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Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
HE KEPT CALLING
In 1975, my aunt Marsha McCarthy divorced Ralph McCarthy. Marsha left Southern California and followed her parents to Joplin, Missouri.
She was employed as the Secretary at College Heights Christian Church and raised three children on her own. The stress was overwhelming at times. Marsha was in and out of the hospital regularly for stress related problems. But Ralph kept calling. Marsha wasn’t interested.
Well, he continued to call…for twenty-nine years. In the summer of 1999, Ralph flew out to see Marsha…face to face to close the deal. Would you believe, that when Ralph proposed to Marsha, she said yes.
October 9, 1999 Ralph and Marsha Lynn McCarthy were remarried. Ralph just kept calling.
Ralph just retired from his law practice in Carmel, CA. He built a retirement home in Palm Springs with a guest house and pool. The guest house is larger that Marsha’s home on North Jackson in Joplin. Ralph just kept calling.
Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)
Can you hear him calling?
Source: Scott Mathews, Adventure Christian Church, Rocklin, CA.
“Aunt Bessie’s Pickled Beets!” 2 Corinthians 7:2-13 Key verse(s): 10:“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
The worst part of doing wrong is being found out. We’ve all been caught doing wrong in life; especially when we reflect back on our childhoods. And there are many things about doing wrong that are hurtful. First and foremost is the pain and suffering that we bring to others in our wrong-doing. This is the impact of wrong-doing that reverberates. Wrong has a way of broadcasting and spreading out, making a little mistake into a much bigger one. Take a lie for example. What started out as a fib can easily become the initiator of all manner of hurt, none of which was our intention in the first place. Certainly the effect of our wrong-doing on others is preeminent in our concern for doing right. But, there are other consequences attached to our wrongful behavior; not the least of which is the regret that becomes our lot when we are discovered in our sins.
I really hate the feeling of regret. There is simply something grinding and gnawing about it. Regret has a way of packaging itself so that it stays fresh for a very long time. Just when you think that you have put it away for good in some safe place where it can slowly but surely dissipate into the farthest and deepest reaches of your consciousness, some little reminder of the deed that spawned the regret in the first place creeps into your life. And that’s when regret pops up. It’s the jar of Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets that you pushed to the back of the fruit cellar shelf in hopes that in the darkness it could be forgotten that, despite the accumulation of years of dust and perhaps a little rust around the rim, stares back at you fresh and beckoning to be opened. Unless you empty the contents and wash the jar, Aunt Bessie’s face will always be popping up in the cellar no matter how many times you push it to the back of the shelf. You can’t live with regret no matter how hard you try. It will never be tamed or transformed because, like pickled beets, regret always tastes and looks the same. You can’t “salt” it or tincture it to make it more palatable. Pickled beets will always taste pickled.
“In 1904 William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East and Europe gave Borden a burden for the world’s hurting people. Writing home, he said, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ When he made this decision, he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: No Reserves. Turning down high paying job offers after graduation from Yale University, he entered two more words in his Bible: No Retreats. Completing studies at Princeton Seminary, Borden sailed for China to work with Muslims, stopping first at Egypt for some preparation. While there he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month. A waste, you say! Not in God’s plan. In his Bible underneath the words No Reserves and No Retreats, he had written the words No Regrets. (Daily Bread, December 31, 1988.)
There is only one way to deal with regret. You need to remove it from your life completely. Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets are always going to be there unless, of course, you eat them, wash the jar and return it with thanks to Aunt Bessie. Regrets don’t go away unless you decide in the first place that there is simply no room for them among the provisions in your heart. You may not like pickled beets but one thing you can be sure of, the beets marinated in that pickling solution are suspended in a state of freshness that will preserve them for a very long time. It is not likely that they will self-destruct any time soon requiring you to dispose of them with a clean conscience. No, Aunt Bessie pickled them for a reason. She wanted them preserved as a memorial to her garden and she had every intention of insuring that their survival would even exceed her’s. You might as well eat them and get it over with.
