Saturday, December 31, 2011

A True Friend

Lily is a Great Dane that has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last 5 years, Maddison, another Great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable.

















"People will forget what you said; People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel."

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Unintended Consequences of Internet Regulation

Would you be outraged if the Department of Justice shut down The Foundry [1] without any warning and blocked access for more than a year?

That’s exactly what happened to a hip-hop blog called Dajaz1.com [2], which was falsely accused of criminal copyright infringement [3]. The blog posted music from artists promoting their work. But federal authorities viewed it differently. They seized the domain name, then shared virtually no information with its owner for more than year. Only recently did they quietly drop the case [4].

The government’s handling of this hip-hop blog is fueling fears about legislation moving quickly through Congress [5] that addresses copyright infringement and online piracy.

The Stop Online Piracy Act [6], or SOPA as it’s known in the House, and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act [7] would give the U.S. attorney general the power and authority to block criminal enterprises from trafficking in illegal products online.

Their cause is a noble one. Business incur significant losses when Americans buy counterfeit items. Consumers must also be increasingly vigilant about purchases they make online. Federal authorities shut down more than 150 websites [8] just last month for pirated goods.

But the two bills making their way through Congress are the wrong solution. They pose serious threats to freedom of speech and expression and raise security concerns [9]. With the Senate possibly voting on the PROTECT IP Act in January and the House moving forward with hearings on SOPA, Americans should understand what’s at stake [10].

As the case with Dajaz1.com illustrates, the federal government already has the ability to shut down U.S.-based websites. A growing number of so-called “rogue sites” are located outside the United States, however, limiting the government’s ability to block them.

SOPA would give Attorney General Eric Holder and individual intellectual property holders the ability to sue these rogue sites if they were “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” The government, through a court order, could take these four steps:

    Require Internet service providers to prevent subscribers from reaching the website in question;
    Prohibit search engines such as Google from providing direct links to the foreign website in search results;
    Prohibit payment network providers, such as PayPal or credit card firms, from completing financial transactions affecting the site; and
    Bar Internet advertising firms from placing online ads from or to the affected website.

“The legislation addresses a legitimate problem,” wrote Heritage’s regulatory policy expert James Gattuso [9], “but it may have unintended negative consequences for the operation of the Internet and free speech.”

Free speech: The legislation gives the government the authority to tamper with Internet search results by requiring firms like Google to block links to infringing websites. Placing this limit on information providers is troubling and arguably a violation of the First Amendment [11]. Besides, Washington’s appetite for power is uncontrollable, and this would almost certainly lead to a slippery slope of unwanted interference in the future.

Internet security: Criminals would almost certainly discover new ways to circumvent the government’s measures. But the most glaring security problem with SOPA is the damage it would cause to DNSSEC [12], the new Internet system designed to limit certain crimes. This would jeopardize security across the Internet, potentially creating new challenges.

“The federal government needs to protect intellectual property rights,” Gattuso concluded in his analysis [9]. “But it should do so in a way that does not disrupt the growth of technology, does not weaken Internet security, respects free speech rights, and solves the problem of rogue sites.”

The debate over SOPA is already among the most intense and polarizing taking place in Washington — and rightfully so. With concerns about free speech and Internet security taking center stage, lawmakers would be wise to look at alternatives [13] when they return in January.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Calendar Revolution Begins in Three Days

January 1, 2012 is the target date for the first use of a new calendar devised by a Johns Hopkins astrophysicist, Richard Conn Henry, and Hopkins economist, Steven H. Hanke. Its signal innovation: Year to year, dates would fall on the same day of the week. Beginning in 2012, in other words, Christmas and New Year’s Day would forever fall on  Sunday — and your birthday would henceforth be associated with one specific day.


The goal is for the calendar to be in universal use by 2017.


“Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays,” Henry said in a statement. The calendar would accomplish this by means of a 364-day year — augmented every five or six years with an extra week tacked on at the end. Otherwise, the rhythm of months would be more regular than what we’re used to: January and February have 30 days, March 31; and that pattern (30 days/30/31) would repeat itself throughout the year.


Convenience aside — “Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world,” Henry said — the calendar would also make many financial calculations simpler. All sorts of such calculations involving mortgages, bonds, “swaps,” and the like currently have to take into account the existing irregular month lengths, and there’s often a “rip-off factor,” the scholars say.


That Christmas would always fall on a Sunday “will be pleasing to Christians,” Henry writes on a website devoted to the project, “but will also be pleasing to companies who currently lose up to two weeks of work to the Christmas/New Year’s annual mess.”


