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Sa Kaeo II

After we left Khao-I-Dang we did not find out until the next day that the North Vietnamese had probed and killed 30 people right there at the intersection in front of the Khao-I-Dang Camp just after we left.  You may recall that I wrote about the man at that camp who had been the only pastor in Cambodia, and how the Khmer Rouge had found him and put him into one of their killing fields camps.  I told how God had actually sent one of his “shinning angels” to miraculously protect him from certain execution, just like others Billy Graham wrote about in his book, Angels.

However, we wanted to visit one more refugee camp before dark, Sa Kaeo II.  By now things were working just as the KGB had planned.  The North Vietnamese Communists were coming into Cambodia and driving the Khmer Rouge out.  This was a new camp and was already mostly populated by Khmer Rouge refugees who were themselves escaping Cambodia.

When we arrived, they were pulling this enormous chain across the entrance to block any North Vietnamese tanks from coming in.  There were no UN people there.  The place was run by a Thai officer.  They called him down to the entrance to check our credentials, and right away we found how casual this place was.  He came down only clad in his T-shirt and his drawers.  He was really nice.   He put a soldier on the outside step of our little bus with his automatic weapon and told us to go anywhere we wished.

Everything there was made of big stalks of bamboo, and most all of it was still green.  The people here were much younger than the previous camp, and there were many young children.

I walked up to the top of a hill where a Swiss NGO had constructed a hospital.  All workers at the hospital had already gone home, but there was a group of the most interesting young boys gathered there.  They were all between the ages of 12 and 16.  But what was so strange was that almost every one of them had some kind of injury.  Some had lost a leg or an arm or and eye, but most just had flesh wounds that were almost healed.  They all crowded around me, for they were all in the process of learning English in the hopes of getting to the US some day and had never met an American.

One of the older ones was named Hem-Hatch.  He could speak fairly good English, so I asked him about all these boys.  Where were their parents?  He said:  “No parents.”  So I asked:  “What is your story?”   So, he told me that they all had the same story.  They had all been in Cambodia in different villages.  The Khmer Rouge had come to their villages and lined everyone up and started going down the line, shooting every person, one at a time.  These guys saw their parents and siblings shot.  They realized that if they did not get out of there, they were going to be dead.  So, they just bolted for the jungle.  They ran as fast as they could, zigzagging as they ran to dodge the bullets.  Most had been hit at least once or lost an eye to the thorns as they crashed through the jungle.   What a strange group of orphans, but they were full of energy and enthusiasm. 

I corresponded with Hem-hatch for quite a while and sent him some Thai Baht that I could buy at a Dallas bank.  I don’t know what finally happened to him.  In the last letter I received from him he stated that he had the chance to go to France, but they were trying to get him to go back into Cambodia.  I wrote him to get his rear-end into France, for I knew that the North Vietnamese were intercepting those repatriation busses as soon as they crossed the border and killing everyone on them.

When I got back to our little bus, the folks there had found this young lady.  She was somewhere between age 19 to 24.  She was one of those new Christians that were coming out of Cambodia that I mentioned earlier.  And they were not just casual Christians.   That terror had bonded them so close to God that it was spooky.  This girl had taken upon herself the task to teach bible stories and Christian principals to every young child in the camp that she possibly could.  She was teaching groups of children all day and into the night.  There were 90,000 people already in that camp.  She stayed on the verge of exhaustion all the time.  Her dream was to get to the US and attend a bible-oriented college some day.

She gave me the name and address of a young lady friend who worked for the UN and would be able to bring things into the camp to her.  When I got back to Dallas I went to several Christian book stores and bought all the different boxes of felt bible stories and sent them to her.  Those are where you put up the different characters of a bible story on a felt board for the children as you tell the story.  She wrote back how thrilled she was and how she used them to great effect for all those children.  I also sent her quite a lot of Thai Baht so that she could buy things such as soccer balls for the older children.

So, before we left, we wanted to have a prayer for this lovely young Christian lady.  I was sitting on the front row of the little bus and she sat just above me on the chrome supports.  After we prayed, she prayed.  And I will never forget for the rest of my life what happened.  The bus was air conditioned, so it must have been cooler than normal for her.   But as she prayed, I felt water dripping down onto me.  When that girl prayed, the intensity of her prayer, the intensity of her communication with God, caused her to become wet all over.  Evidently, because of the necessity of what she was doing, God had infused her with a prodigious amount of his mighty Spirit Power.

To this day, I feel guilty that I have never been able to pray like that……with the intensity of that girl.

Stories – 10th 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 10th group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

Doctor and Young Lady

This was written by a Metro Denver Hospice Physician:

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die.  I barely managed to coast, cursing, into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. It wouldn’t even turn over. Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the quickie mart building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell on to a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying “I don’t want my kids to see me crying”, so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now.  So I asked, ‘And you were praying?’ That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, “He heard you, and He sent me.”

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald’s and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City.  Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn’t have money to pay rent Jan. 1, and finally, in desperation, had called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there.

So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.  I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road.  As I was walking over to my car, she said, “So, are you like an angel or something?”

This definitely made me cry.  I said, “Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people.”

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else’s miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem. I’ll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won’t find anything wrong.

Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can hear the flutter of their wings…

Psalms 55:22:  “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.”

Forgive Me When I Whine

Today, upon a bus, I saw a girl with golden hair. and wished I was as fair.

When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle. She had one leg and used a crutch. But as she passed, she passed a smile.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I have 2 legs, the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy. The lad who sold it had such charm. I talked with him; he seemed so glad. If I were late, it’d do no harm.

