Chapel Thanksgivings: Saving Lives

shared by Chris Lovegren

A Christmas Story from A Christmas Prayer (Christmas Books) by Rian B. Anderson.

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or for 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 so badly that year for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

So after supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace, waiting 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 in his beard “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, but, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d 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, 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 or quick or 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, and 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 sideboards,” 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 wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain and 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 Jensen 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 just 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 was all he said.

He then 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   and went to the smokehouse where he 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 gunnysacks 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, unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and took the meat and flour and shoes around to the front 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 a 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 meat 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 and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. 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 couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. 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. I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy, and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time.

She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “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 and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it, I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth.

I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it. Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go.

I could see that they missed their pa, and I was glad that I still had mine. At the door, Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you”. Out on the sled, I felt 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 me 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. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and 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 gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent your rifle money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.” I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it.

Now the rifle 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 the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

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Chapel Thanksgivings: Never, Never Land!

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by Lance Crumley

 

When I was young in age
In the golden time of my youth.

The first game of chance was Candy Land;
A good time played by all.

As time wore on
innocence and simplicity
was no longer to be found.

The vacant streets became the echo of my soul.
Risk was the new game of chance:
total domination of my will upon my life.

The streets of my youth
became my kingdom of one.

I give thanks and gratitude:
the path is narrow and I’m not alone.

I also got to ring the bell!

The bell still rings in the streets of my soul.
Never Never Land
was it ever!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chapel Thanksgivings: Heavenly Masterpieces

by Barb Hoelle

 

“For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens;
   Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”  (Ps. 57:10)
Just outside my front door and there they were,
   lovely white sponge smudges on a canvas of sea blue.
I am thankful for clouds.
A quiet testimony.
The Bible says “the LORD made the heavens” (1 Chron. 16:26),
   and “He stretches them out like a tent.” (Ps. 104:2)
“He makes the clouds His chariot.” (Ps.104:3)
They are “the dust of His feet.” (Nahum 1:3)
(And if such beauty is merely His dust, think of what He must look like in all His glory!)
They always remind me of God’s covering.
His protection over His creation.  All of mankind.
And what a great way to get us to look up.
   And behold His glory.
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
   let your glory be over all the earth.” (Ps. 57:5)
“For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
   for the love which from our birth over and around us lies,
   Lord of all, to Thee we raise
   this our hymn of grateful praise.”
                                   ~Folliott Pierpoint

Chapel Thanksgivings: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

by Jan Lovegren

I am thankful for God’s Son, his people and his powerful words to us.

Hebrews 12:1-4 ” Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,  let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Who are the great cloud of witnesses? Chapter 11 is full of examples plus the whole Bible has many unmentioned in this passage. Thinking about the lives of past and present saints gives us courage and identity. Our present world’s heroes leave a lot to be desired.

What are the things that hinder us and the sin that entangles us?
We are told to throw it off.

Where is your race marked out?
We are told to fix our eyes on Jesus no matter what terrain we are going through for the joy set before him he endured.

What is your joy set before you? Is it eternal?

All this brings me to my point. I am so thankful that I am not alone. I have people around me past and present who point me to the goal of my life, Jesus. And the very author and perfecter of my faith is cheering me on through his powerful word and his wonderful people.

The Chapel, there my soul is fed and I am spurred on to love and good deeds like a good Thanksgiving meal full of tradition, variety and people who I love and who love me.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”.
Oh boy, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of God’s goodness to those who love his son.

Thank you, God, you have given us joy in Jesus, your people and your Word.

Chapel Thanksgivings: Thanks?

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by Jack Newton

 

*THANKS*?

Are you kidding me? Thanks for this???

Our much beloved, first born, twenty month old son pulled a boiling pot of water over his body. The burns were terrible. You could see his white glistening ribs in 3 places. His skin and meat were gone, burned away like butter. The doctor said “ We faced years of plastic surgery, and even then the thick ugly resisting scar tissue would deform his body as it was growing so fast, but more likely a secondary infection will kill him”. THANKS???

Not enough??? Then:

I was struck with some unknown disease that causes long periods of very difficult pain. 18 years going to every doctor and specialist, prayer, begging God, following every new medical or natural healing lead, strict diet….and, no results. My only recourse is strong pain medication that is increasingly less effective…..THANKS???

Through the terrible burns of my son, God spoke to me aloud, I was saved. And an extra dollop of love…Our son was totally healed by a miracle 5 days later.

Through my pain, I have drawn closer to God and begun….just begun… to understand and seek and really want humility.

Yes, thanks, Thanks THANKS *THANKS*

 

Chapel Thanksgivings: My Eternity is Sealed

neilsashes

 

shared by Irene Thompson — a poem by Neil Thompson from 2015

I’m thankful for the sunrise that bids the darkness flee…
I’m thankful as I wonder what God has in store for me…
I’m thankful for another day and the possibilities it holds…
I’m thankful I’m a child of God as I watch it all unfold…
I’m thankful that God has plans for me each, and every day…
I’m thankful that He guides me into His will and His way…
I’m thankful for my loving wife and our sixty plus years together…
I’m thankful for each joy and challenge we have weathered…
I’m thankful for our two daughters who’ve known both joy and strife…
I’m thankful for the grandchildren they brought into our life…
I’m thankful for our great-granddaughter, and six great-grandsons…
I’m thankful each one is unique, and grateful they’re such fun…
I’m thankful for our many friends we’ve met here and afar…
I’m thankful each has left an imprint on our minds and hearts…
I’m thankful for the ministries God entrusted into our hands…
I’m thankful for His guidance and His power in which to stand…
I’m thankful that today Christ lives and intercedes in our behalf…
I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who empowers us to cry or laugh…
I’m thankful for His sensitivity in me to others’ joys or pains…
I’m thankful that He always reveals God’s plan, over and over again…
I’m thankful, ever thankful, that I’m secure in Christ my Lord…
I’m thankful my eternity is sealed according to God’s word.

 

Copyright © 2015 Neil G. Thompson