One of the most famous explorers of modern history is Scott of the Antarctic. Sadly, Scott and his party died during their trip. But only recently have scientists begun to understand perhaps why they died. It seems they starved themselves to death while eating!
Sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? But it’s not. Scientists tell us that we need to take in about 6300-7500 kilojoules of food each day in order to survive. Now Scott and his party took in around 3 times the normally required amount of food – about 18000 kj each per day. You’d think that was enough, but it wasn’t. You see, when you’re doing really demanding work such as dragging sleds across the Antarctic you need around 42000 kj of food energy (or 6-7 times the normal amount) to survive. Scientists suggest that each member of Scott’s team, despite eating 3 times the normal food requirements, probably lost around 35 kgs. In fact they most likely starved to death!
You know, there are times in life when we’re like those Antarctic explorers. We’re faced with crisis and we need much greater levels of support, care and prayer than normal. And when our friends are going through those times we must expect that they will need greater servings our our love, care and prayers than normal, perhaps even 6-7 times greater than normal!
Alternate Application: Our spiritual life is often like this. We feel that when things are tough or busy that we can cut down on our intake of prayer, reflection and fellowship. Yet it’s precisely at these times that we need greater inputs if we are to avoid “spiritual starvation”
Source: Scientific info from Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s New Moments in Science #1
Joni Erickson Tada is the president of JET ministries, a ministry which aims to serve the disabled. She is herself a quadriplegic. A few years ago she was a spectator at the Los Angeles Special Olympics. Her husband Ken was the coordinator for track and field events. Joni was among a large crowd watching the participants prepare for the 50 metres running race.
The starter’s gun fired and off the contestants raced. As they rushed toward the finish line one boy left the track and started running toward his friends standing in the infield. Ken blew his whistle, trying to get the boy to come back to the track, but all to no avail.
Then one of the other competitors noticed, a down syndrome girl with thick bottle glasses. She stopped just short of the finish line and called out to the boy, “Stop, come back, this is the way.” Hearing the voice of her friend the boy stopped and looked. “Come back, this is the way” she called. The boy stood there, confused. His friend, realising he was confused, left the track and ran over to him. She linked arms with him and together they ran back to the track and finished the race. They were the last to cross the line, but were greeted by hugs from their fellow competitors and a standing ovation from the crowd.
The downs syndrome girl with the bottle glasses taught everyone present that day an important life lesson, that it’s important to take time out form our own goals in life to help others find their way. Reflecting on the episode afterwards Ken was reminded of some verses from Romans 15:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up . . . May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.
Source: reported in Joni Erickson Tada, “It’s Called Unity”, found at joniandfriends.org
Once upon a time two brothers bought fishtanks. The younger brother’s setup was very simple – a fishbowl with some gravel and weed. The older brother’s was much more elaborate – a larger, enclosed tank with a filter, lighting and much better decoration.
The younger brother rarely cleaned his tank. The older brother was vigilant in keeping his tank clean.
The older brother couldn’t understand then why his fish died but his brother’s lived.
It turns out the cleaning chemicals the older brother was using were toxic to fish. Whenever he cleaned the tank tiny traces of the chemical remained, but these were enough to keep fish targets down.
Which all goes to show that when it comes to serving others good intentions aren’t enough. If we want to have transformative impact we need to match good intentions with good practise.
This poem was written by an old woman living in a nursing home in Ireland. It was found among her things when she died.
What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me?
A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice- “I do wish you’d try.”
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you think, is that what you see?
Open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I use at your bidding, and eat at your will,
I’m a small child of ten, with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who loved one another,
A young girl of 16, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at 20, my heart give a leap.
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A women of 30, my young now grow so fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50 once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future and shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known,
I’m and old women now and nature is cruel,
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart.
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again, my battered heart swells,
I remember the joys and I remember the pain,
And I’m living and loving life over again,
I think of the years all too few- gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
Open your eyes, nurse open and see.
Not an empty old women, look closer- see ME.
When you see geese flying along in “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone – and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.
If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are headed the same way we are.
When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.
It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.
Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
What messages do we give when we honk from behind?
Finally – and this is important – when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies, and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.
A man tells the story about a special friend he made while just a boy. When quite young, Paul’s father had one of the first telephones in their neighbourhood. Paul was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when his mother talked to it.
Then Paul discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information, Please” and there was nothing she did not know.
“Information, Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time. Paul’s first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while his mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing himself at the tool bench in the basement, Paul hacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. He walked around the house sucking his throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.
Quickly, Paul ran for the foot stool in the parlour and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, he unhooked the receiver in the parlour and held it to his ear. “Information, Please,” he said into the mouthpiece just above his head.
A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into Paul’s ear.
“I hurt my finger,” Paul wailed into the phone.
“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.
“Nobody’s home but me” Paul blubbered.
“Are you bleeding?” the voice asked.
“No,” he replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”
“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. He said he could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.
After that, Paul called “Information, Please” for everything. He asked her for help with his geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped him with his maths. She told Paul that his pet chipmunk, which he had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, the pet canary died. Paul called and told her the sad story.
She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child, but Paul was inconsolable. He asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”
She must have sensed his deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow he felt better. .
When Paul was nine years old, his family moved across the country to Boston. Paul missed his friend very much. “Information, Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home, and he somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.
As he grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left him. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity Paul would recall the serene sense of security he had then. He appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.
A few years later, on his way west to college, Paul’s plane put down in Seattle. He had about half an hour or so between planes. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what he was doing, Paul dialled his hometown operator and said, “Information, Please.”
Miraculously, he heard the small, clear voice he knew so well, “Information.”
He hadn’t planned this but he heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”
There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.” Paul laughed. “So it’s really still you,” he said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.”
