Providence United Methodist Church

161 Providence Rd, Forest City, NC  28043

 
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Here is a collection of inspirational stories we thought would be a blessing to you. Hope you enjoy!



The Sandbox

A little boy was spending his Saturday morning playing in his sandbox. He had with him his box of cars and trucks, his plastic pail, and a shiny, red plastic shovel. In the process of creating roads and tunnels in the soft sand, he discovered a large rock in the middle of the sandbox.

The lad dug around the rock, managing to dislodge it from the dirt. With no little bit of struggle, he pushed and nudged the rock across the sandbox by using his feet. (He was a very small boy and the rock was very huge). When the boy got the rock to the edge of the sandbox, however, he found that he couldn't roll it up and over the wall.

Determined, the little boy shoved, pushed, and pried, but every time he thought he had made some progress, the rock tipped and then fell back into the sandbox.

The little boy grunted, struggled, pushed and shoved. But his only reward was to have the rock roll back, smashing his chubby fingers.

Finally he burst into tears of frustration. All this time the boy's father watched from his living room window as the drama unfolded. At the moment the tears fell, a large shadow fell across the boy and the sandbox. It was the boy's father.

Gently but firmly he said, "Son, why didn't you use all the strength that you had available?

Defeated, the boy sobbed back, "But I did, Daddy, I did! I used all the strength that I had!"

"No, son," corrected the father kindly. "You didn't use all the strength you had. You didn't ask me."

With that the father reached down, picked up the rock, and removed it from the sandbox.

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Pruning

In the early dawn, a young gardener was pruning his trees and shrubs. He had one choice currant bush which had gone too much to wood. He feared therefore that it would produce little, if any, fruit.

Accordingly, he trimmed and pruned the bush and cut it back. In fact, when he had finished, there was little left but stumps and roots.

Tenderly he considered what was left. It looked so sad and deeply hurt. On every stump there seemed to be a tear where the pruning knife had cut away the growth of early spring. The poor bush seemed to speak to him, and he thought he heard it say:

"O, how could you be so cruel to me; you who claim to be my friend, who planted me and cared for me when I was young, and nurtured me and encouraged me to grow? Could you not see that I was rapidly responding to your care? I was nearly half as large as the trees across the fence, and might soon have become like one of them. But now you've cut my branches back; the green, attractive leaves are gone, and I am in disgrace among my fellows."

The young gardener looked at the weeping bush and heard it's plea with sympathetic understanding. His voice was full of kindness as he said, "Do not cry; what I have done to you was necessary that you might be a prize currant bush in my garden. You were not intended to give shade or shelter by your branches. My purpose when I planted you was that you should bear fruit. When I want currants, a tree, regardless of it's size, cannot supply the need."

"No, my little currant bush, if I had allowed you to continue to grow as you had started, all your strength would have gone to wood; your roots would not have gained a firm hold, and the purpose for which I brought you into my garden would have been defeated. Your place would have been taken by another, for you would have been barren. You must not weep; all this will be for your good; and some day, when you see more clearly, when you are richly laden with luscious fruit, you will thank me and say, `Surely, he was a wise and loving gardener. He knew the purpose of my being, and I thank him now for what I then thought was cruelty.'"

Some years later, this young gardener was in a foreign land, and he himself was growing. He was proud of his position and ambitious for the future.

One day an unexpected vacancy entitled him to promotion. The goal to which he had aspired was now almost within his grasp, and he was proud of the rapid growth which he was making.

But for some reason unknown to him, another was appointed in his stead, and he was asked to take another post relatively unimportant and which, under the circumstances, caused his friends to feel that he had failed.

The young man staggered to his tent and knelt beside his cot and wept. He now knew that he could never hope to have what he had thought so desirable. He cried to God and said, "Oh, how could you be so cruel to me? You who claim to be my friend - you who brought me here and nurtured and encouraged me to grow. Could you not see that I was almost equal to the other men whom I have so long admired? But now I have been cut down. I am in disgrace among my fellows. Oh, how could you do this to me?"

He was humiliated and chagrinned and a drop of bitterness was in his heart, when he seemed to hear an echo from the past. Where had he heard those words before? They seemed familiar. Memory whispered:

"I'm the gardener here."

He caught his breath. Ah, that was it - the currant bush! But why should that long-forgotten incident come to him in the midst of his hour of tragedy? And memory answered with words which he himself had spoken;

"Do not cry ... what I have done to you was necessary ... you were not intended for what you sought to be, ... if I had allowed you to continue ... you would have failed in the purpose for which I planted you and my plans for you would have been defeated. You must not weep; some day when you are richly laden with experience you will say, `He was a wise gardener. He knew the purpose of my earth life, ... I thank him now for what I thought was cruel.'"

(Hugh B. Brown, Eternal Quest [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1956], pp. 243-245)

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OATMEAL AND FIRE

By Wes Seeliger, 4027 Lanark, Houston, TX 77025

Most people picture hell as a lake of fire, with the souls of the damned floating around, screaming in agony. A tough picture but with some Biblical accuracy.

But let me give you a picture of another hell. Imagine a large bowl of oatmeal...cold oatmeal. With lots of lumps. Now picture the Atlantic as an ocean of cold oatmeal. Put yourself in the middle of this oatmeal ocean a mile below the surface. Get the picture? That's hell.

Let's take an imaginary journey into this oatmeal abyss. We're in the middle of the Atlantic hovering over the point of entry. Down we go--plop! Squish, squish, squish, we're descending. The fathoms slowly ooze by--50, 100, 500. At 880 fathoms we reach a state of equilibrium. we rest with arms outstretched in the soft, pulpy mass. The nearest shore is a thousand miles away. We try to swim. Pfoosh, goes an arm. We sink another foot. We try to scream. But our passion of soul earns a mouth full of oatmeal. The years trudge by as we rest in the mire, thinking slow, lizard-like thoughts.

