"Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."
A 747 airliner just took off from JFK airport heading for Florida when the pilot announced to several hundred passengers the frightening news that there were mechanical problems with the landing gear, preventing the wheels from going down. The control tower at JFK gave instructions for the pilot to gain some altitude, then head out over the ocean and dump the remaining fuel and return for an emergency landing.
The pilot explained that the runway would be coated with special foam to ease their belly landing to minimize sparks and fire.
As they circled back from over the ocean the passengers could see the fire engines, ambulances, and emergency vehicles lining the runway preparing for the worst.
The flight attendants rushed around the aircraft cabin making sure everyone was belted in and showed them how to support their heads on pillows. Parents tried to calm their children. Adults tried to calm each other. Some prayed. Some perspired. Many wailed and groaned, "We're all going to die."
As the huge plane was heading down towards the field, many of the sweaty palmed passengers screamed in horror at the terrible impact and screeching of the plane's belly hitting the ground and skidding precariously across the concrete runway.
Finally, and miraculously the pilot brought the plane to a complete stop without incident. Fortunately, no one was hurt or injured, although a few had trouble standing up on their shaking rubbery legs.
Afterwards, as they departed, one of the relieved passengers, a preacher said to the flight attendant at the door, "Remember, the rest of your life is extra!" To which the flight attendant replied, "It's all extra from the very beginning!"
Moral to this story...
If life is to be lived with Jo and meaning and purpose, then it must be lived one day at a time. This does not mean that we should not plan ahead, or have dreams and goals and visions. Quite the opposite. What Jesus is stressing in His Sermon is, do as much as we can with today and make it count big in making tomorrow great id there is a tomorrow.
Living this life is a serious matter. Everyday comes to us fresh from God. Opportunities and possibilities adorn the way of life. We are exposed to them, we either accept or reject them. God gives us the freedom to choose.
Wrapped up in any one day can be opportunities that can change the life and the circumstances of an individual. Out of these opportunities comes the chance to mature, to serve, to enrich life. Every day can be a significant day because we are willing to dare... to believe in ourselves... to accept opportunity.
Many of us live in a great hurry. It is easy to put off doing a good thing that can touch a multitude of lives. It is what we do for the Lord that really counts.
We might be tempted to structure in our own minds too many far-fetched dreams. We can become so engrossed in dreaming of the future that we may fail to live today.
Jesus would say; Make today count, do your best with each opportunity, accepting as many as you can, put the soul into the task, let there be optimism and the will to believe in one's self.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippinans 4:13
Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface to air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons that he learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!” “How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb said, “ I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat a bib in the back and bell bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, “who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory—he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment or just do something nice for no reason.
As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute.
Do your best to pack the parachute of someone who may cross your path today!
Over two hundred years ago, our forefathers triumphed over superior military forces because their spirit of liberty ran high. Only as one recovers that spirit of liberty can we be free from bondage, and only in the spirit of the Lord can we find that true liberty that gives the endurance and vision needed today. “Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” II Corinthians 3:17
Thomas Jefferson said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” and, later, in the Declaration of Independence…”that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In 1775 at the Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry asked “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as me, give me liberty or give me death!”
In his Gettysburg Address in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said…”Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”
Woodrow Wilson stated, “The history of liberty is history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.”
In Washington, D.C., over the two marble entrances to the Supreme Court of the United States are these inscriptions: over one we read, “Equal Justice Under Law”; and over the other, “Justice is the Guardian of Liberty.” These words were placed there by men who believed in the Constitution of the United States, the latter having many provisions that were directly derived from the Magna Carta.
Daniel Webster said, “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”
Remember, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
As citizens, we “pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Our Liberty Bell was cast in England over 300 years ago and was brought to these shores during the reign of King Charles II soon after the deeding of the colony to William Penn. It bears the inscription from the Bible: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Our forefathers were God fearing, devout men who later won their independence by the help of God. William Penn said, “Men must be governed by God, or ruled by tyrants.”
What's Happening in this Country
Paul Harvey's View of our country...
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn babies and called it choice.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
We don’t even sing “God Bless America” any more in schools.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
Father’s Day has been a most transitional holiday for me. It is not because the date changes from year to year to coincide with the third Sunday in June. It does not really matter when it is; what I’m talking about is what it is. Or, more precisely, what Father’s Day has meant to me at different phases of my life.As a child, Father’s Day was the day when we all did whatever Dad wanted to do. All Dad ever really wanted to do was to be allowed to watch the ball game in peace and eat something he liked. So, come Father’s Day, as usual, we did what Mom wanted: eat and miss the game. Under the guise of “Dad’s special day”, we’d go out to eat and miss the game. We would go to any place he chose, which was always Mom’s favorite place, and at the end of it all, he’d pay. He would get presents too. Shirts and books were always popular, since Dad read and wore clothes. I would make a homemade card proclaiming “You are the bestest dad in the whole world!!” He would make me feel as if it was the single greatest thing that anyone had ever done for him. At day’s end, he would thank all of us for our generosity, and we would tell him how much we loved him. We would put that Father’s Day in the books and forget about it for another year.
