Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.
It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted so bad that year for Christmas.
We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores.
Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see.. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up the big sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy.
When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me."
The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on. When we had exchanged the sideboards Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing?
Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?"
You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "why?"
"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him.
We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."
We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us. It shouldn't have been our concern.
We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"
"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?" Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.
"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children---sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out. "We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said, then he turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring enough in to last for awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up."
I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and, much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks and so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy filled my soul that I'd never known before. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.
I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord himself has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."
In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it. Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.
Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their pa, and I was glad that I still had mine. At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two older brothers and two older sisters were all married and had moved away.
Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."
Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. So, Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."
I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Just then the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of theJensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.
May each of you be blessed with all the joys of the High Holiday!
author unknown, submitted by Rick Kuhn
Twenty-seven years ago I was a young, pubescent staff sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in Korea.
In our Staff NCO tent lived a collection of characters. There was "EIias," the German. There was "Smock," who fancied himself an intellectual and who stayed busy counting his last 10 days in Korea. There was "Cowlick," who was bitter at the world after an unhappy marriage and three wayward kids.
There was "Geoffrey." Geff and I constituted what Elias called the "Children's Corner" of the tent. We were both young, and looked it, and had to suffer the verbal abuse of the senior citizens of our tent.
Geff had befriended an old Korean man who worked at the mess tents as a pot-wholloper. Geff announced on Christmas Eve morning that the old man wanted to visit our tent that afternoon to wish us a Merry Christmas. Cowlick looked at Geff, sneered, lit a cigarette and left the tent. EIias asked, "Vat duz dat kook vant?" I was indifferent. Smock was busy staring at his calendar.
We were all in the tent that afternoon at about three when Geff ushered in the old man and his family. His family consisted of his daughter and her three children. One of the small ones was obviously blind. One had only one leg. The third appeared to be a perfectly healthy little girl of about four years.
Geff had told me earlier that the old man lost his wife to the war. He had moved in with his daughter and her family. Her husband had long since been killed while serving in the Korean Army. An enemy artillery round had landed close to the house during the initial invasion of South Korea, and had blinded the boy and amputated his sister's leg.
The old man, who spoke fairly good English, told us his family wanted to come by and give their Christmas greetings to the "Marines who fight for Korea." He then said something in the native tongue to his flock, and they lined up and began singing in Korean.
I've never heard a more beautiful "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World."
The thing which fascinated me about this little group was the perpetual smiles. Each of them smiled genuinely and continuously.
After the singing, they presented each of us with a small gift, handmade, and obviously made with a labor of love for people they hardly knew.
I looked at Cowlick. His disinterest had turned to a confused look of bewilderment. Smock had put his calendar aside and sat on his rack looking at the kids. Elias was smiling back at the little one-legged girl. Geff was in his Christian glory. I felt a kind of heavy heart, but bouyant spirits, if that makes any sense.
Elias excused himself and left the tent. He returned shortly with some stolen baked goods from the mess tent. We broke out some carefully guarded cokes and liquor.
We then had a small "tea" with the Korean family, mixing hot chocolate for the kids which they drank from our huge, metal canteen cups.
Cowlick motioned the little girl with one leg over to his packing crate chair. She hobbled over on her crutches, and he lifted her to his lap. The old man smiled wider.
The little blind boy sat on Elias' lap. Elias attempted to give the kid several dollars in our "script" money, but the old man firmly, but politely intervened and would not permit it. He then took one of his dogtags off his necklace and gave it to the boy. The old man nodded his approval.
Smock dug around and came up with a brand new winter watchcap which he gave to the smallest girl.
I thought for a moment and then reached into my rolled-up sleeping bag and withdrew my treasured bottle of bourbon. I handed it to the old man who smiled, placed his hands as a guard in front of him and shook his head. I insisted, and he finally accepted.
Geff gave the young mother a gift he had obviously purchased for her: A new kettle.
We all sat and stood there in awkward silence. Cowlick was the first to speak. In his gruff, but somehow now gentle voice, he said, "The Staff NCO choir will now sing for you." Then to us, "Gather around, you clowns."
We sang the English version of "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World." Most of the words were wrong, but the Koreans never noticed. They were smiling now more brightly than ever.
It was time for them to go. Geff escorted them to the main gate where they started their five-mile trek back to their bombed-out, patched-up house.
Christmas had worked its never failing magic on us. We sat around in silence for a while. Cowlick spoke up: "Elias, if you ever catch me feeling sorry for myself again, I want you to kick me right square in the ass."
Your friend, Gene
found on the web at http://coyote.csusm.edu/public/netnav/semper_fi/book7.htm
For years now whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally's performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well-liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any other game, for that matter, in which winning was important.
Most often they'd find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway; not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. If the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who'd say, "Can't they stay? They're no bother."
Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's yearly extravaganza of crooks and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure that he didn't wander onstage before his cue.
Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the Innkeeper was there, waiting.
"What do you want?" Wally said, swinging the door open with a
"We seek lodging."
"Seek it elsewhere." Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. "The inn is filled."
"Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary."
"There is no room in the inn for you." Wally looked properly stern.
"Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired."
Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.
"No! Begone!" the prompter whispered from the wings.
"No!" Wally repeated automatically. "Begone!"
Joseph sadly place his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.
And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all the others.
"Don't go, Joseph," Wally cried out. "Bring Mary back." And Wallace Purling's face grew into a bright smile. "You can have MY room."
Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others - many, many others - who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.
Copyright © Dina Donohue
All Rights Reserved
from Coffee in the Rain
Christmas has always had a special place in my heart. I am transported back to days when I couldn't sleep at night just waiting for the dawn. I can hear the carols, remember the snow, and feeling of good will. One of my favorite parts of Christmas has always been trimming the tree. It's little surprise to most people who know me, but obsession might be a good word for the way I "do things".
Our carefree daughter, Leigh Anne, is certainly not obsessive, but she does like to help with the tree. Last night, I asked her, "Do you know why am I putting these old, dull, kinda ugly, ornaments on first?"
"No, I don't know, Daddy."
"These are the last things I have of my grandmother's. They help me remember her."
Leigh Anne then said, "So, these ornaments are just pretty on the inside." And tears filled my eyes.
There I stood holding "treasures" in my hands that few would even recognize, and was standing next to a newer, and much more precious treasure. One in blonde hair. That night, God had already given me my greatest gifts for the Christmas. Now, I have to start looking for the hidden treasures God is waiting to give me....in the disguises He loves to wrap them in.....in people..... just like He did in a stable so long ago. Wanna join me?
Copyright © 2000 Richard L. Kuhn, Jr. used with permission.
I hope you don't mind if I include the following message. It is from my "big brother" Ken Dobson who is a Presbyterian minister working in Thailand.
He sends a similar message each year about this time and I just felt led to share this one with you all.
As we here in the US scramble around trying to fill
Christmas gift lists and find places to park, it's nice to
stop and pause for a moment to read how God
is working up close and personal in another part of the world.
There aren't any metal trees or flashing lights or battery powered santa's singing "grandma got run over" in these stories but they are surely what Christmas is all about!
Louisville Kentucky, good ole USA
exactly 1/2 way around the world (12 time zones) from Thailand
From: Kenneth and Michal Dobson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Feel in the air a wind, a wind!
More than a breeze
That blows my hair,
This is a gust of holy breath
Blowing away the clouds of death.
See in the sky a star, a star!
That seems to fly
From some remote celestial room,
Piercing my heart's thick shades of gloom.
Hear in the night a song, a song!
Sung to my soul.
Subdue my fright,
Angel Divine. I hear you sing,
"Glory to God! The Christ is King."
A sultry breeze was all the relief the Andaman Sea had to offer from the scorching sun. But there was more than heat in the air, there was also excitement that comes from a bold new venture for God. After a year of incubation a full-blown mission to the Sea Gypsies was being born on Lanta Island. Even more thrilling, the mission was a response to the intervention of the Holy Spirit. This was not the first attempt to bring the Gospel to the elusive Sea Gypsies. Missionaries David and Doreen Hogan from New Zealand began working with the Urak Lawoi (Sea Gypsy) people in 1967 and saw the New Testament published just after their retirement in 1998. They left behind a small Christian community of Sea Gypsies on Phuket Island, but the sea people were too involved in the struggle for survival to begin a missionary enterprise of their own. But the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills. A year and a half ago a group of Thai Christians from the southern Thai city of Trang were having a spiritual life retreat on Lanta Island, and the spirit said to "spread out two by two and find a ministry." Little did anyone suspect what would come of this exercise. By nightfall the first Lanta island Sea Gypsies were hearing the Gospel. Within weeks their relatives were becoming believers and witnessing miracles of healing and Divine help. This year land was dedicated for a Christian center on Lanta island. And last month the Church of Christ's district coordinator for Trang committed himself to becoming the first Thai missionary to the Sea Gypsies. He has given up his paying job to live by faith and plant Sea Gypsy churches.