And as I left, he said to me, “I thank you; you’ve been so kind. It’s nice to talk with folks like you. “You see,” he said, “I’m blind.”

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I have 2 eyes, the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue. He stood and watched the others play. He did not know what to do.

I stopped a moment and then I said, “Why don’t you join the others, dear?” He looked ahead without a word. And then I knew, he couldn’t hear.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I have 2 ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go. With eyes to see the sunset’s glow. With ears to hear what I’d know. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I’ve been blessed indeed; the world is mine.

Don’t Leave It On The Desk –

There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States.   Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution.   Every student was required to take this course their freshman year, regardless of his or her major.

Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.

This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve.   Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry.   Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen.   He was now the starting center on the school football team and was the best student in the professor’s class.  One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him.   “How many push-ups can you do?”

 Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”

“200?   That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said.   “Do you think you could do 300?”

 Steve replied, “I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.  “Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.  “Well, I can try,” said Steve.

“Can you do 300 in sets of 10?   I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work.   Can you do it?   I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.

Steve said, “Well… I think I can… yeah, I can do it.”

Dr. Christianson said, “Good!   I need you to do this on Friday.   Let me explain what I have in mind.”

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room.   When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts.   These weren’t the normal kinds of donuts.   They were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls.   Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.

Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”

Cynthia said, “Yes.”

Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”

“Sure!”   Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten.   Then Steve again sat in his desk.  Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.

Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”

Joe said, “Yes.”  

Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”

Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut.   And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott.   Scott was on the basketball team and in as good condition as Steve.   He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.   The professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”  Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own push-ups?”  Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”  Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”

Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”  With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.

Scott said, “HEY!  I said I didn’t want one!”

Dr. Christianson said, “Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks and these are my donuts.   Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.”   And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.

By this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little.   He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down.   You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.  Dr. Christianson started down the third row.   Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.   Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”

Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”

Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?”

Steve did ten.   Jenny got a donut.  By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room.   The students were beginning to say, “No!” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.

Steve had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut.   There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.

Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts.   He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.

 Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row.   During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room.   When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room.  He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next.   Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time.   He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.

Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”

Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, “Well, they’re your push-ups.   You can do them any way that you want.”   And Dr. Christianson went on.  A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO!   Don’t come in!   Stay out!”

Jason didn’t know what was going on.   Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”

Dr. Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?”

Steve said, “Yes, let him come in.   Give him a donut.”  Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now.   Jason, do you want a donut?”

Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on.   “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”

“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”

Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort.   Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.   Dr Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters.  Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity.   By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing.   There was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders and very popular.   Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”

Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”

Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.

Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan and said, “’Susan, do you want a donut?”

Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry.   “Dr. Christianson, can I help him?”

Dr Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone.   I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.   When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book.   Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade.   Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class or offered me inferior work.   Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes-up he must do push-ups.   I told  Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups.   He and I made a deal for your sakes.”

“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?”

As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.  Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, said to the Father, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”   With the understanding that Jesus had done everything that was required of him, he yielded up his life.   And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”

Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.   “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”  Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God spared not his only begotten son, but gave him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever.   Whether or not we choose to accept God’s gift to us, the price has been paid.”

“Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

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Stories – 9th 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 9th group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

Cost of a Miracle

A little girl went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet. She poured all the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even. The total had to be exactly perfect. No chance here for mistakes.

Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall’s Drug Store with the big red Indian Chief sign above the door. She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention but he was too busy at this moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise.

Nothing.

She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster.

No good.

Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter.

That did it!

“And what do you want?” the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice. “I’m talking to my brother here from Chicago whom I haven’t seen in ages,” he said without waiting for a reply to his question.

“Well, I want to talk to you about my brother,”  Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. “He’s really, really sick… and I want to buy a miracle.”

“I beg your pardon?” said the pharmacist.

“His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?”

“We don’t sell miracles here, little girl.  I’m sorry but I can’t help you,” the pharmacist said, softening a little.

“Listen, I have the money to pay for it, and if it isn’t enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs.” 

The pharmacist’s brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, “What kind of a miracle does your brother need?”

“I don’t know,” Tess replied with her eyes welling up with tears.  “I just know he’s really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation.  But my Daddy can’t pay for it, so I want to use my money”.

“How much do you have?” asked the man from Chicago.

“One dollar and eleven cents,” Tess answered barely audibly.  “And it’s all the Money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.

“Well, what a coincidence,” smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven cents – the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.”

He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let’s see if I have the kind of miracle you need.”

That well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, one of the country’s top surgeons, specializing in neuro-surgery.

The operation was completed without charge and it wasn’t long until Andrew was home again and doing well.

Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place. “That surgery,” her Mom whispered. “was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?”

Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost… one dollar and eleven cents ….. plus the faith of a little child.

A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of higher law…… Of course, only God can supply a miracle.  But for some strange reason, He has decided to do his work through people….and the persistence and faith like that of a little child can bring about a real miracle.


 Dad’s Empty Chair                                                                               

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed.

The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. “No, who are you?” said the father.

The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray.  At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head.” I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day four years ago my best friend said to me, “Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest.”

“Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I will be with you always’. “Then just speak to him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey.  Then he prayed with him, asked for God’s peace to be upon him, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he die in peace?” he asked.

“Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

Dear Mom………

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room. She said: ‘How is my little boy? Is he going to be all right? When can I see him?’ The surgeon said, ‘I’m sorry. We did all we could, but your boy didn’t make it.’  Sally said, ‘Why do little children get cancer?  Doesn’t God care any more? Where were you, God, when my son needed you?’ 

