12/24/2009

In The Eyes Of A Child

By David Langerfeld

This is a first-person account from a mother about her family as they ate dinner on Christmas Day in a small restaurant many miles from their home.

Nancy, the mother, relates:

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high-chair tray. His eyes were wide with excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.

"Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik.

My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there."

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.

Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya know patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo."

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally go through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot.

The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to side-step him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's pick-me-up, position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love and submission laid his tiny head upon the man''s ragged shoulder. The man''s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labor - gently, so gently cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back.

No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you ma''am, you've given me my Christmas gift."

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me." I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes.

I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not, I felt it was God asking -- "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?", when He shared His for all eternity.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become like a little child."

----------
[Matthew 18:3-5] Most assuredly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever therefore humbles himself as a little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me.


12/23/2009

Living A Life That Matters

What Will Matter
By Michael Josephson

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten,
will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies
will finally disappear.

So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important
will fade away.

It won't matter where you came from,
or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant,
even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;
not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion,
courage or sacrifice

That enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.


What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
But how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.

What will matter is not your memories,
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.


Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

* * * * * * *



* * * * * * *

One Solitary Life

Adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never traveled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today he is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life of Jesus

12/22/2009

"I asked Jesus to send you"

Author Unknown

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 of the layaways, except one package, had been picked up. Usually we kept the store open until everything had been claimed. We wouldn't have been 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 the 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 sidewalk 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 at 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 his pocket. I looked at the money. I looked at their 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 lay-away 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 asked Jesus to send you."

The tingles in my spine weren't from the cold. God had planned this. As we waved good-bye, I turned home for a brighter Christmas.

12/21/2009

You Can Have My Room

By Ron Hutchcraft

It was the biggest night of the year in a little town called Cornwall. It was the night of the annual Christmas pageant. It's an especially big deal for the children in town -- they get to try out for the roles in the Christmas story. Everybody wants a part.

Which leads us to the problem of Harold. Harold really wanted to be in the play, too, but he was - well, he was kind of a slow and simple kid. The directors were ambivalent - I mean, they knew Harold would be crushed if he didn't have a part, but they were afraid he might mess up the town's magic moment. Finally, they decided to cast Harold as the innkeeper - the one who turns Mary and Joseph away the night Jesus is to be born. He had only one line - "I'm sorry, we have no room." Well, no one could imagine what that one line was going to do to everyone's Christmas.

The night of the pageant the church was packed, as usual. The Christmas story unfolded according to plan - angels singing, Joseph's dream, and the trip to Bethlehem. Finally, Joseph and Mary arrived at the door of the Bethlehem inn, looking appropriately tired. Joseph knocked on the inn door, and Harold was there to open the door.

Joseph asked his question on cue - "Do you have a room for the night?" Harold froze. After a long pause, Harold mumbled his line, "I'm sorry - we have no room." And, with a little coaching, he shut the door. The directors heaved a sigh of relief - prematurely. As Mary and Joseph disappeared into the night, the set suddenly started shaking again - and the door opened.

Harold was back! And then, in an unrehearsed moment that folks would not soon forget, Harold went running after the young couple, shouting as loud as he could -- "Wait! Don't go Joseph. Bring Mary back! You can have MY room!"

I think little Harold may have understood the real issue of Christmas better than anyone else there that night. How can you leave Jesus outside? You have to make room for Jesus. And that may be the issue for you this Christmas. What will you do with this Son of God who came to earth to find you?

Jesus is the One who trades a throne room for a stable, and the praise of angels for human mockery. This is the Creator who gives Himself on a cross! The Bible gives us the only appropriate response: "The life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) You look at what Jesus did to pay for your sin on that cross, and you say those life-changing words - "For me."

Jesus is at YOUR door this Christmas. Maybe He's been knocking for a long time. Maybe He won't keep knocking much longer. All your life - even the events of the last few months - have been to prepare you for this crossroads moment with Jesus your Savior. Don't leave Him outside any longer. Open the door this Christmas Day. "Jesus, I cannot keep You out any longer. Come on in. You can have my room... my life."

12/20/2009

In The Wrong Direction

Author Unknown

I guess every athlete would like to do something immortal, something that will be remembered. Roy Riegels did - in a way. He played center in the 1929 Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California.

The game was almost over - the score was very close. Both teams knew that any score might well decide the game. Then, on one play, Roy Riegels suddenly found himself with a ball in his hands. Now centers only know what to do with the ball when they're snapping it to the quarterback - but Roy Riegels had it whether he liked it or not.

Well, he started running as fast as a center can go - right for the goal line. He glanced back over his shoulder and he saw a strange sight - he was being frantically pursued by his own teammates. His instincts told him to just keep running, and he did - until he was tackled just short of the goal - by one of his own teammates. Roy Riegels was running for the other team's goal. And shortly, the other team went on to score and win the game. And as for athletic immortality? He went down in football history - as Wrong Way Riegels!

