Where is God's perfection?
(author unknown)

In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be main-streamed into conventional schools.

At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection?"

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the father answered," that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child."

He then told the following story about his son Shaya:

One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Shaya's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.

Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his team-mates.

Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."

Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's team-mates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya.

As the pitch came in, Shaya and his team-mate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.

Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first. Run to first!" Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming,"Shaya run home!" Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."

   

                                                                            57 Cents That Made History

A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it 'was too crowded'. "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribble in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school."

For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there!

A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a 57 cent payment.

Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.

In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell.

- a true story.

                                                                               

                                                                                        Bamboo

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there, in the cool of the day, the Master of the garden was wont to walk. Of all the denizens of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was gracious and noble bamboo. Year after year, bamboo grew yet more noble and gracious, conscious of his Master’s love and watchful delight, but modest and gentle withal. And often when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside his grave stateliness, to dance and play right merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance of the garden, Which most delighted the Master’s heart.

Now, once upon a day, the Master himself drew near to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting.

The Master spoke: “Bamboo, Bamboo, I would use you.”

Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and his destiny.

His voice came low: “Master, I’m ready. Use me as Thou wilt.”

“Bamboo,” – The Master’s voice was grave --- “I would have to take you and cut you down!”

A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo…”Cut …me… down ? Me.. who thou, Master, has made the most beautiful in all thy Garden…cut me down! Ah, not that. Not that. Use me for the joy, use me for the glory, oh master, but cut me not down!”

Beloved Bamboo,”—The Master’s voice grew graver still—“If I cut you not down, I cannot use you.”

The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. There was a whisper:

“Master, if thou cannot use me other than to cut me down.. then do thy will and cut”.

“Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also”.

“Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust; but would thou also have to take from me, my leaves and branches too?”

“Bamboo, if I cut them not away, I cannot use you.”

The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low: “Master, cut away”

“Bamboo, Bamboo, I would yet… split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I cut not so, I cannot use you.”

Then Bamboo bowed to the ground: “Master, Master… then cut and split.”

So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo…
and cut him down…
and hacked off his branches…
and stripped off his leaves…
and split him in two…
and cut out his heart.

And lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then putting one end of the broken Bamboo in the spring and the other end into the water channel in His field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo… And the spring sang welcome, and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted, and the days went by, and the shoots grew and the harvest came.

In that day Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, was yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his Master’s world.

Author Unknown

Visiting Hours

He was looking forward to this moment all day long, after 6 days of labor and it finally arrived--Visiting Day! The man with the keys arrived to swing open the large, heavy doors. The cold gray hall springs to life in the warm glow of light. He could hardly control his emotions. The families began to arrive. He peers from the corner of the room, longing for the first glimpse of his loved one.

He lives for the weekends. He lives for these visits.

As the cars arrive, he watches intently. Then, finally, she arrives--his bride, for whom he would do anything. They embrace, eat a light lunch and reminisce how things used to be. At one point, they break into singing, with interruptions of laughter and applause. But all too soon it is over. A tear comes to his eyes as his bride departs.

Then the man with the keys closes the heavy doors. He hears the key turn in the lock marking the end of a special day. There he stands, alone again. He knows that most of his visitors will not contact him again until next week.

As the last car pulls away from the parking lot, Jesus retreats into loneliness as He waits until next Sunday -- Visiting Day. Is the time that we spend with Jesus an everyday thing, or do we just visit Him on Sunday????

 

The Portrait of a Rich Man's 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 collectors around the world.

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, 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 died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas 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 Christmas 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 solider told of how the man's son had told everyone of his not to mention 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 paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas 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 clamored. 

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 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 Christmas 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 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 at the audience and announced the auction was 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."

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors  discovered on that Christmas day, the message is still the same - the love of a Father - a Father whose greatest joy came from his son who went away and gave his life rescuing others. And because of that Father's  love..whoever takes the Son gets it all.

Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, this story illustrated the love of our Father in Heaven, our GOD, for us. He sacrificed His beloved Son and whosoever would believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. The is the greatest gift of love to each one of us.

"A Matter of Priorities"

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live.  They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"  "It was great, Dad."  "Did you see how poor people live?" asked the father.  "Oh yeah" said the son.  "So what did you learn from the trip?"  asked the father.  The son answered,  "I saw that we have one dog and they had four.  We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.  Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.  We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.  We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.  We buy our food, but they grow theirs.  We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.   With this the boy's father was speechless.  Then his son added,  "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."

Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate of what we don't have.  What is one person's worthless object, is another's prized possession.  It is all based on one's perspective.  Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for all the bounty we have instead of worrying about wanting more.  Take joy and appreciate every single thing you have.

The Bridge

There was once a big turntable bridge which spanned a large river. During most of the day, the bridge sat with the length running up and down the river parallel with the banks allowing ships to pass freely on both sides of the bridge. But, at certain times of the day, a certain train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river allowing the train to cross.

A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place when the train crossed. One evening when the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, he looked off into the distance through the dimming twilight and caught sight of the train's light. He stepped to the controls and waited until the train was at a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge. He turned the bridge into position, but to his horror, he found that the locking control didn't work. If the bridge was not locked securely into position, it would wobble back and forth and the ends when the train came to it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard.

He left the shack with the bridge turned across the river and hurried to the other side of the river where there was a lever which he could use to operate the lock manually. He could hear the rumble of the train now and leaned back-ward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. Many lives depended upon this man's strength.

Then, coming across the bridge from the other direction, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. "Daddy, where are you?" His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first instinct was to cry out to the child, "Run! Run!" But the train was too close. The tiny feet would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left the lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety, but he realized he could not get back to the lever in time. Either the people on the train or his son must die. He took just a moment to make his decision.

The train sped swiftly and safely on its way and no one on board was even aware of the tiny, broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the rushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of a sobbing man still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed. They didn't see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked to tell his wife how he had sacrificed their son.

Now, if you can comprehend the emotions which went through this man's heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Heavenly Father when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that he caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? And how does it feel when we speed along life without giving a thought to what was done for us through Jesus Christ? When was the last time you thanked Him for the sacrifice of His Son?

Letter From a Friend

I just had to write to tell you how much I love you and care for you. Yesterday, I saw you walking and laughing with your friends. I hoped that soon you'd want Me to walk along with you, too. So, I painted you a sunset to close your day and whispered a cool breeze to refresh you.

I waited, but you never called. I just kept on loving you.

As I watched you fall asleep last night, I wanted so much to touch you. I spilled moonlight onto your face, trickling down your cheeks as so many tears have. You didn't even think of me; I wanted so much to comfort you.

The next day I exploded a brilliant sunrise into a glorious morning for you. But you woke up late and rushed off to work, you didn't even notice. My sky became cloudy, and My tears were the rain.

I love you. Oh, if you'd only listen. I really love you. I try to say it in the quiet of the green meadow and in the blue sky. The wind whispers My love throughout the treetops and spills it into the vibrant colors of the flowers. I shout it to you in the thunder of the great waterfalls and compose love songs for birds to sing for you.

I warm you with the clothing of My sunshine and perfume the air with nature's sweet scent. My love for you is deeper than the ocean and greater than any need in your heart. If you'd only realize how I care. I died just for you.

My Dad sends His love. I want you to meet Him. He cares, too. Fathers are just that way. So please call Me soon. No matter how long it takes, I'll wait because I love you.

Your Friend,

Jesus

TELL THEM

Tell Them
-(Author Unknown)

Some 14 years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our opening session in the theology of faith.

That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. My quick judgment wrote him off as strange – very strange.

