I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “The Homeless Angel”

 

Rising early the woman grabs her list of the items she needs to get at the store and  rushes out to the car thinking about all the chores she has lined up and errands she has to run.

Pulling into the parking lot she glances at a man standing under a tree at the edge of the parking lot. He’s unshaven and dressed in heavy clothes; a stocking cap covers his messy brown hair and military style boots to keep his feet warm.

His small hand printed sign asks for work. But she ignores him in her rush to get her items and go on with her day.

She grabs the shopping cart and wastes no time rushing up and down the isles checking off the items on her list as she tosses one item after another into the cart. After going through the check-out and loading the items into her trunk, she takes a deep breath as she starts the car and slowly backs out.

Stopping at the stop sign she looks over at the man. There are no people around him and all the cars are parked near the front of the store, not at the far end of the parking lot.

He looks at her, and then away.

She drives down the road to the next stop light and hears the Lord say, “Go back and ask what he needs.”

“But Lord…”

“Turn around and go back.” He states.

She makes an illegal U-turn and pulls into the parking lot beside the man and lowers her window.

He steps toward the car and looks intently at her.

“I don’t have any work for you but is there something you need that I can help you with?” She asks.

“Thank you, Ma’am. I need food.”

“I’m not going to give you money but if you’ll go into the store I’ll buy you what you need. Where are you staying?”

The rugged-looking man explains that he, his wife, and little girl were evicted and they’re staying with his wife’s mother but the mother refuses to let him in the house other than to go to the bathroom. He has a tent pitched in the back yard that he sleeps in. He then suggests a gift card for the store and that way he can get what his wife needs.

Contemplating what to do, the woman finally says, “I’ll get you a gift card if you promise me and God you will not buy booze with it.”

“I don’t drink or do drugs, Ma’am and I promise not to buy them.”

As she pulls forward she hears him say, “God bless you Ma’am.”

She quickly buys him a gift card and rushes back out. She rushes to the place where she spoke with the man. She doesn’t see him so she drives around the parking lot looking for him.

The homeless man is nowhere to be found. He just disappeared in a moment’s time.

She named him her homeless angel.

***

Hebrews 13:2 – “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

***

There are many men, women, and children across this country, across the world, that sit unnoticed, ignored, and ridiculed in alley ways, sidewalks, and parks. They are the rejects of society even though many are there by circumstances beyond their control. Mental hospitals have closed their doors, our veterans are left with no home or work when they come back from war, single mothers and entire families have been evicted from their home due to losing a job or catastrophic medical bills, and children flee from abusive homes without a place to run to.

There are many reasons why we have so many homeless people living on the streets or in shelters and when we see a man or woman holding a sign that asks for food or asks for work many of us pass by so as to fulfill our busy schedules. I wonder how many times we, or I, have walked past, driven past, someone in ragged attire and never considered that we may have just missed a real encounter with one of God’s angel’s that the Lord positioned there as a test to us. Where’s our heart? Are we too busy to reach out to others in need? The next time you see a homeless man or woman, stop and think, “I may be looking at an angel.”

 

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I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “High on a Hill”

The day was cold. Rain had poured down soaking the ground. The river was flooding, water rushing over the jagged rocks and forcing its way south.

On the bank stands a Man. He looks up to the sky, whispers a few words, and takes a seat under the only tree. A large tree; a tree with arms reaching to heaven, strong arms, arms filled with lush leaves and a trunk that can stand any storm.

The sun begins to peek through the dark gray clouds. Sighing heavily, the Man stands. He takes a few steps toward the raging river. He lifts one foot and slowly places his toes in the water.

He hears the sound of horse’s hooves drawing near. Louder and louder they come. Turning slightly, He glances over His shoulder and His lips quirk at the corners. He knows who is approaching and why they are coming.

The horses stop nearby. Men in their soldier gear dismount and approach. One man points his finger toward the Man by the river and yells, “That’s Him!”

