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Archive for the category “Compassion”

A Helping Hand

His comedy club opened in 1969.  Rodney and a friend opened it in New York City.  It was a club where Rodney could do his act without having to travel all over.  Travel had been his life but it can be a lonely existence.  He was born Jacob Rodney Cohen and kept that name until he was 19.  His father had abandoned the family and Rodney only saw him a couple of times a year.  At the age of 19 Rodney changed his name to Jack Roy.  He had been writing jokes for stand up comedians since the age of 15 and longed to be on stage himself.  He did get jobs in the field but only at local clubs.  He never caught a break and his income as a local comedian was not paying the bills.  In fact he was deeply in debt.  With a growing family (a wife and two kids) Rodney quit the business and became a aluminium siding salesman in the 1950’s.  Later he would make the joke that when he quit show business he was the only one who knew he quit.  He was not happy even though he made enough to support his family.   He never let his dream die.  Rodney decided to give stand up comedy another try.  Now it was the early 1960’s and even though he had quit the business years ago he had not quit writing jokes.  He decided that he needed a character, an image, something people would remember.

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A name change was in order but what?  A night club owner suggested the name “Rodney Dangerfield.”  It was a name used by Jack Benny on his radio show in talking about an old cowboy.  The name would surely get attention and it was adopted.  With a new name he began working on his image.  What could people relate to?  He came up with “nothing ever goes right for me.”  With a subject to work with Rodney developed his routine in a new way.  He also had the mannerisms he used that were as funny as his jokes.  He actually had a funny look.  He made his eyes look even bigger than they were and he had the ability to fire one joke after another.  His memory was sharp and he always remembered where he was going.  All he needed was a big break and he got it in an unexpected way.

Ed Sullivan had a weekly TV show that had all kinds of acts.  As a last minute replacement Ed chose Rodney to do his act.  Rodney was the surprise hit of the show and that opened up doors Rodney never entered before.  There was demand for his act and he came up with his new line.  Instead of “Nothing ever goes right for me” he replaced it with “I get no respect.”  As his popularity increased so did his travel.  Doors opened but they were doors away from home.  Rodney enjoyed his popularity and his comedy club enjoyed great success through the years.  He realized that if Sullivan had not given him a helping hand all of his success may not have happened.

Many have been very talented and have taken their talents to Hollywood only to never get discovered.  We’ve heard stories of unlikely beginnings when the person who would later become a star was in the right place at the right time.  Mel Gibson tells the story of how he got started.  He had been in a fight the night before and had bruises and cuts on his face.  His friend needed a ride to an audition and being the good friend that he was Mel gave him a ride.  Gibson caught the eye of the director and he thought that he would be a good fit for a villainous character in his movie Mad Max.  Weeks later when Gibson reported bruise and cut free the director saw the young handsome Aussie and decided to give him the lead role.  Image result for mel gibson young

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Chris Pratt had an unusual journey to fame.  When he was 19 years old he lived  out of a van in Maui, Hawaii, and waited tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  Actress Rae Dawn Chong happened to come to the restaurant to eat. She cast Pratt in a horror comedy she was directing.  That movie was never released but it opened the door for Pratt to land a role in the drama “Everwood.” In the future Chris would reach leading man status.  What a fortunate turn his life took that day at the restaurant because of a chance meeting!

Carol Burnett received $50 from an anonymous donor in an envelope.  It was for the first year of tuition at UCLA.  Carol was poor and lived with her grandmother.  Going to UCLA was out of the question until that helping hand.  Then in her second year a professor invited students to his house to perform as part of his class.  After her performance while she was stuffing cookies to take to her grandmother a couple came up to her.  Instead of reprimanding her for what she was doing they asked her what her plans were.  She wanted t go to New York and try her hand at a musical comedy but didn’t have the money.  Right on the spot he offered her a loan of $1,000.00 interest free.  He mentioned that he wanted her to pay it back within 5 years so that she would have the responsibility and that if she made good that she had to help someone else achieve their dreams.  Carol did make good as we all know and she has a scholarship at UCLA for actresses in Theater.  She also saw the couple many times through the years and was forever thankful for giving her the means to support her dream. A dream that may not have come true without their help.

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Originally Rodney founded his comedy club for his own reasons.  He wanted a place to do his act.  Through the years and as Rodney became an icon it expanded.  HBO did specials from Rodney’s club that helped young comics get exposure.  Rodney was right in the middle of it giving his help wherever he could.  The best help he could give was to give people the chance that he so desperately longed for years ago.  He gave them a platform to exhibit their talents and make people laugh.  Through his efforts many comedians became famous.  Comedians Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Saget, Jerry Stiller, Kevin Kline and Jeff Foxworthy were featured at his club.  He gave them a chance and they were forever thankful!

Photo of Dangerfield's - New York, NY, United States. Front

Rodney joked when he went to the hospital for the last time.  He was going to have an operation involving his brain. If successful it would increase blood flow in preparation for a heart valve replacement he would need at a later date.  He was asked how long he would be there and his answer was typical Rodney. “If all goes well about a week, if not about an hour and a half.”  The next month it was revealed that Rodney had been in a coma.  His wife was told that it might be helpful to pull him out of it by having people come and tell their jokes.  Every day they had comedians that Rodney had given their start coming to that hospital room.  His wife mentioned that those sessions should have been taped because they were some of the best ever.  All of those comedians cared deeply for Rodney.  The guy who always said he got no respect was getting the respect that kings don’t get.  Unfortunately  all of their efforts weren’t enough.  Rodney never came out of the coma.

Rodney Dangerfield was a self admitted atheist.  Yet he gave opportunities to a lot of people and God’s laws apply to the just and unjust. “Give and it shall be given unto you” Luke 6:38.  As a result of the good that he did he was blessed with true friends.  The people that helped Carol Burnett and others knowingly or not were obeying these commandments:  27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27..and “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:4.  

As Christians it’s God’s will that we do onto others as we would have them do onto us. That is the golden rule.  Sometimes God puts people in the right place at the right time and they get blessed, but more often than not it’s the opportunity people have to lend a helping hand that makes the difference one way or the other.  Would we be willing to make a difference in someone else’s life?  If so that positive decision to lead someone up the ladder to new heights not only would bless the receiver but us too!

 

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Do You Remember Me?

I had an experience the other day that was kind of embarrassing.  Someone came up to me in a store and asked me if I remembered them.  Actually I did remember the lady.  She worked in the Financial Aid Office years ago.  I also remember running into her years ago in a similar circumstance.  My problem is that I didn’t remember her name.  I did tell her of course I remembered her but I wasn’t honest about her name.  I should have asked her for her name again.  After all it had been years and years since I had seen her.  She mentioned the last time she saw me I was going to buy trophies for my sons basketball team.  I’m thinking that had to be 11 or 12 years ago when I coached them.  It would have been easy to ask for her name and yet I didn’t.  Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that it might be hurtful to her.  Yet when you don’t run into someone for years it’s natural to forget.  It isn’t like you see them every day.   So I skated around the conversation without calling her by her name because I had forgotten.