Tommy turned out to be my biggest challenge. He constantly objected to or smirked at the possibility of an unconditionally loving God. When he turned in his final exam at the end of the course, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?" "No," I said emphatically. "Oh," he responded. "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the door and then called out. "I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am certain He will find you." Tommy shrugged and left. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was grateful for that. Then came a sad report: Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to me. When he walked into my office, his body was badly wasted, and his long hair had fallen out because of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice, for the first time, was firm.

"Tommy! I've thought about you so often. I heard you were very sick," I blurted out.

"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer. It's a matter of weeks."

"Can you talk about it?"

"Sure. What would you like to know?"

"What's it like to be only 24 and know that you're dying?"

"It could be worse," he told me, "like being 50 and thinking that drinking booze, seducing women and making money are the real 'biggies' in life."

Then he told me why he had come.

"It was something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked if you thought I would ever find God, and you said no, which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging against the bronze doors of heaven. But nothing happened. Well, one day I woke up, and instead of my desperate attempts to get some kind of message, I just quit. I decided I didn't really care about God, an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more important. I thought about you and something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you loved them.' So I began with the hardest one: my dad."

Tommy's father had been reading the newspaper when his son approached him.

"Dad, I would like to talk with you."

"Well, talk."

"I mean, it's really important."

The newspaper came down three slow inches.

"What is it?"

"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that."

Tommy smiled at me as he recounted the moment. "The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I couldn't remember him doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.

"It was easier with my mother and little brother," Tommy continued. "They cried with me, and we hugged one another, and shared the things we had been keeping secret for so long. Here I was, in the shadow of death, and I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

"Then one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. Apparently He does things in His own way and at His own hour. The important thing is that you were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."

"Tommy," I added, "could I ask you a favor? Would you come to my theology-of-faith course and tell my students what you told me?"

Though we scheduled a date, he never made it. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of humanity has ever seen or the mind ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said. "I know, Tommy."

"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?"

"I will, Tommy. I'll tell them."

Following Jesus

A pastor of a Church D.L. Moody once preached in shares this story. Years earlier when

the famed Moody was scheduled to preach at this Church thousands crammed the Church to

hear him speak. One evening a little boy came alone to the door of the Church to hear Moody

at this Church, but the usher at the door stopped the small boy with dirty clothes and told him he should be at home in bed. The little boy, downcast and disappointed that he wasn't being permitted to attend the service walked to the side of the building and began to weep. Just as he began to cry, a carriage pulled up and out walked Moody toward the entrance of the Church. He heard the boy crying and walked over to him, the boy did not know it was Moody. Moody asked the boy why he was crying and the boy told him how he had hoped to hear Moody preach but wasn't being allowed in the Church. Moody smiled and asked him, "Do you really want to hear Mr. Moody?" "Yes Sir!" was the boy's response. Moody then said, "Well, I know how to get you in, but you have to do exactly what I tell you." The little boy promised he would. Moody put his coattails in the hands of the boy and told him to hold on to them and not let loose as he walked in until he told him to. Moody entered and walked right to the platform. Reaching the pulpit he said, "Now my boy, you sit there." Moody put him on the chair reserved for himself and for the evening the boy listened to the great preacher. The Pastor who told this story said, "I know that this story is true for it happened in my Church, I was that little boy. I heard the great D.L. Moody preach, but little did I know when I clung to his coattails that someday I would become the minister of that same Church!" How much more should we "follow Jesus!"!

3. To follow Jesus means to follow Him in every way!

a. If we follow Him in this life, we will follow Him in our death..to

Heaven!

b. Jesus' concern was for the souls of men and women and children.

4. Jesus' life demonstrated a deep concern for spiritual things, His life and

practices showed that the material world was there to bless man, not to

make man a slave to it.

a. Jesus did not ignore material things, He just didn't live for them.

b. If we are to follow Christ, our lives should reflect this same attitude.

c. It doesn't mean that we must be materially poor, but that our lives are

controlled by the things of this world...that we use "stuff" to help build

the kingdom of God, not just our own kingdom!

5. Jesus fraternized with the poor and the rich, he saw ALL men and women

in need of something greater than what this world has to offer...are we

following Him in this example?

