Wednesday, January 26, 2005








A parable tells about a martial artist who kneels before a master
sensei in a ceremony to receive the hard-earned Black Belt. After
years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a
pinnacle of achievement in the discipline.

"Before granting the belt, you must pass one more test," the sensei
solemnly tells the young man.

"I'm ready," responds the student, expecting perhaps one more round of

"You must answer the essential question: What is the true meaning of
the Black Belt?"

"Why, the end of my journey," says the student. "A well-deserved
reward for my hard work."

The master waits for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied. The sensei
finally speaks: "You are not ready for the Black Belt. Return in one

As the student kneels before his master a year later, he is again
asked the question, "What is the true meaning of the Black Belt?"

"It is a symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our
art," the young man responds.

Again the master waits for more. Still unsatisfied, he says once more:
"You are not ready for the Black Belt. Return in one year."

A year later the student kneels before his sensei and hears the
question, "What is the true meaning of the Black Belt?"

This time he answers, "The Black Belt represents not the end, but the
beginning, the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work and
the pursuit of an ever higher standard."

"Yes," says the master. "You are now ready to receive the Black Belt
and begin your work."

You may not be hoping for a Black Belt, but you might be at a crucial
point. Maybe you're facing a life change, perhaps even a painful one.
Or maybe you are awaiting something you have worked hard to attain -
graduation, a new job, a promotion, or even retirement.

All wise people see that changes can be new beginnings. Change need
not be feared. And neither should we be looking for a permanent
resting place, for a full and happy life is never stagnant.

Does the change you face represent, not just an ending, but a new
beginning in your life's journey? If so, you may be ready to move

Sunday, January 23, 2005





  Grandpa's Hands
My grandpa, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if he was ok. Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was ok.

He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking, he said in a clear strong voice.  I didn't mean to disturb you, grandpa, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were ok I explained to him.

Have you ever looked at your hands he asked. I mean really looked at your hands? he asked.  I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making.

Grandpa smiled and related this story:

Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak have been the
tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots.
  They dried the tears of my children and caressed the love of my life. They held my rifle and wiped my tears when I went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote the letters home and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle. Yet, they were strong and sure when I dug my buddy out of a foxhole and lifted a plow off of my best friends foot. They have held children, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of my life.  But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when He leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandpa's hands and led him home . When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and wife I think of grandpa. I know he has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face.

Saturday, January 22, 2005




 "What Really Matters. . .

Living a simple life.
Believing in yourself.
Planning a trip.
Feeling creative.
French fries.
Being free-spirited.
Spring flowers.
Patio parties.
Strawberry jam.
Starlit beaches.
Hostess gifts.
Civility and respect.
Watching a plant grow.
Pets snoozing.
April showers.
Old snapshots.
Skies at sunset.
Children's laughter.
Helping someone in need.
Being with someone you love.
A clean kitchen.
Oldies music.
A rising moon.
Fresh fruit.
Sunshire after rain.
Reading in bed.
Cordless phones.
Scotch tape.
Cinnamon rolls.
A good cup of coffee.
Deep-dish pies.
Enjoying the simple gifts each day gives us.
Giving thanks to God".
By Elizabeth Lucas©







Who's Your Daddy?

A number of years ago a seminary professor was vacationing with
his wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee where they were eating
breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet family

While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a
distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to
table visiting with the guests.  The professor leaned over and
whispered to his wife:

"I hope he doesn't come over here."  But sure enough, the man
did come over to their table.

"Where are you folks from?" he asked in a friendly voice.

"Oklahoma," they answered.

"Great to have you here in Tennessee," the stranger said.
"What do you do for a living?"

"I teach at a seminary," he replied.

"Oh, you teach preachers how to preach?  Well, I've got a really
great story for you."  And with that, the gentleman pulled up a
chair and sat down at the table with the couple.

"See that mountain over there?" (pointing out the restaurant
window).  Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a
boy born to an unwed mother.  He had a hard time growing up,
because every place he went, he was always asked the same

'Hey boy, Who's your daddy?'

Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store,
people would ask the same question, "Who's your daddy?"
He would hide at recess and lunchtime from other students.
He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him
so bad.

When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his
church.  He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid
hearing the question, "Who's your daddy?"  But one day, the
new preacher said the benediction so fast he got caught and
had to walk out with the crowd.

Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher
not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and
asked him,

"Son, who's your daddy?"

The whole church got deathly quiet.  He could feel every eye in
the church looking at him.  By now, everyone knew the answer to
the question, 'Who's your daddy?'

This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and
using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the
following to that scared little boy...

'Wait a minute!' he said, 'I know who you are.  I see the family
resemblance now.  You are a child of God.'

With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said:

'Boy, you've got a great inheritance.  Go and claim it.'

With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time
and walked out the door a changed person.  He was never the same
again.  Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd
just tell them,

'I'm a Child of God.'

The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said,
"Isn't that a great story?"

The professor responded that it really was a great story!
As the man turned to leave, he said,

"You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of
God's children, I probably never would have amounted to
anything!"  And he walked away.