I had a similar experience yesterday but the shoe was on the other foot.  I walked into a building and there was a guy I hadn’t talked to in years.  His name was George and he was the boyfriend of my boss years ago.  Actually I see him all of the time because he has decided to ride his bike to work instead of driving.  Many times driving to or from work I will encounter him riding down the road.  Of course he hasn’t thought of me in years and naturally when I saw him I said “Hey George!”, and we shook hands.  I noticed he didn’t call me by my name but we exchanged pleasantries.  I told him I see him riding his bike often and he mentioned something about finding that the bike was going against his will too often to Sweet water’s Doughnut Shop lately.  We both got a laugh out of that but at the end of the conversation he said something really softly…I heard it as “take care Terry.”

'This is my wife of 42 years...uh...'  'Lisa.'

I kinda laughed to myself as I continued walking.  I was wondering if I heard him correctly because he said it so low.  I have tried that trick too.  If I wasn’t totally sure I might say the name that I thought it was. The trick is to say it low enough that they would think that I remembered or if it was wrong that maybe they didn’t hear me correctly,.  There was a guy that I was running into every day that worked in Human Resources.  It seemed like every day he was saying “Hi Lewis”, and I was saying “hey how is it going?”, or some other pleasantry.  I had never been introduced to this guy but somehow he knew my name and it was embarrassing.

One day I decided that I have to find out what his name is.  So I searched an old phone book of the people that worked in Human Resources and I thought I had it!  He said “How are you Lewis?”  and I said something like “I’m doing good” and I said a name I forget right now.  The name i thought was right was an unusual name too.  Quickly he corrected me which was embarrassing but the proper thing to do.  “My name is Robert”, he said.  “Oh I’m sorry”, I stated obviously embarrassed.  I think I muddled through the passing conversation using his name Robert.  Quickly I started trying to find a way to remember his name. I used to work with a guy named Robert who was a really good friend.  I made a note that when I saw this guy I would think about my long lost friend.  Now it works like a charm.  It’s either Hi Lewis, Hi Robert or Hi Robert, Hi Lewis!  Now we both feel good when we see each other!

Therein lies the key to people’s hearts.  Everyone wants to feel good.  I was reading a book about Detroit Tiger’s legend Al Kaline.  He was at an autograph show when a fan came up to him asking “Do you remember me?”  Al looked at him and gave him a second glance.  Nothing was coming and he was honest “No I don’t think so, should I?”  The fan explained that it was right after the 1968 World Series that the Tiger’s won!  They were having a victory parade downtown and Al was in one of the cars.  The fan explained that he ran right up to the car and got Al’s attention.  “Hey Al” he said.  He said that Al looked right at him!  Kaline took his eyes off of the ball he was autographing.  “That’s right the parade in 1968”, he said referring to an event 25 years ago.  “You’ve changed a little”, Al offered and they both laughed.  I’m sure that little meeting with Kaline made the guys day.  He probably went home and told his wife and kids that the great Al Kaline remembered him!  The guy next to Al at the table looked at him in amazement of his fabulous memory.  When the fan was safely out of earshot Al quietly told him “of course not.”

There are some people that are brutally honest.  They pride themselves in saying things and letting the chips fall where they may.  Maybe there is a time and place for this if it is in the right spirit and meant to be helpful, but too often their words only hurt the other person.  Too often the brutally honest ones are just brutal.  “I tell it like it is”, they may say proudly.  Yet with their words they sometimes cut a person far deeper than if they were stabbing them with a knife.  That hurt can bring pain to others too.  The phrase “Hurt people hurt people” is very true and it can be passed on or stopped by our actions.  Make people feel good that they saw you.  Leave them in a better mood than before your encounter.  This is what happy people do and we should be happy with the Spirit of God within us!

Years ago Ernie Banks was a big star for the Chicago Cubs.  One day Ernie was at a function and one of the promoters was telling him about his 8 year old son.  His wife would be bringing him over in a few minutes.  “It will be thrilling for him to meet you because  you are his favorite player!”  The promoter told Ernie that he took his son  to a Cubs doubleheader last year on the 4th of July. He mentioned that they got good seats right to the side of the Cub’s dugout and he bought his son a Cub’s hat that he wore the whole day!  “What a great time they had together that day” He recalled, “and how thrilled his son was when Ernie hit a home run!”

As promised the promoters wife brought his son over to where he was.  “I’d like you to meet Ernie Banks”, his father told his son.  Ernie looked up from what he was doing and shook hands with the youngster.  As he was shaking his hand Ernie took a second look.  “Hey, haven’t I seen you before?”, he stated in surprised elation.  “Weren’t you at a game last year?”  The kid mentioned that he was.  “Wasn’t it the 4th of July doubleheader?” “Weren’t you sitting right by the dugout with a Cubs hat on?”  The questions were coming faster than the kid could answer but he was thrilled that the great Ernie Banks recognized him!  “When I saw you do you know what I thought?”  “I thought that kid is a great Cubs fan and I’m going  to try to hit a home run just for him!”

I Couldn’t Care More

I was watching a video the other night where they interviewed Jerry Spence.  Jerry is a lawyer who they claimed never lost a case in front of a jury.  I find that incredibly hard to believe because he has been at it a long time.  However it was very interesting to listen to him in the interview.  They asked him how he did it?  How did he have this incredible record of wins?  He put it in very simple terms.  In order to represent his clients properly he had to care.  He was asked how he could care when his clients were charged with crimes that were hard to defend because of their nature and their apparent guilt?  In an amazing answer he said a lot about caring.

Image result for gerry spence photo in the courtroom

You know we all start off the same.  Suppose at the hospital though the babies were switched.  Maybe the baby that was going to a home where nobody cared about them was instead taken to a home where there was much caring.  What if their new home had the means to give them the education and benefits they needed.  Perhaps this person would not be in the situation they are in today.  Then he mentioned an example of a little puppy.  One puppy is taken to a loving home where they are cuddled and fed.  That same puppy could have been taken to a home where it is locked in a cage all alone and starved.  After awhile if you put your finger in that cage you are likely to get bit.

These examples illustrate the point of how love and caring about a person goes a long way in making them who they are.  Jerry Spence asks himself before taking a case how he can prevent the worst from happening to his client?  After all the results of the trial will make a difference in his clients life going forward.  Will they be behind bars for the rest of their life or will they be given a second  chance to get it right?  That is where caring comes in.  By truly caring about them and their fate he tries to reverse a situation that happened years ago that put them on the wrong path.    He takes the time to get to know them and their stories.  For many it is the first time that anyone has cared enough to get involved.  Spence said that most lawyers don’t get involved enough for a case to actually hurt them.  They may think they are doing their best but they are doing it from a distance where they can justify their efforts and often times sad results.  Spence gets so involved that he fights for the good of his clients.  His total involvement makes him care about them as people and their future.  He ends up knowing them like nobody has  taken the time to get to know them before.

