The Auction
The upstate NY man was rich in almost every way. His estate was worth millions. He owned houses, land antiques and cattle. But though on the outside he had it all, he was very unhappy on the inside. His wife was growing old, and the couple was childless. He had always wanted a little boy to carry on the family legacy. Miraculously, his wife became pregnant in her later years, and she gave birth to a little boy. The boy was severely handicapped, but the man loved him with his whole heart. When the boy was five, his mom died. The dad drew closer to his special son. At age 13, the boy's birth defects cost him his life and the father died soon after from a broken heart. The estate was auctioned before hundreds of bidders. The first item offered was a painting of the boy. No one bid. They waited like vultures for the riches. Finally, the poor housemaid, who helped raise the boy and loved him, offered $5 for the painting and easily took the bid. To everyone's shock, the auctioneer ripped a hand written will from the back of the picture. This is what it said: "To the person who thinks enough of my son to buy this painting, to this person I give my entire estate." The auction was over. The greedy crowd walked away in shock and dismay. How many of us have sought after what we thought were true riches only to find out later that our Father was prepared to give us His entire estate if we had only sought after His Son alone? Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is there your heart will be also."

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

The Apple Basket
One day an elderly man entered into a hospital. He was grumpy from being on medication and the nurses thought him to be insane, as he yelled for his wife to get the apple basket. By the time they had checked him into his room the nurses were exhausted from the fight he was putting up. "Sir you have to calm down we are doing everything we can for you" they would try to explain. "I don't need your help" the grumpy man would yell "I want my apple basket". He finally slept. The nurses sighed with relief and talked among themselves whether they should call the hospital psychologist about the old man and his obsession with the apple basket. As they talked and laughed about the situation the wife came in carrying the basket of apples. They looked kind of stunned as she asked if she could see her husband and deliver his basket. Sure, they agreed as they watched her slip past into his room. Curiosity consumed them over the next few weeks as they tended to the elderly man. He was eaten with cancer and the doctors had given him no hope of survival. He turned out to be a very calm, happy man once he had his basket. His wife, they noticed, would come in with apples and go out with apples and the curiosity grew even more till one nurse couldn't stand the suspense. One night as he was nearing the end, the nurse sat down in a chair by the wife." May I ask why do you have that apple basket? I just don't understand the significance." "I am an apple farmer by trade he sighed. From the time I was 20 till the day I do die I will forever have my apples." The nurse nodded thinking she understood. He just likes his work, she thought, assured now he was a little bit crazy. As she started to leave, the old man asked her to sit down. "At age 20 I was saved, I accepted the Lord as my Savior." Oh no, the nurse thought. Here comes the lecture on religion. The old man continued. "The day I accepted the Lord as my Savior I got this basket, and each time I had a problem or concern that I could not handle, I put an apple in the basket un-shined." "Why?" the nurse said shaking her head. "Because it reminded me to give those problems to the Lord for him to shine. See my basket now, he stated. As my problems disappear so do the apples. As I get new problems, ones I cannot handle alone, I put an apple in." The humble nurse looked into the basket... only one apple was there. With that, he took a big breath and grabbed his wife by the hand and faded into eternal sleep. The wife paused for a moment and got up from her place to take from the basket the last remaining apple. She whispered in his ear that his reward awaits him in heaven. The nurse stayed still and asked with tears in her eyes, "what do you think his riches will be?" The wife knew what they were, eternal life with Jesus Christ. But she could see the concern and sadness upon the young nurses' face and handed her the apple and said "the biggest apple pie you can imagine!" That was the day the young nurse was "saved," and from that day on she too always had a basket of apples by her bed.

