And It Came to Pass…

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree fromCaesar Agustus, that all the world should be taxed Luke 2:1

Joseph and Mary with donkey on the way to Bethlehem

This week, I will be sharing inspirational Christmas stories. I hope you enjoy today’s story. It was shared with me by a friend. Needless to say, I loved it and I hope you will too!

“It is always more blessed to give than to receive.”

— Author Unknown

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1921. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight. ” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood—the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what? “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the wood pile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.”

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”

“Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. “We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children — sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, “‘May the Lord bless you,’ I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do.Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

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A Thanksgiving Parable

One can never pay in Gratitude, one can only pay ‘in kind”somewhere else in life Anne Morrow LindberghA Thanksgiving Parable by M. Stanley Bubien

I draw a distinction between a “story” and a “parable.” Stories should tell the tale, but it’s up to the reader to decipher any (or unintended) meaning. The author seldom explains the story.

A parable, on the other hand, tells a tale, certainly, but one that deserves (if not begs) an explanation—in some ways, the explanation itself is a part of the tale. In the Bible, for example, Jesus told parables, and their significance, their power, grew not just from the telling, but from the explanation and application.

Parables also have one particular meaning, while stories can live and breath meaning, changing with each reader, or with each reading.

There once was a very rich man. He was so rich, he could have owned many cars, but instead he chose to drive a Ford. He was so rich, he could have owned many computers, but instead he chose an Apple Macintosh. He was so rich, he could have owned many homes—even some in Beverly Hills—but instead he chose to live in East LA.

Because this man was rich, many people in his neighborhood knew him. And also because the man was rich, many people from outside of his neighborhood knew him too. Often, his doorbell would ring, and there on his threshold would stand someone who had come to ask for a donation.

Sometimes when the bell rang, it was a neighbor who had fallen into misfortune. The man would smile, embrace his neighbor, and place a generous sum into their hand.

Sometimes when the bell rang, it was a charity representing the starving children of Tijuana. The man would again smile, embrace the charity worker, and write a generous check.

Sometimes when the bell rang, it was a Jehovah’s Witness. Were he like many of us, the man’s first instinct would have been to promptly kick them in the butt and shove them back out onto the street. But instead, he once more smiled and embraced the Jehovah’s Witness as any other guest upon his threshold.

One evening, when his doorbell was particularly quiet, this man decided to take a stroll. He headed off, idling along wherever the road wound; amongst the quaint homes of his neighborhood, past the threadbare trees lining the park, along walls painted with an array of colorful graffiti tags (remember, this was East LA).

Every once in a while, a car passed, thumping out the latest rage in rap hit, and he soon found himself whistling one of these catchy tunes to himself.

Lost in the tune, he came suddenly upon a homeless bum lying in the midst of the sidewalk. The bum wore a tattered sweater and ripped pants. He had shoes, but they didn’t even match. And oh! The smell! I can’t even describe that to you here because it would ruin your Thanksgiving dinner.

Well, this unfortunate soul lying on the street saw the man and knew him. Certainly, the bum said to himself. This is the rich man who lives on the lane. Surely he can help me, for he has money at his disposal. But instead of reaching out his hand, the bum was overcome by a sudden bout of shame and hid his face.

The man stood over this tattered figure. He reached down and touched the bum’s cheek, but the bum shrank away from him even further. The man’s eyes clouded slightly and he cracked a weak smile. Forgetting the tune he once whistled, the man slowly turned and walked back to his home.

Upon hearing the man retreat beyond the corner, the bum opened his eyes and sat up. There at his feet lay a crisp $100.00 dollar bill.

The bum grabbed the money and made a beeline for the nearest 7/11. Like all bums, this one’s first thought was to go blow the money on vodka. What a bum!

But, before he entered the store, he remembered the compassion of the man’s touch. This inspired him, and the bum decided then and there to turn his life around. The bum promptly bummed two dimes off an old lady (pay phones don’t take hundreds). “Well.” the lady replied. “You ain’t gonna spend this on alcohol?” The bum shook his head and stuck the money into the slot of the nearest telephone.

His broker answered and the bum said, “Hundred dollars. Invest it all in that company with the nerdy looking CEO. Microsoft!”

Since this was, as it turns out, the late-1980s, it took only a short while before the stock skyrocketed. Yes, good can come of evil after all—especially when you’re working the stock market—and the bum found himself very well off indeed.

Back in East LA the years passed slowly. The generous man kept to life much as usual—taking evening strolls, whistling rap tunes, answering his door.

