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 16th group of them for you. And you are welcome to share them with others.
A Christian farmer spent the day in the city.
In a restaurant for his meal, he sat near a group of young men.
After he bowed his head to give thanks for his food, one of the young men thought he would embarrass the old gentleman. “Hey, farmer, does everyone do that out where you live?”
The old man calmly replied, “No, son, the pigs don’t!”
It was a cool spring night. The daily run of sap had been collected and it was time to boil it. The wood fire under the cooker had been stoked and lit. The valve was opened and the sap began flowing down from the storage tank into the cooker. Soon the room was filled with steam and the aroma of sweet maple syrup. The fire was carefully tended and the boiling sap carefully monitored by the watchful of eye of the sugarer. The night would not be over until the day’s collection of sap is boiled down into the smooth, sweet, maple syrup.
When the first batch finished, I was handed a small cup of the hot maple syrup right from the cooker. I sipped it with great delight, savoring the warm sweet taste – it was delicious. On this night I had the privilege of experiencing “Sugaring” in Vermont. I learned a great deal about the art. I also had a life lesson reinforced in my heart.
The sugaring process was all very fascinating, but a couple things particularly caught my attention. Not all maple trees can be tapped. There is a particular type of maple tree that produces the sap that can be boiled into syrup. It must also be a mature tree. The age is usually determined by the trunk’s diameter. Though the sap is sweet, it is colorless and lacks real flavor. The color and character (taste) come only after the sap has been boiled to just the right temperature and consistency – until it has “gone through the fire.” I also learned that, it seems, the trees that have been injured give the sweetest sap, which boils down to the finest syrup.
As I drove home that night, fond memories of beloved saints I had met over the years came to mind. I remembered how often, when I first met them, I presumed that they must have had very carefree, trouble-less lives. They had such wonderfully sweet spirit’s. Their joy bubbled over. Their faces glowed with Christ’s glorious presence.
As I grew to know them better, I found that my first impression was completely wrong. Their lives had known brokenness, sorrow, and pain. Often heart wrenchingly so. As they shared their story with me, tears would come to my eyes and I wondered how they came so beautifully, so victoriously through such suffering.
Could it be that Christians are like maple trees? They produce the sap which brings color and taste to our world. The fires of life refine and enhance their color and character, rather than bring darkness and bitterness. The more mature in Christ, the more robust the color and taste.
The injuries and sorrows do not bring brokenness and death, but sweeter syrup………… “though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith (of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire) may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Keep Close To Jesus!
I was an avid Star Trek fan during college. I remember many of the episodes but a recent event brought one scene back.
Dr. McCoy, the Starship Enterprise’s chief medical officer, was having difficulty transporting from the surface of a planet back to the Enterprise. For those unfamiliar with futuristic science fiction television show Star Trek, the transporter was a device that could move people electronically from place to place.
Dr. McCoy’s molecules were about to be scattered over space as the transporter began to malfunction. Mr. Spock, the Enterprise’s science officer and bastion of logic, worked frantically at the transporter controls.
“Cross circuiting from A to B,” Spock explained to the technician standing nearby.
Slowly McCoy materialized and took solid form.
“Thank God,” McCoy uttered as he shakily but safely stepped off the transporter platform.
“I don’t know why you are giving credit to some deity, it was me cross circuiting from A to B that saved you,” Spock replied.
Thus the eternal battle between the seen and the unseen. Between absolute logic and absolute faith. Between what can be measured and what is immeasurable.
You can’t argue this point with observable facts. A large percentage of folks would side with Dr. McCoy, yet a sizeable percentage would side with Mr. Spock.
We see the work of our hands that appears to produce the result. Yet we see suffering, poverty, abuse, and other maladies that appear to be heaped upon the innocent with no rhyme or reason.
As a young scientist in college, I admired Mr. Spock’s ability to analyze things with a detached and computerized view. Spock had all of his emotions under control. Spock could eliminate pain by mental control. Spock could eliminate fear and doubt by shear mind power.
I thought that I could be like Spock. I found out that I couldn’t.
Our emotions rage. We feel pain that we can’t stop, and fear that we can’t banish.
When our world would appear to be subject to being scattered over space and the danger alarms are going off that things have gone terribly wrong, work feverishly at the controls.
Do everything that wisdom and proper training instructs you to do and do it with all diligence. And above all else……Pray to God for wisdom, for results, and for His Will to be done.
When we have done all that we know to do and all that we can do, it usually isn’t cross circuiting to B that saves us and gives us the strength and the grace to pull things together.
There is another at the controls.
NAILS IN THE FENCE
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 gradually 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 days 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. But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.
“You are My Sunshine, My only Sunshine“
Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. They found out that the new baby was going be a girl, and day after day, night after night, Michael sang to his sister in mommy’s tummy. He was building a bond of love with his little sister before he even met her.
The pregnancy progressed normally for Karen, an active member of the Panther Creek United Methodist Church in Morristown, Tennessee. In time, the labor pains came. Soon it was every five minutes, every three, every minute. But serious complications arose during delivery and Karen found herself in hours of labor. Would a C-section be required?
Finally, after a long struggle, Michael’s little sister was born. But she was in very serious condition. With a siren howling in the night, the ambulance rushed the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee. The days inched by. The little girl got worse. The pediatrician had to tell the parents there is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst. Karen and her husband contacted a local cemetery about a burial plot. They had fixed up a special room in their house for their new baby but now they found themselves having to plan for a funeral. Michael, however, kept begging his parents to let him see his sister. I want to sing to her, he kept saying.
Week two in intensive care looked as if a funeral would come before the week was over. Michael kept nagging about singing to his sister, but kids are never allowed in Intensive Care. Karen decided to take Michael whether they liked it or not. If he didn’t see his sister right then, he may never see her alive.
She dressed him in an oversized scrub suit and marched him into ICU. He looked like a walking laundry basket. The head nurse recognized him as a child and bellowed, “Get that kid out of here now. No children are allowed.” The mother rose up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glared steel-eyed right into the head nurse’s face, her lips a firm line. “He is not leaving until he sings to his sister” she stated.
Then Karen towed Michael to his sister’s bedside. He gazed at the tiny infant losing the battle to live. After a moment, he began to sing. In the pure-hearted voice of a 3-year-old, Michael sang: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.” Instantly the baby girl seemed to respond. The pulse rate began to calm down and become steady. “Keep on singing, Michael,” encouraged Karen with tears in her eyes. “You never know, dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” As Michael sang to his sister, the baby’s ragged, strained breathing became as smooth as a kitten’s purr. “Keep on singing, sweetheart.” “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms”. Michael’s little sister began to relax as rest, healing rest, seemed to sweep over her. “Keep on singing, Michael.” Tears had now conquered the face of the bossy head nurse. Karen glowed. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don’t take my sunshine away…”
The next, day…the very next day…the little girl was well enough to go home. Woman’s Day Magazine called it The Miracle of a Brother’s Song. The medical staff just called it a miracle. Karen called it a miracle of God’s love.
NEVER GIVE UP ON THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE. LOVE IS SO INCREDIBLY POWERFUL!
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