* * * * * * *

Does Anybody Hear Her
By Casting Crowns



She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyon's ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older
And she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her

If Judgement looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her

Never even met her
(Never Even Met her)

(Ohhh) Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me

Does anybody hear her? (Does anybody hear her?)
Does anybody see? (Does anybody See?)
Does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple (shadow of her steeple)
With all the lost and lonely people (Lost and Lonely people)
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?

He is running a hundred miles an hour,
in the wrong direction...

12/16/2009

Who Am I?



By Casting Crowns

Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.

Bridge:
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

Chorus:
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
Who am I?
That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
I am yours..
I am yours..

12/14/2009

Promises And Vows

The Voice Of Promise
Author Unknown

From the very beginning, The girl's family objected strongly on her dating this guy, saying that it has got to do with family background, and that the girl will have to suffer for the rest of her life if she were to be with him.

Due to family's pressure, the couple quarreled very often. Though the girl loved the guy deeply, she always asked him: "How deep is your love for me?"

As the guy is not good with his words, this often caused the girl to be very upset. With that and the family's pressure, the gal often vents her anger on him. As for him... he only endured it in silence.

After a couple of years, the guy finally graduated and decided to further his studies overseas. Before leaving, he proposed to the gal: "I'm not very good with words. But all I know is that I love you. If you allow me, I will take care of you for the rest of my life. As for your family, I'll try my best to talk them round. Will you marry me?"

The girl agreed, and with the guy's determination the family finally gave in and agreed to let them get married. So before he left, they got engaged.

The gal went out to the working society, whereas the guy was overseas, continuing his studies. They sent their love through emails and phone calls. Though it was hard, but both never thought of giving up.

One day, while the gal was on her way to work, she was knocked down by a car that lost control. When she woke up, she saw her parents beside her bed. She realized that she was badly injured. Seeing her mum cry, she wanted to comfort her. But she realized that all that could come out of her mouth was just a sigh. she had lost her voice....

The doctor says that the impact on her brain has caused her to lose her voice. Listening to her parents' comfort, but with nothing coming out from her, she broke down. During the stay in the hospital, besides silent cry...it's still just silent cry that accompanied her. Upon reaching home, everything seems to be the same. Except for the ringing tone of the phone which pierced into her heart every time it rang. She does not wish to let the guy know and, not wanting to be a burden to him, she wrote a letter to him saying that she does not wish to wait any longer.

With that, she sent the ring back to him. In return, the guy sent countless replies and phone calls.. all the gal could do besides crying is still crying...The parents decided to move away, hoping that she could eventually forget everything and be happy. With a new environment, the gal learnt sign language and started a new life.

Telling herself everyday that she must forget the guy. One day, her friend came and told her that he's back. She asked her friend not to let him know what happened to her. Since then, there wasn't anymore news of him.

A year has passed and her friend came with an envelope, containing an invitation card for the guy's wedding. The gal was shattered! When she opened the letter, she saw her name on it instead. When she was about to ask her friend what was going on, she saw the guy standing in front of her.

He used sign language to tell her, "I've spent a year to learn sign language. Just to let you know that I've not forgotten our promise. Let me have the chance to be your voice. I Love You." With that, he slipped the ring back into her finger. The gal finally smiled.


Fulfilling Vows
By Os Hillman

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. (Ecclesiastes 5:4)

Have you ever had a business relationship with someone who made a commitment but later said, "Well, things changed, so I cannot honor our original agreement"? Sometimes this may be the case, but often it is simply an opportunity to avoid fulfilling an agreement. God is big on fulfilling vows. God's nature is righteousness and truth. You will always see God honor His Word. He expects the same of His people.

God says there are consequences when we do not fulfill our vows. Subsequent Scripture verses reveal the following: "It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, 'My vow was a mistake.' Why should God be angry with what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:5-7).

God tells us that He will destroy the work of our hands for failure to fulfill vows. That's pretty strong language. It gives us an indication of how important fulfilling vows is to God. He will not prosper our work if there are unfulfilled vows in our lives.

Are there any unfulfilled vows in your life that may be hindering your projects? Vows show up in many areas of our lives - marriages, businesses, personal friendships. Unfulfilled vows in any one of these could be the reason your work may be hindered.

Ask God today if there are any unfulfilled vows in your life. If so, begin today to make them right so that you may be successful in whatever God calls you to do.

If we would remember the vows we made
And be pure and true within;
We would not compromise the truth
And lead ourselves into sin.

11/16/2009

Making A Difference In Someone's Life

The Blind Side



Teenager Michael Oher is surviving on his own, virtually homeless, when he is spotted on the street by Leigh Anee Tuohy.

