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Thread: Stories Of Hope & Inspiration

  1. #106
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    The Man Who Met God In A bar -Part 1 of 2-

    If there were an award given for “Most Terrible Parable,” my vote would go straight for the one about the coins. Known traditionally as “The Parable of the Talents,” the story almost single-handedly drove me out of the church and into a spiritual detox. You may know it: the tale of a nobleman who is leaving town for a while and so offers three of his servants an investment opportunity, as shifty salesmen do, giving each one a different amount of money “according to their ability.” Amy All-Star gets five talents (or coins), Count-On-It Carl gets two, and the lowlife, who maybe we just call Larry, gets one. If you’re already getting nervous, just wait.

    Each of them is given the same objective: to take care of what’s been entrusted to them. Larry, who sounds a lot like me if I’m being honest, is afraid he’s just one more demotion from the curb, so he wraps it up in a napkin and buries it. He thinks he’s being smart by not losing the one thing he’s been given. You can hear his thought process, can’t you? Oh man, just imagine what the boss’d say—I’m already on the rocks with the guy—if I lost this one, too…It’s not worth the risk. I’ve got to keep this job.

    Predictably, the boss returns, and Amy and Carl have doubled their funds, now sitting in higher cotton than they were before this cruel experiment. Lowlife Larry, on the other hand, only falls farther. As he tries to explain to the nobleman why he buried the coin, how afraid he was of losing it, his boss silences him and tells him to pack up his desk. “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.” Jesus gives his listeners the following ominous warning: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

    So, considering some of the nicer parables—about lost lambs found, about prodigal sons welcomed home, about the last being first—yeah, this one sticks out to me. Even if you seem more like All-Star Amy, and you view yourself as someone with quite a lot to be grateful for, you can’t not hear the conditionality lining this story.

    Like a sore toe, this parable became impossible to ignore. It came to dictate the Jesus I believed in. And it wasn’t exactly the Sweet Jesus of Lambs and Orphans. It was the Very Serious Jesus of Judgment I had always been afraid was hiding behind the curtain. It’s not surprising that this picture of God—the expectant landlord, his threat of punishment, his focus on productivity—has provoked leagues of burnouts over the church’s tenure. Have you done enough? Invested wisely enough? Have you, too, chosen to sit on my opportunities for fear of losing them?

    -Robt. F. Capon-

  2. #107
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    Part 2 of 2

    The gift of grace is not a reward for hard work or good behavior, it is a lark, a joke, a hilariously inequitable largesse: it is, in a word, a gift. Don’t you see, Arthur? It’s all a game. All that matters is that you play at all, not that you play well or badly. You could have earned a million with the money I gave you, or you could have earned two cents. You could even have blown it on the horses for all I care: at least that way you would have been a gambler after my own heart. But when you crawl in here and insult me—me, Mr. Risk Himself—by telling me you decided that I couldn’t be trusted enough for you to gamble on a two-bit loss, that I was some legalistic type who went only by the books, well…

    “You’ve got it all wrong, yellow belly!”

    Yes, this is a parable of judgment. No doubt about it. But not how you think. It is not a story about what you could’ve done and didn’t do. It is a story about what you never could’ve done and who did it for you. It is not God’s judgment on your missing the mark, it is God’s judgment on your wrong idea of him.

    The parable, in Capon’s estimation, imagines God not as the penny-pinching type but as the gambling type. He is a God who takes risks, who throws play money out into the expanses of his creation and wants his children to spend freely. The parable is a judgment on the God of your Fears. Jesus is saying, “If you see me as creditor, as teetotaler, as warden, go on. You obviously don’t know me.”

    Just like Lowlife Larry (or Lowlife Arthur), I was suddenly found out. For all the years I had been going to Bible studies, making good choices, hoping to be a world-changer, I had been operating in good faith to the wrong God. Suddenly, in the worst of the worst parables, Jesus himself appeared to me, and so did his message of wild, profligate grace. I have Robert Farrar Capon to thank for that.

