On Wings Of Eagles

free counters

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How is a Christian Like a Pumpkin?

Matthew 5:16 (New International Version)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

1. Take a pumpkin. "You aren't a pumpkin, but all of us are something like one. God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you may have gotten from the other pumpkins." Talk about how a pumpkin is like us: it has an outside and an inside. The outside is what people see. The inside is like our soul or our heart. A pumpkin left to itself will soon rot and die. We will die someday too." 

2. Carve out eyes and a small "o" shaped mouth.  As you make the holes and pull out the pieces of rind, ask people what they see inside (yucky stuff). "This is what we look like to others and what we are like when are hearts are not changed. The hearts of men are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live (Ecclesiastes 9:3). How can we get rid of this icky stuff?" 

3. "God is the only one who can change our heart. But in order for God to change our heart we must become open to him." Carve an opening in the top of the pumpkin big enough to put your hand through. You might want to quote Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 

4. Put in your hand and pull out the insides. "God scoops out all the yucky stuff inside of us. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, impurity, and greed." Talk about the cross and how Jesus was willing to become messy for us, so that we might be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25b-27). 

5. "But if we leave a pumpkin with just the insides taken out, then it's just hollow. We need to have a light inside that will truly make us alive! Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' Add a light to the inside of the pumpkin. "When Jesus lives inside of you, you can glow! You will want to be kind and honest. You will want to please God, to help others, and to tell other people about your Friend and Lord." 

6. At this point you might want to carve the mouth into a smile! "God carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."

Dear Lord we thank You for all You do for each of us. Today we pray that the light You put in each of us will shine brightly for the whole world to see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucky Lady and "Lucky" the Dog

2 Corinthians 4:7 (New International Version)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog, Lucky. Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably someone would forget and something would come up missing. Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this disease...she was just sure it was fatal. She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky.

A thought struck her...what would happen to Lucky? Although the three year old dog liked Jim he was Mary's dog through and through. If I die Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I didn't want to leave him. The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.

The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully, but the dog just drooped, whining and miserable. But finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home Mary was so exhausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap.

Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called. It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed. When Mary woke for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong. She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot.

Panic soon gave way to laughter though when Mary realized the problem....she was covered, literally blanketed in every treasure Lucky owned! While she had slept the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement and back bringing his beloved mistress his favorite things in life. He had covered her with his love. Mary forgot about dying. Instead, she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every night.

It's been 12 years now, and Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky? He still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box, but Mary remains his greatest treasure.

Dear Lord We thank You for making us each a treasure. We pray that those we come in contact with today we would treat them as the treasure that You have made them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Baby Shower and Team Work

Romans 12:6-8 (New International Version)
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Winter had shown its ugly head in Hammond. The wind seemed to go right through the thickest coat. Kelsey hurried to June’s Place to get out of the freezing cold. She remembered the first time she went to June’s place and how she could not believe June ran the place by trust. In Nobel, it would be unheard of.

Coming to Hammer was an eye-opening experience for Kelsey. She immediately loved the small town and the closeness of community, so unlike what she was used to. Her friend, Sarah brought her home from college to meet her family and she fell in love with the place. Sarah wanted nothing more than to move from Hammer while Kelsey wanted to stay. Now three years later, she was still here and never tired of the community. Sarah had a job with a big lawyer in Nobel and was so happy. Kelsey was happy for her but she knew would never want to move to a city again.

Kelsey reached June’s and opened the door. A strong gust of wind knocked the door out of her hand. She smiled, so much for going in unnoticed.

Everyone looked up to see who was making all the noise. Kelsey’s face red from the cold and even redder now. June smiled and motioned her to come and sit. Kelsey almost ran to the table. She pulled out the chair and almost missed it entirely when she turned to sit. That was all it took, everyone got a big laugh out of that. Kelsey had to laugh. She shook her head and said, “Now, that you all know I am here you may continue what you were doing.” Another hearty laugh followed. Everyone went back to drinking coffee.

June laughed with Kelsey. “Hey, you must be in a big hurry today.”

Kelsey shook her head. “No, I was just so very cold and wanted to get inside to warm up. I did bring the yellow booties I made for Jane’s baby. I wanted to get your opinion.”

June opened the box and lifted out the tiny booties. “Oh Kelsey, they are precious. You really outdid yourself. I have the sweater and cap done. This will be a wonderful gift for our new mother to be. With the shower being this Sunday after church, we need to get together with the women and see what they are serving. I am really excited about this shower.”

