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So if the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, why doesn’t everybody do everything they can to be a part of it? I think it’s because value is often in the eye of the beholder. What has value and what doesn’t is really up to personal interpretation. What some people think are valuable have no value at all to others. Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood. Every fall I would go out and cut wood with my friend Roger Raether and Bob Bosma. I never liked cutting wood because it was a lot of back breaking work but I liked the price. It was free except for the labor so we would take a Saturday here and there in the fall to cut wood and pile it up for the winter. In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called “The Wooden Bird.” They make beautiful hand carved bird decoys and animal decoys out of wood. Every decoy costs from 50 to 250 bucks and they are really nice decorative pieces to put on the mantle. Their shop used to be right here in St. Boni so every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner. Right before Thanksgiving I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps. I walked in the front door and told them I was there to pick up the wood. The man wheeled out two bins like usual to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the wood was just chunks of pine but this time they looked like decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood because they were unpainted decoys. I noticed that they had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of the cracks. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved me goodbye. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back as soon as I got the chance. He told me there was no hurry and I could even bring them back after Thanksgiving. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. That dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward of the cold. Then I went back to work. After work I went home and reloaded the furnace with decoys and had just enough time to bring back the carts before they closed for the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why and with urgency in his voice he told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys worth tens of thousands of dollars by mistake. He went on and on about calling the police and trying to find my vehicle and driving around for the past three hours in a complete panic because I had taken their entire Christmas inventory of decoys worth thousands of dollars by mistake. I pointed at the guy who gave them to me and he just gave me the deer in the headlights look and walked back into the building. Then the manager said do you still have them because they are incredibly valuable. Each decoy had taken them over a week to make and they needed to get them back. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. Then I went home and carefully loaded a few hundred decoys back into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird. Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
READ THE STORY ABOUT A CITY SLICKER WHO WAS VISITING RELATIVES ON A FARM AND THE FARMER GAVE A WHISTLE AND HIS DOG HERDED THE CATTLE INTO THE CORRAL, THEN LATCHED THE GATE WITH HER PAW. "WOW, THAT’S SOME DOG. WHAT’S HER NAME?" SAID THE CITY BOY. B. THE FORGETFUL FARMER THOUGHT A MINUTE, THEN ASKED, "WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT RED FLOWER THAT SMELLS GOOD AND HAS THORNS ON THE STEM?" "A ROSE?" "THAT’S IT" C. THE FARMER TURNED TO HIS WIFE AND SAID, "HEY ROSE, WHAT DO WE CALL THIS DOG?" D. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE HUMANS CAN BE VERY FORGETFUL, SO WHAT IS YOUR WORST FORGETFUL MOMENT? ONE DAY AFTER ALBERT EINSTEIN HAD MOVED TO HIS HOME AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, THE TELEPHONE RANG IN THE OFFICE OF THE DEAN OF THE PRINCETON GRADUATE SCHOOL AND THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END INQUIRED: "MAY I SPEAK WITH DR. EINSTEIN, PLEASE?" G. ADVISED THAT HE WAS NOT IN, THE VOICE CONTINUED: "PERHAPS THEN YOU WILL TELL ME WHERE DR. EINSTEIN LIVES." H. THE SECRETARY REPLIED THAT SHE COULD NOT DO THIS, SINCE DR. EINSTEIN WISHED TO HAVE HIS PRIVACY RESPECTED. I. THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE DROPPED TO A WHISPER: "PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE, BUT I AM DR. EINSTEIN. I AM ON MY WAY HOME, AND HAVE FORGOTTEN WHERE MY HOUSE IS"
NOT MY JOB
The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.
[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."
As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.
She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."
"Not now. I'm tired."
"I found your pipe."
She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."
The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"
I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.
"Mom!" She jerked away.
"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."
I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.
I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?
I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.
"How should I know?"
When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.
"What'd you talk about?"
Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.
I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.
