Left Alone in a Forest

Moon Over Redwood Forest

Photo Credit: Zest-pk via CC Flickr

There are many, many causes and circumstances throughout a person’s life that may make an individual fearful and afraid of the future or a situation that they might be presently experiencing and can cause a great deal of hardship and turmoil. Some of the leading causes of anxiety and distress in today’s world are things such as stresses in school, work, relationships, financial/money, the death of a loved one, a serious medical illness, drugs…the list goes on and on.

It is during these times, that people may begin to feel isolated, lonely, and hopeless. Friends, family, and other acquaintances may seem a million miles away and it can appear like no one is around to help.

Well, I have great news for you!!! Today, I am going to share with you an old American Indian legend regarding the Cherokee Indians and their young boy’s “rite of passage” into manhood. It is my hope that this story will supply you with a positive sense of comfort and reassurance when you are experiencing the “valleys and shadows” of life.

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At the time the ritual begins, a father takes his young son into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. The boy is required to sit on a stump the entire night and not remove his blindfold until he sees the dawns first rays of sunlight shine through it. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.

The boy is not allowed to tell any of the other boys in his village of this experience because each male must experience and come into manhood on his own. Naturally, the boy is terrified and scared to death. He can hear all kinds of noises…some are familiar, but many are strange and scary. There is no question that wild animals are all around him…or maybe even another human that may be wanting to cause him harm!

The wind blows the grass and the earth and shakes his stump…but the boy sits quietly and stoically, never getting up or removing his blindfold. This is the only way that he can become a man!

Finally, what seems like an eternity, the terrible night is over. Dawn’s first rays of sunlight appear, and the boy now takes off his blindfold. It is then that he discovers his father sitting on a stump next to him. He had been watching his son the entire night, protecting him from harm.

You see folks, we, too, are never alone…even when we don’t know it, God is always with and watching over us…sitting on the stump next to us!

YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!

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Homelessness and the Tyranny of Urgency

unnamed

Photo Credit: Author Unknown

A day or so ago, a friend of mine, who works and ministers to the homeless, sent me the following newsletter that I thought would be a good thing to share with you. Let’s all take a little time each day to consider how fortunate we really are…and how many individuals struggle for food, shelter, and clothes every day! Maybe you can help the unfortunate in your own way.

Here is the story, written by my friend, Paul…

It’s Super Bowl Sunday! Are you running around trying to get everything ready for the party you’re hosting or attending? Have you decided who you’re rooting for? Is the DVR set? Did you add extra time so you can record “This Is Us” after the game? Are you going in late to work tomorrow? Do the kids get to stay up?

If you haven’t got things figured out by now, “time’s a wasting” and you better get to it! The game starts at 6:30PM EST whether you’re ready or not and you might feel stressed because of this. However, I hope we can all agree this is probably not the most important thing happening in your life right now.

The more we get caught up in what is urgent, the more we lose sight of what’s most important. It’s easy to get confused between important and urgent. Urgent is always right in front of us. Urgent is obvious. While urgent can be important, it’s not usually the case.

I believe most days we find ourselves not doing the most important thing but the most urgent thing. Many times it’s because we don’t want to miss out. Experts call it, “FOMO” or Fear Of Missing Out. We’re consumed with social media. No longer do we have to wait for a letter for an update from a friend or the next morning’s newspaper to get details about world news. Almost everything is only a click away and slow download speeds are considered intolerable.

When we get caught up in what seems urgent, we lose sight of what is important. Even worse, we stifle imagination and basically deny ourselves permission to dream about the future. We unconsciously tell our brains there’s no need to create because every moment and thought is being filled in for us. The result is instead of truly living, we’re just existing.

Our friends that are homeless are also plagued with urgency. It’s not usually because of FOMO, but rather because of instability and insecurity. They ask questions most of us don’t give much thought to, but for our friends who are homeless these are questions connected to incredible stress:

“When am I going to eat again?”
“When am I going to sleep again?”
“Where am I going to sleep?”
“Will someone take my things if I sleep?”
“Will I be able to stay warm?”
“How am I my going to get back on my feet?”
“Who is going to hire me?”
“What can I even do?”
“When am I going to shower again?”

