Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal

 

Romans 5.1-11

 

I recently renewed

by broadband package

and in the process

decided to read

the small print.

 

Of course,

it meant little to me

as it was a mixture of

gobbledygook;

legal-ese

and contract speak.

 

So much so

that the famous Marx brothers

sketch came to mind.

 

You might remember it.

 

It’s when they are discussing

a contract a

and they start off

by read the document –

 

the first clause was

the first part will be known

as the first part

—– and so it went on.

 

Well I have to say

sometimes reading Pau

can feel like reading

a legal document

generated

in the bowels of the EU.

 

Since his pen produces

dense texts

that needs careful reading.

 

In fact,

like most theology,

we need to read it

three times

before sense

starts to appear.

 

Today I won’t foist

two further readings

on you.

 

So if you will allow

I will lead your eye

and ear

to what I,

at least,

think is important.

 

In essence,

let me bring a hope of understanding

even

an understanding of hope.

 

Now hope

is a very interesting word.

 

So much so,

that it features

in many

of our well known sayings.

 

Take the adages –

hope against hope,

living in hope,

hope springs eternal

or there is always hope.

 

Yet each of these clichés

has a negative connotation.

 

In fact, they are used

when hope

is really

not much of an option.

 

When indeed hope

is hardly even a chink of light

in a bad situation.

 

And that is why Pau

l is so very valuable.

 

Because he suggests that,

bleak as

apparently impossible situations are,

they not hopeless.

 

Instead they are the roots

of perseverance and character.

 

These qualities

in turn

germinate into hope.

 

Put bluntly, hope

comes from adversity

rather despite it.

 

Maybe that is the meaning

of a less well known saying –

where flowers bloom

so does hope.

 

Yet despite saying all that,

it still seems

that to blunder

into someone else’s

desperate moment

prattling about hope

is at best offering another cliché.

 

To offer

that tribulations

are a great road to character

is no less than crass.

 

To counsel that awful circumstances

are good for perseverance

can be utterly insensitive.

 

And it is for that reason

we need to read on

in Paul.

 

Since it is then

he adds the essential ingredient.

 

He introduces

the factor X t

hat turns wistful

even forlorn hope

into genuine expectation.

 

In truth, he gives the way

to turning platitudinous waffle

into real comfort.

 

Because he then points out

that the veritable soil

that allows

the painfully won

seeds of character

and perseverance

to blossom into hope

is faith.

 

To him, faith is seeing

in Christ’s selfless sacrifice

the unrestrained love of God;

a love that defies hopelessness.

 

To him, faith that Christ died

and rose

is proof that the impossible

is most likely for God.

 

Moreover, to him faith

is knowing

we can always to tap

into a greater glory.

 

Because it is the phrase

‘hope in the glory of God’

that gives us

not just an aimless hope

but a focus

what we can hope for.

 

Since we cannot hope

to avoid trying times

nor can we hope

to escape tests

that build character and persistence.

 

But we can hope

wholehearted

that through faith

we have a new purpose

and value;

that through faith

we have a refreshing

and everlasting destiny

and that through faith

our life’s meaning

will be eternally fulfilled.

 

Or as David Odunaiya wrote:

“Faith and hope

work hand in hand,

however while hope

focuses on the future,

faith focuses on the now.”

 

All of this is summed up

in a story told

by Linda Ellis.

 

Hope Stout

was a twelve-year old girl

who was offered

a “wish”

in early December 200

by the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation

after being informed

that she had a rare type

of bone cancer.

 

 

However, when she found out

that more than 150 children

in her area

were waiting for their wishes

to be granted,

she unselfishly used her wish

to ask that those children

have their wishes fulfilled.

 

She also asked

that it be done

by January  2004.

 

Unfortunately, however,

the organization informed her

that her noble request

could not be granted

as the funds

were simply unavailable.

 

They calculated that

they would need to rise

more than one million US dollars

in thirty days in order

to grant her wish.

 

Disappointed,

but not discouraged,

she turned her dismay

into an enthusiasm

that inspired caring individual

s to spearhead fundraising

to help grant the wishes

of the other children,

and eventually hers as well.

