Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Tommy turned out to be my biggest challenge. He constantly objected to, or smirked at the possibility of an unconditionally loving God. When he turned in his final exam at the end of the course, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?"
"No," I said emphatically.
"Oh," he responded. "I thought that was the product you were pushing."
I let him get five steps from the door and then called out. "I don't think you'll ever find him, but I am certain he will find you." Tommy shrugged and left. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line.
Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was grateful for that. Then came a sad report: Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to me. When he walked into my office, his body was badly wasted, and his long hair had fallen out because of the chemotherapy. But, his eyes were bright and his voice, for the first time, was firm.
"Tommy! I've thought about you so often. I heard you were very sick," I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it?"
"Sure. What would you like to know?"
"What's it like to be only 24 and know that you're dying?"
"It could be worse," he told me, "like being 50 and thinking that drinking booze, seducing women and making money are the real 'biggies' in life." Then, he told me why he had come.
"It was something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked if you thought I would ever find God and you said no, which surprised me. Then you said, 'But, he will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time."
"But, when the doctors removed a lump from my body and told me that it was malignant, I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging against the bronze doors of heaven. But, nothing happened. Well, one day I woke up, and instead of my desperate attempts to get some kind of message, I just quit. I decided I didn't really care about God, an afterlife, or anything like that."
"I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more important. I thought about you and something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But, it would be almost equally sad to leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you loved them.'
So, I began with the hardest one...my Dad."
Tommy's father had been reading the newspaper when his son approached him.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"I mean, it's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"
"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that."
Tommy smiled at me as he recounted the moment. "The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then, my father did two things I couldn't remember him doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And then, we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning."
"It was easier with my mother and little brother," Tommy continued.
"They cried with me, and we hugged one another, and shared the thing we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry that I had waited so long. Here I was, in the shadow of death, and I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to."
"Then one day, I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with him. Apparently he does things in his own way and at his own hour. The important thing is that you were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for him."
"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something much more universal than you realize. You are saying that the surest way to find God is not by making him a private possession or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love."
"Tommy," I added, "could I ask you a favor? Would you come to my theology-of-faith course and tell my students what you just told me?"
Though we scheduled a date, he never made it. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of humanity has ever seen, or the mind ever imagined. Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said. "I know, Tommy."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?"
"I will, Tommy. I'll tell them."
Monday, March 3, 2008
One lesson stands out in my mind. It was shortly before Christmas. I was in the eighth grade and was working evenings, straightening the toy section. A little boy, five or six years old, came in. He was wearing a brown tattered coat with dirty worn cuffs. His hair was straggly, except for a cowlick that stood straight up from the crown of his head. His shoes were scuffed and his one shoelace was torn. The little boy looked poor to me--too poor to afford to buy anything. He looked around the toy section, picked up this item and that, and carefully put them back in their place.
Dad came down the stairs and walked over to the boy. His steel blue eyes smiled and the dimple in his cheek stood out as he asked the boy what he could do for him. The boy said he was looking for a Christmas present to buy his brother. I was impressed that Dad treated him with the same respect as any adult. Dad told him to take his time and look around. He did.
After about 20 minutes, the little boy carefully picked up a toy plane, walked up to my dad and said, "How much for this, Mister?"
"How much you got?" Dad asked.
The little boy held out his hand and opened it. His hand was creased with wet lines of dirt from clutching his money. In his hand lay two dimes, a nickel and two pennies-- 27 cents. The price on the toy plane he'd picked out was $3.98.
"That'll just about do it," Dad said as he closed the sale. Dad's reply still rings in my ears. I thought about what I'd seen as I wrapped the present. When the little boy walked out of the store, I didn't notice the dirty, worn coat, the straggly hair, or the single torn shoelace. What I saw was a radiant child with a treasure.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?"
The young boy was apologetic. "Please, mister...please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do," He pleaded. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop..." With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. "It's my brother, "he said; "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. "Thank you and may God bless you." the grateful child told the stranger.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: "Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!"
God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don't have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It's our choice to listen or not.
What food might this contain?" He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.
Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!" The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house."
The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."
The mouse turned to the cow. She said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."
So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.
The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.
The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.
But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.
So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
In the book of Genesis, Cain said this about Able, his brother, to our God: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.
REMEMBER: EACH OF US IS A VITAL THREAD IN ANOTHER PERSON'S TAPESTRY; OUR LIVES ARE WOVEN TOGETHER FOR A REASON.
GOD BLESS YOU ALL, INDEED, TODAY AND ALWAYS.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.
The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.
If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden."
"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can."
So, my friend, why not take a while to just simply RELAX. Put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don't pick it up again until after you've rested a while.
Life is short. Enjoy it.
Here are some great ways of dealing with the burdens of life:
* Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.
* Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
* Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
* Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.
* If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
* If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
* It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply be kind to others.
* Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
* Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
* Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
* The second mouse gets the cheese.
* When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
* Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
* You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
* Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.
* We could learn a lot from crayons... Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
*A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”
“Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us.”