Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Widower and the Donkey

A man had sat by his wife’s bed for several months as she became more and more ill. Finally, one day the woman passed away. In grief, the man fled from the room and ran through the fields.

“Why?” he cried out to God. “Why did You take my wife from me?”

He saw a donkey nearby that was tied to a cart, though his master was nowhere in sight. In anger, the man yelled at the donkey, “Why do you pull your master’s cart, you stupid animal? Don’t you know that you will only die after a long life of servitude?”

The donkey replied, “That is true. But in my life I have always been very happy. Each day, after a long day of work, my master rubs me down and gives me fresh hay to eat.”

“What good is that?” the widower responded. “Hay is worthless. You would be better off if you were free. You could make something of your life.”

“What good could I do if I were free?” the donkey replied. “If I were free, who would pull the cart? If I were free, where would I get such lovely hay to eat? If I were free, who would give my master’s children rides around the stable?”

“But there is nothing that greets us but death. I just sat for months next to my wife, only to have her die in my arms,” the widower moaned.

“So you are free now of that burden,” said the donkey, “but you are far worse off than I. Do you not realize that each of us is a beast of burden? But when I am ill, my master lightens my load or lets me rest. So too will your Master.

“Go home to your family and friends. You will find that each bears some of the weight that you cannot until you are ready again. When you are ready, you must take up the cart again, because it is only through your work in life that you find the things that matter most. So the time you spent with your wife near the end will become a joy in your life, even though her death is so sad.”

The man wept openly at this, and asked desperately, “But why did God take her from me?”

The donkey answered quietly, “Perhaps it is because He is a loving God. He loves your wife, so He took her away from her pain. He loves you too, which is why He broke the axle of my wagon today. Because if my master had not had to go home to fetch a spare today, who knows what your grief would have driven you to.

“And the Lord loves me, because I know my master will return with a carrot and a kind word. Now go home in both grief and joy, and be greeted with a carrot and a kind word.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Injured Sons

A man received a call alerting him that his son had been attacked and badly wounded. The man rushed to the hospital and saw that his son’s face was horribly scarred.

“My beautiful son!” he cried. “What have they done to you?”

In a rage, he found the man who had committed the crime and killed him.

A second man received a call alerting him that his son had been badly wounded in a similar attack. He rushed to the hospital and saw his son’s face too was horribly scarred.

“My beautiful son!” he cried. “What have they done to you?”

In a fury, he applied to medical school and studied each day so that he might become the best plastic surgeon possible. The man went on not only to repair his own son’s face, but the faces of many other men’s sons as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


This November, my son, who is two years, old began telling me in his broken English, "Jesus...comin'...front door." And when I said, "Jesus is going to come through our front door?" he said, "Yeah!" in his high-pitched, excited voice.

I thought it was so sweet.

And I didn't believe him.

But he keeps saying this and I get more and more excited. Especially with Christmas approaching. And the idea of Jesus walking through my front door got me thinking about the Second Coming.

Will Jesus come again...physically, I mean? And if so, will he come as an infant and grow up, or will he come as an adult and immediately start his work? Is he already here?!

Or have we completely misinterpreted the message? Is the Second Coming supposed to be happening every day inside of us? Are we each called to be the reincarnation of Christ by trying to live as Christ instructed us? Is that what was really meant?

If we live our lives believing that we are to each be the Second Coming, not only do we live a better life, but we create a better world as well. And though we can and should hope that Christ will come bodily, if we live like this we expect that our lives must be a fulfillment of his words.

So many believe that the Second Coming will be the stereotypical Armageddon. But to imagine a world in which everyone lives their life as if they are the fulfillment of the Second Coming is to imagine a paradise...not an apocalypse. Christ's message was one of hope through love, not hope through destruction. His message was acceptance, assistance, and care. Not pestilence, plague, and war.

We are interested in mortal annihilation because that is our nature. But Christ was interested in immortal salvation, because that was his nature.