All these items are important, but because they are unanswered questions their urgency becomes a roadblock to moving forward. When we’re always being led by urgency, the things that are truly important, or should I say, should be truly important get lost and now the urgent things are the most important because they’re the only things.

If the previous questions can be answered with certainty and consistency people will be able to think and plan for tomorrow and beyond again instead just the next hour. However, if the previous questions don’t get answered, then these questions start to be asked:

“Will people even come near me?”
“Does anyone even see me?”
“Do I matter at all?”
“Who even loves me anymore?”

So, what do we do?

HELP, HOPE, HOME

HELP
We need to HELP relieve people of these urgencies. We need to remove these stressors out of their lives and give them permission to dream again. It’s obvious one should have a job and save money, but if you’re plagued with urgency, it seems nearly impossible to plan for a future you’re not sure you’re even going to have.

HOPE
Once a person has stability and security then HOPE can grow and when hope grows, all things are possible! My favorite verse in the Bible is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through him (Christ) who gives me strength.” However, for anything to grow the conditions must be right. I’m reminded of “The Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13. Seeds need the right soil to flourish. For seeds of hope to grow in people, other people with hope need to be the “soil” surrounding the people who need it most.

HOME
With a foundation of stability offered through relief help and a restoration of hope in Christ, a person can genuinely focus on HOME. Home is not just any shelter, but a place where a person has the peace of knowing they are loved beyond all measure by God….because they are!

For you and I, we may need to be reminded of Psalm 121:

Psalm 121 English Standard Version (ESV)
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

The world continues to spin whether we know every detail or not. We don’t need to have FOMO. It’s OK if we let go of or miss certain things because God sees and knows everything and doesn’t miss anything. Stepping away from time to time is a great way to honor God and show Him you trust him with everything!

If you want to help our friends experiencing homelessness, here four ways you can make an impact in your community and the world around you RIGHT NOW!

1.) Be a Good Neighbor!
When you are kind to those around you, someone in crisis may have the courage to open up to you. (Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:25-37)

2.) Bow Your Head!
Prayer is powerful and effective. It is our greatest weapon in spiritual warfare. Please pray for wisdom, discernment, and favor. (Matthew 6:5-14, Philippians, 4:6, James 5:13-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)

3.) Get Involved!
Volunteer with us, one of our partners, or in your community. Time is the one thing we never get back. When you choose to spend time with someone, it speaks volumes about both you and the person your with. If you’re willing to spend time with someone often overlooked by society, there’s a good chance someone else will take notice and realize that person’s life matters. (Isaiah 58:9b-10, Matthew 25:40, Hebrews 13:16)

4.) Cheerfully Give!
Donating your money is a great way to have an impact even when you can’t be physically present. $10 PER MONTH or MORE can make a significant difference in an individual’s life, my family’s well being, and the way the world views homelessness. PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY TODAY! (Proverbs 19:17, Malachi 3:10, Luke 10:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7,12)

BE THE HANDS AND FEET OF CHRIST!

 

 

EMMANUEL LABOR is God working through us…

Do It Anyway

Christina W

Photo Credit: Christina W. via CC Flickr

Have you ever tried to help other people and do something thoughtful and kind, yet become discouraged, disheartened, or upset when the outcome didn’t turn out the way you expected? There are times throughout our lives, when may t to accomplish certain goals, overcome negative or hurtful situations, and fall short. It can become very dispiriting, demoralizing, or down-right depressing.

There are two things that a can do when they face a difficult circumstance: 1) dwell on the negative, become bitter, lose focus, and quit the things that they were trying to accomplish, or, 2) maintain a single-mindedness desire to accomplish a goal, dream, or to help others. What decision would you make?

A few days ago, I came the following little sonnet (Author Unknown) which I found to be a good source of encouragement to me. It is my wish that it will motivate you to stay positive and focused in your quest to make others happy and when you chase your dreams.

“Do It Anyway”

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered:

FORGIVE THEM ANYWAY.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish and ulterior motives:

BE KIND ANYWAY.

If you are successful, you will win false friends:

SUCCEED ANYWAY.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you:

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight:

BUILD ANYWAY.

