Stories – 4th Installment

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 the prison boys liked them so much, I thought you may like to see some of them.  So, here is a fourth group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

The File Room

17 year old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for class. The subject was what Heaven was like. “I really wowe’d em,” he later told his father, Bruce. “It’s a killer. It’s the bomb. It’s the best thing I ever wrote.” It was also the last.

Brian’s parents had forgotten about the essay when a cousin found it while cleaning the teenager’s locker out at Teays Valley High School in Pickaway County. Brian had been dead only a few short days, but his parents desperately wanted every piece of his life near them, notes from classmates and teachers, his homework. Only two months before, he had written the essay about encountering Jesus in a file room full of cards detailing every moment of the teen’s life. But it was only after Brian’s death that Beth and Bruce Moore realized that their son had described his view of Heaven. “It makes such an impact that people want to share it. You feel like you are there”. Mr. Moore said.

Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend’s house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.

The Moore’s framed a copy of Brian’s essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. “I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it,”  Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son’s vision of life after death. “I’m happy for Brian. I know that he’s in Heaven. I know I’ll see him.”

Brian’s Essay: The File Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the one’s in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “GIRLS I HAVE LIKED”. I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was .

This lifeless room with it’s small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, both big and small, in detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their contents. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “FRIENDS” was next to one marked “FRIENDS I HAVE BETRAYED.” The title ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “BOOKS I HAVE READ”, “LIES I HAVE TOLD”, COMFORT I HAVE GIVEN”, “JOKES I HAVE LAUGHED AT“. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “THINGS I’VE YELLED AT MY BROTHERS“. Others I couldn’t laugh at: “THINGS I HAVE DONE IN ANGER”, “THINGS I HAVE MUTTERED UNDER MY BREATH AT MY PARENTS“.  I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes there were fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life that I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 17 years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each card signed with my own signature,

When I pulled out the file marked “TV SHOWS THAT I HAVE WATCHED”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, ashamed, not so much by the quality of the shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented and the wasted time that it represented. When I came to a file marked “LUSTFUL THOUGHTS“, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test it’s size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them! In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. It’s size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I couldn’t dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it up! Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to it’s slot. Leaning my forehead against a wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh!.

And then I saw it!  The title “PEOPLE I HAVE SHARED THE GOSPEL WITH“. The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on it’s handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook me throughout! I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The row of file shelves swirled in my tear filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key!

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but JESUS. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arms around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me, Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file, and one by one, began to sign His name over mine! “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, No!” as I pulled the card from him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red, so rich, so dark and so very alive! The name of JESUS covered mine. It was written with His blood, He gently took the card back, He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand whether He did it so quickly or time just stood still, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side, He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”   

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on the door. Then I waked up and realized………There were still cards to be written, for I’m only 17.    

So, you still have time that Brian didn’t.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever, believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Old Carl

Carl was a quiet man.

He didn’t talk much.  He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake.  Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.

Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning.  The sight of him walking down the street often worried us.  He had a limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.

Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, he may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug activity.

When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the church gardens behind the church buildings, he responded in his characteristically un-assuming manner.

Without fanfare, he just signed up.  He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened.

He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him.  Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the hose?”

The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure”, with a wicked little smile.

As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down.  As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.

Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg.  He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him.  Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it.

“Carl, are you okay?  Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.  Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head.

“Just some punk kids.  I hope they’ll wise-up someday.”

His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose.  He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water.  Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?  “I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm reply.

Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel.  Carl was a man from a different time and place.

A few weeks later the three returned.  Just as before their threat was unchallenged.  Carl again offered them a drink from his hose.  This time they didn’t rob him.

They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water.  When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done.  Carl just watched them.

Then he turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose, and went on with his watering.  The summer was quickly fading into fall.  Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him.  He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches.  As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him.

He braced himself for the expected attack. “Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.”

The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl.  As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl.

“What’s this?” Carl asked.

“It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back.  Even the money in your wallet.”

“I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”

The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease.  “I learned something from you,” he said.  “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you.  We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it.  But every time we came and did something to you instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink.  You didn’t hate us for hating you.  You kept showing love against our hate.”

He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep right after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.”

He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say.  “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.”

And with that, he walked off down the street.  Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it.  He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist.  Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo.  He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.

He died one cold day after Christmas that winter.  Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather.  In particular the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church.

The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life, and how much Carl reflected Jesus‘ spirit and how Jesus would have us to live.  In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can.  We will never forget Carl and his garden.”

The following spring another flyer went up. It read: “Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.”

The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door.

Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flyer.

“I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said.

The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl. He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around.

As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”

The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.

In that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community.  But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.

One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.

“Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful!  What’s the baby’s name?”

“Carl,” he replied.

The Duck & the Devil:

There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods; but he could never hit the target.

Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it. He was shocked and grieved!

In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile; only to see his sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen..”

Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally just smiled and said, “Well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.” She whispered again, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s; he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Thought for the day and every day thereafter:  Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done… the devil keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, cheating, debt, fear, bad habits, hatred anger, bitterness, etc.)…whatever it is…You need to know that God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He has seen your whole life. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven if you have accepted Him.

He’s just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you.

The great thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness; He not only forgives you, but He forgets. It is by God’s grace and mercy that we are saved.

DID GOD CREATE EVIL

At a certain university in the Northeast, there was a professor with a reputation for being tough on Christians. At the first class every semester, he asked if anyone was a Christian and proceeded to degrade and mock their statement of faith.
 

One semester, he asked the question and a young man raised his hand when asked if anyone was a Christian.

The professor asked, “Did God make everything, young man?”
 

“Yes he did, sir,” the young man replied.
 

The professor responded, “If God made everything, then God made evil, and if we can only create from within ourselves, then God is evil.”

The student didn’t have a response and the professor was happy to have once again proved the Christian faith to be a myth.

Then another student raised his hand and asked, “May I ask you something, sir?”
 

“Yes you may,” responded the professor.
 

The young man stood up and said “Sir, is there such a thing as cold?”
 

“Of course there is, what kind of a question is that?  Haven’t you ever been cold?”
 

The young man replied, “Actually, sir, cold does not exist. What we consider to be cold, is really only the absence of heat. Absolute zero is when there is absolutely no heat, but cold does not really exist.  We have only created that term to describe how we feel when heat is not there.”

The young man continued, “Sir, is there such thing as dark?”
 

Once again, the professor responded, “Of course there is.”
 

And once again, the student replied “Actually, sir, darkness does not exist. Darkness is really only the absence of light.  Darkness is only a term man developed to describe what happens when there is no light present.

” Finally, the young man asked, “Sir, is there such thing as evil?”
 

The professor responded, “Of course.  We have rapes, and murders and violence everywhere in the world, those things are evil.”   The student replied, “Actually, sir, evil does not exist.  Evil is simply the absence of God.  Evil is a term man developed to describe the absence of God.  God did not create evil.  It isn’t like truth, or love, which exist as virtues like heat and light.  Evil is simply the state where God is not present, like cold without heat or darkness without light.”

 The professor had nothing to say.

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