One advantage their plan has over previous reform calendars is that it doesn’t deal with the issue of keeping the year in sync with the seasons by adding partial weeks, creating weeks without a Sabbath. In contrast, the so called Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar “Fully Respects the Fourth Commandment of the Bible.”


2017 is the target for the worldwide implementation of the calendar. Skeptical they can meet that target? The final entry in the project’s FAQ (go here and scroll down) is “Well, I still say you are going to fail.” To which Henry responds:

Oh yes? I vividly remember phoning my elderly mother, in my native Canada, some years before she died: and with astonishment hearing her quite casually say, “it was very hot today, 30 degrees.” What this shows is that a nice conservative old lady was able to totally adapt to an alien idea, the Celsius temperature scale. We are all adaptable! … It CAN be done, folks, and the decision is YOURS, not mine. Each of you.
Come to think of it, maybe our collective acceptance of the Celsius scale is not the precise point to stress. That quibble aside, are you onboard?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moose Up a Pole !!!

Pogo Moose Incident - Bracebridge, Canada - 1 hr.45min.
North of Toronto. They were laying new power cables which were strung on the ground for miles. The moose are rutting right now and very agitated. He was thrashing around and got his antlers stuck in the cables. When the men (miles away) began pulling the lines up with their big equipment, the moose went up with them. They noticed excess tension in the lines and went searching for the problem. He was still alive when they lowered him to the ground. He was a huge 60 inch bull and slightly teed off!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Computers Sometimes Crash! by Dr. Seuss.

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,
and the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.



If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
and the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
and your data is corrupted cause the index doesn't hash,
 then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!



If the label on the cable on the table at your house,
says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
but your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,
that's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall.



And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
 so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse;
then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
'cuz sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang.



When the copy on your floppy's getting sloppy in the disk,
and the macro code instructions is causing unnecessary risk,
then you'll have to flash the memory 

and you'll want to RAM your ROM,
and then quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your Mom!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Cat


THE SEED

An emperor in the Far East was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different.

 He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you. "The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today - one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor."

 One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

 After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure.

 Six months went by--still nothing in Ling's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

 A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.

 Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful--in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey, nice try."

 When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown," said the emperor.

 "Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor."

 All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"

 When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

 Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.

 When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

 If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
 If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
 If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
 If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory.
 If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
 If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
 If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
 If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.

 So let us be careful about what we plant now; it will determine what we will reap tomorrow. The seeds we now scatter will make life worse or better for us or for the ones who will come after us. Someday we will enjoy the fruits or will pay for the choices we make. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Blessings


Merry Christmas

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” 

Luke 2:11-14 KJV

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Soldier's Christmas Poem

T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,

HE LIVED ALL ALONE,

IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE,

MADE OF PLASTER AND STONE. 



I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY,

WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,

AND TO SEE JUST WHO,

IN THIS HOME, DID LIVE. 


I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,

A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,

NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,

NOT EVEN A TREE. 



NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,

JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,

ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES,

OF FAR DISTANT LANDS. 




WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,

AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,

A SOBER THOUGHT,

CAME THROUGH MY MIND.. 





FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,

IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,

 
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,

ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.  



THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,

SILENT, ALONE,

CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR,

IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.  




WAS THIS THE HERO,   

OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?

CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,  

THE FLOOR FOR A BED?  




I REALISED THE FAMILIES,
 
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,

OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS,

WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.  




SOON ROUND THE WORLD,

THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,

AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE,

A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.  




THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM,

EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,

BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,

LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.  




I COULDN'T HELP WONDER,

HOW MANY LAY ALONE,

ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE,

IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.  






THE VERY THOUGHT BROUGHT,

A TEAR TO MY EYE,

I DROPPED TO MY KNEES,

AND STARTED TO CRY.  




THE SOLDIER AWAKENED,

AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,

"SANTA DON'T CRY,

THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;  




I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,

I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,

MY LIFE IS MY GOD,

MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.."  




THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,

I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,

I CONTINUED TO WEEP.  




I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,

SO SILENT AND STILL,

AND WE BOTH SHIVERED,

FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.  




I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE,

ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,

THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR,

SO WILLING TO FIGHT.  




THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,

WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA,

IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."  




ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,

 AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,  

                                    AND TO ALL A GOOD   NIGHT."

Friday, December 23, 2011

To all my friends...


To All My Democrat Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Shopping

A married couple had been out shopping at the mall for most of the afternoon, suddenly, the wife realized that her husband had "disappeared".


