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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.
Dr. Robert McKenzie
WHY WE SHOULD ALL BE NICE...YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT MAY BE GOODBYE
"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?"
He began to smile. "That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.
"When we said ’I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory:
" I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough"Hellos" to get you through the final "Goodbye."
He then began to sob and walked away.
**I WISH YOU ALL ENOUGH**
A. Todd Coget
["Mr. Holland’s Opus": Leaving a Legacy, Citation: Mr. Holland’s Opus, (Hollywood Pictures, 1995), rated PG, written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, directed by Stephen Herek; submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois]
Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie about a frustrated composer in Portland, Oregon, who takes a job as a high school band teacher in the 1960s.
Although diverted from his lifelong goal of achieving critical fame as a classical musician, Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) believes his school job is only temporary.
At first he maintains his determination to write an opus or a concerto by composing at his piano after putting in a full day with his students.
But, as family demands increase (including discovery that his infant son is deaf) and the pressures of his job multiply, Mr. Holland recognizes that his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy is merely a dream.
At the end of the movie we find an aged Mr. Holland fighting in vain to keep his job.
The board has decided to reduce the operating budget by cutting the music and drama program.
No longer a reluctant band teacher, Mr. Holland believes in what he does and passionately defends the role of the arts in public education.
What began as a career detour became a 35-year mission, pouring his heart into the lives of young people.
Mr. Holland returns to his classroom to retrieve his belongings a few days after school has let out for summer vacation.
He has taught his final class.
With regret and sorrow, he fills a box with artifacts that represent the tools of his trade and memories of many meaningful classes.
His wife and son arrive to give him a hand.
As they leave the room and walk down the hall, Mr. Holland hears some noise in the auditorium.
Because school is out, he opens the door to see what the commotion is.
To his amazement he sees a capacity audience of former students and teaching colleagues and a banner that reads "Goodbye, Mr. Holland."
Those in attendance greet Mr. Holland with a standing ovation while a band (consisting of past and present members) plays songs they learned at his hand.
His wife, who was in on the surprise reception, approaches the podium and makes small talk until the master of ceremonies, the governor of Oregon, arrives.
The governor is none other than a student Mr. Holland helped to believe in herself his first year of teaching.
As she addresses the room of well-wishers, she speaks for the hundreds who fill the auditorium:
"Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my life (on a lot of lives, I know), and yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his life misspent.
Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous and rich (probably both).
But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous.
At least not outside our little town.
So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure, but he’d be wrong.
Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame."
Looking at her former teacher the governor gestures with a sweeping hand and continues, "Look around you.
There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you.
We are your symphony, Mr. Holland.
We are the melodies and the notes of your opus.
And we are the music of your life."
THE COOLEST DAD IN THE UNIVERSE
He was 50 years old when I was born, and a "Mr. Mom" long before anyone had a name for it. I didn’t know why he was home instead of Mom, but I was young and the only one of my friends who had their dad around. I considered myself very lucky.
Dad did so many things for me during my grade-school years. He convinced the school bus driver to pick me up my house instead of the usual bus stop that was six blocks away. He always had my lunch ready for me when I came home -- usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was shaped for the season. My favorite was at Christmas. The sandwiches would be sprinkled with green sugar and cut in the shape of a tree.
As I got a little older and tried to gain my independence, I wanted to move away from those "childish" signs of his love. But he wasn’t going to give up. In high school and no longer able to go home for lunch, I began taking my own. Dad would get up a little early and make it for me. I never knew what to expect. The outside of the sack might be covered with his rendering of a mountain scene (it became his trademark) or a heart inscribed with "Dad-n-Angie K.K." in its center. Inside there would be a napkin with that same heart or an "I love you." Many times he would write a joke or a riddle, such as "Why don’t they ever call it a momsicle instead of a popsicle?" He always had some silly saying to make me smile and let me know that he loved me.
I used to hide my lunch so no one would see the bag or read the napkin, but that didn’t last long. One of my friends saw the napkin one day, grabbed it, and passed it around the lunchroom. My face burned with embarrassment. To my astonishment, the next day all my friends were waiting to see the napkin.
From the way they acted, I think they all wished they had someone who showed them that kind of love. I was so proud to have him as my father. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I received those napkins, and still have a majority of them.
And still it didn’t end. When I left home for college (the last one to leave), I thought the messages would stop. But my friends and I were glad that his gestures continued.