In spite of the fun and laughter, 13 yr. old Frank Wilson was not happy. It was true, he had received all the presents he wanted, and he enjoyed the traditional Christmas Eve reunions with relatives for the purpose of exchanging gifts and good wishes..........but Frank was not happy because this was his first Christmas without his brother, Steve, who during the year, had been killed by a reckless driver. Frank missed his brother and the close companionship they had together. He said good-bye to his relatives, and explained to his parents that he was leaving a little early to see a friend, and from there he could walk home. Since it was cold outside, Frank put on his new plaid jacket. It was his FAVORITE gift. He placed the other presents on his new sled, then headed out, hoping to find the patrol leader of his Boy Scout troop. Frank always felt understood by him. Tho’ rich in wisdom, his leader lived in the Flats, the section of town where most of the poor lived. His patrol leader did odd jobs to help support his family. To Frank’s disappointment, his friend was not home. As Frank hiked down the street toward home, he caught glimpses of trees and decorations in many of the small houses. Then, thru one front window, he glimpsed a shabby room with limp stockings hanging over an empty fireplace. A woman was seated nearby....weeping. The stockings reminded him of the way he and his brother had always hung theirs side by side. The next morning, they would be bursting with presents. A sudden thought struck Frank--he had not done his "good deed" for the day. Before the impulse passed, he knocked on the door. "Yes?" the sad voice of a woman asked. Seeing his sled full of gifts, and assuming he was making a collection, she said, "I have no food or gifts for you. I have nothing for my own children." "That’s not why I am here," Frank replied. "Please choose whatever presents you would like for your children from the sled." "Why, God bless you!" the amazed woman answered gratefully. She selected some candies, a game, a toy airplane and a puzzle. When she took the Scout flashlight, Frank almost protested. Finally, the stockings were full. "Won’t you tell me your name?" she asked, as Frank was leaving. "Just call me the Christmas Scout," he replied. The visit left Frank touched, and with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart. He understood that his sorrow wasn’t the only sorrow in the world. Before he left the Flats, he had given away the rest of his gifts. His plaid jacket had gone to a shivering boy. Now, Frank trudged toward home, cold and uneasy. How could he explain to his parents that he had given his presents away? "Where are your presents, son? asked his father as Frank entered the house. "I gave them away," he answered in a small voice. "The airplane from Aunt Susan? Your new coat from Grandma? Your flashlight?? We tho’t you were happy with your gifts." "I was......very happy," Frank said quietly. "But, Frank, how could you be so impulsive?" his mother asked. "How will we explain to the relatives who spent so much time and gave so much love shopping for you?" His father was firm. "You made your choice, Frank. We cannot afford any more presents." With his brother gone, and his family disappointed in him, Frank suddenly felt dreadfully alone. He had not expected a reward for his generosity, for he knew that a good deed always should be its own reward. It would be tarnished otherwise. So he did not want his gifts back. However, he wondered if he would ever again recapture joy in his life. He thought he had this evening....but it had been fleeting. He thought of his brother.....and sobbed himself to s...
THE LAMP UNDER THE BED
I heard about a couple who received a set of two horrible bedside table lamps as a wedding present from a distant aunt. Since the lamps were so ugly, this couple didn't want to actually use them, so they put them in storage and bought a nicer set themselves. That worked for a while, but a few years later, this particular relative came to a family celebration. Knowing she would be there, the couple quickly set up the aunt's lamps on the tables and hid their usual ones under the bed.
When time came to show the aunt around the house, the wife said, "Come and see how nice your lamps look in our bedroom."
She turned on the switch on the wall -- and suddenly an intense luminosity emerged from under the bed.....
Oops! How embarrassing! I am reminded of the following statement made by Jesus:
"[Jesus] said to them, 'Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.' " (Mark 4:21-22)
Ann Landers had an interesting letter in her column. It was from a girl who was writing about her uncle & aunt. She said, "My uncle was the tightest man I’ve ever known. All his life, every time he got paid he took $20 out of his paycheck & put it under his mattress.