The somewhat irate spouse called her mate’s cell phone and demanded: 
Where the hell are you?


Husband: Darling you remember that Jewelry shop where you saw the Diamond Necklace and totally fell in love with it and I didn't have money that time and said Baby it'll be yours one day.


Wife, with a smile blushing … Yes, I remember that my Love.  

Husband: Well, I'm in the Bar next to that shop.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

I will be making a conscious effort to wish everyone
A Merry Christmas this year ...
My way of saying that I am celebrating
The birth Of Jesus Christ.
So I am asking my email buddies,
If you agree with me,
To please do the same.
And if you'll pass this on to
your email buddies, and so on...
Maybe we can prevent one more
American tradition from being lost in the sea of
                                                                   "Political Correctness".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caution about drinking and driving this Christmas Season!


I would like to share an experience with you all, about drinking and driving.
As you well know, some of us have been known to have had brushes with the
authorities on our way home from the odd social session over the years.

A couple of nights ago, I was out for a few drinks with some friends 
and had a few too many beers and some rather nice claret.

Knowing full well I may have been slightly over the limit,
I did something I've never done before - I took a bus home.

I arrived home safely and without incident, which was a real surprise,
as I have never driven a bus before and am not sure where I got this one.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Wise Men Needed!


'IF' by rudyard kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:


If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:


If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;


If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:


If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:


If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Wonder of Christmas - Celebrating the Birth of a Savior and King!

There is no doubt that the Christmas story is filled with wonder and awe. It fills young and old with delight that is even more enjoyable and amazing because it is all true!


Shepherds, at the bottom of the social fabric of that time, were entertained and blessed by a choir of angels that filled the night with glory and hope. Mysterious wise men from the East followed a star that brought them to a manger in Bethlehem, where they presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Then there is the centerpiece of the story; a young couple, probably still teenagers, who were uniquely chosen to bring the Christ-child into the world. They faced a challenge of faith and courage that was undergirded by angelic visitations!


Mary, the young virgin maiden, was with child without ever knowing a man and before marriage; an outward looking scandal by any stretch of the imagination. Then there was Joseph, who had to endure the gossip and “whispering” of a community who knew nothing of the angelic announcement heralding the birth of Jesus.


More sinister still was the plot to kill the child and, by so doing, frustrate the will and purpose of God for world redemption. The Christmas story is truly beautiful, amazing and thought provoking. For Christians, it teaches us:


1. That Christmas is worth celebrating since all of Heaven did so and gave beautiful voice to the wondrous events that were unfolding in Bethlehem. The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all devote lengthy passages to this story of wonder and great joy. We should do the same.


2. That Christmas is the hope of the world. God became man and did so to save us from our sins and give us a new beginning. The message is ever the same; peace and goodwill to all the world. That is, a peace and goodwill which has to be appropriated individually by repentance and faith in the finished work of the Son of God on the cross.


3. That Christmas has a unique message in the gifts delivered to the Christ-child by the Kings from the East. Gold was a tribute to his identity. He is King of the Jews and the King of Kings of all the world. Frankincense meant his life would be pleasing to God and sinless. And myrrh foreshadowed that he would die for the world and atone for its sins. This is because myrrh was a burial ointment that was used to prepare the body for its final resting place.


4. That Christmas reminds us of a conflict that ever rages over the souls of men. Dark forces were at work on that beautiful, awe inspiring night. They sought to destroy the babe born to Mary and Joseph and thus they ultimately sought the destruction of all of humankind. This battle continues!


We would do well then to gather our families around a beautiful meal on Christmas eve and carefully read this wonderful narrative from the Gospels. Prayers of thanksgiving and joy should ascend to Heaven and sweet carols of years gone by should bathe our souls in the wondrous love of God. We would do well to visit the House of God on Christmas morning and there, together with all the family of God, give thanks for the gift of all gifts that became ours on Christmas Day.


Merry Christmas!


Rev. Malcolm Hedding




Malcolm Hedding is Vice Chairman of the Intenational Christian Embassy Jerusalem and former Executive Director

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Father to Father


This isn’t the way I planned it, God. Not at all. My child being born in a stable? This isn’t the way I thought it would be. A cave with sheep and donkeys, hay and straw? My wife giving birth with only the stars to hear her pain?

This isn’t at all what I imagined. No, I imagined family. I imagined grandmothers. I imagined neighbors clustered outside the door and friends standing at my side. I imagined the house erupting with the first cry of the infant. Slaps on the back. Loud laughter. Jubilation.