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I read a story about a lawyer that was hired by his client to defend him of horrific charges that were brought against him.  The lawyer he hired was not the caring type like Spence.  He loved being the center of attention and loved the theatrics he could generate in the courtroom.  His client was accused of aggravated assault on his victim to the point of even biting off half of the man’s ear.  The other lawyer had his star witness on the stand.  His star witness however was having trouble with the details and his lawyer was trying to lead him into saying what he wanted.  The witness was there on the night in question and the lawyer asked him if he saw the defendant bite the man’s ear off?  Over and over the witness would not admit he actually saw the infraction.  The opposing lawyer was getting upset with his star witness and ended up having him labeled as a hostile witness.  It was at that point that the defendants lawyer should have been satisfied and asked no further questions.  However, since he loved being the center of attention he rose and strutted confidently to the front of the courtroom.  “So what did you see” he asked, knowing  that the answer would further damage the case against his client and have people talking about what a great lawyer he was.  The witness thought for a moment.  There was a silence in the courtroom as he patiently collected his memories.  “Well, I didn’t see him bite off half of his ear, but I did see him spew it out of his mouth”, he replied  to the shock of the courtroom. “I also saw the blood on your clients mouth and heard the plaintiff yelling “he bit off my ear!”

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This whole caring lawyer conversation reminds me that Jesus is our caring lawyer. We’ve heard disinterested people say the often used saying “I couldn’t care less.”  Jesus on the other hand couldn’t care more!  In 1 John 2 verse 1 it states “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.”  You see Jesus is there to defend us.  He cares about us and wants to protect us from our accusers.  He loved us so much that he died for our sins.  All we have to do is accept him as our lord and savior and we will employ the best caring, loving advocate we could ever get.  It starts with a simple prayer.  Pray it with me…Lord Jesus, Come into my heart and save me.  Forgive me of my sins and be my lord and savior. I ask you to defend me against my accusers.  Amen

The Trial

By Lewis Hamilton from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” @1997

The prosecuting attorney had his case prepared
to send me straight to jail
He had evidence to string me up
so I knew he wouldn’t fail

He called out with a convicting voice
We’ve got movies of your sins
The courtroom door was opened,
a projector was wheeled in

We watched my actions prove his case,
my hands were very red,
my sins were played on a big screen
He roared, Son, you’re as good as dead!

I glanced at my attorney
What would his reaction be?
His smile caught me by surprise
with the evidence against me

The prosecuting attorney made his case
It took three hours, maybe four
He had a list ten feel long
or maybe even more

He glided by my attorney
with a smile upon his face
He’s guilty as the blackest sin,
you don’t even have a case

My attorney walked up to the bench
He said, Father here’s my plea
I know this man is guilty
just as everyone can see

But he asked me to forgive him
and you know I paid the fee
So I ask you, my loving father
Please, set this captive free

Son, the judge and father said,
Consider your will done
The price you paid was more than enough
to cover everyone

He hit the gavel on the desk,
and threw away the list
He said with a voice of authority
This case is dismissed.

For there is one God and one
mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave
himself as a ransom for all men
the testimony given in its
proper time.

I Timothy 2 verses 5 and 6

A Good Light

Flip Wilson the great comedian of years gone by had a saying he used to say while dressed up as Geraldine which was very funny.  “What you see is what you get”, he would proclaim in a high pitched voice.  It was a statement that all of us can attest to because we all have our faults.  It’s foolish to expect perfect people and it is foolish to think and act like we are perfect.  Yet in our day and age it is sometimes important to hide our flaws.  It might be in the makeup we wear or the hair piece that hides the thinning.  It might be in the clothes that we wear that help hide our extra poundage.  These things can help us look our best and better than what we really are.  There is nothing wrong with trying to look our best.  In fact God is looking at us through a good light.

Have you ever heard it said about a picture “That picture doesn’t reflect you in a good light?”  How many times in years past have we had our picture made for a drivers license and totally cannot stand the picture?  We are looking weird or our hair isn’t just right or our eyes are closed, or we are not looking at the camera.  These pictures do not show us at our best.  That is the beauty of something like Facebook.  We can post only our favorite photos that put us in the best light and can discard the ones that we don’t like.  In that way we put the best light on ourselves and are happy with the results.

One of my work insurance benefits is having my eyes checked every two years.  The thing I don’t like about the examination is when they dilate my eyes.  The process is quite painless as they take a solution and put it in my eyes.  After a little while they are able to see the back my eyes to make sure nothing weird is going on.  The problem I have is the bright light after the examination.  They give me these sun glasses to wear because my eyes are extra sensitive to the light.  Without the glasses on it would be so bright that it wold actually be painful.  It would feel like the equivalent of looking directly into the sun.

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When I was a kid my dad sometimes took me outside to help him as he worked on the car.  He would give me the flashlight to hold on the part that he was working on from above the engine as he was under the car.  After awhile with my mind drifting I invariably would move the light where it wasn’t shining on the place he needed it.  Of course my attention was quickly pulled back to the job at hand as dad hollered and I realized that my light was shining on everything but what it was supposed to.

In Matthew 5 verses 14-16 Jesus said

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

It is very important to shine our light but we must realize that we can shine it the wrong way.  We can shine it on things that we are not supposed to like I did with the car.  We can shine it in such a way that it is painful to someone else as the bright light is as painful as looking into the sun.  We can put a bad light on people that emphasizes seeing them at their worst.  These are not God’s intentions of how we are to use our light he has given us.  It is not God’s will for us to expose someone in our light in such a way that we put them in a bad light even if it is true.

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In John chapter 8 Jesus was teaching in the temple when the scribes and pharisees brought a woman to him that they said was caught in the very act of adultery.  They wanted to know if they should stone her like it is required in the Law of Moses?  Actually they were trying to trap Jesus because however he answered they would have something against him.  However Jesus told them something they didn’t expect.  He told them to go ahead and stone her but only the one without sin among them could cast the first stone.  Slowly they dropped their stones and left.  When they had all left Jesus turned to the woman and asked Where are your accusers?  Has no one condemned you?  She answered “no one Lord”, and he said neither do I.  Go and sin no more.  Jesus chose to not shine a light on all of her sins.  Instead he chose to shine his light on the future instead of the past.  He refused to put her in a bad light even though the charges against her were true.

The will of God in us is to shine our light for all to see.  We are to look for good in people and not expose things that would put them in a bad light.  That is called forgiveness and love.  We cannot love others when we are talking bad about them.  Love is slow to anger and quick to forgive.  When you are tempted to say something bad about someone think about this question.  Am I a perfect person?  Would I like it if someone revealed something about me that put me in a bad light?

When shining your light that God has given you shine it directly on Jesus for he is our example.  You can do this by following his example of not blaming or condemning people for their faults.  Remember that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Remember that if we cannot forgive others God cannot forgive us.  Make it a way of life to say nice things about others and overlook their faults.  Do unto others as you would have them do onto you, not as they do unto you.  In that way God will be pleased with the good light you are shining!