Learning that the young man is one of her daughter's classmates, Leigh Anee insists that Michael -- wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the dead of winter -- come out of the cold. Without a moment's hesitation, she invites him to stay at the Tuohy home for the night. What start out as a gesture of kindness turns into something more as Michael becomes part of the Tuohy family despite the differences in their backgrounds.

Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. And as the family helps Michael fulfill his potential, both on and off the football field, Michael's presence in the Tuohys' lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own.

Responding to the prompting inside
CCLI.com

Has God ever nudged your heart? Maybe you’ve driven past someone and felt a tug, a sudden surge of compassion. The Spirit may have prompted you to act. Did you keep driving or did you turn around? It is tempting to move on. We have appointments, jobs, responsibilities. Besides, how much difference can we make? Yet, in The Blind Side, Leigh Anne Tuohy dares to turn around, to stop the car, to get out and make a difference.

Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) was a legendary basketball star at Ole Miss who now owns most of the fast food restaurants in Memphis. His wife, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) is an interior designer in constant demand. Their teenage daughter Collins plays volleyball and serves on the cheerleading squad. Their young son, S.J. (Sean Junior) has energy and ideas to spare.

Returning from a volleyball game, Leigh Anne spots Big Mike walking the streets on a chilly evening. She is troubled by the sight and insists that Sean turn their car around. Big Mike insists he is going to the gym. But Leigh Anne presses further wondering why he is going to a gymnasium that is closed. When Big Mike equivocates, Leigh Anne confronts him, “Don’t you lie to me.”

Sean watches from a distance. He’s seen Leigh Anne in action many times before, “She’s about to get her way.”

Biblical Connection

When it comes to caring for those in need, sometimes we have to be insistent. The needs are often so simple and tangible: food, shelter, clothing. Jesus redefined the test of a true disciple. In Matthew 25:35-36, he lays out tangible measures: “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 took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.”

Leigh Anne takes Jesus’ words seriously. She pushes pass fear or prejudice to make room for a cold and hungry stranger. She stops what she’s doing, turns her family and their car around. She dares to get out, to search for an answer, to meet a need. The Tuohys welcome Mike into their home.

----------
Michael's poor condition became his "blind side". Meanwhile, the routinary (lack of challenge and real excitement) afluent content life of the Tuohys has somewhat became a kind of a "blind side" to the family. But when the motherly instinct of Leigh Anne Tuohy motivated her to dare to turn around to stop the car to get out and make a difference in Michael's life, she wasn't expecting that what she's doing will make an even bigger difference in her family's life. While the Tuohys addressed the "blind side" in Michaels life, Michael's presence in their family took care of their own "blind side" -- a perfect teamwork.

How amazing that the Lord sometimes addresses our need by means of other people's need.

To make a difference in someone's life is to make a difference in your own life.

10/29/2009

Furnace Time: Set Apart From, To Be A Part Of

Lessons From the Coke Bottle Factory
By Dr. Ray Pitchard

An excerpt from the author's sermon series, Survivor Babylon: How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation (Part 7 of 8)

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The summer after I graduated from college, I worked at a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee that made Coke bottles. I worked as many hours as I could because Marlene and I were getting married in August and then we were moving to Dallas where I started seminary the next week. My job mostly involved cleaning up the area around the huge machines. I spent hours sweeping up shards of glass from bottles that had been discarded during the manufacturing process. It wasn’t particularly difficult, and I loved working late at night, surrounded by the roar of the enormous machines, as the molten glass was pressed into a series of molds, out of which came a long row of translucent green Coke bottles. I forget the precise temperature of the molten glass but it was red hot when it flowed into the mold. As soon as the mold opened, the newly-formed Coke bottles lined up like soldiers in a line, row after row after row, thousands of bottles every hour, carried away on a slow-moving conveyor belt.

The men who worked at the factory warned me never to touch the new bottles, partly because the glass was far too hot and partly because they would easily shatter. The first part I could understand but the shattering part made no sense. Coke bottles were made to withstand enormous abuse. In those days, before plastic bottles and aluminum cans, the bottles were used and then reused, sometimes several times. You could take the empty bottles to a store where you were paid a few cents for each one. If the bottle was in good condition, it was cleaned and then refilled. So how could the bottle shatter so easily right on the assembly line? I remember one man, a longtime worker, who patiently explained that the glass had to be “cured” by heating it to a very high temperature. The manufacturing process involved taking molten glass, pouring it into a mold, lining up the new Coke bottles on a conveyor belt, allowing them to cool for a few minutes, and then passing them through a vast oven that cured the glass. Once the bottles came of the oven, they were hard and strong. To illustrate the importance of the curing process, the man took a few newly-formed bottles off the conveyor belt, using tongs to keep from getting burned. When he pushed them over, they broke instantly. “If we don’t heat the bottles, they will all shatter like that,” he said. That occasional shattering kept me busy sweeping up glass all night long. And the curing process actually made the glass stronger.