"Come over for coffee," she urged.
I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.
"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."
"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."
The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.
I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:
"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."
I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.
Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.
"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.
"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."
Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.
Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)
Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.
From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian & philosopher, told this parable, which he called “The Wild Duck of Denmark;
A wild duck was flying northward with his mates across Europe during the springtime. En route, he happened to land in a barnyard in Denmark, where he quickly made friends with the tame ducks that lived there. The wild duck enjoyed the corn and fresh water. He decided to stay for an hour, then for a day, then for a week , and finally, for a month.
At the end of that time, he contemplated flying to join his friends in the vast North land, but he had begun to enjoy the safety of the barnyard, and the tame ducks had made him feel so welcome. So he stayed for the summer.
One autumn day, when his wild mates were flying south, he heard their quacking. It stirred him with delight, and he enthusiastically flapped his wings and rose into the air to join them. Much to his dismay, he found that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. As he waddled back to the safety of the barnyard, he muttered to himself, “I’m satisfied here, I have plenty of food, and the area is good. Why should I leave.?” So, he spent the winter on the farm.
In the spring, when the wild ducks flew overhead again, he felt a strange stirring within his breast, but he did not even try to fly up to meet them. When they returned in the fall, they again invited him to rejoin them, but this time, the duck did not even notice them. There was no stirring within his breast. He simply kept on eating corn which made him fat.
Historical Background of Patrick:
Patrick lived in the fifth century, a time of rapid change and transition. In many ways we might say that those times of turbulence and uncertainty were not unlike our own. The Roman Empire was beginning to break up, and Europe was about to enter the so-called Dark Ages. Rome fell to barbarian invaders in 410. Within ten years of that time, the Roman forces began to leave Britain to return to Rome to defend positions back home. Life, once so orderly and predictable under Roman domination, now became chaotic and uncertain. Patrick entered the world of that time (Joyce).
Partick’s biography is as follows: By Anita Mc Sorley
The uncontested, if somewhat unspecific, biographical facts about Patrick are as follows: Patrick was born Patricius somewhere in Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family. He was not religious as a youth and, in fact, claims to have practically renounced the faith of his family. While in his teens, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and transported to Ireland, where he was enslaved to a local warlord and worked as a shepherd until he escaped six years later. He returned home and eventually undertook studies for the priesthood with the intention of returning to Ireland as a missionary to his former captors. It is not clear when he actually made it back to Ireland, or for how long he ministered there, but it was definitely for a number of years. By the time he wrote the Confession and the "Letter to Coroticus," Patrick was recognized by both Irish natives and the Church hierarchy as the bishop of Ireland. By this time, also, he had clearly made a permanent commitment to Ireland and intended to die there. Scholars have no reason to doubt that he did. He died on March 17 the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
I recently read a peculiar story about a family in Lander, Wyoming that had gone to their local refuse dump to dispose of some unwanted family items that were either busted or greatly abused. As they were emptying there junk into a large dumpster, the man of the home saw something that caught his eye. It was apparently an ornate, antique four-poster bed that had been left there by some other family.
The man called to his wife to have her to look at it as well. After a few moments of discussion they both agreed that it most likely could be stored to its original condition. So, even though it was a bit worn and tattered, they began to inquire about that possibility with the management staff of the refuse center. They found that they there was no problem with taking the grand piece of junk home if they would just pay a small fee of a few dollars.
They proceeded to load the headboard, footboard and the wooden rails into the back of their pickup and pull-along trailer. As they were loading the post, which were separate pieces, they began to question the weight of each one. The husband felt they were quite a bit heavier than he had imagined they would be. But they finally got all the pieces loaded and drove home.
When they got home, the husband backed the truck and trailer into his driveway with the assistance of his wife and eldest son. They then proceeded to unload the bed one piece at a time. To their amazement, as their son picked up one end of the first bed-post, the finial at the top worked loose and slipped out of its socket. Thankfully they were standing in the front yard and a nearby hedge broke the fall, catching the post. But suddenly they heard the weirdest noise.
