Thursday, August 28, 2008

Words to Grow On

WORDS TO GROW ON

As a youngster, there was nothing I liked better than Sunday afternoons at my grandfather's farm in western Pennsylvania. Surrounded by miles of winding stone walls, the house and barn provided endless hours of fun for a city kid like me. I was used to neat-as-a-pin parlors that seemed to whisper, “Not to be touched!”

I can still remember one afternoon when I was eight years old. Since my first visit to the farm, I'd wanted more than anything to be allowed to climb the stone walls surrounding the property. My parents would never approve. The walls were old; some stones were missing, others loose and crumbling. Still, my yearning to scramble across those walls grew so strong that finally, one spring afternoon, I summoned all my courage and entered the living room, where the adults had gathered after Sunday dinner.

“I, uh - I wanna climb the stone walls,” I said hesitantly. Everyone looked up. “Can I climb the stone walls?”

Instantly a chorus went up from the women in the room. “Heavens, no!” they cried in dismay. “You'll hurt yourself!”

I wasn't too disappointed; the response was just as I'd expected. But before I could leave the room, I was stopped by my grandfather's booming voice.

“Now hold on just a minute,” I heard him say. “Let the boy climb the stone walls. He has to learn to do things for himself.”

“Scoot,” he said to me with a wink. “And come see me when you get back.”

For the next two and a half hours I climbed those old walls - and had the time of my life. Later I met with my grandfather to tell him about my adventures. I'll never forget what he said.

“Fred,” he said, grinning, “You made this day a special day just by being yourself. Always remember, there's only one person in this whole world like you, and I like you exactly as you are.”

Many years have passed since then, and today I host the television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, seen by millions of children throughout America. There have been changes over the years, but one thing remains the same: my message to children at the end of almost every visit. "There's only one person in this whole world like you," the kids can count on hearing me say, “and people can like you exactly as you are.”

By Fred Rogers

One Glad Dad

Do not allow yourself to murmur and complain when tough times come your way, but rather see each trial as your chance to learn from and become better than you were before.

ONE GLAD DAD

I am one glad dad these days. I feel so very blessed. Every day I thank God for these three wonderful souls He sent to be my children. They all have such beautiful spirits. They all bring joy to me and to the world around them every single day. It is always such a pleasure to take walks around town with my oldest son. He has more people say “Hi” to him in a day than I do in a week. This is because his goodness and friendliness touches the hearts of everyone he meets. My youngest son rarely speaks at all, yet his spirit shines in other ways. His spontaneous joy and delight in the simplest things makes me smile and his wonderful laughter sounds as beautiful as an angel’s song. Both of my sons do have Autism, but Autism doesn’t have them.

My boys also remind me that sometimes the brightest souls come to Earth in disguise. They come hidden in broken bodies and handicapped minds. They come needing our help and care, yet at the same time they show the rest of us how to live. They go around spreading love, sharing joy, and shining God’s light. And they help us to realize that we can do the same.

Those who know them often become better because of them too. I know that my daughter’s kind, giving, and loving heart has grown stronger and more beautiful because of them. She has had to face a lot growing up with two “special” brothers, but she has used it all to become the wonderful, young woman she is today. Her own spirit glows so brightly. She has already become one of those shining souls who makes the world a better place just by being in it.

I think that I will remain one glad dad for all of my days here. Life has given me a lot of challenges and struggles to face, but God has given me the love, joy, and strength to face them. Life has given me two handicapped sons to raise and care for, but Heaven has blessed me with three shining souls to show me what it means to live and what it means to love.

By Joseph J. Mazzella

Jack’s Lily

Many instances in life we do not fully understand why certain things happen the way they do, but if we trust that God has our best interest in mind, our hearts can rest easy knowing that we are in good hands.

JACK'S LILY

A barking dog in the distance brought Jack out of his sleep and back into consciousness. He lay in the prison cell and curses the emptiness, the loneliness, the blackness around him. Morning was about to dawn, ushering in the anniversary of Lily's first visit. Lily had been all that mattered to him in the world. From the day when she was born, she was fragile and sweet like the morning breeze blowing through a field of lilies. No other name would have done her justice. But Lily never had a chance. When she was two, her mother walked out, announcing that she did not want to be tied down to a crippled child.