The surgeon asked, ‘Would you like some time alone with your son? One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he’s transported to the university.’  Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good bye to her son. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair. ‘Would you like a lock of his hair?’ the nurse asked. Sally nodded yes. The nurse cut a lock of the boy’s hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally. 

 The mother said, ‘It was Jimmy’s idea to donate his body to the University for Study. He said it might help somebody else. ‘I said no at first, but Jimmy said, ‘Mom, I won’t be using it after I die. Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom.’ She went on, ‘My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of someone else. Always wanting to help others if he could..’  Sally walked out of Children’s Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there. She put the bag with Jimmy’s belongings on the seat beside her in the car.  The drive home was difficult. It was even harder to enter the empty house. She carried Jimmy’s belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son’s room.

 She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them. She lay down across his bed and, hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.  It was around midnight when Sally awoke. Lying beside her on the bed was a folded letter. The letter said:

Dear Mom,

I know you’re going to miss me; but don’t think that I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just ’cause I’m not around to say ‘I Love You’. I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day. Someday we will see each other again. Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won’t be so lonely, that’s okay with me. He can have my room and old stuff to play with. But, if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn’t like the same things us boys do. You’ll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like, you know. Don’t be sad thinking about me. This really is a neat place. Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything. The angels are so cool. I love to watch them fly. And, you know what? Jesus doesn’t look like any of his pictures. Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him.. Jesus himself took me to see GOD! And guess what, Mom? I got to sit on God’s knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important. That’s when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you good bye and everything. But I already knew that wasn’t allowed. Well, you know what Mom? God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you. God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him……….  where was He when I needed him?’ ‘God said He was in the same place with me, as when His son Jesus was on the cross. He was right there, as He always is with all His children.  Oh, by the way, Mom, no one else can see what I’ve written except you. To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper. Isn’t that cool? I have to give God His pen back now He needs it to write some more names in the Book of Life. Tonight I get to sit at the table with Jesus for supper. I’m sure the food will be great.  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I don’t hurt anymore the cancer is all gone. I’m glad because I couldn’t stand that pain anymore and God couldn’t stand to see me hurt so much, either. That’s when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me. The Angel said I was a Special Delivery! How about that? 

Signed, with Love from God, Jesus & Me. 

如果您想观看一部精彩的、改变生活的电影,请准备好观看一部完整电影的时间,然后访问这个网站,为改变生活的体验做好准备………..…………https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/chinese-mandarin.html

If you would like to watch a wonderful, life changing movie, get yourself all prepared with the time to watch a full length movie, and then go to this site and be ready for a life changing experience. .…………….. https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/english.html



Stories – 8th 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 8th group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

Caller ID

God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

Isn’t it amazing how God works in our lives!  On a Saturday night several weeks ago, this pastor was working late, and decided to call his wife before he left for home.  It was about 10:00 PM, but his wife didn’t answer the phone.

The pastor let the phone ring many times.  He thought it was odd that she didn’t answer, but decided to wrap up a few things and try again in a few minutes.  When he tried again she answered right away.  He asked her why she hadn’t answered before, and she said that it hadn’t rung at their house. They brushed it off as a fluke and went on their merry ways.

The following Monday, the pastor received a call at the church office, which was the phone that he’d used that Saturday night.   The man that he spoke with wanted to know why he’d called on Saturday night.

The pastor couldn’t figure out what the man was talking about.  Then the man said, “It rang and rang, but I didn’t answer.” The pastor remembered the mishap and apologized for disturbing him, explaining that he’d intended to call his wife.

The man said, “That’s, OK.  Let me tell you my story:

You see, I was planning to commit suicide on Saturday night, but before I did, I prayed, ‘God if you’re there, and you don’t want me to do this, give me a sign, now.’  At that point my phone started to ring.  I looked at the caller ID, and it said, ‘Almighty God’.  I was afraid to answer!”


The reason why it showed on the man’s caller ID that the call came from “Almighty God” is because the church that the pastor attends is called Almighty God Tabernacle!!

Don’t ever doubt that God answers prayers!

The Center of the Bible

This is pretty strange or odd how it worked out this way. Even if you are not religious you should read this.

What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? Answer – Psalms 117

What is the longest chapter in the Bible? Answer – Psalms 119

Which chapter is in the center of the Bible? Answer – Psalms 118

Fact: There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118

Fact: There are 594 chapters after Psalms 118

Add these numbers up and you get 1188

What is the center verse in the Bible? Answer – Psalms 118:8

Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives? The next time someone says they would like to find God’s perfect will for their lives and that they want to be in the center of His will,
just send them to the center of His Word!

Psalms 118:8 (NKJV) “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put
confidence in man
.”

Now isn’t that odd how this worked out (or was God in the center of it)?



Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates

It was the day after Christmas; my brother and I were visiting my aunt.  It was a happy day, especially as they have five children, four under the age of six, and I, like many people, love small children.

There was a box of sweets on the side, and kids being kids, naturally couldn’t take their eyes off it.  When my aunt came into the room, they all clamored for a sweet, so she opened the box of Quality Street (a selection of chocolates) and divided them into so many for each child.

My youngest cousin, age three, is famous for his funny sayings.  Now was no different; he opened each sweet with undisguised glee, throwing the wrappers on the floor and yelling with more delight at each one – “Yea! Chocolate again!! Look, chocolate!!”

Straight away, I recognized something strategic here.

Yes, all of the sweets were chocolate, but the lesson here was that so many things in life we take for granted or expect them to be what they are, so that when we experience them we take almost no delight in them at all.

Learning to be grateful for the “chocolate” of life, even if it is all “chocolate” is a valuable skill, and something that not many people know how to do.