Kelsey smiled wide, “Oh yes, so am I. I just know that Jane will be so excited.”

June shook her head as she spoke, “Do you think the ladies will have everything done in three days?”

Kelsey laughed. “If not, they will make everyone believe it is done. Think I shall walk over to the church and see if they could use some help.”

“You go ahead Kelsey. I am going to invite Jane’s Mom to church and the party afterward. The ladies may have forgotten to do this so I will take care of it.”

Kelsey stopped. “June, do you think that is a good idea? I mean her Mom is bitter and hateful since her husband took of ten years ago.”

“Yes little one, a very good idea indeed: Jane needs her Mom’s support and her Mom needs to be there when her first grandchild is born. Now be on your way and help the ladies at the church.”

Kelsey wondered if it was a good idea as she walked to the church. She went inside and Mrs. Burns put her right to work. Kelsey never thought anymore of Jane’s Mom for the women kept her busy. A few hours later, they all stepped back to see how everything looked. A sigh of satisfaction came forth from each of them. The hall looked great. After cleaning up the hall, they all walked out of the church together. Kelsey listens as they talked and talked. Yes, the job was finished.

Kelsey walked on as the women got into their cars and waved goodbye. She went to her bookstore to get some picking up done. The first year she opened the doors at the bookstore she wondered if she made a mistake. She began to add unique little gifts more customers came in. She hired a high school girl to help on the weekends. Everything was going well now.

Sunday came around quickly. A cold northwest wind was wickedly cold as she walked to church. June had called and told her she would meet her at church. The church was not large, another good reason Kelsey loved it. The Pastor was a wonderful man with a small family of his own. He cared about everyone and the congregation knew that.

The church was full. Kelsey looked around for June but she was not there. She sat down in the back row and greeted some of the people. A stirring in the church caused her to look back and walking in the door was June with Jane and her Mother. The shock on people’s faces told the whole story.

Kelsey moved over so they could sit with her. Jane gave her a sweet smile. Her mother was obviously nervous; she sat down, putting her head down.

Praise and worship was wonderful and the Spirit of God filled the church. Pastor’s message was on love and it was a perfect message for today. He gave an alter call for those who wanted to make Jesus their Savior. Jane was crying hard as she walked to the front of the church. Her Mother followed close behind. The angels in heaven were rejoicing. The church was rejoicing. What a wonderful service this was. Tears ran freely. What a blessing!

The service ended. Pastor talked with Jane and her Mom as they both cried freely. Jesus was now their Savior and they knew He loved them.

The Baby shower was to start in an hour so Kelsey, Jane and May went into the fellowship hall. June hugged both of them. In no time the hall and the shower started. Jane received so many wonderful things for her baby. She was touched. A man walked over to June and talked to her. She nodded.

Two men walked in with a wooden baby cradle. It was beautiful. They said that they felt led to do this for Jane and they did it. Jane still crying could only nod saying thank you.

The pastor prayed and all started to eat the goodies.

June noticed Jane bending over and holding her side. She walked over to her, asking everything was all right. Jane shook her head. “No, June, I have bad pain in my stomach. Is something wrong with my baby?”

“No, Jane, your baby has decided to come and introduce himself today. We need to get you to the hospital.”

Everyone was excited as Jane and May left for the hospital. June and Kelsey followed in their car.

After 5 hours, Jane had a baby boy; he weighed 6 lb. 7 oz. Both mother and son were all right and grandma, she was smiling and crying at the same time. Jane named her son, Peter James Wright.

Kelsey and June left the hospital. They went to June’s place and made a pot of coffee.

Kelsey looked at June and said, “Can you believe all that has happened today? This has been a glorious day. I have no doubt that Jane, Peter, and May will be just fine.”

Dear Lord we thank You that You have a plan. We pray that we would each do our part with the gifts You have given each of us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Handel Feeds the Poor

Matthew 25:35-36  (NASB)
35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; 36 naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.

At the very first rendition in Dublin on April 13, 1742, Handel's Messiah raised 400 pounds for the poor and indigent, and freed 142 men from debtors' prison. Handel personally performed it for charity more than thirty times, and it was so popular that women were asked not to wear hoop skirts. This allowed organizers to pack the house more effectively!

Reviewers described it in the very words of today's Scripture:

Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked and fostered the orphan more than any other single musical production. It has done more to convince thousands that there is a God about us than all the theological works ever written.