The engineers who designed the Coke bottle knew it had to be heated in order to be strong. That curing process was absolutely necessary to produce a Coke bottle that could be used and reused. We might say that the engineers had a hope and a plan for those bottles, they had an “appointed end” by which the bottles would provide a refreshing drink to young kids all over America who would go to the corner grocery store and pay twenty cents for a Coke. The baking in the oven guaranteed that that bottle could withstand heat and cold without shattering.

The memory of that late-night science lesson has stayed with me for over 30 years. The curing of the Coke bottle was necessary and beneficial for its ultimate purpose. Passing through the furnace actually made it stronger. It is the same for you and for me. We cannot skip the “furnace times” of life. They are part of God’s purpose to make us ultimately useful. That may not seem like much consolation when you feel the heat blasting around you. But know this much. You will not be in the furnace a second longer than is necessary. When your trial has come to its appointed end—appointed by God himself—you will come forth stronger than before.

Ever-Increasing Hope

What, then, should we say in response to God's word recorded in Jeremiah 29:11? Our first and greatest need is to submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father and say very simply, “Lord, you know even though I don’t know. You see what is ahead even when all is dark to me. You have a purpose even when my life seems to be going in circles. Nothing that is happening to me has come to me by chance. I bow down before you and say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Amen.” Surely we all need to pray like that every single day.

If this verse is true, then our position ought to be one of ever-increasing hope in the Lord. I admit that is hard to do when you see your child suffering from cancer or when your marriage falls apart or your career dissolves or you cannot pay your bills or you suffer rejection from those you thought you could trust. We all live in a fallen world, and we ourselves are fallen people, not yet what we could be or should be or someday will be. There is no Bible verse that can take away the pain of this world. But Jeremiah 29:11 leads us out of the darkness into the light.

We are not children of darkness!
We are the children of light!

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Let us hear Spurgeon's words:

We are not driven into growing darkness, but led into increasing light. There is always something to be hoped for in the Christian’s life. Let us not look towards the future nor regard the present with any kind of dread. There is nothing for us to dread.

When we read a verse like Jeremiah 29:11, we ought to ask ourselves, “What difference does being a Christian make?” We suffer as others suffer. We get sick, we face trouble, and we go through the full range of human experiences. Ask the Christians in Sudan if they know anything about suffering. Ask the Christians in Saudi Arabia what it’s like to follow Jesus. Our brothers and sisters around the world face trouble every day because of their faith. Let me say again that I have no “magic verse” that can remove all your troubles, wipe away your tears, resolve all your conflicts, or bring you quickly out of the furnace. If anything, Jeremiah 29:11 is meant to help us while we are in the furnace with the certain truth that we are there for a purpose, that it won’t last forever, and that God will be glorified and we will be improved by our “furnace time.”

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You may have thought before that your unity with your brethren of the other fold is no longer possible when they have closed the door for unity negotiation by filling the position which you could have fit in. But the Lord's plan for you fits exactly to the talents he has bestowed you with and the grace he is sustaining you with.

For now you are being set apart, but when the time comes (after this coming season is over), the Lord shall call you to task and unite you with your brethren and make you a significant part of the fold, and whatever you do in obedience to that call shall exceedingly prosper you, your brethren, and your people in ways unexpected -- for this is the next level of your calling. Many others of the other folds shall also be joined to the fold when this coming season is over. God's way of uniting people is not like the ways of men.

Therefore be like Joseph and learn from his obedience and humility. He was the youngest among brethren. But the Lord set him apart from the rest so that later on in his life he will become a very significant part of the history of his nation and in the life of his people.

"We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

10/15/2009

We Are The Change That This World Needs

CNN Heroes

At 16, Rhandolf Fajardo reflects on his former life as a gang member.

"My gang mates were the most influential thing in my life," says Fajardo, who joined a gang when he was in sixth grade. "We were pressured to join."

He's not alone. In the Philippines, teenage membership in urban gangs has surged to an estimated 130,000 in the past 10 years, according to the Preda Foundation, a local human rights charity.

"I thought I'd get stuck in that situation and that my life would never improve," recalls Fajardo. "I would probably be in jail right now, most likely a drug addict -- if I hadn't met Efren."

Efren Peñaflorida, 28, also was bullied by gangs in high school. Today, he offers Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education.

"Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old," says Peñaflorida. "They are all victims of poverty."

For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom.

Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump.

Peñaflorida knows firsthand the adversity faced by these children. Born into a poor family, he lived in a shanty near the city dump site. But he says he refused to allow his circumstances to define his future.

"Instead of being discouraged, I promised myself that I would pursue education," he recalls. "I will strive hard; I will do my best."

In high school, Peñaflorida faced a new set of challenges. Gang activity was rampant; they terrorized the student body, vandalized the school and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls, he says.

"I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street."

Peñaflorida remembers standing up to a gang leader, refusing to join his gang. That confrontation proved fateful. At 16, he and his friends "got the idea to divert teenagers like us to be productive," he says.

