Friday, July 19, 2013



A long-ago legend has it that, there once lived a man of towering strength, a giant of a man. He was a pagan whose strength perhaps led him to believe that he needed no higher power.

He made his living by carrying travelers across a broad river. One day a beautiful child came to the bank of the river. As the man bent down to allow the child to climb upon his back, the young lad said, "Are you sure you can bear my weight ?"

The man laughed. "Why, I've carried full-grown men across the river. You, my little one, will be lighter than a pebble."

"Very well," said the boy. "But I must warn you. I am heavier than I look."

With a grin, the man raised the child upon his massive shoulders and stepped out into the swirling water. But the weight on his back grew strangely heavy. Soon the brawny giant was struggling not to sink.With superhuman effort he crawled up onto the opposite bank of the river and let the child down.

"How can you be so heavy ?" the perplexed man asked. "Who are you ?"

"I am Jesus of Nazareth," replied the boy. "And I carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Let me carry yours too."

And so it was that Christopher, today known as St. Christopher, was converted to Christianity. The story reminds me, I don't need to struggle across each day on my own.

There is One stronger than I. He is the Great Burden-bearer. He even carries St. Christopher, yet on His shoulders there is always room for one more.

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28 NLT)

"Lord, thank you for inviting me to come to you, especially when life is getting too difficult for me. I find comfort and peace in knowing that you are going to help me get across my river of difficulties if I just rest on Your shoulders. Remind me always of my limitations so that day by day I will remember that without you I can do nothing. Lord Jesus, please lift me up and carry me through this day."


"Do you like what you do ?" she asked me.

"I write about happy things," I said.

"Wait a minute.  I've read your work.  You made me cry sometimes," she said.

"That makes me happy," I replied.

"Well, that's sick," she said smiling.

"I don't make people cry by hurting them.  They often cry from the hurt they have already. When I first started writing, people would reply telling me that they cried.  I wrote back every time to apologize until I one day realized what a privilege it was."

She still looked at me oddly.

"You see, something I was inspired to write touched someone in such a way as to draw from them an emotion.  They, the reader, actually permitted me, trusted me to enter into their very being that day and release the pain or joy associated with my story."

"So, I let you in ?"

"No, God did.  He used that moment to connect us.  There was something you needed to feel and something He wanted me to say."

"Then why do we hurt so much ?"


How much we hurt is often in relationship to how much we love.  The same can be said about happiness.  How much happiness there is in our lives depends on how much love we have not only for those around us, but for life itself.

Like the death of a loved one.

Such loss is a pain we all endure many times in our lives.  Why ?  Because we love. But the great thing about love is, it never ceases, even after the final goodbye.

Love continues.  It does not cease to exist because someone has died.  I believe it is not the memory of someone gone, but the love of someone that sustains us.  Love is more than remembering.  Love is first a decision of the mind and then a commitment of the heart.

A few years ago, someone wrote to me asking "When will I stop hurting ?"

At that time there seemed to be a number of people who were struggling with loss.

I have recently become aware that some of my "friends I've never met," are hurting.

Permit me to share that story with you again:

When will I stop hurting ?
By Bob Perks

"I lost a loved one nearly a year ago. When will I stop hurting ?"

The question was simple but difficult to answer. She was challenging me. I wanted to help her, but I knew that only she could answer that question.

Whenever someone writes to tell me about a death, I always talk about the difficult months ahead. I refer to it as a "Year of Firsts." The first holiday, birthday, anniversary, summer picnic or other personal event without that loved one.

Then there are those little things you never really paid attention to before, but now find a gaping hole right in the middle of your day. Like the time they woke up each morning, how they had their coffee, the sound the door made around dinner time when they arrived home and the way they said "hello."

But there was something about this message today that made me stop and really think about what I needed to say. Oddly, I decided that the pain she was feeling was a good thing, but I wasn't sure she wanted to know that.

Here is exactly what I wrote to her: When will you stop hurting? That is a measure of the love you shared and how does one measure love ? By remembering them long after they are gone. "Memories" are the shadows of a life well lived that remain long after the light of their being has gone out. May you never forget. "Pain" is the echo of remembering those special moments when all the world belonged to the both of you. The day will come when the pain of remembering turns into understanding the privilege of ever having them in your life at all. Remembering will be a joy. Although the pain is great at times you are reminded still, how very much you loved and were loved.

