Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday's inspirational story: His Mysterious Ways

His Mysterious Ways 
by A. Samuel Mattson
Jobs were hard to find in New York City in 1930. Just 19, I was fresh off the boat from Sweden and didn’t speak any English.
When I'd boarded the train in my hometown of Karlskrona, Sweden, a woman next to me had asked, "Where are you going?"
“America,” I said. “To make a new start.”
My cousin Lars works in New York City, she informed me. At the Steinway piano factory. “Look him up when you get there.” She wrote on a piece of paper, handed it to me and said, “God be with you.”
It was a sweltering New York day when I set out in search of the factory. I had no idea where it was. I wandered the city for hours, showing people that scrap of paper, which bore four words: Lars Olsen-Steinway Piano. Nobody was able to help me.
I was disappointed, and so tired. When I saw a parked car I opened the door and slid into the front seat. Where I was from anyone could rest in someone else’s wagon or cart. I hoped the same was true here.
I soon fell asleep, but was jolted awake by the blast of a whistle. Workmen streamed out of a nearby building. One of them yelled at me, in English. What is he so upset about? I answered instinctively in Swedish that I was sorry. Amazingly, he responded in Swedish, “What are you doing in my car?” I explained, then showed him that piece of paper. The man smiled. He said the whistle I had heard announced the end of the workday at Steinway & Sons. Then he walked me around the corner and introduced me to someone who got me a job as a painter.
By now you’ve probably guessed. The man who owned the car was Lars Olsen.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Providence of God that gets us involved (Psalm 68:6)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 68:6 (TM) – larger reading Psalm 68:1-10
God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom, but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

On the front porch of his little country store in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln and Berry, his partner, stood. Business was all gone, and Berry asked, "How much longer can we keep this going?" Lincoln answered, "It looks as if our business has just about winked out." Then he continued, "You know, I wouldn't mind so much if I could just do what I want to do. I want to study law. I wouldn't mind so much if we could sell everything we've got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book--Blackstone's Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can't." A strange-looking wagon was coming up the road. The driver angled it up close to the store porch, then looked at Lincoln and said, "I'm trying to move my family out west, and I'm out of money. I've got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents." Abraham Lincoln's eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, face thin and emaciated. Lincoln ran his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, "the last fifty cents I had" and said, "I reckon I could use a good barrel." All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. Berry kept chiding Lincoln about it. Late in the evening Lincoln walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn't noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood petrified: it was Blackstone's Commentary on English Law. Lincoln later wrote, "I stood there holding the book and looking up toward the heavens. There came a deep impression on me that God had something for me to do and He was showing he now that I had to get ready for it. Why this miracle otherwise?"
“God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform,” (William Cowper) is often associated with the idea of the providence of God. The example from the life of Lincoln could well fit into that wonderful idea. God had other plans for Lincoln or so we could assume. And us?

The psalmist wrote about God providing homes for the homeless and a path to freedom for those in prison… and so, we can just sit back a allow God to work out is providence. Right? Wrong!... unless we see ourselves and our efforts as the providence of God.

I believe that God will never do what he has given us the ability to do. Why should he? We have the resources and the ability all that is lacking is the determination and the commitment to make it happen.

Or do we just sit back and allow others to do what God has/is calling us to do? The providence of God is the motivating factor that comes into play here. The providence of God is that he has planted us squarely in the middle of the problem saying, “Now solve it!”


Thanks for nothing God. Just when we begin to think that we can sit back and rest, you give us another task to complete, another responsibility to fulfill, another opportunity to help out. Truthfully, Lord, we sure liked this “Providence of God” when you did it all for us instead of getting us involved.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God is still on the job! (1 Peter 4:12)

SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 4:12 (TM) – larger reading 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job.

Elmer Bendiner's describes a bombing run over the German city of Kassel: Our B-17 (THE TONDELAYO) was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tanks--eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. Even after thirty-five years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them. One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually, they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: "This is all we can do for you now."

How often do we question God’s involvement in our life? Too often is my guess. The answers when they come are not to our liking so our conclusion: God doesn’t care. The predicaments that cause us to have our backs up against the wall are too often seen as some sort of punishment from the Almighty God. Where is God in all this mess we call life? Why has he abandoned us? Why is there a “no” at the end of every situation?

