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Tim Challies

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June 07, 2008

A couple of months ago my son got his first job—a paper route. Three times a week he loads a stack of Oakville Beaver’s in a wagon and drags it around the neighborhood. The Saturday and Wednesday papers are typically pretty small. Fridays, though, are when all the fliers are released upon the local population. There are typically six or seven of them—the regulars: Best Buy, local grocery stores and maybe Staples and a sports store. But the week before special occasions, the number of fliers can grow exponentially.

Yesterday, the lead-up to Father’s Day, was by far the most we’ve had to deal with. The papers were so thick with all of the fliers that we had to get the whole family stuffing, rolling and elasticing the papers to keep them from exploding all over the neighborhood. I couldn’t help but notice that almost every one of those fliers had something on it about Father’s Day. The electronics stores were out in force, trying to get mom to buy a TV or a Blu-ray player or a Playstation 3 for dad; the grocery stores were featuring steaks and ribs; the big box stores were selling barbecues and tools. Every store wanted a piece of the family’s financial pie for this Father’s Day.

Looking for evidence as to who benefits most from Father’s Day? Look no further than your local newspaper. Here are the fliers from ours:

Fathers Day

(And, ironically enough, look just below this post and you’ll see…you guessed it…an ad for Father’s Day stuff at Amazon).

May 30, 2008

I returned home last night from my final conference of the year (or of the spring season, at least). At this point I’ve got only one tentative date on my calendar through the rest of 2008. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going to this year’s conferences, I’m not sorry to have a rather barren travel schedule for a while. Looking back at my calendar I can see that this spring I was in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee.

I enjoyed the Banner of Truth experience. It’s certainly unique as the conferences go, with a very conservative constituency, yet a very vibrant faith obviously active in the hearts of those in attendance. It was good to revisit some old hymns and Psalms I haven’t sung for many years and to catch up with some old friends I haven’t seen for just as long. Yesterday my friend Steve Burlew, who heads up Banner in the U.S. drove me over to the Banner offices and warehouse and it was good just to poke around there for a few minutes. In case you are not aware, they have an extensive “damaged book” section there where you can get some really good deals on books that have been damaged. The damage may include nothing more than the tiniest tear on the jacket, yet it will get you a great discount. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth dropping in just to look for a bargain.

May Giveaway Winners

This morning I sent out an email announcing the winners of the May giveaway. The following three people have won the Monergism Books gift certificates (and will need to send me an email to claim them!):

  1. Rick Aldrich
  2. Mike Driskill
  3. Christa Allan

The Seven Sayings

I apologize to those who are reading with me The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. As I was traveling yesterday I did not manage to post my reflections on the chapter. I had good intentions but they just didn’t work out. I’ll pick up again next Thursday.

This Site

I’m hoping that by next week this site can return to normal, whatever normal means in this context. I apologize that the content around here has been just a bit “light” over the past week or two.

May 03, 2008

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon here in the Toronto area. I’m supposed to be heading out to coach a baseball practice at 2 PM but it’s looking rather doubtful at the moment. It seems like the kids are going to head into their first game with only one practice under their proverbial belts. It should be an interesting game to say the least. I’d guess at least 2 out of every 3 outs will come via the strikeout as the kids try to adjust to a pitching machine set at around 40 to 45 MPH.

Last month saw more visitors to this site than any other in the site’s history and readers took in over a quarter million pages. For the first time a long while (I’m a bad blogger, I know) I spent a few minutes trying to see what all those people were reading. I culled a list of the top ten articles from the last week, many of which are representative of the top articles from the last month. It is interesting to me to see how those book reviews continue to be read. Here’s the list:

We’ve got a double birthday in the family today, with Michaela celebrating the big number 2 and Aileen celebrating a birthday significantly higher than 2. Aileen is spending much of the day helping paint a neighbor’s house. But she’ll be back before too long and we’ll be doing what we can to make this a special day for her.

Enjoy your weekend!

