Exploring the meaning of life…

Archive for October, 2011

What does goodness look like?

 

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.  Anne Frank.

Warning, today’s blog contains some pictures that are hard to look at, but they accurately portray what happened in the concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Anne Frank was born on June 12th, 1929.  For her 13th birthday, her father bought her a book that Anne had seen in a shop window.  It was red and white with a checkered cloth cover and had a lock.  Anne, who wanted to be a journalist, turned it into a diary and wrote in it everyday.  She was thirteen, the age when girls like to chat with girlfriends about boys, have birthday parties and slumber parties, write notes back and forth at school and begin to fantasize about what their future might hold for  them. Unfortunately for Anne, most of her dreams were never  going to come true.

When Hitler began murdering Jews in Germany, she and her family moved to Amsterdam.  When they began to round up Jews in Amsterdam in 1942, she and her family were forced into hiding  in secret rooms above her father’s business.  They remained there until 1944 when someone tipped off the authorities.  When they were captured and sent to the Punishment Barracks they were considered hard criminals because they were hiding and were forced to perform hard labor for a time, after which they were scheduled to go to the Auschwitz  Concentration Camp.

Their hiding place above the business.

  The whole family was taken to Auschwitz, but they became separated from Anne’s father and never saw him again.  Upon their arrival, half of the 1019 Jews that were still alive were sent directly to the gas chamber and murdered – they were all under the age of 15 and deemed useless in performing labor.  Upon their arrival, Anne, Margot and their mother were stripped, their heads shaved and tattooed.  There was never adequate food, so Anne’s mother gave hers to her girls.  Anne contracted scabies and had to stay in the infirmary for a while where rats crawled over her every night.  Margot became so weak that she fell off of her bunk and died.  Anne died a few days later as did her mother.

This is what Anne faced at the concentration camp.

Anne’s father was the only one who survived the concentration camps.  When the war was over and he came home, he found that his friends had gone to their hiding place after the police left and saved Anne’s diary.  Of course, he was moved to tears to read her comments about the inherent goodness of mankind and finally convinced a publisher to publish it.  Now, it is second only to the Bible as the most read book in the world.  In the diary Anne wrote:  “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.  I want to go on living after my death.  And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside of me!”  Anne did achieve this dream.  Her goodness lives on in her words.  The goodness of her heart is amazing.  When you read this book you wonder if she was for real.  The answer is yes.  She lived and died at the hands of a madman who had nothing but hate in his heart.  She’s free now and I’m sure her whole family is together again and blissfully happy.  God blessed her talent during her short life to create for us a picture of what real goodness looks like. 

Tombstone of Anne and Margot Frank.

  

Do you have a secret place?

 Most of us when we were children had a secret place.  I had a small child’s wooden rocking chair in my closet beside my box of toys.  I would take my stuffed animals and dolls in there and read to them. 

I found this poem about a secret place:

Each soul has its secret place
Where none may enter in
Save it and God – to them alone
What goeth on therein is known-
To it and God alone.  John Oxemham.

This poem talks about a special place where I can go now, at this very moment, and no one but God and I will know – you reach this special place by prayer.  No one will ever find this secret place; it is yours and yours alone.  I can remember arguing with someone who said there is nothing that beats the speed of light.  I argued that prayer does.  Of course, I can’t prove that scientifically, but I know it’s true.  It’s instantaneous!  What could be faster?  You don’t even need to say the prayer out loud – you can pray in your soul and God hears what we don’t even say out loud.  God wrote it in the Bible in Psalms 91:1: He that dwelleth in the secret place  of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!  Visit your secret place often.  It will bring you joy!

Have a happy journey!

90 Minutes in Heaven

 We all probably have different ideas about what heaven looks like.  This is one man’s story.

Don Piper attended the Baptist General Convention of Texas in January 1989 which was held at a conference center, Trinity Pines, on the north shore of Lake Livingston.  When the conference ended, Piper left to drive home to Alvin, Texas, a suburban area of Houston.  It was raining and freezing, making the roadways unsafe.   He was hit head-on by an eighteen-wheeler.  The impact was guessed to be about 110 miles an hour.  Piper was declared dead at 11:45 am by paramedics that responded to the accident.  They reported no pulse, no signs of breathing and no blood pressure.  His body was extremely mangled, and he suffered tremendous head injuries.  They would have needed the  Arms of Life to free him, but since he was declared dead at the scene, they never made the call.