Hell is cold oatmeal. It is life without passion or desire. Hell is numbness as well as pain. Hell is believing there is nothing worth getting excited about. Hell is a swamp of blandness.

Our terror of death is not fear of the unknown. The unknown is exciting. Nor is it the threat of punishment or pain. what then do we fear? We fear looking over our shoulder and seeing what we could have become but didn't. The people we could have loved but didn't. The exciting ideas and challenges of the Word which were just too much for us. Hell is living in the endless ooze of all this nothingness.

But if hell is oatmeal, what is heaven? How about Fire? "John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." (Luke 3:16)

Adapted by Gayle Erwin

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Helping a Moth

A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon.

On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as the moth struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. It just seemed to be stuck.

Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the moth because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the moth into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the moth of a struggle, he deprived the moth of health.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, He would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

How true this is! How many times have we wanted to take the quick way out of struggles and difficulties, to take those scissors and snip off the remaining bits in an attempt to be free. We need to remember that our loving Father will never give us more than we can bear and through our trials and struggles we are strengthened as gold is refined in the fire. May we never let the things we can't have, or don't have, or shouldn't have, spoil our enjoyment of the things we do have and can have.

Don't focus on the things you DON'T have, enjoy each moment of everyday God has given you.

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FREE TO SOAR

One windy spring day, I observed young people having fun using the wind to fly their kites. Multicolored creations of varying shapes and sizes filled the skies like beautiful birds darting and dancing in the heady atmosphere above the earth. As the strong winds gusted against the kites, a string kept them in check. Instead of blowing away with the wind, they arose against it to achieve great heights. They shook and pulled, but the restraining string and the cumbersome tail kept them in tow, facing upward and against the wind. As the kites struggled and trembled against the string, they seemed to say, "Let me go! Let me go! I want to be free!" They soared beautifully even as they fought the imposed restriction of the string. Finally, one of the kites succeeded in breaking loose. "Free at last" it seemed to say. "Free to fly with the wind."

Yet freedom from restraint simply put it at the mercy of an unsympathetic breeze. It fluttered ungracefully to the ground and landed in a tangled mass of weeds and string against a dead bush. "Free at last" -- free to lie powerless in the dirt, to be blown helplessly along the ground, and to lodge lifeless against the first obstruction.

How much like kites we sometimes are. The Lord gives us adversity and restrictions, rules to follow from which we can grow and gain strength. Restraint is a necessary counterpart to the winds of opposition. Some of us tug at the rules so hard that we never soar to reach the heights we might have obtained. We keep part of the commandment and (pardon the pun) never rise high enough to get our tails off the ground.

Let us each rise to the great heights our Heavenly Father has in store for us, recognizing that some of the restraints that we may chafe under are actually the steadying force that helps us ascend and achieve.

Lessons From Life, Chapter 12 - Free To Soar - Wayne B. Lynn



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BIG ROCKS

A while back I was reading about an expert on subject of time management.

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I'm sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you'll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him.

"Probably not," one of them answered.

"Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

The title of this letter is The "Big Rocks" of Life. What are the big rocks in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all.

- Unknown

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57 Cents That Made History

A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it 'was too crowded'. "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribble in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school."

For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there!

A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a 57 cent payment.

Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00 a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.

In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell.

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The Christmas Gift

A friend of mine named Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. "Is this your car, Mister?" he asked.

Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated.

Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.

"I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?"

"Oh yes, I'd love that."

After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front on my house?"

Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. "Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked.

He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.

"There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And some day I'm gonna give you one just like it... then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shingled-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said, "It's more blessed to give...."

Authour unknown

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Stevie

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Down Syndrome.

I wasn't worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don't generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded "truckstop germ;" the pairs of white shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truckstop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie, so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn't have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my trucker regulars had adopted him as their official truckstop mascot. After that, I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was convincing him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus the dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truckstop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was the probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Down Syndrome often had heart problems at an early age so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery and doing fine. Frannie, my head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Belle Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of the 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look. He grinned. "OK, Frannie, what was that all about?" he asked. "We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay." "I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. Why did he need the surgery?"

Frannie quickly told Belle Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie's surgery, then sighed. "Yeah, I'm glad he is going to be ok," she said, "but I don't know how he and his mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they're barely getting by as it is." Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables. Since I hadn't had time to hire a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables until we decided what to do.

After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand a funny look on her face. "What's up?" I asked. "I didn't get that table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off," she said, "This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup."

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something For Stevie". "Pony Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him about Stevie and his mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this." She handed me another paper napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply, "truckers."

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving Day, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn't matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work, met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his return to work. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting. "Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me."

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. "First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess," I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie"printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother. "There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. Happy Thanksgiving." Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well.

But you know what's funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table.

Best worker I ever hired.

- Contributed by Jodi Kalas

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ONE SOLITARY LIFE

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office.

He never owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He had no credentials but Himself.

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.

His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying -- and that was His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that One Solitary Life.

by James A. Francis

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THE WORLD IS MINE

Today, upon a bus, I saw a very beautiful woman

And wished I were as beautiful

When suddenly she rose to leave,

I saw her hobble down the aisle.

She had one leg and wore a crutch.

But as she passed, she passed a smile.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two legs; the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy.

The lad who sold it had such charm.

I talked with him, he seemed so glad

If I were late, it'd do no harm.

And as I left, he said to me, "I thank you,

you've been so kind.

It's nice to talk with folks like you."

"You see," he said, "I'm blind."

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two eyes; the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street,

I saw a child I knew.

He stood and watched the others play,

but he did not know what to do.

I stopped a moment and then I said,

"Why don't you join them dear?"

He looked ahead without a word.

I forgot, he couldn't hear.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two ears; the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go.

With eyes to see the sunset's glow.

With ears to hear what I'd know.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I've been blessed indeed, the world is mine.

This morning when I wakened

And saw the sun above,

I softly said, "Good morning, Lord,

Bless everyone I love."