That’s how I thought it would be.

But now…Who will celebrate with us? The sheep? The shepherds?
The stars?

This doesn’t seem right. What kind of husband am I? I provide no midwife to aid my wife. No bed to rest her back. Her pillow is a blanket from my donkey.

Did I miss something? Did I, God?

When you sent the angel and spoke of the son being born—this isn’t what I pictured. I envisioned Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the people gathered to watch. A pageant perhaps. A parade. A banquet at least. I mean, this is the Messiah!

Or, if not born in Jerusalem, how about Nazareth? Wouldn’t Nazareth have been better? At least there I have my house and my business. Out here, what do I have? A weary mule, a stack of firewood, and a pot of warm water. This is not the way I wanted it to be!... Forgive me for asking but … is this how God enters the world? The coming of the angel, I’ve accepted. The questions people asked about the pregnancy, I can tolerate. The trip to Bethlehem, fine. But why a birth in a stable, God?

Any minute now Mary will give birth. Not to a child, but to the Messiah. Not to an infant, but to God. That’s what the angel said. That’s what Mary believes. And, God, my God, that’s what I want to believe. But surely you can understand; it’s not easy. 

It seems so … so … so … bizarre.

I’m unaccustomed to such strangeness, God. I’m a carpenter. I make things fit. I square off the edges. I follow the plumb line. I measure twice before I cut once. Surprises are not the friend of a builder. I like to know the plan. I like to see the plan before I begin.

But this time I’m not the builder, am I? This time I’m a tool. A hammer in your grip. A nail between your fingers. A chisel in your hands. This project is yours, not mine.

One Incredible SaviorI guess it’s foolish of me to question you. Forgive my struggling. Trust doesn’t come easy to me, God. But you never said it would be easy, did you?
One final thing, Father. The angel you sent? Any chance you could send another? If not an angel, maybe a person? I don’t know anyone around here and some company would be nice. Maybe the innkeeper or a traveler? 
Even a shepherd would do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Filling Station

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve.
 He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away.
 He had no decorations, no tree, no lights.  It was just another
 day to him.  He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a
 reason to celebrate.  There were no children in his life.
 His wife had gone.
 
 He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling
 for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the
 door opened and a homeless man stepped through.  Instead of
 throwing the man out, George, Old George as he was known by
 his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space
 heater and warmup.
 
 "Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger.
 "I see you're busy.  I'll just go"
 
 "Not without something hot in your belly," George turned and
 opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger.
 "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty.  Stew.  Made it myself.
 When you're done there's coffee and it's fresh."
 
 Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell.
 "Excuse me, be right back," George said.
 
 There in the driveway was an old 53 Chevy.  Steam was rolling
 out of the front.  The driver was panicked.
 
 "Mister can you help me!" said the driver with a deep Spanish
 accent.  "My wife is with child and my car is broken."
 
 George opened the hood.  It was bad.  The block looked cracked
 from the cold; the car was dead.  "You ain't going in this
 thing," George said as he turned away.
 
 "But mister.  Please help...."The door of the office closed
 behind George as he went in.  George went to the office wall
 and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside.
 He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the
 truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.
 
 "Here, you can borrow my truck," he said.  "She ain't the best
 thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."
 
 George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it
 sped off into the night.  George turned and walked back inside
 the office.
 
 "Glad I loaned em the truck.  Their tires were shot too.
 That 'ol truck has brand new tires........" George thought he
 was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone.  The thermos
 was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it.
 
 "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.
 George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start.
 It cranked slowly, but it started.  He pulled it into the garage
 where the truck had been.  He thought he would tinker with it
 for something to do.  Christmas Eve meant no customers.
 He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom
 hose on the radiator.
 
 "Well, I can fix this," he said to himself.  So he put a new one
 on.  "Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter
 either."  He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln.
 They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car.
 
 As he was working he heard a shot being fired.  He ran outside
 and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground.
 Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Help me."
 George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training
 he had received in the Army as a medic.  He knew the wound
 needed attention.
 
 "Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought.  The laundry
 company had been there that morning and had left clean shop
 towels.  He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.
 
 "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to
 make the policeman feel at ease.  "Something for pain," George
 thought.  All he had was the pills he used for his back.  "These
 ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the
 policeman the pills.
 
 "You hang in there.  I'm going to get you an ambulance." George
 said, but the phone was dead.  "Maybe I can get one of your
 buddies on that there talk box out in your police car."
 
 He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the
 dashboard destroying the two way radio.  He went back in to find
 the policeman sitting up.
 