    And so, of course, I couldn’t stop there. I bought Kingdom, Grace, Judgment and every other book of his I could find and, in no time, the man had flipped my entire biblical framework upside-down. Everything was made strange to me: the bad guys were actually the good guys, the ones I used to see as exemplars were actually the deadbeats. The images of the Kingdom that Jesus described, which I had always personalized as something I could “embody” or “engage” in culture, became beautiful pictures of what God has been doing, without me, forever. I felt the weights come off, and I felt the undeniable playfulness and freedom that faith in Jesus was always supposed to elicit.

    Fast forward to the present and, dozens of Capon books later, I can safely say that this running theme of playfulness is the man’s signature. It is representative of his writing style, yes, but only because it is first representative of God’s Kingdom. Play is only possible when faith is no longer something you prove but something you’ve been given. When God is not waiting upon your “getting serious” about Him.

    Play happens when you are invited outside the cathedrals of your own inner sanctity, and you have the absence of mind to muck about in the world. School’s out and summer’s in. You are free to throw some paint around, build a fort, binge-watch a new show, make love, take a nap. Just like in that terrible parable, God asks only that we trust him at his word—you really are free!

    Capon understood this preposterous invitation better than anyone. Churchman and food writer, he equated theology with fox hunting (the fox is never got) and onions with sacrament. Everything he’s written seems to be an extension of this playfulness, a riff on the joy of the Gospel message. Including this book that you hold in your hands. You cannot possibly see God as a “hard man” if you have the audacity to call his only begotten Son Jerry and make him a short order cook in Cleveland. To have written this book, in other words, you had to believe the Gospel, not as a call into the serious business of religious rectitude, but as a story so laughably good that it has to be mimicked, re-told, turned over, held up. You would have to believe not only that the story was worth retelling, but also that the One who held the rights for it would be slaphappy you did so. (Especially if you had a bum like Marvin telling it!)

    Within all of this, of course, is the secret ingredient the Gospel of Jesus Christ lends of its own accord, humility. I have come to see, via Robert Capon himself, that faith in grace means humility, inasmuch as humility is the prerequisite of humor. Why take yourself so seriously, Arthur/Larry/Marvin, when you’re the great pearl already? What’s to prove? What’s the fixation on “getting it right” when the Host is here and shaking your martini?

    I sometimes wonder about Jesus laughing—the Bible never says he did—and certainly the Cross is no laughing matter. Nor are many of the parables, for that matter. On the other hand, he called the silly, obnoxious kids around him and said the kingdom was for them; and then there was the slow-going and forgetful nobodies who followed him around—wasn’t this a time-sensitive ministry anyway? Perhaps Jesus wasn’t concerned with making much of himself. This is what Capon continues to teach me. Of the joy of Christ in the character of Jerry, that He died and rose again, that we may sit and wonder at what we’ve gotten all spun-around about, to feel relief for once in our jaws at night, and hurt in the gut from laughing at crude jokes.

    And so, with his good blessing, I leave you to the man who met God, not in a church, but in a bar. His name is Marvin and, if you can get past the pain of admitting it, his story may sound like yours. By the end, you’ll even hope so.

  3. #108
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    Hands

    Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

    After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

    Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

    When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will support you."

    All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated over and over, "No ... no ... no ... no."

    Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks.

    He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."

    More than 450 years have passed.

    By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

    One day, long ago, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

  4. #109
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    Daddy's Empty Chair

    A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows.

    An empty chair sat beside his bed.

    The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me," he said.

    “No, who are you?” said the father.

    The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up,”

    “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

    Puzzled, the minister shut the door.

    “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man.

    “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day, four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest...’”

    ‘Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky, because He promised, ‘I will be with you always.’ Then just speak to Him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’”

    “So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

    The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.

    Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.

    “Did he die in peace?” the minister asked.

    “Yes. When I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But, there was something strange about his death.

    Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

  5. #110
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    Piano Lessons For Life

    I am a former elementary school music teacher from Des Moines, Iowa. I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons - something I've done for over 30 years. Over the years I found that children have many levels of musical ability.

    I've never had the pleasure of having a protege, though I have taught some talented students. However, I've also had my share of what I call "musically challenged" pupils. One such student was Robby. Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson.

    I prefer that students (especially boys) begin at an earlier age, which I explained to Robby. But, Robby said that it had always been his mother's dream to hear him play the piano. So I took him as a student. Well, Robby began with his piano lessons and, from the beginning, I thought it was a hopeless endeavor.

    As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to excel. But, he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary pieces that I require all my students to learn. Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him. At the end of each weekly lesson he'd always say,

    "My mom's going to hear me play someday."

    But, it seemed hopeless. He just did not have any inborn ability.

    I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled but never stopped in. Then one day Robby stopped coming to our lessons. I thought about calling him, but assumed, because of his lack of ability, that he had decided to pursue something else. I also was glad that he stopped coming. He was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

    Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the upcoming recital. To my surprise Robby (who received a flyer) asked me if he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said that his mom had been sick and unable to take him to piano lessons, but he was still practicing.

    "Miss Hondorf... I've just got to play!" he insisted. I don't know what led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it was his persistence or maybe it was something inside of me saying that it would be all right.

    The night for the recital came. The high school gymnasium was packed with parents, friends and relatives. I put Robby up last in the program before I was to come up and thank all the students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he would do would come at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through my "curtain closer."

    Well, the recital went off without a hitch. The students had been practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on stage. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair looked like he had run an eggbeater through it. "Why didn't he dress up like the other students?" I thought. "Why didn't his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?"

    Robby pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to fortissimo... from allegro to virtuoso. His suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent! Never had I heard Mozart played so well by people his age.

    After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone was on their feet in wild applause. Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and put my arms around Robby in joy. "I've never heard you play like that Robby! How'd you do it?"

    Through the microphone Robby explained: "Well Miss Hondorf... remember I told you my mom was sick? Well, actually she had cancer and passed away this morning. And well... she was born deaf, so tonight was the first time she ever heard me play. I wanted to make it special."

    There wasn't a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care, I noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy and I thought to myself how much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil. No, I've never had a prodigy, but that night I became a protege... of Robby's. He was the teacher and I was the pupil. For it is he that taught me the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself and maybe even taking a chance in someone and you don't know why.

    This is especially meaningful to me since, after serving in Desert Storm, Robby was killed in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995, where he was reportedly... playing the piano.

  6. #111
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    Only One Showed Up

    When a friend urgently texted Florida mom Stacey Philpot about a Facebook post she just had to see, she wasn't sure what to expect. The post showed a teen aged boy standing alone at the flagpole and it seemed as if everyone had something to say about him. And that's when it hit Stacey - she was looking at her son!

    As a blogger, Stacey Philpot spends a good amount of time online. So, she decided to take a little break from Facebook. But then a friend sent her an urgent text about a post Stacey "wouldn't want to miss."

    The post showed a boy standing alone at the flagpole praying as part of See You At The Pole Day. This yearly event encourages students everywhere to gather at their school's flagpole to pray for their school, friends, families, churches, and communities. Usually the event draws a crowd. But at Minneola High School, only one young man turned up. The brave boy stood all alone, praying by himself.

  7. #112
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    It's Only a Quarter!

    Several years ago a preacher moved to a town in Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change.

    As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, you better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it. Then he thought, "Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway the bus company already gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God and keep quiet."

    When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, "Here, you gave me too much change."

    The driver with a smile, replied, "Aren't you the new preacher in town? I have been thinking lately about going to worship somewhere. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change."

    When my friend stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, and held on, and said, "O God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter."

    Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read.

