Ruth went to her mailbox and there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter:
I'm going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I'd like to stop by for a visit.
Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. "Why would the Lord want to visit me? I'm nobody special. I don't have anything to offer. "With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. "Oh my goodness, I really don't have anything to offer. I'll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner. "She reached for her purse and counted out its contents, $5.40. "Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least." She threw on her coat and hurried out the door.
She bought a loaf of French bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk, leaving Ruth with a grand total of twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless, she felt as she headed home with her meager offerings tucked under her arm, she was grateful to be able to serve her dinner guest.
"Hey lady, can you help us, lady?" Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans and she hadn't even noticed the two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags. Look lady, I aint' got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it's getting cold and we're getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we'd really appreciate it."
Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and, frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. "Sir, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I'm having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him." "Yeah, well, OK lady, I understand. Thanks anyway. "The man put his arm around the woman's shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley.
As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. "Sir, wait!" The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. "Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure out something else to serve my guest." She handed the man her grocery bag. "Thank you lady, thank you very much!" "Yes, thank you! "It was the man's wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering. "You know, I've got another coat at home. Here, why don't you take this one. "Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman's shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street...without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest. "Thank you lady, thank you very much!"
Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn't have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. As she did she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. "That’s odd. "The mailman doesn't usually come twice in one day." She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.
It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.
The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.
"Well Done Good & Faithful Servant!"
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?" he 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?" The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that."
Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store. She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries. She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, they had seven children and they needed food.
John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store. Visualizing the family needs, she said: 'Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can. "John told her he could not give her credit, as she did not have a charge account at his store.
Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer man that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family.
The grocer man said in a very reluctant voice, "Do you have a grocery list?
Louise replied "Yes sir" "O.K. "he said, "put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries."
Louise, hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed. The eyes of the grocer man and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down. The grocer man staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, "I can't believe it."
The customer smiled and the grocer man started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more. The grocer man stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with greater amazement. It was not a grocery list, it was a prayer which said: "Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands." The grocer man gave her the groceries that he had gathered and placed on the scales and stood in stunned silence. Louise thanked him and left the store.
The customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to John as he said, "It was worth every penny of it." It was sometime later that John Longhouse discovered the scales were broken; therefore, only God knows how much a prayer weighs.
The Christmas Cup
by Rock E. Doddridge
Several small monuments--tangible reminders of how God has delivered me and worked through my congregation--adorn the corner of my desk. Just as Joshua heeded God's instruction to build a stone monument on the Jordan's edge to remind future generations that God brought the Israelites through the water safely, the monuments on my desk remind me of fabulous ways that I have seen God work in the past. These reassure me that God still works today.
A plastic cup decorated with symbols of Christmas time is one of my monuments. When friends--adult and child alike--ask me what it means, I tell them this story.
Two years ago a seven-year-old girl owned the cup. She used it throughout the year as her piggy bank. Week by week she dropped her allowance money into the Christmas cup. She had big dreams for the money she was collecting, but they were not dreams for herself. She had a much more magnificent plan in mind.
When the girl went to visit Santa, she took her cup, now half full, with her. She just knew that Santa would know that perfect person who needed to have a special Christmas. When it was her turn, she whispered to the jolly man and offered him the cup, "I want you to take my allowance from this year and give it to someone who will not have a Christmas without it." A lump rose in Santa's throat. After a holiday season filled with trails of kids who brought him expensive gift lists and still wanted more, he was humbled by this remarkable child.
But Santa did not know who would not have a Christmas without this little girl's Christmas cup. For this Santa was just an ordinary man who put on a red suit and a white beard to make some extra money during the holidays. Overwhelmed by the girl's request, he took the Christmas cup home to his wife and asked her for advice. Neither of them were involved in a church or in community service activities that might have brought them in contact, with someone in need. But the wife said, "I have a friend who goes to church. She is always helping people. She'll know someone in need of Christmas."
So the Christmas cup the little girl gave to Santa passed on to Santa's wife who took it to her church friend who is a member of the church I pastor. She brought the cup to me, saying, "You're a pastor. You will know what to do with it." She left the Christmas cup on my desk. Truth is, of course, I didn't know what to do with it either. And the Christmas cup relay had taken so much time that Christmas was only two days away.
When the cup landed on my desk it seemed more like a hot potato than a gift. It had become heavy with responsibility. A little girl had gone without all the bright, glittery, special, ribbon-covered, delicious, and new things that a year of allowances could buy so that one special person could have a good Christmas. And now it was my job to find just the right person.