May the rest of your life be a reflection of that love and when your time comes may your passing cast long shadows for all who loved you, too.

My final thought . . .

When I die . . .

Bury me not in a cold dark grave.  Bury me deep within your heart.  I will live forever there.

  By Bob Perks


An old man, probably some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the park bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring  at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if he was ok.

Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was ok. He raised his head and looked at me and smiled.

Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking, he said in a clear strong voice.

I didn't mean to disturb you, sir, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were ok I explained to him.

Have you ever looked at your hands he asked. I mean really looked at your hands ?

I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making.

Then he smiled and related this story:

Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They dried the tears of my children and caressed the love of my life. They held my rifle and wiped my tears when I went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote the letters home and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle. Yet, they were strong and sure when I dug my buddy out of a foxhole and lifted a plow off of my best friends foot. They have held children, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of my life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And He won't care about where these hands have been or what they have done. What He will care about is to whom these hands belong and how much He loves these hands. And with these hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.

No doubt I will never look at my hands the same again. I never saw the old man again after I left the park that day but I will never forget him and the words he spoke. When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and wife I think of the man in the park. I have a feeling he has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel his hands upon my face.

Thank you, Father God, for hands.

Author Unknown


For those who are fortunate enough to still be blessed by having your Mom with you, this is beautiful... For those who aren't... it is even more beautiful.  It takes my breath !

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is this the long way ?" she asked.  And the guide said "Yes, and the way is hard.  And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning"

Since the young mother was happy, she would not believe that anything could be better than these years.  So she played with her children, she fed them and bathed them, and taught them how to tie their shoes and ride a bike and reminded them to feed the dog, and do their homework and brush their teeth.  The sun shone on them, and the young Mother cried, "Nothing will ever be lovelier than this."

Then the nights came, and the storms, and the path was sometimes dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her arms, and the children said, "Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come."

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary.  But at all times she said to the children, "A little patience and we are there." So the children climbed, and as they climbed they learned to weather the storms. And with this, she gave them strength to face the world. Year after year, she showed them compassion, understanding, hope, but most of all... unconditional love.

The days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old and she became little and bent.  But her children were tall and strong, and walked with courage.  And the mother, when she lay down at night, looked up at the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned so much and are now passing these traits on to their children."

And when the way became rough for her, they lifted her, and gave her their strength, just as she had given them hers. One day they came to a hill, and beyond the hill, they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide.  And mother said: "I have reached the end of my journey.

And now I know the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk with dignity and pride, with their heads held high, and so can their children after them.  And the children said, "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates." And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her.  And they said: "We cannot see her, but she is with us still.  A Mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence."

Your Mother is always with you. She's the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she's the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick and perfume that she wore, she's the cool hand on your brow when you're not feeling well, she's your breath in the air on a cold winter's day. She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your Mother lives inside your laughter. And she's crystallized in every tear drop.  A mother shows every emotion... happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy, sorrow... and all the while, hoping and praying you will only know the good feelings in life.

She's the place you came from, your first home, and she's the map you follow with every step you take. She's your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you. Not time, not space... not even death !

Author Unknown


Kevin is a boy who might be described as "slow." He didn't learn his ABCs as fast as other kids. He couldn't compete in schoolyard races. But Kevin had a way with people. His bright smile and big heart won him plenty of friends.

My friend Randy, the pastor at Kevin's church, decided they needed a basketball team for boys. Kevin signed on and soon basketball became a center of his life. He practiced hard. While the other boys worked at dribbling the basketball and shooting lay-ups, skills Kevin would never master, he simply shot baskets. Or more correctly, he threw the ball AT the basket. He had a special spot near the free throw line. He threw and threw, and it occasionally went in. On the rare times that he succeeded, Kevin raised his arms and shouted, "Look at me, Coach! Look at me!" Randy looked at him. And smiled.

The day before their first game, Coach Randy gave each player a bright red jersey. Kevin was number 12. He scrambled himself into the sleeves and wore that jersey almost every day. Everywhere. One Sunday morning the church worship service was interrupted by Kevin's excited voice. "Look, Coach!" He lifted his gray wool sweater to reveal the red jersey underneath with number 12 on the front. Nobody there minded the interruption; the congregation knew Kevin and loved him.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the team did well. But the truth is.they never won a game that season -- except for the night it snowed and the opposing team never showed up.

