair share of mechanics to fix vehicles and have come to treasure “the reliable car”. These days, I drive a tiny Honda Civic and every time I am tempted to complain as I crawl in and out of it, I remember that it is one of the most reliable vehicles on the road and as a bonus it gets great gas mileage.
9. A computer that starts quickly. It seems like I have actually spent years of my life waiting for various computers to start (not that I am ever prone to exaggeration). I was a devoted Dell Computer buyer for a number of years, but seemed to forget that each and every one of these seemed to slow down dramatically within a year or so of the purchase. This year, I was advised to purchase a computer with a solid state drive and it has made all the difference. It is the little things in life that make life so better and as I write these words I realize I am once more a victim of “first world problems”.
10. A good book to read. You knew this one was coming. I have spent a lifetime enjoying good books and looking for new books to read. There is just something special about getting a recommendation from a friend and then finding out why they liked a particular book so much. One of the best gifts a friend can give me is a book they enjoyed. This year, I was given one such book and it was very meaningful in my life. At a particular moment when I was finding it hard to read the Bible, a friend gave me a devotional book with a special paraphrase of the book of Romans by Ray Ortland, Jr. It was like I was reading the Bible for the first time and I could not put it down.
As you open presents this week, why not consider the best presents that are not under the tree.