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Archive for the category “Compassion”

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.Image may contain: 1 person

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.Image result for memorial day picture

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 picture of jail ministry

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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.

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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.

Ten Commandments (Decalogue) - Large 10 Commandments - Photo Museum Store Company

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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Blunders and Compassion

Blake O’Neill is a punter for the University of Michigan’s football team. He is from Australia and is in school for a second Masters degree at the university.  Several times during the game between Michigan and their arch rival Michigan State Blake was asked to punt his team out of trouble.  Each time he came up with great punts which set Michigan State back.  One time his punt flew and rolled 80 yards!  Three times he pinned State deep inside their own 10 yard line!  Although Michigan State had a clear advantage in yards gained, they found themselves losing 23-21 as O’Neill was punting to them again.   A big reason Michigan was ahead was because Blake kept making them drive the long field with his booming punts.  His punt was booted so high that State could not return it.  Right then the announcer mentioned that Blake O’Neill was one of the stars of Michigan’s effort that day!  Nobody saw the change in fortunes that would follow.

Blake O'Neill

Blake O’Neill

Mark Dantonio the Michigan State coach told a story after the game about what happened on the team bus before they walked into the stadium.  “I want you all to take 10 seconds and think about what might happen”, he said.  Then he started counting down the time until the 10 seconds had elapsed.  Quickly they exited the bus and put their minds on the task at hand. Little did they realize the irony of what just happened.

My son and I were sitting on the couch watching the game unfold.  Michigan State made an effort to move the ball.  They only needed a field goal to take the lead.  However Michigan’s defense stiffened and with just under 2 minutes to go State threw an incomplete pass on 4th down.  State had only one time out and it looked like they were finished.  Michigan methodically ran the ball and State used their last time out.  After 3 plays and the clock running Michigan was able to run all but 10 seconds off of the clock.  On fourth down they didn’t hesitate on the play call.  They sent Blake O’Neill on the field to punt one more time.  Michigan State in desperation put their entire team on the line.  Their only hope was to block the punt.  Knowing the rush was coming I’m sure Blake was in a hurry up mode.  The snap came back to him around knee high.  Ideally the snap should be around chest high so the punter doesn’t have to reach.  Blake reached down for it and the ball hit off of his hands and dropped to the ground.  Quickly he picked it up and attempted to punt but the State players were on him and the ball bounced crazily in the air.

Blake

Suddenly a Michigan State player named Jalen Watts-Jackson had the ball and was running for the end zone with a convoy of State players in front of him. Jalen is a red shirt freshman on the State team.  He had to be as surprised as anyone when suddenly he had the ball in his hands.  Knowing that if he was tackled the game was likely over he pressed on behind his convoy.  Michigan players tried desperately to reach him but to no avail and he dove into the end zone.  Somewhere between diving into the end zone and his excited teammates diving on him Jalen was hurt.  He laid on the end zone turf in serious pain.  It was discovered later that Jalen had broken and dislocated his hip.  He was carted off of the field and transported straight to the hospital.  Surgery was performed the next day and Jalen’s season came to an end.

Jalen

My son and I were rooting for Michigan State but we were watching in amazement instead of any kind of celebration.  When Jalen Watts-Jackson crashed into the end zone finishing the game my son made a statement that made me realize that I was a successful parent!  “That poor punter” he stated as he realized what that kid was going to have to live through.  It brought me out of my amazement daze and made me take note of what he was saying.  At that moment we took our minds off of the game and the score and rested them on the punter.  Obviously Blake O’Neill felt worse than anyone.  The cameras were showing pictures of stunned Michigan fans in the stands and yet the most stunned person of all had to be O’Neill.  Time after time they kept replaying the victorious or disastrous play depending on your point of view.