And right away I thought of you

And said a loving prayer,

That He would bless you specially,

And keep you free from care.

I thought of all the happiness

A day could hold in store,

I wished it all for you because

No one deserves it more.

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IT IS NO SECRET

Back in the 50's there was a well known radio host/comedian/song writer in Hollywood named Stuart Hamblen who was noted for his drinking, womanizing partying, etc.

One of his bigger hits at the time was "I won't go hunting with you Jake, but I'll go chasing women".

One day, along came a young preacher holding a tent revival. Hamblen had him on his radio show presumably to poke fun at him.

In order to gather more material for his show, Hamblin showed up at one of the revival meetings.

Early in the service the preacher announced, "There is one man in this audience who is a big fake."

There were probably others who thought the same thing, but Hamblen was convinced that he was the one the preacher was talking about (some would call that conviction), but he was having none of that.

Still the words continued to haunt him until a couple of nights later he showed up drunk at the preacher's hotel door around 2 am demanding that the preacher pray for him!

But the preacher refused, saying, "This is between you and God and I'm not going to get in the middle of it." But he did invite Stuart in and they talked until about 5 am at which point Stuart dropped to his knees and with tears, cried out to God.

But that is not the end of the story. Stuart quit drinking, quit chasing women, quit everything that was "fun". Soon he began to lose favor with the Hollywood crowd. He was ultimately fired by the radio station when he refused to accept a beer company as a sponsor.

Hard times were upon him. He tried writing a couple of "Christian" songs but the only one that had much success was "This Old House", written for his friend Rosemary Clooney.

As he continued to struggle, a long time friend named John took him aside and told him, "All your troubles started when you 'got religion', was it worth it all?"

Stuart answered simply, "Yes".

Then his friend asked, "You liked your booze so much, don't you ever miss it?"

And his answer was, "No".

John then said, "I don't understand how you could give it up so easily."

And Stuart's response was, "It's no big secret. All things are possible with God."

To this John said "That's a catchy phrase. You should write a song about it."

And as they say, the rest is history. The song Stuart wrote was "It Is No Secret"

It is no secret what God can do.

What He's done for others, He'll do for you.

With arms wide open, He'll welcome you.

It is no secret, what God can do....

By the way......... the friend was John Wayne.

And the young preacher who refused to pray for Stuart Hamblen?

That was Billy Graham.

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JIM CHECKING IN

A minister passing through his church in the middle of the day, Decided to pause by the altar and see who had come to pray.

Just then the back door opened, a man came down the aisle, The minister frowned as he saw the man hadn't shaved in a while. His shirt was kinda shabby and his coat was worn and frayed, the man knelt, he bowed his head, then rose and walked away.

In the days that followed, each noon time came this chap, each time he knelt just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap.

Well, the minister's suspicions grew, with robbery a main fear, He decided to stop the man and ask him, "What are you doing here?"

The old man said he worked down the road. Lunch was half an hour. Lunchtime was his prayer time for finding strength and power.

"I stay only moments, see, because the factory is so far away; as I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is kinda what I say:

"I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, LORD, HOW HAPPY I'VE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER'S FRIENDSHIP AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN. DON'T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERYDAY. SO, JESUS, THIS IS JIM CHECKING IN TODAY."

The minister feeling foolish, told Jim, that was fine. He told the man he was welcome to come and pray just anytime.

Time to go, Jim smiled and said "Thanks," and he hurried to the door.

The minister knelt at the altar, he'd never done it before. His cold heart melted warmed with love, and met with Jesus there. As the tears flowed, in his heart, he repeated old Jim's prayer:

"I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, LORD, HOW HAPPY I'VE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER'S FRIENDSHIP AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN. I DON'T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERYDAY. SO, JESUS, THIS IS ME CHECKING IN TODAY."

Past noon one day, the minister noticed that old Jim hadn't come. As more days passed without Jim, he began to worry some.

At the factory, he asked about him, learning he was ill. The hospital staff was worried too, but he'd given them a thrill.

The week that Jim was with them brought changes in the ward. His smiles were a joy contagious. Changed people, were his reward.

The head nurse couldn't understand why Jim was so glad, when no flowers, calls or cards came, not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by his bed, he voiced the nurse's concern: No friends came to show they cared. He had nowhere to turn.

Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and with a winsome smile said,

"The nurse is wrong, she couldn't know, that in here all the while everyday at noon He's here, a dear friend of mine, you see, He sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me":

"I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, JIM, HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND THIS FRIENDSHIP, AND I TOOK AWAY YOUR SIN. ALWAYS LOVE TO HEAR YOU PRAY, I THINK ABOUT YOU EACH DAY, AND SO JIM, THIS IS JESUS CHECKING IN TODAY."

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TAXI DRIVER

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy's life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn't realize was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me,  made me laugh and made me weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

I was responding to a call from a small brick duplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory in the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

Then answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated".

"Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me the address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind,"she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to Hospice."

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit
staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired.
Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said.

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said."Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware--beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

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GONE FISHING

Howard County Sheriff Jerry Marr got a disturbing call one Saturday afternoon a few months ago. His 6-year-old grandson Mikey had been hit by a car while fishing in Greentown with his dad. The father and son were near a bridge by the Kokomo Reservoir when a woman lost control of her car, slid off the bridge and hit Mikey at a rate of about 50 mph.

Sheriff Marr had seen the results of accidents like this and feared the worst. When he got to Saint Joseph Hospital, he rushed through the emergency room to find Mikey conscious and in fairly good spirits.

"Mikey, what happened?" Sheriff Marr asked.

Mikey replied, "Well, Papaw, I was fishin' with Dad, and some lady runned me over, I flew into a mud puddle, and broke my fishin' pole and I didn't get to catch no fish!"

As it turned out, the impact propelled Mikey about 500 feet, over a few trees and an embankment and into the middle of a mud puddle. His only injuries were to his right femur bone which had broken in two places.  

