In all the world there is nobody like you. Since the beginning of time
there has never been another person like you. Nobody has your smile, your eyes, your hands, your hair. Nobody owns your handwriting, your voice.
You're Special. Nobody can paint your brush strokes. Nobody has your taste for food or music or dance or art. Nobody in the universe sees things as you do.
You're special.
In all time there has never been anyone who laughs in exactly your way.
You're different from any other person who has ever lived in the history of the universe. You are the only one in the whole of creation who has your particular set of abilities. Nobody in the universe can reach the quality of the combination of your talents, your feelings.
Through all eternity no one will ever walk, talk, think or do exactly
like you. You're special. You're rare and in all rarity there is enormous value and because of your great value the need for you to imitate anyone else is absolutely wrong. You're special, and it is no accident you are. Please realise that God made you for a special purpose. He has a job for you to do that nobody else can do as well as you can. Out of the billions of applicants, only one qualified. Only one has the unique and right combination of what it takes and that one is You.
You're Special.

One of the warmest Christmas memories that I have was the year that I was Santa Claus. I was a young, substitute teacher with a new family just starting out in life. I was called in to work at the local grade school on the last day before the Christmas holidays. Near the end of the day I was summoned to the principal's office and asked to be the Santa who visited all the classrooms. Being a great lover of both children and Christmas I agreed.

I can still remember going from classroom to classroom doing my best to sound both old and jolly at the same time. I was about 50 pounds heavier then so I had the round little belly part down fine. My beard, however, was another matter as it kept sliding halfway down my face. I think that more than a few of the kids recognized me, but it didn't matter. They still rejoiced in seeing Santa. They still laughed and delighted in their small gifts and candy canes. They still felt joyous and happy. They still knew that they were loved and that was all that mattered to them.

If there is one thing that I could give to each of you at Christmas time and every day of the year, it would be that knowledge that you are loved. You are loved and watched over by a greater love than you could ever imagine. You are loved by God who made you, who delights in you, and who wants you to be happy. In all the difficulties, problems, and heartaches this world brings, you are loved. In all the obstacles you must overcome, challenges you must face, and pain you must go through, you are loved. In all the mistakes you make, times you stumble, and wrong paths you take, you are loved. You are loved every second of everyday of your life with a glorious love that will never end.

Know that you are loved. Know that God loves you always. Rejoice in this love with the joyous heart of a child. And then, like a jolly laughing Santa, go out and share it with the world.

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God's wings...

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage.

One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live...

""He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge..."" Psalm 91:4

In Genesis Jesus is the Ram at Abraham's altar.
In Exodus He's the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus He's the High Priest.
In Numbers He's the Cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night.
In Deuteronomy He's the City of our refuge.
In Joshua He's the Scarlet Thread out Rahab's window.
In Judges He is our Judge.
In Ruth He is our Kinsman redeemer.
In 1st and 2nd Samuel He's our Trusted Prophet.
And in Kings and Chronicles He's our Reigning King.
In Ezra He is our Faithful Scribe.
In Nehemiah He's the Rebuilder of everything that is broken.
And in Esther He is the Mordecai sitting faithful at the gate.
In Job He's our redeemer that ever liveth.
In Psalms He is my Shepherd and I shall not want.
In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes He's our Wisdom.
And in the Song of Solomon He's the Beautiful Bridegroom.
In Isaiah He's the Suffering Servant.
In Jeremiah and Lamentations it is Jesus that is the Weeping Prophet.
In Ezekiel He's the Wonderful Four-Faced Man.
And in Daniel He is the Fourth Man in the midst of a fiery furnace.
In Hosea He is my Love that is forever faithful.
In Joel He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
In Amos He's our Burden Bearer.
In Obadiah our Savior.
And in Jonah He is the Great Foreign Missionary that takes the Word of God into all of the world.
You go on and you see in Micah He is the Messenger with beautiful feet.
In Nahum He is the Avenger.
In Habakkuk He is the Watchman that is ever praying for revival.
In Zephaniah He is the Lord mighty to save.
In Haggai He is the Restorer of our lost heritage.
In Zechariah He is our Fountain.
And in Malachi He is the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings.
In Matthew Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God.
In Mark He is the Miracle Worker.
In Luke He's the Son of Man.
And in John He is the Door by which everyone of us must enter.
In Acts He is the Shining Light that appears to Saul on the road to Damascus.
In Romans He is our Justifier.
In 1st Corinthians our Resurrection.
In 2nd Corinthians our Sin Bearer.
In Galatians He redeems us from the law.
In Ephesians He is our Unsearchable Riches.
In Philippians He supplies our every need.
And in Colossians He's the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily.
In 1st and 2nd Thessalonians He is our Soon Coming King.
In 1st and 2nd Timothy He is the Mediator between God and man.
In Titus He is our Blessed Hope.
In Philemon He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
And in Hebrews He's the Blood of the everlasting covenant.
In James it is the Lord that heals the sick.
In 1st and 2nd Peter He is the Chief Shepherd.
In 1st, 2nd and 3rd John it is Jesus who has the tenderness of love.
In Jude He is the Lord coming with 10,000 saints.
And in Revelation.....
Lift up your eyes, Church, for your redemption draweth nigh.