Don Piper at wreck site

Also leaving the conference were two of its speakers, Dick and Anita Onarecker.  Hearing of the horrible wreck, Dick felt compelled by God to go and pray for Piper, although they didn’t know him.  They parked their vehicle and walked about a half mile in the freezing rain to reach the site of the wreck.  The police were waiting for a car to deliver Piper’s body to the morgue.  It was now 1:15 and according to the paramedics Piper had been dead for about 90 minutes, no pulse, no breathing.  When Dick and his wife reached the site, they asked if they could pray for him.  They were repeatedly told that the man was dead.  Still, Dick felt that God wanted him to pray for Piper.  He was finally told that he could pray for him, but to not look under the tarp because he was a mangled, bloody mess.  He was still in the driver’s seat and covered by a tarp.

Dick put his hand on Piper’s shoulder and began to pray.  After Dick prayed, he began to sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  It was the first thing Piper remembered hearing.  Although in very critical condition, Piper regained consciousness.  He remembered many things about what he saw in heaven during those 90 minutes and has since written a book, 90 Minutes in Heaven.  He shares his story with anyone that asks him and gives God the glory.

If you have ever had a similiar experience, please share it under comments.

Keep Hope Alive

 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of thing not seen. Hebrews 11:1.

Years ago one of my college professors was talking about creativity in general.  He said, “I always wished that I could create something, or paint something or write something, I just don’t seem capable of creating anything.”

A young Iranian man in the class held up his hand.  When the teacher called on him, he said, “No, you’re wrong about that. You are a creator.  A very good one,  in fact.”  The teacher responded, surprised that this student was speaking at all.  He hadn’t had much to say during the class.

“Well, thank you.  I don’t know what I created though.”

“You created the best thing in the world for me.  You created hope.”

No one said a word for a few minutes.  I think God opened my eyes that day to see others that might need some hope.

That was a long time ago, but I have never forgotten it.  Hope is such a valuable resource for us.  We probably have an occurance every day of our lives when when we could create hope for someone, but something holds us back.  I sat next to the student in the story about 3 months.  I never knew anything about him at all.    My fellow students always spoke of all the Iranian students in a negative way, with slurs about their nationality.   They made it plain that the Iranian students needed to go home.  It surely hadn’t crossed my mind to offer him a kind word of encouragement. 

As we go about our business today, I hope we will all become aware of our ability to create hope for someone else.

Above all – we must have love!

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
    And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1

Paul writes that we can have the most eloquent speech imaginable, but if we don’t have love, it will sound like clanging cymbals.  We can have the faith to move mountains, but without love we may miss the significance of life.  We can give to others and sacrifice our very lives, but without love, it is futile.  Those are strong words!

I think people get hung up sometimes doing “the work of God.”  They spend their time “doing” for the church, taking part in many ministeries and believe they are accomplishing God’s work.  But, no matter how many church activities we are in, without love for others, we fall short of who God has created us to be.  Paul understood this and wanted to make it plain to everyone: If you don’t serve with love, you are just making a loud noise. 

 I remember a dream that I had a few years ago.  In that dream, I was standing behind a stage curtain and was expected to deliver an hour-long speech on love.  I was frantic.  I kept making excuses to the stage manager: I can’t talk that long on any subject!  I don’t know enough about love to be speaking about it!  I don’t have any notes to go by!  Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I knew immediately that it was the hand of God.  He said to me, “You have it all inside of you already.  I already prepared you to talk about love.  You don’t need any notes…it’s INSIDE of you!  Just start talking and I will do the rest.”

As my dream ended, I was walking to the stage.  I still didn’t know what I was going to say, but I knew that God would help me find the answers deep inside of me.  Then I woke up.  I immediately understood the dream, that above everything else, God wanted me to search inside my soul for the love that passeth all understanding.  I try to walk that path every day.

Now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

Happy Birthday, Whitnei!

Happy 23rd Birthday, Whitnei!

Choices

October skies, hazy blue,
Ushering out the heat
for the softness of fall breezes.

This is the day that my life will change
like a commuter train that has to change its course
or get left behind.

