It was only five days before Christmas; the spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our Houston area Target Shopping Center.
Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles, Why did I come today? I wondered, my feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing, but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them anything.
Buying for someone who had everything and the high cost of items, I
considered gift buying anything but fun.
Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last-minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest, but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20-minute wait.
In front of me were two small children, a boy about 10 and a younger
girl about 5. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis
shoes jutted far out in front of his much to short jeans. He clutched several
crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled
her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair.
Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers as the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along off-key but happily.
When we finally approached the checkout, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said. The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12 "I guess we will have to put them back" he bravely said. We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow" With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. But Jesus would have loved those shoes," she cried. We'll go home and work some more, don't cry. We'll come back," he said.
Quickly, I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you, sir."
"What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked. The small boy answered, "our Mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus.” The girl spoke: "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like those shoes. Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?"
My eyes flooded as looked into her tear-streaked face. "Yes,” I answered, "I am sure she will." Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.
Christmas is not about the amount of money paid the amount of gifts
purchased, nor trying to impress friends or relatives. Christmas is about
the love in your heart to share with those as Jesus Christ has shared with
us. Christmas is about the Birth of Jesus who God sent to show the world
how much he really loves us. PLEASE SHOW THIS LOVE AS WE THINK OF THE CHRISTMAS
When I was a young boy, my parents moved from a small farm south of Tuttle, Oklahoma, to Planeview, Kansas. My father had been a farmer, but, due to health reasons, he had to leave the farm and seek employment at the Boeing Aircraft Factory in Wichita, Kansas.
We attended church in Wichita, about five to seven miles from where we lived. I was baptized at the age of eight by D. J. Williams, the church pastor. Shortly after my baptism, I remember walking home from church with some of my friends, and I can recall being so filled with the Spirit of God that time passed very quickly. I was so excited to tell my friends about Christ and how happy I felt!
My parents moved into Wichita, approximately six or seven blocks from the church. Our family often walked to church and attended each Sunday morning and evening service as well as Wednesday evening prayer service. We did not have much money, but we did support the church by giving our time and talents, and by opening up our home to many guests. I grew up with a strong Christian foundation which has been with me my entire life.
As I grew into manhood, my church attendance became somewhat irregular, and my life in general began to encounter trials. I would try to solve my problems on my own but not to any real satisfaction. My life veered off course, and I began to drift further away from God.
How grateful I was for a mother who would not give up on me but continued to lift me up in her prayers! She shed many tears on my behalf and believed in me. I know that God blessed my life and protected me as a result of my mother's support and dedication to the Lord. I was not really a bad person. I had an awareness of what constituted good values and high moral standards; however, I continued to make many wrong decisions.
After graduation from high school, I enrolled in college and played football. Toward the end of the football season, I hurt my knee and was unable to walk. I could not attend my college classes and was soon forced to drop out of school. During this time period, the military draft was in effect. I decided to volunteer for the draft to fulfill my military obligation. I was sent to Kansas City, Missouri, to take my physical to be inducted into the Army, but, due to the fact that the Navy was low in personnel, I ended up in the US Navy in San Diego, California.
I spent most of my time on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and toured the Far East. This was a great experience for me and made me a more disciplined individual. This is my connection with the military.
Soon after being married and becoming a father with young children, I began having a greater awareness of the importance of church in my life. I decided to take my family to Sunday school and church. I was particularly concerned for my wife and children, but, as I began to attend church, I realized once again that God was with me and still loved me. His arms were open, and He welcomed me back into His care.
At an Easter service one Sunday morning, a special dedication service was conducted. I was invited to the front of the church to receive a small cross. The inscription on the cross read, "God Loves You". It was at that moment that I made a personal commitment to follow God and allow Him to direct my paths. I have had many personal trials from that moment along the way but I have tried to be faithful to that commitment.
One time, when visiting Grand Lake in Oklahoma, I went water skiing with just a small ski belt around my waist. I was knocked off my skis in the middle of a very large lake with very high waves. While bobbing in the lake, a level of fear came over me. I said a prayer to my Heavenly Father, and suddenly a peace came over me, the water became calm, and I swam to the boat with ease. It seemed that the water had handles that I could cling to and be pulled through to safety. This was a wonderful testimony to me of the power and presence of our God in our lives.
When a person has an experience, it increases their faith and they become stronger in their walk with God. The Scriptures tell us that “line upon line, precept upon precept”—and I want to add “experience upon experience”—you will become strong in the Lord. I have had many experiences with God and His concern and love for us; however, there is not enough time to share them here.
I am currently an Elder in God's church, and I want to encourage each one of you to develop your own personal testimony of God and His faithfulness so that when the trials of life come your way, you will not be shaken.
God Bless You.
(John is a personal friend and for the first time I head his first
name. He has always been "Cy" to me. I hold it a great privilege to be
called his friend. - CWH)
To: All Personnel
Additions? Corrections? Questions?