Jack wiped the cold sweat from his brow. Hatred and self pity overcame him out of the depth of his conscience. He never knew where his wife went, but his life hit a downward path--too much drinking and gambling, too many fights. He recalled with an oath that the last fight over a game of cards when tempers and blood ran hot together. He was doing time now on a manslaughter conviction.

Lily had lived out her days in a crippled children's home. She never walked in her five short years of life. The only kind spot in Jack's heart was for the nice elderly couple who had cared for Lily in the home. Jack stared at the ceiling remembering every detail of Lily's last visit. Her yellow straw bonnet stuck up just right on top of her yellow curls, making a frame for her doll-like face. Eyes, blue like sapphires, flashed at him behind the wire screen that separated them in the visiting room. Both dimples showed when she smiled. A dress of yellow ruffles and ribbons hid the thinness of her body and made her look every inch of living Lily that she was.

Jack sat up, cringing at the memory of the spotted lily his own Lily had brought him. She had hugged the clay pot before she let go of it. Then she said, “Daddy, this is me. I am going to be with you all the time. Every time you see this lily think of me, for I am your Lily!”

Lily soon had to wave goodbye, but the blooming lily remained to brighten his world of gloom, filling his cell with the slightest suggestion of perfume, so light, so alive, so pure! Not even the foul prison air stifled it! A thousand times a day Jack had stared at the blossom, looking though misty eyes into the face of Lily, “Daddy, this is me,” the silent blossom cried into his heart. Tender care kept the plant alive. Jack dreamed of the day when he would walk from this prison a free man. He would take her away, down south where the sunshine would bring color to her cheeks and a smile to her face.

However, one night Jack's world caved in. The chaplain had tried to soften the shock with words of hope, but it was no use. Lily had died. Pneumonia. Jack folded the telegram and stalked out of the chaplains office with head held low. From that night on he was like a man walking in his sleep. Nothing had mattered anymore. Nothing.

The next day, as he moved the fading plant to a sunny spot, his hands trembled and he dropped it. The stem snapped as the pot smashed into pieces on the cement floor. Jack was stunned--too stunned to move for a long time. Then, dropping to his knees, he gathered the fragments of clay, earth, and plant and molded them into a mound in the corner of his cell. Lily was dead--the mound of dirt was her grave. “daddy, this is me.” Jack turned away. He could not endure the sight of her lonely grave.

A buzzer brought Jack out of his memories and to his feet. Lights blinked on as he listened to a shuffle of feet. Then he remembered. There was going to be a sunrise service in the chapel. It was still dark. No service for him he thought. Never! Lily was dead and with her had died all his hopes and dreams. There was only one thing left for him to do and that was to hang himself. As he walked toward the window Jack glanced down and froze in his tracks. The lily, which had lain in its grave for a year, had burst into life! A lily blossom stood in triumph on the dirt tomb. “THIS IS ME, DADDY, THIS IS ME!” The words rang like a silver bell in Jack's heart. He bowed his head as hot tears rolled down his face and dropped to the floor.

Jack found a seat in the chapel just as the chaplain rose from behind a bank of lilies, opened his Bible and began to read, “Jesus is the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this.” John 11:25-26

Jack leaned forward. He did not know the Bible said this. In fact, he never read the Bible. The chaplain explained the way to receive forgiveness of sins. Suddenly Jack felt his sins heavy as mountains weighing down upon him. Would God forgive him? “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, explained the chaplain. Jack fell on his knees in earnest prayer and confessed his sins to God and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ who died for him. Romans 10:9 When he rose to his feet, he knew his load of sin and guilt was all gone! He was forgiven! He was filled with peace and joy!

Later tears of joy filled his eyes as he knelt to pray beside the blooming lily in his cell. Someday he would meet Lily in Heaven. Jack was not alone now. He felt the sweet presence of his Savior who promises to “Never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Author Unknown

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Hurricane

THE HURRICANE

Twin fountains of muddy water splashed into the air as the car left the road and plunged into what was left of a farmer's field. The two men inside were violently thrown inside the car. Luckily both were wearing shoulder harnesses so their injuries were slight. But both discovered that a few bumps and bruises were the least of their worries at the moment. Slowly and steadily the automobile was sinking into the water and mire. They would either have to swim or drown.

