During my first pastorate in northeastern Minnesota, I befriended an older parishioner, Howard Ballou, a dairy farmer with huge hands and soft eyes. Throughout his long life (91 years), Howard suffered many losses: the death of his 10-year-old son, the sale of the family-run dairy farm (and his precious Guernsey cows), and the death of his wife and lifelong sweetheart, Chloe. Toward the end of his life, after the reconstruction of both knees, Howard struggled and ached. The once strong dairyman who worked 14-hour days now clung to his aluminum walker with each painful step. At times, his body and his spirit shook with sadness.
But until his last breath, one thing Howard never lost: his almost childlike sense of wonder.
When I visited Howard six months before his death, he had a Bible (open to Leviticus 13) and a TV Guide perched on his lap.
"Howard," I asked, "what are you doing with Leviticus and TV Guide?" Howard chuckled and said, "God is so amazing. I'm reading my Bible from cover to ...1