A few years ago I conducted a funeral for a dedicated Christian man. His wife approached me and said, “He’s the lucky one—I wish I was going to heaven today. Why couldn’t it have been me?” We don’t usually envy people who’ve died, unless we know where they’re going, and where we’re going. On his deathbed, a minister told his son, “Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling somewhat better today. But should I slip away while you’re gone, you’ll know where to find me.” Christians never say good-bye for the last time. A minister was visiting an elderly man, who had been a Christian for most of his life. The minister remarked, “Well sir, after keeping the faith for so long, you must feel pretty confident of holding out to the end.” The gentleman replied, “It’s not a matter of me holding out; it’s the Lord holding on to me…and the Bible assures me that I can trust Him for that!”
Every year, someone hands out “Darwin Awards” which are bestowed to honor the least evolved among us. Previous news stories that have received their attention have been: The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine. Shortly afterward he submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company (suspecting negligence) sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved. A teenager was in a hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the boy told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit. One Arkansas man apparently desperately wanted some beer. So he decided to throw a cinder block through a liquor store window and grab some booze, and then run for it. What he didn’t realize was that the window was made of plexiglass, and when he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window it bounced back and hit him on the head knocking him unconscious. The whole event was caught on videotape. But one of the most “memorable” Darwin Awards honored a man from Provo, Utah. A robber pulled his 38 caliber revolver on his victim and pulled the trigger, but it failed to fire. So he peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked! Sometimes people will do the most foolish things. And when they do these foolish things - there is often a price to be paid. Sometimes that price is embarrassment. Sometimes it’s pain. AND … sometimes that price can even be death. There is no honor in winning a “biggest loser” award for stupidity!
A group of well-intentioned people met to discuss ways and means of helping a friend who had been down on his luck recently. The friend was an extremely proud person who would not accept money. His friends decided to arrange a bogus raffle. They told him that they would all draw numbered slips of paper from a hat, and the person who drew the number four would win $200. They didn’t tell him that the number “four” was on every slip.
After the drawing, each of the conspirators glanced at their slips and crumbled them up in the manner of disappointed losers. Then they waited to hear their friend announce that he had drawn the winning number. But he didn’t say anything. Finally, one member of the group asked him, knowingly, “What number did you draw?” He said “Six and seven-eighths,” holding up…the hat-size tag. That is a fairly good example of a man who is really down on his luck. “Tell me that wouldn’t rot your socks!”
Did you hear about the college student who was taking the course in ornithology, which is a study of birds? This class in ornithology had the reputation of being the most difficult class in the whole curriculum. The professor was an extremely difficult professor.
As the course began, the professor announced there would be a test in forty days and it would compose a large portion of the grade. Students had to do well on the test. Everybody studied. They took copious notes. They made sure they understood everything the professor said. On the fortieth day the students filed into the lecture hall with sweaty palms, extremely nervous. On the stage was a table with five cages on it. Each cage had a cover and beneath the cover they could see the feet and spindly legs of a bird.
At the sound of the bell, the professor addressed the students, “Here’s the test. You can see there are five birds and they’re all covered except for their feet and legs. You must tell me the identity of each of these birds by looking only at their feet and legs.” Everyone had studied long and hard, but no one had anticipated such a test. And they were all sweating, trying to remember something that could help them pass the test.
Finally, one student stood up and said, “This is ridiculous. This is the craziest test I have every seen and you’re the worst professor in this whole school.” He said, “I quit. I‘m out of here. I’m not going to take this test.” And he turned and walked toward the door. “Just a minute young man.” said the professor. “Who are you? I demand your name right now.” The young man stopped, took a long look at the professor and then pulling up both of his pant legs said, “You tell me.”
A couple of stories today..talk about prayer and motivation, sheesh!
I heard a story of a ship that was sinking in the middle of a storm, and the captain called out to the crew and said, “Does anyone here know how to pray?” One man stepped forward and said, “Yes sir, I know how to pray.” The captain said, “Wonderful, you pray while the rest of us put on life jackets–we’re one short!”