Just think of it! The created (Handel) used his God-given gift to create something that displayed his Creator, Christ.

What about the gifts God has given to us? When we use them, do they have the same result? We might want to ask ourselves this question: Do I have a "Handel" on it?

Dear Lord, we thank You that we are not alone in this personal struggle. We thank You for the Holy Spirit, Who lives within each of us to encourage and strengthen us in our walk with You. In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

God's Special Gift

John 14:16-18 (New International Version)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

We all love to receive gifts. But none of the gifts we receive could ever match what God gives us on a daily basis.

Take, for example, the spider. It has received an extraordinary gift that provides her shelter and food. This gift is that of making flexible thread out of her own fluids, thread that is five times stronger than iron thread. It is so strong that if enough of it were wound together to a thickness of 1 cm, it would be strong enough to open the door of an airplane. It is so tough that a thread 3 cm thick would bring a Boeing 747 in full flight to a complete stop. Not an ordinary feature, is it!

No human can make such a thread!

The spider's thread is not only strong, but it is also very elastic. It can stretch 30 - 40% of its length before reaching its breaking point. No wonder than these thin wires can stop a bee in mid-flight. In fact Polynesian fishermen use the thread of the golden orb web weaver Nephila as a fishing line. They don't have to worry about it breaking!

Don't you wish you could produce such a thread?

But those of us who follower Christ as our Lord and Savior have received a much bigger gift than this! Nothing can compare to the gift God has bestowed on us!

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:4-5

God's kind of gift is everlasting. It will not only encourage us, but it will also guide us all our ways. All we have to do is listen.  No need for expensive human counseling. God Himself will guide us through His Holy Spirit. No need to try to distinguish between lies and truth, as God's Spirit is "the Spirit of Truth" as well as the author of His Word, the Bible.

A spider may be able to stop a bee in mid-flight (Or a Boeing 747 in full flight, if it could produce a 3 cm wide thread!), but we can face any adversity because God is not only with us always, but He also resides within us. Even while locked up in a cell, we still can enjoy fellowship with our Maker. Nobody can take Him away from us!

We do have the most unique gift of all creation. The world will not recognize Him because they don't know Him, but we sure can! May we learn to enjoy the gift God has given us in surplus to the sacrifice He gave to us on the cross.

We can wake up every day with a big smile. God's Holy Spirit is not only our constant companion, He is also our best friend. Who else can we trust like we trust Him? He never ever lies to us and we can rely on Him in all things!

Today you can know Him? Invite Him into the inner depths of your heart. Life will never be the same again. It will be pure delight, even with all the struggles of life!

If a 3 cm spider thread could stop a plane in full flight, imagine what God's Spirit can do for us

Dear Lord we thank you for the special gift that You have given to each of us. Help us share that gift with somebody today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Are You Using the Gift God Has Given to You?

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (New International Version)
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Ramon Piaguaje, a Secoya Indian born and raised in the rain forest of Ecuador, won the Winsor & Newton Millennium Art Competition, the largest painting competition in the world. His painting "Eternal Amazon" was selected from over 22,000 entries by professionals and amateur artists from 51 countries and was on display at the United Nations this past summer.

Ramon, who started drawing as a teenager over 30 years ago, was not introduced to oil painting until 1993 in Quito. The young man who has captured the attention of the art world was first encouraged in his efforts by Orville and Mary Johnson, Wycliffe Bible Translators working in his village. The Johnsons recognized a God-given ability and had encouraged him to keep drawing. When they left his village in the early seventies, having completed their translation of the New Testament, the belongings they took with them included 30 drawings by Ramon.

Since then, Ramon has met the Prince of Wales and the secretary general of the United Nations and "Eternal Amazon" has been viewed by ambassadors, artists, dignitaries, and members of the press and public from around the world. Ramon is quick to give the Lord credit for the acclaim he has received. "I can't take pride of the gift that I have as an artist, for it is God that has given me this talent, and I want to use it for his glory."

When the elderly missionary couple heard about the exhibit at the United Nations, they decided to surprise the South American artist. They entered the exhibition hall and found Ramon surrounded by many people. As he looked beyond his admiring fans, he saw the Johnsons and began to cry. They hugged and wept for several moments. In Secoya, Ramon repeated over and over to Orville and Mary, "You are the ones that should be honored, not me, for you came to give us the gospel, and I believe that is why I now can be here."

God has given gifts to each of us, not only to enjoy, but also to use to build up others.

