You Never Know

 

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in the story. The aged minister continued with his story. “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the life line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’, he threw out the life line to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that He could do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take hold of the life line.”

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely said one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. Sorrow began to overtake the old man’s smiling face as he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m here today to tell you that I understand more than most the pain God must have felt to give up His only Son. For you see, I’m the man who lost his son to the ocean that day, and my son’s friend that I chose to save is your pastor.”

The Empty Egg

This story (quote from Charles Swindoll) brought tears to my eyes as, over time, I’ve known several children with Down’s Syndrome.  Sometimes an understanding of the seemingly big and complicated things in life comes from the understanding of the simple basic things.

Philip wasn’t like the other children at church.  Though he was a pleasant, happy boy, he struggled with things that came easily to other kids.  He looked different, too, and everyone knew it was because he had Down’s Syndrome.  His Sunday school teacher worked hard to get the third-grade class to play together, but Philip’s disability made it difficult for him to fit in.  Easter was just around the corner, and the teacher had a wonderful idea for the class.  He gathered some plastic eggs that pantyhose used to come in and gave one to each child.  Then, together, they went outside into the beautiful day.  “I want each of you to find something that reminds you of Easter—of new life,” the teacher explained.  “Put it in the egg, and when we get inside, we’ll share what we found.”  The search was glorious.  I was confusing.  It was wild. The boys and girls ran all over the church grounds gathering their symbols and finally, breathlessly, the eight-year-olds were ready to return inside.  They put their eggs on the table watching.  He opened one, and there was a flower.  Everyone oohed and aahd.  He opened another, and there was a butterfly.  “Beautiful,” the girls all said.  He opened another and out fell a rock.  The kids laughed.  “A rock?”  But the boy who found it said, “I knew you would all get flowers and leaves and stuff.  So, I got a rock cause I wanted to be different.  That’s new life to me.”  The kids laughed again.  But when the teacher opened the next egg, the group fell silent.  “There’s nothing there!” said one child.  “That’s stupid,” said another.  “Somebody didn’t do it right.”  Just then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt and turned to see Philip standing beside him.  “It’s mine,” Philip said.  “It’s mine.  The children said.  “You don’t ever do things right, Philip.  There’s nothing there!”  “I did so,” Philip said.  “I did do it right.  It’s empty.  The tomb is empty.”  There was another silence.  A very deep, unlike-eight-year-olds kind of silence.  And, at that moment, a miracle happened.  Philip became a part of that third-grade Sunday school class.  They took him in.  He was set free from the tomb of his differentness.  From then on, Philip was their friend.  Three months later, Philip died.  His family had known since the time he was born, that he wouldn’t live out a full life span.  An infection that most children would have quickly shrugged off took the life out of his body.  The day of the funeral, the church was filled with people mourning Philip’ death.  But it was the sight of nine third graders walking down the aisle with their Sunday school teacher that brought tears to most eyes.  The children didn’t bring flowers.  Instead, they marched right up the altar, and placed on it an empty egg—an empty, old, discarded panty hose egg.

Standing in the Storm…Together

 

Right now many of us are feeling very concerned–even fearful.  There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now as we face things that we’ve never faced before.  But nothing about this life is ever easy. God never promised it would be.  He did, however promise to never leave or forsake us.  Because of this promise, we are able to see hope.  Life can get  little lonely when we get caught in a storm.  The truth is that life gets a lot less scary when we realize we’re not standing in the storm alone.  Even if we can’t get together, we can still be there for each other.  “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give it a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.”  (Deut. 31:6)

He won’t leave you.

Want To Be Like God?

After World War II, many American soldiers remained in England to help pick up the pieces of the war-torn areas.  One of the most heart-breaking things that they saw in the aftermath was the number of orphaned children struggling to survive on their own.  One soldier was driving through one the ravaged towns when he spotted a rag-tag boy with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop.  He watched in silence while the cook kneaded the dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts.  The soldier pulled up to the curb and walked over to the boy.  Through the steamed-up windows, he could see the delicious-looking pastries as the baker pulled them out of the oven.  The boy salivated and released a slight groan.  The soldiers heart went out to the orphan and he asked, “Son…would you like some of those?  The boy was startled, but said, “Oh, yes I would!”  The American stepped into the shop, bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back to where the boy was still standing in the foggy cold of the London morning.  He smiled, held out the bag and simply said, “Here you are.”  As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat.  The soldier looked back and heard the child ask, “Mister…are you God?”

In these trying times, remember to be generous.  Share your love.  There are many people in out lives who are hurting.  And we are never more like God than when we give.  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” (John 3:16)

 

John 3:16

Talk to Them

 

The days, weeks months and years fly by so quickly.  Before you know it, it’s too late.  Don’t let your words of love, appreciation and encouragement go unspoken or unwritten.  How long has it been since you contacted your parents, your best friend, old friends long unseen, but not forgotten?   Have you ever contacted a favorite teacher, coach or counselor and told them how much their influence their influence has meant in your life?  Can you imagine what news like that might mean to them?  With the isolation we’re facing today, now would be the perfect time to renew and maintain some of those relationships.  And maybe even to start some new ones.  With social media and the myriad of ways to connect with people, the opportunities are there for you to use.  And if you’re not connected in that way,  good old-fashioned phone calls or letters still work.