An elementary school teacher was lecturing to her class on the dangers of not bundling up properly to face the winter cold. She told them a dramatic story about a naughty little boy who disobeyed his mother and went sledding one afternoon without his mittens, cap, and snow suit. Because of it, he caught pneumonia and died. When she finished her story, one boy raised his hand. “Mrs. Johnson, may I ask two questions?” “Go ahead, Tommy,” the teacher replied. “Who has his sled now and could I have it?” Dag, I think I know this kid! How about you?
Rabbi Michael Weisser lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. And for more than 3 years, Larry Trapp, a self-proclaimed Nazi & Ku Klux Klansman, directed a torrent of hate-filled mailings & phone calls toward him.
Trapp promoted white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other messages of prejudice, declaring his apartment the KKK state headquarters and himself the grand dragon. His whole purpose in life seemed to be to spew out hate-ridden racial slurs and obscene remarks against Weisser & all those like him.
At first, the Weissers were so afraid they locked their doors and worried themselves almost sick over the safety of their family. But one day Rabbi Weisser found out that Trapp was a 42-year-old clinically blind, double amputee. And he became convinced that Trapp’s own physical helplessness was a source of the bitterness he expressed.
So Rabbi Weisser decided to do the unexpected. He left a message on Trapp’s answering machine, telling him of another side of life…a life free of hatred & racism.
Rabbi Weisser said, “I probably called 10 times and left messages before he finally picked up the phone and asked me why I was harassing him. I said that I’d like to help him. I offered him a ride to the grocery store or to the mall.”
Trapp was stunned. Disarmed by the kindness and courtesy, he started thinking. He later admitted, through tears, that he heard in the rabbi’s voice, “something I hadn’t experienced in years. It was love.”
Slowly the bitter man began to soften. One night he called the Weissers and said he wanted out, but didn’t know how. They grabbed a bucket of fried chicken and took him dinner. Before long they made a trade, in return for their love he gave them his swastika rings, hate tracts and Klan robes. The same day Trapp gave up his Ku Klux Klan recruiting job and dumped the rest of his propaganda in the trash. “They showed me so much love that I couldn’t help but love them back,” he finally confessed. Religion, politics, terrorism and violence will only breed more suffering and anguish in an already fractured world! But love..love fully and openly transmitted to a sick culture and society can make a lasting difference to people of all races and nationalities. The love of God..imagine if that were really the controlling force that guided our intentions, communication and actions. Imagine that..it begins with each one of us.
One of the golfers on the pro tour some years ago was a pompous egomaniac with the emotional maturity of a six-year-old. He could do nothing wrong and always had a quick excuse for any loss: it was a lousy course, the other golfers were cheating, the weather was terrible, etc. As if these faults were not enough, he was also not above hustling a few extra dollars playing amateurs in cities on the tour for $50 a hole.
One day he was approached by a man wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane who offered to play him for $100 a hole. “Why, I can’t play you,” the professional protested. “You’re blind, aren’t you?” “Yes, I am,” replied the man. “But that’s all right. I was a state champion before I went blind. I think I can beat you.” Now the conceited one had not been doing well lately–he needed the money. Anyway, blind or not, if the guy was crazy enough to challenge him…well, why not? “You did say $100 a hole?”
The blind man nodded. “Well, all right. It’s a deal. But don’t say I didn’t warn you–you’ll lose your money. When would you like to play?” “Any night at all,” replied the blind man. “Any night at all.”
Don McCullough wrote: “John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun–until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between is hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted “You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!” It’s easier to criticize others than assume responsibility for our own faults and shortcomings in life. Is it any wonder that marriages and families disintegrate, friendships dissolve and careers go south? Let’s take the high road and examine the man and woman who stares back from the mirror each morning! The world is full of “blamers and shamers.” Let’s be “proclaimers” of love and encouragers as we first strive to clean up our own backyard! If you want to explore who the real lawgiver and judge is check out James 4:11-12 in your Bible today.