The Envelope

It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas
tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through
the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas- oh, not the true
meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it - overspending, the
frantic running around at the last minute to buy a tie for Uncle Harry and
the dusting powder for Grandma - the gifts given in desperation because
you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts,
sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for
Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12
that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended;
and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team
sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed
in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing
holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their
spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling
without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's
ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we
ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their
boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false
bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike,
seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could
have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this
could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little
league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his
present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and
bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them
anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the
envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and
that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in
succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year
sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game,
another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned
to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope
became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing
opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys
would stand with wide eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope
from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but
the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there. You
see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled
around, I was still so wrapped up in grief that I barely got the tree up.
But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and, in the
morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to
the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The
tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our
grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation
watching as their fathers take down the envelope.

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we
all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true
Christmas spirit this year and always.

 

I Knew You Would Come...

Herman and I locked our general store and dragged ourselves home. It was
11:00 P.M., Christmas Eve of 1949. We were dog tired. We had sold
almost all of our toys; and all the layaways, except one package, had been
picked up.

Usually we kept the store open until everything had been claimed. We
wouldn't have woken up happy on Christmas knowing that some child's gift
was still on the layaway shelf. But the person who had put a dollar down
on that package never returned. Early Christmas morning we and our
twelve-year-old son, Tom, opened gifts. But I'll tell you, there was
something humdrum about this Christmas. Tom was growing up; I missed his
childish exuberance of past years.

As soon as breakfast was over Tom left to visit his friend next door.
Herman mumbled, " I'm going back to sleep. There's nothing left to stay up
for." So there I was alone, feeling let down. And then it began, A
strange, persistent urge. It seemed to be telling me to go to the store.
I looked at the sleet and icy side walk outside. That's crazy, I said to
myself. I tried dismissing the urge, but it wouldn't leave me alone. In
fact, it was getting stronger. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer,
and I got dressed.

Outside, the wind cut right through me and the sleet stung my cheeks. I
groped my way to the store, slipping and sliding. In front stood two
boys, one about nine, and the other six. What in the world?? "See, I told
you she would come!" the older boy said jubilantly. The younger one's face
was wet with tears, but when he saw me, his sobbing stopped.

"What are you two doing out here?" I scolded, hurrying them into the
store. "You should be home on a day like this!" They were poorly dressed.
They had no hats or gloves, and their shoes barely held together. I
rubbed their icy hands, and got them up close to the
heater.

"We've been waiting for you," replied the older boy. "My little brother
Jimmy didn't get any Christmas." He touched Jimmy's shoulder. "We want to
buy some skates. That's what he wants. We have these three dollars," he
said, pulling the bills from is pocket.

I looked at the money. I looked at the expectant faces. And then I looked
around the store. "I'm sorry," I said, "but we have no---" Then my eye
caught sight of the layaway shelf with its lone package. "Wait a minute,"
I told the boys. I walked over, picked up the package, unwrapped it and,
miracle of miracles, there was a pair of skates! Jimmy reached for them.
Lord let them be his size. And miracle added upon miracle, they were his
size.

The older boy presented the dollars to me. "No," I told him, "I want you
to have these skates, and I want you to use your money to get some
gloves." The boys just blinked at first. Then their eyes became like
saucers, and their grins stretched wide when they understood I was giving
them the skates. What I saw in Jimmy's eyes was a blessing. It
was pure joy, and It was beautiful. My spirits rose. We walked out
together, and as I locked the door, I turned to the older brother and
said, "How did you know I would come?"

I wasn't prepared for his reply. His gaze was steady, and he answered me
softly. "I ask Jesus to send you." The tingles in my spine weren't from
the cold. God had planned this. As we waved good-by, I turned home to a
brighter Christmas.

When it comes right down to it - all that we celebrate on Christmas is the
gift of God's love, freely given, for us - who will always be beggars at
the throne of God's grace.

 

 

 

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