One day in particular, his doorbell rang, and there stood a finely dressed gentleman in a three piece suit. Uh oh, the man thought. Jehovah’s Witness. But before he could do anything, his guest spoke.

“You’re the rich man, aren’t you?” his guest asked.

“What can I do for you?” the man responded automatically, so accustomed to being asked for things.

“It is not what you can do for me,” answered his guest. “But what you have already done.”

“What have I done for you?” the man asked in surprise.

“You’ve given me a second chance at life. Why, with your generous gift, I was able to invest the money and pull myself out of my poverty. I no longer wallow in the grime and gutters, but I walk along crowded sidewalks with my head held high. I have you to thank for that.”

Suddenly, the man recognized his guest. It was the old bum who’d been lying in the street. The man replied, “What I gave you, you did not ask for. I gave it simply because I saw you there and loved you. I would have given it to anyone in your position.”

“All the more reason to come and thank you,” his guest said.

“But I am rich,” replied the man. “I have many gifts to give. I don’t expect anything in return.”

“Good,” his guest said with a nod. “Because I don’t have anything to offer in return—whatever I have, you gave to me. All I wanted to do was come and thank you.”

The man stared as his guest reached out and took him into an embrace. It was the same gesture the man had so often offered to those at his door, yet this was the first time someone had offered it back.

Tears filled the man’s eyes as his guest, a lowly bum off the street, held him in the most satisfying embrace he had ever received. 

The Rich Man is God, while the Poor Man is you or me. God has given us everything we have. He created us. He gave us life (and life again). He gave us love. He gave us talents to do things. All we have springs from what He’s given us.

What can we give God back to show our grattitude? What can we return to Him that he hasn’t given us already? There is only one thing. Our thanks. Our thanks is the only gift we can give to God that he hasn’t given us in the first place.

This parable was written by M. Stanley Bubien and is shared from the following website: http://www.storybytes.com/view-stories/1996/parable-thanks.html

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The Relationship Between Men and Women…

Woman was made from the rib of a man. Not from his head to top him nor his foot to be stepped on by him, but from his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be Loved by him Matthew HenryI believe in marriage. I believe in making a lifetime commitment. I also believe that my love and my relationship with my husband can continue for all eternity. I believe that your heart communicates this knowledge to you as well.

There seems to be a lot of effort in today’s world to make men out of women and vice versa. I can’t help but wonder why?

As a witness of the reality of God, I can tell you that in heaven we are not and were not unisex beings. We were male and female just like we are on earth.

Men are not superior. Women are not superior. Men and women are complimentary equals. We each have specific strengths and weaknesses. Every single one of us – regardless of gender is a unique individual.

I love my husband and my sons but I don’t want to be their clone. There have been times, admittedly, that I have wanted their arm strength so that I could have a chance of beating them in arm wrestling but that’s the only “manly” quality I think I have ever wished for.

I love that I an a nurturer. I love that I am a woman. I feel honored that I have been blessed to be a co-creator with God in bringing four wonderful human beings into this world. I love and honor those inherent gifts that my husband has as a man. I am grateful that our relationship is one of give and take – all of it while we walk side by side.

I am grateful to unequivocally know as a result of my near death experience, the divine role that gender is a part of in God’s plan for this world. I am also thankful to know that both men and women should be honored for lives well lived!

I hope you enjoy today’s story!

Faithfulness in Sickness and in Health: One Couple’s Story

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Her family had come to America from Sweden. She had a typical Scandinavian look… Long blond hair; blue eyes; long slender legs; soft, blemish-free skin. She was gorgeous – she was beautiful. In fact, a professional international photographer in her hometown thought she was so pretty that he used a photograph of her to advertise his business.

But that was not her real beauty.

She was raised by some wonderful Christian parents and had become a Christian at an early age. Integrity, honesty and sweetness were just a few of her characteristics. In fact, at her engagement party, her sister, who knew her better than anyone, said that she had never heard her tell a lie.

All of her friends said the same thing about her: She was the sweetest girl they knew. She would never speak a harsh word about anyone. Everyone loved to be around her.

One week after they graduated from college, they were married. They loved each other’s company. They would walk together, exercise together, go on bike rides together, chaperone youth trips together – go to movies, watch TV, eat pizza, travel – all the things any normal couple would love to do together. They were so much in love.

She taught school for a year and then became a bookkeeper for a surgical supply company. One day, while she was working, for no apparent reason, she lost her balance and fell on the floor. She was later able to get up and went to see a doctor that night. He set her up to see a Neurologist.