Mikey had surgery to place pins in his leg. Otherwise the boy is fine. Since all the boy could talk about was that his fishing pole was broken, the Sheriff went out to Walmart and bought him a new one while he was in surgery so he could have it when he came out.

The next day the Sheriff sat with Mikey to keep him company in the hospital. Mikey was enjoying his new fishing pole and talked about when he could go fishing again as he cast into the trash can.

When they were alone, Mikey, just as matter-of-fact, said, "Papaw, did you know Jesus is real?"

"Well," the Sheriff replied a little startled. "Yes, Jesus is real to all who believe in him and love him in their hearts."

"No," said Mikey. "I mean Jesus is REALLY real."

"What do you mean?" asked the Sheriff.

"I know he's real 'cause I saw him." said Mikey still casting into the trash can.

"You did?" said the Sheriff.

"Yep," said Mikey. "When that lady runned me over and broke my fishing pole, Jesus caught me in his arms and laid me down in the mud puddle."

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GOD AND THE SPIDER

During the War, a US marine was separated from his unit.  The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire he had lost touch with his comrades.

Alone in the hills, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves. Although safe for the moment, he realized that once the enemy soldiers looking for him swept up the ridge, they would quickly search all the caves and he would be killed.

As he waited, he prayed, "Lord, if it be your will, please protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen."

After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close. He thought, "Well, I guess the Lord isn't going to help me out of this one.." Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave.

As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave.

"Ha," he thought. "What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web.
 God does have a sense of humor."

As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, he got ready to make his last stand. To his amazement, however, after glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on. Suddenly, he realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered for quite a while. "Lord, forgive me," prayed the young man. "I had forgotten that in you a spider's web is stronger than a brick wall."

We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget the victories that God would work in our lives, sometimes in the most surprising ways. As the great leader, Nehemiah, reminded the people of Israel when they faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem,

"In God we will have success!" [Nehemiah 2:20]


Remember: Whatever is happening in your life, with God, a mere spider's web can become a brick wall of protection. Believe He is with you always. Just speak His name through Jesus His son, and you will see His great power and love in your life.

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THE BRICK

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.

As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door!

He slammed on the brakes, he jumped out of the car and ran back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. Grabbing some kid he pushed him up against a parked car asking,

"What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!!"

Building up a head of steam he went on. "That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?"

"Please, mister, please. I'm sorry, I didn't know what else to do," pleaded the youngster. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop..." tears were dripping down the boys chin as he pointed around the parked car.

"It's my brother," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up."

Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly welling lump in his throat. He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be okay.

"Thank you," the grateful child said to him.

The man then watched the little boy push his brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long walk back to his Jaguar... a long, slow walk. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart. Sometimes when you don't have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at you.

It's your choice:
Listen to the whisper -- or wait for the brick.

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P.U.S.H.


A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day.

For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into his weary mind:

"You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't moved."

Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.

Satan said, "Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough."

That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"

The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock."

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves the mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong ... just P.U.S.H.!

When the job gets you down ... just P.U.S.H.!

When people don't react the way you think they should..... just P.U.S.H.!

When your money is "gone" and the bills are due ...just P.U.S.H.!

When people just don't understand you ... just

 P.U.S.H.

Pray Until Something Happens

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SPEEDING

Jack took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone. Fourth time in four months. How could a guy get caught so often?

When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with a mirror. The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in hand. Bob? Bob from Church?

Jack sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A Christian cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little eager to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow. Jumping out of the car, he approached a man he saw every Sunday, a man he'd never seen in uniform.

"Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this."

"Hello, Jack." No smile.

"Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids."

"Yeah, I guess."

Bob seemed uncertain. Good. "I've seen some long days at the office lately. I'm afraid I bent the rules a bit-just this once." Jack toed at a pebble on the pavement.

"Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight. Know what I  mean?"

"I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our  precinct."

Ouch. This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics.

"What'd you clock me at?"

"Seventy. Would you sit back in your car please?"

"Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65." The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.

"Please, Jack, in the car."

 Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dash board. He was in no rush to open the window.

The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the door jerked his head to the left. There was Bob, a folded paper in hand.

Jack rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for Bob to pass him the slip.

"Thanks." Jack could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice.

Bob returned to his police car without a word. Jack watched his retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket.

Jack began to read: "Dear Jack, Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it - a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail, and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters. All three of them. I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until Heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now. Pray for me. And be careful, Jack, my son is all I have left. Bob"

Jack turned around in time to see Bob's car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

Life is precious. Handle with prayer. 
Never drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly.
And Remember, cars are not the only thing recalled by their maker.

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CAN YOU SLEEP WHEN THE WIND BLOWS?

Years ago a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops.

As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him.

"Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.

Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him.

The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters.

He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!"

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

MORAL: When you're prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We, as believers in Christ, secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the midst of the storms. I hope you sleep well!

Enjoy the day! May God Bless You and Yours

-- Author Unknown

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THE BLACKSMITH

You perhaps recall the story of the blacksmith who gave his heart to Jesus. Though living a more Godly life, still he was not prospering materially. In fact, it seems that from the time of his conversion more trouble, affliction and loss were sustained than ever before. Everything seemed to be going wrong.

One day a friend who was not a Christian stopped by to talk to him awhile. Sympathizing with him in some of his trials, the friend said,

"It seems strange to me that so much affliction should pass over you just at the time when you have become an earnest Christian. Of course, I don't want to weaken your faith in God or anything like that. But here you are, with God's help and guidance, and yet things seem to be getting steadily worse. I can't help wondering why that is."

The blacksmith did not answer immediately, and it was evident that he had thought the same question before. But finally, he said,

"You see here the raw iron which I have to make into horse's shoes. You know what I do with it? I take a piece and heat it in the fire until it is red, almost white with the heat. Then I hammer it unmercifully to shape it as I know it should be shaped. Then I plunge it into a pail of cold water to temper it. Then I heat it again and hammer it some more. And this I do until it is finished."