At the end of the season, the boys played in the church league's tournament. As the last-place team, they drew the unfortunate spot of playing against the best team: boys who had never lost a game all year.

Game day arrived. Both teams played their best, but the game went as expected. Near the end of the last quarter, Kevin's team stood nearly 30 points behind. It was then that one of the boys called timeout. "Coach Randy," he said, "this is our last game and Kevin has never made a basket. I think we should let him make a basket."

The team agreed. Kevin was instructed to stand at his special place near the free throw line and wait. He was told that when he was given the ball, he should shoot.

Kevin was ecstatic. He ran to the floor and waited. When the ball was passed to him he shot  and missed. Number 17 from the other team snatched the rebound, dribbled down the court for an easy basket. But a moment later Kevin got the ball again. He shot  and missed again. Number 17 repeated his performance scoring two more points. Kevin shot a third and fourth time with the same result.

But slowly the other team seemed to figure out what was going on and the next time they snatched the rebound, a boy threw it to Kevin! He shot...and missed. Now every rebound came to him and he threw and threw toward the basket. Time was running down and Kevin still had not scored.

BOTH teams circled the boy by this time and all of the players were shouting, "Kevin! Kevin !" The crowd took up the chant. Soon everyone in the gym was shouting Kevin's name.

Coach Randy was sure that time must have run out; the game HAD to be over. He glanced at the official clock. It was stopped at 4.3 seconds. Even the timekeepers joined in the mania and stood by their table shouting with the crowd, "Kevin ! Kevin !"

Kevin shot and shot. Everyone was screaming. He attempted again and again and again and...miraculously, one of his shots took a crazy bounce on the rim. Everyone held their breath.

The ball dropped in.

Chaos reigned. Nobody remained seated. Everyone stood and cheered as if one boy had single-handedly won a world championship. Kevin's arms sprang up in the air and he shouted, "I won ! I won !" He had scored. His team escorted him off the court, the clock ticked down and the game was over.

That day an undefeated team retained their perfect record. But everybody won. Everybody. Because everybody had participated in a crazy conspiracy of kindness that was so compelling, so powerful, the earth itself might have stopped for a moment to rejoice with one young boy.

How beautiful it is when we all conspire together in kindness.
Everybody wins.

By  Steve Goodier


A baby camel asked his mother, "Why do we have such large hoofs on our feet ?"

She turned to him. "God made us that way for a very special reason," and she began her explanation. "The big hoofs are to keep us from sinking into the sand."

"Oh! So why do we have long eyelashes ?"

"It's to protect our eyes from the sand."

"Why the big humps ?"

"That is to store fat and have enough energy to go long distances in the hot desert !"

"I see!" the baby camel stretched his neck and looked up at his mother, "The big hoofs are to keep from sinking into the sand, the long eyelashes are to keep the sand out of our eyes, and the humps are to store energy to travel long distances then what are we doing in this cage in the middle of a zoo ?"

Like the camel, I had asked the same kind of questions. When my blindness set in, I initially locked myself in a cage of self-pity and bitterness.

Weary from pacing within that gloomy cage, something nudged me to see beyond my circumstance and unfortunate plight.

Heavens! What was I thinking ? Those bars were self-imposed. But worst of all, I'd supported them with the cold metal of my negative attitude.

Eventually, eagerness to leave my stuffy cell of discontent prompted me to open my ears to hear a reassuring whisper: God had created me for much more.

Itching to break free, I broke down those bars and stepped out into the desert of life. I trudged through the heat with determination and drive. I endured the blistering sun with perseverance and tenacity. I quenched my thirst with fresh inspiration and encouragement. And the hooves of confidence kept me from sinking into the sand of insecurity.

Thinking ahead, I made sure I'd stored a healthy supply of wisdom and positive attitude to take me through the long haul.

Goodness gracious. Each time I reached another point in my journey, my eyes saw a whole new world with opportunities to make a difference. Best of all, I was delighted with the affirmation that I was indeed created for much more !