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

The Angel Project
I held onto the hand of my shivering granddaughter as we waited our turn to get into the huge barn-like building. We couldn't see inside because of the length of the line up and so we passed our time watching the outside lineups. Volunteers were busily placing frozen turkeys into bags at the head of one line up and in the other, families and individuals were receiving milk. The parking lot was filled with trucks and cars and still more were waiting to get onto the lot. Strangely, though vehicles were blocked, no one honked nor appeared impatient. It seemed surreal as though everyone had been touched by something magical. Finally we could see into the building and I was overcome with emotion as my eyes took in hundreds of overflowing boxes. Each box filled with care represented not only hours of time on the part of volunteers, but the generosity and caring of hundreds of people. The boxes were filled with food for empty stomachs. Some boxes sported brand new toys, gifts from anonymous individuals throughout the town and area, toys for children who might otherwise go without. I suddenly felt self-conscious, aware that tears were flowing freely down my cheeks. I was touched by the display of kindness. I turned away from the crowds of people to wipe away the tears, and just as I did I was to see everything in a kind of mist and glow-like appearance. How fitting to see the "Angel Project" in this way. It was four days before Christmas and today marked the climax of the Angel Project. This was the day that families in need could pick up food hampers and toys. Everything was donated through the generosity of strangers. Finally it was our turn at the table and I found it difficult to speak past the lump in my throat. I was overwhelmed by all that was happening around me. Every box in that massive room represented the love of others. Every toy had been carefully selected, to be given away, yet the receiver and the sender would never meet. Instead of Christmas shopping or cleaning, instead of baking cookies or decorating a tree, these people had dropped everything to sort, label and number boxes, and to hand out delivery addresses to volunteers to drop off boxes for those who had no transportation. I could feel something extraordinary there in that building. It wasn't tangible nor quite definable but there was something special, beyond friendliness and I felt privileged to be there and be a part of it all. People helped us pack the trunk and back seat of my car with food and toys for the first family and we set off to locate the address. As we drove along I felt blessed to have a tank full of gas and the opportunity to be among the delivery people in the "Angel Project." I was not prepared for the greeting we were about to receive. I located a basement suite and when no one answered after ringing the bell I ventured down a set of steps and began calling out. "Hello, is anyone home?" A lady opened a door and as soon as I mentioned who I was and why I was there the woman began to shout. She was overjoyed and was calling out to some unseen person that we were there. Next she ran ahead of me up the stairs calling out to a neighbor, "they're here, they're here, the Angel people are here." She ran up to the car, out there in the snow with only socks on her feet and began thanking us. She continued to thank us with each box we unpacked and though we gently reminded her that we were only the delivery people, she could not contain her joy and she continued thanking us again and again. At the second house there were young children and when we introduced ourselves and explained why we were there, the children were sent upstairs and were admonished not to peek. I knew then that what we were about to unload might very well be the total sum of their Christmas presents. Jani carried in the teddy bears, the huge craft set and the two other toys, all of which had been specifically chosen by Angel Project volunteers for these children. The mother helped me with the heavier food boxes and I knew this abundant supply would last a number of days. As we left we exchanged "Merry Christmas" greetings. The woman paused just before the door closed. She looked directly at me and her eyes looked misty as she said "thank you, so much." I shut my car door, fighting tears and a choked up feeling. This giant surge of emotion burst inside of me as I pictured those children on Christmas morning opening the wonderful gifts chosen by strangers. I could imagine tummies filled and good meals throughout the season. All this, because generous individuals opened their hearts and purse strings for people they did not know. For Jani and I, we got to spend a special day together being a part of something beautiful and unforgettable. And though we were delivery people that day, I drove away feeling as though I was the one who had received the gift.