April 28, 2008

I’m not much of a do-it-yourself type. I’m well aware of my limits. You know, I’m pretty comfortable changing light bulbs and painting walls, but beyond that I tend to put a call out to my father-in-law (for low priority jobs) or a paid expert (for high priority jobs). We’ve got a few neighbors who are involved in the trades and I’ve been known to get them to come in to do cabling or minor wiring. When they come I play the role I used to play with my dad—holding the flashlight or passing the wrenches. Nice guys that they are, they either work for free or for favors (“I’ve got a computer that just isn’t working right…”). Rumor has it that they also accept beer as currency, but I’ve never been too comfortable with alcohol as currency.

We are having some plumbing issues in the Challies household at the moment. What started yesterday as a clogged drain has become a rain shower in the dining room. When I went to bed last night it looked like I’d be making a fairly routine call to a plumber in the morning; when I woke up the whole dining room ceiling was looking just a bit too convex for my liking. Again, I’m no expert, but as I understand it, ceiling are supposed to be pretty well flat. I took a nail and pushed it into the ceiling. I don’t think I should be able to push a nail through drywall with only my thumb, but this one went through with little resistance. I pulled it back out and water began to pour pretty freely. I guess that explains why the ceiling was buckling a little bit.

We’ve now got an assortment of buckets throughout the living room, catching water as it pour from various little holes and crevices. Replacing that ceiling has been on our long list of things to do and I guess this has bumped it to a much shorter list. At this point I think the ceiling will survive without crashing to the floor. But it may surprise me still.

All this is to say that I didn’t have time or opportunity to write what I wanted to write today. So I’m going to post a book review instead (not something I generally like to do on Mondays). But the plumber is here and he’s probably going to need me to hold a flashlight for him or something…

April 26, 2008

It’s funny how Saturdays, which used to be the most relaxing day for me, have become so busy. I am coaching Nick’s baseball team this year and we were on the field early this morning for our first practice. This season the kids are staring from the plate to a pitching machine and seeing pitches whistling in at 40 miles per hour. This is a substantial step up from last year’s coach pitch league where the balls were lobbed from about 10 feet away. Each of the kids got ten pitches from the machine and most of them flailed helplessly at all ten. Now that practice is over, we’ve got to get ready for Nick’s birthday parting at a nearby bowling alley. His birthday was a few weeks ago but this was the earliest we could book some lanes for him…and he really wanted to bowl for his birthday. So it is going to be a good but busy day.

Amazon’s Kindle

I have been thinking about buying a Kindle (which Amazon finally has in stock after many months of distribution problems). Though the reviews on the Kindles are decidedly mixed, I do think it could solve a couple of problems for me.


One problem is that I am just about out of room to store books in my office. When we first moved into this house two years ago, I had three or four bookcases in the office and my books fit. Today I have seven full and two half bookcases and they are almost all full. Of greater concern is the fact that I am out of walls against which I can place more bookcases. The photo above was taken a couple of months ago. Even since then things have gotten worse. Books are beginning to stack up on top of the bookcases. I am going to go through and cull some of the junk, but I know it will not take long for the problem to return.

All of this to say that a Kindle may just offer me the ability to read at least some of my books in a “soft” format rather than a printed format.

The second issue, and the one that is probably more likely to be solved by a Kindle, is that I have stacks of manuscripts to read through and it might be nice to read some of those on the Kindle rather than on printed 8.5 x 11 inch paper or in PDF files on my computer.

And so I ask…does anyone out there own a Kindle? What is your user experience like with it? Is it worth the rather steep price of $400? What I really need is to find a friend who can loan me one for a while…

Strange Places

Last week I shared a couple of photos of my book in strange places. The very next day I received not one but two photos of the book in Mongolia, of all places. And the two people who sent the photos are not, to my knowledge, connected to one another. So here is the photographic proof of the book in Mongolia. If you have a picture of my book in a strange place, feel free to send it along.


