Arlie’s Surprise Birthday Party

Arlie’s Surprise Birthday Party

May God be gracious to us and bless us and may God’s face shine on us. Ps 67

Last night was my father-in-law, Arlie’s, 85th birthday. We usually celebrate by going out for dinner with the immediate family. However, this year we decided to do something a little special. The larger family gathered at his apartment complex for a surprise party with homemade ice cream and pie.

The party was a genuine surprise. His face glowed in a radical display of German Mennonite emotion. For those not familiar with this group, they are quite possibly the least expressive people on the face of the earth. This morning, while reading Psalm 67, I thought of Arlie and his journey through life.

Born in Wolf Point, Montana during the Depression, Arlie was either the 13th of 14 or the 14th of 15 children, I always get it confused. As a child, he was forced to wear hand-me-down clothing from his sisters and put cardboard in his shoes to protect his feet from snow. When he graduated from high school, he had to join the army to be able to afford college. Eventually, he became a dentist and provided a wonderful life for his own family.

He is a loving, gracious and appreciative human being. However, don’t put his story of poverty on a pedestal. Arlie will be the first to tell you, the good old days were not so good. Given the choice, he would prefer his daughters never experience the world of his mother. He would also prefer his grandchildren never endure the challenges of his older brothers. Arlie prefers a world where his great grandchildren don’t need to wear hand-me-down clothes and put cardboard in their shoes. Most of all, he wants others to have the opportunities he never had.

It is easy to forget the blessings of each day and time. Thinking the past was greater than the present is amnesia not gratitude. Each day has challenges, threats, opportunities and an abundance of blessings. Be gracious in the midst of it all. Give thanks and help others to be able to give thanks as well. Then we’ll all see the yield of the harvest and sing God’s praises.

Click to read: Psalm 67

Reflection Questions: What leads you to lose sight of the blessings in your life? What were the benefits and challenges of your youth? What is better about our current culture than previous cultures? How do you give thanks? How do you help others discover a reason for thankfulness?

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