Author - Ellie Braun-Haley  (Source: Source Unknown)

Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie
Turkeys and cornucopias and pilgrim hats. Seasoned stuffing hot from the oven. Creamed onions, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Uncles and aunts and cousins to play with. Grandmothers and grandfathers with family gathered round. Children waiting for the Great Pumpkin rise over Charlie Brown's pumpkin patch and dads watching college football. A day to relax and maybe rake leaves in the afternoon. But Thanksgiving? How much will our celebrations on Thanksgiving have to do with giving thanks? A glance at the first Thanksgiving brings it all back. On December 21, 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock. Through the dead of winter the colony struggled with poor and meager food, strenuous labor, a biting wind that chilled to the bone, and the ravages of disease. Nearly half the 102 Mayflower passengers did not live to see Spring refresh Cape Cod Bay. But God sent Indians--Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit--to help the English settlers plant and hunt and fish. The bountiful harvest that autumn led Governor Bradford to invite the Indians to celebrate God's goodness. Ninety tall braves accepted the invitation to join the Pilgrims in a feast of Thanksgiving to God for His blessings. The Pilgrims lived close enough to the soil to know how dependent they were on God's Providence. They had learned to thank God in the midst of the bitterness of winter past. And they were quick to thank Him during abundant blessing, too. We teach our children to say "please" and "thank you" as the rudiments of courtesy, yet it is so easy to be rude and unthinking toward God. How often we forget to gratefully acknowledge His goodness towards us. This Thanksgiving let your prayers and expressions of love rise toward your Heavenly Father. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." (Psalm 116:12-13)

Author - Dr. Ralph F. Wilson  (Source: Source Unknown)

Thanks For The Thorns
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a Spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor Automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "Had she lost a child? -No--she has no idea what I'm feeling," Sandra shuddered. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?" "Good afternoon, can I help you?" The flower shop clerk's approach startled her. "Sorry," said the clerk, Jenny, "I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring you." "I.... I need an arrangement." "For Thanksgiving?" Sandra nodded. "Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving Special." Jenny saw Sandra's curiosity and continued. "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?" "Not exactly!" Sandra blurted. "Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has." Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you." The door's small bell suddenly rang. "Barbara! Hi," Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers. "Want this in a box?" Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did. "Yes, please. It's exquisite," said Barbara. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I'd not be so moved by its significance, but it's happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks." Sandra stared. "Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?" she wondered. "Ah. . ." said Sandra, pointing. "That lady just left with, ah. . ." "Yes?" "Well, she had no flowers!" "Right, I cut off the flowers." "Off?" "Off. Yep. That's the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet." "But, why do people pay for that?" In spite of herself she chuckled. "Do you really want to know?" "I couldn't leave this shop without knowing. I'd think about nothing else!" "That might be good," said Jenny. "Well," she continued, "Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery." "Ouch!" said Sandra. "That same year, I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel." "What did you do?" "I learned to be thankful for thorns." Sandra's eyebrows lifted. "Thorns?" "I'm a Christian, Sandra. I've always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me? But, when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others." Sandra gasped. "A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God." She started to ask Jenny to "go on" when the door's bell diverted their attention. "Hey, Phil!" shouted Jenny as a balding, rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra's arm and moved to welcome him. He tucked her under his arm at his side for a warm hug. "I'm here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!" Phil laughed, heartily. "I figured as much," said Jenny. "I've got them ready." She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet. "Beautiful," said Phil. "My wife will love them." Sandra could not resist asking. "These are for your wife?" Phil saw that Sandra's curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet. "Do you mind me asking, "Why thorns?" "In fact, I'm glad you asked," he said. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage, our love, really. Last year at Thanksgiving I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems-stems! - as a reminder of what she learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I'm pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition." Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!" "I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life," Sandra said to Jenny. "Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns." Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please." "I hoped you would," Jenny said. "I'll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both." "Thank you. What do I owe you?" "Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." Jenny handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you'd like to read it first. Go ahead, read it." "My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow. -George Matheson" Jenny said, "Happy Thanksgiving, Sandra," handing her the Special. "I look forward to our knowing each other better." Sandra smiled. She turned, opened the door, and walked toward hope!

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

Surviving 81st Floor of World Trade Tower Two
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!"

Author - Dan Van Veen  (Source: Source Unknown )

My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more. They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows over looking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring. "Shmily" was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet. There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture. It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love - one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome and old he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other. But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: my grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go out side. Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they went to church every morning. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone. "Shmily." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty. S-h-m-i-l-y: See How Much I Love You. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for letting me see.