Isaiah Thomas the hall of fame ex Detroit Piston basketball player watched the ending of the game from his couch.  It brought back memories of when he made a bad split second decision that would cost his team the Eastern Conference Finals victory in the playoffs.  With 5 seconds left and his team ahead by one point Isaiah attempted to throw the ball in bounds to his teammate Bill Laimbeer who was near the opposing basket.  Hurriedly he threw the pass only to have Larry Bird of the Celtics knife through the lane and grab the ball.  A second later he was passing to his Celtic teammate Dennis Johnson who laid it in the basket.  Isaiah was in misery because he felt like he let his team and their fans down.  He was the leader of the team and yet he made this horrible blunder.  In the years ahead Isaiah would lead the Pistons to back to back titles.  Much of the pain for his blunder had passed and yet seeing Blake O’Neill’s blunder brought it all right back.

There were two hurting people on the field at the end of the game.  There was the Michigan State freshman Jalen Watts-Jackson who was laying in the end zone in pain.  Then there was Blake O’Neill who was suffering from a pain of another kind.  It was an emotional pain as his last minute miscue overshadowed all of the good he had accomplished previously.  Medical people tended to Jalen and he received the operation that he needed to mend his body.  Isaiah Thomas reached out to Blake with a phone call.  He told him of his experience with the last second blunder he made and how that in time it all will pass.

In the immediate aftermath of the game social media was running rampant.  There were many tweets that were very unkind and even death threats to Blake.  Then to the credit of many there were tweets of support for the fallen punter.  Blake vowed to carry on when he broke his silence a few days later.  Jalen vowed to make a full recovery from his injuries and return next season.  It’s easy to fault someone on the big stage for mistakes that they make.  In reality we all make mistakes.  The difference is that our mistakes are not performed before 110,000 people plus millions on TV.  Mitch Albom wrote an article in the Detroit Free Press praising the quality of students and school representatives each of them were in their reactions to what happened.  Quietly I admired my own son who recognized that the outcome of the game wasn’t nearly as important as the pain the punter was experiencing.  Somehow whether through us or on his own he had acquired the gift of compassion.  The world would be a much better place if we all felt compassion for others too!

Really Caring

To me it seems that the trouble with salespeople is that they are never around or they are always around.  If you have shopped for things at all you know exactly what I mean.  Either you are searching the whole store for someone who you can ask a question or you are attacked the moment you walk in the door.  The results to us the customers are two words that start alike, either frustrating or frightening.

Seller demonstrating paint roller to buyer Stock Photo - 17889948

When I attended high school I had a job in the local Sears store selling men’s clothing.  It was through a co-op program where I went to school in the mornings and worked in the afternoons or evenings.  My class teacher and my supervisor at work both trained us not to approach the customer the same way almost every salesperson we knew approached.  The standard line “Can I help you?” was not the line we were to use.  If someone for instance was looking at some shirts or one in particular we were to say something like “that’s a nice looking shirt!.”  A statement like that let’s the customer know that you are there and available to help them without the threat that you have to show them something they don’t want to see.  Approaching with a friendly statement usually doesn’t solicit a “no I’m just looking” response.  You see the problem with the “no I’m just looking response” is that it cuts off the conversation.  On the other hand this approach encourages conversation in a non threatening way.  The customer might say “yes it is a nice looking shirt but I was looking for blue.”  Or “Yes, I like this shirt…I wish it were my size!”  Usually in the standard approach the salesperson after asking if they can help them and getting the no answer will say “Well let me know if you see something.”  In other words if you find it on your own I’ll ring it up.  Is that really the job of the salesperson? If so why do we need them?  We can walk into a place, look around, pick something out, and scan it through the self scanning line.

The salesperson should be friendly and helpful, available, yet not pushy.  They should be able to relate to the customer as they are a customer too.  Relating experiences of their purchase of the same product is likely very helpful.  Trying to match the product to the customers needs without feeling like it is pushy or self motivated keeps the customer relaxed.  The salesperson should always keep the customers needs in mind.

