PO Box 3425
November/December Issue 2005 - Volume 24 Number 6
The Power of Love
“Away In A Manger”
"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head..."
With these words one of our favorite Christmas lullabies begins. I wonder how popular it would be if the anonymous author of these words had written, "Away in a feed trough...”
Such lyrics probably would not conjure up those fuzzy feelings we have when we sing about a manger. And it is possibly true that some of us don't know what a manger is. But if you don't, you have probably guessed by now that a manger is a feed trough where animals are fed.
Dan Schaeffer in his book In Search of the Spirit of Christmas (Discovery House Publishers, 2003) accurately portrays the manger scene for what is really was. It was a stall where animals were kept with all the stale, smelly hay and other discomforts that might prevail. Our quaint manger scenes may be a little misleading. The shepherds of Jesus day were an uncouth group that had a reputation for loud, boisterous talk. Their praises may have sounded more like hooting and hollering than anything angelic.
But one of the main points Schaeffer makes about "lying in a manger" is that Jesus is accessible to all men. If he had been born in a palace, admittance may have been restricted; a crude shepherd wouldn't just walk into the King's chambers uninvited. However, anyone could enter the animals' stalls. Kings and princes can visit them, but so can the common people like lowly shepherds. From His birth the King of Kings humbled Himself so that we would know that he didn't come just to hobnob with the rich folks. Whoever will, may come!
“Christmas Eve 1881”
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
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 wanted 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour 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 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. "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 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. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.
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, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, 'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."
Out on 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 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 the 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.
Email sent to me by Virginia Parker 12/15/04
“Buzzards, Bats, & Bumble Bees”
If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.
The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.
In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not ever realizing that the answer is right there "Above" them.
Eph. 6:16, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
Col. 3:1-2 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
1 Pet. 4:8-9, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Matt.6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“Understanding the Source of Anger”
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11
The workplace can be a pressure-packed world. The demands that are often put on us can bring out things that we never knew were there. Sometimes we begin to think that the source of that pressure is to blame for our response to the pressure. It could be an event, a spouse, a boss, a client, a child, or even a driver who cuts us off in traffic.
I recall responding to a close friend one time, "If you had not done that, I would never have responded that way." Later I learned that this response had little truth to it. We all choose to get angry. No one else is to blame for our anger.
"The circumstances of life, the events of life, and the people around me in life, do not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am" [Dr. Sam Peeples].
This simple quote has had a profound impact on how I view my anger now. Anger only reveals what is inside of me. I can't blame anyone but me for my response to a situation. I have learned that anger is only the symptom of something else that is going on inside of me. This quote now resides on my refrigerator door as a daily reminder of the truth about my response to life's situations.
It has been said that anger is like the warning panel on the dash of your car. It is the light that tells us something is going on under the hood and we need to find out what is the source of the problem. I discovered that the source of anger is often unmet expectations or personal rights. We believe we are entitled to a particular outcome to a situation. When this doesn't happen, it triggers something in us. At the core of this is fear, often a fear of failure or rejection, fear of what others think, fear of the unknown.
If you struggle with anger, ask God to reveal the source of that anger. Ask Him to heal you of any fears that may be the root of your anger. Ask God to help you take responsibility for your response to difficult situations.
Remember the Spirit caused Paul to write in Ephesians 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:"
“Cursing And The Civil War”
Filthy language is a breathed form of ear pollution. Worse, it is a symbol of the heart's corruption (Matt. 15:18, 19). Cursing has been a taint of the tongue through the ages (2 Sam. 16:5-7). It fouls the air, stains the soul, and mars the mind. It is invasive and pervasive. Rotting meat, manure, lice, and flies go together as do bitter, perverse hearts and coarse, crude cursing.
During the American civil war, "A number of leaders on both sides tried to do something about the language in the ranks, (but).... It was a pointless attempt. 'Oaths, blasphemies, imprecations, obscenity, are hourly heard ringing in your ears until your mind is almost filled with them,' a Mississippi recruit complained, and a fellow Confederate chaplain lamented that in camp he 'heard more cursing and swearing in twenty-four hours than in all my life before'" (Davis, The Civil War, 440).
Where cursing and swearing are accepted as part of the cultural fabric, purity and modesty are sure to be subject to ridicule. Filthy mouths will not praise pure minds. When a nation's language is depraved, its values will not be centered in virtue. Do you deem this judgment too harsh and severe? Perhaps the state of our country's conversation makes our conclusions fearful in their consequences. They ought to do so, for they are not our views. We borrowed them from one who said, "You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil things. And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matt. 12:34-37).
Via: "The Spirit's Sword" by Larry Ray Hafley
“A Visit With Ol’ Man Lister: The Power of Love”
For months, Ebenezer Crabtree and his wife Florence had been in and out of the doctor's office. They had been there so often they were qualified for a volume discount. Back pain, indigestion, headaches, toe cramps; you name it, they had it. But Eb & Flo were soon to find a remedy for their ills that they couldn't get from a pharmacist.
Eb walked out of his back door one morning and saw a baby raccoon in the yard. When the raccoon didn't run, Eb picked him up and saw that he had a broken leg. Well, Eb doesn't like people much, but he does love animals, so he and Flo made a splint for the little fellow, kept him fed and watered, and began doing their best to nurse him back to health. And as the raccoon's condition improved, so did the health of Eb & Flo. The more they cared about that raccoon, the better they coped with their own misery.
Ol' man Lister says that love always has the power to improve the lives of those who give it as well as those who receive it.
You know...I reckon he's right.