Dear Lord we thank You for the gifts You have given to each of us. We ask that we would show us ways that we can use those gifts for You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Shipyard Preacher

1 Corinthians 16:13 (New International Version)
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
God calls all sorts of people to minister and preach the Gospel, no matter where they came from or what they have done.

Glasgow, Scotland, used to have a magnificent shipyard industry on the River Clyde. Thousands of men were employed in the building of some of the biggest warships and ocean liners in the world. From all over the docks, flashes of light could be seen as the riveters and welders worked on the hulls of the great ships.

On Friday afternoons, when most of the workforce was paid, thousands of men would walk out of the gates to either go to the pubs and spend their wages, or head home to be with their families, possibly buying them a fish and chips supper for dinner. As these men walked out of the shipyard gates, a man, with his own portable platform, was preaching the Gospel to the huge mass of workers. Most of the men walked by, some jeered and some cheered, some hurled insults and called the preacher everything under the sun.

It was an amazing ministry to watch and, on some rare occasions, the preacher was able to reach into the heads and hearts of a few men. He had been a shipyard worker himself, so he knew of their hardships, addictions, and struggles with life. Jesus had changed him, so he wanted to help other men make that transformation. It was a courageous, yet often humiliating ministry. But every Friday, the preacher was there giving God’s message to thousands of men who had no time for faith.

The Church of Scotland was approached by some people and asked if they would ordain the Shipyard preacher. Sadly, they turned him down. He didn't have the right academic qualifications, or the privileges of seminary training. This didn't bother the preacher. He just kept turning up on Fridays to preach the Gospel. His strength was in the Lord, and not in an ecclesiastical certificate that proclaimed him to be an official minister of the church. God calls all sorts of people to minister, pastor, and preach in His Name.

Perhaps you are being led by God to start a new ministry in your church. Perhaps God is calling you to do something in Christ’s name for your community. Maybe you don’t feel qualified to start or accomplish it. Remember this: if God truly calls you, He believes you can get it done.

Dear Lord we are all so different and we each have various gifts, talents, and skills. Sometimes you call us out of our comfort zones and specialized areas to do something beautiful and completely unexpected for You. We pray for courage today to respond to Your call and give us the strength to do all You ask of us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buy One Get One Free

James 1:17 (New International Version)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

As you open the newspaper every day or walk past a flea market or switch on the TV you often come across the freebies offered to consumers. "Buy one: Get one Free" is the slogan of today's marketing. You buy a pressure cooker and a frying pan is free; you buy a cot the mattress is free. Incentives everywhere are attracting the masses to "BUY". As I pondered I realized, we, as followers of Christ need to realize all that we have received even without asking (leave alone buying). The roles are reversed. We have been bought for a price - a price that only God and His son paid. All we had to do was accept that valuable gift, cherish it, remembering we do not merit it, yet has been given and when Christ comes into our lives :

Realize you have been Chosen. This entitles you to Claim the promises of God. Remember you now belong to a Covenant keeping God who never fails and to HIM nothing is impossible.

When we let the Biggest C (Christ) come into our lives with HIM comes:

Courage Jos. 1:5
Confidence Psalms 32:8
Comfort Isaiah 51:12
Caution Proverbs 3:5,6
Consolation Isaiah 46:4
Contentment Psalms 34:10

Folks… the package of freebies that come with Christ are neither measurable nor countable. So what are you waiting for?? Take Him and with Him comes everything that money can’t buy or plastic cards can ever pay!

Remember this offer never ends… but your time is running out!

Dear Lord we pray that we would share this free offer with all those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Knitted Tops in a Memories Box

2 Corinthians 9:15 (New International Version)
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

It’s just a thought. But give me a moment and see if it works for you.

If someone does a good thing … well … it’s down to them … it’s their story. The credit, the kudos, whatever, are all theirs, right? Well, yes … and no.

Jackie was at work in the hairdressing salon. Her baby-bump was plainly visible, but she was learning to work around it. And, to be honest, she was quite enjoying the attention it generated in a working environment that was almost exclusively female.

She was cutting the hair of a woman who had never been to the salon before and they were chatting happily about life, pregnancy, everything. Then the woman asked if Jackie’s mom was a knitter. If she was, the woman was sure she would be busy knitting a bundle of clothes for her new granddaughter of grandson.