The providence of God can be found in the little things – like bombs with no explosives, strength to get through another day, a kindly teacher who is willing to give a failing student another chance, peace in the midst of pain – “just” the providence of God. But they are might deeds that come to us at the point of our greatest need. Too often we fail to see or recognize it as such, but the providence of God nevertheless it is. We give thanks… or at least it is hoped that we do.

And so, when things just happen and solutions are found in an unlikely manner please don’t take them for granted. Rather give thanks to a God who cares, for a God who looks after his children. God is still on the job!


Thank you for being on the job, God – thank you for providing an answer when everything else seems to fail.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Trying not to burn the cargo to win the race (Philemon 15-16)

SCRIPTURE: Philemon 15-16 – larger reading Philemon
Maybe it's all for the best that you lost him for a while. You're getting him back now for good - and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That's what he was to me - he'll be even more than that to you.

Clovis Chappell, a minister from a century back, used to tell the story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail's pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South.
One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship's cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.

It has been shared too many times as far as I am concerned. The statements usually goes like this: “Oh, I haven’t talked with my (insert parents, sibling, child) for (insert a number of years).” It is shared more as statement of fact than with little to no regret. It is shared with no expression of wishing to heal the relationship. It is painful to hear because that is not the way God intends life to be lived. What they are doing is “burning their cargo” called family. What is achieved? Nothing, absolutely nothing! The person talking usually goes on to say: “Well, they know where I live if they want to make it right.”

Philemon is a short book of only 25 verses. It was a letter pleading for a slave owner, Philemon, to accept back a slave by the name of Onesimus. Unusual circumstances. Onesimus had stolen from his owner and ran away. Philemon had every reason to be angry. We couldn’t blame him. Paul is writing for Onesimus not asking for Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery, but to free him from anger. Grace always trumps justice. Love always wins over anger.

Here in this short letter Paul appeals to a higher law that sets all individuals free regardless of their previous acts or deeds.

Is there an “Onesimus” in our life that needs our grace and not our justice? Is there someone who needs to receive our love and not our anger? Or, maybe we can be the “Paul” for someone else – pleading a case for grace.


Guide us oh great Jehovah that we will give grace to the “Onesimus” in our life and step in to be the “Paul” for others. Help us oh great Jehovah, help us to be a healing force in the world.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday's Inspirational Story - Making Friends, Losing Enemies

Making Friends, Losing Enemies – author unknown

About five years ago I started at a new school, when my family moved to Iowa. I was just a little excited, but I worried I would never fit in with the other sixth graders.

Lucy, a girl in my class, who I thought was not ready for change, didn't like me from the start. In fact, I was pretty sure she hated me. I would ask her a question, and I could tell she thought I was a total idiot.

My teacher made us sit by each other for the last semester. Lucy was horrified.

I didn't wear make-up, and I didn't wear those awesome bell-bottom pants. I didn't exactly look like the coolest girl. But, I kept smiling at her, though she rolled her eyes, and I kept telling her she looked beautiful, even if she sighed in irritation.

Eventually, Lucy let me talk to her, even in sight of her 'cool' friends. She started telling me how beautiful I looked. I still remember that first time when she smiled at me saying that, and I smiled right back, telling her thanks. Lucy invited me over to her house for sleepovers, and talked to me all the time instead her other friends. Lucy, the girl who hated me, called me her best friend. After that, we still were good friends a whole year later.

I may have moved to Arizona after that, but I will never forget Lucy. It's funny-- I still remember her birthday. She was a great friend. And to think, she considered me her enemy at first. Though it was hard, and it felt like I was wasting my time, and losing my dignity, I still smiled at Lucy when she made fun of me. I'm not stupid, I didn't think she was right in doing those things, but I still put up with it. And we became great friends. We became inseparable.

About two weeks ago, I read a quote by Abraham Lincoln: "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" Instantly, I smiled, thinking of Lucy. That quote just reminded me how great of a friend I used to have back in that state of Iowa five years ago.