Author - Laura Jeanne Allen  (Source: Source Unknown)

Shake It Off and Step Up
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' -- or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer felt sorry for the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and asked them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back: he should shake it off and step up! This is what the old mule did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! You guessed it! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually end up blessing him. All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. In addition to "shaking it off and step up," we Christians have our heavenly Father to help get us though rough times. When the going gets rough, keep looking up, and trusting him.

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

Sacrifice Play
In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be main streamed into conventional schools. At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all that attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Jerry? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection?" The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child." He then told the following story about his son Jerry: One afternoon Jerry and his father walked past a park where some boys Jerry knew were playing baseball. Jerry asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Jerry's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Jerry's father understood that if his son were chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Jerry's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Jerry could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning Jerry's father was ecstatic as Jerry smiled broadly. Jerry was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Jerry's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Jerry's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Jerry was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Jerry bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Jerry was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Jerry didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Jerry stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Jerry should at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came in and Jerry swung clumsily and missed. One of Jerry's teammates came up to Jerry and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Jerry. As the pitch came in, Jerry and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Jerry would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, "Jerry, run to first. Run to first!" Never in his life had Jerry run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman that would tag out Jerry, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Jerry ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Jerry reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Jerry rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Jerry run." Jerry ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team. "That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

Room At The Table
Have you ever noticed that dining room tables seat six, eight, or twelve-not seven, nine, or thirteen? I've been single all my life, usually not thinking much of it. But on holidays even the place-settings conspire against me, rendering a silent rebuke against my single status. You can endure holiday dinners two ways if you're single: 1) Bring someone you don't particularly care for; 2) Hear the awful words "pull up an extra seat," a euphemism for either a collapsible chair or one that is too high or too low for the table. Either strategy leaves you uncomfortable. At Thanksgiving two years ago, while my calves cramped from straddling the leg of my brother's dining room table, Aunt Nell took the opportunity to ask for details about my love life, which was seriously lacking at the time. The event was excruciating. Though I enjoy singlehood in the main, there have been times when I've worked myself into a mad frenzy looking for someone to fill a void I thought I couldn't satisfy on my own. Someone, anyone with a pulse would do. Over the years, I dated quite a few guys I liked-I was even engaged once but "till death do we part" seemed a very long time. I always ended up alone again. So holidays, especially with the Aunt Nells of the family, can weaken my confidence, leaving me a little bereft. One day, noting my frustration surrounding the holidays, a friend of mine suggested we try something different on the next such occasion. "How `bout you and I go down to a homeless shelter and help out? Then maybe we'll be grateful for what we have," she proposed. I had a thousand reasons why this wasn't a good idea, but my friend persisted. The next Christmas I found myself in an old downtown warehouse, doling out food. Never in my life had I seen so many turkeys and rows of pumpkin pies. Decorations donated by a nearby grocery store created a festive atmosphere that uplifted even my reluctant spirit. When everyone was fed, I took a tray and filled a plate with the bountiful harvest. After a few bites, I knew what everyone was carrying on about; the food was really good. My dinner companions were easy company. Nobody asked me why I didn't have a date or when I was going to settle down. People just seemed grateful for a place to sit and enjoy a special dinner. To my surprise, I found I had much in common with my fellow diners. They were people just like me. My experience that Christmas brought me back to the shelter the following year. I enjoyed helping others so much that I began seeking more opportunities to serve. I started volunteering for the Literacy Foundation once a week. I figured I could sit in front of the TV, or I could use those evening hours to help others learn to read. Caring for others has abundantly filled the void in my life that I had sometimes interpreted as a missing mate. When I stopped trying to so hard to fit in, I realized I was single for a reason and found my own special purpose. There is room at the table for a party of one. And sometimes "just one" is the perfect fit.

Author - Author Unknown  (Source: Source Unknown)

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