It is often in small children that it is found the most, and I felt that such was reflected in this story.

And Jesus said that for those who have given their lives to him, they are the very “Sons of God” now.  He asked us not to focus on what we can accumulate on this earth………but to “store up treasures in Heaven”.

CHURCH IN THE WEEDS

Just two little boys walking down this dusty lane…
They came upon this old white house…
With broken window panes

The paint was faded, the shine was gone…
The grass had grown so high…
Still they made their little feet,
Go see what was inside.

They opened up the squeaky door and then it came to light…
This must have been an old church house… Once upon a time.


Dirty, dusty wooden pews… A pulpit that still stood….
A Bible lay upon it… Though the pages weren’t too good…

An offering plate and song books too… Were lying on the floor.
They must have left this old church fast… The day they closed these
doors.

And over in the corner… A piano was still there,
It must have played a pretty tune… But I guess nobody cared.

So little Bill looked up at Tommy… And Tommy looked at Bill…
Why don’t we clean this old church up, and get these old pews filled?’

They took a rag and wiped the dust… To try and make things shine…
And then they took the offering plate… And put in it their last dime.

They took a broom and swept the floor… And picked up broken glass….
They got it all so nice and neat… And then they mowed the grass.

They lifted up the old church sign… And stood it by a tree….
Right down by that old dirt road where every one could see.

They ran back home, to find Daddy gone but their Momma was inside..
Just to find her hurt again… Where Daddy had made her cry.

‘Don’t cry Momma, wipe those tears,’ Little Bill and Tommy smiled…
‘Cause we have a big surprise for you… Just down the road a mile.’

Hand in hand they tugged at her, until they made her run….
‘What is it Bill, Oh Tommy, just what have you two kids done?’

And then they came upon the house… Once hidden by the weeds….
And there it stood a country church… Just like it used to be.

‘But what is it, Mother? What’s with your tears?
We thought this would bring you joy.’
‘Yes, but hush kids now and listen close…
My two sweet precious boys.’

They both got quiet and stood real still… For the words they heard so true…
Was their now sorrowful Daddy praying in the church… With his head bowed on the pew.

‘Forgive me Lord! Forgive me Lord! Though I’m not worthy of Your love…
Shine down on this sinner man, sweet Salvation from above.’

‘For I’ve been out in the world, you know… Living my life all wrong…
Until I came upon this church; the place where I belong.’

‘I never noticed it before… All those times I passed it up…
I guess I wasn’t looking, Lord…. Or maybe I was drunk..’

‘Bless oh Lord, yes, bless oh Lord….. The one who made me see..
This little church that used to hide…. Behind all those tall weeds.’

And then he raised his head and stood… With his hands high in the air…
To find two dirty, tear-faced boys….. With Momma standing there.

They ran up to him, hugged him tight… As their tears fell on the floor.
‘Don’t worry kids; I’m not the Dad, the one you’ve known before.’

Things are different for us now… So keep on those pretty smiles..
And let’s go gather people in…. To walk down these church aisles.’

Then Bill looked up at Tommy… And Tommy looked at Bill…
‘Come on brother, let’s get to work…. To get these old pews filled.’

‘For we need no special blessing.. For cleaning up this church….
’cause, God gave us back our Daddy… And that’s more than gold is worth.’

Sunday morning, pews all filled and smiles on every face…
Especially two little country boys… The ones who found this place.

Though it was hid back in the weeds… And so far out of sight…

Nothing’s ever hard to find if you’re walking toward God’s light.

1-John 1:7 ‘we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ
His Son cleanses us from all sin.’

IN GOD WE STILL TRUST

如果您想观看一部精彩的、改变生活的电影,请准备好观看一部完整电影的时间,然后访问这个网站,为改变生活的体验做好准备………..…………https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/chinese-mandarin.html

If you would like to watch a wonderful, life changing movie, get yourself all prepared with the time to watch a full length movie, and then go to this site and be ready for a life changing experience. .…………….. https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/english.html



Stories – 7th 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 7th group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

Bryan Anderson

One day a man saw a old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you.

He said, ‘I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.’

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him.      She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, ‘And think of me.’

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: ‘You don’t owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.’

Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

Bruised Apples:

A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner. Well, as such things go, one thing led to another. The sales meeting lasted longer than anticipated.

Their flights were scheduled to leave out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and they had to race pell-mell to the airport. With tickets in hand, they barged through the terminal to catch their flight back home. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of baskets of apples. Apples flew everywhere.

Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding. All but one. He paused, took a deep breath and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him and told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight.

Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the floor. He was glad he did. The 16 year old girl at the apple stand was totally blind!  She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping or to care for her plight.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the baskets, and helped set the display up once more. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?”

She nodded through her tears.

He continued on with, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister….” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, “Are you Jesus?”

He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he made his way to catch a later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: “Are you Jesus?”

Do people mistake you for Jesus? That’s our destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace. If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church. It’s actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.

You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall.  He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our

damaged fruit.

Burying Your Ass

One day a farmer’s donkey fell into an abandoned well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; so it just wasn’t worth it to him to try to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They each grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. Realizing what was happening, the donkey at first cried and wailed horribly. Then, a few shovels full later, he quieted down completely. The farmer peered down into the well, and was astounded by what he saw.

With every shovel full of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up on the new layer of dirt. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off, to the shock and astonishment of all the neighbors!


Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to not let it bury you, but to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping-stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up, and not wasting our time and trouble fighting with any of our peers.

 
Shake it off and take a step up!

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
Live simply.
Give more.
Expect less.