If that was Christ's nature, why do are we all anticipating (and desiring!) a holy war to accompany his arrival? Why shouldn't we expect Christ to allow us to choose his way or an earthly path, as he did during his ministry and testimony?

And why shouldn't he walk through my front door and greet me with love?

Each time somebody comes to my house now, I can't help but think about what my son said. And I try to look for Christ and God's word in each person who enters. And I have to remind myself that I too must be Christlike to them.

Christmas and advent are times to remember, "Jesus...comin'!" So prepare for his Second Coming in your heart, mind, and spirit.

And watch your front door.

The Poor Country’s Students

A rich country’s students take their education for granted. They complain of the time they must spend, the work that they must do, and the lectures they must endure.

But the poor country’s students, having endured famine or bloody upheavals, embrace their education. They know that it alone can be their salvation, and is something they must hold onto and never release, for only through education can they be free.

So the salvation of the Lord shared with the wealthy and successful often falls on deaf ears, while those who have suffered and those who are in need of hope hear the words to be as clear and crisp as a mountain stream. Man is more blessed by hope than wealth.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Foreigner in India

An American man went to India, and when he stepped off the plane, he looked around at the throngs of people and saw that none looked like him. At that moment he felt that he was truly in a foreign land.

Then a man approached him and asked in English, “May I help you with your bags?” Upon hearing his native tongue, the man felt more comfortable immediately.

“Thank you,” the man said, handing his bags over. The baggage handler took him out to the street and to the line of cabs. He chose a cab at random and loaded the man’s bags in the trunk.

The American was terrified when he realized that he was about to be abandoned by the only man he had met who spoke English. But to his surprise, the cab driver said clearly, “Where may I take you too, sir?”

Relieved and surprised, the American told him which hotel he was staying at. The American and the cab driver had a lively conversation all the way to the hotel. When he was dropped off, he was still nervous about being in a strange culture, but not nearly as nervous as he had been just thirty minutes before.

As he approached the front desk, the man behind the counter said, “Good day, sir. How may I help you?” and once again the man was put at ease.

By the time the man’s trip was over, he was not only comfortable with the Indian people and their culture, but the personal care and attention they had paid to him had inspired him to go back to his own country and do the same for both visiting foreigners and citizens.

So this is also the way you are to treat those who visit the house of God. They feel like foreigners, and they fear your strange sayings and beliefs. But if from the very first moment they hear a pleasant voice and are made comfortable with the people before you try to share the word of the Lord with them, then they will be willing to listen to your beliefs and may grow to love them as their own. But if you assault them with teachings, beliefs, and words that they do not understand, you will have driven them and all they know away forever.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Teacher and the Student

A wise teacher shared a piece of wisdom with his student. The student was so amazed by his teacher’s words that he went out and shared it with everyone. Soon, people began to come to the student seeking his wisdom.

The student, now drunk on his own fame, abandoned his teacher to share his own wisdom with these new students. But soon, his well of knowledge expired, because he did not have the wisdom of his teacher to support him.

In desperation, he went back to his teacher and confessed what he had done. His teacher said to him, “Did you really think I did not know what you were doing? I knew that you had taken my words and passed them off as your own. But why should I care? Does a man truly own the words that come out of his mouth? God inspires men, and men inspire other men to turn to God. That is how it has always been.”

“But what should I do about all of these new students?” the man cried out.

“What do you think you should do?” the teacher responded.

“I should tell them the truth and dismiss them.”

“You fool! Men have come to you wanting to learn. Would you send them away empty handed? Bring them to me. I will share what I know with you and with them, and together we will create teachers for future generations. For no starving man should be turned away by the baker. And no man who seeks knowledge should be turned away by a teacher.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Tattered Book

A poor man carried his Holy Book into worship and the leader saw that it was tattered to the point that the book was nearly useless. Seeing that this congregant had so faithfully sought the word of the Lord, the leader took a new Holy Book down from his shelf and gave it as a gift to the man. The man wept with joy at the gift.