 "Thanks," said the officer.  "You could have left me there.
 The guy that shot me is still in the area."
 
 George sat down beside him.  "I would never leave an injured man
 in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the
 bandage to check for bleeding.  "Looks worse than what it is.
 Bullet passed right through 'ya.  Good thing it missed the
 important stuff though.  I think with time your gonna be right
 as rain."
 
 George got up and poured a cup of coffee.  "How do you take it?"
 he asked.
 
 "None for me," said the officer.
 
 "Oh, yer gonna drink this.  Best in the city." Then George
 added: "Too bad I ain't got no donuts."
 
 The officer laughed and winced at the same time.  The front door
 of the office flew open.  In burst a young man with a gun.
 
 "Give me all your cash!  Do it now!" the young man yelled.
 His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never
 done anything like this before.
 
 "That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.
 
 "Son, why are you doing this?" asked George.  "You need to put
 the cannon away.  Somebody else might get hurt."
 
 The young man was confused.  "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot
 you, too.  Now give me the cash!"
 The cop was reaching for his gun.
 
 "Put that thing away," George said to the cop.  "We got one too
 many in here now."
 
 He turned his attention to the young man.  "Son, it's Christmas
 Eve.  If you need the money, well then, here.  It ain't much but
 it's all I got.  Now put that pee shooter away."
 
 George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young
 man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.  The
 young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and
 began to cry.
 
 "I'm not very good at this am I?  All I wanted was to buy
 something for my wife and son," he went on.  "I've lost my job.
 My rent is due.  My car got repossessed last week..."
 
 George handed the gun to the cop.  "Son, we all get in a bit of
 squeeze now and then.  The road gets hard sometimes, but we
 make it through the best we can."
 
 He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair
 across from the cop.  "Sometimes we do stupid things." George
 handed the young man a cup of coffee.  "Being stupid is one of
 the things that makes us human.  Comin' in here with a gun ain't
 the answer.  Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this
 thing out."
 
 The young man had stopped crying.  He looked over to the cop.
 "Sorry I shot you.  It just went off.  I'm sorry officer."
 
 "Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.
 
 George could hear the sounds of sirens outside.  A police car
 and an ambulance skidded to a halt.  Two cops came through the
 door, guns drawn.
 
 "Chuck!  You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.
 
 "Not bad for a guy who took a bullet.  How did you find me?"
 
 "GPS locator in the car.  Best thing since sliced bread.  Who
 did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.
 
 Chuck answered him, "I don't know.  The guy ran off into the
 dark.  Just dropped his gun and ran."
 
 George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.
 "That guy works here," the wounded cop continued.
 
 "Yep," George said.  "Just hired him this morning.  Boy lost his
 job."
 
 The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher.
 The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered,
 "Why?"
 
 Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas, boy.  And you too, George,
 and thanks for everything."
 
 "Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there.  That
 ought to solve some of your problems." George went into the
 back room and came out with a box.  He pulled out a ring box.
 
 "Here you go.  Something for the little woman.  I don't think
 Martha would mind.  She said it would come in handy some day."
 
 The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he
 ever saw.  "I can't take this," said the young man.
 "It means something to you."
 
 "And now it means something to you," replied George.
 "I got my memories.  That's all I need."
 
 George reached into the box again.  A toy airplane, a racing
 car and a little metal truck appeared next.  They were toys
 that the oil company had left for him to sell.  "Here's
 something for that little man of yours."
 
 The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150
 that the old man had handed him earlier.  "And what are you
 supposed to buy Christmas dinner with?  You keep that, too.
 Count it as part of your first week's pay." George said.
 "Now git home to your family."
 
 The young man turned with tears streaming down his face.
 "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is
 still good."
 
 "Nope.  I'm closed Christmas day," George said.  "See ya the
 day after."
 
 George turned around to find that the stranger had returned.
 "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"
 
 "I have been here.  I have always been here," said the stranger.
 "You say you don't celebrate Christmas.  Why?"
 
 "Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all
 the bother was.  Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a
 good pine tree.  Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just
 wasn't the same by myself and besides I was getting a little
 chubby."
 
 The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder.  "But you do
 celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me food and drink and
 warmed me when I was cold and hungry.  The woman with child
 will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.
 
 The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being
 killed by terrorists.  The young man who tried to rob you will
 become a rich man and share his wealth with many people.
 
 That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any
 man."
 
 George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.  "And how
 do you know all this?" asked the old man.
 
 "Trust me, George.  I have the inside track on this sort of
 thing.  And when your days are done you will be with Martha
 again."  The stranger moved toward the door.
 