He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved.

"They need education to be successful in life. It's just giving them what others gave to me," he says.

Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers.

Video: Watch Peñaflorida and his group in action with their push cart classroom

"Our volunteers serve as an inspiration to other children," he says.

The group also runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth.

Since 1997, an estimated 10,000 members have helped teach more than 1,500 children living in the slums. The organization supports its efforts by making and selling crafts and collecting items to recycle.

Video: Take a look at the slums where Peñaflorida and his group spend their Saturdays

Through his group, Peñaflorida has successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, seeing potential where others see problems.

"Before, I really didn't care for my life," says Michael Advincula, who started doing drugs when he was 7. "But then Efren patiently dug me from where I was buried. It was Efren who pushed me to get my life together."

Video: Watch Advincula describe how he met Peñaflorida in the slums

Today, Advincula is a senior in high school and one of the group's volunteers.

Peñaflorida hopes to expand the pushcart to other areas, giving more children the chance to learn and stay out of gangs.

"I always tell my volunteers that you are the change that you dream and I am the change that I dream. And collectively we are the change that this world needs to be."

Want to get involved? Check out the Dynamic Teen Company and see how to help.

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Brothers, don't be weary in doing well. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don't give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let's do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:9-10)

9/29/2009

Prayers Of Hope In Times Of Calamity

By Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Tragedies come in all sizes and forms. They range from malicious, premeditated tragedies (like a large-scale terrorist attack or violent murder) to unavoidable but equally devastating tragedies that affect communities or individuals (such as fires and floods, cancer and car wrecks). Naturally, how you pray will depend on the specific crisis. There are, however, some common denominators that apply to any calamity. Hurting people need hope; they need an eternal perspective; they need others to reach out and care for them; they need to reach out to the Father and trust Him. As you pray for the people involved in a calamity or crisis, adapt these Scripture-based prayers as the Holy Spirit leads.

1. Dear Lord, if these hurting people have not called on You before, may they begin calling on your name right now; may they find You to be their refuge and strength, an ever-present help in their time of trouble. (Gen. 4:26; Ps. 46:1)

2. Lord of heaven and earth, encourage these friends to seek You, reach out to You, and find You because You are not far from them. Give them hope that You are with them so that the waters they are passing through will not sweep them away, and the fire they are walking through will not burn them. (Acts 17:27; Is. 43:2)

3. Living Word, make Your Word come alive to those who suffer. When their souls are weary with sorrow, strengthen them according to Your Word. Give them longing for Your precepts, and preserve their lives by them. Comfort them with Your promises. Use this affliction to bring them near to Your ways. Sustain them according to Your promise, and do not let their hopes be dashed. Give them a love for Your law, Lord, so they will have great peace and nothing will cause them to stumble. (Ps. 119: 28,40,50,67,116,165)

4. God of peace and unity, bind affected families together in love. When one member is weak, fill the others with strength and compassion so that the one who falls will have someone to pick him up. Help them not to lose patience with each other, attack each other, or in any other way be separated by these tragic circumstances; instead, knit them together in love and strength. (Eccl. 4:9-12; Mt. 19:6)

5. Loving Father, draw the children involved in this tragedy to Yourself. Let them come to You without hindrance. Strip away any foothold in their lives that Satan may try to gain through this tragedy. Rather, use it to refine their faith in You. (Mt. 19:13-14; Lk. 17:1-2; Eph. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:6-7)

6. Stir Your body to action, Lord Jesus. Surround these hurting people with those who will minister to them. Send believers who will offer food, visits, and other ministry in Your Name. Prompt Your people to reach out and offer the comfort they themselves have received from You. Give them opportunities to share the reason for the hope they have. (Mt. 25:37-40; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 3:15)

7. Eternal Father, prompt these friends to view their circumstances from the perspective of eternity. Help them to consider the fleetingness of life, the vain bustling around, and the storing up of wealth. Cause them to ponder the eternity You have set in their hearts. Give them a heart of wisdom as they realize that all our
days are numbered. (Ps. 39:4-6; Eccl. 3:11; Ps. 90: 10-12)

8. Sovereign Lord, help these dear ones to be like Job, to see You as good and find reasons to praise You even though You have taken away. Grant them faith to accept trouble from You as well as good things, and give them confidence that even though You slay them, they can still hope in You. (Job 1:21, 2:10, 13:15)

9. Great Redeemer, protect these friends from feeling persecuted. Bless them with confidence that You intend good for them. Please redeem every loss and every painful memory, and use them for the saving of many lives. Help them to know that You understand how they feel because You also suffered. (Gen. 50:20; Heb. 4:15-16)

10. Author of life, on behalf of these friends I come before You to resist every attempt of the evil one to steal and kill and destroy through this tragedy. You are the resurrection and the life; bring the blessings of life and fullness into these friends’ lives. (Jn. 10:10, 11:25)

11. Merciful Savior, help these friends to see Your grace clearly and seek it to guard themselves against any root of bitterness. (Heb. 12:15)

12. God of all hope, help these friends to not lose sight of the plans You have for them—to prosper them and not to harm them, to give them a hope and a future. Help them, Holy Spirit, to hope in You and not in circumstances, so their strength will be renewed. Fill them with joy and peace as they trust in You so that they may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Jer. 29:11; Is. 40:31; Ro. 15:13)

9/27/2009

Shine In Times Of Calamity

By John North

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)

There is no time when a Christian stands out more than in times of calamity!