Then he got sick & was about to die. As he was dying, he said to his wife, "I want you to promise me one thing." "Promise what?" she asked. "I want you to promise me that when I’m dead you’ll take my money from under the mattress & put it in my casket so that I can take it all with me."
The girl’s letter went on with the story. "He died, & his wife kept her promise. She went in & got all that money the day he died & went to the bank & deposited it, & wrote out a check & put it in his casket."
The NY Times had a story about a little boy who was riding the bus. He sat so close to a woman dressed in a gray suit that everybody assumed that he was her son & she was his mother. Until finally another lady sat down on the same seat with them.
And when the little boy put his feet up on the seat & got the other lady’s dress dirty, she turned to the lady in the gray suit & said, "Would you please tell your son to put his feet down because he is getting my dress dirty?"
The lady in the gray suit pushed the boy away & said, "He’s not my son. I’ve never seen him before in my life." The 2nd lady looked at the little boy sadly for a moment & then started talking with him. She asked him if he was traveling alone.
"Yes," he said, "I always travel alone. My mommy & daddy are both dead & I live with Aunt Clara. But Aunt Clara thinks that Aunt Mildred ought to take her turn in taking care of me too. So whenever she gets tired of me, she sends me to Aunt Mildred. I’m going to Aunt Mildred’s now."
The woman said, "It must be tough traveling alone." "Yeah," said the little boy, "it is. But I never get lost. But," he said, "sometimes I do get very lonesome. So whenever I see someone with a kind face I sit close to them, & pretend that I belong to them & that they belong to me."
He continued, "I sure hope that Aunt Mildred is home when I get there, because it looks like it is going to rain & I don’t like to be outside when it rains." The woman reached over & grabbed the boy, hugged him so tight that it almost hurt & wished for a moment that this little boy who wanted so much to belong, could belong to her.
STANDING IN THE DOORWAY
John Todd was born in Rutledge, Vermont, into a family of several children. They later moved to the village of Killingsworth back in the early 1800s. And, there, at a very young age, both John’s parents died.
The relatives wondered what they would do with so many children, how they could parcel them out to other friends and relatives. One dear and loving aunt said she would take little John. The aunt sent a horse and a slave to get John, who was only six at the time. The slave, Caesar, came and put the little boy on the back of the horse. On the way back an endearing conversation took place:
John: Will she be there?
Caesar: Oh, yes, she’ll be there waiting for you.
John: Will I like living with her?
Caesar: My son, you fall into good hands.
John: Will she love me?
Caesar: Ah, she has a big heart.
John: Will I have my own room? Will she let me have a puppy?
Caesar: She’s got everything all set, son. I think she has some surprises, too.
John: Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?
Caesar: Oh, no! She’ll be sure to wait up for you. You’ll see when we get out of these woods. You’ll see her candle shining in the window.
When they got to the clearing, sure enough, there was a candle in the window, and she was standing in the doorway. She reached down, kissed him, and said, "Welcome home!" She fed him supper, took him to his room and waited until he fell asleep.
John Todd grew to be a great minister of the gospel. But it was there at his aunt’s, the home of his new mother, that he grew up. It was always a place of enchantment because of his aunt. It awed him that she had given him a second home.
Years later, long after he had moved away, his aunt wrote to tell him of her impending death. Her health was failing and she wondered what was to become of her. This is what John Todd wrote to her:
"My Dear Aunt, Years ago I left a house of death not knowing where I was to go, whether anyone cared, whether it was the end of me. The ride was long, but the slave encouraged me. Finally, he pointed out your candle...