The men struggled out of their harnesses as water gushed in around the doors. A strong current was against them at first and the door wouldn't budge. Finally with a mighty heave, fueled by overwhelming panic, they got one of the doors open and splashed their way out of the sinking vehicle.

It was pitch dark. The water was freezing cold. Violent winds lashed a curtain of rain into cutting sheets of icy water. The storm had been going on now for the better part of a day.

The men had been on a business trip when the first Hurricane Watch was issued. Their first thought was to come home and care for their families. But this was an important meeting -- not one to be missed by a young man on the fast track to success. So they had waited until almost the last minute -- until the storm was almost upon them. By the time they were only a few miles from home, the storm was bellowing with 90-mile-per-hour winds. They had almost made it, but the road had suddenly disappeared beneath their automobile. Now they found themselves neck deep in a raging torrent from which there seemed no escape.

“Bill,” the first man yelled into the howling wind. “Where are you?”

A streak of lightning shot through the sky. A clap of thunder rolled through the soggy heavens.

“Bill!” the first man cried again. “Answer me.”

“I'm over here, Jack,” came a faint reply. “Over here!”

Jack squinted his eyes, trying to peer through the rain but he could see nothing.

“Are you okay?” Jack shouted into the wind.

“Yeah,” was the faint reply. “But we're gonna drown if we don't get out of here. This current is murder.”

Another bolt of lightning, then a tremendous clap of thunder. For a moment Jack thought he saw Bill struggling in the water. “Over here!” Jack shouted.

“I can't see you,” Bill answered. “All this water and mud is in my eyes. I can't see anything.”

“Follow the sound of my voice,” Jack bellowed over the storm. “I'm over here.”

Then Jack began to pray. “O Lord, I haven't been a very good Christian and I'm a terrible sinner, but please help us before we drown. Our families need us. Please, Lord. Help me find Bill and get us out of this mess. Amen.”

Suddenly Jack felt someone grab his hand and start pulling. “Wait a minute, Bill. Where are you going?”

“I don't know,” he heard a voice reply. “I can't tell one direction from the other. But I'm heading somewhere. Hold on tight.”

Jack felt his friend pull him again. Oh, well, he figured, one way is as good as another. Jack started moving forward. The wind-lashed rain stung his face and grimy water dripped into his eyes. He was moving blind.

The soft earth of the field was now deep mud. It sucked at his feet and pulled at his legs. He lost his shoes in the sticky slime. His suit was water-drenched and heavy. If the water got over his head, he knew that he would surely sink to the bottom.

But what was this? Was the water getting shallower? Now it was only to his waist -- now to his knees. Then to his ankles. He felt the hand let go as he stumbled onto firm ground. Jack promptly looked for Bill, but he was not there. He squinted again into the storm and saw his friend stagger up a little bank onto a grassy knoll, about 150 feet to his right. The current was still strong. He must have been swept downstream at the last minute, just as Jack had reached high ground. Thank God he had made his way to shore.

Jack struggled to his feet, uttered a silent “Thank you, Lord,” and made his way down the grassy bank to the spot where Bill was kneeling and coughing up muddy water from his lungs. There was another brilliant flash of lightning and a deafening clap of thunder. “Are you all right, Bill,” Jack asked anxiously as he put his arm over his friend's back.

“Yeah, I think so,” Bill sputtered. Then Bill sat down on the bank, trying to catch his breath. “Now, what are we going to do. The car's gone and we can't get back across that,” he said as he nodded toward the raging torrent in front of them.

“I guess the best thing to do is to find shelter and wait it out. I remember a little cave near here. If we can reach that, we'll be okay until the storm clears.”

Bill nodded. Jack helped him to his feet. “And, thanks,” Bill said. “Thanks for pulling me out of the water and saving my life. I didn't know which way to go.”

Jack laughed. “I think you're the one who had a hold of me rather than me having hold of you. I was about to thank you for the same thing.”

