Archive for March, 2011

Crumbling Spirit – Review

As you read about terrorist’s attacks or see news reports on television, have you wondered what it would be like if something like that happened in your neighborhood? The bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City affected thousands of people. Many parents lost their children and children lost their parents. Julia Kinser, a fourth grader at James Buchanan Elementary School, recorded her personal experience of terror in her diary. It’s in a published book titled Crumbling Spirit on American Soil by D. Ed Hoggatt. Julia turned from tears to strength with God’s love, the love of her parents and the love of her teacher.

Every American grieved with the people in Oklahoma City. We cried with them as we put ourselves in their places. Many kids in schools across the United States reached out to the kids in Oklahoma by writing letters and sending stuffed animals. Mr. Atkinson taught Julia and me that we don’t have to be victims, but we can find positive ways to reach out to each other even in the midst of our grief. We can all be survivors. For Julia it meant responding to the letters, thanking people for their thoughts, prayers and gifts. After you read the book, you will know what you can do if the times comes for you to rise above your suffering in order to survive. It will make you a stronger and more compassionate person. You can order the book online at http://hoggatt.weebly.com. You will be glad you did.

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A Big Heart for a Little Man

A huge crowd gathered at Jericho’s gate. Uncle Zack (short for Zacchaeus) asked one of his friends, Eli, “Who is it?”

“It’s Jesus,” Eli said.

“Jesus?”

“You know, the teacher. He heals the sick.”

“Oh yes! The people love him but the priests want to kill him,” said Uncle Zack.

“He’s the one!”

Frustrated because he couldn’t see, Uncle Zack climbed up into a sycamore tree. He wasn’t any taller than me and I was ten years old. I climbed the same tree, and found a branch near Uncle Zack. It was a warm and sunny day. A gentle breeze carried the sweet fragrance of the balsam plantations on the Jericho road. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the heavenly aroma.

“Look!” said Uncle Zack.

Startled, I looked down and saw Jesus. I could hardly believe my eyes. Jesus stopped right under the tree where we waited. He winked at me, and then said to Uncle Zack, “Zacchaeus, come down. I’m going to your house today.”

Uncle Zack almost fell out of the tree. No one likes him and no one comes to his house. I stepped into the crowd, right behind Jesus and all the people followed us to Uncle Zack’s house.

“I’m glad you’re here, My Lord,” said Uncle Zack and he washed Jesus’ feet. “But who am I that you want to visit me?”

“I just want to hang out with you for a while,” smiled Jesus.

You should have seen the look of surprise on my uncle’s face. Nobody visits him except a few tax collector friends. People didn’t like tax collectors, since they often collected more taxes than people owed. This made Uncle Zack a very rich man. Yet not all the money in Jericho could make him happy. He was lonely, and he wanted friends. Jesus’ visit made him feel special. It was evident in the way he sat near the Teacher and listened to everything He said.

“Give what is in your heart,” said Jesus, “not out of sadness or out of feeling forced to. Giving will make you happy.”

Uncle Zack wrinkled his brows. I know he wanted to believe Jesus and be his friend. He sprang to his feet so quickly he made everyone laugh. He looked straight in Jesus’ eyes and said, “I will sell half of all I have and give the money to the poor. And whoever I have cheated, I will repay four times!”

Those were strange words coming from my uncle. He was a greedy, miserly man, but something changed that night. He grabbed his moneybags and gave silver and gold to people in the room he had cheated. In a few days, he sold his house and bought a smaller one. He sold the furniture he didn’t need any more.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked.

“Because Jesus wants to be my friend,” he said. He reminded me of Jesus’ words when He visited. He said, “Salvation has come to this house today.”

Uncle Zack gave to the poor. He helped the blind find their way on the streets. He fed the hungry. He visited prisoners and took warm clothes to them. I overheard people in town ask each other, “What happened to that rich little man?” He’s got a spring in his step and a smile on his face.” I knew it was all because Jesus showed him love.

           

 

 

What Did Jonah Learn?