Mark has a business in our town repairing cars.  Mark runs his business with fairness and integrity always putting the customer first.  I have gained trust in Mark over the years because he has given me advice that did not make his business a dime but was right for me.  I had an old car and Mark would tell me to keep an eye on some part that could cause problems later.  Instead of having me repair perfectly serviceable parts because they might be wearing a little his advice made sense.  I have heard Mark give advice on the phone that far exceeded his business interests.  Mark works a lot with college students and he frequently directs them where to go in the stores and what to look for.

Mark cares for his customers

Mark cares for his customers

We had an experience with my sons car where we took it for an oil change.  We had a coupon for another place which also included a complete inspection.  To be honest we were just interested in the oil change.  We realized that the car being old had minor problems.  The inspection was done before the oil change and 45 minutes later the verdict was in.  The list was long as there were seven or eight things wrong with the car and the cost was over $1,700.00.  I again repeated that we were only interested in the oil change.  The counter person was not happy with me and had me sign a waiver paper on the car denying repair which I did.  I can report that the car is still running strong two years later.  If it were Mark he would have possibly said “keep an eye on this or that and if it starts making a noise or any other symptoms bring it in immediately.”  The difference is that Mark really cares about us and does the best thing for us, not necessarily his business in the short haul.  The other business was out to make the quick buck in a non caring impersonal way.

The Dream Vacation lure

The Dream Vacation lure

I have been to a few sales presentations in the past.  They usually are ran about the same.  The one in particular that I remember was a time sharing presentation. A representative was assigned to us and this representative tried to find out everything he could about our situation.  The information he gathered was used to try uniting our needs to the service he was selling.  The representative was friendly and seemed to care about us as people.  After a little while there was a formal presentation showing the benefits of their program.  They didn’t get around to the price until much later.  Only after they had enticed us with all of the benefits did they let the price enter the picture.  It was the question on every ones mind as the presenter kept sweetening the benefits. All of the time he was building up our desire for their services as he led us through their wonderful presentation.  This involved being asked for our dream vacation spot and telling  how their plan could get us there economically!  At that point they specifically mentioned the price, but it was only the price of our dream trip, not the price to get into the program.  After the presentation the representative started asking questions about what we thought.  He reminded us that this was a one day offer.  If we rejected this offer it was done and over for us.  He then walked us through their basic rates which included a large lump sum payment that could be financed along with a yearly maintenance fee.  It is confusing to me how I would have to pay close to $300 a year for a maintenance fee along with say a $15,000 payment to join the organization.  Sure they could save me money on things, but it would take years of savings just to get back my original investment.  I still can’t figure out how my one week stay should involve paying the large maintenance fee to keep the place in order.  When you consider that they can sell that same room 52 times and collect close to $300 in maintenance fees each time you can see that a ton of money is going into their hands!

What happens in these situations is if the original representative cannot sell the program they call in their manager.  We found out that the manager has power to change prices around to close the sale.  For instance he or she might drop the original price from $15,000 down to $10,000.  That kind of thing is troublesome.  It reminds me of a local garbage service that raised their rates.  When a friend of mine complained saying they wanted to switch services because their price was higher than the others,  this company matched the lower offer.  They figured the ones that didn’t complain could just pay the higher rate.  When the closer couldn’t pressure us into buying the program (and believe me he tried extensively) by lowering the price three times, his attitude changed.  Now he wanted us to feel bad and stupid that we didn’t buy as he hurriedly filled out the rejection paperwork in a quick and abrasive way.  No longer were we the nice people that he cared so much about.  It became clear that he never really cared about us at all.  He faked it all until things didn’t go his way.  Then he turned on us like a poisonous snake as his true feelings were revealed.

When we are representing God it is an awesome responsibility.  I’ve heard that everyone is a salesperson in some way whether they want to be or not.  In Christianity it is the same way.  We are supposed to be demonstrating love, compassion, and caring. Sometimes people believe that is what we are all about until they discover that they were sadly mistaken. The damage that this causes is worse than if we never engaged them in the first place because their trust gets broken.  Once trust is broken it is very difficult to repair.  So the question I challenge you with today is “What kind of representative of the Gospel are you?”  Are you the one that can’t be found?  Do you pounce on people at the door?  Are you selfless in your mission or do you have a hidden agenda?  I’ve heard that people don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care.  Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Now that is the ultimate attitude necessary to really care about people!

