Hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains I wandered upon an old cemetery. Treading in a hush of reverent silence, I carefully meandered among the grave-sites reading tombstone inscriptions. Three thoughts surfaced . . . no pun intended 😊
The uncertainty and brevity of life – several tombstones marked the graves of infants, who left and returned to Heaven the same day.
2. ‘Have and Have Not’ disparities remain until death – among those tombstones artfully engraved with poignant parting thoughts were those marked with simple, anonymous stones.
3. After eight decades, I’m forever grateful to still be able to fog a mirror – odds on, I’ll be taking up residence with this quiet congregation sooner than most still above ground.
The World Economic Forum reports the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in society has grown during the pandemic and continues to widen.
For 99% of the global population, incomes have fallen and over 160 million more people have been forced into poverty.
This inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people a day. Every four seconds one of the inhabitants we share this planet with perishes through hunger, lack of potable water, lack of access to life-saving healthcare, and other basic life needs.
Since 1995, the top 1% have captured nearly 20 times more of global wealth than the bottom 50 % of humanity.
Few reside in the rare stratosphere of the 1% . . . if you do, please call me . . . Collect! 😊. However, few of us can recall the last time we were truly hungry; parched for a sip of clean water; without access to health care; homeless without shelter, etc., etc., etc. Bottom line . . . as Americans we are richly and undeservedly blessed!
Someday this world’s playing field will be leveled, no more disparities, and we will all face the final quintessential disparity . . . Heaven or Hell. Our Creator has graciously narrowed Eternity’s destiny to 1 of 3 final choices each of us must make, no abstentions allowed:
“Salvation is found in no one else. for there is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”. – Acts 4:12
My prayer remains we’ll share Heaven together with Him.
A fragrant fellow strolled by our digs last night up here on the mountain . . . down in the ‘holler’ . . . by the ‘crick’ in this special corner of His creation called Great smoky Mountains.
Sometimes confused for weasels because of their similar, but larger body shape, the Spotted Skunk is equipped with sharp claws that it uses both to hunt and to defend itself from predators . . . bobcats, bears, large birds of prey, and curious humans who wish they hadn’t come so close.
Spotty is known to stamp its front feet to warn other creatures to “Back Off”!!! If unheeded, this most agile and quick member of his stinky family will do a full handstand before directing its aromatic spray at its intruder . . . keep the tomato juice handy 🙂
“We are drawn to children, saints and poets because they see things we have forgotten to see.”
A child’s simple trusting faith, unencumbered by adult interpretation, Jeremy’s Egg is a story I’ve shared at Easter for the past few years. Poignantly portraying Easter’s meaning in way few sermons have, may it bless you as it has me.
He is Risen! . . . Risen is He! . . . Happy Easter!
Ida Mae Kemple
Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School.
At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises.
At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher. One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Theresa’s for a consultation.
As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!”
Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there’s no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.”
Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy would be a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?
As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. “Oh God,” she said aloud, “here I am complaining, when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family! Please help me be more patient with Jeremy.”
From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him.
“I love you Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’s face turned red. She stammered, “Wh – why, that’s very nice, Jeremy. Now please take your seat.”
Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Miller!” the children responded enthusiastically – all except Jeremy. He just listened intently; his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises.
Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’s death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris’s kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they had completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.
In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh, yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that Spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.
The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that is new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine!”
Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. “My daddy helped me!” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, of course, he did not understand the instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.
Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?”
Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy – your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’s tomb was empty too!”
Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?”
“Oh, yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!”
The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the school yard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.
Three months later Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.
“Let the little children to come to me, and do not hinder the, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
Today is Good Friday, and the church marquee reads, “When He was on the cross, you were on His mind”.
I’ll never comprehend how Divinity’s infinite love willing chose to pursue my sullied mortality to an excruciating death on a cross. I can only accept it and forever praise Him for it.
At breakfast with two brothers yesterday I shared this true story which testifies that no matter peaceful or troubled life finds us; close or distant in our faith; sane or troubled in mind, from the genesis of Creation; to a straw manger bed; to a cross on Calvary; to this very moment and throughout eternity, we remain ever in His incomprehensible love and on His mind.
May this Good Friday find you blessed and filled with thankful praise.
Searching for the Invisible God – Phillip Yancey
My wife leads a weekly “Christian circle” at a nursing home. An Alzheimer’s patient named Betsy faithfully attends, led there by a staff worker, and sits there through the hour. Betsy is slender, with snow-white hair, blue eyes, and a pleasant smile. Every week Janet introduces herself, and every week Betsy responds as if she’s never seen her before. When other people interact in the group or laugh at some little joke, Betsy smiles a distant, disarming smile. Mostly she sits quietly, vacant-eyed, enjoying the changing scenery from her room but comprehending nothing of the discussion going on around her.
After a few weeks, Janet learned that Betsy has retained the ability to read. Often, she carries with her a postcard her daughter sent her several months before, which she pores over as if it came in yesterday’s mail. She has no comprehension of what she’s reading and will repeat the same line over and over, like a stuck record, until someone prompts her to move on. But on a good day she can read a passage straight through in a clear, strong voice. Janet began calling on her each week to read a hymn.
One Friday the senior citizens, who prefer older hymns they remember from childhood, selected “The Old Rugged Cross” for Betsy to read. “On a hill far away stands an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame,” she began, and stopped. She suddenly got agitated. “I can’t go on! It’s too sad! Too sad!” she said. Some of the seniors gasped. Others stared at her, dumbfounded. In years of living at the home, not once had Betsy shown the ability to put words together meaningfully. Now, obviously, she did understand.
Janet calmed her: “That’s fine Betsy. You don’t have to keep reading if you don’t want to.”
After a pause, though, she started reading again, and stopped at the same place. A tear made a trail down each cheek. “I can’t go on! It’s too sad!” she said, unaware she had said the same thing two minutes ago. She tried again, and again reacted with the sudden shock of recognition, grief, and the exact same words.
Since the meeting had drawn to a close, the other seniors gradually moved away, heading for the cafeteria or their rooms. They moved quietly, as if in church, glancing over their shoulders in awe at Betsy. Staff workers who had come to rearrange the furniture stopped in their tracks and stared. No one had ever seen Betsy in a state resembling lucidity.
The church marquee reads, “When He was on the cross, you were on His mind”. Today is Good Friday. I’ll never comprehend how Divinity’s infinite love willing chose to pursue my sullied mortality to death on a cross. I can only accept it and forever praise Him for it.
At breakfast with two brothers yesterday I shared this true story which testifies that no matter peaceful or troubled life finds us; close or distant in our faith; sane or troubled in mind, from the genesis of Creation; to a straw manger bed; to an old, rugged cross on Calvary; to this very moment and throughout eternity, we remain ever in His incomprehensible love and on His mind.
May this Good Friday find you blessed and filled with thankful praise.
In Yester-Years water sports consisted of high energy, adrenaline charged high-diving, water-skiing, scuba-diving, etc. In Latter-Years water sports have gradually consolidated into a more relaxed, less strenuous venue of tranquil water-watching. Here’s a couple pics of how it’s done by a couple of ‘ole’ folks
The good news . . . while I’m older today than I ever was before, I’m younger today than I’ll ever be again
The really Good News . . .
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and will carry you; I will and rescue you.” – Isaiah 46:4