As they turned to look toward the area of the noise, something caught the glimpse of the father’s eye. A few silver coin tumbled to the ground near the base of the bush. After picking up the loose coins he looked in the opened end of the bed-post and to his surprise there were more silver coins inside. With the help of his son, he picked up the opposing end and hundreds of silver, brass and gold coins came rolling out onto the lawn. Many of the gold ones dated back into the 1800’s and almost all of the coins were near mint condition. After close inspection of the other three posts, they, too, were completely hollow and contained equal amounts of coinage.
Amazing stuff one can find at a garbage dump! The finest of treasures in the least likely places! To hear stories like that are always a great thrill to hear! Who knows, next time any one of us goes to the refuse dump, hard to tell what we might find. As my dad always said, one man's trash is another man's treasure!
THE REFINER'S FIRE
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...
H. YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD THE OLD STORY ABOUT THE LATE, GREAT DR. A. J. GORDON, A FAMOUS PREACHER FROM ENGLAND WHO CAME TO A VERY DEAD, DULL, FORMAL, CHURCH IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON, MASS. I. HE WAS A FIERY PREACHER, WHO REFUSED TO WEAR A ROBE, WHICH WAS MANDATORY IN THAT CHURCH AND HE PREACHED “JESUS” TO THOSE PEOPLE WITH SUCH FERVOR, THEY SAT OUT THERE SHELL-SHOCKED, AND AFTER A MONTH, THEY WERE READY TO FIRE DR. GORDON. J. ONE SUNDAY HE PREACHED A SERMON CALLED “THE FUNERAL OF THE CHURCH” AND THIS IS WHAT HE SAID, “ECCLESIASTICAL CORPSES LIE ALL AROUND US. THE CASKETS IN WHICH THEY REPOSE ARE LINED WITH SATIN AND ARE DECORATED WITH SOLID SILVER HANDLES AND ABUNDANT FLOWERS. LIKE ALL CASKETS THEY ARE JUST LARGE ENOUGH FOR THEIR OCCUPANTS WITH NO ROOM FOR CONVERTS. THESE CHURCHES HAVE DIED FROM THE DISEASE OF FORMALISM AND HAVE BEEN EMBALMED IN COMPLACENCY. IF BY THE GRACE OF GOD THIS CHURCH HAS ANY LIFE LEFT IN HER, I WARN YOU THAT THOSE THAT BURIED THY SISTER CHURCHES WILL BE AT THY DOOR TO CARRY THEE OUT, BECAUSE I PREDICT THIS CHURCH, WILL BE DEAD SOON, BECAUSE I HEAR THE DEATH RATTLE” M. AFTER HE PREACHED THAT SERMON, SIX MEN CAME THROUGH THE BACK DOORS CARRYING A CASKET, AND HE HAD THEM PUT IT AT THE FRONT OF THE CHURCH AND OPEN IT AND THEN HE ASKED EVERYBODY IN THE CHURCH TO WALK BY AND SEE THEIR DEAD CHURCH. O. AS THEY WALKED BY, THEY LOOKED IN THE CASKET AND YOU GUESSED IT–THEY WERE LOOKING AT THEMSELVES, IN A MIRROR
There is a game my parents used to play when we were on road long road trips in the car. The rules of the game went something like this. "The first one to talk loses." We called it the silence game. Have you ever played the game? I would bet that just about every parent has made up a game similar to this. When traveling in a vehicle and arguing continues, or complaining erupts, or the eternal question, "How much further?” is asked for the 100th time, we want silence. So we play the silence game. Sometimes, silence is golden.
Sometimes, though, silence is not golden. If you have ever felt the awkward pause in the conversation, or if you have ever had an angry spouse or parent give you the silent treatment then you know what I’m talking about. (Whisper) Sometimes silence can be deafening.