The soldiers quickly walk toward Him and grab Him. But one of the men in the group is the Man’s friend and quickly draws his sword. He swings at the soldier and misses his target lopping off a part of his ear. “Oh rats! I’ll get’cha this time” the friend thinks.

The friend raises his sword and takes aim.

The Man chastises him.

He lowers his sword and takes a step back.

The Man places His hand over the bleeding ear of the soldier, healing it.

A few questions are asked and the soldiers lead the Man away.

The hill is high. The skull carved in the rock beneath the three crosses is a testimony of the evil that is taking place. The Man hangs limply, nailed to the Cross. His strength is gone. Blood pours from His wounds. Slowly lifting His head a mere inch from His chest He asks His Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The blood drips, water oozes from His side, pain sears through His body and weakly sucking in a breath His last labored words set the world on edge…

“It is finished!”

***

John 19:30 “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

***

Jesus’ sole mission on earth was to bring sinners into His saving grace. He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell but because we have been given free will He will not force Himself on anyone. Christ walked that path down the hill to Golgotha where He was nailed to a rugged cross. There were those who jeered, some mocked, some cried, others stood mute. An innocent Man who wanted nothing more than to show His great love to all of mankind hung bleeding, dying a most horrific slow death. I can’t imagine His pain. I can’t imagine the suffering He felt physically and emotionally and to be betrayed by friends, to look out over a crowd and see angry faces staring back at Him and then to ask His Father to forgive them. Those people are us! We do not deserve His love. We do not deserve His grace or His mercy and yet if we ask, “Father, forgive me,” He will, in a split second. Aren’t we glad that Jesus was obedient to the Father and so should we.

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Not All Are Reported

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Charise Dickerson

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys are molested before the age of 18. This statistic only comes from the number of reported incidents, not the actual number of events. I’d expect this number to be much higher if all cases were in fact, reported.

Predators are hidden in plain sight – they can be an older sibling, family member, relative, colleague or friend. In fact, 90% of the time a predator is someone with a relationship to the victim and the family.

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In the Depths of the Falls

the grizzle grist mill

 

I saw a glimpse of something today. We took a little hike to Amicalola Falls and were standing on the bridge, looking up at the falls when I saw it. Looking up, this song started rolling over and over in my mind, and before I realized it, I was softly singing: 

Peace, peace, wonderful peace

Coming down from the Father above

Sweep over my spirit forever I pray 

In fathomless billows of love

As I stood there, listening to the waters rush over the rocks and tumble down below, I began to really see it…The rocks were solid, strong, unyielding. There were sharp places and dark places…green, squishy patches and dry, splotchy parts…even some spots with crackly, dry weeds. Yet, where the water flowed, the rocks were smooth and even shiny, almost like jewels glistening in the sun. The waters rushed over the edge at one place and trickled…

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What Are You Talking About?

Losing my ability to work and earn a living was terrible. Becoming paralyzed and wheelchair-bound was horrible. Losing my ability to eat was a tough pill to swallow, literally. But losing my ability to speak is by far the most difficult aspect of this cruel disease called ALS.

I haven’t been able to speak with my God-given voice for almost twenty years so it might seem strange that I am writing about the power of the spoken word. As one who can only speak through my computer’s Text-to-Speech program, I have become more and more observant of the words of others. For good or for bad, the words we speak are powerful.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) 

Studies claim that men speak around seven thousand words a day and women speak a whopping twenty thousand words – in just one day. Mary is my caregiver so I might be treading on dangerous ground here, but, from what I’ve observed over the thirty-three years of marriage, I tend to believe these studies are accurate.