So God, when seeing a person who has been worn out from faithfully seeking His word shall give that person a new life as a gift. Each of us is too poor to afford such a thing on our own. In that gift the Lord’s word and will are ever present.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Judge

Two men were brought before a judge. The first man had stolen $10,000 in jewels, and was using the money to buy and sell drugs. The judge, on hearing what he had done, sentenced the man to five years in prison.

The second man had stolen $200 in food, and was using the food to feed his family and his neighbor’s family because they were starving. The judge, on hearing what he had done, sentenced the man to five years in prison.

Which man’s sentence was worse?

One might say that it was the man who had stolen the food, but his sentence was the easiest, because he knew that he had broken the law, but that he had done so for noble intensions.

Others might say that it was the man who stole the jewels, but his sentence was still not the worst, because although he had broken the law, he was paying for his crime.

The worst sentence was reserved for the judge, because although he upheld the law, he did so without mercy or justice. So in the end, his sentence was five thousand times 5 years.

Seek mercy and justice in everything, lest you bear the greatest sentence of all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Doughnut

Three men went into a bakery. On one of the shelves was the most beautiful doughnut, and each man desired it.

The first man said, “Wait! Before any one of us takes that doughnut, we should know how it was cooked and what it was cooked in. What is it made of? Is there a filling? We must know that it is good and proper before we eat it, even though it looks very good indeed.”

The second man said, “No. There is a much greater issue than that. We must truly examine it from all sides. We must contemplate the doughnut’s size relative to its hole. It must be compared against all other doughnuts.”

“No,” said the third man, “both of your ideas are fine, but we must first determine why this doughnut is greater than all others before it. We must be sure in our argument so that we can tell others about it and make them believe us.”

Just then the baker took the doughnut off the shelf and handed it to another customer.

“What are you doing?!” the three men yelled.

“While you were arguing, this man bought the doughnut.”

“And it is delicious!” the customer said, as he took a bite.

Stop arguing and eat the doughnut.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Two Towns

There was a fearsome king who sent a message to one of his towns saying, “I am coming to your town. Prepare the way for me.” The townspeople feared the king, so they sent all their workers out to fix the road and repair the potholes to prepare for his arrival. When the king arrived, a festival was thrown to welcome him, and he was overjoyed by them, saying, “You are my greatest subjects!”

Then the king sent a message to another town saying, “I am coming to your town. Prepare the way for me.”

The townspeople feared the king, so they said amongst themselves, “If we do not fix the road, his caravan will not be able to make it to our town,” so they did not repair the road.

Finally, the day came and the king and his entire entourage arrived at the town’s gate. The people called out, “How did you get here? We did not fix the road.”

The king replied, “You wicked people! Am I not the king! I filled in every hole in the road with the bodies of my enemies. I made my own path smooth. I know that you did not fix my path because you fear me. How much more shall you fear me now that you have set yourselves against me and know what I do to my enemies!”

Make straight the path of the Lord and prepare for His coming. For He shall come, and when He does, it is our decision whether he arrives in love or fury.

Today's Post

I'm posting a new one today, that is a bit similar to an earlier one, with just a little bit of a different take on one of my favorite statements from the Bible: "Make straight the path of the Lord."

The post after that one has a much lighter, more humorous spin on parables. I hope you like them both, and I hope each speaks to you in a different way.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Man with the Wicked Son

There was a man who had ten sons. His youngest was hotheaded and rebellious who ran away from home when he was fifteen years old. When the police brought him home, the man hugged the boy tight and kissed him. But the man’s neighbors told him, “You should disown him, for he has disowned you.”

“No,” the man said, “I love my son.”

When the boy was sixteen, he was caught in a robbery while on drugs. Each Saturday the man went to visit his son in Juvenile Hall. But his neighbors said, “Look what has become of your son. You should disown him as we told you to do a year ago.”