Far from the city lights the stars shine brighter. They were brilliant on the night of the November full moon two weeks ago, the night of Loy Kratong in Thailand. In the city of Nan, tucked away in the north where the west-side crescent of Laos casts its shadow over the Lao people of Thailand, crowds were gathering by the riverbank to float their candles down the river to appease Mother Nature for their desecration of her realm. But in the village of Ban Soam (the "village of oranges") where a majority were Christians there was a more somber festival. The spiritual grandmother of many of the young Christians had died and there were three nights of memorial services before her funeral. Her death was still another blow to the young people. Of this Buu knew little. It was Buu's first night in Ban Soam, and his first glimpse at the congregation he had felt God might be inviting him to lead. For two years the young people of the church had been praying for a pastor to come to turn the lights back on in the parish house, inviting the village in for games and singing again, to restore the vigor and fun of being a Christian. For two years the elders had been divided and unwilling to take the risk. But they had at last "set a candle in the window", so to speak, inviting Buu to visit. Buu is a southern boy and was about as far from home as it is possible to be in Thailand, but something wonderful was taking place on that star-bright night. It was as if he had been born there. Though he is only 22 he was being received as an elder. And though he was called Acharn ("professor") he was treated like a brother by all the young people in the church. His trial sermon was thrilling to behold, people spilling out of the packed house onto the yard and squatting under the windows to hear. A week later the kids' prayers were answered. The congregation which had been split for years over calling a pastor voted 94 to 2 to invite Buu to come back to share their oranges, sticky rice and spicy pork. He will go, of course. Before he had spent the first night under the stars there God had told him to say, "Yes."
They die. What the ethnic Christians of Burma do most is die. Burma is a tragic and terrible place to try to live, these last fifty years. And the specter of violence also hangs over the tribal Christians on the Thai side of the river. This year two of the seniors graduating from the Bangkok Institute of Theology are Lahu fellows. Their heritage is in Burma. Josiah escaped from there, eluding slaughters that took all his family but him. He wants to go back, but first he has another call to answer. He has been invited to teach at the Lahu Bible Center in Chiang Mai. But what about Adul? Where will he serve God. He is an exile from his own clan. "My village," he told his classmates, "has spilled out of hell. They are all Christians! But there is not a person left alive there who is not addicted to drugs. Every young person is a dealer. They sell in order to buy. If they fall behind in their payments to the 'godfather' they are taken out into the forest and tortured." Some will never walk again. Many simply vanish. "All the men save up for machine guns [and other military hardware], getting ready for the battle to come." Adul choked as he tried to tell about his visit to his family. They warned him to get out of there and never try to come back. "If I go back I will be murdered. They will not allow anyone to preach there" to undermine the drug culture. And everywhere there is the pall of random evil. "You can never guess," Adul whispered, "when the 'influence' of the drugs will overwhelm someone you meet on the path and he will stab you. My home village is straight out of hell." -- Neither of the two seminarians can go back home yet. Both of them are ready to pay the full price to witness to the Christ when the time is right. But death still bars the way. However, on the last Sunday morning in October Adul and Josiah joined two other Lahu men to sing of the sovereignty of Jesus. They may be of a people who are haunted by death, but they are of a larger tribe that knows the hymns of heaven.
Christmas greetings to all of you. I leave Chiang Mai for Illinois on
December 14. I hope to see many of you during the three months before the
end of March. As far as my last term of service before retirement is
concerned I'm still waiting to hear from Louisville
(Presbyterian church USA) and the Lord about
that. I hope to continue to be a pastor to pastors and seminarians with
the Pastoral and Theological Education Unit of the CCT as I have since
1995. But if that doesn't work out the Royal Christian University in
Nakorn Pathom wants me to direct international programs there.
We should be hearing soon.
Contact me at: email@example.com
In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was two.
Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds. He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either.
If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress. I loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.
The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whomever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job. Still no luck.
The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel. An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour and I could start that night.
I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal. That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel.
When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money-fully half of what I averaged every night. As the weeks went by, heating bills added another strain to my meager wage.
The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home. One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken up residence in Indiana? I wondered.
I made a deal with the owner of the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.
I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn't enough. Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys. Then I hid them in the basement so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boy's pants and soon they would be too far-gone to repair.
On Christmas Eve the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. These were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe. A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home before the sun came up.
When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on Christmas morning I hurried to the car. I was hoping the kids wouldn't wake up before I managed to get home and get the presents from the basement and place them under the tree. (We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by the dump.)
It was still dark and I couldn't see much, but there appeared to be some dark shadows in the car - or was that just a trick of the night? Something certainly looked different, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered warily into one of the side windows. Then my jaw dropped in amazement. My old battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver's side door, scrambled inside and kneeled in the front facing the back seat.
Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was a whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts to go with the pants. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes: There were candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was a whole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll.
As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning. Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.
I first saw "Boss" at the stable of Preacher Phillips. The "preacher" was a local pastor, used car salesman and horse dealer rolled into one. I really learned to like the old man, but always went with both eyes open. He told me about a new horse he had that I might be interested in. Mr. Phillips showed me a muscular, yet not overbuilt Quarter Horse - Appaloosa cross gelding 2 years old. He warned me he was not broken and that the horse was a "handful", and he felt too old to try and break him, as the horse was over 16 hands high (60 inches at the shoulders).
Mr. Phillips showed me the horse's papers and I was impressed. His sire was a Quarter Horse with a $10,000.00 stud fee. His grandsire was the famous "Go Man Go" a Quarter Horse racing legend. The horse moved powerfully, yet with an incredibly graceful gait. He was just what I could use for Fox Hunting or horse shows. His price - a paltry $400.00.