 

 

 

The Sin Police

I see you, you see me
Watch you blowin’ the lines
When you’re making a scene
Oh girl, you’ve got to know
What my head overlooks
The senses will show to my heart
When it’s watching for lies
You can’t escape my
Private eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move
Private eyes
They’re watching you
Private eyes
They’re watching you watching
You watching you watching you
Image result for Hall and oates
The song was a big hit years ago by Hall and Oates called “Private Eyes.”  What is the song telling us?  It is saying that whoever they are talking to is under their radar.  Everything they do or say won’t be missed.  When they say something untrue or do something questionable the alarm will go off and they will be exposed.  Something that the other person did has ticked them off and now they will keep tabs on that person and not let them get away with anything.
Have you ever been driving and happen to look in your rear view mirror and see a police car right behind you?  Nobody likes this situation because we fear that any kind of little mistake and we are going to get pulled over for an infraction.  We hope that making a turn will send the police car in a different direction.  How many times does it seem like the police car is following us wherever we are going?  Maybe it is just a coincidence and maybe it isn’t.  All we know is that we are suddenly on our best behavior and try our best not to make a mistake.  In short it is a very unnerving situation.  Now picture this situation happening every day.  Picture every time you get in your car and start driving a police car appears and follows you to work, to the store, or wherever else you are going?  It is not easy driving when someone is seemingly out to get you.
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This out to get them attitude is what many are carrying with them.  Many are glad when something bad happens to someone that is under their evil eye.  Our evil eye has a tendency to drop down to our mouth too.  We can be quick to criticize the person that we feel like is getting away with so much.  So many times we make a statement about karma when something bad happens to them.  It pleases us to think that their bad deeds are getting punished.  We may even laugh as we contemplate their difficulties.  Did you know that God didn’t call anyone to be the sin police?  In fact the Bible tells us not to get revenge. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah.  Usually we are intrigued as kids by the fact that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and he stayed in the fish for three days and three nights.  As a kid I think the big fish was described as a whale.  We tend to remember Jonah being in the whale but forget why he was there.  The story goes that there was a city named Nineveh.  Nineveh was filled with wicked people and God told Jonah to go and preach to these people that their city would be destroyed in 40 days.   Jonah however had an evil eye toward them.  They were Israel’s biggest enemy and Jonah didn’t want anything good happening to them.  The good would happen he feared because they would turn from their evil ways and God would have mercy on them.  Jonah had an evil eye for them and wanted nothing good to happen.  In fact he wanted their whole city destroyed.

Instead of obeying God Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He went to Joppa and paid the fare to board a ship heading for Tarshish. God caused a tremendous storm when the ship was far out to sea.  The crew fearing for their lives threw out all of the cargo to lighten the ship.  The captain of the ship found Jonah fast asleep below the deck.  “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish. Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Image result for jonah and the whale picture

Jonah 1 7:16

In God’s mercy to Jonah he saved his life by having a big fish swallow him.  Jonah prayed to God while in the belly of the whale.  He asked for forgiveness and God forgave him.  Three days and three nights later God made the fish sick and he spat Jonah onto the shore. Once again he asked Jonah to go to Nineveh.  This time Jonah went and preached to the people that in 40 days their city would be destroyed.  He must have been a sight preaching to them after being in the whale for 3 days and nights.  It made them believe his story and they turned from their evil ways.  As Jonah had predicted God had mercy on them and changed his mind.  Because of their repentance he forgave them and did not destroy their city.  Instead of being happy about God’s change of heart Jonah became angry.  It was hurtful to him that God had him preach one thing and then it didn’t come to pass.
The story of Jonah is a lesson in God’s compassion and mercy.  God didn’t want anyone to perish.  Not the sailors on the ship, not Jonah, and not the people of Nineveh.  Today God doesn’t want anyone to perish either.  Not your friends, your enemies, or anyone you may come in contact with.  When we get hurt or people let us down or we feel like that life isn’t fair we should remember the story of Jonah.  Instead of an evil eye toward people that are against us God wants us to pray for them and hope for the best for them.  He has not called us to be the sin police pointing out every bad thing about them.  He has called us to act as the police in another regard, protecting them in love and forgiveness.  Always remember that God’s private eyes are watching you.  He is watching out of love and desires that we show mercy and love like he showed to us.

Dane’s Pain And Gain

There was no freedom.  All of that had been taken away.  It really seemed there was no hope.  Locked in a tiny prison cell all he could think about was what went wrong.  I didn’t know Dane very well growing up.  Kevin his brother who was my friend in our high school years told me that it was hard getting close to Dane because he was never around.  Dane had run away from home a few times.  Each time he was found and returned.  Why did this happen I wondered?  Dane explained that he was one of six kids and always felt like he was the black sheep.  He was a free spirit and felt confined at home.  This was my conclusion from trying to piece his story together.

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One night while Dane was drunk and strung out on drugs an army buddy called.  There was a house he knew of that was ripe for the picking.  It was open and nobody was home.  It would be easy to enter and take whatever they needed or wanted.  When Dane arrived he found the house just as described.  Him and his buddy ransacked the house as Dane took an expensive stereo system and a nice guitar.  Somehow they must have made mistakes in what they thought was a perfect crime.  Dane had taken the stolen merchandise back to his friends apartment and fell asleep.  He was awoken by the sounds of sirens from police cars.  Busting into the place they found and arrested Dane.  He was too out of it to even care.  So that was the beginning of what Dane thought was his pain.  In truth his pain had been going on for a long time.  Before he was in prison he lived in an invisible prison.  Yes he could come and go as he pleased but inside he was in bondage but didn’t know it.Image result for sunrise picture

It was obvious as he sat in that little cell day after day that this was the real thing.  Day after day he had nothing but time.  Time to think, time to regret, time to worry, and time to go crazy.  He had a picture of the sun rising that he had in his cell.  That picture kept him going when he knew he wouldn’t see the actual sun.  There were times that Dane was put in a cell with as many as thirty other inmates.  Other times he was in a cell by himself.  Then there were times that he got into trouble and they put him in what they called “the hole.”  This was a place where he was alone with absolutely nobody around.  This was the punishment for mouthing off or doing some other act that caused extra punishment.  Dane wondered if he could keep his sanity and many times he was sure he couldn’t.  He mentioned that he preferred a cell without cell mates.  Unlike the hole these cells at least had noise and action going on around him.  The scariest cells were the ones shared by many other inmates.  Dane feared that another inmate might attack him and he was always uncomfortable and on full alert when he was forced to live in this situation.Image result for prison cells

His mind drifted to when he arrived at this Portland Oregon Prison.  It was called Rocky Butte and it was built in the rocks right off of the highway.  A whole bus load of prisoners were dropped off including Dane.  They were all strip searched and given prison uniforms.  That was the beginning of Dane’s hell.  So much time to think about things in his life.  So much time to analyze his mistakes.  He was at his lowest point many times.  He stated that it was a case of keeping sane in a place where sanity was hard to hold onto.  Just when things were at their darkest a small light entered Dane’s life.  It came in the form of a pastor who cared.  Dane was to the point where he thought nobody cared.  He had received mail when he first arrived and eagerly looked forward to getting more.  Slowly the mail stopped coming in.  He was a dying man reaching for a saving rope and little did he know this pastor was throwing one to him.Image result for picture of the Bible