Sometimes we think that it is in times when all is going well that God’s hand is most evident in our lives, and that may be true from our perspective. But what shows the world the reality of Christ in our lives is not the times when all is going well, but the times when everything is turning bad.

The world knows all about joy and happiness and generosity in times of blessing. Blessing brings those same things out in them. But what the world knows nothing of is joy and happiness and generosity when you are experiencing calamity. They don’t know anything about the nearness of God in the midst of suffering.

What the world trusts in is their good circumstances. When those good circumstances disappear they are left groping, with nothing to trust in. That is when they notice the difference God makes in a person’s life! That is why sufferings during calamities are often a part of God’s plan for our lives. He wants people to see the difference He makes in our lives.

What are you going through now? Are you using this time to get closer to God and rely on Him more deeply?

9/17/2009

Compete against the situation, rather than against a rival

The Hare and The Tortoise (The many variations of the story)
Author Unknown

This is an age old fable of the tortoise and hare race. Everyone knows who won the race or do you? Well, recently I heard a new version of this story with a new twist. Read this inspirational teamwork story with lessons in teamwork from an age old fable.

1. Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster. They decided to settle the argument with a race. The tortoise and hare both agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he'd sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise plodding on overtook him and soon finished the race, emerging as the undisputed champ. The hare woke up and realized that he'd lost the race.

The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. This is the version of the story that we've all grown up with.

2. But then recently, someone told me a more interesting version of this tortoise and hare story. It continues.

The hare was disappointed at losing the race and he did some soul-searching. He realized that he'd lost the race only because he had been overconfident, careless and lax. If he had not taken things for granted, there's no way the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed. This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. He won by several miles.

The moral of the story? Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. If you have two people in your organization, one slow, methodical and reliable, and the other fast and still reliable at what he does, the fast and reliable chap will consistently climb the organizational ladder faster than the slow, methodical chap. It's good to be slow and steady; but it's better to be fast and reliable.

3. But the story doesn't end here. The tortoise did some thinking this time, and realized that there's no way he can beat the hare in a race the way it was currently formatted. He thought for a while, and then challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different route. The hare agreed. The tortoise and hare started off. In keeping with his self-made commitment to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad river. The finishing line was a couple of kilometers on the other side of the river. The hare sat there wondering what to do. In the meantime the tortoise trundled along, got into the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking and finished the race.

The moral of the story? First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency. In an organization, if you are a good speaker, make sure you create opportunities to give presentations that enable the senior management to notice you. If your strength is analysis, make sure you do some sort of research, make a report and send it upstairs. Working to your strengths will not only get you noticed, but will also create opportunities for growth and advancement.

The story still hasn't ended.

4. The tortoise and hare, by this time, had become pretty good friends and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last race could have been run much better. So the tortoise and hare decided to do the last race again, but to run as a team this time. They started off, and this time the hare carried the tortoise till the riverbank. There, the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finishing line together. Both the tortoise and hare felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they'd felt earlier.

The moral of the story? It's good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you're able to work in a team and harness each other's core competencies, you'll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you'll do poorly and someone else does well.

Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership. There are more lessons to be learned from this inspirational teamwork story.

Note that neither the tortoise nor hare gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could. In life, when faced with failure, sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort. Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different. And sometimes it is appropriate to do both.

The tortoise and hare also learned another vital lesson in teamwork. When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better.

* * * * *
When Roberto Goizueta took over as CEO of Coca-Cola in the 1980s, he was faced with intense competition from Pepsi that was eating into Coke's growth. His executives were Pepsi-focused and intent on increasing market share 0.1 per cent a time. Goizueta decided to stop competing against Pepsi and instead compete against the situation of 0.1 per cent growth.

He asked his executives what was the average fluid intake of an American per day? The answer was 14 ounces. What was Coke's share of that? Two ounces. Goizueta said Coke needed a larger share of that market. The competition wasn't Pepsi. It was the water, tea, coffee, milk and fruit juices that went into the remaining 12 ounces. The public should reach for a Coke whenever they felt like drinking something.

To this end, Coke put up vending machines at every street corner. Sales took a quantum jump and Pepsi has never quite caught up since.

To sum up, the story of the hare and tortoise teaches us many things. Chief among them are that fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady; work to your competencies; pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers; never give up when faced with failure; and finally, compete against the situation, not against a rival.