Byron Deel, grew up with an alcoholic and abusive father. Byron had two brothers and three sisters, a large family, but his dad spent the family income on alcohol, and he drank and ranted and raved and hit them. When Byron was twelve, his father walked away from the family, and did absolutely nothing to support them. There were no child care payments. No alimony. No cards at birthdays. No gifts at Christmas. Nothing but hardship and abandonment.
Six years later, he showed up again, two weeks after Byron had graduated from high school. It was an awkward meeting. He stayed about half an hour. And then he left again, and this time there was no contact for sixteen years. Byron confided to a friend, "My attitude toward my dad was everything that it shouldn’t have been for a Christian. He had robbed mi of a happy childhood. He had failed me at every point. He had abused me. I hesitate to say I hated him, but perhaps hatred isn’t too strong a word. There was a bitterness there that was almost a loathing. Whenever anyone asked me about my dad, I’d shut them off pretty fast. As I grew older, I put it all out of my mind, and there was just a blank spot there. I didn’t think about it. I could go for years without once thinking about my father."
Then out of the blue Byron’s aunt called him and said, "Your father is in Bristol, VA, very sick and close to death. It would mean something to him if he could see one of his children. He has cirrhosis of the liver." None of the other children wanted to see him, and Byron lived the closest to Bristol. So he got in his car and drove up there. He said, "I had a ton of thoughts. Not a lot of strong feelings, just a sense that someone should do this. I didn’t want to, but it seemed like I should."
He walked into the ICU and there was a seventy one year old man, connected to monitors, tubes inserted into his body, surrounded by medical equipment. Byron hadn’t seen him for sixteen years, but he recognized the man. And something strange happened. As Byron saw his dad lying there helplessly, dying, strung about with wires and tubes and monitors and machines, all the years of hatred and anger melted away. He walked over and stood by the bedside. The man opened his eyes, saw Byron, and began to cry. Byron said. "I wept, too. It was almost as though I could see going through his mind waves of regret for the wasted years." Byron spent that day and the next with his dad, and he was surprised th find that he had a lot of feeling for the man. "The burden that I had been carrying around for years, without realizing it, was gone. We were able to talk, and I was able to share the gospel with him."
Byron’s father survived that stay in the hospital, and was able to return home briefly. During that time, Byron had a second visit , taking his wife and daughters with him. And during that visit, he grew convinced that his dad had trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Later the call came that his father had died. But Byron was no longer bitter or estranged. The compassion of Jesus Christ had taken hold, and instead of seeing himself as an abused victim full of hatred and cold of heart, he saw something else. He saw his dad through the Lord’s eyes, as a needy man who just needed Jesus Christ.
*Nelson’ Complete Book of Stories,Illustrations, and Quotes. Robert J. Morgan
I remember reading about a little girl named Annie who in 1876 was ten years of age. She was put into a poor house for children called the Tewkesbury Alms House in Massachusetts. Her mother had died and her father had deserted her. Her aunt and uncle found her too difficult to handle. She had a bad disposition, a violent temper, stemming
in part from eyes afflicted with painful trachoma. She had been put in the poorhouse because no one wanted her. She was such a wild one that at times she had to be tied down. But there was another inmate named Maggie who cared for Annie. Maggie talked to her, fed her, even though Annie would throw her food on the floor, cursing and rebelling with every ounce of her being. But Maggie was a Christian and out of her convictions she was determined to love this dirty, unkempt, spiteful, unloving little girl. It wasn’t easy, but slowly it got through to Annie that she was not the only who was suffering. Maggie also had been abandoned. And gradually Annie began to respond. Maggie told her about a school for the blind and Annie began to beg to be sent there, and finally, consent was given and she went to the Perkins Institute. After a series of operations her sight was partially restored. She was able to finish her schooling and graduate at age twenty. Having been blind so long she told the director of Perkins that she wanted to work with blind and difficult children. They found a little girl seven years old in Alabama who was blind and deaf from the age of two. So, Annie Sullivan went to Tuscumbia, Alabama to unlock the door of Helen Keller’s dark prison and to set her free.