The one small drawback was this horse was big and VERY fearful. It seems "Bubba" somewhere was going to break this horse the good ol' fashioned way - by beating him into submission. The problem with this horse was his "blood" had a mostly Thoroughbred component and he didn't take to beating. It only made him more fearful, and as powerful as he was, more dangerous. When I approached the horse he naturally tensed up expecting the worst, after all he knew what being abused was all about.
We bought the horse and gradually earned his trust. In fact, "Boss" became my favorite horse. He learned to trust me, and I could feel how he tried to please me and how much he enjoyed being ridden.
In our lives and churches, we will also run across "Bosses". People who
have great pedigrees and wonderful potential, but who have been beaten
down in life or hurt in "church business", now even reluctant to let
anyone get close for fear of being hurt again.
Where is your "Boss" in life?
Are you willing to spend the time to break down the wall between you both and help them heal from the abuse? Or will you just give up afraid of being hurt yourself?
Maybe you have a bit of him yourself in some area that you have walled off from others, and even God.
Pray for those who are hurting and pray for yourself.
For until that fear is conquered, true "breaking" to the will of the Father can never come, just as Boss had to overcome his fear before he could be broken to ride.
And what a ride he was! And what a ride it will be!
Copyright © 2000 Richard L. Kuhn, Jr. used with permission.
A father was working in his den on that all-important take-home work when his two small children came in to ask him to play.
"Please, Daddy." they pleaded. "Please play with us." The father felt that he was just too busy, so he opened a magazine on his desk and tore out a picture of map of the world. He took scissors & cut the picture into many small pieces and gave the pieces to his children.
"Put this all back together like a puzzle and when you are finished, I will play with you." The children left the room. The father returned to his work, knowing that he would have plenty of uninterrupted time - he was sure it would take the children a long time to piece together the complicated picture.
In a few short minutes the children returned, the map put back together with all the pieces taped into their correct places.
The father was quite amazed. "How did you ever get the map put back together so quickly?" he asked.
"That was easy," replied the children. "On the back there is a picture of a man. When you put the man together right, the world comes out okay."
"Behold, children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward." - Psalms l27:3
- Author Unknown
He could hear the crowds screaming "crucify" "crucify"...
He could hear the hatred in their voices,
These were his chosen people. He loved them,
And they were going to crucify him.
He was beaten, bleeding and weakened...his heart was broken,
But still He walked.
He could see the crowd as he came from the palace.
He knew each of the faces so well. He had created them.
He knew every smile, laugh, and shed tear,
But now they were contorted with rage and anger...his heart broke,
But still He walked.
Was he scared? You and I would have been, so his humanness would
Have mandated that he was. He felt alone. His disciples
Had left, denied, and even betrayed him.
He searched the crowd for a loving face and he saw very few.
Then he turned his eyes to the only one that mattered
And he knew that he would never be alone.
He looked back at the crowd, at the people who were spitting
At him, throwing rocks at him and mocking him and he knew
That because of him, they would never be alone.
So for them, He walked.
The sounds of the hammer striking the spikes echoed through
The crowd. The sounds of his cries echoed even louder,
The cheers of the crowd, as his hands and feet
Were nailed to the cross, intensified with each blow.
Loudest of all was the still small voice inside his
Heart that whispered "I am with you my son",
And God's heart broke.
He had let his son walk.
Jesus could have asked God to end his suffering,
But instead he asked God to forgive, Not to forgive him,
But to forgive the ones who were persecuting him.
As he hung on that cross, dying an unimaginable death,
He looked out and saw, not only the faces in the crowd,
But also, the face of every person yet to be,
And his heart filled with love.
As his body was dying, his heart was alive. Alive with
The limitless, unconditional love he feels for each of us.
That is why He walked.
When I forget how much My God loves me,
I remember his walk.
When I wonder if I can be forgiven,
I remember his walk.
When I need reminded of how to live like Christ,
I think of his walk.
And to show him how much I love him,
I wake up each morning, turn my eyes to him,
And I walk.
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people.
His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved.
Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse,
Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood
Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?"
Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe
Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up."
Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room.
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?"
Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient."
With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long."
Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!"
Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital.
She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you."
Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day."
Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.
Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, "Do you know what day it is?" Phyllis Cross said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday." Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!"
Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and give her some Easter lilies and wish her a Happy Easter. When she walked into Edith's room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face.
When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith's hand, she realized Edith was dead.
Her left hand was on John 14: "In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Her right hand was on Revelation 21:4, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down here cheeks, said, "Happy Easter, Edith - Happy Easter!"
Phyllis Cross left Edith's body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She said, "My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"
Here is a brief story that came out of the "Priesthood of the Believer" talk. We were talking about how only God can see the beginning and the End. He is the captain that can see not only the far distant horizon but even knows and controls the wind while the servant in the engine room must merely obey the captian's calls.