I remember so well when I began to lose my ability to speak. Even though I hadn’t had a drink in twelve years, my voice started to sound like I was drunk. In fact, a police officer pulled me over at 9:30 in the morning and, after speaking with him, he asked if I had been drinking. Because all of the muscles needed to speak became weaker and weaker as the day wore on, by three in the afternoon, I sounded like a really tired drunk. Knowing this, I began to make important phone calls and meet people as early in the day as possible. I also started to choose my words very carefully; I didn’t have the luxury of idle chatter. It was then, two decades ago, that I began to value the ability to speak. Like working, walking, and eating, talking was just one more thing that I took for granted before ALS invaded my life.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

An incredible fact: To create speech, around a hundred different muscles in the chest, neck, jaw, tongue, and lips must work together. Every word or short phrase that is physically spoken is followed by its own unique arrangement of muscle movements. The information necessary for producing a phrase is saved in the speech area of the brain. – Reference.com

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29)

Imagine what a great world it would be if we only spoke “what is helpful for building others up” and to “benefit those who listen.” 

Maybe women do talk more than men, but I wonder what men and women would say, and who we’d speak to, if our ability to speak were limited to just three thousand words a day. At first, there would likely be a lot of quiet dinner tables, but over time I think people would learn to measure their words. I would hope that most of us would learn to save our words for important things, not for gossip and backbiting. I have seen close relationships, even family relationships, ruined by words. And, so many people have been scarred for life from verbal abuse. Maybe we should learn to live as if our speech was limited.

“Everyone must be quick to hear and slow to speak…” (James 1:19)

We might think it’s unfair, but non-Christians judge followers of Christ by the way we speak and the words we use. For example, if you ever want to prove that you are not a follower of Christ, start cursing. This tactic worked great for Peter:

“A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:73-75)

The Bible has so much to say about the importance of words. In fact, Jesus said that the words we speak define who we are, and how we’ll ultimately be judged:

“…the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good, and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34-37)

The best use of your ability to speak is making a commitment to follow Christ, just as I did thirty-six years ago. It’s so easy, and you’ll never regret it:

“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ – Unshakable Hope!

I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “Ya’ Just Never Know”

The weeks have been long and tiring for the woman. Her husband has been ill and now as she stands by his graveside the tears flow. She didn’t think she had any more tears but her wet cheeks have proven her wrong.

Her friend stands beside her and places a hand on her shoulder. “He’s with the Lord now and no more sorrow, no more illness. He’s at peace.” her friend whispers to the new widow.

The widow looks at her with crinkled eyebrows. “He wasn’t a believer. He’s in hell!” She bursts out sobbing and her friend pulls her into a tight hug.

The widow sobs in her friend’s arms as the people quietly back away and begin returning to their cars. Slowly the tears abate and the widow apologizes to her friend for her outburst.

Her friend looks and there’s a Man standing near the Oak tree. He looks familiar. The friend nudges the widow. “Do you know Him?” she asks. The widow glances over to the Man and suddenly sucks in a breath.

The Man approaches her and with love in His eyes He opens His arms to her and she quickly embraces Him as tears stream down her face.

The Man caresses her back gently and whispers in her ear, “Be not downcast, My daughter, for Jack is in heaven. He gave his life to Me and has been forgiven.”

The widow suddenly pulls back from the Man, “Oh praise be to God. Thank you Jesus!” she shouts.

Her friend stands transfixed, not knowing what just happened.

***

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn. For they shall be comforted.”

***

Many of us have gone through suffering with a long illness of a loved one. We know at times, way down deep within us, that we could lose them but we keep hoping for the best. Many never give a moment’s thought about eternity, but every human being ever born, or is to be born, will spend eternity in one of two places; heaven with God, Jesus, and loved ones that placed their trust in Jesus Christ, or, in hell without love, compassion, joy, or peace. Hell is an eternity without God and all that He is. Unless we have had a confession of faith from the loved one that is on their death-bed we can never assume that they are not in heaven with the Lord. It has been said that even the most adamant atheist, when facing the end of their time on earth, have asked Jesus to save them. It is a cold, dead heart that refuses Christ’s offer for an eternity filled with love. As long as we have not taken that last breath, it is not too late to ask Jesus into our hearts. He will welcome us with open arms.

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