Three men were walking on a beach one afternoon when they came across an old lamp. The first man picked it up and began to rub it and out popped a genie. The genie said I am here to give each of you one wish. The first man did not hesitate he said I want a million dollars – POOF, instantly a million dollars appeared before him. The second man said I want a mansion here on the beach – POOF, a beautiful mansion appeared right before his eyes and the genie handed him the keys. The third guy really began thinking about his wish, finally he stated make me irresistible to women – POOF the genie turned the man into a large box of chocolates. What are you wishing for? Suppose you had three wishes; what are the items you would wish for that give you happiness and make your life more enjoyable? We live in a culture that tells us there is always something more, something better, something we have to have. Whether it is the latest I phone or Big Screen TV, advertisers are paid big bucks to tell us we need something more. Paul challenged Timothy by saying, if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Let us realize there is a limit to the things we can possess, before they begin to possess us. Listen to the words of men like John D. Rockefeller – I have made millions, but they have brought me no happiness. Cornelius Vanderbilt – The Care of millions is too great a load, there is no pleasure in it. Henry Ford, said at the end of his life – I was happier as a boy working in a mechanics shop, though we had nothing. We should follow the warnings of these men. There is a point where we become satisfied and it is only at the point when God becomes first place in our life.
Avijah Powers felt moderately sure nobody would recognize him when he registered under an assumed name at the little inn. It was more than twenty years since he had left the town–a hard,
reckless boy, running away from a good father and a devoted mother because he hated goodness and loved lawlessness and his own way.
For years he had led the life of a vagabond. Then the spirit of adventure was aroused in him by the stories of the wealth of the Klondike. He joined one of the earliest parties, in that hazardous search for gold, and succeeded beyond his dreams. Now he had come back, with his old instincts, but with the wealth of a millionaire, and some strange compulsion led him to the village where he first drew breath.
He did not even know whether his parents were living or dead. It was altogether likely they were dead. With that conviction and without asking a question, he made his way in the August twilight to the graveyard, and to the spot where for three generations his ancestors had been laid.
Yes, there were new stones placed since he had been there. The sight moved him strangely. He bent to read the inscription on the first one. It was to the memory of his father, “Died, 1884. ’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’”
The date cut the man to the heart. His father had died a year after his only son had run away! And his mother had been left alone! But perhaps she had followed her husband mercifully soon. Again he bent to read, this time with tear-filled eyes, “Died, 1902. ’And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’”
His mother had been alone for eighteen years! She died in poverty and loneliness. He drew himself up as if to shake off a hideous dream.
But the other stone - whose grave could that mark? They had no relatives except some distant cousins. Perhaps some one of them had done for his mother what he ought to have done in her long, desolate years. Again he stooped to read his own name. “Abijah Powers. Born 1870; died–. ’The only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’”
It was his own gravestone, set up by his mother when her hope of his return was dead. Out of the depth of his memory there flashed the story of the widow of Nain, and the gracious presence which spoke the word of life to her dead son. How many times his mother must have read and re-read the Biblical account, and how frequently she must have prayed that her boy, bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, might be given back to her arms!
The thought was anguish to the graceless son, and it brought him to his knees beside his own empty grave. With his hand resting over his mother’s head he wept as he had not wept since he was a child. They were gracious drops. Out of the mother’s love, which had found its cold comfort in the words of scripture for the grave that was no grave, there came, indeed, the resurrection of the real, living soul.
The widow’s son went out of the graveyard that night a new man. The world wondered what had happened to him. Money did not make a devil to a saint; but that miracle of a mothers love seemed to have worked in Abijah Powers. Nobody knew that the transformation did not come from the touch of Klondike gold, but from the power of love — reaching from beyond the vale, and speaking from the cold marble of a gravestone.