Jackie, didn’t miss a snip. She’s a professional. She said she loved hand-knitted stuff and that would be really nice – but her mom had died when Jackie was a little girl. Jackie had never learned to knit. So, it would probably be shop-bought clothes.

A few weeks later Jackie turned up for work and her supervisor handed her a parcel. The day before, Jackie’s day off, a woman had come in and left this for her. Inside was a bundle of truly beautiful, hand-knitted baby clothes.

Jackie’s mom hadn’t been able to knit for her grandchild, so a stranger, with the heart of an angel, had stepped in and did it for her.

Now that’s a beautiful story. And all credit would go to that woman for her kindness.

Except that it happened almost twenty years ago. That baby bump is now a handsome, athletic young man.

But Jackie kept one of those knitted tops in a memories box and every once in a while when things get tough it reminds her that there is still plenty of kindness out there. Telling the story she will happily share with anyone given a chance, she could still feel the tears of appreciation gathering.

The woman never came back to the salon as far as Jackie knows, but two decades later Jackie still looks out for her, and there are very few things she wants as much as the opportunity to tell that woman, Thank You.

The gift was a kind one, very kind, but the memory it could have been left behind as her son outgrew those clothes. Life goes on, after all.

Jackie didn’t allow that to happen. As far as she is concerned the story is all about that stranger in the salon, but by keeping the memory close to her heart and by her hope of one day being allowed to show her appreciation, I think Jackie has added to the gift.

She has taken something special and polished it, preserved it and passed it on to others.

The giver deserves credit for the gift, but the receiver has his or her part to play as well. We can be passive recipients, or we can be people who add value.

So, here we are with the gift of another day. You might have the gift of friends, you might have the gift of your health. You choose the gift.

Dear Lord we thank You for the gifts you give us. We pray that we would use them to the fullest. In Jesus’ name, Amen .

Monday, October 22, 2012

When Times are Tough be Creative

Romans 12:6-8 (New Living Translation)
6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. 7 If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

As the silver-haired woman walked up the long drive, she could see him peering through the window. Every day it was the same thing; she would come to clean up the house and he would just sit there in his wheel chair staring out the window. Oh, he could speak alright, but I suppose he simply chose not to. And who could blame him? Ever since the accident five years ago, the once familiar faces that used to fill this large home with life began to slowly drift away, much like his once positive attitude.

"Good morning, sir", Helen, the housekeeper stated as she walked through the door.

Charles, the thirty-five-year-old paraplegic whose house it was, grunted.

"Cat got your tongue again today, sir?" Retorted Helen coyly as she began to put away the dishes on the counter.

Again Charles simply grunted and continued to stare out the window.

The day progressed and Helen went about dusting, polishing, sweeping and washing. It was a particularly dreary afternoon due to what seemed like an all-day rain. Feeling her mood drop a little, and knowing how much a good ditty raised her spirits, Helen turned on the radio, going from station to station in an effort to find just the right song. Just as she found a lively polka, suddenly a loud roar pierced the melodic tones coming from the radio.

"Turn that garbage off!" Demanded Charles, his face contorted with anger.

Helen was so caught off guard by the sudden strong display of emotion that, in her attempt to quickly turn the radio off, she accidentally broke the nob completely off. With polka music now blaring, Helen momentarily stood expressionless. Then, all of a sudden, her lip began to crinkle, and then tremble, and from the depths of her belly came the most delightful and prolonged laugh! Glancing over, Helen could not believe her eyes! Her wheel chair-bound boss was also chuckling heartily!

Upon composing themselves and unplugging the radio, Charles used his eyes to motion for Helen to come near him. Helen knelt near his wheel chair to ensure that they could face one another.

"I am so very sorry for yelling at you, Helen", stated Charles as he stared intensely at the elderly woman's face. "I dont know what came over me, not just at that moment, but ever since I've been a prisoner to this wheel chair. Hearing the music was yet another cruel and painful reminder of what I have lost, and never will have again.

Helen didn't say a word, but merely held Charles' limp hand and listened.

"At one time I used to love music, dancing, reading, and the arts in general. All of that died when I became paralyzed. Look at my life now. I have nothing."

Tears began to roll from Charles eyes. Helen let go of Charles' hand, and began to dig through her purse, immediately grasping a tiny framed picture.

"Look at this picture, and tell me what you see", she quietly asked Charles as he looked at her puzzled.

"It's blank. Nothing is there. It's just white", replied Charles.