I missed seeing my dad every day after school and so I called him a lot. My phone bills got to be pretty high. It didn’t matter what we said; I just wanted to hear his voice. We started a ritual during that first year that stayed with us. After I said goodbye he always said, "Angie?" "Yes, Dad?" I’d reply. "I love you." "I love you, too, Dad."
I began getting letters almost every Friday. The front-desk staff always knew who the letters were from -- the return address said "The Hunk." Many times the envelopes were addressed in crayon, and along with the enclosed letters were usually drawings of our cat and dog, stick figures of him and Mom, and if I had been home the weekend before, of me racing around town with friends and using the house as a pit stop. He also had his mountain scene and the heart-encased inscription, Dad-n-Angie K.K.
The mail was delivered every day right before lunch, so I’d have his letters with me when I went to the cafeteria. I realized it was useless to hide them because my roommate was a high school friend who knew about his napkins. Soon it became a Friday afternoon ritual. I would read the letters, and the drawing and envelope would be passed around.
It was during this time that Dad became stricken with cancer. When the letters didn’t come on Friday, I knew that he had been sick and wasn’t able to write. He used to get up at 4:00 a.m. so he could sit in the quiet house and do his letters. If he missed his Friday delivery, the letters would usually come a day or two later. But they always came. My friends used to call him "Coolest Dad in the Universe."...
In one of his books Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a young Russian who inherits his father’s small farm. He immediately starts dreaming of how to expand his property when one morning a well-dressed stranger visits him and makes him an offer that is too good to be true - he could have free of charge all the property he could walk around in one day. The only condition was that he returns to the same spot from which he started, the grave of his father, before the sun went down.
Seeing the rich fields in the distance, he sets out without taking any provisions or saying goodbye to his family. He figured he could cover six square miles in a day. After a short while he decided to make it nine, then twelve and finally fifteen square miles. By noon he makes it to the halfway point. Though hungry with his legs aching he continues.
He was near the point of exhaustion but the obsession to own the land drives him on. With only a few minutes left before the sun went down, he gathers all his strength, stumbles across the line, the new owner of fifteen square miles of land, and then collapses on the ground, dead.
The stranger smiles and said, "I offered him all the land he could cover. Now you see what that is, six feet long by two feet wide, and I thought he would like to have the land close to his father’s grave, rather than to have it anywhere else."
Having said that, the stranger whose name is Death vanishes, saying "I have kept my pledge."
Each one of us will come face-to-face with the same stranger and must begin to ask ourselves, "What does a man get for his toil?"
On a February day in 1925, Floyd Collins climbed into Sand Cave in search of fortune. Suddenly, his lantern failed. Crawling through the darkness, Collin’s foot hit a seven-ton boulder. It fell on his leg, trapping him in the coffin-like narrowness of a dark, subterranean straitjacket. For days Collins was trapped 125 feet below ground in an ice-cold space 8 inches high and 12 feet long.
In the meantime, his plight became a national sensation. As the rescue attempt wore on, some 50,000 tourists bought hot dogs, balloons, and soft drinks from vendors at the cave in Kentucky. But in the end, Floyd Collins died alone in the icy darkness, crying out deliriously, "Get me out. Why don’t you take me out? Kiss me goodbye, I’m going."
In Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg tell this story:
A newly promoted colonel had moved into a makeshift office during the Gulf War. He was just getting unpacked when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a private with a toolbox coming his way.
Wanting to seem important, he grabbed the phone: "Yes, General Schwartzkopf. Of course, I think that’s an excellent plan." He continued: "You’ve got my support on it. Thanks for checking with me. Let’s touch base again soon, Norm. Goodbye."
"And what can I do for you?" he asked the private.
"Uhhh, I’m just here to hook up your phone."
From Leadership Journal, submitted by Ron Willoughby, Augusta, Georgia
PRAISE HIM IN MY HEART
Praise God for Christmas.
Praise Him for the incarnation,
for the word made flesh.
I will not sing of shepherds
watching flocks on frosty nights,
or angel choristers.
I will not sing of a stable bare in Bethlehem,
or lowing oxen,
wise men trailing star with gold,
frankincense, and myrrh.