Here is a personal story I wrote in poem after that talk.
"The Endless Story"
God turned us down for the mission field.
The church said we were not ready.
So moved, we did, to Oregon state
as God gave us school, house and job steady.
I felt so useless being there, managing apartments was my thing,
But God used me and encouraged me as I found kids who needed me to cling.
I led three to the Lord that week, three souls I had not counted on.
"But God I still want a mission field why not I, when others have gone???"
12 years later I look back now here in Louisville,
I work with International Exchange students a volunteer work that gives me a thrill.
Four years I have seen students, stay in Christian homes
Ten months of exposure, to the Lord they have never known.
In '97 my student, from Hong Kong, turned the Lord down,
But that's not the end of her story for the Lord turned her heart around.
A tiny seed was planted that grew and somehow matured.
Though my mission field is in my home, the Lord can use a heart that is pure.
Many have been touched from country abroad, and who knows the numbers untold,
I wish I could tell the church that turned us down--it doesn't matter you don't have to feel cold.
The Lord has used me in many ways foreign, here and abroad,
The Lord is in control of all and the end is known by none but GOD.
This story was told by Paul Harvey with acknowledgment to Rev. Harry Pritchett, Jr., rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
He was 9--in a Sunday school class of 8-year-olds.
Eight-year-olds can be cruel.
The third-graders did not welcome Philip to their group. Not just because he was older.
He was “different.”
He suffered from Down’s syndrome and its obvious manifestations:
facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of retardation.
One Sunday after Easter the Sunday school teacher gathered some of
those plastic eggs that pull apart in the middle--the kind in which some
ladies’ pantyhose are packaged.
The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child. On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of “new life” and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside his egg. They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of “new life.”
So... The youngsters gathered ‘round on the appointed day and put their
eggs on a table, and the teacher began to open them.
One child had found a flower.
All the children “oohed” and “aahed” at the lovely symbol of new life.
In another was a butterfly. “Beautiful,” the girls said. And it’s not easy for an 8-year-old to say “beautiful.”
Another egg was opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed.
“That’s crazy!” one said.
“How’s a rock supposed to be like a ‘new life’?”
Immediately a little boy spoke up and said, “That’s mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff, so I got a rock to be different.”
The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing inside.
“That’s not fair,” someone said.
“That’s stupid,” said another.
The teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Philip. Looking up he
“It’s mine. I did do it. It’s empty. I have new life because Jesus’ tomb is empty.”
The class fell silent.
From that day on Philip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again.
Philip’s family had known he would not live a long life; just too many things wrong with his tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection, Philip died.
On the day of his funeral nine 8-year-old boys and girls confronted
the reality of death and marched up to the altar--not with flowers.
Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love--and empty egg.
I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12,and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.
By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.
When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could.
For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.
That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.
We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.
As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.
Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.
We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.
That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed -- I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!
I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor.I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time.
Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.
Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.
Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.
When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church." Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."
We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!
I took a walk this weekend with my Lord
He looked different somehow
I actually didn't recognize him for some time
That is, until the breaking of the bread
Sounds rather like the story from the gospel of Luke
Where two men were walking to the town of Emmaus
Jesus came up and walked along with them
But, they didn't recognize him either
A group of us decided to take this walk together
Most of us looking like we had lost our best friend
Similar perhaps to those men walking to Emmaus
Who just a few days earlier had lost theirs
Over the course of our walk, we also were deep in conversation
Not about the events of the past few days
But about things like prevenient grace
Justifying grace, a Life in Piety and three legged stools
Growth through Study, Means of Grace, things like Christian Action
Obstacles to overcome and What makes a Disciple
Bringing Change into our world and Sanctifying grace
How the body perseveres and the concept of Fourth Days
Many actions, mostly unseen, were happening at the same time
Behind the scenes not unlike angels to the naked eye
Prayers were being offered, as we walked our walk together
Fellow travelers praising God, knowing, smiling, reminiscing
The floodgates of God's love were opened wide before us
And I became like the blind man who recovered his sight
In my brokeness my burdens were lifted from me and I was healed
And in that moment, I recognized him
He had walked with me from the beginning
He had sat around my table, and spoke to me from the podium
He served my breakfast, lunch and dinner
He held his candle high in the evening vigil
He taught us the songs we would sing for our supper
He kept the coffee and the snacks flowing
He was every fellow traveler who has ever taken this walk
He was Jesus, and I recognized him by his love
Out Of The Mouth's Of Babies-Things To Think About
As I was driving home from work one day, I stopped to watch a local Little League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home.
As I sat down behind the bench on the first-base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was.
"We're behind 14 to nothing," he answered with a smile.
"Really," I said. "I have to say you don't look very discouraged."
"Discouraged?" the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face.
"Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet."
Roles And How We Play Them
Whenever I'm disappointed with my spot in my life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott. Jamie was trying out for a part in a school play. His mother told me that he'd set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, I went with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement.