 

Newspaper columnists

and reporters

for radio and TV stations

shared the story

of this caring young girl

who had touched

the hearts

of so many

and as word spread,

the community was challenged.

 

Committees were formed

and schools, corporations

and various organizations

assisted in raising money

to help bring Hope’s dream to fruition.

 

Though she lost her battle in 2004,

knowing that her wish

was going to come true,

Hope lives on.

 

Her heartfelt efforts

were not in vain

as they continue to help others,

not only physically,

but spiritually

and emotionally as well.

 

At the initial fundraiser

and gathering

to celebrate her life,

“A Celebration of Hope”

In  2004,

the announcement was made

that they had

indeed

received donations

totaling more

than one million dollars

on behalf of Hope Stout.

 

Her wish had been granted!

 

Well I truly pray

you are not facing

the trails of young Hope Stout.

 

But other tests

seem to be in our paths

individually,

as a congregation

and as a nation.

 

In fact, there is much

to try us

each and every day.

 

Yet with hope

we will grow

in character and persistence.

 

With hope

we will be certain

that we will not just prevail

but achieve God’s purpose

as well.

 

Indeed, with hope,

we will know our new direction

in Christ

is toward eternal glory

and victory.

 

All we need do is

to have faith now.

 

Since as Paul’s great guarantee reminds –

faith is the assurance

of things hoped for

and the conviction

of things not seen.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

Live your dreams

“You gotta be crazy!” That’s what Lee Dunham’s friends told him back in 1971 when he gave up a secure job as a police officer and invested his life savings in the notoriously risky restaurant business. This particular restaurant was more than just risky, it was downright dangerous. It would be the first McDonald’s franchise in the city of New York – smack in the middle of crime-ridden Harlem.

Lee had always had plans. When other kids were playing ball in the empty lots of Brooklyn, Lee was playing entrepreneur, collecting milk bottles and returning them to grocery stores for the deposits. He had his own shoeshine stand and worked delivering newspapers and groceries.

Early on, he promised his mother that one day she would never again have to wash other people’s clothes for a living. He was going to start his own business and support her. “Hush your mouth and do your homework,”she told him.

She knew that no member of the Dunham family had ever risen above the level oflaborer, let alone owned a business. “There’s no way you’re going to open your own business, ” his mother told him repeatedly.

Years passed, but Lee’s penchant for dreaming and planning did not. After high school, he joined the Air Force, where his goal of one day owning a family restaurant began to take shape. He enrolled in the Air Force food service school and became such an accomplished cook he was promoted to the officers’ dining hall.

When he left the Air Force, he worked for four years in several restaurants, including one in the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Lee longed to start his own restaurant but felt he lacked the business skills to be successful. He signed up for business school and took classes at night while he applied and was hired to be a police officer.

For fifteen years he worked full-time as a police officer. In his off-hours, he worked part-time as a carpenter and continued to attend business school. And he had started saving and preparing for his dream. By 1971, Lee had saved $42,000, and it was time for him to make his vision a reality.

Lee wanted to open an upscale restaurant in Brooklyn. With a business plan in hand, he set out to seek financing. The banks refused him. Unable to get funding to open an independent restaurant, lee turned to franchising and filled out numerous applications.

McDonald’s offered him a franchise, with one stipulation: Lee had to set up a McDonald’s in the inner-city, the first to be located there. McDonald’s wanted to find out if its type of fast-food restaurant could be successful in the inner city. It seemed that Lee might be the right person to operate that first restaurant.

To get the franchise, Lee would have to invest his life savings and borrow $150,000 more. Everything for which he’d worked and sacrificed all those years would be on the line – a very thin line if he believed his friends. Lee spent many sleepless nights before making his decision.

He decided this was it. The years of preparation he’d invested – the dreaming, planning, studying and saving now had a vehicle to make them a reality. He signed on the dotted line to operate the first inner-city McDonald’s in the United States.

The first few months were a disaster. Gang fights, gunfire, and other violent incidents plagued his restaurant and scared customers away. Inside, employees stole his food and cash, and his safe was broken into routinely. To make matters worse, Lee couldn’t get any help from McDonald’s headquarters; the company’s representatives were too afraid to venture into the ghetto. Lee was on his own.