Bars come in all sizes and shapes. Some are physical, others are emotional or even mental. But none can withstand the force of determination that breaks them down. The effort is worth it and the results, simply amazing !

So, batting my long eyelashes to keep out the sand of discouragement, I challenge you !

Step back and peek at what bars limit you. Take a deep breath, break them down, and emerge into the freshness of a new life !

By  Janet Perez Eckles


The homeless man clutched within his sun bleached hand a yellowed photo of a woman who might have been his mother.

His entire worldly possessions lay near his battered shoes. His past, his present, perhaps his future. A tattered journal‘s pages rustled in the wind, speaking memories of days long past. A small bag of faded clothing, a frayed sleeping bag. A barren coffee cup, which might have once held hope.

I watch the front doors of the shelter swing open. The drab building stands in stark contrast against the amber sun, as it slips silently into twilight. The homeless filter in, as they had done the day before, the week before, the month before.

I step into the concrete building where the nations’ forgotten hoped for a hot meal, and a good nights sleep. My gaze falls on men and women as they quietly line up to take their supper. No words were spoken. Perhaps, there was no need.

An elderly man, and a middle-aged woman stood near. A cloak of sadness suddenly overwhelmed me, as I gazed into their stoic faces. The gentle mist in the woman’s kind eye, as she thought of her long lost daughter. A worry line etched across the gentleman’s brow, becoming a living roadmap of his once content existence.

So many people swept under the rug of society. So many who once had hopes and dreams and families, like you or I. So many whisked away into a dark corner of the city. Too many.

They lined up in robotic silence in the cafeteria, and methodically took their trays. The only sound to be heard was the whisk of the plastic moving across the metal bars in front of the food counter. Volunteers dropped spoonfuls of gruel onto the plates, as each quietly passed by.

One by one, they took a seat. The hushed atmosphere was unlike any cafeteria I’d ever found a meal in; many a schoolteacher might trade her very degree to behold such order and respect each had for one another.

I glanced down the darkened hall near me. Row after row of the homeless lay upon their blankets, the only thing shielding them from the unforgiving concrete floor, and from the world.

A gymnasium brimming to almost overflow of mothers and dads and even sons and daughters. Bursting at the seams with uncles and aunts, and maybe even a forgotten friend or two.

I taste a salty tear as I attempt in vain to nonchalantly stroll amongst the forgotten, amongst the down trodden.

I wanted to be one with them. I wanted to feel in my heart, to the deepest crevices of my soul, what it meant to have nothing. No home, no job, no love. No medical care, no vehicle, not even a toothbrush to call their own. And, worst of all, no smile to greet them when the great wings of the morning awaken them to their daily plight.

I carefully studied their sleeping faces, searching for my father who had disappeared in the night the week before. Row after row my gaze fell upon, as I struggled to comprehend why so many people had no where to call home.

Some had pillows over their heads as they slept. Others tossed and turned, trying desperately to find comfort which didn’t exist in a place like this. Nor, would comfort come when they were turned back into the city at sunrise. Comfort was not something that was a part of their existence. Comfort only came in the form of a blanket and pillow and warm meal within the shelter, come nightfall.

I whisper a silent prayer as I quietly slip away into the moonlight. As I make my way back home, I realize the search for my father had, in essence, opened my eyes to the world around me. Perhaps a divine force had driven me to seek him out in the homeless shelter. For now, I see with clarity that the homeless are one of us. They could be your old friend. They might have been your minister, or your co-worker. They might have been a hero on a battlefield. They might even be your dad.

My father was not amongst them, but would be found safe soon thereafter. He was the lucky one. He had someone to come home to.

The homeless did not ask to be where they are. They were not born homeless. They walk amongst us, hoping for another chance to prove themselves. Hoping to find acceptance, and most importantly, to find one person, only one, who cares. That is all they ask. To once and for all throw that cloak of obscurity aside, and walk with pride within society, as they once did.

Today, I have tasted the tears of humility. But, I will be back. I will let them know there is a greater force above who smiles down on them. That one day they too will once again fly on the wings of the morning. I will be that smiling face on the other side of the food counter, where together, we will drink from that cup called hope. 

“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;  
when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Isaiah 58:7

Shelley Madden

No comments:

Post a Comment