"Guess what Mom," he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me:
"I've been chosen to clap and cheer."
A Lesson In Heart
A lesson in "heart" is my little 10 year old daughter, Sarah,
who was born with a muscle missing in her foot and wears a brace all the time.
She came home one beautiful spring day to tell me she had competed in "field day". That's where they have lots of races and other competitive events. Because of her leg support, my mind raced as I tried to think of encouragement for my Sarah, things I could say to her about not letting this get her down, but before I could get a word out, she said
"Daddy, I won two of the races!"
I couldn't believe it! And then Sarah said,
"I had an advantage."
Ah. I knew it. I thought she must have been given a head start...some kind of physical advantage. But again, before I could say anything, she said,
"Daddy, I didn't get a head start... My advantage was I had to try harder!"
submitted by James R Hawkins (firstname.lastname@example.org)
About ten years ago, a young and very successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only two months old.
He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.
As his car passed, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and -- WHUMP! -- it smashed into the Jag's shiny black side door! SCREECH...!!!! Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted at the kid, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!!" Building up a head of steam, he went on. "That's my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?"
"Please, mister, please...I'm sorry! I didn't know what else to do!" pleaded the youngster. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop!"
Tears were dripping down the boy's chin as he pointed around the parked car.
"It's my brother, mister," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be ok. He then watched the younger brother push him down the sidewalk toward their home.
It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE -- a long and slow walk.
Now, Josh never did fix the side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention......
Some bricks are softer than others. Feel for the bricks of life coming at you.
(As told by Helen Roseveare, a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa)
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates.
"And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said,
"Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children.
"Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby'll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary,
"And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?"
As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the verandah, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas -- that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out -- yes! A brand-new, rubber hot water bottle! I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.
Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out,
"If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!" Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked,
"Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months! Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child -- five months before -- in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."
"Before they call, I will answer!" Isaiah 65:24
*Helen Roseveare, a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa, told this as it happened to her in Africa. She told it in her testimony on a Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church.
submitted by Jeff Rankin
The story of Valentine's Day begins in the third century with an oppressive
Roman emperor and a humble Christian martyr.
The emperor was Claudius II.
The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods and he had made it a crime punishable by death to assoicate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ and not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.
During the last weeks of Valentinus' life, a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth.
Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome's history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted in his wisdom and found comfort in his quiet strength.
"Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?" Julia asked one day.
"Yes, my child, He hears each one," he replied.
"Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you've told me about!"
"God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him," Valentinus said.
"Oh, Valentinus, I do believe," Julia said intensely. I do."
She knelt and grasped his hand. Then they prayed together.
Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia cried, "Valentinus, I can see! I can see!"
"Praise be to God!" Valentinus exclaimed.
On the eve of his death, Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God and he signed it "From your Valentine."
His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D. near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome.
It is said that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.
On each February 14, St. Valentine's Day, messages of affection, love and devotion are exchanged around the world..
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A young man had been to Wednesday night Bible Study. The Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice. The young man couldn't help but wonder,
"Does God still speak to people?" After service, he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways.
It was about ten o'clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he just began to pray,
"God.. If you still speak to people, speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey."
As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought, stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said out loud,
"God is that you?" He didn't get a reply and started on toward home. But again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk. The young man thought about Samuel and how he didn't recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli.
"Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk." It didn't seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home.
As he passed Seventh street, he again felt the urge,
"Turn down that street." This is crazy he thought and drove on pass the intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud,
"Okay, God, remember I don't know where I'm going." He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in a semi-commercial area of town. It wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed.
Again, he sensed something,
"Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street." The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat.
"Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid." Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door,
"Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something but if they don't answer right away, I am out of here." He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man's voice yelled out,
"Who is it? What do you want?" Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The man was standing there in his jeans and t-shirt. He looked like he just got out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn't seem to happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep.
"What is it?" The young man thrust out the gallon of milk,
"Here, I brought this to you." The man took the milk and rushed down a hall way speaking loudly in Spanish. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face. The man began speaking, speaking and half crying,
"We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk." His wife in the kitchen yelled out,
"I asked him to send an Angel with some.. Are you an Angel?"
The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man's hand. He turned and walked back towards his car and the tears were streaming down his face. He knew that God still answers prayers and that God still speaks to His people.
He was kind of scary. He sat there on the grass with his cardboard sign, his dog (actually his dog was adorable) and tattoos running up and down both arms and even on his neck. His sign proclaimed him to be "stuck and hungry" and to please help.
I'm a sucker for anyone needing help. My husband both hates and loves this quality in me.
I pulled the van over and in my rearview mirror, contemplated this man, tattoos and all. He was youngish, maybe forty. And he wore one of those bandannas tied over his head, biker/pirate style. Anyone could see he was dirty and had a scraggly beard. But if you looked closer, you could see that he had neatly tucked in the black T-shirt, and his things were in a small, tidy bundle. Nobody was stopping for him. I could see the other drivers take one look and immediately focus on something else - anything else.
