I Wish You Enough

Speaker Bob Perks was at an airport when he ‘overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”

He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!’

Source: Bob Perks. Used with permission

Up and Under

In 1979 the tugboat Cahaba was headed down the Tombingbee River in Alabama, USA. The current was flowing fast as the tug’s pilot approached the bridge and released his coal barges. He then put his 1800 horsepower twin engines into reverse to get away, but when the boat moved slightly off line the current swung the boat sideways and slammed it into the bridge. The current was so strong that it forced the boat down under the water. To the astonishment of onlookers it passed under the bridge and popped up, upright, with the engines still going and the pilot at the wheel, on the other side. Why did it come back to the surface in an upright position? Because it was ballasted with a metre thick lining of cement on the bottom of the hull. It is a vivid reminder that life can often go horribly wrong, but if we have the right “ballast” – faith in Christ – then we can get through it and emerge upright on the other side. By the way, you can view photos of the amazing tug incident on at www.gcfl.net/stuff/tugboat/.
Source: information found at www.gcfl.net/stuff/tugboat/.

Tony Bullimore

In January 1997 British yachtsman Tony Bullimore was sailing solo deep in the Southern Ocean. A gale was raging. The waves, reaching the height of a five story building, rushed on him with a sound like roaring thunder. As his yacht plummeted down the face of a wave it hit something submerged in the water and turned upside down.

Tony, who had been sheltering in the two metre by three metre cockpit found it had become his prison. As giant waves buffeted the boat, water poured in and out a broken window, knee high at one end, waist high at the other, the air temperature was down to 2 degrees Celsius, and it was pitch black – the sun couldn’t penetrate the upturned yacht.

Twelve times Bullimore left the cockpit in a vain attempt to release his liferaft. Meeting with no success he took refuge in his little cabin. Sitting inside the cold inky darkness Bullimore had few rations – some chocolate and  a device for making fresh water from salty sea. His fingers became frostbitten and Bullimore thought that he was going to die. The odds of being rescued seemed impossibly small.

Four four long days Tony survived, until late Wednesday night when a RAFF plane located him and dropped an electronic probe next to his yacht. Bullimore could hear the faint pings, and with hope rising in his heart, started tapping on the hull to communicate to whoever was listening that he was alive. Early the next morning the HMAS Adelaide drew alongside, and some sailors were dispatched to bang on the hull. Tony heard the banging, took a deep breath, and swam out through the wreckage of his yacht to meet them.

How did he feel at that moment? Bullimore says “When I looked over at the Adelaide, I could only get the tremendous ecstasy that I was looking at life, I was actually looking at a picture of what life was about. It was heaven, absolute heaven. I really, really never thought I would reach that far. I was starting to look back over my life and was starting to think, `Well, I’ve had a good life, I’ve done most of the things I had wanted to do’ I think if I was picking words to describe it, it would be a miracle. An absolute miracle.”

Reflecting on the experience later Bullimore told reporters “…Now that I’m getting a bit old there is one thing, and I don’t mind telling the world, I’ve become more human. In these last six days I’m a different person. I won’t be so rude to people, not that I was, but I’ll be much more of a gentleman and, equally, I’ll listen to people a lot more. And as a dear old friend of mine, David Matherson, said when he had a heart attack – and I’ve never had a heart attack, I’ve got a strong heart, I hope I still have – he said that when he got over it and opened his window in his bedroom and he peered out and smelt the fresh air and all the rest of it, he said: `God it was like being born all over again, life was great!’ Well that’s how I feel now, like being born all over again.”

Tony Bullimore learned the power of hope. It was hope of being rescued that drove him to survive and it was the fulfilment of hope that brought him such joy and a new perspective on life. In the same way the gospel promises hope to all of us, and particularly to those of us who find life tough going. A time will come when the Rescuer will arrive and release the world from the pain and suffering. And it’s that hope that drives us forward.

Bullimore reflects a common outlook among those who’ve had a brush with death. In almost religious language he says it’s like being born all over again, a fresh start at life, and one he will make a better fist of. The death and resurrection of Jesus likewise brings us a fresh appreciation of life, a fresh start and a new way of living.

Source: Scott Higgins. Bullimore quotes taken from The Sunday Age January 1997.

Advice from Walt Disney

An eight-year-old boy approached an old man in front of a wishing well, looked up into his eyes, and asked:

“I understand you’re a very wise man. I’d like to know the secret of life.”

The old man looked down at the youngster and replied:

“I’ve thought a lot in my lifetime, and the secret can be summed up in four words

The first is think. Think about the values you wish to live your life by.

The second is believe. Believe in yourself based on the thinking you’ve done about the values you’re going to live your life by.