He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Like the little old lady who returned your wallet yesterday.

Like the taxi driver who told you that your eyes light up the world, when you smile.

Like the small child who showed you the wonder in simple things.

Like the poor man who offered to share his lunch with you.

Like the rich man who showed you that it really is all possible, if only you believe.

Like the stranger who just happened to come along, when you had lost your way.

Like the friend who touched your heart, when you didn't think you had one to touch.

Angels come in all sizes and shapes, all ages and skin types.

Some with freckles, some with dimples, some with wrinkles, some without.

They come disguised as friends, enemies, teachers, students, lovers and fools.

They don't take life too seriously, they travel light.

They leave no forwarding address, they ask nothing in return.

They wear sneakers with gossamer wings, they get a deal on dry cleaning.

They are hard to find when your eyes are closed,

But they are everywhere you look, when you choose to see.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability, to try to help people who haven't shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans..the Coliseum, the Michelangelo, gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After several months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says,"" Welcome to Holland.""

""Holland?"" you say. ""What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy.""

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It's just a different pace.

So you go out and buy new guidebooks and you must learn a whole new language and you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met. It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, and Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, ""Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."" And the pain of that experience will never, ever, ever go away. The loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

One day I went to a lawyer friend for advice.

""I'm in real trouble"" I said. ""My neighbors across the road are going on vacation for a month; and instead of boarding their dogs they are going to keep them locked up and a woman is coming to feed them, if she doesn't forget. Meanwhile they'll be lonely and bark all day and howl all night, and I won't be able to sleep. I'll either have to call the SPCA to haul them away or I'll go berserk and go over there and shoot them and then when my neighbors return, they'll go berserk and come over and shoot me.

My lawyer patted back a delicate yawn. ""Let me tell you a story,"" he said. ""And don't stop me if you've heard it because it will do you good to hear it again.""

""A fellow was speeding down a country road late at night and BANG! went a tire. He got out and looked but he had no jack.

""Then he said to himself. 'Well, I'll just walk to the nearest farmhouse and borrow a jack.' He saw a light in the distance and said, 'Well, I'm in luck; the farmer's up. I'll just knock on the door and say I'm in trouble, would you please lend me a jack? And he'll say, why sure, neighbor, help yourself, but bring it back.'

""He walked on a little farther and the light went out so he said to himself, 'Now he's gone to bed, and he'll be annoyed because I'm bothering him so he'll probably want some money for his jack. And I'll say, all right, it isn't very neighborly but I'll give you a quarter.

And he'll say, do you think you can get me out of bed in the middle of the night and then offer me a quarter? Give me a dollar or get yourself a jack somewhere else.'