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn the people to repent or experience His wrath, but Jonah didn’t care about the people and went in the opposite direction. He found himself in a terrible storm aboard a ship, and then in the belly of a big fish. He cried out to God for forgiveness AND rescue and the big fish spit him out onto a beach. THEN Jonah went to Nineveh and did what he was supposed to in the first place. Amazingly the people repented to avoid God’s wrath, but Jonah wasn’t happy. He sat sulking outside Nineveh in the hot, scorching sun. Our merciful God caused a tree to grow up overnight to shade Jonah, but Jonah didn’t change his heart so God caused the tree to wither. THEN Jonah got really angry.

For those of you who know the story, have you ever wondered what happened after that? I did and I wrote a possibility. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

After God spoke, Jonah thought he heard leaves flutter on the vine, but the vine was dead. While he was still sulking, somebody tapped Jonah on the shoulder.

            “Mr. Jonah, you must be hot and thirsty,” said a Ninevite. “Here, I brought you some cool, refreshing water.”

            “Thank you,” said Jonah, “but why would you, a Ninevite, bring me a drink?”

            “Because, Mr. Jonah, you brought us an important message. You saved our whole town from destruction.”

            “Oh no! It wasn’t me. It was God Himself! His grace, mercy and compassion are for everyone.” Jonah didn’t have the heart to tell this kind, compassionate person that he never wanted to come to Nineveh.

            “But Mr. Jonah, you brought us His message. You said if we didn’t change, God would not show us mercy. If you hadn’t come, we would be as dead as all the people we killed. We didn’t deserve God’s mercy. We deserved His punishment.”

            Well, Jonah had to agree. He never thought God should save the Ninevites. He thought they should all perish for the terrible way they lived. Jonah had to admit there was something amazing about this man who brought him water. He didn’t have to show kindness to Jonah but God changed his heart.

            “Oh God!” Jonah cried. “Now I get it. Have mercy on me for my hard heart. Melt me and mold me by your Spirit to do your will—willingly. I don’t want to be stubborn any more. Teach me to love as you love. I am your servant.”

Grandma’s Vision

 

Grandma came to live with Alexa’s family after a week in the hospital. A stroke left her blind so Mom took three weeks off work to help her. Alexa stayed with Grandma when Mom had to go back to work. All year Alexa had saved money from her babysitting jobs to go to church camp in the summer. Now it looked like she wouldn’t get to go. She hardly had time to think about it because she was busy helping Grandma.

            Every day Grandma looked forward to Alexa reading the Bible to her. Alexa grew to love this time too. At least once a week Grandma asked Alexa to read the story about how Jesus healed the man born blind. Each time the varied responses to the healing became more comical. The neighbors disagreed. The Pharisees argued. Fear overcame the parents, but the man born blind was delighted. His life changed in an instant. He saw people and things for the first time.

            Grandma laughed. “He wanted to celebrate his seeing but the fact that he could see brought turmoil in the community. You know, Alexa, the worst thing in life isn’t blindness. It’s being able to see and having no vision.”

            “What do you mean, Grandma?”

            “We don’t see and we don’t understand what’s important unless we know Jesus. We need God’s insight to make right choices and do what is right and good.”

            “I never thought of it that way.”

            “Alexa, I want to tell you something. My suffering from the stroke has made me see God’s beauty and strength in you and your parents. I’m so thankful I could stay here with you. I’m grateful for your help and spending time with me reading the Bible.” 

            “I love you, Grandma.” Alexa held Grandma’s hand and bowed her head.  Lord Jesus, I know you have power over sickness and disease and I am asking you to help Grandma see again. Amen.

            “Thank you, Alexa. I am in God’s hands,” said Grandma. “I know you have been saving your babysitting money to go to church camp and I want you to go.”

            “But, Grandma, who will help you?”

            “I called your Aunt Madelyn while you washed dishes this morning. She’s coming Thursday next week.”

            “Oh, Grandma! Thank you. I love you!”

            “I love you too, Sweetheart.”