By the way, as he passed by, the donkey kicked the living heck out of the guy that tried to bury him, which demonstrates the sixth rule of happiness:

If you don’t want to get your ass kicked, don’t try to cover your ass!

The Cab Ride


So I walked to the door and knocked. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.  After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.  There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.   She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated’.  ‘Oh, you’re such a good boy’, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.  ‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice’.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.


‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.  We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.  Sometimes she’d ask me to go slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now.’

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.  Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ she asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said.

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.  ‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said.  ‘Thank you.’ 

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.  But great moments often catch us unaware——beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID, ~BUT~ THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.

Thank you, my friend.

如果您想观看一部精彩的、改变生活的电影,请准备好观看一部完整电影的时间,然后访问这个网站,为改变生活的体验做好准备………..…………https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/chinese-mandarin.html

If you would like to watch a wonderful, life changing movie, get yourself all prepared with the time to watch a full length movie, and then go to this site and be ready for a life changing experience. .…………….. https://www.jesusfilm.org/watch/jesus.html/english.html

Stories – 6th 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 6th group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

“A Piece of Cake”

Sometimes we wonder, “What did I do to deserve this,” or, “Why did God have to do this to me.” Here is a wonderful explanation!

A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away. Meanwhile, her mother is baking a cake and asks herdaughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says:

“Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.”

“Here, have some cooking oil,” her Mother offers.

“Yuck” says her daughter.

“How about a couple raw eggs?”

“Gross, Mom!”

“Would you like some flour then?  Or maybe baking soda?”

“Mom, those are all yucky!”

To which the mother replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they makea wonderfully delicious cake!

 God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us gothrough such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.

I hope your life is a “piece of cake”!

A Trucker’s Story:

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy.  But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome.

I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were not the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ”; the pairs of white shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto the cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their Social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker

said that people with Downs syndrome often had heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months. A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Belle Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of the 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look.

He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked. “We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”  “I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?” Frannie quickly told Belle Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.”

Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables. Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do.  After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face. “What’s up?” I asked.  “I didn’t get that table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”  She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something for Stevie.”

“Pony Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.”  She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds.  Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work, met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said.  I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!” I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

“First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As

he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table. Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother. “There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems.

“Happy Thanksgiving!”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what’s funny?  While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.   Plant a seed and watch it grow

Be Happy With You

I have absolutely the best marriage of anyone that I know.

How do I know that?  I don’t, it’s just what I feel.

I am happy with my wife, my house, my car, my body, my kids, my job, my church, and my country.

Sure, all of them have snags, all of them have faults, but overall I wouldn’t trade them; I am happy.

“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”  That’s a quote that I remember from a little boy.  It’s true, very true.

Society doesn’t gear us to want what we have.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t buy the new and improved version.  We are made to feel as though we need something different to be happy, something better.

Are there better wives out there than mine?  Maybe.  Even if there were and I had her, would there then be a better one than that one?  Probably.

There is always something better, fancier, faster, more powerful, and more expensive.  Always.  If not now, it’s coming.

Computer programs keep us waiting for an upgrade.  An upgrade supposedly fixes all of the current bugs.  Often, the upgrade introduces new bugs.

We are in a constant state of trying to get something better and different.  We are often trying to be someone different, even when the current us is pretty decent.  If you are not happy being you, then who else can you be?

I neither want to nor have the ability to trade places with anyone.  I am happy with myself.  With all life’s faults, with all of my faults and my continuing struggle to improve.  Yes, I must improve and keep the “rules”, but I am happy on my trip.

There are a lot of others who have more stuff.  But there aren’t many who are happier with the stuff they do have.  That’s the key.  Are you happy with the stuff that you do have?

Are you happy with yourself?

You are you and that isn’t going to change.

An old proverb says:

“Be what you is, not what you ain’t, ’cause when you is what you ain’t then you ain’t what you is.”

 Roommate

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back because of his injuries. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.   The man in the other bed began to just live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.  

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.  

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band – he could see it.  In his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.   As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.

The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.   He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.  To his utter surprise it faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have led his deceased roommate to have described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even have seen the wall.

Epilogue: There is tremendous fulfillment in making others happy, despite our own situations.  Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.  If you want to feel rich, just count all the blessings that God has bestowed upon you that money can‘t buy.  And really, isn’t that the way Jesus would have us to live.

Stories – 5th 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

Cherokee Indian Youth’s Rite of Passage

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him an leaves him alone.  He is required to sit on a log the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it.  He cannot cry out for help to anyone.

Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.

He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him . Maybe even some human might do him harm.

The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his log, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.

It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the log next to him.  He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

We, too, are never alone. Even when we don’t know it, God is watching over us, Sitting on the log beside us.

When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Moral of the story:

Just because you can’t see God,

Doesn’t mean He is not there.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

CHILLING TRUE STORY of 9/11

A man from Norfolk, VA called a local radio station to share this on Sept 11th, 2003. His Name was Robert Matthews. These are his words:   “A few weeks before Sept 11th, my wife and I found out we were going to have our first child. She planned a trip out to California to visit her sister. On our way to the airport, we prayed that God would grant my wife a safe trip and be with her. Shortly after I said ‘amen’ we both heard a loud pop and the car shook violently. We had blown out a tire. I replaced the tire as quickly as I could, but we still missed her flight. Both very upset, we drove home. I received a call from my father who was FDNY. He asked what my wife’s flight number was, but I explained that we missed the flight. My father informed me that her flight was the one that crashed into the southern tower. I was too shocked to speak.