""By the time he got to the farmhouse the fellow had worked himself into a lather. He turned into the gate and muttered. 'A dollar! All right, I'll give you a dollar. But not a cent more! A poor devil has an accident and all he needs is a jack. You probably won't let me have one no matter what I give you. That's the kind of guy you are.'

""Which brought him to the door and he knocked angrily, loudly. The farmer stuck his head out the window above the door and hollered down, 'Who's there? What do you want?' The fellow stopped pounding on the door and yelled up, 'You and your stupid jack! You know what you can do with it!'""

When I stopped laughing, I started thinking, and I said, ""Is that what I've been doing?""

""Right,"" he said, ""and you'd be surprised how many people come to a lawyer for advice, and instead of calmly stating the facts, start building up a big imaginary fight; what he'll say to his partner, what she'll say to her husband, or how they'll tell the Old Man off about his will. So I tell them the story about the jack and they cool off.

""The next time I hear from them, one tells me that the partner was glad to meet him halfway; the gal says she can't understand it, her husband was so reasonable she thought she must have gotten somebody else on the phone; the relatives found out the Old Man had already been asking a lawyer how he could give everything to them before he died, to save them inheritance tax.""

I thought, ""How true! Most of us go through life bumping into obstacles we could easily bypass; spoiling for a fight and lashing out in blind rages at fancied wrongs and imaginary foes.

""And we don't even realize what we are doing until someone startles us one day with a vivid word like a lightning flash on a dark night.""

Well, the other night I was driving home from the city. I was late for dinner and I hadn't phoned my wife. As I crawled along in a line of cars, I became more and more frustrated and angry. I'll tell her I was caught in the heavy weekend traffic and she'll say, ""Why didn't you phone me before you left town?""

Then I'll say, ""What difference does it make anyway, I'm here!"" And she'll say, ""Yes, and I'm here, too, and I've been here all day waiting to hear from you!"" And I'll say, ""I suppose I haven't anything else to do but call you up every hour on the hour and make like a lovebird!"" And she'll say, ""You mean like a wolf, but you wouldn't be calling me!""

By this time I am turning into the drive and I am plenty steamed up.

As I jumped out and slammed the car door, my wife flung open the window upstairs.

""All right!"" I shouted up to her, ""Say it!""

""I will,"" she cooed softly. ""Wanna borrow a jack?""

He was looking forward to this moment all day long, after 6 days of labor and it finally arrived-Visiting Day! The man with the keys arrived to swing open the large, heavy doors. The cold gray hall springs to life in the warm glow of light. He could hardly control his emotions. The families began to arrive. He peers from the corner of the room, longing for the first glimpse of his loved one.

He lives for the weekends. He lives for these visits.

As the cars arrive, he watches intently. Then, finally, she arrives-his bride, for whom he would do anything. They embrace, eat a light lunch and reminisce how things used to be. At one point, they break into singing, with interruptions of laughter and applause. But all too soon it is over. A tear comes to his eyes as his bride departs.

Then the man with the keys closes the heavy doors. He hears the key turn in the lock marking the end of a special day. There he stands, alone again. He knows that most of his visitors will not contact him again until next week.

As the last car pulls away from the parking lot, Jesus retreats into loneliness as He waits until next Sunday - Visiting Day. Is the time that we spend with Jesus an everyday thing, or do we just visit Him on Sunday????

A beggar lived near the king's palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted
outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party.

The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed.
Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought.

Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare?

He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. ""Please,sire, I would like to speak to the king.""

""Wait here,"" the guard replied.

In a few minutes, he was back. ""His majesty will see you,"" he said, and led the beggar in.

""You wish to see me?"" asked the king.

""Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal
robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old
garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?""

The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king's face.

""You have been wise in coming to me,"" the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. ""Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes.""

The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for.

""You are now eligible to attend the king's banquet tomorrow night,"" said the prince. ""But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever.""

The beggar dropped to his knees. ""Oh, thank you,"" he cried. But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again. Quickly he gathered them up.

The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.

Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags.

As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They
saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.

One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king's face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed.

Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince's words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly.

And the king wept with him.

We have been invited into a royal family-the family of God. To feast at God's dinner table, all we have to do is shed our old rags and put on the ""new clothes"" of faith which is provided by God's Son, Jesus Christ.

But we cannot hold onto our old rags. When we put our faith in Christ, we must let go of the sin in our life, and our old ways of living. Those things must be discarded if we are to experience true royalty and abundant life in Christ.

""Behold, the old is passed away; the new has come!"" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Pardon my muddy feet,
God of raindrops and wriggle worms.
I've been outside,
Splashing in puddles like a child,
trying to rediscover your creations:
Cloak of fog, spider web weavings,
Birds of different feathers
dining peacefully together.
I get too busy to enjoy it.
Thank you for this mud -luscious day
when I am brought to my knees in awe,
The best place to meet you-
as any child knows.
I plan to pray barefoot from now on,
curling my toes and stretching toward you,
becoming like a child,
as you encourage,
so each day can be a whole-body experience.
For it is because of you,
That I am.

Helium is up.

Feathers were down.

Paper was stationary.

Fluorescent tubing was dimmed in light trading.

Knives were up sharply.

Cows steered into a bull market.

Pencils lost a few points.

Hiking equipment was trailing.

Elevators rose, while escalators continued their slow decline.

Weights were up in heavy trading.

Light switches were off.

Mining equipment hit rock bottom.

Diapers remained unchanged.

Shipping lines stayed at an even keel.

The market for raisins dried up.

Coca-Cola fizzled.

Caterpillar stock inched up a bit.

Sun peaked at midday.

Balloon prices were inflated.

Scott Tissue touched a new bottom.

And batteries exploded in an attempt to recharge the market.

On November 18th, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.

We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said - not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - ""You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.""

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life - not just for artists but for all of us.

Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

During the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively. One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

""Hello Barry, how are you today?""

""H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank 'ya. Jus' admirin' them peas ...sure look good.""

""They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?""

""Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.""

""Good. Anything I can help you with?"" ""No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.""

""Would you like to take some home?""

""No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.""

""Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?""

""All I got's my prize marble here.""

Is that right? Let me see it.""

""Here 'tis. She's a dandy.""

""I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?""

""Not 'zackley .... but, almost.""

""Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.""

""Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller.""

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: ""There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps.""

I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering. Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts ... very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. ""Those three young men, who just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ""traded"" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size... they came to pay their debt. ""We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,"" she confided, ""but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.""

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.

Moral: We will not be remembered by our words - but by our deeds. Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath, as we help others.

"". . . faith without works is dead"" (James 2:20 NKJ)

Three young men were once given three kernels of corn apiece by a wise old sage, who admonished them to go out into the world, and use the corn to bring themselves good fortune.

The first young man put his three kernels of corn into a bowl of hot broth and ate them. The second thought, I can do better than that, and he planted his three kernels of corn. Within a few months, he had three stalks of corn. He took the ears of corn from the stalks, boiled them, and had enough corn for three meals.

The third man said to himself, I can do better than that! He also planted his three kernels of corn, but when his three stalks of corn produced, he stripped one of the stalks and replanted all of the seeds in it, gave the second stalk of corn to a sweet maiden, and ate the third. His one full stalk's worth of replanted corn kernels gave him 200 stalks of corn! And the kernels of these he continued to replant, setting aside only a bare minimum to eat. He eventually planted a hundred acres of corn. With his fortune, he not only won the hand of the sweet maiden but purchased the land owned by the sweet maiden's father. And he never hungered again.

The more you give, the more you get. However, that should NOT be the reason for your giving.

Proverbs 11:24 NLT
It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything.