Although he had been robbed of his merchandise, his profits, and his confidence, Lee was not going to be robbed of his dream. Lee fell back on what he had always believed in – preparation and planning.

Lee put together a strategy. First, he sent a strong message to the neighborhood thugs that McDonald’s wasn’t going to be their turf. To make his ultimatum stick, he needed to offer an alternative to crime and violence. In the eyes of those kids, Lee saw the same look of helplessness he had seen in his own family.

He knew that there was hope and opportunity in that neighborhood and he was going to prove it to the kids. He decided to serve more than meals to his community – he would serve dreams and solutions. He was going to make their obstacles their stepping stones.

Lee spoke openly with gang members, challenging them to rebuild their lives. Then he did what some might say was unthinkable: he hired gang members and put them to work. He tightened up his operation and conducted spot checks. He continually taught his employees the need for honesty and a good reputation if they were to succeed in life. Lee improved working conditions and once a week he offered his employees classes in customer service and management.

He encouraged them to develop personal and professional goals. He always stressed two things: his restaurant offered a way out of a dead-end life; and the faster and more efficiently the employees served the customers, the more lucrative that way would be.

In the community, Lee sponsored athletic teams and scholarships to get kids off the streets and into community centers and schools. The New York inner-city restaurant became a hub for ghetto kids to get a new start and dream new dreams. And in the process, it became McDonald’s most profitable franchise worldwide, earning more than $1.5 million a year.

Company representatives who wouldn’t set foot in Harlem months earlier now flocked to Lee’s doors, eager to learn how he did it. To Lee, the answer was simple: “Serve the customers, the employees, and the community-dreams, goals and solutions along with hamburgers.”

Today, Lee Dunham owns nine restaurants, employs 435 people, and serves thousands of meals every day. It’s been many years since his mother had to take in wash to pay the bills. More importantly, Lee paved the way for thousands of African-American entrepreneurs who are working to make their dreams a reality, helping their communities, and serving up hope.

All this was possible because a little boy understood the need to dream, to plan, and to prepare for the future. In doing so, he changed his life and the lives of thousands of others.

 Cynthia Kersey
 Excerpted/Adapted from Unstoppable
 Copyright 1988 by Cynthia Kersey, www.unstoppable.net 

A bell brings a surprise

Pappy ran a little Novelty Shop. He didn’t make much money, but he enjoyed the company. His wife was dead and his daughter had moved away many years ago. He was so lonely.

At first, he did not see her. Her shiny, soft curls barely topped the counter. “And how can I help you, little lady?” Pappy’s voice was jovial. “Hello, sir.” The little girl spoke almost in a whisper. She was dainty.Bashful.Innocent. She looked at Pappy with her big brown eyes, then slowly scanned the room in search of something special.

Shyly she told him, “I’d like to buy a present, sir.” “Well, let’s see” Pappy said, “Who is this present for?” “My grandpa, It’s for my grandpa. But I don’t know what to get.” Pappy began to make suggestions. “How about a pocket watch? It’s in good condition. I fixed it myself,” he said proudly.

The little girl didn’t answer. She had walked to the doorway and put her small hand on the door. She wiggled the door gently to ring the bell. Pappy’s face seemed to glow as he saw her smiling with excitement. “This is just right,”” the little girl bubbled. “Momma says grandpa loves music.”

Just then, Pappy’s expression changed. Fearful of breaking the little girl’s heart, he told her, “I’m sorry, missy. That’s not for sale. Maybe your grandpa would like this little radio.” The little girl looked at the radio, lowered her head and sadly sighed, “No, I don’t think so.”

In an effort to help her understand, Pappy told her the story of how the bell had been in his family for so many years and that was why he didn’t want to sell it. The little girl looked up at him, and with a giant tear in her eye, sweetly said, “I guess I understand. Thank you, anyway.”

Suddenly, Pappy thought of how the rest of the family was all gone now, except for his estranged daughter whom he had not seen in nearly a decade. Why not, he thought. Why not pass it on to someone who will share it with a loved one? God only knows where it will end up anyway.