My father also had more news for me; he was going to help. ‘This is not something I can just sit by for, I have to do something.  I am not on duty for another hour, but I have to go help my fire battalion buddies.’  I was concerned for his safety, of course, but more because he had never given his life to Christ.  After a brief debate, I knew his mind was made up. Before he got off of the phone, he said, ‘Take good care of my grandchild.’ Those were the last words I ever heard my father say; he died while helping in the rescue effort when the other tower went down. My joy that my prayer of safety for my wife had been answered quickly became anger. Anger at God, at my father, and at myself. I had gone for nearly 2 years blaming God for taking my father away. My son would never know his grandfather, my father had never accepted Christ, and I never got to say goodbye.

Then something strange happened. About 2 months ago, I was sitting at home with my wife and my son, when there was a knock on the door. I looked at my wife, but I could tell she wasn’t expecting anyone. I opened the door to a couple with a small child. The man looked at me and asked if my father’s name was Jake Matthews. I told him it was. He quickly grabbed my hand and said, ‘I never got the chance to meet your father, but it is an honor to meet his son.’

He explained to me that his wife had worked in the World Trade Center and had been caught inside after the attack. She was pregnant and had been caught under debris from the plane, before the building went down. He then explained that my father had been the one to find his wife and free her in time for her to get out. My eyes welled up with tears as I thought of my father giving his life for people like this.

He then said, ‘there is something else you need to know.’ His wife then told me that as my father worked to free her, she talked to him and lead him to Christ.  He prayed with her to ask Jesus into his heart, right there.  He then went on up in the building to try to help others.

I began sobbing at the news. Now I know that when I get to heaven, my father will be standing beside Jesus to welcome me, and that this family would be able to thank him themselves. “

When their baby boy was born, they named him Jacob Matthew in honor of the man who gave his life so mother and baby could live.

This story should help us to realize two things: First, that though it has been awhile since the attacks, we should never let it become a mere tragic memory.  And second, but most important, God is always in control. We may not see the reason behind things, and we may never know this side of heaven, but God is ALWAYS in control, especially for those who love Him and stay close to Him.

20,000

Years ago I watched the famous basketball star Wilt Chamberlain on a television talk show. Wilt was one of the original old-time big basketball stars.

In the days before Michael Jordan, Shaq, Rodman and the other household basketball names, there was Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt broke all kinds of basketball records. He had a 100-point game among the other records he established.

I was counseling a man who stated that he wished that he had a harem of several women to end his romantic problems. I thought of Wilt and that television interview.

Although Wilt held numerous basketball records, the record that Wilt is most famous (or infamous) for is the statement he made concerning his personal life. Wilt claimed that by age 55, he had slept with 20,000 women. That statement shocked the sports world.

Wilt started at 15; that’s 500 new women per year. That’s 10 per week. How did one man have an average of ten new women in his life each week for 40 years? I couldn’t fathom that yet I knew many men secretly wished they had such a life.

The world focused on the 20,000.  I am sure many men imagined those were 20,000 rather attractive women as Wilt was a sports icon the world over.  Wilt said, “The average Joe would have proposed to any of those 20,000 on the first date.”

Yes, Wilt appeared to be living the “life.” What the world missed was Wilt’s other statement.  It’s the “other” statement that always stayed with me.

Wilt Chamberlain in essence said, “I would rather have had just one woman that I truly loved, than 20,000 that I didn’t.”

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and he reached a similar conclusion:    “…all is vanity.”

While scoring over 30,000 points on the court, Wilt Chamberlain never fouled out.  Off the court, he never truly “scored“.

Wilt died in 1999.

The score:   20,000 to 0

And learn the lesson of Wilt’s “other” statement.”

The 23rd Psalm is very interesting.  Most people do not really understand the symbolisms………

When he talks about “preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies“…….he is describing how the shepherd would go over the meadow before letting the sheep graze and pull out all of the poisonous weeds that grow in that area.

When he talks about leading me beside “the still waters”…..he is referring to the fact that a sheep will not drink from a running stream.  The shepherd would make a little dam in the stream out of rocks so that there would be a quiet spot for them to drink.

When he talks about anointing their heads with oil….he is referring to how the shepherd would examine each sheep for insects and cuts, and put oil on the cuts and on their heads to keep insects away from their eyes and noses.

When the Psalm talks about the “Valley of the shadow of death”, here is what it means: Sheep aren’t that smart. They’re cute and all, but like other animals, they have no concept of death. They can, however, understand the difference between light and dark. They behave differently on sunny days than they do on days when the skies are full of thick, dark storm clouds. And, they seem happier in a sunny, open field but fearful in dark, closed-in, seemingly dangerous valleys. We, like sheep, intuitively understand this too.  We can go through dark, tough times and even endure death, but we don’t need to fear those dark times. God has already given us the victory over every circumstance because of Jesus’ work on the cross.  

And there are many other references as to how the shepherd of that day took such careful care of his sheep………all to show how the Lord will take such care of each of us if we will stay close to Him and allow Him to do so and stay in the flock as His sheep and not wander away.

39 Cents of Understanding

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell.

He painted a sign advertising the pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls.

He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”

“Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.”

The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”

“Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle, “Here, Dolly!” he called.

Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence.  His eyes danced with delight.

As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared; this one noticeably smaller.

Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up.

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt.

The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy.
He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”

With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers.

In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.

Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”   And with that the farmer said, “well son 39 cents just happens to be the price of that little dog.”

In the same way Jesus identifies with each of us and all of our infirmities because of what he endured on the cross for each one of us.

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.