Dane listened intently at the message the pastor was delivering.  One thing about prison that is very clear is the words in the Bible that all have sinned.  Seeing the dark side of life helped Dane recognize the light.  It was like he was in total darkness and someone had pulled the curtain up where a little light shined.  Naturally Dane gravitated to that light.  He had heard about Jesus and wanted a way out of his darkness.  You see not only was Dane in a dark place physically but he was empty on the inside.  The pastor made it clear that he needed Jesus and he accepted Jesus into his life.  The pastor gave Dane a Bible and Dane got busy reading.  Jesus became real in his life and from that time on he had peace in the midst of his prison surroundings.  From that day many years ago until now Dane has lived with a peace that only God can give.  He was released from prison years ago but the pain that he felt is still remembered.flag

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and obviously it is a time to remember our fallen heroes from the Military.  Dane would like us to remember other people also.  They are prisoners who are living their lives in bondage.  Pray that someone comes along like the pastor did for him and gives them an opportunity to receive Jesus.  Pray that they will not give up hope and not give up on life.  We have a tendency to forget the people who are in jail because they are not walking among us.  Sometimes we say to ourselves “they made their bed now they have to sleep in it.”  Dane recognizes from experience that there are many lonely hurting people that made mistakes and are paying for them.  In Luke chapter 7 verses 41-43 Jesus tells this story.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Pray that those who had sinned much receive forgiveness.  These are people like the Apostle Paul who were going 100% in the wrong direction.  Paul was determined to kill as many Christians as he could and felt he was doing the world a favor by doing it!  That was until he had an encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus.  Many times people like Paul when salvation comes their way are the ones who turn completely around and go 100% the right way.  The world needs their testimony because they are  people that Jesus can use because their testimony is so drastic! In a dark cell tonight there is a person like Dane who will have a story to tell.  They may feel lost and lonely tonight but someday there will be freedom and peace.  Pray for and contribute to prison ministries for when you do you may be adding a crusader to the kingdom!  To this day Dane has and reads the Bible that pastor gave him.  It’s a nice reminder of someone who cared enough to come into his dark world to share a beautiful light of love!Image result for I was in prison jail ministry picture

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Roll Away The Stone

He has risen!  It is the story of our faith.  Without the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead our faith would be dead too.  Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and discovered that the Stone had been rolled away.  It was a massive stone that had been put in front of the opening to make sure Jesus’ body was not stolen.  So Mary goes into the tomb only to find that Jesus is not there.  She runs to John and Peter two of Jesus disciples with the sad news.  “They have taken our Lord and I don’t know where they put him.”  The two disciples run to the tomb only to find that Mary was right.  The stone is rolled away and Jesus’ body is gone.  Not knowing what to do next the disciples end up going back home.  Mary is standing outside the tomb crying.  As she wept she looked into the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white seated where Jesus’ body had been.  They asked her why she was crying?  “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know what they did with him”, she stated.  Suddenly Jesus appeared but Mary did not recognize him.  Thinking he was the gardener she said “sir, If you have carried him away tell me where you have taken him and I will go get him”.  Jesus said “Mary” and Mary realized that it was Jesus and he was alive.

The Stone Rolled Away

Like the stone blocking the tomb there is another story years before of how God symbolically used stones to give Moses a lesson for his people.  Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and had just crossed the Red Sea that God had parted for them.  That was the miracle where he made the sea part for them to get through but roll back to swallow up their enemies that were after them.  Going through the desert they came to Mount Sinai. God called Moses to the top of the mountain so they could talk.  The rest of the people were to stay down below and clean themselves up to prepare for when Moses came back with instructions from God.  Moses went up to the top of the mountain to meet God.  He stayed for 40 days and nights.  God wrote in his own writing the 10 commandments and put them on two tablets of stone.  When Moses came down from the mountain with the two stones in his arms he noticed that the people had grown impatient and had made an altar with a brass calf.  Moses was so upset that he threw the tablets to the ground breaking them in hundreds of pieces.  God ended up having Moses chisel two more rocks down to tablet size and gave him the ten commandments again to write on them.  The commandments were never symbolized as a way to salvation.  They were given because God loved them and gave them rules to follow that would be best for them.  It’s like loving parents telling their children to get home by 11 or don’t eat all of that junk food.

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How many times do you tell your kids not to do something only to find that they disobey?  How many times in the spur of the moment do we make the wrong choice and for that moment we don’t consider the rules.  My dad used to tell me a story about a day that he was driving and came to a yellow light.  It was one of those lights where it was a 50-50 as to if he should go through or stop.  He decided to go through.  Just after he went through the light there were blinding lights in his rear view mirror.  He was getting pulled over.  When he mentioned to the officer that the light was yellow the officer told him that while he was under it the light turned red.  It was the letter of the law and the officer was determined to enforce it.  That ticket greatly affected my dad’s view of traffic lights from that time forward.  If he were driving up to a light and the light turned yellow you could bet your life his car was stopping.  Sometimes he stopped that car so suddenly it almost threw me on the floor.  This was before the time when we all wore seat belts.  One time dad made one of his stops and the car behind him rear ended his car in the back.  The driver mentioned that he thought dad was going through.

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A friend mentioned the other day of an episode with his dad.  His dad was driving with the family along narrow winding roads in the mountains of Tennessee or Kentucky.  As he was winding down the mountain he noticed the blinding lights of a police car in his rear view mirror.  The officer asked “Do you know how fast you were going?”  Truthfully the father did not know.  The officer had pulled him over in a loving way reminding him of how dangerous it is driving down the mountain.  “We have had many cars not make a turn and I just wanted to make sure you were not one of them.”  That story stayed with my friend all of these years.  The officer in his memory pulled them over because he cared about them.  He did not recite the letter of the law to them.  He did not give his father a ticket.  He just wanted to warn them to slow up and be safe.

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Almost invariably with rules there are exceptions to the rule.  If you are racing to get someone to the hospital in an emergency you might run a red light or two.  Is this lawful?  No, but it might be practical because you are doing it in love.  Even though God gave the ten commandments out of love he knew that they would be broken.  Symbolically when Moses became upset and broke the 10 commandment tablets it was like the ten commandments would be broken too.  There is a difference however in breaking a rule in love and in hate.  One day Jesus came by a pool where an invalid man had been laying on his bed by it for 38 years.  (You can find this story in the Gospel of John chapter 5 verses 5-15.)  Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well.  The man answered saying “I have no one to put me in the pool.”  You see an angel had stirred the pool waters and anyone entering the pool would be healed.  As you can imagine there was always a stampede to get into the water.  The man however had no means to get in.  Jesus did not say “Here let me help you into the pool.”  Jesus knew the real source for healing.  What he did do was command the man to take up his bed and walk!  The man on command took up his bed and started walking.  I can imagine the excitement that came into his life and the amazement others around him were feeling.  They had seen this man laying there by the pool for years and now he was carrying his bed and walking.  After he advanced for awhile with his bed on his back the religious lawyers called Pharisees stopped him.  It happened to be the Sabbath day and they told him it was unlawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath.