“Like cold water to a thirsty and weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.”  Proverbs 25:25

Focus on…?

 

In his book, Truman, David McMcCullough shared this story:

As times got more and more difficult, President (Truman), felt more than ever a need to see and talk to what he called “the everyday American.”  And he always felt better for it.  One evening in Washington, on one of his walks, he had decided to take a look at the mechanism that raised and lowered the middle span of the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac.  Climbing down some metal steps,  he came upon the bridge tender, eating his evening  supper out of his lunch pail.  Showing no surprise that the President of the United States had climbed down the catwalk and suddenly appeared before him, the man said, “You know, Mr. President, I was just thinking about you.”  It was a greeting President Truman loved and never forgot.

We are living in difficult times right now.  If God showed up where you are right now, would you be able to say, “You know, I was just thinking about you.”

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way…”(Hebrews 12:2)  And so can we.

Worried? Me Too.

 

If worry were a sport, we’d all be the MVP of our team.  Can anyone identify with this?  It’s hard not to with our current troubles all around us.  When we worry, we torment ourselves.  No one else is making us do it.  We do it to ourselves.  When we worry, we allow ourselves to be consumed by actual things we can’t control and even potential situations that may never come to pass.  Worry causes stress to our body, prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep, impacts our relationships, affects our appetites and prevents from doing the daily necessities of life.  When we worry, we look for ways to cope.  Many of us choose denial, others may turn to substance abuse or fall back into destructive habits they thought they had defeated.  Most of us choose something.  But they don’t work.  The more we worry, the more it occupies our mind.  And each worrisome thought is like throwing fuel on our “worry” fire.  What we sometimes don’t realize is that we only have so much emotional, mental and physical energy to use each day.  Don’t let worry burn you out.  Pray and don’t let worry take over your life.  And if praying isn’t your thing, try it anyway.  What have you got to lose?  “Worry weighs a person down, but an encouraging word cheers up a person.”  Proverbs 12:25  Encourage each other and be encouraged in return.

Saying Your A,B,C’s

 

I read this and wished that I had this kind of faith.

A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounded like prayer.  He asked her what she was doing.  The little girl explained: “I’m praying, but I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me because He knows what I’m thinking.”

Anyone feel the need to start repeating the alphabet?

Always Love One Another

A story is told about a frail, old man who went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and young grandson.  Every night, the family ate dinner together, but because of the old man’s shaky hands and blurred vision, he had difficulty eating.  Peas would roll off of his spoon and he almost always sspilled milk on the table as he tried to take a drink.  His son and daughter-in-law became very frustrated and decided to have him sit at his own table in the corner where they would’t have to deal with his mess.  Because the old man had broken a dish or two, they gave him a wooden bowl to eat out of.  One night, the old man’s son noticed his boy playing with some wooden scraps, and he asked him what he was doing.  The boy answered, “I am making a wooden bowl for you and Mommy to eat from when I grow up.  The boy’s parents were speechless and in tears.  From that moment on, the grandfather ate at the table with the rest of the family, and somehow the messes he made never bothered them again.

As I get older, I occasionally find myself being more clumsy and drop things I never would have dropped before.  I can’t imagine what it would be like for my friends and family (especially my wife) to feel the need to isolate me because of my old-age failings. We need to remember the words of Paul the Apostle, in Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Triple E

This past week, I read an article that talked about people who are eccentric, eclectic and extreme-hence “Triple E.”  The reason it caught my eye was that I realized that I am that person.

Eclectic?  In one of my favorite pastimes, reading, I enjoy science fiction and non-fiction, adventure and romance, westerns and poetry, suspence and fantasy.  In music, I enjoy old-time rock and roll and classical, show tunes and Christian, acappella and instrumental, swing and marching bands.  Last week my wife and I went to see “Avengers: End Game.”  This week we want to see a Christian film.  I also like comedies and chick flicks.

Eccentric?  Even though I’ve gotten older and more conservative, I still like to wear all kinds of funky reading glasses and crazy patterned socks.

Extreme? I hate weeds in my lawn, so I literally pick them out one by one while on my knees or even sometime laying down on the grass to see them better.  One day my neighbor saw me and was ready to call 911 because she thought I had collapsed with a heart attack.

Ultimately, I am a “Triple E” kind of guy.  While you may not be a “triple E” kind of person, each of you are unique.  Don’t try to be someone else or try to make yourself into what someone else wants you to be.  There is no one else like you and no one else could fill your place in the grand scheme of your life.  Being different is good…it makes you who you are.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.(Ephesian 2:10)

You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this. (Psalm 139:13-14)