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July 30th, 2009

Story : The wisdom of a child

The Wisdom of a child

My son, Gilbert, was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to “dad”.

That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with his young, eager son. The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed.

Finally, mom stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began. Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best  if I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did. I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we couldn’t do.

Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of mom). Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids’ cars and was feeling pretty proud of his “Blue Lightning”, the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.

Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race. Once there my little one’s pride turned to humility. Gilbert’s car was obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.

A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert’s lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had “mom”.

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.

Gilbert went to his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, ‘Okay, I am ready.”

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father within his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy’s car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud “Thank You” as the crowd roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, “So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?”

To which my young son answered, “Oh, no sir. That wouldn’t be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I wouldn’t cry when I lost.”

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Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn’t ask God to win the race, he didn’t ask God to fix the outcome. Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn’t cry out to God, “No fair, they had a father’s help!”.

No, he went to his Father for strength. Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God’s strength to get through the struggle. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Gilbert’s simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never doubted that God would indeed answer his request. He didn’t pray to win, thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to
lose with dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father also showed the crowd that he wasn’t there without a “dad”, but His Father was most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.

May we all learn to pray this way.

– – – by Gilbert’s Mother

July 29th, 2009

Story : Pappy, The old shopkeeper

the-old-shopkeeper

Pappy was a pleasant-looking old fellow. He had the whitest hair which he kept neatly cut and combed. His eyes were blue, though faded with age, and they seemed to emit a warmth from within. His face was quite drawn, but when he smiled, even his wrinkles seemed to soften and smile with him. He had a talent for whistling and did so happily each day as he dusted and swept his pawnshop; even so, he had a secret sadness, but everyone who knew him respected and adored him.

Most of Pappy’s customers returned for their goods, and he did not do much business, but he did not mind. To him, the shop was not a livelihood as much as a welcome pastime.

There was a room in the back of his shop where he spent time tinkering with a menagerie of his own precious items. He referred to this back room as “memory hall.” In it were pocket watches, clocks, and electric trains. There were miniature steam engines and antique toys made of wood, tin, or cast iron, and there were various other obsolete trinkets as well.

Spending time in memory hall delighted him as he recalled many treasured moments from his past. He handled each item with care, and sometimes he would close his eyes and pause to relive a sweet, simple childhood memory.

One day, Pappy was working to his heart’s content reassembling an old railroad lantern. As he worked, he whistled the melody of a railroad tune and reminisced about his own past as a switchman. It was a typical day at the shop. Outside, the sun illuminated the clear sky, and a slight wind passed through the door. Whenever the weather was this nice, Pappy kept the inner door open. He enjoyed the fresh air-almost as much as the distinctive smell of antiques and old engine oil.

As he was polishing his newly restored lantern, he heard the tinkling of his bell on the shop door. The bell, which produced a uniquely charming resound, had been in Pappy’s family for over a hundred years. He cherished it dearly and enjoyed sharing its song with all who came to his shop. Although the bell hung on the inside of the main door, Pappy had strung a wire to the screen door so that it would ring whether the inner door was open or not. Prompted by the bell, he left memory hall to greet his customer.

At first, he did not see her. Her shiny, soft curls barely topped the counter.

“And how can I help you, little lady?” Pappy’s voice was jovial.

“Hello, sir.” The little girl spoke almost in a whisper. She was dainty. Bashful. Innocent. She looked at Pappy with her big brown eyes, then slowly scanned the room in search of something special. Shyly she told him, “I’d like to buy a present, sir.”

“Well, let’s see,” Pappy said, “who is this present for?”

“My grandpa. It’s for my grandpa. But I don’t know what to get.”

Pappy began to make suggestions. “How about a pocket watch? It’s in good condition. I fixed it myself,” he said proudly.

The little girl didn’t answer. She had walked to the doorway and put her small hand on the door. She wiggled the door gently to ring the bell. Pappy’s face seemed to glow as he saw her smiling with excitement.

“This is just right,” the little girl bubbled. “Momma says grandpa loves music.”

Just then, Pappy’s expression changed. Fearful of breaking the little girl’s heart, he told her, “I’m sorry, missy. That’s not for sale. Maybe your grandpa would like this little radio.” The little girl looked at the radio, lowered her head, and sadly sighed, “No, I don’t think so.”

In an effort to help her understand, Pappy told her the story of how the bell had been in his family for so many years, and that was why he didn’t want to sell it.

The little girl looked up at him, and with a giant tear in her eye, sweetly said, “I guess I understand. Thank you, anyway.”

Suddenly, Pappy thought of how the rest of the family was all gone now, except for his estranged daughter whom he had not seen in nearly a decade.

Why not, he thought. Why not pass it on to someone who will share it with a loved one? God only knows where it will end up anyway.

“Wait…little lady.” Pappy spoke just as the little girl was going out the door–just as he was hearing his bell ring for the last time. “I’ve decided to sell the bell. Here’s a hanky. Blow your nose.”

The little girl began to clap her hands. “Oh, thank you, sir. Grandpa will be so happy.”

“Okay, little lady. Okay.” Pappy felt good about helping the child; he knew, however, he would miss the bell. “You must promise to take good care of the bell for your grandpa–and for me, too, okay?” He carefully placed the bell in a brown paper bag.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. Then, she suddenly became very still and quiet. There was something she had forgotten to ask. She looked up at Pappy with great concern, and again almost in a whisper, asked, “How much will it cost?”

“Well, let’s see. How much have you got to spend?” Pappy asked with a grin.

The child pulled a small coin purse from her pocket then reached up and emptied two dollars and forty-seven cents onto the counter.

After briefly questioning his own sanity, Pappy said, “Little lady, this is your lucky day. That bell costs exactly two dollars and forty-seven cents.”

Later that evening as Pappy prepared to close up shop, he found himself thinking about his bell. Already he had decided not to put up another one. He thought about the child and wondered if her grandpa like his gift. Surely he would cherish anything from such a precious grandchild.

At that moment, just as he was going to turn off the light in memory hall, Pappy thought he heard his bell. Again, he questioned his sanity; he turned toward the door, and there stood the little girl. She was ringing the bell and smiling sweetly.

Pappy was puzzled as he strolled toward the small child. “What’s this, little lady? Have you changed your mind?”

“No,” she grinned. “Momma says it’s for you.”

Before Pappy had time to say another word, the child’s mother stepped into the doorway, and choking back a tear, she gently said, “Hello, Dad.”

The little girl tugged on her grandpa’s shirttail. “Here, Grandpa. Here’s your hanky. Blow your nose.”

July 28th, 2009

Story : Pancakes and Love

Pancakes and Love

Six year old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated.

He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove, and he didn’t know how the stove worked!

Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was make them proud. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking.

But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

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That’s how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend or we can’t stand our job or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him.

But just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes,” for God or for others. Sooner or later we’ll get it right, and then they’ll be glad we tried…

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