New Music

A CD I’ve been enjoying a lot in the past week is Before the Throne by Sojourn (Sojourn Community Church of Louisville, KY). It is a CD that earned a rare five star review from Christianity Today. The reviewer said, “Every once in a while, I receive an album that pleasantly surprises me on all fronts. Not only is the packaging impeccably and cleverly designed on Sojourn’s Before the Throne, but the worship band for Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky also managed a far more impressive feat: They actually wrote worship music that I didn’t feel like I’d already heard a million times before. Hard to imagine, I know.” The album features ten original songs and one cover and the songs represent a wide variety of musical styles. Personal favorites are “We Are Listening” (Morning and evening we come / To delight in the words of our God / Give us eyes to see / Give us faith to hear / …that the Word has come / …that the Word is here) and “In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross” (These crowns I’ve clenched with fisted hands / I cast them down before the throne / Of Christ my God the worthy lamb / Christ crucified, the Great I AM / Hallelujah, Hallelujah). You can learn more about it at sojournmusic.com. You can download several songs for free (including my favorite tracks) if you’d like to sample the album.

Sojourn has just announced that their next project will be a 2-CD set of hymns inspired by Isaac Watts, “The Father Of English Hymnody.” The assignment for the songwriters was to “rewrite the Isaac Watts hymnal … Take these lyrics as a springboard and rewrite the words and melodies. Capture the language of our time and place and keep vibrant the message of the songs. Look for ways to refresh metaphors and imagery in the songs … and write melodies that will fit contemporary song arrangements.” This will prove quite the challenge, I am sure, and I look forward to hearing the result!

Another new and good CD is one you’ve seen advertised right here—Come Weary Saints by Sovereign Grace Music. “Come Weary Saints is an invitation to redirect your focus to the God whose love has been forever demonstrated at the cross of Calvary. As you listen to these songs, may your faith and joy in the Savior be strengthened for the challenges you face, now or in the future.” It features songs by the usual cast of characters, including Bob Kauflin, Mark and Stephen Altrogge, Steve and Vicki Cook and Pat Sczebel. It is perhaps not insignificant that the first time I listened to the album was in a hospital bed while cradling a sleeping but very sick little girl. It was an encouragement to me then and has been in the couple of weeks since.

You can listen to song samples and purchase the album right here. Personal favorites are “So I Will Trust You,” “I Have a Shelter,” and “Through the Precious Blood.”

April 21, 2008

Raising children isn’t nearly as easy as my parents made it look. Somehow, when I was a kid, I never really considered that my parents had a tough job to do. Though they had five children, and though we kept them pretty active, I guess it never occurred to me that it was a difficult and demanding task to raise us—not only to keep us fed and clothed, but to train us to be productive members of society, to train us to love one another and, more importantly, to teach us to love the Lord. They succeeded admirably in all of those tasks. They made it look easy, at least from my perspective as one of the kids. But eight years of parenting has shown me that it really is not easy at all. Raising children is a trial; it is a constant battle. It has its moments of great joy, of course. But it is a task that requires constant vigilance and great consistency.

One trial we’ve encountered again and again is in having our children obey us obediently. We want our children to obey us well. We do not want to have children to huff and puff and roll their eyes and stamp their feet even when they do what we ask of them. We do not want children who obey in body while their hearts are filled with rebellion and hatred of authority. Yet somehow this seems to be their natural tendency.

The issue of authority is a tough one even for adults. A few weeks ago my friend, my son and I went to the home opener for the Toronto Blue Jays. It turned out to be kind of a rowdy game with people running onto the field and others getting dragged out of the stands due to poor behavior. At one point, just a section over from us, a man was hauled out by the police. As soon as an officer showed up the crowd started chanting, “Let him stay! Let him stay!” They jeered at the officer and at the security guards. They laughed at the authorities, threw things at them, and did all they could to mock and belittle them. Their hatred of authority was tangible; it was alarming for those of us who remained sober and who, with our senses about us, knew that only authority holds off the utter breakdown of society. Our human sinfulness causes our hearts to rebel at the first sign of authority. So often we obey only with great reluctance and with our hearts in utter rebellion.