Suddenly Bill stopped and turned to his friend. “Wait a minute. You were a good distance away from me when we found this bank. But you said that I had you, and I say that you had me. The truth is that neither one of us had the other.”

“What are you saying,” Jack asked, suddenly becoming very nervous.

“If you were all the way up there and I was all the way down here,” Jack asked, “then who was holding our hands?”

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13 NIV)

By Ed Price

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Choosing Confidence

CHOOSING CONFIDENCE

Carefully examining a display in the drugstore, a man asked the pharmacist, “Do you really guarantee this hair-restorer?”

The pharmacist responded, “Better than that, sir. We give a comb with every bottle.” Wouldn't you love to have that kind of confidence?

One man quipped, “When it comes to believing in myself, I'm an agnostic.” One of the greatest problems many people experience is lack of confidence. Some don't believe in their ability to speak in public, others are afraid to try something they've never done before, and still others do not have the confidence to overcome their shyness.

Do you know that you can become more confident? One effective technique is to learn to do what you're afraid to do.

I led a seminar a few years ago where I asked for three volunteers to speak to the group the next day. One young woman named Judy was the first to raise her hand. She explained to me later why she did so: “When you asked for three volunteers,” Judy said, “I felt a knot of fear in my stomach. I've never done anything like this before and I've never really believed I could. But the fear was telling me something,” she continued. “So...because I felt so anxious, I decided that this was something I had to do. But I must to tell you, I'm terrified!”

She made up her mind to do that which she was afraid to do. And the following day, Judy's five-minute talk was superb! She was honest and genuine, speaking right from her heart. Now she is more confident about her ability to speak in public.

People who are confident have choices. People who are fearful too often avoid much of life because they are afraid to venture into unknown territory.

Jim Loehr said, “With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp.” When you make what you're afraid to do what you CHOOSE to do, you will soon have the confidence TO DO whatever you choose!

By Steve Goodier

Little Candle

LITTLE CANDLE

Once upon a time a little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of them much larger and much more beautiful than she was. Some were ornate and some were rather simple, like herself. Some were white, some were blue, some were pink, some were green. She had no idea why she was there, and the other candles made her feel rather small and insignificant.

When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a large man walking toward her with a ball of fire on a stick. She suddenly realized that the man was going to set her on fire. “No, no!” she cried, “Don't burn me, please!” But she knew that she could not be heard and prepared for the pain that would surely follow.

To her surprise, the room filled with light. She wondered where it came from since the man had extinguished his fire stick. To her delight, she realized that the light came from herself.

Then the man struck another fire stick and, one by one, lit the other candles in the room. Each one gave out the same light that she did.

During the next few hours, she noticed that, slowly, her wax began to flow. She became aware that she would soon die. With this realization came a sense of why she had been created. “Perhaps my purpose on earth is to give out light until I die,” she mused. And that's exactly what she did.

God created you and I to produce light in a dark world. Like that little candle, we all can produce the same amount of light, no matter how small we are or what color we might be. But we can't produce light until we receive it from an outside source. That source is Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Addendum -- Matthew 5:16 “'In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven'.”

Author Unknown

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Never Give Up

I hope this message encourages and inspires your heart to never give up when problems come your way.
Stand firm in your faith knowing that God will not leave you nor forsake you.

EAGLE STORY

Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places. She's my baby.

When Freedom came in she could not stand. Both wings were broken, her left wing in 4 places. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her dowl cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.

So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that.

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedoms.
By Jeff Guidry http://www.sarveywildlife.org

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Searching For Miracles

SEARCHING FOR MIRACLES

Before God spoke the universe into existence, He knew my name. Before He created the atmosphere, He held me in His heart. Before He created the oceans, the land, the plants and creeping things, He chose the color of my hair. Before He created the animals and before He created the first man, He loved me.

He placed within Adam’s body all of the DNA of every human being who would ever walk the earth, and within him he placed the color of my eyes. Before He knit me together within my mother’s womb, He cherished the sound of my laugh. Before I shed my first tear, He felt my pain. Before my sin, my sorrow, and my stubborn disobedience, He chose to carry them to the Cross. He hung there; His blood pouring out...for me.