“Wait…little lady.” Pappy spoke just as the little girl was going out the door and as he was hearing his bell ring for the last time. “I’ve decided to sell the bell. Here’s a hanky. Blow your nose.”

The little girl began to clap her hands. “Oh, thank you, sir. Grandpa will be so happy.” “Okay, little lady. Okay.” Pappy felt good about helping the child; he knew, however, he would miss the bell. “You must promise to take good care of the bell for your grandpa..and for me, too, okay?” He carefully placed the bell in a brown paper bag.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. Then, she suddenly became very still and quiet.There was something she had forgotten to ask. She looked up at Pappy with great concern and again almost in a whisper, asked, “How much will it cost?” Well,let’s see. How much have you got to spend?” Pappy asked with a grin.

The child pulled a small coin purse from her pocket then reached up and emptied two dollars and forty-seven cents onto the counter. After briefly questioning his own sanity, Pappy said, “Little lady, this is your lucky day. That bell costs exactly two dollars and forty-seven cents.”

Later that evening as Pappy prepared to close up shop, he found himself thinking about his bell. Already he had decided not to put up another one. He thought about the child and wondered if her grandpa liked his gift. Surely, he would cherish anything from such a precious grandchild.

At that moment, just as he was going to turn off the light in memory hall, Pappy thought he heard his bell. Again, he questioned his sanity; he turned toward the door and there stood the little girl. She was ringing the bell and smiling sweetly.

Pappy was puzzled as he strolled toward the small child. “What’s this, little lady? Have you changed your mind?”

“No,” she grinned, “Momma says it’s for you.” Before Pappy had time to say another word, the child’s mother stepped into the doorway and choking back a tear, she gently said, “Hello, Dad.”

As tears flowed down Pappy’s face, the little girl tugged on his shirttail. “Here, Grandpa. Here’s a hanky. Blow your nose.

By Phyllis Caldwell

Being a team-player

We found out that Jenny was hearing impaired, when she was four and a half years old. Several surgeries and speech classes later, when she was seven, we found out that Jenny had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

She could not put pressure on the heels of her feet, so she walked on tiptoe and when the pain became unbearable, I carried her. Jenny was fortunate though, because she did not suffer the deformities often associated with JRV.

All through grade school and on into high school, Jenny suffered yet never complained. She took her medicine and I would often wrap her feet in steaming towels and hold her until the pain eased. But, as soon as she could withstand the pain, Jenny immediately carried on as though she were pain free.

She wore a smile on her face, a song on her lips and a love and acceptance of others, that was simply amazing. I don’t remember her ever voicing self-pity. She ran when she could run. She played when she could play and she danced when she could dance. And, when she could do none of these things, she took her medicine and she waited until she could.

Jenny, a beautiful blonde with warm brown eyes, was never a cheerleader. She never competed in a sport. She could not even take part in a Gym Class though she took the same health class four years in a row just so she could pass with a substitute credit each year. She joined the band. She won a place in the Governor’s School for the Arts; yet, no one in the Charleston, South Carolina School System knew quite what to do with Jenny. The perimeters were simply not in place to deal with a student, who was both active and handicapped.

Jenny continued to have one surgery after another all through school. Her hearing improved to 60% and she taught herself to read lips. She carried a pillow to school all through high school and once when she suddenly experienced crippling pain, her friends scooped her up and carried her from class to class.

She was totally mainstreamed, popular and funny, attending every football game, cheering the team on, carrying her pillow everywhere she went so that she could cushion the pain when she sat down. Then came her senior year. She would be considered for scholarships; however school activities, especially sports, could often mean the difference between receiving an award or losing out.

So Jenny came to a decision; and in her quirky unorthodox manner, she began to bombard the high school football coach. She begged. She pleaded. She promised. She got her best friend to sign up with her. Finally the coach gave in, with the admonition, “If you miss ONE game, you’re out!” So Jenny became Manager of the Garrett High School Football Team.