"But sometimes I find a piece of iron that won't stand up under this treatment. The heat and the hammering and the cold water are too much for it. I don't know why it fails in the process, but I know it will never make a good horse's shoe."

He pointed to a heap of scrap iron that was near the door of his shop.

"When I get a piece that cannot take the shape and temper, I throw it out on the scrap heap. It will never be good for anything."

He went on, "I know that God has been holding me in the fires of affliction and I have felt His hammer upon me. But I don't mind, if only He can bring me to what I should be. And so, in all these hard things my prayer is simply this:

"Try me in any way you wish, Lord, only don't throw me on the scrap heap."

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THE LORD'S BASEBALL TEAM

Bob was caught up in the spirit where he and the Lord stood by to observe a baseball game. The Lord's team was playing Satan's team. The Lord's team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs.

They continued to watch as a batter stepped up to the plate whose name was Love. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails.

The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love.

The next batter was named Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass, because Godly Wisdom does not swing at Satan's pitches.

Ball one.

Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly Wisdom never swings at Satan's throws.

The bases were loaded. The Lord then turned to Bob and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Bob said he sure did not look like much!

Satan's whole team relaxed when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried; his center fielder, the Prince of the air, let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head, and sent him crashing on the ground; then it continued over the fence for a home run!

The Lord's team won.

The Lord then asked Bob if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but could not win the game. Bob answered that he did not know why.

The Lord explained, "If your love, faith and wisdom had won the game you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only My grace can get you home. My grace is the one thing Satan can not stop.

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Burning Hut

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the weather, and to store his few possessions.

But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky.   The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me!" he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.   It is easy to get discouraged when things are going badly. But we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. 

Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground---it just may be a smoke signal  that summons the grace of God.

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Almighty God Tabernacle

Isn't it amazing how God works in our lives!

On a Saturday night several weeks ago, this pastor was working late, and decided to call his wife before he left for home. It was about 10:00 PM, but his wife didn't answer the phone.

The pastor let the phone ring many times. He thought it was odd that she didn't answer, but decided to wrap up a few things and try again in a few minutes.  When he tried again she answered right away.  He asked her why she hadn't answered before, and she said that it hadn't rung at their house. They brushed it off as a fluke and went on their merry ways.

The following Monday, the pastor received a call at the church office, which was the phone that he'd used that Saturday night. The man that he spoke with wanted to know why he'd called on Saturday night.

The pastor couldn't figure out what the man was talking about.  Then the man said, "It rang and rang, but I didn't answer." The pastor remembered the mishap and apologized for disturbing him, explaining that he'd intended to call his wife.

The man said, "That's, OK.  Let me tell you my story.

You see, I was planning to commit suicide on Saturday night, but before I did, I prayed, "God if you're there, and you don't want me to do this, give me a sign now.' At that point my phone started to ring.  I looked at the caller ID, and it said, 'Almighty God'.  I was afraid to answer!"

The reason why it showed on the man's caller ID that the call came from "Almighty God" is because the church that the pastor attends is called Almighty God Tabernacle!!

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Empty Shanty

Occasionally God surprises us by letting us find out how He used some word we spoke or action that we took years ago and perhaps forgot all about.

About a century ago Stephen Grellat was led one day to go out to a heavily forested area of America to preach. It was a strong inward compulsion of the Holy Spirit. When he arrived at the loggers' camp, he found they had moved to another location, and their shanties were deserted. However, he was so sure he was sent by God that he went into an empty shanty and preached to the bare walls the sermon God had placed upon his heart. He then returned to his home, He could never understand why God would send him to preach to an empty shanty.

Many years later, as he walked across a bridge, a man grasped his arm, "I found you at last," the man said. "I think you are mistaken," said Mr. Grellat. "No, Didn't you preach in an empty shanty in the woods years ago?" "Yes," Mr. Grellat admitted, "but no one was there."

"I was the foreman in charge of the loggers," the stranger explained. "We had moved to a new location, before long I realized I'd left one of my tools behind. I returned to get it and heard a voice in one of the shanties, I peered through a crack between the logs and saw you. You never saw me, but I listened to the rest of the sermon, God touched my heart that day and I became so convicted of my sins, that after some time I purchased a Bible, repented of my sins, and became a Christian, then I began to win my men to Christ. Your sermon has led over a thousand people to Christ, and three of them have gone on to become missionaries!"

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Banana Bread

Shae shouldn't have been surprised at what God could do with a bit of food; she's read about the feeding of the five thousand in the Gospels. But the banana bread thing caught her completely off guard.

"When I first visited Hope Chapel," Shae says, referring to the small independent church she attends in Colorado Springs, "someone left a loaf of banana bread and a thank you card on my doorstep. I was really moved that someone who didn't even know me cared about me that much. I wanted to do the banana bread thing too."

Shae told Joni, the church secretary, that she wanted to help with the banana bread program for visitors, only to find that Hope Chapel had discontinued it. But Shae was determined to pay forward the gift she had received, so Joni gave her the name and address of a woman who had visited the previous Sunday.

After baking a loaf of banana bread, Shae headed out to deliver her own doorstep surprise ― only to find that her target lived on Peterson Air Force Base.

"Silly me," she says. "We're at war; you can't just drive on to a military base unescorted."

Having been turned away at the gate, Shae called a friend who lived on base and asked her to join the conspiracy of kindness.

"Call me on your cell phone when you get to the gate," her friend said, "and I'll come pick up the bread and deliver it for you."

But when Shae drove back out to the base that evening, her friend's line was busy. Shae waited at the gate for half an hour, calling her friend every few minutes, but she couldn't get through. Annoyed, she left again.