The following day, it happened again. For no apparent reason, she lost her balance and fell. This time, though, she couldn’t get up. She had lost all feeling in her legs. They wouldn’t move. Her husband, had to come to the office and pick her up in his arms and carry her to the hospital. After six days in the hospital, the doctor gave this beautiful, active young lady the dreadful news. She had Multiple Sclerosis and she would continue to deteriorate.

This young couple, who had now been married only 18 months – who loved to go everywhere together and do everything together – would now face some new challenges. All their future plans would change, everyday life would change.

They would change.

For the next 30 years, this young lady did deteriorate. She had to take steroids (not the kind athletes use, but anti-inflammatory steroids). Her bones became brittle, breaking easily. Her face became puffy and bloated and she could not even put on make-up. Her body was a mess. She went from a walker, to an electric scooter, to a wheelchair. She could no longer feed herself, write her name, or control her own bodily functions. She now had to have someone stay with her 24 hours a day.

If that couple had not had the kind of committed love that’s based first on a personal relationship and a commitment to Jesus Christ and second, on a love that’s based on a commitment to each other, the marriage never would have lasted. In fact, a large percentage of the marriages where a spouse has MS, the other spouse leaves them. The other spouse won’t stay committed to the constant care and the continual physical, psychological and mental changes that continue to occur.

Please hear me carefully – those two people are not heroes. They are not super-saints or super-Christians. They will be the first to tell you that they are not super Christians. Those two people are normal, ordinary people, empowered by the Love of God and a love for each other, to do what the world considers beyond normal and extraordinary.

I know this for a fact – because that woman, that beautiful young lady who will never walk again, who can’t even feed herself, is Lynda Langerfeld – my wife. She’s not a hero. I’m not a hero. We’re children of God, doing what the children of God are supposed to do. Doing what His children are called to do. Doing what God expects of every man and every woman who make a vow before God on their wedding day.

Quite often, Hollywood will portray a “hero” sacrificing his life for his “heroine” in a film. In the world’s eyes, he’s a hero. In God’s eyes, he’s an ordinary man making an extraordinary sacrifice that every Christian who’s committed to his spouse ought to make. Sacrificial, Committed Love is the rule, not the exception. We’re not super-saints, we’re not heroes when we’re being faithful and committed to our mates. We’re doing what God has called every husband and wife to do since the beginning of time.

Story is shared from the following website: http://www.crosswalk.com/family/marriage/faithfulness-in-sickness-and-in-health-one-couples-story-11529898.html

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He That is Greatest Among You…Giving Service

He that is Greatest among you shall be your Servant Matthew 23:11When I think of the Savior of us all, I think of all his abilities, all of his intelligence and all of his service.

His, was an amazing example of the one with the most serving those with the least.

Having had a near-death experience, I know like few others do, the total and complete perfection of our Savior. I know that he could have delivered himself out of the hands of his persecutors and yet he didn’t. Mortality makes it really difficult for most of us to comprehend just how much has been done for us through the atonement of Jesus Christ and his perfection.

Ego, desire for power and selfishness distance us from our Savior and our Creator. I know how much they love us. I also know that overcoming the “man” in ourselves results in priceless joy.

We may have power, prestige, and possessions but if we don’t know how to love or care or serve, life is truly empty and void of joy.

I love today’s story. I believe it is a great reminder to us all that service can come from anywhere at any time – and that service is a priceless gift to both the giver and the receiver! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Today You, Tomorrow Me

During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a hand basket,” which I actually said.

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.”

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.

Originally by Justin Horner, posted Mar 10, 2011 [From a post on reddit.com and re-published in NY Times.]

Story shared from the following website: http://www.kindspring.org/story/view.php?sid=25237

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God Touches and Moves Each of Us…

God ouches and moves,  warns and desires all equally,  and He wants one quite as much  as another. The inequality lies  in the way in which His touch,  His warnings, and  His gifts are received   Johannes TaulerI think today’s post is for me. When I found today’s story, it spoke directly to my heart.

I know that God has giant dreams for me. I’m just as sure he has the same kind of dreams for you.

It has been my experience that God does not deal in the business of minimal growth and “just get by” projects. In all of His majesty, God always seeks to transform us from a shack to a castle.

What does God have in mind for you? As you read today’s story, listen to your heart. I suspect it will have important information to share with you…

Fulfilling God-Sized Dreams

By Susan Vanselow

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