n "A Portrait of America/' Newsweek (1/17/83) poked some fun at the national census:
'Give your name and age and business. Is your husband working
now'? Do you rent or own the building?
Did you ever milk a cow? This is strictly confidential—are
you underweight or fat? Does your husband have a bunion?
Are his arches good or flat? Did you vote for Herbert Hoover?
Are you dry or are you wet? Did you ever use tobacco? Did you
ever place abet? . . . Are you saving any money? Do you
ever pay your debt? Are your husband's old red flannels
in the wash or on him yet?' —"The Census Taker," Scott
"Uncle Sam's armies of statisticians don't really ask questions about the cleanliness of the old man's flannels," writes Newsweek. "But they do ask about the state of our arches (2.6 million are flat or fallen). . . . They can expound on life and its quality' and on death and its causes. They can analyze sex and birth, divorce and income, crime and eating habits. ... As a result, America knows more about itself than ever before."
That may be true—yet people are still confused about who they are and the roles they are to fill. Could it be that in the thousands of questions, the census takers have overlooked the most important ones?
ife is unjust. Upon accepting an award, the late Jack Benny once remarked, "I really don't deserve this. But I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that either."
—Haddon Robinson Denver, Colorado
hen Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything—property, family, possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life—concepts that later would be known as logotherapy. When he arrived in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away.
"I had to undergo and overcome the loss of my spiritual child," Frankl wrote. "Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own! I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
He was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes.
"I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, Shema Yisraei (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)
"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to live my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book Man's Search for Meaning, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life. . . . 'He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.' "
hen you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, "Does this hurt? How about this?"
If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there's something wrong, and the doctor will say, "We'd better do some more tests. It's not supposed to hurt there!"
So it is when pastors preach on financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger. Either the pastor has pushed too hard. Or perhaps there's something wrong. In that case, I say, "My friend, we're in need of the Great Physician because it's not supposed to hurt there."
—Ben Rogers Roanoke, Virginia
t is a popular notion that the warmest part of this island must be in the center, away from the cold waters and high gales of the inconstant sea. But the scientific fact is just the reverse. The sea has a benign and steadying influence upon the climate of the coast. The coldest place in England, according to the charts, is a spot at its very heart.
There is a certain grace that comes to our shore and knocks, yea beats, and even lashes, there; and it has more of the changeless love of God in it than all the affections that sweeten the inlands of life. Sea and shore may indeed meet in storm. But our peace lies through storm.
—Adapted from P. T. Forsyth, The Grace of the Gospel
fter church, where she had been taught about the Second Coming, a little girl was quizzing her mother.
"Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?"
"Could he come this week?"
"Could he come in the next hour?"
"In a few minutes?"
"Mommy, would you comb my hair?"
—Don Hussong East Wenatchee, Washington
ewspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan. "Go home and act as if you really loved your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him."
With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!"
And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing.
When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?"
"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
—J. Allan Petersen in
The Myth of the Greener Grass
n airline captain who flies overseas routes also runs a small filling station near his home. Between trips to Europe and the Middle East, he gets a kick out of changing plugs and points and talking to the folks while pumping gas.
One Saturday morning, dressed in his greasy overalls, he walked down to the local hardware store to pick up a wrench.
"What's new?" the store owner asked as he rang up the purchase.
"Ah, I'm thinking of taking the Cairo run this month," the captain said. "I enjoy flying to London and Frankfurt, but I think the change of pace will do me good." He paid for the wrench and left.
Another customer, curious, asked, "Who's the world traveler?"
Rolling his eyes, the store owner nodded toward the departing pump jockey. "Some nut who runs the gas station down the street. Thinks he's an airline pilot!" Both men got a good laugh out of that one.
It's easy to be deceived.
On the other hand, I was in the grocery store the other day and this ordinary-looking young man kept telling me about his Father, the King.
You never know, do you?
—Bernie May in
Under His Wing
magine a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. To them in their piano-world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was Someone who made the music—though invisible to them— above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.
Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs: none but the most conservative could any longer believe in the Unseen Player.
Later, another explorer carried the explanation further. Hammers were now the secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a myth.
But the pianist continued to play.
—Reprinted from The London Observer
ondon businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs.
Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior.
As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.
"Forget about the repairs," the buyer said. "When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."
Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God's, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17).
He makes all things new. All he wants is the site and permission to build.
—Ian L. Wilson Barrie, Ontario
What are the most effective illustrations you've come across? We want to share them with other pastors and teachers who need material that communicates with clarity and imagination. For items used, LEADERSHIP will pay $15. If the material has been previously published, please include the source.
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