I Remember Mikey

I was thinking of old basketball days for myself and my son a couple of weeks ago.  I wondered what happened to the kids that were on his teams that I coached when he was ten, eleven, and twelve years old.   I wondered what happened to kids that he played against at the Courthouse, which is a basketball facility that had camps in the summers.  I looked up a kid named Skyler who ended up playing at a high level in high school.  I looked up Mark who did not excel in basketball, but was an excellent tennis player.  He is currently on the coaching staff of a Big Ten University.  I had previously looked up a kid named Ryan and followed him as he played Division III basketball in college.  I always wondered what happened to Mikey.  Mikey was a kid two years younger than my son and basketball meant everything to him back then.  I remember Mikey was nine and in camps he would be alone at a basket just shooting and shooting.  He was a little kid and he was left handed and he could shoot!  What he liked to do most was shoot long shots.  He just enjoyed making long shots and he kept practicing by the hour.

When my son was 11 he needed a partner for the 2 ball competition.  That was a competition for two kid teams where they passed to each other and shot from different spots on the floor.  They tried to accumulate as many points as they could in one minute.  A couple of years before he teamed with a girl in the mixed division and they finished third in the state!  This time he would be doing it in the boys competition.  After considering who we could get for a partner we decided to ask Mikey and his parents.  Even though Mikey was only nine at the time he could hold his own and more with any of those older kids.  Mikey was excited to team up with us and his parents were very supportive.

2-ball-web-crop

We were leading in the first round with 25 points I think when the last team came up.  The winning teams got to advance to a competition for the regional winners and it looked good.  This other team though started making basket after basket.  There was one problem that I saw right away.  The rules stated plainly that players could not shoot from the same spot two times in a row.  Each player on this team kept shooting the same shots.  The volunteer official was marking all of the shots as good and the team had scored over 50 points according to his count.  When I brought up the fact that they broke the rules a controversy started.  A family member of this team considered me a trouble maker and against their kids.  I was just pointing out what the rule was.   During this controversy it was Mikey who was taking a leadership role.   “They said that we could shoot again or keep our score”, Mikey said with a gleam in his eye!  “I told them we would keep our score!”  He said it like he was making a presidential decision to end poverty!  Well it didn’t come to a do over.  One of the kids was big enough to realize that rules were broken and our team moved on.  Still in my mind I can see the excited look on Mikey’s face as he declared his decision for the team!

Mikey's old high school team supported him by wearing T-shirts with his initials!

Mikey’s old high school team supported him by wearing T-shirts with his initials!

So all of these years have passed and like I mentioned I was wondering about Mikey.  So I typed his name into my computer expecting to read his basketball heroics when the article that came up hit me like a punch to the stomach.  Mikey was dead and it happened in 2011.  I felt bad for the situation and I felt bad because I had just found out after three years.  Mikey died of a fast growing brain tumor at the age of 19.  After the shock and reading many articles praising Mikey on what a caring person he was, I did find some basketball stories from the year before his death.  As we all expected Mikey did turn out to be a very good basketball player!  An article that just touched my heart and filled my eyes with tears was when everyone knew he was suffering from this incurable fate.  Schools that were Mikey’s teams biggest rivals were donating money and doing fund raisers for his cause!  It was a wonderful story in realizing that ultimately we are all on the same team and need to be there for each other!

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It’s the memorial day weekend and it is a time that we think about young men who gave their lives to uphold the freedoms that we have.  While many of us are enjoying our extra day off and concentrating on how we can maximize our time and pleasure I have a thought.  I know first hand what it is like losing a child.  It is like living your worst dream.  It is like getting stabbed with a knife.  As in a knife wound as time goes by the pain lessons.  However sometimes the slightest movement will bring that pain back to the surface.  We need to realize that behind that soldier who lost their life for their country there is parents who are hurting.