Things change. As a teenager, I vaguely remember blowing through whatever Father’s Day gaiety was had, in a hurry to get to whatever it was that I really wanted to be doing on that Sunday. I no longer made him cards and rarely remembered to buy one. Typically, I would use one that my mother had lying around and was blank inside—you know the kind, those non-holiday specific cards with a puppy on the front—-and write my sentiments on the inside. At that point, I knew better than to write “bestest” although my dad would have probably gotten a kick out of that. By then, my siblings were married and gone, and for them Father’s Day was the mailing of a card and a gift. Usually a shirt or a book.
I would come home that evening from whatever it was that had occupied my time, say “Happy Father’s Day, Dad,” and hear him say “Thanks, honey,” as I was passing through the television room on the way to my room, where I would stay for the balance of the night.
Things change. I got married, and the love of my life happened to have two young boys of her own. Insta~family! I adopted them and now...insta~Dad! Soon we had a little girl to add to the family.
So what did I learn during those early years of fatherhood? Parenting is really hard! I also started to appreciate my own father’s unbelievable patience.
The meaning of Father’s Day had multiplied for me—now that I was both the son of a father and a father myself. Now, I was the one getting the attention on Father’s Day. I got the homemade cards. I got the shirts. I got the books. Now, Dad and I shared something. We now shared fatherhood, we were members of that very special fraternity.
Dad and I shared a few Father’s Day in which we all went out to dinner and he and I missed the ballgame….together!
Things change. Dad died last June, five days before Father’s Day. Two days after Dad died, my daughter delivered her first child. The wheel of life goes round and round. Father’s Day became quite an emotional time as I missed my Dad dearly and wished I could have one more chance to tell him I thought he was the “bestest” dad in the whole world!
This year, Father’s Day was a time to mourn and a time to celebrate. A time to thank God for my father and to treasure all those great memories of Father’s Day past.
Father’s Day is approaching once again and I know that I will miss my Dad. I will take this special day to remember and to be grateful for him. I will also spend part of this Father’s Day appreciating the father that my son in law is becoming. I will enjoy watching him play with his son… instead of watching the game.
I have seen Father’s Day from all sides now. I remember sitting on my father’s lap. I remember my kids sitting on my lap. Now, my grandchildren sit on my lap and I watch them sit on my children’s laps.
No matter how you look at it, if you are lucky enough to have kids who appreciate and love you, every day is Father’s Day. And if your dad is with my dad, I hope they are watching the game!
In a small college in the western United States there was a Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson. He taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course in his or her freshman year, regardless of his or her major.
Although Dr. Christenson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most of the students refused to take Christianity seriously.
One year Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going into the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and was an imposing physical specimen. He was also the starting center on the school football team and was the best student in the professor’s class.
One day Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him.
“How many push ups can you do?”
Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
“200? That’s pretty good, Steve.” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know—I have never done 300 at a time.”
“Do you think you could?” again, asked Dr. Christianson.
“Well, I can try.” said Steve.
“Can you do 300 sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well, I think I can...yeah, I can do it.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Good. I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these were not the normal kind of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited. It was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?” Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson turned to Steve and asked “Steve, would you do ten push ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?” Joe said “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve, would you do ten push ups so Joe can have a donut?”
Steve did ten push ups: Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push ups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular, especially with the girls. When the professor asked Scott if he wanted a donut his reply was “ Can I do my own push ups?”
Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.” So Scott declined the donut.
Dr. Christianson said, “Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Do you want a donut?” Sternly she said, “No.” He then asked Steve to do ten more push ups so that Jenny could have a donut that she didn't want. Steve did ten and Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve’s work for those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the sets and watch Steve closely.
Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps that ran down the side of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that there were now 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to compete each set. Steve asked the professor if he had to make his nose touch on each one. Dr. Christianson replied, “Well, they are your push ups. You are in charge. You can do them any way you want.”
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “No, don’t come in….stay out!!”
Jason didn't know what was gong on. Steve picked up his head and said “No, let him come in.” The professor turned to Steve and reminded him that if Jason came in, he would have to do ten push ups for him. Steve said, “Let him come in. Give him a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push ups so that Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten push ups very slowly and with great effort.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on the visitors along the wall. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was profusely dropping off his face and there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.
Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan do you want a donut?” Susan with tears running down her face began to cry. “Why can’t I help him?”
The professor, with tears of his own replied, “No, Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked in my grade book. Steve is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.
“Steve, would you do ten push ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve finished his last push up with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, wearing a thin smile. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, “Not all sermons are preached in words.” Turning to the class, he said “My wish is that you might understand and comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.”
"Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?”
Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over.” I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Arrowhead.
“I will come next Tuesday,” I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call.
Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!
My daughter smiled calmly and said, ‘We drive in this all the time, Mother.”
“Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears, and then I’m heading for home!” I assured her. “I was hoping you would take me over to the garage to pick up my car.” “How far will we have to drive?”
“Just a few blocks,” Carolyn said. “I’ll drive. I’m used to this.”
After several minutes, I had to ask, “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to the garage!”