She carried big buckets of water to her teammates. She bandaged knees and ankles before every game. She massaged necks and backs. She gave pep talks. She was continually at their beck and call, and it turned out to be one of the best years for Garrett High School Football Team, in its twenty-five year history. Often Jenny could be seen carrying a bucket of water in each hand, nearly dragging them, along with her pillow tucked under her arm.

When asked why he thought that the team was winning all their games even in the face of injury, one linebacker explained in his soft Charleston drawl, “Well, when you’ve been knocked down and you can’t seem to move, you look up and see Jenny Lewis, limping across the field, dragging her buckets and carrying her pillow. It makes anything the rest of us may suffer seem pretty insignificant.”

At the Senior Awards ceremony, Jenny received a number of scholarships to several Universities. Her favorite scholarship, however, was a small one from the Charleston Women’s Club. The President of the Women’s Club listed Jenny’s accomplishments, starting with her grades and ending with a closure, “…and the first girl to letter in football, in Charleston History. But more important, what an inspiration. She excelled in the face of adversity, inspired an entire football team to new heights and gave hope to the future of every student at Garrett High School. Jenny will change the life of every one she meets.

 

By - Jaye Lewis          http://www.chickensoup.com 

The power of soup!

It had been a busier than usual week, and trying to cope with a stiff neck had made it worse. By Thursday afternoon I had used up my supply of energy and patience. All I wanted to do was to get home, put on a comfortable robe, fix a bowl of good hot soup and collapse with my feet up.

So when I pulled into the driveway and saw my daughter-in-law Wanda’s car, I groaned in despair. I had forgotten it was Bryan’s night.

Since his parents’ separation, I had tried to have my six-year-old grandson spend a few hours with me at least once a week. I always tried to make it a special time for him. We cooked his favorite meal – chicken and cranberry sauce – or went to his favorite hamburger place. Then either a movie or a walk through the park, and home for some fun together. We’d get down on the floor and have car races. Sometimes we’d make candy, or maybe read some silly or scary book. Bryan delighted in all these activities, and so did I. Usually.

Tonight there was no way I could handle it. I was going to have to postpone our evening together until next week. I hugged them both and then explained how badly I was feeling.

“Bryan, honey, I’m sorry,” I said. “Tonight your Grandma Joan isn’t up to any fun and games. Just a nice hot bowl of soup, a lazy hour of TV and then early to bed. We’ll have our night together some other time.”

Bryan’s smile faded, and I saw the disappointment in his eyes. “Dear Lord, forgive me,” I prayed, “but I’m really not up to it tonight. I need this night to relax and renew myself.”

Bryan was looking up at me solemnly. “I like soup, Grandma.”

My grandmother’s heart knew what he was really saying. In his own way, he was saying, “Please don’t send me away. Please let me stay.”

I heard Wanda say, “No, Bryan. Grandma Joan’s too tired tonight. Maybe next week.”

But in Bryan’s eyes, I saw the shadow, the uncertainty. Something else was changing. Maybe Grandma Joan wouldn’t want to have him come anymore. Not tonight, not next week, not ever.

I hesitated and then tried again. “Just soup and TV, Bryan. No car games on the floor for me tonight, no baking cookies, no books. I probably won’t be awake very long.”

“I like soup,” he repeated.

With a sigh of resignation, I gave in and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Then you are cordially invited to dine at my castle. The meal will be small, but the company will be delightful. Escort the Queen Mother in, please, Sir Bryan.”

It was worth it to see his eyes light up and hear him giggle as he made a mock bow and replied, “Okay, your Royal Highness.”

While I put the soup on the stove and changed into my robe, Bryan set up trays and turned on the television set.

I must have dozed off after the first few sips of soup. When I woke up, there was an afghan over my legs, the bowls and trays were gone. Bryan was sprawled on the floor, dividing his attention between a coloring book and a television show. I looked at my watch. Nine o’clock. Wanda would be coming to get Bryan soon. Poor boy, what a dull time he must have had.

Bryan looked up with a smile. Then, to my surprise, he ran over and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Grandma,” he said, his arms still around my neck. “Haven’t we had a nice time together?”

His big smile and happy eyes told me that this time he meant exactly what he was saying.  And, to my surprise, I knew he was right. We really had had a nice time together.