Helen smiled subtly, and said, "Oh no, sir. It is a beautiful snow fall, or perhaps it is a fluffy white cotton ball, or a crisp white bed sheet hanging outside on a line outside to dry." She continued, "That picture is like ones life. Either it can remain a blank canvas, or we can make something beautiful and meaningful out of it. The choice is ours."

"No, said Charles, I didn't have a choice. My choice was stolen away!"

Helen smiled again and quietly replied, "I beg to differ, sir. You still have choices, but you just need to be a bit more creative by digging a little deeper, so that you can see what those choices might be."

Charles now clung to her every word. "I don't understand what you mean. Please explain."

Helen thought a moment; then her eyes lit up. "You like music and dancing, right, sir?"

"No, I USED to enjoy dancing to good music!" Abruptly stated Charles.

"No, sir, if you loved it once, you will still love it, but remember what I said; be creative!" Stated Helen assuredly, and she moved his one good finger over the switch that made his electric wheel chair move. She then walked over to the radio and plugged it back in to the wall, the robust polka music still playing. Up and down went the click of Charles' switch, and back and forth went his wheel chair. Charles smiled richly, then clicked the tiny lever to the right, then left, and round and round went his wheel chair!

"Look, Helen! I'm dancing! I'm dancing to the music!"

Helen nodded, grinning from ear to ear as she reached over to momentarily stop Charles' chair from moving two and fro.

"There's more, sir", stated Helen. "Remember how, before your accident, you always used to say that you loved being around little children because they were so full of promise? Well, there is no reason why you can't still live out that dream by being a little creative. You may not be able to push a child on a swing at the playground, but the local library has been searching high and low for someone to fill the part-time position of storyteller in the children's reading room."

For the first time in a very long time, within Charles eyes, Helen could see life and hope. She did all she could to keep herself from crying at that moment; however, these would be tears of joy.

With new, bright eyes, Charles asked, Helen, "how did you get to be so wise?"

Helen looked down to her arm, and slowly began pulling up her sleeve, soon to reveal tiny numbers permanently marked on her skin.

"You see, sir, when I was a little girl, my entire family died in a concentration camp. I was the only survivor, and I had no one, not even an aunt or uncle. Like you, I felt like I had everything important taken away from me, and my future seemed very bleak. A kind couple adopted me shortly after that, and while I still missed and loved my family, I came to also love them. They showed me that we all are special in God's eyes, and that we also have special gifts that we need to discover and use so that we can help others. It is this circle of giving and receiving that life is all about. Through this I was able to experience joy again."

Helen then reached into her purse again to fumble with the tiny framed picture.

"They are the ones who gave me the tiny white picture many years ago, and before I left for college they told me that what that picture reflects is up to ME."

Charles sat motionless, once again staring momentarily out the window, then stated with new found resolution, "Helen, tomorrow is going to be a brand new day; the beginning of my new life!"

Christ has given each of us special abilities and it is up to us to use these gifts for the good of mankind. For some people, that gift might be the ability to be a teacher, good public speaker, author, doctor or nurse. For others, it might be someone who has a special way of dealing with and helping people. Perhaps your gift is to be a day care provider, or retired grandparent who volunteers time at the local community center helping young children to swim. Regardless of what our life circumstances are, God's desire is not for us to abandon these gifts merely because times may get tough. Instead, as the above story reflects, He wants for us to be creative and to find ways to continue on giving in one form or another so that He and His Word may be glorified.

Dear Lord we thank You for the gifts and talents that You have given to each of us. We pray today that we would never lose focus because of our circumstance but that we would continue to reach out to others in creative ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Are You Selfish?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (New International Version)
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Kay Poe and Esther Kim have been best friends since they were seven years old. Among other things they have in common, the two young ladies from Houston both compete at the highest levels in taekwondo. How good are they? Esther and Kay advanced to the finals in the Women's Olympic Flyweight division at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials on May 20 in Colorado Springs.

"I don't think of her as just a friend. I think of her more as a sister," Kay says. "We've grown up together, and we always push each other and help each other out the best we can training wise." What a story was unfolding! Reporters and photographers were poised to record the outcome of so intense a competition between two girls who have been close for so long. But a sports story would soon be overshadowed by a far more important friendship story.

Kay had dislocated her left kneecap in her semi-final match of the round robin tournament. Though ranked number one in the world at her sport, it was questionable that she could compete against her best friend. She could barely stand, so it was a foregone conclusion that Esther would win, travel to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and represent the United States in the international competition these two had trained and worked toward for so long.