 "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now.  I have to
 go home where there is a big celebration planned."
 
 George watched as the man's old leather jacket and his torn
 pants turned into a white robe.  A golden light began to fill
 the room.
 
 "You see, George, it's My birthday.  Merry Christmas."
 
Author Unknown

Thursday, December 15, 2011

From: Santa Claus

I regret to inform you that, effective immediately, I will no longer serve the States of Georgia, Florida, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama on Christmas Eve.

 Due to the overwhelming current population of the earth, my contract was renegotiated by North American Fairies and Elves Local 209. As part of the new and better contract, I also get longer breaks for milk and cookies so keep that in mind.

 However, I'm certain that your children will be in good hands with your local replacement, who happens to be my third cousin, Joe Bob Claus. His side of the family is from the South Pole. He shares my goal of delivering toys to all the good boys and girls; however, there are a few differences between us.

Differences such as:

 1. There is no danger of the Grinch stealing your presents from Joe Bob Claus. He has a gun rack on his sleigh and a bumper sticker that reads: "These toys insured by Smith and Wesson."

 2. Instead of milk and cookies, Joe Bob Claus prefers that children leave an RC cola and pork rinds [or a moon pie] on the fireplace. And Bubba doesn't smoke a pipe. He dips a little snuff though, so please have an empty spit can handy.

 3. Joe Bob Claus' sleigh is pulled by floppy-eared, flyin' coon dogs instead of reindeer. I made the mistake of loaning him a couple of my reindeer one time, and Blitzen's head now overlooks Joe Bob's fireplace.

 4. You won't hear "On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen.." when Bubba Claus arrives. Instead, you'll hear, "On Earnhardt, on Gordon, on Elliott and Petty."

 5. "Ho, Ho, Ho!" has been replaced by "Yee Haw!" And you also are likely to hear Joe Bob's elves respond, "I heer'd dat!"

 6. As required by Southern highway laws, Joe Bob Claus' sleigh does have a Yosemite Sam safety triangle on the back with the words "Back Off."

 7. The usual Christmas movie classics such as "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life" will not be shown in your negotiated viewing area. Instead, you'll see "Boss Hogg Saves Christmas" and "Smokey and the Bandit IV" featuring Burt Reynolds as Joe Bob Claus and dozens of state patrol cars crashing into each other.

 8. Joe Bob Claus doesn't wear a belt. If I were you, I'd make sure you, the wife, and the kids turn the other way when he bends over to put presents under the tree.

 Sincerely Yours, Santa Claus

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Walking Is Meditation in Motion

Spirited walking can soothe a frayed mind


Spirited walking -- being mindful at a brisk pace -- is just as soothing for a frayed mind as meditation. 
"Spirited walking" means finding a connection with something bigger than yourself -- and you can do that while walking. Some people say it's Mother Nature, it's God, it's the spirit of life. Whatever "it" is for you, anytime you find a connection with it, you're having a spirited and spiritual experience. There's a high that comes from combining walking and mindfulness. I wrote The Spirited Walker because I wanted to spread the word about the kind of peace, quiet, and stress release that comes from shutting out everything else, even for 5 minutes. It's like meditating in motion.

How to do it: Walk by yourself in silence, then:

1. Focus on the in and the out. Start by simply saying "in" and then "out" with your steps . . . it puts your mind in a sort of relaxing trance. I still do it every single time I start a walk. One step, in; next step, out. The rhythmic pattern tunes you in to what your body is doing.

2. Then, count it out. Add counting and breathing to your pattern: Breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of four. This takes more concentration because we're not used to breathing in and out equally. Concentrating keeps you in the moment, which prevents your mind from wandering and worrying about everything else.

3. Do a sensory scan. For a full minute, focus on what you're seeing, smelling, hearing, and even feeling under your feet. If you feel the wind on your face or hear the birds flying overhead -- focus on those sensations. If your mind wanders, don't worry. If you smell coffee from someone's kitchen, and it reminds you that you need to buy some, simply tell your mind, "Thank you very much," and go back to smelling the coffee, not starting a grocery list. This helps you practice being tuned in to what's around you. It makes you present and focuses or releases all the thoughts rattling in your head, so you get some mental peace.

Why you don't need to slow down. Both spirited walking and speed walking (I have bronze and silver medals from the USA Masters Track & Field National Championships in speed walking) work WITH your body. When I started doing speed-walking races in my 40s, I had to stop the negative talk in my head ("You're not going fast enough; you're not doing it right.") in order to win. It turned out to be about making an alliance with my mind and my body instead of trying to control them.

