For the last 20 years I have presented the Gospel to each new youth at the highly secure prison for the kids ages 13 to 19 at Gainesville, Texas.  It is the first time that most any of them have stopped “running on the streets”and had the time to think about their life.  Most every one made a decision to make God part of their life.  After our hour+ together I would write each one a letter.  As a result I corresponded more with many of them.  And in each letter I would enclose a group of short stories or poems.  They really liked them, especially those with an emotional message. You probably would not believe how many locked-up prison boys have loved theses little stories, and read them over and over.

In my soon to be published book I enclosed a long list of those short stories in the Appendix.  Since they liked them so much, I thought you may like to see some of them.  So, here is a small group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

                                                                             The Dime

Bobby was getting cold sitting out in his back yard in the snow. Bobby didn’t wear boots; he didn’t like them and anyway he didn’t own any.  The thin sneakers he wore had a few holes in them and they did a poor job of keeping out the cold. Bobby had been in his backyard for about an hour already. And, try as he might, he could not come up with an idea for his mother’s Christmas gift. He shook his head as he thought, “This is useless, even if I do come up with an idea, I don’t have any money to spend.”

Ever since his father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. It wasn’t because his mother didn’t care, or try, there just never seemed to be enough. She worked nights at the hospital, but the small wage that she was earning could only be stretched so far. What the family lacked in money and material things, they more than made up for in love and family unity. Bobby had two older and one younger sister, who ran the home in their mother’s absence. All three of his sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother. Somehow it just wasn’t fair. Here it was Christmas Eve already, and he had nothing. 

Wiping a tear from his eye, Bobby kicked the snow and started to walk down to the street where the shops and stores were. It wasn’t easy being six without a father, especially when he needed a man to talk to. Bobby walked from shop to shop, looking into each decorated window.  Everything seemed so beautiful and so out of reach.  It was starting to get dark and Bobby reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun’s rays reflecting off of something along the curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime.  Never before has anyone felt so wealthy as Bobby felt at that moment.

As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when the sales person told him that he couldn’t buy anything with only a dime.  He saw a flower shop and went inside to wait in line. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother’s Christmas gift. The shop owner looked at the poor, shabby little boy and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby’s shoulder and said to him, “You just wait here and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

As Bobby waited he looked at the beautiful flowers and even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers. The sound of the door closing as the last customer left, jolted Bobby back to reality. All alone in the shop, Bobby began to feel alone and afraid.

Suddenly the shop owner came out and moved to the counter. There, before Bobby’s eyes, lay twelve long stem, red roses, with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. Bobby’s heart sank as the owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box.  “That will be ten cents young man.” the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime.

Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this true?  No one else would give him such a treasure for his dime!

Sensing the boy’s reluctance, the shop owner added, “I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?”

This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, “Merry Christmas, son.”

As he returned inside, the shop keeper’s wife walked out. “Who were you talking to out there and where are the roses you were fixing?”  Staring out the window, and blinking the tears from his own eyes, he replied:  “A strange thing happened to me this morning.  While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn’t sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway.  Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with one small dime.

“When I looked at him, I saw myself, many years ago.  I too, was a poor boy with nothing to buy my mother a Christmas gift.  A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars.

“When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew who that voice was, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses.” The shop owner and his wife hugged each other tightly, and as they stepped out into the bitter cold air, they somehow didn’t feel cold at all.

Whether it is at Christmas or at any other time, Jesus is always there to feel with us and guide us to our highest thoughts and goals and motivations.  Though he really hates sin and wants no part of it, he will forgive us if we are really sorry and really want to repent and have things wiped “snow white” clean again.  This is possible through Jesus shed blood for those who have been born again and those who wish to be born again.

                                               Is Your Hut Burning?

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect Him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. Then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky.  The worst had happened; everything was lost.  He was stunned with grief and anger.  “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island.  It had come to rescue him.  “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers.  “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground….it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

                                                                        THE SON

Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted  young son, shared a passion for art collecting.  Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection.  Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.

