Friday, August 26, 2005

The Simplest Things

While waiting for my son to come home on the school bus, my wife and three year-old daughter sat on our front porch. It's not a porch in the traditional "folksy" style -- it's the slab of concrete between our side door and our driveway. It's functional for using the grill, very short skateboard rides, sidewalk chalk art shows and the like. It also has a two-person swing where my wife loves to relax and a small plastic slide which my little girl occasionally uses. While waiting for the bus today, she discovered that she could sit comfortably under the slide, so she started calling it "my new home". She explained to me that even if it rained she would stay dry under that slide. I asked her about what would happen if the wind blew while it rained, but she ignored me. Nothing was going to get wet in her new home.

My wife went inside and got an old sheet and threw it over the slide, making the girl's new home into a tent. When my daughter figured out what was happening, she squealed in such a high pitch that I'm still checking the windows for cracks! Over the next three minutes, I heard five or six such squeals along with at "Thank you, Mommy!" gratefully sung at least four times. In short, the girl was thrilled. All because my wife threw a sheet over a slide.

The girl is like that; three years old, intrigued by the world around her and satisfied by the simplest things. I brought her something last weekend that elicited much the same squeals-of-delight reaction. All it takes is something a bit unexpected, but simple.

Do you remember the last time that something simple made you happy? I know my day has been made by something as basic as the touch of a hand against my arm, or a smile, or a high-pitched squeal of delight. Perhaps you've been thrilled over your favorite team winning or finding just the right shoes to go with that new outfit. (I don't get the "shoes" thing, but then again, I'm a man!) Realizing the blessings we've been given will often put a grin on your face and a song in your heart.

So why is it that we crave so many things which are not simple? Why do we work so hard to accumulate stuff? In my first apartment on my own, I had a couch and loveseat, a couple of barstools, a television, stereo, bed and dresser. That was it. That was plenty. Today I have all kinds of luxuries I don't really need -- including this computer if it comes right down to it. I know people who plan and devise strategies for being able to get that huge-screen TV or that "mid-life crisis" car or even a bigger, better house. With a few people, this lust for more extravagance drives them. It is the reason they get out of bed in the morning. They need more. And then they need the next big thing.

It's been pointed out often that when Jesus taught the disciples (and us) to pray, He said to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." He said nothing about steak, waldorf salad or Krispy-Kremes. Our focus is to be on asking for the basics and let God provide for those and anything beyond that daily bread. Yet how many of us would be satisfied by a simple loaf of bread? The Israelites were whiny and childish because they had to eat manna every day! That was a literal example of God giving daily bread, but it wasn't good enough for the Chosen People wandering the Sinai deserts. They wanted some of those leeks and onions from Egypt. Oh how hard it is for us human beings to be satisfied with the simplest things.

From my reading of Scripture, luxuries are not bad but coveting and lusting after what you don't have is bad. And not being happy with what you have over and above daily bread seems pretty unappreciative to me. Yet I know I have my days when I get grumpy because all I have left in the cereal cabinet is Rice Krispies instead of Cap'n Crunch or Frosted Flakes. Stupid, isn't it? The simplest things can make us so happy, but the lack of anything more usually upsets us. We think we are entitled to more than simply daily bread. When we think we are entitled, we treat God's precious gifts as though we are good enough to merit them. And if we can get that way longing for better food or clothes or cars or houses, then isn't it pretty easy to think we deserve heaven based on our own record? Foolish humans. We're saved by grace, not by works. Our lives are transformed by the simplest thing -- accepting Jesus Christ.

"Lord, help me to continually see Your hand in the simplest of pleasures, and help me to remember that the simplest things are all I really need."

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