Through losing a child I can tell you something that in my experience is a fallacy.  Usually people will say something like “well don’t bring anything up about their child because it will bring back sad memories.”  In my experience just the opposite is true.  When we don’t talk about the person that is so dear to them it is like they never existed.  The hurt comes when the loss is not acknowledged and we try to ignore the elephant in the room.  Sharing memories is good for us and good for the hurting parent.  It speaks volumes to the fact that someone might have left us early but they are still in our memories and they affected our lives!

Over the next couple of days we will hear about how others protect the freedoms we enjoy.  One of the biggest freedoms I’m thankful for is being able to collect memories.  Memories are a gift from God that shape our lives.  People come and go in our lives and we learn lessons from each of them.  Some of my lessons learned I have been able to pass along to you.  I am thankful for the freedom to do that!  Yes, I remember Mikey.  In his own little way he taught me to be dedicated and enthusiastic.  I have many wonderful memories of my daughter.  Don’t think you would hurt me if you asked me about her.  Although I might shed a tear or two it is far better than to cry because you acted like she never was here.

 

 

 

 

The Games We Played!

It is the first board game I remember playing as a kid. It had ladders and red chutes to take you up or down. Somewhere along the line no matter what your age you are bound to have come across the Chutes and Ladders game. It encompasses the ultimate highs and lows as you strive to be the person who reaches square 100 and win the game. I suppose for young kids the game is supposed to be a learning experience as the consequences for what you do either get punished or rewarded. I’m reminded of the giant ladder that happens when you rescue a cat from a tree! That ladder takes you way up to square 84 and in striking distance of victory! I also remember the extreme low feeling as after climbing the ultimate ladder of success you spin a three and land on the slide that takes you down to almost rock bottom. The culprit of the slide was trying to get a cookie from the cookie jar. Climbing up to get it you fall and break the cookie jar. Chutes and Ladders is a game of rewards and punishments although the crime or the achievement doesn’t necessarily relate to the amount of reward or punishment you get. For example that cookie jar episode slides you all the way down the board where other episodes such as eating green apples and getting sick or skating on thin ice and ending up in the water costs you much less. Whatever happens we are taught young to keep going and try to get to square 100 and win the game.
Chutes and Ladders

My sister had a game called “Life” in which players got a car and made their way around the board gaining money, fame, and a family. The object of the game was to get through life and retire in a wonderful retirement place. The ultimate loss was when you ended up after all of your efforts in the poor house. Throughout the game you were either lucky enough to hit the career of your dreams and raise the ultimate family, or you were unlucky and hit all of the wrong spaces. Players competed against each other to reach the ultimate prizes first. The game of “Life” was supposed to mirror how real life is and to a point I think it succeeded.
Life

The game that I remember most as a child was Monopoly. My family played Monopoly often. The consistent part of the game for us was the game pieces. Each of us had our favorites and used them every time. My sister was the dog, I was the car, my mom was the thimble, and dad was the shoe. The game started out friendly and fun enough as everyone rolled the dice and moved their spaces from the starting position. At first it was just a matter of landing on properties and buying that property if it were available. As you went further around the board the properties costed more but their value increased too. After a few times around the board and collecting $200 each time around the ownership of the properties usually varied. It took three like properties owned to put up houses and eventually hotels on those properties. Usually ownership was scattered and deals were attempted between family members. I’ll give you two orange ones for the yellow Marvin Gardens I’m missing. That was the type of deals offered in the quest to at least have a matching set. As the game progressed houses and hotels sprang up. Hitting the space of your opponent at that stage could get costly. Staying at a hotel was a major cost and if you didn’t have the money you had to mortgage the properties you owned. The other option was that if you had houses or hotels up you could reduce what you had in order to raise funds to pay off your bill. To win the game you tried to achieve a monopoly of the whole board. This was created at your competitions expense as when they hit your hotel space they had to pay. Eventually the game gets serious as players can’t avoid hitting hotels and when they can’t pay they are eliminated from the game and their properties go back to the bank to be purchased by other players who happen to land on them. The game ended rather sadly for three of the four players as one has all of the money while the others have mortgaged everything and are forced to quit.
monopoly