“I will not,” the man said. “I love my son.”

When the boy was nineteen, the son killed a man and was sentenced to life in prison. The man’s neighbors said, “See! We told you. Now you must disown him.”

“Never!” the man said.

“But you have nine good sons. Why have you spent so much time on this wicked son? He has brought you nothing but pain.”

“I will never turn from any of my sons. If I do not love and forgive my son, how can I ever expect God to forgive my own sins.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Men in the Grove of Trees

Three men were in a grove of trees. One said, “This tree’s fruit is delicious. Come and try it.”

The second man said, “Never! My tree’s fruit is the best of all.”

Then the third said, “You are both wrong. My tree bears the best fruit.”

Then a traveler approached and each man called out to him, “Come and try my fruit, for it is better than the others.”

“You stupid men!” the traveler yelled. “Do you know nothing at all? You are standing in a grove, but each of you are eating from the same tree. Your fruit is exactly the same!”

But the three men ignored him. They would not listen to common sense, so why should they be expected to understand wisdom?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Man and the Walled Town

There was a walled town, and the townspeople did not want to pay taxes to their foreign king. Instead, knowing that the king would punish them, they decided to use the money to build up their walls, for they were very afraid.

But one poor man saw that the road leading to their town had not been well maintained. He said to the townspeople, “Shouldn’t we spend our money to make the road smooth? I think more good can come of that than of building up our walls. Besides, the king is so powerful, even our stronger walls will not be able to hold him back.”

“You fool,” they said to him, “that is the road the king will come down when he seeks to destroy us. Do not make it easier for him!”

But despite their warnings, the poor man took all he had and spent all of his money, efforts, and time to fix the road by himself.

When the king finally came to punish the townspeople, they closed the gates to him, and he yelled to the people hiding behind the walls, “Why have you wicked people refused to pay the taxes you owe to me? Instead you have spent that money to build up your walls and this fine road. Did you not know that I would have done these things for you had you been loyal?”

But the townspeople cried, “We spent none of your money on that road. This man did all of that.” Then they threw the poor man out of the gate, hoping this sacrifice might appease their king. In fear, he fell at the king’s feet.

The king looked at the poor man and said, “Did you do what these people say?”

“Yes,” the man replied, trembling.

The king lifted the man to his feet and said, “You have made the road smooth and straight for me, while these evil ones have spit on my name. You shall be as loved and honored as if you were my own son.”

Then the king turned to his armies and said, “Destroy this town. Leave not one brick standing nor one person alive.” But the poor man was given a robe of scarlet and crown and led away as a prince.

Back from India

I'm back from India, so I'll try to do a better job of posting on a regular basis. Sorry for a little bit of laziness on my part.

It was good to be there, because I like the people we work with so much, but it is so nice to be back in Kansas City!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Things We Don't Really Need

I am in my hotel room as I try to work to get on a plane back to India. Actually, my parents are trying to help me with this, as my cell phone does not stay connected all the time in India. So it is 9:30pm Saturday here and it is 10:00am Saturday in Kansas City.

There are more than 7.5 million people in the city of Chennai, but few people in the US have ever heard of it. According to Wikipedia Chennai is the 34th largest metropolitan area, but the numbers they show are too low. It's the 4th biggest city in India.

No explanation can do it justice. No description can explain how many people there are, the squalor that some live in, the pollution, the traffic, or the joy that many of them find in life.

As Americans (which I know most readers of this blog to be), we take for granted everything that we have. We feel that we "need" things that we don't actually need. Here is an extreme example: You don't NEED toilet paper.

Think about that for a minute. TP is cheap, right? So everyone should have it. Not true. In fact, in Chennai and a large part of the third world, they don't use it. They use their left hand which they then clean in a bucket of water. Sounds disgusting? It is. But it is something that we think we need, but we don't. think of all the things that you would give up BEFORE you gave up using toilet paper and started using your left hand!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Queen and the Dream

Having a terrible dream, a queen feared for her husband’s life, for if the king were dead, the country might crumble. She sought answers in the stars, in the telling of dreams, and in signs.