“We are going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by the way of the daffodils.”
“Carolyn,” I said sternly, “Please turn around.”
“It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.”
After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign that read, “Daffodil Garden.”
We got out of the car and each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, we turned a corner of the path and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns—great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron and butter yellow. Each different colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.
“But who has done this?” I asked Carolyn.
“It’s just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”
There it was! The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before had begun—one bulb at a time — to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. Still just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.
This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of indescribable magnificence, beauty and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time—often just one baby-step at a time—and learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.
“It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty five or forty years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!”
My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. “Start tomorrow,” she said. It is so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, “How can I put this to use today?”
The cheerful little girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them, a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.
Oh Mommy please, Mommy, can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?
Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. “ A dollar ninety five: That’s almost $2.00.”
“If you really want them I will think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday is only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.”
As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor, Mrs. McJames and asked if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.
Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, Sunday School, kindergarten, even to bed! The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green. Jenny had a very loving Daddy and each night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night as he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?” “Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”
“Then give me your pearls.” “Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection, the one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She is my very favorite.”
“That’s okay, honey, Daddy loves you. Good night.” He brushed her cheek with a kiss. About a week later after the story time, Jenny’s Daddy asked again, “Do you love me?” “Daddy, you know I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh, daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.” “That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always he brushed her cheek with a gently kiss.
A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. “What is it, Jenny?” What is the matter?” Jenny didn’t say a word, but lifted her little hand up to her Daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here daddy, this is for you.” With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s Daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime store stuff so that he could give her the genuine treasure.
So it is with our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for us to give up the cheap things in our lives so that he can give us beautiful treasures. Isn’t God good? Are you holding onto things that God wants you to let go of? Are you holding on to harmful or unnecessary partners, relationships, habits and activities that you have come to attached to that it seems impossible to let go? Sometimes it is so hard to see what is in the other hand, but do believe this one thing — God will never take away something without giving you something better in its place.
It is not about your age…..it is about your attitude.
A 92 year old man moved into a nursing home. He was a well-poised, proud man and even though legally blind, he was fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock cleanly shaved and every hair in place. His wife of 70 years had recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, he was provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.
“I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight year old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room yet!”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged… it is how I arrange my mind. I have already decided to love it. It is a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice: I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I have stored away, just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you have put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing.
Remember the five simple rules to be happy.
- Free your heart from hatred
- Free you mind from worries
- Live simply
- Give more
- Expect less
Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities...But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.
It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa waned a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.
After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice on his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only was I not getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We had already done all the chores and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him.
The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high side boards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards!! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.
After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of firewood—the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing?? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” “You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jenson lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?
Yeah,” I said, “Why?”
“I rode by today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That as all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy.”
We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern
We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and four and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”
‘Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”
Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.
“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the mat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her an one for each of the children. I watched her carefully.
She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.
“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said “Matt go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she could not speak.
I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.
The fire was soon blazing and the spirits soared. The children giggled when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile. She turned to us, “God bless you, I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that He would send one of his Angels to spare us.
In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat the tears welled up in my eyes again. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth!
Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed that they all fit and wondered how he had known what size to get. I guessed he was on an errand for the Lord and He made sure he got the right size.
As we returned to the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your Ma and I have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. We were so excited...thinking now we could get you the rifle. I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. I hope you understand.
I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I was so glad that Pa had done it. The rifle now seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and radiant smiles of her three children. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night—he had given me the best Christmas of my life!
William Bradford and Miles Standish had much to be thankful for in 1621. Together with John Alden, Priscilla Mullins and the rest of the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth in December 1620, they had survived their first brutal New England winter.
According to history, reporter Peter F. Stevens, writing in The Indianapolis Star, only 55 of the more than 100 original settlers had lived to see the first thaw, but their summer labors had paid off with a bountiful harvest. The fields yielded such a surplus that Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving. He invited Wampanoag Indians, who had helped with cultivation of the crops, to join the colonists feast.
Four women and two teenage girls cooked for the colonists and 90 Wampanoag. They began stoking the fires and arranging giant kettles as four men were sent to hunt fowl. Gathering fresh game, oysters, clams and fish, they were soon ready to begin. With the arrival of Chief Massasoit, five deer were added to the menu.
The feast was not what we think of as Thanksgiving dinner. There were no potatoes, flour, bread, butter or pie. Corn cakes were the bread of the day.
Pumpkin was simply boiled and there was no gravy of any kind. Some scholars say they made sauce from wild cranberries. But there was no sugar. Unless they found wild honey for sweetener, it would have been pretty tart.
Paintings at Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, depict robust colonists in crisp black and white clothing. The truth is they probably wore the best of whatever was available and in a variety of colors.
Having survived starvation, illness, cold and endless toil, they probably looked more haggard and careworn than robust.
But it was a true time of thanksgiving. They had survived. They had a bountiful harvest and a future appeared to be possible. With God’s help, it seemed even probable.
Think of these people of Thanksgiving Day. If your year has had problems, remember the colonists. They gave thanks though they survived far worse than any of us.