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n 2013 in the United States alone 2,220,300 adults were in federal, state, or county jails.  That is almost 1% of the adult population.  Those people are in physical bondage as they are locked up with no place to go.  We can find statistics on the number of these people there are but nobody knows the statistic on how many people are in spiritual bondage.  I can only tell you that the number is in the millions.  The spiritual bondage comes from people trying to live by the rules.  You might say “Shouldn’t we live by the rules and isn’t it a good thing?”  The answer is yes but we have to realize that if our heart is in the right place the rules will take care of themselves.  When the religious rulers asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he answered this way…37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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So my questions to you today are Do you live your life in love?   Are you concerned with others obeying the rules and holding them accountable when they don’t?  Are you willing to forgive and forget or do you hold grudges? How is playing by the rules affecting your life?  Has religion made you miserable?  Are you trying to please God because you fear him or because you love him?  Do you go to church in fear or in love?

When the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb it was a sign of hope!  It was a sign that something supernatural had happened!  When we give our life to Christ something supernatural happens to us too!  No longer are we living in bondage blocked by doubt and fear with no hope.  Now instead of depending on religious rules to justify us we have a loving heart and the voice of the Holy Spirit telling us we are saved.  Our life that was once a dark tomb blocked by a large stone is now an unblocked lighted vessel for his use. Let God roll that stone that is blocking your way and let him empower you to change the world!  Go in love and peace and let his love freely shine for all to see!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Galatians 5:1

 

Accident Forgiveness

“What the he_ _ were you thinking?”  It was the man who had just hit my car in the passenger door.  There were two other people in his car that were unhurt.  He had bounded out of his car quickly to give me his message.  “You are in big trouble!”, he stated.  I tried to apologize but he was hearing none of it.  “You are in big trouble!”, he repeated.  I tried to approach him but one of his passengers told me I had better just stay where I was.  It was an unspoken threat that the driver had a temper and might attack me if I came closer.  All of a sudden the driver as if on Que grabbed his neck.  “Oh my neck”, he hollered for everyone there to hear.

I was so shook up I couldn’t hardly think.  The glaring question he had asked was still ringing in my head.  “What the He_ _  was I thinking?”  Then the answer came to me.  I was thinking the road was clear.  I was not able to see.  I had made the best decision I could under the circumstances.  I was not a complete moron trying to kill myself like the driver obviously believed.

It was a normal morning in every way that day.  I got up and did all my normal morning routines before work.  Even the beginning drive was perfectly normal.  The only thing different was the bright sunshine.  I questioned in my mind going back to get sunglasses but dismissed the thought as time consuming.  Pulling onto the main road the sun was so blinding it was hard to see.  Normally I just travel a little ways on the main road and then cut through a neighborhood to the left as a short cut. This day’s plan would follow the same logic.  The sun was still blinding me as I eased into the turning lane.  It was so bright that I could hardly see in front of me.  Looking back I wish I would have thought twice about taking the short cut.  Blindly I eased into the turn lane.

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Like I had done thousands of times before I looked to see the on coming traffic.  With the blinding light in my eyes I made the decision that the way was clear.  I started my turn and right away I knew it was a mistake.  A horn sounded and squealing brakes let me know I wasn’t safe.  Then I heard the crash.  It was a loud thud and I found myself getting thrown to the other side of the car.  Even with my seat belt on it was quite a jar.  The first thing I noticed was the wind shield shattering and glass from the passenger side window flying at me.  I also was pushed unmercifully into the steering wheel.  My car which was hit in the intersection ended up on the other side of the road I was turning on against the curb.  A quick assessment of my body told me that I was shook up but not seriously hurt.

As I was waiting there beside my car I heard sirens as emergency vehicles were heading our way.  Someone walked up beside me and tapped me on the shoulder.  It was my neighbor from across the street who had mercifully stopped to see if I was alright.  He offered his phone for my use and I took hm up on it since my phone was not recharged.  I called my work and my wife and then talked to the policeman who showed up.  The ambulance driver wanted to know if I needed attention.  I thought I was OK but had him check my ribs since they were a little sore from the impact into the steering wheel.  It was determined that there was nothing broken.  The tow truck came and took my car away.  The ambulance took the other driver to the hospital as he was quick to jump on the cot.  The policeman gave me the ticket and explained what I could do if I wanted to dispute it.  He took control of the situation and was very professional and friendly.

My wife picked me up and took me home.  There was glass inside my shoes, in my pants, in my shirt, everywhere there was little pieces of glass.  I called my pastor and told him what happened.  He asked me if I had forgiven myself?   I told him with tears in my eyes that I did.  He prayed for me and the situation.  I am so thankful that there are people that really care about me.  He told me that this morning when he woke up he felt in his spirit that something just wasn’t quite right.  Just the night before in our Bible study on 1- John we talked about forgiving ourselves. We know that God will forgive if we ask but the hardest thing it seems is to forgive ourselves. I can truly tell you that the more we re-live moments in our lives the more we are apt to put the blame on ourselves. My message to you is not to do this.  It is the work of the enemy to bring you down so don’t let him.  It was comforting talking to my pastor and feeling a peace about the whole situation that everything would be alright.

My son came by and the three of us went to where my car was.  It was decided that my car was beyond repair and our job was to clear everything out of it.  The fact that I had accumulated many things in the trunk made it a harder job, but with the three of us we recovered what we could and threw the rest away.  Re-visiting the car was a sad and glad experience.  Seeing it in such a bad condition hurt me but also made me realize how lucky I was.  That car was a symbol of Jesus to me.  It didn’t deserve to be broken but through that brokenness it had protected me.  Now I am alive because it took the punishment instead of me.

The next few days would be filled with trying to find another car and salvaging the old car.  We went to a car dealer and they could sense that we wanted to buy something quickly.  They asked for our price range and naturally gravitated to the upper end of what we were willing to pay.  We test drove one of their cars and when we brought it back the squeeze play was on.  The original lady had introduced us to her manager and now they were working as a team.  We just didn’t feel right about the car and wanted to see more.  Unfortunately the one we were shown was the only one in our price range and they were determined to see us buy it.  The more they put the pressure on the more it just didn’t feel like the car that we were supposed to buy.  I have learned that in everything it is a good idea to pray.  Pray that we are doing what is best in God’s eyes.  When we live by faith we’ve found that the right decisions are made because we are not leaning on our own understanding.  Proverbs 3:5-6 states to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

A few days later we drove out of town to look at a car that was similar to my last one.  Although the mileage was great the car’s body was a disappointment.  Finally we test drove another car and it just felt right!  We had prayed for God’s guidance and he seemed to be giving it to us!  We liked everything about the car and ended up buying it!  Step one was complete and now we turned our attention to step two.  That would be salvaging the old car.

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I spent a lot of time calling different junk yards and the like.  I was very disappointed in the offers I was getting.  Finally I got a hold of one that was a national company.  Their price far exceeded anything I was offered and I agreed to sell it to them.  We set a date and time that they would meet me and complete the deal.  The man showed up with his tow truck to take the car away.  We started a friendly conversation and I asked him a question that I never would have asked had it not been for the Soul Winning class we had recently went through.  The man was named Kevin and I asked him if he had ever considered becoming a Christian.  He dismissed it right off the bat although he mentioned that a good friend had been talking to him about it.  I asked him if he would mind if I prayed with him and he seemed doubtful.  A minute later he turned to me and said “OK, after I get this car loaded I will pray with you!”  The three of us held hands and I had him repeat the sinners prayer after me.  It was an amazing thing standing in a parking lot sharing the Lord and realizing that God was entering into another life!

