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 14th group of them for you. And you are welcome to share them with others.
God Still Answers
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 to 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 past 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 I will.”
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 them 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 a t-shirt. He looked like he had just gotten out of bed. He had a strange look on his face, and he didn’t seem too happy to have a 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 the hallway, 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 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 milk. Are you an Angel?”
The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put it in the man’s hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face.
He knew now that God still answers prayers!
“Stop telling God how big your storm is. Instead, tell the storm how big your God is!”
God answers but usually it is through an obedient servant.
We must realize that often the servant is sent to us to answer our prayers, but more often, ……we are the servant that is sent.
When I was very young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well, the polished old case fastened to the wall and the shiny receiver on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone but used to listen with fascination when my mother would talk to it.
Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person and her name was “Information Please” and there was nothing she did not know. “Information Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.
My first personal experience with this genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give me sympathy.
I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and held it to my ear.
“Information Please,” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.
“I hurt my finger,” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question. “Nobody’s home but me,” I blubbered. “Are you bleeding?” the voice asked. “No,” I replied. “I hit my finger with a hammer and it hurts.”
“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.
After that, I called “Information Please” for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me that my pet chipmunk, which I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.
Then there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called “Information Please” and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual thing grown- ups say to soothe a child. But, I was inconsolable.
I asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?” She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “You must remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow, I felt better.
Another day I was on the telephone. “Information Please. “Information,” said the now familiar voice. “How do you spell fix?” I asked.
All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. “Information Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home and some-how I never thought of trying the tall, new shiny phone that sat on the table in the hall.
As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often in moments of doubt and perplexity, I would recall the serene sense of security I had then.
I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.
A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half-an-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister who lived there now. Then, without thinking about what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.”
Miraculously, I heard the small clear voice I knew so well. “Information.” I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”
There was a long pause.
Then came the soft-spoken answer, “I guess your finger must be healed by now.” I laughed, “So it’s really still you,” I said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?”
“I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls.” I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.
“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”
Three months later, I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” I asked for Sally.
“Are you a friend?” she said.
“Yes, a very old friend,” I answered.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally had been working part time in the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”
Before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Are you Paul?”
“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called when she was too sick to work. Let me read it to you.” The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”
I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant. Never underestimate the impression you make on others and the influence you may have with them.
Just Float……A True Story
It was spring in South Africa and I was working in my garden.
I noticed that a little dove had fallen from its nest and into our swimming pool. The bird was still alive, but only just.
It had been in the pool a long time. Its feet were stiff from the cold and its little neck just hung limp. I took it out of the pool not really knowing what to do.
Instinct jumped in. I wrapped the bird in a towel and blew softly into the towel to warm it up. A couple of hours later, the little bird made a full recovery.
As I was sitting and looking at this bird, I realized that when I found it in the pool, it was just floating. Had the little bird spluttered and flapped, it would have tired itself out. Its feathers would have become completely water-logged and it would have drowned. Instead, it just floated.
The lesson I learned is this: When I am in a situation that I can not handle, I too should “float” instead of flapping and splashing around, making my situation even worse for myself and all around me…..leading to anger. I should “float” in the arms of the Everlasting Father who always will carry me and rescue me. Through His Son, He promised me this……and He can not lie.
A Little Ice Cream (This Really Happened)
Last week I took my children to a restaurant.
My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace.
As we bowed our heads he said, “God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!”
Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!”
Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?” As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.”
“Really?” my son asked.
“Cross my heart,” the man replied. Then in a theatrical whisper he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), “too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”
Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal.
My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life.
He picked up his sundae and without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman.
With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already.”
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