"I was really mad," Shae says. "I wanted so much to give this gift to the visitor and everything went wrong ― I couldn't get on base, I couldn't get through to my friend. I was so mad I rolled down my window to pitch that stupid banana bread right out on Highway 24."

But when Shae rolled down her window, she noticed something she hadn't seen through the tinted glass: two men walking along the median of the darkened highway.

"I don't usually pick up hitchhikers," Shae says. "But with the Lord tugging at my heart,  I pulled over."

The two men were soldiers who lived off base; their car had broken down at a mall, and they were walking to the base for help. Shae offered them a ride; after hearing about her thwarted attempts to get on the base, one offered to escort her in.

After Shae dropped off the first soldier, the other turned to her. "Why do you want to deliver this banana bread so bad, anyway?" he asked curiously. Shae told him.

To her amazement, he abruptly burst into tears.

Between sobs, the young man managed to explain his outburst. Even though the Colorado Springs area is home to five military bases and thousands of military personnel, the soldier had received the same treatment as many Vietnam vets: He had been cursed at, called a murderer and spit upon by war protestors and others angry at America's actions in Iraq.

He was deploying to Iraq in two days, but why should he fight -- maybe even die -- to protect people who not only didn't appreciate it, but also jeered at him for serving his country?

He told Shae he was a Christian, but he had nearly given in to bitterness and despair. As his deployment drew near, he had challenged God to give him a good enough reason to risk his life, perhaps even die. And Shae, armed only with a loaf of banana bread, had been the answer to his prayer.

"If your church can go to all this trouble for someone you don't even know," he said, "I know I have something worth fighting for."

Shae's frustrated attempts to deliver the banana bread to Hope Chapel's visitor had instead delivered 11th-hour hope to a brave young soldier struggling in his own faith.

The young man and Shae talked, prayed and exchanged contact information; Shae plans to try to keep in touch with him while he's in Iraq and visit with him again if he returns safely.

"He finally helped me deliver the banana bread," Shae laughs, "but it almost seemed pointless by that time. God obviously had something else in mind all along." The gift still had its intended effect, though; the woman who had visited Hope Chapel was also touched and encouraged by Shae's kindness.

Shae points out that Jesus suffered and died for us while we were sinners ― before we knew Him. Similarly, thousands of men and women in the armed forces are also willing to lay down their lives to protect people they don't know, some of whom hate them for it.

As we pray for the safe and speedy return of our soldiers, let's also pray that they'll come home to find something even better than banana bread waiting for them: the thanks of a grateful nation that appreciates their sacrifice.

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Columbine Story

Friday morning (September 17, 1999) I was reading the paper and noticed Darrell Scott (father of Rachel Scott, a student killed at Columbine High School) was coming to speak Sunday afternoon at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, TN.

I really wanted to go hear what Mr. Scott had to say but was a little apprehensive about announcing anything to my youth group about the event since it was going to be held at a Baptist church. I had a feeling someone would get offended if I promoted it. So, instead of any announcement in the main worship assembly, at the end of my Sunday school class I made mention of the event, told my high school kids I'd be going and invited anyone to ride with me who wanted to go.

I expected to take two or three kids in my truck. Instead I ended up having to fire up the White House Church of Christ van as 11 of us made the short trek to Two Rivers.

I wish I could have recorded the looks on the faces of everyone we passed in the parking lot at Two Rivers as our van, with all its Church of Christ lettering, motored to a resting place. Shock. Disbelief. Happiness. I'd be a rich man if I had a dime for every person I saw mouthing the words, "Church of Christ???" as we passed.

I guess we broke traditional protocol, but we had a face-to-face meeting with God we would never have had if we hadn't.

The service was unbelievable. Just five short months after the April 20 tragedy, Mr. Scott shared the "untold" stories from Columbine, the stories the liberal media may never tell, the stories he has dedicated every waking moment of the rest of his life to sharing. He talked at length about the 12 students, including his daughter Rachel, who left this world on April 20.

Of the 12 students who died, eight professed to be Christians.

As Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (the two gunmen) came down the hill behind the school to begin their assault, their first target was Mark Taylor. At the very moment bullets pierced Mark's body, he was witnessing to two of his friends about his relationship with Jesus Christ.

They next turned their guns on Rachel. Three weeks earlier Rachel had witnessed to Dylan and Eric and warned them about the violent video games to which they seemed to be addicted. Their first shot hit Rachel in the leg. A second plowed through her backpack into her midsection, knocking her to the ground. One of the gunmen walked over to where Rachel lay face down, still alive. He pulled her up by the hair of her head and asked, "Do you still believe in God?"

"You know that I do," Rachel managed to reply.

Immediately after her reply a bullet entered her temple.

Mr. Scott shared the story of John Tomlin, another victim. John had been on mission trips to Mexico and was hungry to do more. During each school day he decided to do something small in hopes it might cause someone to think about spiritual things. He left his Bible open on the dashboard of his truck.

At 4 A.M. one morning after the tragedy, Mr. Scott looked around as he was beginning an interview with NBC's Maria Shriver and noticed a circle of people around John's truck, talking about the Bible on the dashboard.

Mr. Scott spoke of his son, Craig, who escaped death after looking down the barrel of a gun. He escaped because his friend crouched next to him in the library, Isaiah Shoels, was black and a more desirable target for the two gunmen who hurled numerous racial slurs and put-downs in his direction before killing him execution-style.

Cassie Bernall's story has received more national attention. She too answered the gunmen's question of "Do you believe in God?" in the affirmative, taking a bullet after her response. A national "She Said Yes" campaign has resulted from the statements she and Rachel made, looking down the barrel of a gun.

Rachel's funeral was broadcast in its entirety on CNN. Millions of viewers tuned in, making it the highest rated broadcast in network history. With millions of eyes tuned to the broadcast, Bruce Porter brought the message, asking "Who will take the torch?" referring to the torch Rachel, Cassie, John, Mark and others had dropped.