Stories – 3rd 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 third group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

Ron

The Contact Lens

Brenda was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing. Although she
was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff.
In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took a hold on the rope, and
started up the face of that rock. Well, she got to a ledge where she could
take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped
against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens. Well, here she is on
a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her.

Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the
ledge, but it just wasn’t there. Here she was, far from home, her sight now
blurry. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord
to help her to find it. When she got to the top of the rock, a friend
examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no contact
lens to be found.  She sat down, despondent, waiting for the rest of them to make it

up the face of the cliff. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking

of that Bible verse that says, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole
earth.” She thought, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every
stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help
me.”  Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom.

At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face
of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a
contact lens?”  Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the
climber saw it?  An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock,
carrying it!  Brenda told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told
him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he
drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, “Lord,
I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s
awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for
You.”

At the risk of being accused of being fatalistic, I think it would probably
do some of us good to occasionally say, “God, I don’t know why you want me
to carry this load.  I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But, if
you want me to carry it, I will.”

Remember . . . God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

And He doesn’t look for ability……just availability.

The Jaguar

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. 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 children appeared.  Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and drove the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.  The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing.  That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?” 

The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister…please, I’m sorry…I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother, ” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned 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 driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out his fancy handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and may God bless you sir, ” the grateful child told the stranger. 

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the little boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar.  The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message:  Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention! 

God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us.  It’s our choice:  Listen to the whisper…or wait for the brick!

Who’s Your Daddy?  (A true story)

A number of years ago a seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee where they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet family meal.

While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table visiting with the guests.  The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife:

“I hope he doesn’t come over here.”  But sure enough, the man did come over to their table.

“Where are you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.

“Oklahoma,” they answered.

“Great to have you here in Tennessee,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?”

“I teach at a seminary,” he replied.

“Oh, you teach preachers how to preach?  Well, I’ve got a really great story for you.”  And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple.

“See that mountain over there?” (pointing out the restaurant window).  Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother.  He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question: 

‘Hey boy, Who’s your daddy?’

Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, “Who’s your daddy?”  He would hide at recess and lunchtime from other students.  He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad.

When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church.  He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, “Who’s your daddy?”  But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd.

Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him,

“Son, who’s your daddy?”

The whole church got deathly quiet.  He could feel every eye in the church looking at him.  By now, everyone knew the answer to the question, ‘Who’s your daddy?’

This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy.……..

‘Wait a minute!’ he said, ‘I know who you are.  I see the family resemblance now.  You are a child of God.’

With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said:

‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance.  Go and claim it.’

With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person.  He was never the same again.  Whenever anybody asked him, ‘Who’s your Daddy?’ he’d just tell them,

‘I’m a Child of God.’

The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, “Isn’t that a great story?”

The professor responded that it really was a great story! As the man turned to leave, he said,

“You know, if that new preacher hadn’t told me that I was one of God’s children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!”  And he walked away.

The seminary professor and his wife were stunned.  He called the waitress over and asked her,

“Do you know who that man was who just left who was sitting at our table?”  The waitress grinned and said,

“Of course.  Everybody here knows him.  That’s Ben Hooper.  He’s the former governor of Tennessee!”

The Gift

A young man was getting ready to graduate from college.  For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.

As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car.  Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.

His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son and told him how much he loved him.

He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious and somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with his name embossed in gold.

Angry, he raised his voice at his father and said, “With all your money, all you give for graduation to me is a Bible?”  With that he became very angry and stormed out of the house.

Many years passed.

The young man was very successful in business.  He had a beautiful home and wonderful family.  He realized that his father was already very old and thought perhaps he should patch things up with him.

Being so angry, he had not seen him since that graduation day.

Before he could make arrangements to do so , he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away and willed all of his possessions to his son.  He needed to come home immediately and take charge.

When he arrived, a wave of sadness and regret enveloped his heart.

He began to search through his father’s important papers and saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it years ago.

With tears, he opened the Bible and began to leaf through the pages.  His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matt.7:11:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible.  It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired.  On the tag was the date of his graduation and the words PAID IN FULL.

Sometimes we under-estimate our heavenly father’s plan and power and we do things in our own will without thinking about what God would want us to do.  But our God knows what to give and when to give, and He loves us very much.  

Stories – 2nd 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 second group of them for you.  And you are welcome to share them with others.

HIGHWAY 109

Drunk man in an Oldsmobile
They said had run the light
That caused the six-car pileup
On 109 that night.

When broken bodies lay about
And blood was everywhere,
The sirens screamed out elegies,
For death was in the air.

A mother, trapped inside her car,
Was heard above the noise;
Her plaintive plea near split the air:
“Oh, God, please spare my boys!”

She fought to loose her pinioned hands;
She struggled to get free,
But mangled metal held her fast
In grim captivity.

Her frightened eyes then focused
On where the back seat once had been,
But all she saw was broken glass and
Two children’s seats crushed in.

Her twins were nowhere to be seen;
She did not hear them cry,
And then she prayed they’d been thrown free,
“Oh, God, don’t let them die!”

Then firemen came and cut her loose,
But when they searched the back,
They found therein no little boys,
But the seat belts were intact.

They thought the woman had gone mad
And was traveling alone,
But when they turned to question her,
They discovered she was gone.

Policemen saw her running wild
And screaming above the noise
In beseeching supplication,
“Please help me find my boys!

They’re four years old and wear blue shirts;
Their jeans are blue to match.”
One cop spoke up, “They’re in my car,
And they don’t have a scratch.

They said their daddy put them there
And gave them each a cone,
Then told them both to wait for Mom
To come and take them home.