Going back to our car I had a tremendous feeling of peace.  I was amazed at what had just happened.  I shook my head in amazement and thought a wonderful thought.  “Lord there you go again!  You’ve used something that seemed bad and made it into something very good!  You have brought someone that I never would have met into my life and into your kingdom!  This whole experience reinforced something that is so real to me.  If we let go and let God he will do amazing things in our lives.  He will take whatever the situation we are going through and use it for his glory!  I am reminded of that scripture in I Thessalonians 5:18.  It states “Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Another scripture that comes to mind is Romans 8:28. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.  Lord, thank you for my accident. Thank you that Kevin came to know you as his personal savior!  I am humbled by your perfect plan for our lives even when our world seems to be crashing.  Thank you for always loving me!

There is a footnote to this story.  Recently I did go before a judge like the policeman offered.  I was hoping that he would show compassion on me in light of the situation.  It was kind of intimidating standing there telling my side of the story.  I can humbly tell you that he did show compassion.   It reminded me of how our loving God has mercy for all of us.  We have all made mistakes and God is quick to forgive if we just ask.  So let me offer this prayer on your behalf.  Lord, whatever my reader is going through in their life let them know that you are with them.  You are there to protect them and make everything work out for good.  Let them know that after their world seems to be crashing all around them there is hope, love, and compassion because you love them.  Give them peace and victory because you offer them accident forgiveness.

 

 

The Lost And Found

Nikki was a tall skinny old dog on that fateful day.  He was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who had a pretty easy life.  It consisted of going from his pen to the house, sleeping a lot, eating, catching his ring or ball, and like most dogs begging for food. He would sit there if I was eating something he wanted, (which was everything) and attempt to do his favorite trick.  That trick was shaking hands.  So Nikki would attempt the paw shake even if it wasn’t asked for to try to please and get the treat. Once in awhile we would take Nikki for a walk.  He got all excited and started barking and whining uncontrollably at the very sight of his leash in our hands.  It could not be argued what a good life he had through the years, but one day Nikki wandered away.

At first we didn’t realize that Nikki was gone.  He spent a lot of time in his pen outside.  If he wanted to come in he would whine at the door after walking through the garage that the pen was connected to.  I don’t remember how he got out.  Perhaps the garage door was accidentally left open.  Perhaps his gate door was ajar.  However it happened Nikki was gone.  It was a Sunday in the middle of the summer that we discovered him missing.  I’m sure he enjoyed his freedom.  Even on the walks we took him on he was confined by that leash.  Now he could wander wherever he wanted with nobody pulling on his neck to come back.  I’m sure it was fun for awhile.  Going to places he only dreamed about and all of the scents that dogs invariably smell.  Perhaps other dogs barked as they realized that this big dog was free and they were trapped in their house or yard.  That’s the envy of the other dogs looking out I’m sure.  Barking to threaten the straying dog to get out of their territory, yet realizing that there is nothing they can do about it.

The hours passed and still no Nikki.  This had never happened before and we didn’t know what to do.  We drove around and looked.  With the window down we called out his name “Nikki, Nikki’, but there was no response.  It was getting dark and we were worried.  Our street is not a busy one but the road connected to it is.  If he had wandered into that busy road he could have been hit.  There were many directions he could have gone.  He could have headed west which would have him walking along the busy street.  He could have crossed the busy street and found his way to Parkview Hills which is a Condominium Community.  He could have wandered east and either kept going on the busy road or cut off north into the Winchell neighborhood.  Not knowing where to look we drove all over and kept an eye on the side of the road in case the ultimate tragedy had occurred.

Reluctantly we gave up the search for the night.  It was dark and we had traveled down all of the paths we could think of.  Once again we were devastated when he wasn’t home to greet us when we got back.  We couldn’t think of anything else to do but wait.  Maybe he would show up during the night.  The fear thoughts kept entering our minds.  Maybe he was lying by the side of the road hurt and couldn’t make it home.  Maybe Nikki would never come home again.  Sadly we were trying to prepare for the worst.

I remember back in elementary school.  When something got lost they had a lost and found in the principal’s office.  There were times I came home without a glove or something.  My mom would encourage me to go to the lost and found.  In the office was a big box.  It seemed like hundreds of gloves, hats, and scarves were there.  Also in the mix was my lost glove.  It would have been nice if it were that easy to get Nikki back.  I do remember as a kid we had a dog named Happy.  Happy found himself in the dog pound many times after getting caught wandering away from our house by the dog catcher.  My sister would be crying and dad reluctantly would go and pay the fine to get him back.  Dad always said “I should have just left him in there”, but deep down I know he wanted him back too.

There is a story in the Bible that resembles Nikki’s situation.  It is the story of the prodigal son.  One day the younger son decided that he wanted to see what life was like without being under his father’s rule.  He would taste the fun stuff that he wasn’t allowed to experience.  He asked and was granted his inheritance which allowed him to go out on his own and eat, drink, and be merry.  All went well for the prodigal son until his money ran out. Suddenly he found that when the money was gone so were his so called friends.  He was left to make his own way working in a field with someone’s pigs.  At that point he came to his senses and made his way home.  He would tell his father he was not worthy to be his son anymore and ask for a job in his field.  His father had other ideas when he saw him coming.  He was restored as his son and his father held a big party for him!  Unfortunately Nikki didn’t wander home that night.  If he did like the prodigal son we would have celebrated.  Perhaps we would have bought him a special treat!  Those thoughts seemed like only dreams as the hours passed.

The next morning I didn’t go to work.  I called and told them that I was going to be late.  I mentioned that our dog was missing and I would be in if and when I found him.  Driving around in my Camaro with the window down I kept yelling for Nikki.  Once again there was no response.  I did happen to pass people on the way who were out walking.  With everyone I passed I described our missing dog and left our phone number.  That morning I drove all over leaving our number to anyone that I saw.  It was extremely hot as the temperatures that day hovered between 90 and 100 degrees.  If Nikki were alive the heat alone might be enough to be his end.  Totally dejected and very hot myself I went back home to rest and consider my next move.

Perhaps you are in a place right now like Nikki and the prodigal son were.  Perhaps the grass looked greener on the other side and you left God to find those greener pastures.  Maybe you found out like they did that the world is a harsh place.  Maybe the curiosity has gotten old and you have discovered like they did that what you ran away from was love.  Sometimes when we reach our lowest point we discover things about who we are and what we need to do.  Know that God loves you and is calling you to come home much like we were calling for Nikki.

As I was resting at home from the torturous heat the phone rang.  The lady on the other end told me that she thought she found my dog.  She gave me directions in the Winchell Neighborhood where she had seen a dog that matched my description.  Hurriedly I jumped in the car and took off to the destination about a mile away.  From a distance I saw him in the front yard of a house.  A lady was out there with him and she had provided him with a big bowl of water.  As I think about her  kind deed  it was like the Bible verses in Matthew Chapter 25 within the verses of 35-40. “When I was hungry you fed me and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink.  Later the righteous ones asked when they did those things and he answered “when you did it to the least of these you did it onto me.”