It was so hot out. I could see in the man's very blue eyes how dejected and tired and worn-out he felt. The sweat was trickling down his face. As I sat with the air-conditioning blowing, the scripture suddenly popped into my head. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, so ye have done it unto me." I reached down into my purse and extracted a ten dollar bill. My twelve year old son, Nick, knew right away what I was doing.
"Can I take it to him, Mom?"
"Be careful, honey," I warned and handed him the money. I watched in the mirror as he rushed over to the man, and with a shy smile, handed it to him. I saw the man, startled, stand and take the money, putting it into his back pocket. "Good," I thought to myself, "now he will at least have a hot meal tonight." I felt satisfied, proud of myself. I had made a sacrifice and now I could go on with my errands.
When Nick got back into the car, he looked at me with sad, pleading eyes.
"Mom, his dog looks hot and the man is really nice." I knew I had to do more.
"Go back and tell him to stay there, that we will be back in fifteen minutes," I told Nick. He bounded out of the car and ran to tell the tattooed stranger.
We then ran to the nearest store and bought our gifts carefully. "It can't be too heavy," I explained to the children. "He has to be able to carry it around with him." We finally settled on our purchases. A bag of "OL' Roy" (I hoped it was good - it looked good enough for me to eat! How do they make dog food look that way?); a flavored chew toy shaped like a bone; a water dish, bacon flavored snacks (for the dog); two bottles of water (one for the dog, one for Mr. Tattoos); and some people snacks for the man.
We rushed back to the spot where we had left him. and there he was, still waiting. And still nobody else was stopping for him. With hands shaking, I grabbed our bags and climbed out of the car, all four of my children following me, each carrying gifts. As we walked up to him, I had a fleeting moment of fear, hoping he wasn't a serial killer.
I looked into his eyes and saw something that startled me and made me ashamed of my judgment. I saw tears. He was fighting like a little boy to hold back his tears. How long had it been since someone showed this man kindness? I told him I hoped it wasn't to heavy for him to carry and showed him what we had brought. He stood there, like a child at Christmas, and I felt like my small contributions were so inadequate. When I took out the water dish, he snatched it out of my hands as if it were solid gold and told me he had no way to give his dog water. He gingerly set it down, filled it with the bottled water we brought, and stood up to look directly into my eyes. His were so blue, so intense an my own filled with tears as he said,
"Ma'am, I don't know what to say." He then put both hands on his bandanna-clad head and just started to cry. This man, this "scary" man, was so gentle, so sweet, so humble.
I smiled through my tears and said, "Don't say anything." Then I noticed the tattoo on his neck. It said "Mama tried."
As we all piled into the van and drove away, he was on his knees, arms around his dog, kissing his nose and smiling. I waved cheerfully and then fully broke down in tears.
I have so much. My worries seem so trivial and petty now. I have a home, a loving husband, four beautiful children. I have a bed. I wondered where he would sleep tonight.
My step-daughter, Brandie, turned to me and said in the sweetest little-girl voice, "I feel so good."
Although it seemed as if we had helped him, the man with the tattoos gave us a gift that I will never forget. He taught that no matter what the outside looks like, inside each of us is a human being deserving of kindness, of compassion, of acceptance. He opened my heart
Tonight and every night I will pray for the gentle man with the tattoos and his dog. And I will hope that God will send more people like him into my life to remind me what's really important.
Copyright 1999 by Susan Fahncke
To see other stories written by Susan Fahncke, and other inspirational stories from authors around the world, please visit
A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it 'was too crowded'. "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribble in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school."
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do.
Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there!
A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a 57 cent payment.
Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00 - a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell, author of the book, "Acres of Diamonds."
- a true story.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his
- John 15:13
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradual dwindled down.
He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence....
Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The day passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there."
A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Friends are a very rare jewel indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us."
Please forgive me if I have ever left a hole in your fence!---author unknown
To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special "No Excuse Sunday":
Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, "Sunday is my only day to sleep in."
There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard.
Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night.
We will have steel helmets for those who say, "The roof would cave in if I ever came to church."
Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot.
Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.
Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can't go to church and cook dinner, too.
We will distribute "Stamp Out Stewardship" buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money.
One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature.
Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.
The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them.
We will provide hearing aids for those who can't hear the preacher and cotton balls for those who think he's too loud.
Hope to see you there!
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No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
When we see pain, we yearn. When we see hunger, we question why. Senseless deaths. Endless tears, needless loss. Where do they come from? Where will they lead?
We try to quiet this terrible tiny voice [and] we busy ourselves with the task of staying busy.
Unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven. By gracing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds our attention. The only tragedy, then, is to be satisfied prematurely. To settle for earth.