Tonight I will sing praise to the Father
who stood on heaven’s threshold
and said farewell to his Son
as he stepped across the stars
to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
And I will sing praise to the infinite, eternal Son,
There was once a pastor who decided he was going to do something different for a change, so instead of a sermon, he gave everyone two sheets of paper. On one sheet, the heading read, “THE PROBLEM IN THIS CHURCH IS …” and on the other sheet, the heading read, “WHAT THIS CHURCH NEEDS IS …” He had them fill them out and hand them in. The next Sunday, he gave the results. On the sheet that listed the PROBLEMS, such things were listed as: • Should not serve coffee in church • Should serve more coffee in church • Should have shorter sermons • Should have longer sermons • The music we have is terrible • It’s terrible we don’t have more music like what we have On the sheet with the heading of WHAT IS NEEDED, things were listed like: • Need to spend money on more chairs • We don’t need to spend any more money • Pitch all the songs and start over • We need a new preacher We can see the humor in that illustration, but there is something else we can see, too. We can see the unhappiness of those in the church. We can see the lack of unity as a body of Christians, and there is one more thing … we can see a church that has dropped the ball in its teachings, because nobody mentioned Jesus Christ. I would say the biggest problem that church had was that everybody was focused on what they wanted, and nobody was focused on what Jesus wanted. Too often, we are mainly concerned with what we want, and sometimes that is not healthy for the church. I am reminded of the little church that needed a pastor, but they were small and couldn’t afford to pay very much. The only one they could afford was a 74-year-old pastor. He and his wife moved into the very small and very old one bedroom, one bathroom parsonage next door and he began to ready himself for his first sermon. Come Sunday, he got up and spoke for exactly 30 minutes. Later that afternoon, the elders came by the parsonage and praised him with many praises, then asked him how everything was going. He told them the bathroom was too small and when he and his wife were getting ready for church, it was very difficult. The elders just kind of let that go over their heads and they bid goodbye for the day. The next Sunday came and the pastor got up and again spoke a very good sermon for exactly 30 minutes. Later that day, the elders again came by the parsonage and told him how glad they were they hired him. Then they asked how it was going. The pastor again told them about the very small bathroom, to which they again let it go over there heads. The third Sunday, the pastor got up and preached for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Later, the elders came by and asked him why he talked so long. He apologized and told them that the bathroom was so small that he accidentally put in his wife’s false teeth that morning and he said, “…and you know Momma, when they get started they just don’t stop.” That afternoon, the crew came by to start building their new bathroom. That new pastor was focused only on what he wanted, and sometimes we have to do that, but never at the expense of not caring how we treat others in the church.
At the time of this writing, the story dominating the national news involves the execution of former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. On December 30, 2006 the gun-toting dictator, who ruled Iraq with an iron fist for 24 years, was taken to the gallows. This 69-year-old despot, who ruled in modernity one of the most noted geographies of the Bible, was hanged in Baghdad. President Bush called Hussein’s execution “the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.” While the number of Hussein’s victims may never be known, he was certainly responsible for the horrific deaths of many thousands of people. On the day he was convicted and sentenced to death, Hussein wrote a letter to the Iraqi people, according to his lawyers. In the document, he asked Iraqis not to hate the foreign people who invaded their country, just their leaders, because hatred “will blind your vision and close all doors of thinking.” “I say goodbye to you, but will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in Him, and God won’t disappoint any honest believer,” the letter said. (1) Take notice of Hussein’s statement and how he was seemingly, even at this late date, trying to find Peace with his God. Concerning the same event, some of his former countrymen were trying to find peace within. 26-year-old Jassim Al Buhaleg, an Iraqi now living in Everett, Washington clapped his hands and said, “I want to go through the ceiling,” when television reported Hussein had been hanged. Minutes later, though, his hands moved to cover his face as he wept. Al Buhaleg said he was thinking about his father, who 20 years ago was dragged from their home in Iraq by Hussein’s soldiers, never to be seen again. (2) These episodes play out against a backdrop of a nation that is starting to tire of the costs – human and otherwise – of waging war and is seeking answers that can lead to peace on the battlefield. Hussein’s seeming search for peace with his God, Al Buhaleg’s desire for inner peace, and a people longing for peace with others – it seems like all of mankind is searching for one of these three varieties of peace: Peace with God; Peace with Self; Peace with Others. As we conclude this series entitled “God’s Promises for YOU at Christmas,” how timely is it that we conclude with the promise of the Bethlehem child who offers all who seek “supernatural peace?” (1)Joshua Partlow. The Washington Post. (quoted from the Everett Herald, Dec. 30, 2006), A3. (2) Ibid.