On the day of the match, Esther Kim shocked the crowd by forfeiting rather than defeat her friend in an unfair competition. In allowing the better taekwondo fighter to represent the United States in Sydney, she won a personal battle over ego and selfishness. Amidst frequent stories of cheating and taking unfair advantage in order to win at any price, Esther showed how to win by losing.

"Even though I didn't have the gold medal around me," said Esther, "for the first time in my life, I felt like a real champion." Her generosity of spirit was honored with the Citizenship Through Sports Award and with an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2000 Olympic Games from the International Olympic Committee.

In the Bible, Paul wrote about giving up certain "rights" for the sake of people he loved (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-15). Parents do it all the time for their children. And occasionally friends make huge gestures like Esther's.

The next time you are inclined to give in to the selfishness of the masses, recall this story of a twenty-year-old athlete's largess. The next time you have the chance to show generosity, let it inspire you to rise to the level of her example.

Dear Lord we pray today that we would look for ways that we can show your love to those around us even if it means giving up something ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pretzels and Love

Hebrews 10:24 (New International Version)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

The rumors had been swirling for months but it still came as a shock when the hospital board announced that a small community hospital would be closing on July 1st.

The hospital had served this working class poor neighborhood of Philadelphia for nearly 100 years but it would soon become another casualty of the health care crisis.

The day after the announcement co-workers walked around in a stunned state of disbelief. And if impending unemployment wasn't stressful enough, those looking for comfort in the form of their morning soft pretzel found out that pretzels had been eliminated from the cafeteria menu the same day the hospital announced its closure.

For those outside the Philadelphia area, Soft pretzels are the lifeblood of the city. They are sold in schools, sports arenas, delicatessens and at hundreds of street vendors across town. They are a snack, a meal and a revered tradition. So losing access to soft pretzels is no small matter.

A week later, one of the workers decided to cheer up his co-workers by picking up some soft pretzels at a local store in Havertown called Pretzel Boys. He arrived just as it opened so he was the only customer. The tantalizing smells of warm dough, yeast and salt engulfed me. Rows and rows of freshly baked brown-crusted pretzels were packed into cardboard boxes, ready for the day. These are the sights and smells of nirvana for any Philadelphian.

A sign posted on the cash register read, "Ten dollar minimum for credit cards." Just then it dawned on him that he only had $5 cash in his wallet. So much for planning ahead!

He worked inside a large office at the hospital and knew he would need more than the half dozen pretzels his five dollars would buy. But did I really need 25 pretzels -- the only amount of pretzels I could get for $10. A man's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Can I help you?"

Distracted and embarrassed by hisy hesitation, words tumbled out of his mouth, "Ah, yes. I only have $5 but I have a debit card. I'm not sure how many pretzels I need."

The man nodded like what he just said made sense and so he continued to babble.

"You see, I work at a hospital and it's closing and they stopped selling pretzels." As if this explained my previous rambling.

The man's smile disappeared. "What hospital?"

"Oh, um Northeastern Hospital."

The pretzel guy looked deeply shocked. "I used to sell medical supplies and that was one of my hospitals. What a shame. They are good people."

He started to respond but the pretzel guy held up his palm to stop me. Then he turned around and grabbed a box of 25 pretzels and slid them across the counter.

He was stunned by his generosity and started to reach for his wallet, "Oh I can pay. Please let me..." The pretzel guy pushed the box another six inches across the counter and smiled. "Just tell them Joe Sullivan said to do something nice for someone else."

And so that day everyone in medical records was treated to a soft pretzel. Word spread fast as people came up to his desk asking, "Is it really true? Did you bring in soft pretzels?" It was as if he had carried in a box of gold.

With each pretzel, he shared the story of Pretzel Boys generosity. Without exception each employee was moved by Joe Sullivan's words and kind deed. It mattered to them that a stranger cared.

And with every bite of soft pretzel a little bit of healing took place.

Dear Lord we pray that today we would be used to heal somebody today. Help our eyes be open so that when somebody in need comes our way we will be able to help them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gas Can and God's Love.

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Edwin Hubbel Chapin once said, "Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." That is the definition of a legacy. Wouldn't you love to do something that might strike a beautiful chord that will "vibrate in eternity"?

I've discovered something about legacies…generous people leave great legacies. I read about a couple in Canada who stopped to help a motorist who had run out of gasoline. It was a regular occurrence in their part of rural Canada. After they got him on his way, they bought a new fuel can, scratched their initials on it, filled it with petrol and stored it in the trunk of their car.