No time? Try a "5-Minute Miracle Walk." That's a brisk walk around the block. If I'm reaching a point of tension in my body or of fear in my spirit -- some sort of mini crisis -- I go out for what I call a 5-Minute Miracle Walk. Instead of reaching for a glass of wine or scanning the fridge for something to eat, I walk. It doesn't make the problem go away, but it helps, because I come back with a dose of fresh air and clarity. Sometimes I do the Miracle Walk several times a day.

My favorite walk of all time. It was in the Lake District in England, home of the Romantic poets (Wordsworth, living in the 1800s, seemed to have thought nothing of walking for 6 hours to visit a friend). It's rugged and harsh, yet astonishingly beautiful. That pleasure in movement and creative meditation of long walks is probably what I also find in the Lake District some 200 years later.


By Carolyn Scott Kortge, 67, author of The Spirited Walker

Monday, December 12, 2011

Saying Grace In A Restaurant

Last  week, I took my children to a restaurant.

My six-year-old son asked if  he could say grace.

As we bowed our heads he said, 'God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if  Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!'

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, 'That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. 


Asking God for ice cream! Why, I  never!'

Hearing this, my son burst into  tears and asked me, 'Did I do it wrong? Is God  mad at me?'

As I held him and assured him  that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, 'I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.'

'Really?' my son  asked.

'Cross my heart,' the man  replied.

Then, in a theatrical whisper,  he added (indicating the woman whose remark had  started this whole thing), 'Too bad she never  asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is  good for the soul sometimes.'

Naturally,  I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment, and  then did something I will remember the rest of my life.

He picked up his sundae and,  without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told  her, 'Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already'



The  End.

I hope God sends you some Ice Cream today! 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas

In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone.  The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was two. 

 Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared.  Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds. He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either.

 If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade  dress. I loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.

 The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whomever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job. Still no luck.

 The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel. An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour and I could start that night.

 I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal.

 That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel. When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money-fully half of what I averaged every night. As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home. One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken up residence in Indiana? I wondered.

 I made a deal with the owner of the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires. I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn't enough.

 Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys. Then I hid them in the basement so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants and soon they would be too far gone to repair. On Christmas Eve, the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. These were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe.

 A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home before the sun came up. When it was time for me to go home at 7:00 A.M. on Christmas morning, I hurried to the car. I was hoping the kids wouldn't wake up before I managed to get home and get the presents from the basement and place them under the tree. We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by the dump. It was still dark and I couldn't see much, but there appeared to be some dark shadows in the car-or was that just a trick of the night?

 Something certainly looked different, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered warily into one of the side windows Then my jaw dropped in amazement. My old battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver's side door, scrambled inside and kneeled in the front facing the back seat.

 Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was a whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes: There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was a whole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll. As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning.

 Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Praying for Afghanistan

“Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance.”
-Proverbs 20:18

You formed the planets and stars, separated the land from the waters, and fashioned man with Your hands. You laid the foundations of the world in Your wisdom, and in Your wisdom You sent Jesus to reconcile men back to Yourself. All wisdom and power belong to You!


Lord, we ask that You would give the leaders of Afghanistan divine wisdom for victory in this conflict. Show them the political routes to lasting peace, and give them military strategies that will end the fighting quickly with few casualties. Release peace to the land of Afghanistan through Your wisdom that is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits…”

Thank You God that no conflict is too complex for You to solve, no army too mighty for You to conquer. Bring down the forces of darkness that cause contention with the power of Your hand. Victory belongs to our God!

Friday, December 9, 2011

God, the Marine and the Spider

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

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

 As he waited, he prayed, Lord, if it be your will, please protect me.

  Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen. After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close. He thought, Well, I guess the Lord is not going to help me out of this one.

 Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave. As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave.

 He thought what I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web. God does have a sense of humor.

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

 We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget the victories that God would work in our lives, sometimes in the most surprising ways. As the great leader, Nehemiah, reminded the people of Israel when they faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, In God we will have success! [Nehemiah 2:20]

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


 Have an awesome day, and know that someone who thinks you're great has thought about you today!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

John 3:16

A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, the people were in and out of the cold.

The little boy was so cold that he wasn't trying to sell many papers.

He walked up to a policeman and said,  'Mister, you wouldn't happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you?

You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley and it's awful cold in there for tonight. Sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.'

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, 'You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they come out the door you just say John 3:16, and they will let you in.'