9/10/2009

Following The Lord's Guidance

The Mountain Climber
Author Unknown

They tell the story of a mountain climber who, desperate to conquer the Aconcagua, initiated his climb after years of preparation. But he wanted the glory to himself, therefore, he went up alone. He started climbing and it was becoming later, and later. He did not prepare for camping, but decided to keep on going.

Soon it got dark. Night fell with heaviness at a very high altitude. Visibility was zero. Everything was black. There was no moon, and the stars were covered by clouds.

As he was climbing a ridge at about 100 meters from the top, he slipped and fell. Falling rapidly he could only see blotches of darkness that passed. He felt a terrible sensation of being sucked in by gravity. He kept falling... and in those anguishing moments good and bad memories passed through his mind. He thought certainly he would die.

But then he felt a jolt that almost tore him in half. Yes! Like any good mountain climber he had staked himself with a long rope tied to his waist. In those moments of stillness, suspended in the air he had no other choice but to shout: "Help me God!"

All of a sudden he perceived a voice from above... "What do you want me to do?"

"Save me please..."

"Do you really trust that I can save you?"

"Of course, God."

"Ok then, set free of the rope now and you will live to climb another day."

There was big bewilderment and a moment of silence and stillness. For several minutes, and then hours, the man held tightly to the rope pondering intently upon the voice he perceived. Finally, early in the morning, a team of rescuers found him and brought him home.

In an interview, the team leader of the rescuers said that they found the mountain climber hanging stiffly to a rope just about five feet off the ground near a cave... his body frozen to death.

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Trusting more on his own assessment of his situation instead of following the Lord's guidance, the mountain climber missed his chance of living to climb back some other day with success.

9/07/2009

"Dad, I want you to be my best man."

Reaching Out
By Michael T. Smith

I first signed onto the internet in 1996. The first thing I did was search for writing groups. There were hundreds of them, but I wanted one with a chat room where I could correspond personally with writers.

The one I joined was special. I met many aspiring writers and a few established ones. In this group I met a young man named Dan (Not his real name). We became friends, and over the years I learned his life story. Dan is Korean and had been adopted by an American family. Dan was a young boy when his father left him and his mom. Later his mother slowly pushed him away from her.

At 18, Dan was on his own in the world. He worked two jobs and was going to school. He tried hard, but he was not making it. His two jobs were dragging his marks down. He would lose jobs when he tried to get his marks up. Dan was falling down and had no one to pick him up. He had no anchor. His family had abandoned him; life had abandoned him; his future a mountain too high to climb.

Dan latched onto me and began calling me his cyber dad.

A few years back Dan emailed me. He had reached his limit. He had lost another job. Juggling jobs and school had failed.He had dropped the "ball." With the loss of income he could not pay the rent for his tiny room. His landlord was going to throw him out.

Dan confessed to me that he was close to ending it all. Myself and another friend of his chipped together and sent him a couple hundred dollars to pay his rent. This was money I could not afford to give, but he needed it more than I did. Before I sent him the money, I went online and did a search of government agencies in the area where he lived. I mailed several government officials and told them I had a special request for someone in need.

I said, "I know this may seem strange, but I have a friend in need. I am a Canadian who belongs to an internet writing group. A young man I met there needs your help. He has lost his job and his landlord is throwing him out for non-payment of rent. He has been struggling with two jobs and school and has no family to help him. I believe he is considering suicide. I ask you for any assistance you can give."

Only one mailed back. She was a compassionate lady who mailed me a list of support and help groups. They included the suicide help line and a group that could assist him with work related assistance.

I mailed Dan the list and made him promise to use them before I sent him money. He promised he would, and he did. The groups did assist him. He got a new job and his future looked brighter. I also made him call every relative he could find for their help. He was skeptical, but did it. One kindly aunt gave him a room.

Dan was on his way.

This occurred in 1998. Dan and I moved on from there. We emailed once every few months, and he always called me Dad.

In December of 2003 Dan called me. He had met a young lady and he asked me if I would come to his wedding. The wedding was going to be in Kansas. I said I would love to be there to watch him get married. He replied, "Dad, you don't understand. I don't want you to just be there; I want you to be my best man."

I was floored. I had never met Dan before, but how could I refuse? In the spring of 2004 I flew to Kansas to give this young man his first hug from his cyber dad and had the honor of standing by his side as he took his new bride into his life.

I have been through a lot in my 45 years on this world. Some of it has been very hard and some of it has been wonderful. My visit to Kansas was one of the wonderful ones.

I learned a valuable lesson - reach out and touch someone and you will be touched back - give and you shall receive.

