Once upon a time there was a poor family that lived in a valley. Down in the very heart of the valley, shaded among towering trees, sat their ramshackle house. The house was cobbled together using bits and pieces of others’ castoff building materials found at the side of the road. Inside the house lived an aging father, a work-worn mother, a small son and a wee daughter. The aging father’s heart was burdened, as he was growing on in years and could barely feed his family day to day, let alone provide for their future when he would be gone.
|Source: Bing Images|
One brisk morning as the work-worn mother was out scattering a few bits of grain for the bedraggled chickens, a Stranger appeared on her step. Looking up, she spouted sharply, “I don’t know you who you or what you’re looking for, but you won’t find it here. We haven’t got enough for even our own family. Be on your way!”
|Source: Bing Images|
A sad, sympathetic smile crossed the stranger’s face. Looking down at the work-worn mother with compassionate eyes, he queried, “Woman, is your husband at home? I come seeking a word with him.”
“Of course he’s here. “ She responded tartly. “He hasn’t had work going on three years now. Where else would he be?”
The work-worn mother’s full skirt rustled as she made a brisk turn through the shack’s threshold.
A moment later the aging father appeared in the doorway. The sleeves of his threadbare flannel shirt dangled limply around his bony wrists; his pants bore patches covering holes too many to count.
The stranger smiled.
“I won’t take but a moment of your time. I come only to give you a gift. There are no strings attached to this gift – it is utterly and completely free. All I ask is that you watch over it, guard it closely, and share it with others.”
And with that, the stranger deposited a roll of yellowed parchment into the astonished aging father’s hands; turned, and walk away.
The husband and wife quickly untied the string binding the document and gasped. It was the deed to a beautiful piece of property resting atop the mountain that overlooked the valley. The deed contained not only the rights to the land; but a spacious home, a lush garden and healthy animals as well!
Within a weeks’ time, the man and woman had moved their small son and wee daughter to the house atop the mountain. It was not long before the aging father began to look more in appearance as a strong provider; the work-worn mother, a radiant bride; the small son and wee daughter were transformed into a strapping lad and beautiful maiden.
The family took great joy in the simplicity of every day. They worked together, played together and shared their gift with others. The family spoke frequently of the valley and their old ramshackle house, and thanked the Lord every day in their prayers for the generous Stranger and his gift. Their greatest desire was to honor the Stranger and his request to share the gift with others. News spread quickly throughout the village of the family’s gift, and many a tired traveler was welcomed daily to the family’s bountiful table. The family gave food to those who needed it and shelter to those without. There was not an outcast in the village whom was not welcome at their door.
Many years passed. The family’s prayers of thanksgiving became less and less frequent; and they often peppered them with petitions for more land, a better harvest, and an ease of their burden of work. They began to accept travelers only on Tuesday nights, as the other nights the family was too busy caring for all of their possessions. They shared their food less and less often, saying that it was just too much work to provide for more than their own family. The lush garden was quickly becoming a patch of dried weeds. No fruit that was fit to eat was being produced. The father’s clothing began to show wear, small wrinkles gathered at the corners of his eyes; the mother’s voice turned from gentle and kind, to harsh and critical. The son and daughter began to whine incessantly, always putting their needs before those of others.
One dark morning as a storm was beginning to roll in, the mother was out in the yard feeding her chickens; muttering to herself the whole time about her workload, her rebellious children and her silent husband. Suddenly she heard a voice that stopped her in tracks.
|Source: Bing Images|
The mother’s head snapped up immediately, looking once again into the eyes of the kind and generous Stranger that had visited them so long ago. Tears began coursing down her face. With a pierced heart, she called to her husband.
The husband appeared in the threshold of the door; flannel shirt now threadbare, his stooped frame barely filling the doorway as it once did.
The kind Stranger stood with a steady gaze, taking in the scene. With a compassionate voice he asked, “Where are the others? Where are all the villagers and travelers I asked you to share this gift with?”
“I can see that you have forgotten. You have forgotten the height from which you have fallen. The spacious home, lush garden and healthy animals I granted you now appear more as your old ramshackle house in the valley did. “
The husband and wife fell in sorrow onto the dusty ground before the Stranger. “Oh, Master! Forgive us! We will repay you sevenfold for all that we have allowed to go to waste.”
Gently lifting the man and woman to their feet, the Stranger replied, “The price has already been paid. Go, walk in joy, thankfulness and love.”
From that day forward, the family never forgot the kindness of the Stranger and his generous gift of grace; and they lived accordingly.
Abba ~ This day and all that follow, may we never forget Your good, good gifts. Keep our eyes on You, the author and perfecter of our faith. In Jesus name ~ Amen.