“I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” Paul told her how often he had thought of her over the years and asked if he could call her again when he came back to visit his sister.
“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”
Three months later Paul was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” He asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” She asked.
“Yes, a very old friend,” Paul answered.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”
Before he could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Is this Paul?”
“Yes,” Paul replied.
“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.” The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”
Application: Listening – Information Please gave Paul one of the most precious yet simple gifts a person can give, the gift of listening.
Application: Hope, Death, Heaven. “There are other world’s to sing in”. Beyond death lies the hope of a new life.
Application: Community, Friendship. This story reminds us that we need each other. Information Please and Paul both had their lives enriched in powerful yet simple ways by the gift of their friendship with one another.
Application: Children. We adults often make the mistake of dismissing the concerns of small children. Yet coping with the death of a budgie or telling someone that you’ve hurt your finger are the things that are important to a small child. Sally reminds us of the importance of being attentive to the needs of children, not expecting them to function as mini adults but nurturing their journey as children.
A little girl who was late coming home for supper. Her mother made the expected irate parent’s demand to know where she had been.
The little girl replied that she had stopped to help Janie, whose bicycle was broken in a fall.
“But you don’t know anything about fixing bicycles,” her mother responded.
“I know that,” the girl said. “I just stopped to help her cry.”
It was the late 1960’s. Twenty two year old King Duncan was a student pastor, serving two small churches in northern Maryland, USA.
One of his parishioners Mrs. Maude Stambaugh, the oldest living member of one of the churches. Frail and ill, Mrs Stambaugh spent her final years being cared for by her daughter in her daughter’s home, unable to leave her room except for trips to the hospital twice a month to receive the blood transfusions that kept her alive.
When he first went to see her King found the experience quite difficult. Mrs Stambaugh had Parkinson’s disease at an advanced state. Her hearing was poor, meaning he had to shout into her ear to be heard, and she was close to being blind.
“What do I do now?” he thought to himself as Mrs Stambaugh’s daughter excused herself from the room. Seminary had not prepared him for this. He sat beside the bed, intimidated and uncomfortable, before cupping his hands and shouting into Mrs Stambaugh’s ears “How are you doing today?”
Mrs. Stambaugh responded with a pleasant expression and mumbled something which he could not quite understand. King Duncan knew he had to do something for this woman, but he had no idea what. For 15 minutes he sat there in silence, til finally he opened the New Testament and began to read some verses aloud. Though he read loudly, he was not sure if Mrs Stambaugh heard. He finished with a prayer. But would he whisper it or shout it into her ear? He decided he would simply speak in a very loud voice. So King prayed and left the room, cupping his hands around her ear one last time before exiting the room. “Good to see you, Mrs. Stambaugh,” he shouted.
Of course, that was a lie. He had found the whole experiencing discouraging, disheartening and very awkward. He would prefer to do anything than return. But return he did, for he was Mrs Stambaugh’s pastor. Every month or so King visited Mrs Stambaugh, each time shouting in her ear to greet her, then sitting in tortured silence for 15 minutes, before reading from the bible, then praying.
Eighteen months after his first visit, Mrs. Stambaugh died. After the funeral King was walking toward his car when Mrs Stambaugh’s daughter came hurrying up to him. “Pastor Duncan, I have something for you. This was the last thing Mother wrote before she died,” her daughter said with warmth. “We thought you would want to see it.” She handed him a note. It took some time to decipher the handwriting. This is what Mrs. Stambaugh had written, “Please tell my young pastor how much his visits meant to me.”
King Duncan learned what we all must, that our presence is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. Though we may feel awkward, useless and discouraged, our presence to another human being in their hours of darkness is a precious gift.
Source: Reported by King Duncan, Seven Worlds Newsletter, 2002
Albert Schweitzer was one of the most famous missionaries of the modern era. Leaving behind both an academic career (Schweizer had Phds in both theology and physics) and a musical one (Schweizer was also a concert organist) he set up a medical clinic in French Equatorial Africa. He was 85 years old when Andrew Davison of Colgate Rochester Seminary had the privilege of visiting. Davison tells how one morning, at around 11.00, he, Schweitzer and some others were walking up a hill. It was extremely hot. Suddenly the 85 year old Dr Schweitzer walked away from the group. He made his way toward an African woman struggling up the hill with a large load of wood for the cookfires. Schweitzer took the entire load of wood from the woman and carried it up the hill for her.
When Schweitzer rejoined the group one of them asked why he did things like that. With the rest of the group this person was surprised and concerned that a person of Dr Schweitzer’s age would strain themselves so. Dr Schweitzer looked at the group, then pointed to the woman and said, “No one should ever have to carry a burden like that alone.”
Source: Reported in a letter by Andrew Davison found in Illustrations Unlimited.
One cold winter’s day a 10-year-old boy was standing barefoot in front of a shoe store, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and asked him what he was doing.
“I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” the boy replied.
The lady took him by the hand and went into the store, and asked the clerk to get a half dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the boy to the back part of the store, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel.
By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she then purchased him a pair of shoes, and tying up the remaining pairs of socks, gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”
As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”
A nurse escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bed side of an elderly man. “Your son is here,” she whispered to the patient. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack and he dimly saw the young man standing outside the oxygen tent.
He reached out his hand and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement. The nurse brought a chair next to the bedside. All through the night the young man sat holding the old mans hand, and offering gentle words of hope. The dying man said nothing as he held tightly to his son.
As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man placed on the bed the lifeless hand he had been holding, and then he went to notify the nurse.
While the nurse did what was necessary, the young man waited. When she had finished her task, the nurse began to say words of sympathy to the young man.
But he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” He asked.
The startled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.”
“No, he was not my father,” he answered. “I never saw him before in my life.”
“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” asked the nurse.
He replied, “I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me.”