At that very moment a young man in Texas had a gun to his head, ready to take his own life. As he listened to Porter's plea and thoughts that followed, he lowered the gun from his head, began to cry and prayed for forgiveness.

Not long ago he ran 1,000 miles from Little Rock, Arkansas to Washington, D.C. with a torch in his hand.

Needless to say, by the end of the service I had been on an emotional roller coaster. My shirt had a hefty salt deposit in it from the tears I had shed, but I left the service encouraged, excited and ready to share the "untold" stories with anyone I could.

We all climbed back in our van and headed back to White House {Church}. We were going to be just in time for Sunday night services. I kept thinking on the way back how much I would love to share with the congregation that night just a tiny bit of what we had experienced at Two Rivers that afternoon. I was a bit discouraged because I didn't know how long it would be before I was in the pulpit again and had a chance to share.

As I walked in the door, two minutes before services were to begin, one of our elders pulled me aside and asked, "Has anyone said anything to you about speaking tonight?"

"No," I said.

"Well Keith (our preacher) has a bad toothache. He's not going to be able to speak. I guess we'll just have a song service...."

"Please let me speak," I butted in. "Something happened to me this afternoon I've got to share."
"Okay, you're on," he said.

During the opening moments of the service I prayed fervently that God would use my words to help someone realize their need for Jesus.

As I began to share some of the stories previously mentioned in this email, I felt a peace and strength I have never felt before. It was not me talking up there. Even though I had zero preparation for this "sermon" my words seemed to flow like never before. Everything was coming together. In sports terms, I was "in the zone."

I pleaded with the young people who had never committed their lives to Jesus to do so. I told them they didn't have to know everything at first. That's what being born again is all about. Starting new. I encouraged those who had given their lives to Jesus before and didn't have him at the center of their lives to make it right.

As I stepped down from the pulpit with the words of "Just As I Am" resonating from the walls, I knew something special was about to happen.

A teenager came forward, then an 8-year old boy, then a mother, another teenager, and another, and on and on....

Three came to commit their lives to Jesus for the first time and be baptized. Several others came to recommit their lives to Jesus. They came largely because of the stories associated with 12 young people from a tiny town in Colorado.

It only occurred to me about an hour later as I sat in 'Subway' eating a sandwich there was something special about the number of people who had responded at church that night.

There were 12.



"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other."   ( John 15:13-17)
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AN AFTERNOON IN THE PARK WITH GOD

There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started on his journey.

    When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

    They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.  As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave. He turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

    When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.

    She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

    He replied, "I had lunch with God. You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

    Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy,  returned to her home.

    Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?"

    She replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God. You know, He's much younger than I expected."

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Survivor of 911

September 11, 2001 (Tuesday) - For all victims of the terrorism tragedy in the United States of America.

* A testimony of God's hand of protection amidst tragedy *

by the Editors of Religion Today

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, began like any other day for Bethel Assembly of God deacon and Sunday school superintendent Stanley Praimnath of Elmont, Long Island. He got up early, took a shower, prayed, got ready and headed for work. The drive was uneventful. The train ride was the same. Yet, this day he would see the hand of God spare his life.

"For some particular reason, I gave the Lord a little extra of myself that morning {during prayer}," Stanley said. "I said, 'Lord, cover me and all my loved ones under your precious blood.' And even though I said that and believed it, I said it over and over and over."

When Stanley arrived at World Trade Center Tower Two, he took the elevator up to his office on the 81st floor. "I work for the Fuji Bank Limited," he said. "I'm an assistant vice president in the loans operations department. The company is located on the 79th through 82nd floors."

Stanley greeted Delise, a woman who had arrived before him. After talking briefly, he headed over to his desk and picked up his phone to retrieve his messages.

"As I'm standing there retrieving my messages, I'm looking out at the next building, One World Trade, and I saw fire falling through from the roof," Stanley said. "Now, this entire building is surrounded by glass, and you can stand up and from there you can see all the buildings, planes and everything flying at the same altitude."

As Stanley saw "fire balls" coming down, his first reaction was to think of his boss who works in that building. He decided to try to call him to see if he was OK. "I'm dialing his number, and getting no response. So, I say to Delise, the temp, 'Go, go, go -- let's get out.'"

Delise and Stanley got on the elevator and went down to the 78th floor. Some other people were there. The company's president, the CEO, the human resources director and two other men joined the group and headed down to the concourse level of Two World Trade Center.

If they had continued on and exited the building, all of their lives would have been spared. As it was, that's not the way it happened.

"As soon as we reached the concourse level, the security guard stopped us and said, 'Where are you going?' Stanley explained about seeing the fire in Tower One. According to Stanley, the guard said, "Oh, that was just an accident. Two World Trade is secured. Go back to your office."

That turned out to be fatal advice -- aside from Stanley, Delise was the only one of that group to survive.

"We were joking, and I told {Human Resources Director} Brian Thompson, 'This is a good time to think of relocating this building -- it's not safe anymore.'" Stanley headed back to his office, but before he got there, he told Delise, that with the events of the day, she should go home and relax.

Thompson went to the 82nd floor, the president and CEO went to the 79th floor and Stanley got out on the 81st floor. When Stanley got to his office, his phone was ringing. "It was someone from Chicago calling to find out if I'm watching the news," he said. He told the caller everything "was fine."

But everything wasn't fine -- far from it. As Stanley was talking, he looked up and saw United Air Lines Flight 175 heading straight for him.

"All I can see is this big gray plane, with red letters on the wing and on the tail, bearing down on me," said Stanley. "But this thing is happening in slow motion. The plane appeared to be like 100 yards away, I said 'Lord, you take control, I can't help myself here.' "

Stanley then dove under his desk. "My Testament {Bible} was on top of my desk," explained Stanley. "I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord was going to take care of me once I got there." As he curled into a fetal position under his desk, the plane tore into the side of the building and exploded.