I’ve searched the area high and low,
But I can’t find their dad.
He must have fled the scene,
I guess, and that is very bad.”

The mother hugged the twins and said,
While wiping at a tear,
“He could not flee the scene, you see,
For he’s been dead a year.”

The cop just looked confused and asked,
“Now, how can that be true?”
The boys said, “Mommy, Daddy came
And left a kiss for you.

He told us not to worry
And that you would be all right,
And then he put us in this car with
The pretty, flashing light.

We wanted him to stay with us,
Because we miss him so,
But Mommy, he just hugged us tight
And said he had to go.

He said someday we’d understand
And told us not to fuss,
And he said to tell you, Mommy,
“With Jesus’ help, he’s watching over us.”

The mother knew without a doubt
That what they spoke was true,
For she recalled their dad’s last words,
“With Jesus help, I will watch over you.”

The firemen’s notes could not explain
The twisted, mangled car,
And how the three of them escaped
Without a single scar.

But on the cop’s report was scribed,
In print so very fine,
An angel walked the beat tonight
On Highway 109.

Little Boy and Policeman

A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, the people were in and out of the cold.

The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers.

He walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you?

You see, I sleep in a box up around t he corner there and down the alley and it’s awful cold in there for tonight.

Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.”

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come to the door you just say John 3:16, and they will let you in.”

So he did. He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, “John 3:16.” The lady said, “Come on in, Son.”

She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace, and she went off. The boy sat there for a while and thought to himself :  John 3:16 ….. I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.

Later she came back and asked him “Are you hungry?  “He said, “Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food.”

The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more. Then he thought to himself: John 3:16 …… Boy, I don’t understand it but it sure makes a hungry boy full.

She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself: John 3:16 ….. I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean. You know, I’ve not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.


The lady came in and got him.  She took him to a room, tucked him into a big old feather bed, pulled the covers up around his neck, kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he lay in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself: John 3:16 ….. I don’t understand it but it sure makes a tired boy rested.

The next morning the lady came back up and took him down again to that same big table now full of breakfast food. After he ate, she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and picked up a big old Bible.

She sat down in front of him and looked into his young face.  “Do you understand John 3:16?” she asked gently. He replied, “No, Ma’am, I don’t. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it.”  She opened the Bible to John 3:16 and began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there, in front of that big old fireplace he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought: John 3:16 .….. don’t understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.

You know, I have to confess, I don’t understand it either, how God was willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing.   I don’t understand the agony of the Father and every angel in heaven as they watched Jesus suffer and die.   I don’t understand the intense love for ME that kept Jesus on the cross till the end. I don’t understand it, but it sure does make life worth living.

John 3:16   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  

I do Love God. He is my source of existence. He keeps me functioning each and every day, Phil 4:13.   If you love God and are not ashamed of all the marvelous things he has done for you, tell others.  


Little Girl – Pearls

The cheerful girl with bouncy little curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.
 
“Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?”
 
Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face.  “A dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”
 
As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.
 
Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere…..Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.
 
Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story.
 
One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”
 
“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”
 
“Then give me your pearls.”
 
“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess – the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my favorite.” “That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
 
About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”
 
“Daddy, you know I love you.”
 
“Then give me your pearls.”
 
“Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll, the brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.”
 
“That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
 
A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.
 
“What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?” Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace.
 
With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you.”
 
With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure.
 
So it is with our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for us to give up the cheap things in our lives so that he can give us beautiful treasure. Isn’t God good? Are you holding onto things which God wants you to let go of.  Are you holding on to harmful or unnecessary partners, relationships, habits and activities to which you have become so attached that it seems impossible to let go? Sometimes it is so hard to see what is in the other hand but do believe this one thing……………… God will never take away something without giving you something better in its place.

The Bargain

During one of the many Civil War battles, a young soldier found himself and his army being soundly defeated by the enemy.  He and his comrades hastily retreated from the battlefield in defeat, running away in fear of their very lives.

The enemy gave chase. The young man ran hard and fast, full of fear and desperation, and soon found himself cut off from his comrades. The soldier eventually came upon a rocky ledge containing a cave.

Knowing the enemy was close behind, and that he was exhausted from the chase, he chose to hide there. After he crawled in, he fell to his face in the darkness, desperately crying to God to save him and protect him from his enemies. He made a bargain with God. He promised that if God saved him, he would serve Him for the remainder of his days.

When he looked up from his despairing plea for help, he saw a spider beginning to weave its web at the entrance to the cave.  As he watched the delicate threads being slowly drawn across the mouth of the cave, the young soldier pondered its irony. He thought, “I asked God for protection and deliverance, and He sent me a spider instead. How can a spider save me?”

His heart was hardened, knowing the enemy would soon discover his hiding place and kill him. Then he did hear the sound of his enemies, who were now scouring the area looking for those in hiding.

One soldier with a gun slowly walked up to the cave’s entrance.  As the young man crouched in the darkness, hoping to surprise the enemy in a last-minute desperate attempt to save his own life, he felt his heart pounding wildly out of control.

As the enemy cautiously moved forward to enter the cave, he came upon the spider’s web, which by now was completely strung across the opening. He backed away and called out to a comrade,

“There can’t be anyone in here. They would have had to break this spider’s web to enter the cave. Let’s move on.”

Years later, this young man, who made good his promise by becoming a preacher and evangelist, wrote about that ordeal.

What he observed has stood by me in times of trouble, especially during those times when everything seemed impossible:

“Where God is, a spider’s web is as a stone wall…….  Where God is not, a stone wall is as a spider’s web.”

Stories

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!