That was the key word – together. We had done nothing exciting or special. I had slept in the chair. Bryan had colored and watched TV.  But we were together.

That night I realized something important.  Bryan’s visits don’t have to be a marathon of activity. The important thing is that he knows I love him and want him. He knows he has a place in my life, which is reserved particularly for him. A time that is just for us to be together.

Bryan still comes once a week. We still bake chicken or eat out, make cookies or go for a walk in the park. But every now and then we enjoy our favorite together time, our special feast of love – soup night.

By Joan Cinelli 

From 'Morning with Dilbert' Blog

Fame or Fortune or..

As a child of the sixties, it easy to look back at that era with rose tinted spectacles. Of course, in some ways it was a more innocent and cohesive time. Yet within that greater trust and togetherness we now know that there were many dark corners in our national life; areas which are only coming to light today.

 

This can no better be illustrated than the celebrities of back then. Most have faded into well earned obscurity. Others are pillars of society or, even more cringe-making, awarded the status of national treasure. However, a few have been found to have been the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whatever – however they are seen today, none have retained their ‘god like’ status of 50 odd years ago.

 

Nevertheless, despite the experience of history, we continue to thrust divinity onto celebs, politicians and other ephemeral worthies. It seems then that the time-honoured wheel of human psychology demands we ever confer immortality on humanity.

 

Now I think I said not so long ago that when I did my Naval Instructors course, we were taught to start each lesson with something to engage interest. Well, that day in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas certainly did that (Acts 14.8-18). Yet, I have to say, by conducting such a spectacular curing, Paul and Silas did rather ask for the adulation they gained. I am not saying they courted it, but it was pretty obvious what the outcome would be. Nevertheless, they quickly realised their danger and to their credit soon put it right. They made clear they were but agents of the living God; a caring divinity that stood just outside of the pagans’ line of sight. And as a result of rejecting this unmerited fame, they returned to being the type of followers which earn the highest honour – that of being called ‘disciple’.

So where does the Lystra story leave us? How do find our place within the short lesson from Matthew (Matthew 10.37-42)? How indeed do we find greatness within the sometimes uncertain framework of being Christ’s disciples?

 

Well, rather as Paul did, we need to keep our eyes open. For there is little point trying to serve as Christ’s disciples to someone whose mind is closed. Instead, like Paul let us spot faith no matter how ill-formed or ill-informed it is and use it. Let us respond to an openness to things beyond self. Let us work within that space created by the sense of beyond. Since after all, few here would claim to absolute certain of their doctrine on this issue or that, yet we can lay testimony of Jesus’ present and curing in their lives.

 

Next, we need to let matters not lie there. Instead we need to move the another’s spiritual awaking to a sharper focus. It needs to be – front and centre – aimed at the life and teaching of Christ. Because in the false deifying of Paul and Barnabas the greatest danger was not in them becoming too big for their boots. No the real threat was the distraction – the distraction from a God who nurtures humanity, provides for humanity and wants every human life to have meaning, purpose and worth.

 

But then what can we cure?

 

The university faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of Archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.

 

A professor of Philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or fame. Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. “Done!” said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

 

All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something. What wise insight do you now have?”

 

The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”

 

Today, most people would have taken not the money but the fame. It seems worth is popularly measured in fame and attendant wealth. And if they don’t have it, then they feel their lives are humdrum, unfulfilled even worthless.

Consequently there is a huge amount of people around who suffer from a lack of self-value. Moreover, there are many whose  abject sense of  inner poverty is a genuine handicap to living a full and free life.

Here then is an affliction,we as Christ’s disciples can aspire to cure

 

 

For the sixties are well behind us. And the years may not have brought fame and wealth. They most probably have not brought outward beauty. Yet they may well have brought the internal beauty of wisdom. The wisdom to see that in using  our godly gifts we  can bring real healing. The wisdom to know we can bestow worth and meaning and purpose with simple listening. The wisdom to offer, through Christ, the quiet encouragement that transforms – transforms the everyday into  the outstanding – transforms the commonplace into the priceless and transforms the  ordinary into true greatness.