Why He chose to do this I cannot comprehend. God wanted me to be His own child. How can that be? With all of my flaws and character defects, He wanted me to believe in Him, and He gave me the grace to believe in myself. God loves me with a fire that can never be quenched. I am special to Him, even if I am not special to anyone else, including myself. I have tried to perfect myself, and I have failed.

I have tried to believe the world’s message, but I have found no answers. I have followed the paths forged by others only to find disaster at every bend in the road. Only God has given me the answers that I have sought. Peace. Love. Fulfillment.

The change in my life is not a complicated one. It’s not about how good I am or how I pray or how often I go to church. It’s not about money or fame or popularity. I cannot speak for others. They must decide for themselves. I only know that the world has given me no happiness. After searching my entire life, I have only been able to find the answers to my questions on my knees at the foot of the Cross.

By Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Magnolia

I spent the week before my daughter's June wedding running my final trips to the caterer, florist, tuxedo shop, and the church about forty miles away. As happy as I was that Patsy was marrying a good Christian young man, I felt laden with responsibilities as I watched my budget dwindle... so many details, so many bills and so little time. My son Jack was away at college, but he said he would be there to walk his younger sister down the aisle, taking the place of his dad who had died a few years before. He teased Patsy, saying he'd wanted to give her away since she was about three years old!

To save money, I gathered blossoms from several friends who had large magnolia trees. Their luscious, creamy-white blooms and slick green leaves would make beautiful arrangements against the rich dark wood inside the church.

After the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, we banked the podium area and choir loft with magnolias. As we left just before midnight, I felt tired but satisfied this would be the best wedding any bride had ever had! The music, the ceremony, the reception - and especially the flowers - would be remembered for years.

The big day arrived - the busiest day of my life - and while her bride’s maids helped Patsy to dress, her fiancĂ© Tim, walked with me to the sanctuary to do a final check. When we opened the door and felt a rush of hot air, I almost fainted; and then I saw them - all the beautiful white flowers were black. Funeral black. An electrical storm during the night had knocked out the air conditioning system, and on that hot summer day, the flowers had wilted and died.

I panicked, knowing I didn't have time to drive back to our hometown, gather more flowers, and return in time for the wedding. Tim turned to me. “Edna, can you get more flowers? I'll throw away these dead ones and put fresh flowers in these arrangements.”

I mumbled, “Sure,” as he be-bopped down the hall to put on his cuff links. Alone in the large sanctuary, I looked up at the dark wooden beams in the arched ceiling. “Lord,” I prayed, “please help me. I don't know anyone in this town. Help me find someone willing to give me flowers - in a hurry!”

I scurried out praying for four things: the blessing of white magnolias, courage to find them in an unfamiliar yard, safety from any dog that may bite my leg, and a nice person who would not get out a shotgun when I asked to cut his tree to shreds. As I left the church, I saw magnolia trees in the distance. I approached a house...no dog in sight. I knocked on the door and an older man answered. So far so good...no shotgun. When I stated my plea the man beamed, “I'd be happy to!” He climbed a stepladder and cut large boughs and handed them down to me.

Minutes later, as I lifted the last armload into my car trunk, I said, “Sir, you've made the mother of a bride happy today.”

“No, Ma'am,” he said. “You don't understand what's happening here.”

“What?” I asked.

“You see, my wife of sixty-seven years died on Monday. On Tuesday I received friends at the funeral home, and on Wednesday.” He paused. I saw tears welling up in his eyes. “On Wednesday I buried her.” He looked away. “On Thursday most of my out-of-town relatives went back home, and on Friday - yesterday - my children left.”

I nodded. “This morning,” he continued, “I was sitting in my den crying out loud. I miss her so much. For the last sixteen years, as her health got worse, she needed me. But now nobody needs me. This morning I cried, 'Who needs an eighty-six-year-old worn-out man? Nobody! 'I began to cry louder. 'Nobody needs me!' About that time, you knocked, and said, “'Sir, I need you.'”

I stood with my mouth open. He asked, “Are you an angel? The way the light shone around your head into my dark living room”

I assured him I was no angel.

He smiled. “Do you know what I was thinking when I handed you those magnolias?”

“No.”