I am presented with two choices
from someone I barely know.
His words are carefully spoken…

There is a mother…
There will be a baby.
Important choices being made.
In seven days a baby girl
Will be born.
Nameless, faceless,
Just an image in my mind.

A child that will
need a mother.
Who didn’t ask to be born
Into this world
and asks only to be loved.

Please, Lord…
You tell me what to do.
Can I be this girl’s mother?
Is it really possible?
I’m afraid to consider the possibilities
because it seems too good to be true.

I listen for a brief moment.
Suddenly the world stops
and all is silent.

Yes.

 

 

 

 This has been a great year for Whitnei.  She found her biological family that didn’t even know she existed!  All we had to go by were two brief phone conversations that I had with her biological mother, Hilda.  And the way I remember it, we were both crying so hard that I’m not even sure what was said, other than she thanked me for taking her baby and I thanked her for letting me.  Sadly, she died with cancer before Whitnei got to meet her.  From talking to her Aunt Micky, Whitnei evidently looks very much like her.  Whitnei found out she has two sisters and two brothers!  Being Whitnei’s mother is one the greatest blessings I’ve ever received from God and I can never thank Him enough!  Hilda, rest in peace.  You can be really proud of her!

 Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you.
And though they are with you
yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward not tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite and He bends you with His might that his arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Khalil Gibran

Happy Birthday, Whitnei!  I love you!                     

If you would like to leave Whitnei a birthday message, please reply at the bottom of this post.  Have a great day!      

Dani’s Story – The Girl in the Window

Have you heard the heart-breaking story of the feral child – Dani?  Fair warning – it is hard to read without tissues in hand.  A few years ago in Plant City, Florida, the police received a call when neighbors saw a small girl in the window of a run down trailer.  The family had lived there for three years and no one had ever seen the little girl before.  They didn’t know at the time, but the girl had never been outside before.  Neither did they know the horrors that lurked inside the house.  Two Plant City  policemen responded to a call to lend support for a Department of Children and Family Services worker who was at the home investigating a child abuse case.  Detective Mark Holste, an 18-year veteran of the police department, described what he found like this:

“I’ve been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad.  There’s just no way to describe it.  Urine and feces -dog, cat and human- smeared on the wall and mashed into the carpet.  Everything was dank and rotting.  The floors and even the ceiling seemed to sway from legions of roaches.  It sounded like you were walking on egg shells.  You couldn’t take a step without crunching German cockroaches: They were in the lights, in the furniture.  Even in the freezer!”

When the detective looked around and opened the door to a closet, he found Dani there on a moldy mattress with no close on.  Surrounding the girl was a pile of dirty diapers 5 feet high.  Her ribs and collarbone stuck out.  Her dark eyes looked through the detective, not at him.  He looked for clothes to dress her, but everything was covered in feces. He tried to find a toy to bring with her, but everything was covered with maggots and roaches.   The mother’s response further outraged the detective.  “I’m doing the best job I can,” was her statement.  They took Dani, who was almost 7 years old and weighed only 45 pounds, to the hospital and that is where her story began.

Dani Lierow’s case of neglect was so severe that investigators say the girl had developed “environmental autism.”  She had so little human interaction that she had completely turned inside herself.  She had never learned to talk or even to use her hands.  She couldn’t eat solid food.  She didn’t respond to touch.  Would there be any future for Dani?  And what about Dani’s mother – would she ever get custody of Dani again?

The police allowed Dani’s mother to take a plea deal of no jail time, if she would give up parental rights to Dani.  She took the deal.  But could Dani ever recover?  Two years after her rescue, a Tennessee couple, Bernie and Diane Lierow, adopted Dani.  Progress is on-going and she is doing better than anyone could have dared hope.  She can look at people now and let herself be held.  She can chew foods for the first time in her life.  She can swim.  She’s tall and blonde and knows her name is Dani.  In her room, she has a window she can look out of when she wants to see outside.  All she has to do is raise her arms and her dad is right behind her, waiting to pick her up.

Child services had been called two previous times in Dani’s case and she was not removed from the home.  It you think a child is being neglected or abused, call the anonymous toll-free hotline – 1-800-962-2873.

And pray for Dani and her parents and all the other children like her that are still being abused and neglected.  We might be their only chance of escaping their horrors.

Dani and her adoptive family when she was nine.

Thanks to my daughter, Whitnei, for sharing this story with me.

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