Proverbs 11:25 NLT
The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

It was a year I will never forget! 1988 would see my family move back to the States after spending eight of the most rewarding years of our lives in the mission field of Thailand. Our departure was more sudden than we had anticipated, as there were problems in our home congregation and the money just was not there. Paula and I prayed for wisdom, and the answer came loud and clear. Yet, we had made so many friends; and it was difficult to pack up eight years into shipping crates and footlockers, get on a train which would take us to an airplane, and just leave!

But we did!

However, before we left, we spent several weeks traveling all over the country saying good bye to those we loved so much. It was a difficult assignment, but God provided the grace we all needed.

I remember one particular good bye that will stay with me forever, or I hope it does. His name was Paw Phim. Paw in the Thai language is a term of respect and endearment for older men. It is equivalent to our ""Father.""

Paw Phim had become like a second father to me, for it was in his village that I preached my first sermon in Thai. On that particular day, I knew no one understood, but Paw Phim took my hand after the sermon and told me it was one of the finest sermons he had ever heard.

Years later I would ask Paw Phim if he really understood what I said, and he told me, ""Of course not, but what your face and heart said on that day spoke much louder than what came out of your mouth. I knew then that you loved the Thai people, and it was then I became to love you like a son.""

WOW! Aren't I a lucky man?

Paw Phim was the last stop on my circuit of ""good byes."" It was the most difficult. I didn't usually bring food when I went to visit him because it offended him. But I was tired of seeing him get up at 4:00 in the morning and walk over a mile on those swollen, beaten up knees, to go to a small pond to seine a few little fish for me to have in my soup and rice for breakfast. I was tired of seeing his family do without so I could have a little meat with my rice and vegetables at the evening meal. For my last visit, I brought two chickens and a bag full of vegetables and fruit. He didn't like it one bit and accepted it begrudgingly.

However, I was not to outdo Paw Phim! At our last meal, we had roasted beef along with a host of other delicacies. It was unbelievable! We never had beef - there just wasn't any to be had - water buffalo, yes, but not real beef from a cow! Yet there it was.

I asked him where he got it and he told me not to worry about it. I was to eat it and enjoy it for this was the least he could do for me before we had to say our good byes. I kept digging, because I wanted to know what he had just done for me. It was then that my heart began to break, for I found out that Paw Phim had slaughtered his only cow, which gave milk to his grand-kids, so I could have beef at our last meal.

I gently rebuked him and offered to give him money to buy another cow. It was then that these words poured out of his weather-beaten face, ""Joe, I didn't give my cow to you, I gave it to God. Do you think I would do that for you?""

Again, WOW! How does God make people like this? I don't know, but everyone should have a Paw Phim in his or her life!

This story came to its powerful conclusion three years later. I went back to visit my second home in Thailand. Of course I went to see Paw Phim. His health was bad, but his mind and heart were the same. He asked me if I remembered that cow he had slaughtered, and I said that I had. He then took my hand and led me to the back of his house. Standing there were three beautiful cows!

I asked Paw Phim where he got them, and his answer? ""Where do you think I got them, Joe? God delivered them to me three weeks after you left!"" No, I didn't buy those cows, but someone did! How God provided those three cows I'll never know, but I don't need to know!

The point of this story is not about the cows, but about the faith and trust of a Thai Christian named Paw Phim who lives on the other side of the world, yet still teaches us that faith and trust will always win the day! Thank you Paw Phim! I'll see you soon.

~ By: Joe Bagby ~

Now I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing ... (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

An old story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, ""This is good!""

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, ""This is good!"" To which the king replied, ""No, this is NOT good!"" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way. As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. ""You were right,"" he said, ""it was good that my thumb was blown off."" And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. ""And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.""

""No,"" his friend replied, ""This is good!""

""What do you mean,'This is good'? How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?""

""If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you."" ""And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."" (Rom. 8:28)

Situations may not always seem pleasant while we are in them, but the promise of God is clear. If we love Him and live our lives according to His precepts, even that which seems to be bleak and hopeless will be turned by God for His glory and our benefit.

Hold on, God is faithful! May God bless you this week as you seek His will in every situation.

Addendum - Genius 50:20 (NIV) ""You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.""