“I decided I'm needed. My flowers are needed. Why, I might have a flower ministry! I could give them to everyone! Some caskets at the funeral home have no flowers. People need flowers at times like that and I have lots of them. They're all over the backyard. I can give them to hospitals, churches - all sorts of places. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to serve the Lord until the day He calls me home!”

I drove back to the church, filled with wonder. On Patsy's wedding day, if anyone had asked me to encourage someone who was hurting, I would have said, “Forget it! It's my only daughter's wedding, for goodness' sake! There is no way I can minister to anyone today.” But God found a way. Through dead flowers.

“Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Magnolia - By Edna Ellison

Poor Little Butterfly

“Poor little butterfly,” the young girl said. “Poor little butterfly.”

Then reaching down slowly so as to not scare it away, she slid her tiny fingers underneath, urging it to step upon her hand.

It would appear to anyone that this delicate creature was lifeless leaving behind remains of what once was.

But not her. She sensed something. She knew right away that there was indeed some life left in this most fragile example of God's work.

The butterfly nearly tumbled onto her hand, wings folded straight up, apparently unable to fly.

Then, perhaps it was the warmth of her hands or the welcoming response to the attention it was given, but the butterfly began to walk slowly up to her palm.

“Poor little butterfly,” she repeated again as she brought it closer to her face.

“If I could kiss you I would,” she said.

The butterfly, appearing to respond, slowly opened its wings, to reveal its beautiful design and colors. Now open fully, the child brought it closer and gave an angel's kiss of love.

Just off in the distance watching this precious moment, her grandmother walked toward them.

“Oh, you have found it,” she said. “I was waiting for it and wondered where it was.”

The child looked a bit surprised and said. “You were waiting for this butterfly? Why?”

“It is sent to remind us,” grandmother said.

“But it is dying. I feel sorry for it. Don't they fly away when it gets cold?”

“Yes, they do. But one is always chosen to remain behind,” she said.

Maybe this was just grandmother's way of softening the truth so that the child would not be saddened by the thought of the butterfly dying. But what unfolded here was an incredible moment, an opportunity seen and taken to teach a lesson of love.

“Why would they choose to be left behind?” the child asked as she gently stroked the butterfly.

“They don't choose to be, they are chosen,” she told her.

The child looked down again and held it closer.

“It is a great honor to be chosen. The story goes that God realized that when winter comes color disappears. The color of the flowers fade into the earth and all the delicate butterflies leave for warmer places. So, God decided that one should remain to remind us of the beautiful world He has created and the promise of Spring's return.”

The child looked down and then lifting her head slowly, she whispered, “And I found it, grandmother.”

“Yes, and with that you have a great responsibility,” she said as she held the young girl's face in her hands.

“What?”

“You must now take time to see God's colors in the darkness of winter. You must be the sunshine. You must help those who have forgotten how beautiful life is, to see the color of God's love for them.”

“Oh, grandma. I don't know how to,” she said.

“It is simple. Be yourself. People believe only what they see. Like the flowers and butterflies. But God makes people beautiful inside. It is up to us to bring that beauty out by loving each other, helping each other and when we find someone who has fallen, just like that butterfly, it is up to us to pick them up, caress them and care for them. For one day it may very well be His Chosen One left behind.”

The child moved closer to her grandmother as they sat admiring God's messenger.

Take time to see the beauty, the colors of God in the people around you. You too may find the “Poor little butterfly!”

By Bob Perks

Best Gift Of All

The Very Best Gift Of All

Christmas is just around the corner and many people are anxious to choose just the right gift for those that they love. Many people agonize over what to give. We all want to give something special and we want it to cause the eyes of those that we love to light up with joy. We want to give the very best gift of all!

As I considered this, I remembered a story, Christmas Day In The Morning, which was written many years ago by Pearl S. Buck. The story was about a teenaged boy whose father woke him early each morning at 4:00 A.M. It was milking time and he needed his son to come and help milk the cows.

One day the boy overheard his father telling his mother how much he hated to awaken his son so early but he was unable to do all the chores alone. Through hearing this conversation, the boy came to understand how much his father loved him although he had never verbalized that fact to the boy. That morning the boy did his work with unusual enthusiasm because he realized how much his father loved him.