So he did. He walked up the steps and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. He looked up and said, 'John 3:16 .' The lady said, 'Come on in, Son.'

She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace, and she went off.. The boy sat there for a while and thought to himself:
John 3:16 ....I don't understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.

Later she came back and asked him 'Are you hungry? 'He said, 'Well, just a little. I haven't eaten in a couple of days, and I guess I could stand a little bit of food,'

The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn't eat anymore. Then he thought to himself: John 3:16...                   
Boy, I sure don't understand it but it sure makes a hungry boy full.

She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water, and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself: John 3:16 ...
I sure don't understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean.

You know, I've not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.


The lady came in and got him. She took him to a room, tucked him into a big old feather bed, pulled the covers up around his neck, kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he lay in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night, he thought to himself: John 3:16 .....
I don't understand it but it sure makes a tired boy rested.

The next morning the lady came back up and took himdown again to that same big table full of food. After he ate, she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and picked up a big old Bible.

She sat down in front of him and looked into his young face..
'Do you understand John 3:16 ? ' she asked gently. He replied, 'No, Ma'am, I don't. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to use it,'


She opened the Bible to John 3:16 and began to explain to him about Jesus . Right there, in front of that big old fireplace, he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought: John 3:16 –
I don't understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.

You know, I have to confess I don't understand it either, how God was willing to send His Son to die for me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don't understand the agony of the Father and every angel in heaven as they watched Jesus suffer and die. I don't understand the intense love for ME that kept Jesus on the cross till the end. I don't understand it, but it sure does make life worth living.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life....

If you aren't ashamed to do this, please follow the directions .

Jesus said, 'If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.' Pass this on only if you mean it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

EARTHLY ANGELS PAY A VISIT

It was Christmas Eve 1949. I was 15 and feeling sad because there was not enough money to buy me the dress that I wanted. We did the chores early that night, so I figured Pa wanted a little extra time for us to read the Bible.

After supper, I took off my boots, stretched out by the fireplace and waited for Pa to start reading. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, 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.

It was a cold, clear night, and the ice was in Pa’s beard when he came back in. “Come on Elizabeth,” he said. “Bundle up. It’s cold out.”

I was upset. Not only wasn’t I getting the dress, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold. I put on my coat and boots, and Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door. Something was up.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There, in front of the house, was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever we were going to do wasn’t going to be a quick job.

I reluctantly climbed up beside Pa, the cold already biting me. We pulled in front of the woodshed, put on the high sideboards and started loading wood---the wood we spent all summer hauling down from the mountain and all fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

Finally, I asked, “Pa, what are you doing?”

“You been by the widow Clark’s lately?” he asked.

Mrs. Clark lived about 2 miles down the road. Her husband had died a year before and left her with three children.

“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jake was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Elizabeth.”

That was all he said, and we loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Pa then went to the smokehouse and took down a big ham and a side of bacon, telling me to go load them. He returned to the sled carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

“What’s in the sack?” I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jake had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile. I got the children a little candy, too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without candy.”

We rode the 2 miles to the Clarks’ place in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We did have a big woodpile, meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money. Widow Clark had closer neighbors than we did; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We unloaded the wood and went to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack, and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “James cotton, ma’am, and my daughter, Elizabeth. Could we come in for a bit?”

Mrs. Clark opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were huddled beneath another blanket, sitting in front of a small fire in the fireplace. Widow Clark fumbled with a match and lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set the sack of flour and meat on the table. Pa handed her the other sack. She opened it hesitatingly and took out the shoes, one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children---sturdy shoes that would last.

She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling as tears filled her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She looked at Pa as if 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, “Elizabeth, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire roaring and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

We soon had the fire blazing, and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids giggled when Pa handed them each a piece of candy, and Widow Clark looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time.

“God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord sent you. The children and I prayed that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

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, the Lord made sure he got things right.

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 was glad that I still had mine.

At the door, Pa turned to Widow Clark and said, “The missus 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 11. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again.” Mrs. Clark nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Cotton, I don’t have to say, ‘May the Lord bless.’ I know for certain that he will.”

On the sled, after we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and explained that he and Ma had tucked away money here and there all year for my dress. Yesterday, on the way to town, he had seen little Jake with his feet wrapped in gunny sacks. “I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.” I understood very well, and I was glad Pa had done it. My father had given me a lot more than a dress. He had given me the look on Widow Clark’s face, the smiles of her children and the best Christmas memory of my life.

By Charlene Elizabeth Baltimore, Scottsburg, Indiana