After yet another episode yesterday, where one of my children obeyed with great reluctance and a great show of disgust, I began to think about this heart of rebellion. I began to think about my own sin and about whether I really do any better than they do. My mind skipped around from sin to sin—those sins that continue to plague my life. I thought of one in particular and quickly saw my own reluctance to obey God in what He says I need to do about it. His commands are clear. I need to repent of that sin, I need to forsake that sin, and I need to love obedience more than that sin. It is only when I learn to love God and His commands more than I love that sin that I will be freed from it.

But I’m like a kid. I like that sin and I hate the authority that places itself over me and tells me to let that sin go. I roll my eyes, I grind my teeth, and I feel my heart rebel. In my heart I tell God that I’d rather sin than obey Him; I effectively tell Him that right now I’d rather have my sin than have Him. This sin is more important to me than my relationship with the Creator of the universe. Oh, I love that sin so much.

So I guess I’m not too different from my children. The remedy they need is the same one I need. Like me, they need to see that authority is given to us as a gracious gift from God. They need to learn to honor authority and to see it as something given to restrain us rather than annoy us. And they need to honor that authority and to obey it joyfully, willingly, immediately and with a joyful heart. This is what I need to do with my sin—I need to hear and heed God’s Word. And this is what they need to do with their sin—hear and heed my words as I seek to teach them what God would have them do.

It seems that God’s job in training me is at least as difficult as mine in training my children.

April 13, 2008

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to pray for Michaela and who sent along notes and emails. She was released from hospital yesterday evening and, though she’s still a bit grumpy, she is definitely doing much better. We are very grateful to God!

I do believe this is the final excerpt I’ll be sharing from David Wells’ The Courage To Be Protestant (available now at Amazon and everywhere else). As promised, this one deals with what Wells calls the “marketers”—those Christians who seek, perhaps inadvertently, to shape the church after the world. Wells says quite a bit about them in this book, but this portion of the second chapter stood out to me.


It seems rather clear, then, that the market which is defining most churches today is the one in which people are seeking some spiritual connection but, at the same time, are opposed to things religious. By that, they have in mind doctrines to be believed which they have not defined for themselves, moral norms to be followed which they have not set up for themselves, and corporate practice which is expected. Skip the religion; give us the meat and potatoes of what is spiritual, they are saying. That is what these marketing churches are attempting to do. So, it is no great revelation that those who are fed this trashy diet are frequently those with no worldview and in whose life biblical doctrine has little place.

Perhaps the crowning disappointment in this whole undertaking is the dismal failure of the worship services which are really thought of as being the marketers’ piece de resistance. In fact, eight out of ten believers do not experience the presence of God in their worship at all. Is this really such a stunning outcome to services in which the centrality of truth has disappeared, where biblical categories have been lost, and in which the entertainment ethos dominates everything?

George Barna was one of the primary architects who designed this new approach to “doing” church. He was in on the ground floor three decades ago. As the church’s most assiduous poller, he undoubtedly expected by this time to be the bearer of good news once his marketing strategies were widely adopted, as they have been. It has not turned out that way. It has fallen to him to be the most important chronicler of his own failure.

Leaving behind this long trail of failure as if it had never happened, Barna has nevertheless struck out in a new direction with the same old panache, bravado, and undented self-assurance. The evangelical world has neither gasped nor even blinked. In 2005, he published his book, Revolution which predicted that the church in the coming decade would lose much of its “market share” but, never mind, because now it could climb aboard a different cultural trend and succeed even more spectacularly. Now, serious spiritual revolutionaries can simply cut themselves loose from every local church. Just walk away! Permanently. And find biblical Christianity elsewhere.

What is resulting from Barna’s approach is barely recognizable as Christian today. And that is what makes the desire of some of the leading American marketing pastors to export their experiment to the rest of the world almost incomprehensible. It certainly is an expression of unbounded chutzpah.

The truth is that no matter how proficiently we learn to “do” church in terms of the Western, affluent, highly individualistic market, we are doomed to failure. Indeed, the more proficient we become, if that proficiency requires that we denude ourselves of theology, the more certainly we doom ourselves to failure. The method is inherently flawed. If it succeeds in replicating itself at all, it will only be replicating its own failure. That is what the marketers have failed to see.