Christmas time was coming and the boy had gotten his father a small gift at the store like he always did but this year he just wished he could do more. He thought and thought about someway he could show his father how much he loved him when an idea came to him. He decided that on Christmas Eve he would do all of the milking by himself as a surprise gift to his father. True to his commitment, he managed to get himself up at 3:00 A.M. and he crept down the stairs and out to the barn. The boy had never done all of the milking by himself before but he found a new energy and excitement in the task before him. He fed and milked all the cows by himself until all of the empty milk cans were filled.

Afterward, he quietly made his way back into the house with just barely enough time to get back under the covers before he knew his father would come in to wake him at 4:00 A.M. As usual, his father came to the door and sadly announced that even though it was Christmas that it was time to get up and do the milking. His father went on out to the barn ahead of his son to get things started.

Of course, when his father got to the barn, he soon found that his son had done all of the chores by himself and he was overcome with joy at the great gift his son had given him. For the first time, his father was able to enjoy watching all of his children come downstairs on Christmas morning. On other Christmas mornings, he had not made it back from the barn before the children awakened. It was a special gift that both father and son remembered all of their lives and I don't imagine either of them ever questioned the unspoken bond of love between them.

The account of the boy and his father tells us that the very best gift of all isn't something that is bought in a store. Like the boy in the story, it takes an overpowering desire to let others know that you love and care for them. That kind of overpowering desire comes from the heart and was demonstrated to us on the very first Christmas. It came straight from the heart of God when He gave the world the very best gift of all!

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

By Pamela Perry Blaine

Little Frankie

When I was a little boy, my Godfather lived on a hill above my home. "Little Frankie," as everyone called him, was a small, 80-year-old, first generation, Italian immigrant. He had worked for the railroads his entire life and had saved a lot of money. Still, he lived a 19th-century life in a 20th-century world.

He lived in three rooms of a slowly crumbling, 100-year-old house. He didn't have electricity or running water. He cooked his meals and heated his rooms with an ancient, cast iron, coal stove. His clothes were old, patched, and worn.

A lot of people saw all of this and looked down on him, but I never did. When I went up the hill to visit him, I always felt at home. Little Frankie had a simple joy and peace about him that touched my heart. We could sit and talk for hours. He was a loving soul, and even though he died when I was still very young, he had an influence on my life that lasts to this day.

Little Frankie taught me that enlightenment isn't being free of work, problems and pains. It comes from facing them all with a peaceful spirit and a loving heart. He taught me that having more things doesn't bring you more happiness. He took more pleasure out of a meal of fried potatoes than a billionaire could get dining on Champaign and caviar. He taught me, most of all, that the greatest joy comes from the quiet time you spend with God.

I have had few moments as joyful as the ones I spent with Little Frankie, just silently sitting on a rock and listening to the stream that ran by his home. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known.

The 21st century may be full of things that help us to connect with each other, but to have real love, joy and oneness with God, we need to connect with the quiet in our own hearts and souls.

In honor of Little Frankie, I am going to turn off my television, cell phone and computer for awhile today. I am going to go sit by a stream, remember him and spend some time with God...

Little Frankie - By Joseph J. Mazzella

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When You’re Down

When you're down to nothing, God is up to something

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room. She said: "How is my little boy ? Is he going to be all right ? When can I see him ?"

The surgeon said, "I'm sorry. We did all we could, but your boy didn't make it."
Sally said, "Why do little children get cancer ? Doesn't God care any more ? Where were you, God, when my son needed you ?"

The surgeon asked, "Would you like some time alone with your son ? One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he's transported to the university."

Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good bye to son. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair. "Would you like a lock of his hair ?" the nurse asked.

Sally nodded yes. The nurse cut a lock of the boy's hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.
The mother said, "It was Jimmy's idea to donate his body to the University for Study. He said it might help somebody else. "I said no at first, but Jimmy said, 'Mom, I won't be using it after I die. Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom." She went on, "My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of someone else. Always wanting to help others if he could."

Sally walked out of Children's Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there. She put the bag with Jimmy's belongings on the seat beside her in the car. The drive home was difficult. It was even harder to enter the empty house. She carried Jimmy's belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son's room.

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

Signed with Love from God, Jesus & Me.

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