Miraculously, Stanley was unhurt. However, he could see a flaming wing of the plane in the doorway of his department. He knew he needed to get out of his office and the building fast. But, he was trapped under debris up to his shoulders.

"Lord, you take control, this is your problem now," he recalled praying. "I don't know where I got this power from, but the good Lord, He gave me so much power and strength in my body that I was able to shake everything off. I felt like I was the strongest man alive."

All the while, Stanley was asking the Lord to spare his life. "I'm crying and I'm praying, 'Lord, I have things to do. I want to see my family, Lord, help me through.'"

Stanley's office resembled a battle zone -- walls flattened into dusty heaps, office equipment strewn violently, flames flickering about and rubble everywhere.

"Everything I'm trying to climb on {to get out} is collapsing and I'm going down," he said. "I'm getting cuts and bruises, but I'm saying, 'Lord, I have to go home to my loved ones, I have to make it, You have to help me.' "

Suddenly Stanley saw the light of a flashlight. For a moment, it stunned him. "What were the chances of someone bringing a flashlight to this floor?" he thought. "My first gut reaction was, 'This is my guardian angel -- my Lord sent somebody to save me!' "

Stanley began screaming, "I see the light, I see the light." But after clawing his way through the debris, he realized that he couldn't get out - all the exits were blocked and his "guardian angel" couldn't get to him--a wall was between him and the staircase. "He can't get to me and I can't get to him, and by this time I can't breathe," Stanley said. "I don't know if it was sulfur or what {burning jet fuel, perhaps}, but I can smell this thing. I got down on my knees and said, "Lord, you've got to help me. You've brought me this far, help me to get to the staircase."

But then Stanley did something surprising. While praying on his knees, he called out to the man behind the wall, "There's one thing I got to know, do you know Jesus?" The man replied he went to church every Sunday. Then they prayed together to enable them to break through the wall.

"I got up, and I felt as if a power came over me," said Stanley. "I felt goose bumps all over my body and I'm trembling, and I said to the wall, 'You're going to be no match for me and my Lord.' " Moments later, he punched his way through the wall and, with the help of the man on the other side, was able to squirm his way through the hole in the wall. "The guy held me and embraced me and he gave me a kiss and he said, 'From today, you're my brother for life.' "

But the danger wasn't over. The man on the other side of the wall, who introduced himself as Brian, was an older man and they still had 81 floors to walk down, with the building on fire and, unknown to them, in danger of collapse. "We hobbled our way down, and at every floor we stopped to see if anybody was there, but nobody was, except a man was on the floor, and his back was gone, and he was covered in blood."

Stanley asked to be allowed to carry the man out, but a security guard told him it would be better to send somebody up. When they finally made it down to the concourse, only firefighters were there. "They were saying, 'Run! Run! Run!', they were telling us to run out, but they were not concerned about themselves," he said.

Stanley and Brian would have run from the building, but now the concourse was surrounded with fire. Wetting themselves under the building's sprinkler system, they held hands and ran through the flames to safety at Trinity Church, about two blocks away. "I wanted to go to the church to thank God," Stanley explained, "As soon as I held onto the gate of that church, the building {World Trade Center Tower Two} collapsed."

Stanley and Brian made their way safely out of the danger area. Before they parted, Stanley gave his business card to Brian in hopes of contact at a later time, and said, "If I don't see you, I'll see you in heaven."

Cut and bloodied, with clothes tattered and wearing a borrowed shirt, Stanley finally made it home hours later to his wife, Jennifer, and his two girls, Stephanie, 8, and Caitlin, 4. "I held my wife and my two children and we cried," said Stanley. After thanking God for sparing his life, Stanley told God whatever he did, it will always be for His glory. "I'm so sore, but every waking moment, I say 'Lord, had you not been in control, I would not have made it.'

"For some divine reason, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the good Lord's mighty hand turned the plane a fraction from where I was standing," said Stanley. "Because when it crash-landed, it was just 20 feet from me. I don't care who would rationalize -- what people would say now or years from now, but I know it was the handiwork of the Lord that turned that plane. My Lord Jesus is bigger than the Trade Center and His finger can push a plane aside!"


Addendum -- One of the hardest things to understand is why God takes one and spares the other. As the Bible says: "It rains on the just and the unjust." His will... not ours.


[ by Dan Van Veen, Assemblies of God News Service -- from Keith Todd ]
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Someone in the Bushes

Author Unknown

I was walking down a dimly lit street late one evening when I heard muffled screams coming from behind a clump of bushes. Alarmed, I slowed down to listen, and panicked when I realized that what I was hearing were the unmistakable sounds of a struggle: heavy grunting, frantic scuffling, and tearing of fabric. Only yards from where I stood,a woman was being attacked. Should I get involved? I was frightened for my own safety, and cursed myself for having suddenly decided to take a new route home that night. What if I became another statistic? Shouldn't I just run to the nearest phone and call the police?

Although it seemed an eternity, the deliberations in my head had taken only seconds, but already the girl's cries were growing weaker. I knew I had to act fast. How could I walk away from this? No, I finally resolved, I could not turn my back on the fate of this unknown woman, even if it meant risking my own life.

I am not a brave man, nor am I athletic. I don't know where I found the moral courage and physical strength, but once I had finally resolved to help the girl, I became strangely transformed. I ran behind the bushes and pulled the assailant off the woman. Grappling, we fell to the ground, where we wrestled for a few minutes until the attacker jumped up and escaped.

Panting hard, I scrambled upright and approached the girl, who was crouched behind a tree, sobbing. In the darkness, I could barely see her outline, but I could certainly sense her trembling shock. Not wanting to frighten her further, I at first spoke to her from a distance.

"It's OK," I said soothingly. "The man ran away. You're safe now."

There was a long pause................. and then I heard the words, uttered in wonder,in amazement.

"Daddy, is that you?"

And then, from behind the tree, stepped my youngest daughter, Katherine.

You just never know........

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