  8. #113
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    "I Love You" Translated -Part 1-

    Afrikaans Ek is lief vir jou

    Albanian Te dua

    Arabic Ah’bika [to a man]

    Ah’bik [to a woman]

    Armenian Yes qez sirum em

    Azerbaijani Men seni sevirem

    Bamougoum Guo me ye te

    Bangladeshi Ami tomake valobashi

    Basque Maite zaitut

    Belarussian Ya tabe kahayu

    Bemba Nalikutemwa

    Bengali Aami tomaake bhaalo baashi

    Bosnia Volim te

    Bulgarian Obicham te

    Cambodian Soro lahn nhee ah

    Cantonese Ngo oi ney

    Catalan T'estimo

    Cheyenne Ne mohotatse

    Cornish My a'th kar

    Corsican Ti tengu caru [to a man]

    Ti tengu cara [to a woman]

    Creole Mwen renmen w

    Croatian Ja te volim

    Czech Miluji tě

    Danish Jeg elsker dig

    Dutch Ik hou van jou

    English I love you

    Esperanto Mi amas vin

    Estonian Ma armastan sind

    Ethiopian Afgreki'

    Faroese Eg elski teg

    Farsi Tora dost daram

    Filipino Mahal kita

    Finnish Minä rakastan sinua

    Flemish Ik zie oe geerne

    French Je t'aime

    Frisian Ik hâld fan dy

    Gaelic Ta gra agam ort

    Georgian Mikvarkhar

    German Ich liebe Dich

    Greek S'agapo

    Greenlandic Asavakit

    Gujarati Hoo thunay prem karoo choo

    Hawaiian Aloha wau ia oi

    Hebrew Ani ohevet otcha [woman to a man]

    Ani ohev otach [man to a woman]

    Ani ohev otcha [man to a man]

    Ani ohevet otach [woman to a woman]

    Hindi Hum tumhe pyar karte hae

    Hopi Nu'umi unangwa'ta

    Hungarian Szeretlek te'ged

  9. #114
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    10 Little Habits that Steal Your Happiness

    http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/03/...our-happiness/

  10. #115
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    Seeing Life Through New Eyes

    'In a world that wants to control your every move, steal your ideas, squash your initiative, crush your hopes and stifle your passion . . . In you there will always be a flame burning, a dream that dares not to die, a love refusing to be diminished, a hope that will never be denied . . . You know you were born with wings to fly, a sky that begs you to soar, a horizon that knows no limits . . . All you need is the courage to back yourself, lift your sights, spread your wings and fly'.

    I had written these words earlier this year as part of my efforts to help others see their lives anew. Sometimes I wonder which comes first – the growth, or the experience/event that causes you to see life differently. That question was to be answered in a small but life-changing way - the removal of cataracts from both of my eyes.

    Only if you have had the same thing done for your eyes can you understand the seeming miracle of my vision being dramatically cleared after decades of wearing glasses and experiencing the increasing issues of ageing. Glasses discarded, colours brightened, contrasts sharpened and detail more precise.

    What I didn't expect was for my new vision to be extended far beyond what my eyes could see and encompass what my mind could envisage . . . 'You know you were born with wings to fly, a horizon that knows no limits - lift your sights, spread your wings and fly'.

    I felt younger, in awe of the fact that removal of cataracts could trigger a fresh chance at life, a renewed desire to spread my wings and fly.

    Yet not even there did the magic end. I had endured six months of leg problems culminating in a total hip replacement and in need of new fitness and mental energy. 'In you there will always be a flame burning, a dream that dares not to die'. A clear vision is vital but it's the call to action that spurs the dream.

    Is life like that? Do we see clearly in our youth, only to have the demands of daily life cloud our vision, like clouds dulling a clear horizon? The wonders of modern medicine are doing more than giving us the ability to live longer. 'In a world that wants to control your every move' I feel a sense of rejuvenation, a lifting of the pressures of others' expectations. A fresh perspective through which I can filter my years of experience and my continuing dreams.

    New eyes through which to see more clearly not just my 'who' and my 'what?' but also my 'why?'.

    -Peter Nicholls-

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