March 21, 2008

I was in a bad mood yesterday. For weeks now I’ve been trying to figure out something simple with a nearby bank—or something that should be simple. It has been a comedy of errors, really. Every time I try to do something (anything!), it seems that their incompetence or ignorance is working against me. I’ll receive a phone call telling me to come in and sign papers, but when I get there I’m told that the papers are actually still at the head office. “We didn’t call you!” they’ll insist. Was the phone call a figment of my imagination, then? No, I guess it just turns out that the call center and the branch don’t have the best communication. The next time I went to the bank they ran around the branch scraping together some paperwork, all the while calling across the branch with personal details of my account and its contents (despite all kinds of other customers milling about). After a couple of weeks of this I had to admit that I had been holding on just to satisfy my own morbid curiosity as to whether they could actually follow through on any of their promises.

Yesterday I was told I could drop by to fill out the paperwork for a safe deposit box they had reserved for me. I took a few minutes around lunch time and drove up there. When I arrived at the branch I was told that all of the boxes were already spoken for. A little vein in my forehead started throbbing. I tried to explain with decreasing self-control that every time they called me to the branch I took time out of my day only to find that they had been wrong. The girl behind the counter explained that her manager and all other superiors were out at the moment but that they would call me when they arrived later. Of course I could also wait at the bank if I preferred. Well, I am a busy guy and can’t be waiting at a bank for a manager to arrive, so I rolled my eyes, barked something grumpy and stormed away with a black rain cloud over my head.

Fifteen minutes after getting home the branch called and left a message to say that there was a safe deposit box for me after all. Later that afternoon, when I had put aside work for the day, I headed back to the branch. I was just hoping that I’d be able to get in a word or two with that manager. There was so much I wanted to say. “I’d keep my money in a sock under my mattress before I’d open another account in your half-rate, two-bit institution!” I was ready. I was prepped.

I got to the bank and stood in line. In just a few seconds it was my turn and I marched up to the wicket to see the same girl there that I had spoken to that morning. This was going to be good. It was time for some justice.

And right then and there, God whacked me on the chest with a two-by-four. Or if felt like it, anyways. It was like my conscience was something physical, something palpable and something that was anxious to pull out of my chest. Suddenly I didn’t feel like fighting. All I could say was, “I’m sorry I was a jerk this morning.” She replied as people always seem to: “That’s okay!” And I said, “No, it isn’t okay. I shouldn’t have acted like that and I’m sorry.” And then, after many more delays, we opened my safe deposit box.

As humbling and humiliating as this was, I’m grateful to the Spirit that He struck my conscience in the way He did. I need His help. I’ve been trying to become a better apologizer. I’ve been trying to take the initiative, as the leader of my household, in apologizing. Too often I’ve seen apologizing as weakness—that a real man never apologizes. What will my wife and children think of me if I’m always apologizing to them? They’ll catch on that I’m pretty well a jerk and that I sin, you know, at least occasionally. But God has really helped me to understand that taking initiative in apologizing is the mark of a leader, not the mark of someone who is weak. God knows how many opportunities I have to practice apologizing. And He is showing me how important it is that I take them.

As I’ve been working on becoming a better apologizer, I’ve come up with just a short list of tips. I’ll post them in the hope that maybe they can help you, too.

Just Do It

Just apologize. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let bitterness take root. Don’t let pride sever your relationships. If there is anything that will keep you from apologizing, it is pride. Your pride will rebel against humbling yourself before God and before another person. Don’t trust your pride. Just apologize. When you offend someone, just apologize. If you’re anything like me, you won’t ever lack for opportunities to practice apologizing. As times goes on it may not get any easier or any less humbling, but it will become something you do sincerely and out of a desire to please God and to honor people created in His image.

Ask for Forgiveness

It is easy enough to say, “I’m sorry, ” But far more difficult to ask, “Do you forgive me?” Asking forgiveness allows both you and the offend party to understand that you are not merely seeking to salve your conscience by apologizing, but that you are seeking true reconciliation. Forgiveness is something that needs to be both given and received.There may be times when actually asking for forgiveness will be very awkward and there may be times you will choose not to actually force the question (as I did yesterday. The girl at the bank was already looking at me funny. I was worried she’d hit the panic button if I pressed much more). But you will generally want to ask for forgiveness.