I searched through my mental lists of people in need. Then I remembered something that happened to me a couple days earlier. I had been in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, when I saw a very poor person collecting aluminum cans from trash bins. Many months previously I had made a vow to God promising that I would give a financial gift to the next obviously poor person I saw collecting cans. The sight of this elderly, sad-looking man brought my promise back to me. I walked up to the man, wished him a Merry Christmas, and told him that the God who loved him wanted to give him a gift through me. I handed him a respectable financial gift. I immediately knew it was right. His eyes welled up with tears. He was deeply thankful. And he told me that he received my gift as a gift from Jesus.
That experience had been so satisfying and so right that I could now believe that this Christmas cup was going to get to just the right person.
But only forty-eight hours remained until Christmas, and I had many other things to do in preparation for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So I started with prayer, then called some contacts who are closer to the needs of the poor in St. Pete's. One by one they admitted they didn't know just who would need this special gift.
Christmas Eve found me sitting at my study desk still holding the Christmas cup. It seemed that everyone involved was depending on me to know what to do with it. So I prayed some more, and began to sense that the cup did not have to go to a person or family in St. Petersburg where both the little girl and I live. The Covenant had just started an inner-city church in Atlanta just a few weeks earlier. Many poor people had gathered in this church. Our church had declared that we wanted to be partners with this quickly growing congregation so I called Robert Owens, pastor to Atlanta's New Life Covenant Church and told him the story. I asked him if he would be on the lookout for an appropriate recipient. Robert indicated that he might just have a clue as to what God was up to.
That evening, at my church's candlelight service, I shared the unfinished story of a little girl's faith and gave our congregation the opportunity to join with this little girl's gift. We added our own offerings by giving with love from what we had in our pockets, just as the little girl had.
When we counted the little girl's money and our additional money, it amounted to $307. Not a huge amount, but enough for someone to celebrate Christmas.
Robert Owens called back on Christmas Day sure that he knew who was to receive this special Christmas gift. I assured him that a check for $307 would be on its way to him immediately. I asked him, Could you deliver news of the gift today?"
Knowing the money was on its way, Robert wrote out a check for $307 and went out into the city to find Booker Herrings. Booker was a contractor who had worked tirelessly to renovate a rundown crack house and turn it into New Life Covenant Church. Booker had agreed to work for Robert at no cost. "Work's been slow coming, anyhow," he had said. This skilled man showed up almost every day, and while he wasn't making much of a living, he was doing a lot of loving. It was because of him that the church was able to open its doors before Christmas, and Robert was very grateful to him.
Although the contractor did not mention his own needs, Robert knew Booker was doing without that Christmas. Robert went looking for him and was told that Booker had headed to a nearby building supply store.
Booker was indeed there, sitting in his truck in the parking lot. As Robert approached Booker, he said, "I have a gift for you. It's your Christmas gift. It comes to you because a little girl has saved all year long so that someone special would have a Christmas. You are that someone special. God wants you to have this gift at Christmas." Robert handed him the check for $307.
Booker is a strong man, a working man who has learned to make it through the lean times, but he could not hold back tears. "Pastor," he said, choked up with emotion, "I have been sitting here praying and asking God what I am to do." He pointed to a piece of paper on the seat, "Next to me is an overdue bill for my truck. It is the final notice. If I do not make this payment by tomorrow, my truck will be repossessed. I would lose my business and my livelihood. The bill is for $307 exactly."
So an unselfish seven-year-old girl in St. Petersburg got her wish--someone special got a perfect Christmas gift. And a bunch of us got to share in that special Christmas--one that won't soon be forgotten.
That's why the Christmas cup from Christmas 1994 sits on the corner of my desk. Like the Israelites' twelve stones erected by the Jordan's edge, it sits as a monument to the truth that God knows, cares, and delivers. And he uses us to care for others in a way that really does make a difference.
Moses and his people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them? They had to be fed, and fed is what he did, according to the Quartermaster General in the Army. It is reported that Moses would have to have had 1500 tons of food each day.
Do you know that to bring that much food each day, two freight trains, each a mile long, would be required! Besides you must remember, they were out in the desert, so they would have to have firewood to use in cooking the food. This would take 4000 tons of wood and a few more freight trains, each a mile long, just for one day.
And just think, they were forty years in transit. And oh yes! They would have to have water.
If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes, it would take 11,000,000 gallons each day, and a freight train with tank cars, 1800 miles long, just to bring water!
And then another thing!
They had to get across the Red Sea at night. (They did?) Now, if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days and nights to get through. So, there had to be a space in the Red Sea, 3 miles wide so that they could walk 5000 abreast to get over in one night.
But then, there is another problem. Each time they camped at the end of the day, a campground two-thirds the size of the state of Rhode Island was required, or a total of 750 square miles long...think of it! This space is just for nightly camping.
Do you think Moses had this all figured out before he left Egypt?
I think not! You see, Moses believed in God. God took care of these things for him.
Now do you think God has any problem taking care of all your needs?
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