She asked her favorite astrologer, “Will my husband live?” and he replied, “Yes, he will live.” So she was pleased.

But on his way back to the castle, the king’s parade inadvertently interfered with when a beggar cut across the path. In anger, the king kicked the poor man mercilessly. As the king beat him and cursed him, the lowly beggar asked the Lord, “Protect me, God.”

So a lightening bolt came out of the clear blue sky and struck the king dead. And the beggar was spared.

The queen, seeing in this a failure by her astrologer, had him killed. After all this had occurred, the country fell to its foe.

The Lord looks over all of His subjects and cares for them. But the weak and defenseless hold a special place to Him. Those who call out to the Lord shall find Him. And the powerful who defy the Lord shall find He destroys their line and all around them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

From India

I have not posted in several days, because I left on Friday for Chennai, India, where we have our overseas office. This is my third time to Chennai, so I’m quite used to it, but I haven’t been during the rainy season. The streets are flooding, and it’s warm and humid. Which is so different than the rainless, hot, and humid days I’ve experienced in April when I’ve been here.

Anyway, my posts will be fewer for the next two weeks because of the fact that I’m working halfway around the world, and I'm working really long days. It is so interesting to be in the heart of the Hindu nation and to be working side by side with Hindus, Christians, and Muslims.

There are only two sights that are worth seeing here in Chennai, and one is quite interesting:

1. The Mylapore Temple - a beautiful painted temple with more than 10,000 Hindu statues on it.

2. The San Tome Cathedral - the cathedral in which the apostle Thomas (Doubting Thomas) was buried.

When Jesus sent the apostles forth to spread the Good News, Thomas was sent to India, and there is apparently a cave nearby where Thomas lived (I haven't seen it, and nobody has ever mentioned it except I read about it on a website once last year). Thomas was killed very near to the cathedral. His body was buried and marked by the Christian converts and when the cathedral was built, it was built over the place he was buried. His body has sense been moved to Rome.

Anyway, it’s amazing to be halfway around the world in a country that most people consider very non-Christian and to be in the same city where one of the twelve disciples was buried.

And it made me think of the doubt that we all sometimes experience. The times when we ask ourselves whether we truly believe in something real or if we just want it to be real so badly. I do believe in God and that Jesus was His son and the Messiah. But sometimes I find the logical part of my brain asking me tough questions to prove my beliefs. And that is difficult because faith is belief without proof.

India has actually given me a little bit of insight into this. When we send a project to our Chennai team, they often come back and say, "I have doubts." The first few times this happened, I worried that they meant they doubted whether they could do the project or not. Not true. What they meant was, "I have questions." But because of the way they are taught, they often substitute the word 'doubts' for 'questions.'

Doubts are perceived negatively, while questions are perceived as a positive part of our intellect. So perhaps when I worry about 'doubts' I have related to faith, maybe I ought to consider that 'questions' is a better way to look at the ideology and beliefs upon which my faith is founded.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Ship in the Storm

Two boats were upon the sea when a powerful storm blew up. The first boat was small and crewed by only one man. He fought to keep his boat righted in the storm, but it was his strength against the gale of the hurricane, and he was capsized by the waves.

The second boat had a full crew, all knowing and doing their jobs. They pulled down the sales and battened down each hatch. Despite the fury of the waves, they could not overcome the team of men. And when the storm had passed, not one man was lost.

So one man alone is not safe in a storm, but when surrounded by friends the full gale cannot reach him.

God wanted man to be surrounded in friendship, so He made for Adam a companion in Eve, and when He saw Adam and Eve together it was good. So too, the son gathered disciples to him, knowing that alone he would not accomplish his full mission after his death.

Even the sun is not meant to be alone, for it has gathered the planets to it.

In fellowship, a man is like a thick tree trunk that cannot be easily cut down.