Don’t Rationalize Your Sin

I try to teach my children that an apology does not include the words “but” or “if.” We do not say, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” We do not say, “I’m sorry I did it, but if you hadn’t…” We apologize sincerely and from the heart. If we cannot apologize without rationalizing our own sin, we are not truly apologizing. We will want to examine our hearts before attempting to make a true and sincere apology. We cannot make apologies that are really our attempts to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we’ve committed. So apologize sincerely and apologize from the heart, not as an attempt to clear your own record but as a step of love and obedience.

Learn to Forgive

And finally, learn how to forgive. As difficult as I find it to be the one asking forgiveness, I find it even more difficult and even more awkward being on the giving end of forgiveness. You may well feel the same. Far too often, when someone apologizes to us, we are embarrassed and inadvertently excuse their sin. “That’s okay! It didn’t bother me…” we may reply. But it is not okay; sin is never okay. So learn how to forgive.

If God grants me my three score and ten, I’m not even halfway through life yet. And while he has certainly been gracious in helping me overcome sin, plenty remains. I’m still a committed sinner. Dave Harvey, in his book When Sinners Say ‘I Do’ said something I love—that the more you get to know him, the more respect you’ll have for his wife. The same is certainly true of me and of my wife. Get to know me and you’ll soon see the kind of person that Aileen is. It’s not always an easy calling for her to be my wife. But even more, the same is true of me and my God. Get to know me and you’ll learn just how gracious and loving a God I serve that He would be willing to forgive a jerk like me.

Postscript

I was wrong to bark at the girl at the bank. There’s no doubt. And I truly am sorry. But the fact remains that the bank really is a half-rate, two-bit institution and I really do think I’d keep my savings in a sock under my mattress before I entrusted them to this particular branch. Then again, they now have a safe deposit box in my name. Dare I entrust them with whatever I might want to stuff in there?

March 15, 2008

My conference has come to a bit of an early end. Because there are so many Canadians heading home from Florida this week, we were not able to find me a flight that left after the conference. Instead I’m having to duck out a few hours before it all wraps up. I’ll be heading home through Montreal and, if all goes well, should be home on time to sleep in my own bed tonight.

It has been a very good conference. Not too many organizations do a better job of putting these things together than Ligonier. You know, earlier I found myself thinking that the Ligonier conference is unique in the attendees it attracts. Some conferences cater to pastors, some to young people, some to parents. This one draws all of the above. Of all the conferences I’ve been to it probably has the largest number of “older” people (I’ll leave that term general and undefined) attending it. Yet I also haven’t been to many conferences that have more families attending together. There are many families here with children and teenagers sitting with their parents; there are groups of teens sitting together. The conference attracts people of all ages.

Also noticeable at this conference is how long and how often some people have been attending it. Earlier on I met a gentleman who is currently enjoying his twelfth consecutive National Conference. It has become an annual tradition, whether he travels with friends or whether he travels alone. I don’t think too many other conferences can boast people who have attended for twelve years running. This is, I am sure, a testament to the long and faithful ministry of R.C. Sproul and the people who serve him and who serve the Lord through this ministry. It is a testament to this ministry’s faithful service to the church.

For those who come from northern states or provinces, it certainly doesn’t hurt any that the weather in Florida this time of year is just beautiful and a full seventy or eighty degrees higher than what we’re experiencing at home. It’s supposed to be over eighty degrees here today. When I get home it will be below freezing.