I remember many times I was on the brink of tears as I was forced to mortgage my properties and eventually leave the game. Monopoly was a game of reality I guess with hard consequences. I liked to play the game but my attention probably wandered some as kids will do. My sister was the same way. She could start talking to my mom about something and lose her train of thought. Mom played the game more as a family thing and encouraged us to have fun. Dad played the game seriously and was all about winning. There were certain things about Monopoly that was fun and entertaining. For instance there were a couple of decks of cards that you picked up after landing on certain spaces. One particular card stated “Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. This card was one of the least desirable cards. What struck me about it though was the directly to jail part. I’m sure without it’s exact detail players would make a profit before reaching their destination.

The game of monopoly encourages dishonest play. If someone lands on your property or you land on theirs, they have to recognize it and ask for the house or hotel payment. If the next person rolls the dice it is too late to collect your rent or have them collect from you. Sometimes my sister or I may have gotten our minds off of the game and someone happened to stay on our property for free. This would happen to mom too sometimes, but I have a feeling she may have had sympathy on us sometimes. Dad would always collect his rent because he was always paying attention. Dad would also be the one keeping the game going along by getting the next person to play. This could work to his advantage if he happened to have landed on one of our hotels and we had become distracted. The lesson learned in our young minds was if you can get away with something (not paying the rent) then that’s OK. The object of the game was to have a monopoly of the board, not to be an honest Joe and paying what you owe!

The game of monopoly had one serious flaw in rational behavior. If I were poor why would I travel to some of the most expensive hotels around and spend money I couldn’t afford? I guess that in reality people do similar things. It may not be a hotel bill but people are constantly spending money they don’t have. I guess that is why the credit card industry is always flourishing! Maybe the lesson should be the exact opposite of what the game taught me. Be satisfied with what you have and don’t spend money you don’t have. Stay home more and enjoy the things in life that money can’t buy!

Looking back, these three board games tried to shape my little mind on how to be successful. Success in the games was derived by thinking only about myself and how I could get ahead of the competition. They emphasized retiring in comfort, monopolizing all of the property and money, and winning the race to square 100. In reality many of us live our lives with the same goals as the games we used to play as kids. The successful formulas of winning at board games doesn’t translate into success in the real world. Oh there might be a feeling of worldly success one achieves by owning material goods. Achieving that success usually results in emptiness as we realize there has to be more. Chutes and ladders teaches us to keep going no matter what other people are going through on the way. Perhaps we should stop our quest of getting to square 100 and help some of our fallen brothers and sisters along the way. Maybe someone has had a long slide down in life and it has broken them much like that cookie jar. By reaching a helping hand their way we are acting as God’s hands and feet upon this earth. Acts of kindness reflecting God’s love in us will never go unrewarded. Helping hurting people at the bottom of slides is far greater than achieving the worlds ladders of success. The peace and hope that God gives us far surpasses anything that square 100 has to offer!
helping hand

Fallen Man Saved Revisited

Fallen Man Saved
December 25, 2012

Good Samaritan
It is officially Christmas day 2013! I’d like to take a break from the countdown today and re-visit the 2012 Christmas day story! Unlike the stories I have been mentioning for 2013 in the countdown this story was one of the least read stories of 2012. However, it’s message is just as powerful if not more so than any of my stories! On this Christmas day we will be exchanging gifts with our loved ones! It is a time for showing love, much like God did with his “Greatest Gift of All!” In this story I tried to answer the question of…Why? Why would God give us a gift so great?

Click below to re-visit “The good Samaritan” in a different light!
https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/fallen-man-saved/

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