Nikki didn’t see me at first.  He had his head in that bowl and he was drinking like there was no tomorrow.  I pulled up, jumped out of my car and called his name.  He took his head out of the water dish long enough to look at me.  He looked ragged and confused.  I could tell from his look that he hardly recognized me.  The lady wondered if this was my dog and I told her yes and briefly explained what happened.  Nikki still seemed in a daze but I coaxed him into the back of my car.
It took a few days to recover but Nikki slowly came back to himself.  There was a day a short time later that we  accidentally left the garage door opened.  Fearfully we looked in his pen only to find Nikki laying on the cold cement content with life and with no desire to wander away.  Nikki lived for three more years and never ran away again.

Electric Wheels Find A Purple Heart

Corporal Robert Thrailkill, Jr. should not be alive today.  Six years ago at the young age of 19 Robert was deployed in Afghanistan clearing improvised explosive devices from a secured compound when the accident occurred.  Stepping on an IED that was hidden in a mound of dirt Robert was thrown backwards and found himself on his back.  He knew it was serious when he was unable to move his legs.  The first miracle was the fact that Robert could analyze the situation at all.  You see Robert had an array of explosives on his person and they should have went off from the explosion.  Later the conclusion was made that Robert’s last step to his left instead of his right made the difference.  Had he stepped to his right Robert would have been in eternity without God.  It was years later when he saw the light, but God already was saving him for the future.

After the explosion Robert was flown to a hospital where he stayed for a month.  His legs were amputated from the knees down and he was transported to a rehab hospital where he would stay the next two years.  Robert was given the purple heart for his sacrifice for his country.  He worked hard at his rehab and at long last it was time for him to go home and enter the every day world he had left when he was whole.

When Robert got back to civilian life things were not the same.  Living in Caledonia Michigan in an apartment he not only had to get used to his prosthetic legs, but he had to deal with every day things such as showering or getting around his apartment.  It was difficult for Robert to just do the simple things.  Fortunately a group called Homes for Our Troops stepped in.  A home was built for Robert which has wider doorways, pull down shelves, roll in showers, and other adjustments that fit Robert’s needs.  “When I was injured”, Robert expressed at the site of his future home, “I told my family that I was not going to let my injuries define me as a person.”  “But some things made it harder.”  The new house made things so much better for Robert to live normally in but there was still something missing in his life.

Alexis his new wife is a Christian and was able to lead Robert to a place of repentance and acceptance of Jesus into his life!  From that time on Robert was content.  It was like God dismantled his old thought process and gave him real meaning in life.  He was happy with his growing family and the things that he had.  He was grateful for the love that others had shown for him.  There was one thing that he never asked for but he and his wife had agreed would make things much easier.  You see Robert had an electric wheelchair while he was rehabbing but there was no way for him to get  it from Washington DC to his home.  Even if he had a way, that benefit had been taken away due to budget cuts.

I’ve often told people that I let God direct where these stories come from.  They come in all different ways and I never have to worry about what to write about.  That was the case of the story you are reading.  Two weeks ago I was standing in a long line to an event.  I happened to be behind a lady named Nancy and we started talking.  I told Nancy that I write Christian stories and gave her my website card.    Later when I was in conversation with a friend of hers, Nancy told her side of this story to my family.  My wife mentioned to me that I should hear the story and I had Nancy write her number down on the back of one of my cards so I could call her and get the details.  By mistake I accidentally gave the card to someone who was interested in reading my stories.   Amazingly Nancy found my number and contacted me.  She had felt that our meeting was no coincidence.  When I heard her story I had to agree.

Nancy had a friend that had an electric wheelchair.  It was originally bought for her husband but he wasn’t using it.  Her friend asked Nancy if there was someone she knew who would buy it for $600?  The chair was worth far more than this amount but her friend just wanted it to be a blessing to someone in need.  When Nancy was hesitant her friend asked her if she knew anyone that would pay $300 for the chair?  Nancy didn’t hesitate “I’ll buy it from you for $300”, she exclaimed.  Nancy had to take the money out of her retirement but she felt in her heart that it was the right thing to do.  Although Nancy had two successful knee replacement surgeries she told me she only used the chair once.  She had to go to an event and at the time she needed the chair to get around.  After that the chair sat at her house untouched.  Nancy’s knees were getting stronger and she was able to walk so she didn’t need a wheelchair. Still in her heart she felt something deep within.  She felt that someone could and should be using that wheelchair but who?

Nancy was eating at a restaurant one morning when she bit into a metal object.  She was in enormous pain as her tooth was severely damaged.  She needed a dentist appointment right away and frantically started calling offices that were listed in the phone book.  Fortunately she found a dentist with an opening but she would have to wait until the early afternoon.  Nancy was disappointed that she couldn’t get in earlier because of her pain.  She suffered through the morning and finally her appointment time came.

When Nancy walked into the dentist office sitting in the waiting room was none other than Robert and Alexis.  Right away Nancy noticed Robert’s manual wheel chair with the purple heart emblem on it.  Nancy asked Robert (who had a dentist appointment too that day) why he didn’t have an electric wheelchair?  Finding out that they couldn’t have one because of the new rules and their lack of ability to bring one home, Nancy gave Robert and Alexis her number.  Days passed and Nancy hadn’t heard from Robert and Alexis.  One day she got a call and it was them.  “Do you still have that wheelchair and is it still for sale?”, they wanted to know.  “Yes it is still available”, Nancy said and I’m selling it for $300 which is the amount I paid for it.  They bought that wheelchair from Nancy and she delivered it to their house in Belding, Michigan.  The reason they had not called sooner was explained.  Robert and Alexis were involved in an automobile accident and Robert had injured one of his partial legs.  The injury made it more of a reason to secure the electric wheelchair.  When I asked Alexis if they had prayed for an electric wheelchair her answer surprised me.  “No”, she said, “We were content with what we had.”  She admitted that they thought that it would be nice for Robert to be able to get around more with his growing family.  Still they didn’t consider it a necessity.

This past Sunday I heard a sermon that seemed to fit Robert and Alexis situation.  The theme that I remember most about the sermon is the fact that God is on our side!  He is our helper!  I’m reminded of the fact that God knows our needs before we do.  Romans 8:28 states that “All things work together for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I am convinced that because Robert and Alexis were content and happy with what they had and their love for God he interceded.  Because he knows our needs we don’t have to be begging God for things.  He knows the desires of our heart and he blesses us when we seek him first.

I found it ironic that Nancy said I would probably talk to Alexis when I called.  Robert has been out hunting.  Yes, he is putting that new electric wheelchair to good use doing something that he loves and enjoying the blessings that God has bestowed upon him. In this Thanksgiving season we should always remember that God loves us very much!  He desires to bless his children who put him first in their lives.  I’m reminded by this story that God wants to meet our needs and will use other people in wonderful ways to accomplish his desire!  He creates circumstances that lead to his blessing coming to pass in our lives! Nancy told me she was just happy to have a part in the story, Robert and Alexis are thrilled with their new electric wheelchair, and I am thankful this Thanksgiving that God had a plan to use me to share this story with you!

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