Take a fish and place him on the beach. Watch his gills gasp and scales dry. Is he happy? No! How do you make him happy? Do you cover him with a mountain of cash? Do you get him a beach chair and sunglasses? Do you bring him a Playfish magazine and martini?
Of course not. Then how do you make him happy? You put him back in his element. You put him back in the water. He will never be happy on the beach simply because he was not made for the beach.
And you will never be completely happy on earth simply because you were not made for earth. Oh, you will have . . . moments of joy. You will catch a glimpse of light. . . But they simply do not compare with the happiness that lies ahead.
"No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
What a breathtaking verse! Do you see what it says? Heaven is beyond our imagination. We cannot envision it. At our most creative moment, at our deepest thought, at our highest level, we still cannot fathom eternity.
Try this. Imagine a perfect world. Whatever that means to you, imagine it. Does that mean peace? Then envision absolute tranquillity. Does a perfect world imply joy? Then create your highest happiness. Will a perfect world have love? If so, ponder a place where love has no bounds. Whatever heaven means to you, imagine it. Get if firmly fixed in your mind. Delight in it. Dream about it. Long for it.
And then smile as the Father reminds you, "No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."
Anything you imagined is inadequate. Anything anyone imagines is inadequate. No one has come close. No one. Think about all the songs about heaven. All the artists' portrayals. All the lessons preached, poems written, and chapters drafted.
When it comes to heaven, we are all happy failures. It's beyond us.
. . . until then, be realistic. Lower your expectations of earth. This is not heaven, so don't expect it to be. There will never be a newscast without bad news. There will never be a church without gossip or competition. [Life on this earth will never] give you the all of the joy your heart craves. Only God can.
And God will.
by Max Lucado - "When God Whispers Your Name"
The Lord came to me like a dream one
day and asked, "why do you sorrow?"
I answered, "Lord my life is so full of pain, I can't face one more tomorrow."
The Lord sat down beside me, and gently took my hand.
He said, "Let me explain to you and then you'll understand.
Each sorrow is a stepping stone
you must surmount each day,
And every stepping stone you climb is a sorrow that's passed away.
The road of life is a mountainside,
with crevices in which to be caught,
But as you struggle on your way, I the Rock, will lend support.
Every stepping stone you climb,
makes spirit and heart grow strong.
Exercising character and faith this road seems painful and long.
The way is paved with stepping stones,
to uplift your heart and soul,
Though difficult they aid your way, to a City paved with gold.
I know that you are tired,
for I too have walked this way,
My sorrows did they multiply, but I cleared many stones away.
I left my rock to lift you up,
I left behind my story.
To give you strength to make your climb, to that special place in glory.
And never fear, the Rock is here,
You'll never climb this mountain alone
surmount life's sorrows, continue on, for they are but stepping stones.
submitted by Sarah Holt, Chrysalis #20
To break the monotony of holiday travel, we pulled off to visit a mall north of Atlanta. My kids looked forward to climbing the practice rock wall in the sporting goods store there. David, 10, quickly climbed up the wall like a monkey and hit the button at the top. That started a triumphal musical flourish playing as the attendants let you down by rope.
Then, Leigh Anne, 8 took her turn. She had tried climbing one of the
harder sections previously, looked down, got scared and gave up about
2/3's of the way up. This time, she would take the "easy" wall straight up
45 feet with the top even tilting a bit back toward you for added
difficulty. She had watched several kids climb it, and several kids
try.... and fail. She slowly started her ascent up the wall and carefully
pulled her way from spot to spot.
Her "loving" father shouted encouragement from below,
"Don't forget to use you legs, Leigh Anne! Look for the blue rock! Move your right foot now up to the green nob!"
About half way up the wall, Leigh Anne just stopped climbing. You could
sense the fear in her little body. She never did look down. I continued to
encourage her, and lastly, said,
"Leigh Anne, remember the rope has you. You can't fall down!"
A little while later, she started to climb the wall, again. Higher and higher she crept. Pushing with legs and pulling with tired arms, she climbed. Finally, she punched the red button and heard the music of success.
When she reached the bottom, she ran over and gave me a big hug.
"Thank you for cheering me, Daddy. I needed it. But when I stopped, I just needed time to pray and help me get past my fear."
In front of that synthetic rock wall, I had felt like I had been on holy ground and I had. How many times do we forget that God is holding our rope. WE CAN'T FALL DOWN! And yet, we stop, and want to give up, seeing how much more we have to do. Maybe, it would be wise to emulate the little blonde haired girl, and take time to regroup and listen to the heavenly Father cheer us on, and remind us, too, that with Him holding our rope, we can't fall, either. I can almost hear Him shouting, "GO! GO! GO!...."
Guess, it's time to start climbing, again.
written by "Richard L. Kuhn, Jr." (email@example.com)
I went on Central Alabama Emmaus Walk #16
"West Point, Georgia is home temporarily until we move to Auburn, AL"
used with permission