A few months later they again stopped to assist a stranded motorist. But this time they GAVE him their gas can and told him to fill it up, keep it with him and pass it along to the next motorist he sees who has run out of fuel.

Though they never expected to see their can again, in a couple of years they spotted it being passed along to a grateful motorist on the road. They recognized it several more times over the years, and each time they asked its owner where it had come from. They ascertained that the can had traveled across the continent at least two times!

They never intended to leave a legacy. When they bought the fuel can they never dreamed that their action might strike chords that could vibrate in eternity. But that container may still be traveling around the country!

And it might not seem like a big thing, but many motorists have been saved by the generosity of complete strangers who stop to help. Then each in turn has taken the container, refilled it, and diligently looked, perhaps for days or weeks, for an opportunity to pass it along. Good will generated by a humble can of fuel has no doubt been multiplied many times in countless ways, striking beautiful chords that vibrate forever.

It's true - generous people leave great legacies. Even that small piece of yourself you generously give away may thrive in surprising ways throughout eternity.

Dear Lord we pray that we would be open to do the little things that we can do to bless others. Help our eyes be open to the opportunities that You give each of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Do You Want a Turtle?

Matthew 19:23 (New International Version)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

One of the pets in the Yahr household is my turtle, Methuselah. I rescued him when he was the size of a small coin and now over 7 years later he is bigger than a softball. With my love of turtles this story of a missionary stuck out to me. I thought I would share it today.

Startled, I stared up at the smiling young man who had suddenly appeared on my path. I had been enjoying a much-needed reprieve from the vigorous demands of mission life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I was spending the summer as a relief missionary. Besides learning how to catch jellyfish, I had been relaxing by walking the length of the hot, sandy beaches, lounging under the palm trees, and climbing over the rocks at the waters' edge. In fact, I had just come down from a towering pile of granite when I was confronted with this unlikely question.

As I stared at the Haitian, he lifted a very dead turtle and began shaking its head up and down. Something about this particular scene didn't set quite right with my stomach. "Ah-n-no thanks," I managed, quickly averting my attention to something-anything -else.

Thinking that this was the end of our conversation, I moved forward; but the young man must have made it his personal goal to become my friend, for he followed me, talking non-stop about his life, his dreams and his ambitions.

I was quite impressed by his friendliness, but I was still taken by surprise when he stopped in his tracks and asked me if I wanted to visit his village.

"Is it far from here?" I asked.

"Not at all," was his response. "It's just over that hill."

I smiled and shrugged: "Why not?" It was obvious that this would make the young man happy, and besides, an afternoon thus spent was bound to harbor adventure of some kind!

And so it came about that I followed him to a rustic village full of straw-roofed huts. The local inhabitants sat in the shade of their shelters, cooking their dinners, weaving baskets carving statues to the strains of Jamaican music by Bob Marly blaring in the background. I soon found myself surrounded by a group of curious children. Though my new friend quickly shooed them away, their antics, along with the tranquil air of the entire village, made it obvious to me that though the people were clearly not wealthy in anyway, they were content.

My new friend led me directly to a plaster-covered hut consisting of two tiny rooms. As I entered, I could see that the one to my left was obviously a bedroom, for there were several straw-stuffed mattresses on the floor. The room where I stood appeared to be a combined kitchen/family room. It contained a broken, three-legged table and a single chair. My new friend insisted I sit on this, and I was soon introduced to an exuberant older woman, his mother.

"Why don't you stay and eat with us?" she asked me eagerly.

Though her obvious generosity touched my heart, resurfacing visions of that poor turtle touched my stomach and it lurched anew. If I stayed, it would most certainly go on strike! Besides, no one from my group knew where I was, and they would worry if I didn't return soon.

The young man and his mother seemed sad when I declined their kind invitation, but when I told them how much it meant to me for them to be my friends and to share their beautiful village with me, they beamed.

That young man and his mother will probably never know what kind of an impact he had on my life. Though I was a complete stranger to all of them and though they were obviously not well to do, they took me in and tried to share what little they had. Through their actions, I was able to see a picture of Jesus.

Jesus once commended a poor woman for giving away all that she had: "But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on.'" (Mark 12:42-44)

We can learn much from people like Jesus' widow and the turtle-selling friend of the missionary!

Dear Lord we pray that today that we will give of what we have willingly to You. Help us to share with those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.