 

Above all, we need the wisdom to be ourselves.

 

Since others will then see a priceless dignity in our ordinary discipleship,  they will find the living Jesus in our cheerful everyday-ness and they will rediscover in our godly contentment their own way to inner valuing and meaningfulness.  For Thomas Moore said that by learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness towards ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.

 

So go and don’t just have an ordinary day, instead be someone else’s great day!

 

 

Are you like coffee beans?

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee…You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.

Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

By - Jack Jack Kornfield

From 'Morning with Dilbert' Blog

An Oscar winning performance!

Oscar was named after the Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can because that is where we first became acquainted.  I was working at a pizza-delivery chain and had been assigned garbage duty.  While tossing bags into a dumpster, I heard a faint meow.  I began digging through the trash, and several layers down I found a cat – bruised and thin.  I wasn’t sure if the cat had crawled into the Dumpster to scavenge for food or if he had been put there purposely.  Our establishment sat directly behind an apartment complex, and unsupervised and abandoned pets were common.

Back on solid ground, it became evident that the cat had an injured leg.  He couldn’t put any weight on his right hindquarters.  The situation created a dilemma for me.  Finances were tight, and I was moving back home to my parents’ house – with two cats already in tow.  Dad barely tolerated the two established felines.  His reaction to another injured stray was sure to be less than receptive.

I took the stray to the vet, hoping to patch him up.  After shots and X-rays, the vet discovered the cat had a cracked pelvis.  I posted notices, hoping someone would claim the cat or adopt him.

Meanwhile, the response at home was swift and firm: No more cats!  Dad insisted I take the cat to the Humane Society immediately.  I protested that the cat would be put to sleep.  Luckily, my mother intervened.  She agreed the injury would make the cat unadoptable, so we would keep him long enough for his hip to heal.  Then he would have to go – no arguments.

Oscar must have somehow understood his situation.  He seemed to study the other two cats and their interactions with my father.  We suspect he bribed Tanner, our golden retriever, with table scraps in exchange for etiquette lessons.  When the other cats were aloof, Oscar was attentive.  He came when his name was called, and he would roll over on his back to have his belly scratched.  As his injury began to heal, he would jump on the ottoman by my father’s favorite chair, and, eventually, into his lap.  Initially, Dad pushed Oscar away, but persistence paid off.  Soon, Oscar and a muttering Dad shared the chair.

At mealtimes, Oscar would come to sit with us.  Positioned on the floor by my father’s chair, every so often Oscar would reach up with one paw and tap Dad on the knee.  At first, this provoked great irritation and colorful expletives expressed in harsh tones.  Oscar, however, refused to be put off.  Repetitive knee-taps soon led to semi-covert handouts of choice morsels.

Oscar greeted my father at the top of the stairs every morning and waited for him at the door every evening.  My father sometimes ignored Oscar, and, at other times, stepped over him, complaining the whole time.  Oscar mastered opening doors by sticking his paw underneath the door and rocking it back and forth until it opened.  Soon, he was sleeping in the master bedroom at the foot of the bed.  My father was completely disgusted, but couldn’t stop the cat from sneaking onto the bed while they were sleeping.  Eventually, Dad gave up.

Before long, Oscar, aspiring to his own place at the table during meals, began jumping up into my lap.  He was allowed to stay as long as his head remained below table level.  Of course, an occasional paw would appear as a reminder of his presence.

Three months passed, and the vet pronounced Oscar healthy and healed.  I was heartbroken.  How could I take this loving soul away from what had become his home, from the people he trusted?  Sick at heart, I brought Oscar home and told my parents what should have been good news: Oscar was a healthy cat with a healed hip.  “I’ll take him to the Humane Society like I promised,” I said dully.

As I turned to put Oscar in the carrier for the trip, my father spoke, uttering three magic words: “Not my cat!”

Oscar is home to stay.  He now has his own chair at the table and sleeps – where else? – in the master bedroom between my mother and father.  He is their official “grand-kitten” and living proof that deep within the most unlikely heart, there is a cat lover in all of us.

By Kathleen Kennedy