The seminary professor and his wife were stunned.
He called the waitress over and asked her,

"Do you know who that man was who just left who was sitting at
our table?"  The waitress grinned and said,

"Of course.  Everybody here knows him.  That's Ben Hooper.
He's the former governor of Tennessee!"

by Dr. Fred Craddock
Seminary professor of homiletics at Emory University in Atlanta

Thursday, January 20, 2005






Former prisoner James Knapp confessed to police that he'd robbed
two stores in Oklahoma, because he missed his old cell mates.
Police said they'd see if James could be reunited with his old

I think Mr. Knapp may have expressed something important,
however. Friends, wherever we find them, are absolutely

But do you know who your best friend is? Automaker Henry Ford was
having lunch with a man, when he suddenly asked the man that very
question. "Who is your best friend?" Ford asked.

The man hesitated and Ford went on. "I'll tell you who your best
friend is," he said. Then he wrote this sentence for the man to
read: "Your best friend is he who brings out the best that is
within you." Our best friends are those who do more than simply
like us. They also believe in us. They support us but, occasionally,
they nudge us as well.

Someone put it well: "A friend is someone who knows you as you
are, understands where you've been, accepts who you've become,
and still, gently invites you to grow."

Now...who is your best friend?

Sunday, January 16, 2005


  Ben Stein's Last Column...

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column for the online website called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein's Last Column... (
read all of this or you will have missed the best
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of ashining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction; and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.
                         By Ben Stein

Wednesday, January 12, 2005



Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox.

"I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?"

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence -- an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.

The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge -- a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work -- handrails and all -- and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder.

"No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.
"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build."

Sunday, January 9, 2005










One night, a Dodgers farm club coached by Tommy Lasorda was leading
Tucson by one run in the eighth inning, but Tucson had the bases
loaded with two outs. According to Don Martin in TEAM THINK (Penguin
books, Ltd., 1993), Lasorda decided to pep up his pitcher, a
left-hander named Bobby O'Brien. Lasorda slowly walked out to the
mound and said, "Bobby, if the heavens opened up right now and you
could hear the voice of the Big Dodger in the sky and he said to you,
'Bobby, you're going to die and come up to heaven, and this is the
last batter you're ever going to face,' how would you like the meet
the Lord, getting this man out or letting him get a hit from you?"

"I'd want to face him getting this guy out," O'Brien replied.

"That's right," said Lasorda, "you would. Now, how do you know that
after you throw the next pitch you're not going to die? This might
really be the last hitter you're ever going to face and if it is,
you'll want to face the Lord getting him out."

Lasorda figured it was just about the best pep talk ever and he
strutted confidently back to the dugout. O'Brien wound up and threw
the pitch. The batter lined a base hit to right field, knocking in two

Lasorda was beside himself. "Bobby, what happened?" he asked.

"It's like this, Skip," said O'Brien. "You had me so worried about
dying I couldn't concentrate on the batter!"

Many people are worried about dying. Their worry can keep them from
fully enjoying life in the present. But for other people, the
knowledge that they will die someday actually motivates them to live
more fully!

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who has extensively studied death and
dying, put it like this: "It's only when we truly know and understand
that we have a limited time on earth - and that we have no way of
knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to
the fullest, as if it was the only one we had."

It's true, we have no way of knowing when our time is up. But we have
today. Will you live it as if it were the only day you had?

    By Steve Goodier © 2004

Thursday, January 6, 2005







When Tomorrow Starts Without Me

When tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things,
We didn't get to say.

I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name,
And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready,
In heaven far above,
And that I'd have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.

But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye,
For all my life, I'd always thought,
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.

If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for awhile,
I'd say goodbye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized,
That this could never be,
For emptiness and memories,
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things,
I might miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.

But when I walked through heaven's gates,
I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me,
From His great golden throne,
He said "This is eternity,
And all I've promised you."
Today for life on earth is past,
But here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last,
And since each day's the same day
There's no longing for thepast.

But you have been so faithful,
So trusting and so true.
Thought there were times you did some things,
You knew you shouldn't do.
But you have been forgiven
And now at last you're free.
So won't you take my hand
And share my life with me?

So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I'm right here, in your heart.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005










Babs Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas . sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

"Good. Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir! . Jus' admirin' them peas."

"Would you like to take some home?"

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it."

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"

"Not zackley . but almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."

"Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he ! sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."

I left the stand smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering.

Several years went by, each more rapid that the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts ... all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.! They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size ... they came to pay their debt."

"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds.
Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that takes our breath.

Today ... I wish you a day of ordinary miracles ... .. A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself .. An unexpected phone call from an old friend .. Green stoplights on your way to work . Th! e fastest line at the grocery store .. A good sing-along song on the radio . Your keys right where you left them.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, An hour to appreciate them, A day to love them, But an entire life to forget them.

Sunday, January 2, 2005


Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments
together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing
near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said "I love you.
I wish you enough".
The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than
enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too,
They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the
window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and
needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she
welcomed me in by asking "Did you ever say goodbye to someone
knowing it would be forever?".
"Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking but why is this a
forever goodbye?".
"I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the
reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral" she said.
"When you were saying goodbye, I heard you say' I wish you enough'.
May I ask what that means?". She began to smile. "That's a wish that
has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say
it to everyone".
She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in
detail and she smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough'
we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just
enough good things to sustain them".
Then turning toward me she shared the following as if she were
reciting it from memory ---
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.
She then began to sob and walked away.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to
appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to
forget them. Send this to the people you will never forget and
remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you. If you
don't send it to anyone it may mean that you are in such a hurry
that you have forgotten your friends.
TAKE TIME TO LIVE.....My friends and loved ones, I WISH YOU ENOUGH!!!