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I am posting this particular entry in my blog as a humble appreciation of a Canadian citizen who had shown a heroic spirit in trying to save a child during the tragedy of the SuperFerry 9 in the Philippines. He was one of the passengers of the sinking ship. He risked himself and was injured in the act, but nonetheless the child still didn't made it alive.

video

9/05/2009

In Unity There Is Strength

Colors Of The Rainbow
Author Unknown

Once upon a time the colors of the world started to quarrel. All claimed that they were the best. The most important, the most useful, the most beautiful and the favorite.

Green said: "Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, trees and leaves. Without me, all animals would die. Look over the countryside and you will see that I am in the majority."

Blue interrupted: "You only think about the earth, but consider the sky and the sea. It is the water that is the basis of life and drawn up by the clouds from the deep sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace, you would all be nothing."

Yellow chuckled: "You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety, and warmth into the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow, and the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me there would be no fun."

Orange started next to blow her trumpet: "I am the color of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I am precious for I serve the needs of human life. I carry the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangoes, and papayas. I don't hang around all the time, but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset My beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you."

Red could stand it no longer he shouted out: "I am the ruler of all of you. I am blood - life's blood!I am the color of danger and of bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I bring fire into the blood. Without me, the earth would be as empty as the moon. I am the color of passion and of love, the red rose, the poinsettia and the poppy."

Purple rose up to his full height. He was very tall and spoke with great pomp: "I am the color of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs, and bishops have always chosen me for I am the sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me! They listen and obey."

Finally Indigo spoke, much more quietly than all the others. But with just as much determination: "Think of me. I am the color of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep water. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace."

And so all the colors went on boasting each other. Each convinced of his or her own superiority. Their quarreling became louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of bright lightening, thunder rolled and boomed. Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colors crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort.

In the midst of the clamor, the Rain began to speak: "You foolish colors, fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Don't you know that you were each made for a special purpose, unique and different? Join hands with one another and come to me."

Doing as they were told, the colors united and joined hands.

The Rain continued: "From now on, when it rains, each of you will stretch across the sky. In a great bow of color as a reminder that you can all live in peace. The Rainbow is a sign of hope for tomorrow."

And so, whenever a good rain washes the world and a Rainbow appears in the sky, it is to let us remember to appreciate one another.

God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between me and the earth." (Genesis 9:12-13.)

The Father and His Sons
Aesop

A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion; and for this purpose he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the faggot into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do it. He next opened the faggot, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons' hands, on which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: "My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this faggot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks."

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Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1)

9/01/2009

The Emperor's Seeds

Author Unknown

Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants, or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.

He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!”

There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.

By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!” Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”

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The Lord's ways are not as the ways of emperors. His tests are not deceiving. His test causes no dishonesty, rather it results in the abundance of faith. When He calls sowers to task, He gives them real live good seeds of different varieties.

Isaiah 55:8-13

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn't return there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

You who are called by the Lord, behold, the Lord has not given you a seed that cannot grow, but rather, in your hands He is placing a live sprouting seed. Therefore delight yourself in Him and He shall prosper that which He has entrusted to you.

8/28/2009

Quotes On Friendship, Leadership, & Discerning

ChristianityToday.com

We all need friends with whom we can speak of our deepest concerns, and who do not fear to speak the truth in love to us.
- Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction

A leader is a fellow who refuses to be crazy the way everybody else is crazy and tries to be crazy in his own crazy way.
- Peter Maurin, from "Easy Essay" in The Catholic Worker

We would do well not to be enamored by the kind of leadership that is so prized by politicians and CEOs, the kind that is conspicuous and, as we say, "effective." Forget about charisma, go for character.
- Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor (adapted)

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. … This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
- Peter Drucker, Managing the Nonprofit Organization

The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are "under" people (as their servants) rather than "over" them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.
- John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time

He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes.
- Chinese Proverb

A belief that God acts with purpose in this world must lead to attempts, however feeble, to discern how my own actions might be attuned to God's one action.
- William Barry in Presence

Discerning and acting on God's will does not mean you'll never have difficult days or feel lousy sometimes. But choosing to live in alignment with God makes you more joyful, compassionate, and peaceful, even on bad days.
- Debra K. Farrington, Hearing with the Heart

God guides us first through his Word, then through our heartfelt desires, then the wise counsel of others, and then our circumstances. At that point we must rely on our own sound judgment… . God gave each of us a brain, and he expects us to put it to good use.
- Bruce K. Waltke, Finding the Will of God

A Talent may be so great that it propels a person forever down one path, as is the case with some artists. But even for these extraordinary folks, call determines whether and how they use their gifts.
- Elizabeth O'Connor, Cry Pain, Cry Hope

Circumstance and coincidence may cause us to be in the right place at the right time to do God's work in a specific way.
- Suzanne Farnham, Listening Hearts

God is always calling us! But there are distinctive moments in this call of his, moments which leave a permanent mark on us—moments which we never forget.
- Carlo Carretto, Letters from the Desert

In His will is our peace.
- Dante, The Divine Comedy: Paradise