The widowed elder man looked on with satisfaction, as his only child became an experienced art collector.  The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art dealers around the world.

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short months, his father received a telegram.  His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again.

Within days, his fears were confirmed.  The young man had been killed while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.

Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Easter holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer.  On Easter morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man.

As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.  As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand.  He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments?   I have something to show you.”

As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his father’s love of fine art.  “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, ” and I want to give you this.”   As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son.  Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail.  Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace.  A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task.

True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of other paintings.  And then the old man sat in his chair and spent Easter gazing at the gift he had been given.  During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched.  He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.

As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief.  The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world wanted so much. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in high anticipation.

With the collector’s passing, and his only son dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction.  According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Easter day, the day he had received his greatest gift.

The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings.  Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim “I have a piece of the greatest collection.”  The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list.  It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid.  The room was silent.  “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked.  Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting?  It’s just a picture of his son.”

Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”   More voices echoed in agreement.  “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer.”

“Now, who will take the son?”  Finally, a friend of the old man spoke.

“Will you take ten dollars for the painting?  That’s all I have.  I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”  “I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer.  After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.”  The  gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed,  “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”   The auctioneer looked out over the audience and announced…….“the auction is over“.

Stunned disbelief quieted the room.  Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son.  What about all of these paintings?  There are millions of dollars of art here!  I demand that you explain what’s going on here?”  The auctioneer replied,  “It’s very simple.  According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son . . . gets it all!”

Just as those art collectors discovered on that Easter day, the message is still the same……the love of a Father……a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, Jesus, who went away and gave his life rescuing others.  And because of that Father’s love…whoever takes the Son gets it all.

Have you taken Him into your heart yet?

                                                                     The Carpenter

An old carpenter was ready to retire. He was now 68 years old.  He was a master carpenter. He had been very valuable to his home building company.  All of their customers wanted him to be in charge of building their house.  He did such superior work.  He always used the very best materials.  He required #1 grade lumber in his houses.  Never #2 or #3.  However, his friends were going fishing in Alaska and he wanted to go with them.

He went in to see the boss.  He said nothing about the fishing trip, only that he was ready to retire.  The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go, but said that he certainly understood.

The contractor said that the carpenter could certainly retire…..he had his Social Security and he had plenty of  money in his pension plan to do so.  However, the contractor asked the carpenter to do just one more thing before leaving……….to build just one more house.  He did not want to build one more house.  He wanted to go on the fishing trip.  Yet, because of his long career there, he had to do it.

The carpenter never could explain why he did what he did.  He cut all of the corners building that house.  Their supplier was out of #1 grade lumber when the carpenter was anxious to start, so he used the #3 grade which would surely warp later.  He did not wait to stabilize the soil under the cement slab, so it would surely crack open later.  He just rushed it through in a sloppy manner he had never done before.

The carpenter finished his work and the boss came to inspect the house.  If he saw something wrong, he did not say anything.  The contractor boss just dropped the keys to the house in the Carpenter’s hand.  “This is your house“, he said, “my gift to you for all your years of faithful service……..a $300,000 house!”

What a shock!  What a shame!  If he had only known that he was building his own house, he would have done it all so very differently. He above anyone knew of all of the problems with the house.  Now he would be living the rest of his life in that house he had built none too well.

So it is with you. You are still a young man.  You are still building your house (your body, your mind, your soul, your spirit, your character).  You can build it anyway that you wish!  Later with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we must now live in the house we have built.  If we had just realized that, we would have done it differently. Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house.  Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall.  Build wisely.  Use superior workmanship.  It is the only life and body you will ever build.  You will live in it for the rest of your life.  You can screw it up with drugs or alcohol or pornography or bad women, but it is the only “house” that you will ever have.  Even if you live in it for only one day more, that day deserves superior workmanship. 

How could one say it more clearly? Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. 

Your life in the future will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today!

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