March 05, 2008

Elizabeth is a public nuisance. Her status is not official yet, but it will be soon. The local police have encouraged the families in this neighborhood to fill out the paperwork that will fulfill the legal requirements. It’s probably the best thing to do. When that paperwork is complete the police will no longer be forced to respond to her every call. And she calls a lot. When a car parks a little too far into the road, she calls the police. When she believes someone has trespassed on her property, she calls the police. When the children are playing outdoors and a ball rolls into her yard, she calls the police. She has the reputation of a person who must sit by the window with phone in hand. Nine and one are already pushed and she’s just waiting for a reason to hit the one again. She was one of the first people we were told about when we moved to this neighborhood. “You’re going to have to watch out for Elizabeth…”

Everyone in the neighborhood knows who she is. Her yard is easy to spot as it’s the one that is completely overgrown. In most cases people who do not care for their yards have it cut by city hall and receive a bill in the mail. In her case she’s managed to convince them that this chaos is a gardening style. Her house is over an aquifier she says, one of the few in the area, and that is why the trees grow so well and why they remain so dense. She’s the one who hands out apples or oranges on Halloween. She’s the one who has lived in the neighborhood since before many of the rest of us were even born and long before the other houses were built.

A few weeks ago Aileen came into the house and told me that Elizabeth was out shoveling her own driveway. She is definitely too old to be doing this. So I put my coat on, grabbed my shovel, and walked up the street to her home. She had propped herself up with a crutch under her one arm and was holding a broom in the other, trying to sweep the snow away. We had seen a good ten centimeters fall and it was wet, heavy snow. A broom wasn’t going to cut it, and particularly so along the edge of the driveway where the plows had pushed it into hard piles at least a couple of feet high. I asked if I could help her and she hesitatingly agreed. She gave me a few pointers on how to best shovel and told me she’d be pleased if I’d just deal with the big piles close to the road. She asked if I would like to be paid and I said, “Absolutely not.”

I got to work while she headed indoors. I cleaned up the piles and then got to work on the rest of the drive. A few minutes later she emerged from the house to chat. She told me that the driveway had been widened many years before and they were able to fit at least eight cars in it. That explained why I was winded. She told me about her broken leg and then about her sons, both of whom live in the area, I believe, and both of whom seem quite well-to-do. She seemed perfectly pleasant, even for a public nuisance. She was grateful that she was going to be able to get out of her driveway that day, because she had a schedule with a physical therapist. When the job was done I told her to get in touch with me anytime and headed home.

Since that day we’ve had several snowstorms and we’re in the midst of the snowiest winter in years. Last I heard we had seen 142 centimeters and that was three storms ago. We’re in the midst of another one today. The schools are canceled and it’s as good a day as any to just stay off the roads.

Whenever the snow begins to accumulate, I cross the ditch and shovel her out. There was one time that I somehow forgot but she called a neighbor (she didn’t have my phone number) and asked him to come and knock on the door. He passed along the message and I hurried right over. By my count there are at least twelve or fifteen neighbors who are closer to her home than I am. They drive by while I’m shoveling or they use snow blowers to get the snow off their drives at the same time. But none of them help her. I don’t know if she has burned all of those bridges or if this is just a symptom of the times we live in. Even the neighbor who came to knock on my door didn’t offer to help.

Today is my son’s eighth birthday. Eight years ago we brought him home from the hospital and we were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Today it is well below 0, we have already seen 15 centimeters of snow, and it continues to fall. “In like a lion, out like a lamb” is what they say about March. I hope that old adage proves true this year. The last thing I wanted to do today was shovel out a long driveway covered in 15 centimeters of heavy snow. I grumbled to Aileen this morning, saying “I picked quite the year to start helping Elizabeth, didn’t I?” She lovingly scolded me and I went on my way. Though it’s his birthday, I told Nick to come along and to help me out. He did so quite willingly, despite having some new toys and games to play with and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii demanding his attention. And off I went, perhaps a bit resigned to my fate.

We got to work, chipping away at the driveway. After a few minutes of hard work Nick piped up. “Daddy, this is what the Bible says, isn’t it? That anyone who has a need is our neighbor?” And he was right—that’s exactly what the Bible says. But Scripture also makes it clear that any good things I do are utterly worthless when I do them with a grumbling spirit. In that moment I saw that I had been going about this all wrong. My little boy (who really isn’t so little anymore) ministered to me this morning as we cleared the driveway of our neighborhood’s public nuisance. My boy is a blessing to me in more ways than he knows.

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