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous:

BE HAPPY ANYWAY.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow:

DO GOOD ANYWAY.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough:

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU HAVE ANYWAY.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God:

IT WAS NEVER BETWEEN YOU AND THEM…ANYWAY.

The Coin

Waferboard

Photo Credit: Waferboard via CC Flickr

I have been finding and posting inspiring, motivational, and encouraging stories on this blog for the past four years now. There have been instances in which people have been interested in sharing personal stories and have been willing to post their tale on this site, “Good Time Stories.”

Today, I would like to share with you, one such story which was written by my friend, known as the “Old Mainer,” from his own blog, “Old Mainer.”  This is a beautiful story of an everlasting love that I am sure will touch your heart and soul. It is my hope that you not only enjoy this story but will also inspire you to discover a way to remember how much your “better half” loves you.

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Each evening when I get undressed, I remove the contents of my pockets and place them on my dresser.  It is all the usual stuff that we can’t live without.  Cell phone, pocket knife, spare change, watch, ring, etc.  Although most of the paraphernalia changes as time progresses, there is one item that I have been placing there for many years.  It is a coin.  Well, not a coin in the true sense of the word.  It is not currency and has no monetary value.  In fact, it looks more like a silver blob of aluminum that was melted down.  It is flat on one side and almost smooth on the other.  It wasn’t always thus.  At one time, the smooth side had three words embossed on it.

I traveled a lot in my job.  Never for long durations, but frequent enough to pull me away from home more then I would have liked.  That is when I started carrying the coin.  I always knew it was there, in my pocket, and it gave me a sense of comfort.  Often, I would run my fingers over the words, as if trying to read them by touch.

When I retired, I continued to carry the coin.  It had become such a part of me, that to be without it was not acceptable.  Because, to me, it’s value is in what it is instead of what it’s worth.  A symbol of sorts that defines me.  Defines us.

The coin was given to me by my wife before departing on one of my trips.  She had picked it up in a little shop. They had several of them with different phrases, but this one caught her eye and she picked it up on a whim.  She probably only paid a dollar or two, but it has grown in value over the years.

Today, only the remnants of two letters remain, a V and E.  All the others have worn away.  But to me, they are still there.  Always will be. Just more deeply embedded.  It will always say I LOVE YOU.  That will never wear away.  If the words are gone before me, the love will still be there, and only I will see it.

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Posted on March 2, 2014 by oldmainer

LIVE. LOVE. LAUGH.

The Chair

Photo Credit: Michael Ngilen via CC Flickr

It is an amazing thing to me, what people do to cope with the unfortunate circumstances and situations that they have been dealt in their lives. Some people will become pessimistic, despondent, isolated, and secluded…shutting off their friends, family and the rest of the world, while others will flee to the world of alcohol, drugs, or some other form of entertainment or vice, to lessen the pain that they are experiencing.

Transversely, other people try to look at their situation from a different perspective with a positive outlook. They decide that they are going to get their priorities in order, learn to enjoy everything about their lives even more then they used to do, and/or “make lemonade out of the lemons” that were given to them.

Today’s short story is a beautiful illustration of how an individual decided to spend his last days here on earth…

A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?”

 “I’m the new associate at your local church,” the pastor replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”

 “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.

 “I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church, I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head…”

 “I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

 “So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

 The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue the journey.

 Then he prayed with him and returned to the church.

 Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.

 “Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.

 “Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, In fact, beyond strange–kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

 

Live Every Day As If It Were Your Last!

 

You Need A Bigger Frying Pan!

Fugzu

Photo Credit: Fugzu via CC Flickr

Faith. It is a small word, yet it holds incredible power and hopes for millions of people throughout the world. Faith is also one of the hardest things to believe and trust in because it is simply a belief in things that you cannot see. For example, when you are going to sit on a chair, you just sit on it. You don’t check its legs, the sturdiness, and strength of the chair…you just sit on it because you know, you have the FAITH that it is going to hold you.

Unfortunately, many people put their faith into a box or simply don’t have the faith to accomplish the goals and desires that they may have for themselves in their life. Today, I would like to share the following little story with you that will demonstrate the importance of faith and using it to its fullest potential.

Two men went fishing. One man was an experienced fisherman, the other wasn’t. Every time the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back. The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing this man waste good fish. “Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?” he asked.

The inexperienced fisherman replied, “I only have a small frying pan.” Sometimes, like that fisherman, we throw back the big plans, big dreams, big jobs, big opportunities that God gives us. Our faith is too small. We laugh at that fisherman who didn’t figure out that all he needed was a bigger frying pan; yet how ready are we to increase the size of our faith?

Whether it’s a problem or a possibility, God will never give you anything bigger than you can handle. That means we can confidently walk into anything God brings our way.

You can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

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Source: vielouis-stories.blogspot.com

A Sandpiper to Bring You Joy

Ekaterina Chernetsova (Papchinskaya)

Photo Credit: Ekaterina Chernetsova (Papchinskaya) via CC Flickr

There are some stories that are worth repeating..today’s story is one of them.

A year or so ago, I posted a story that I had come across simply called, “The Sandpiper.” Unbeknownst to me, the story that I published was one that had been copied and re-written by another person who wrongly took credit for it. Fortunately for me, the daughter of the real author, Mary Serman Hilbert, contacted me and told me the following…

“This story was written by my mother Mary Sherman Hilbert back in in 1978 and is copyrighted in the  US Library of Congress. It was published in Readers Digest in 1980. The story has been reprinted in over ten languages and made into two plays.

There are many plagiarized versions on the internet, including the one that has an MR. Peterson instead of Mrs. P. (Ruth Peterson) as the central woman, as you have posted here. Please read Snopes assessment here for accurate clarification of the story’s background: https://www.snopes.com/glurge/sandpiper.asp

My mother passed away New Years Day 2010 at the age of eighty-seven.

~ Leigh Hilbert, December 11th, 2017

Most people who have posted my mom’s story have had good intentions and had no way to know if it had been altered along the internet pathways.

There are a few correct versions online. I will post here the original version and you can maybe repost it.”

So, without further ado, here is the original, beautiful story of the Sandpiper…..

A Sandpiper to Give You Joy

by Mary Serman Hilbert

Several years ago, a neighbor related to me an experience that happened to her one winter on a beach in Washington State. The incident stuck in my mind and I took note of what she said. Later, at a writers’ conference, the conversation came back to me and I felt I had to set it down. Here is her story, as haunting to me now as when I first heard it:

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me.

She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

“Hello,” she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

“I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not caring.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just like the feel of the sand.”

That sounds good, I thought and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by. “That’s a joy,” the child said.

“It’s what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.”

The bird went glissading down the beach. “Good-bye, joy,” I muttered to myself,

“hello, pain,” and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up.

“Ruth,” I answered, “I’m Ruth Peterson.”

“Mine’s Windy.” It sounded like Windy. “And I’m six.” “Hi, Windy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said. In spite of my gloom I laughed too and walked on.

Her musical giggle followed me. “Come again, Mrs. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The days and weeks that followed belonged to others: a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, an ailing mother.

The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. “I need a sandpiper,” I said to myself, gathering up my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed. I had forgotten the child and was startled when she appeared.

“Hello, Mrs. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know. You say.”

“How about charades?” I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.” Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. “Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter.

“Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation.”

She chattered “little-girl” talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Windy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood even to greet Windy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding that she keep her child at home.

“Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Windy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.” She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” She asked.

I turned on her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” – and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh, she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.”

“Yes, and yesterday and the day before that and – oh, go away!”

“Did it hurt?”

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself.

“When she died?”

“Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn-looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m Ruth Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Peterson, please come in.”

“Wendy talked of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please accept my apologies.”

“Not at all – she’s a delightful child,” I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it. “Where is she?”

“Wendy died last week, Mrs. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.”

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath caught.

She loved this beach; so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks she declined rapidly ” Her voice faltered. “She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something, anything, to say to this lovely young woman.

She handed me a smeared envelope, with MRS. P printed in bold, childish letters.

Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues – a yellow beach, a blue sea, a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:

A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY

Tears welled up in my eyes and a heart that had almost forgotten how to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, “I’m so sorry,” I muttered over and over, and we wept together.

The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words – one for each year of her life – that speak to me of inner harmony, courage, undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes and hair the color of sand – who taught me the gift of love.