The third is dream. Dream about the things that can be, based on your belief in yourself and the values you’re going to live by.

The last is dare. Dare to make your dreams become reality, based on your belief in yourself and your values. ”

And with that, Walter E. Disney said to the little boy,

“Think, Believe, Dream, and Dare.”

Source: unknown.

The Voyage of Life

Hanging in the US National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is a series of four paintings by Thomas Cole. The series is called “The Voyage of Life”. Each painting depicts a stage of life: childhood, youth, manhood and old age.

The first painting is of childhood. It shows a mountain with a dark cave at its base and a river flowing out of the cave. A beautiful timber boat glides out of the cave into a world of lush vegetation, flowers in bloom and a peaceful, gentle surface on the water. Inside the boat is a laughing baby with a Guardian Spirit standing right behind. The painting shows childhood as a time of wonder and joy.

The second painting is called “youth”. We see the same boat now travelled further downstream. The baby has grown into a teenage boy. He stands in the rear, confidently steering the boat towards a majestic white castle off in the distance. The riverbanks are still lush and green and the Guardian Spirit stands on those banks, watching the young man boldly chart his course. The painting shows youth as a time of dreaming and absolute self confidence that nothing can hold me back.

When we look at the third painting the scene has changed dramatically. The youth has become a man, the river has become a raging torrent, and the sky has become dark and threatening. The castle of dreams is nowhere to be seen and the boat’s rudder has broken. Up ahead lie treacherous rocks, with white water crashing all around them. The man in the boat is caught up by forces he can’t control. With the rudder broken he cannot steer his boat. All he can do is look up to the sky and pray. Meanwhile the Guardian Spirit sits hidden in the clouds. Cole is picturing adulthood as a time when the joy and wonder of childhood have been tamed by the difficult and tragic experiences of life, when the confidence and boldness of youth have been swept away by the harsh realities of life.

The final painting is called “Old Age”. The battered and weathered boat has finally reached the ocean. The dark clouds remain but the water is still. The boat’s occupant is now an old man, and his gaze is fixed firmly on the clouds out there in front of him, clouds pierced by the glorious light of heaven, the light pierced by angels coming to and fro. For the first time in his life the man sees the Guardian Spirit that has accompanied him on his journey. It comes, takes him by the hand and prepares him for his journey into the heavens.

Source: Scott Higgins, based on the artwork

Smoke

In 1995 the movie “Smoke” was released, starring Harvey Kietel and William Hurt. The centre of the film is the Brooklyn Cigar Co., located at the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue.

The Brooklyn Cigar Co is owned by Auggie Wren, played by Harvey Keitel. Every morning at 8 a.m. Auggie walks across the road from his store locate don the corner of Third and Eighth and takes a photograph of it. The angle of the camera never varies, just the weather, the people on the street, the colour of the sky.

One of Auggie’s customers is Paul Benjamin. Paul’s an author who is suffering from writer’s block, he’s suffered it ever since his wife, Ellen, was shot and killed one morning right outside the Brooklyn Cigar Co. One morning Paul wanders in and sees Auggie’s camera. They get talking, and Auggie reveals that photography is his hobby, his art, his life’s work. Paul tells Auggie he’d love to see his photographs, and so, Auggie closes up the shop and takes Paul back to his house to show him his collection.

Auggie pulls out a set of large, heavy photo albums and places them before Paul Benjamin, the writer. Paul opens the first page. There, mounted on a stark black background, are four photos, and they’re all of Auggie’s shop, the Brooklyn Cigar Co, on the corner of Third and Eighth, all taken from exactly the same place, at exactly the same angle. Paul turns the next page and he sees exactly the same thing. Four photographs of Auggie’s shop, all taken from the same place, at the same angle. He turns the next page and he sees more. He starts turning the pages faster and faster, til he’s rapidly flipping through the book, when Auggie puts a hand down on the back page and says, “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.”

“But Auggie”, says Paul, “they’re all the same.”

“They’re all the same,” Auggie replies, “but each one is different from all the others.” Auggie explains that he has 4,000 pictures of the same place, but that each picture is different. “It’s my corner, after all. I mean, it’s just one little part of the world, but things take place there, too, just like everywhere else. It’s a record of my little spot.”

Then Paul sees someone he knows in one of the photos: his wife, who was pregnant when she was shot and killed one morning on the street outside the store. “It’s Ellen,” he says. “Look at her. Look at my sweet darling.” And he begins to cry.

Now all the photos do not look the same anymore…It’s just that you’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.

The Secret to a Long Life

“It’s a treasure more valuable than gold,” the young girl said. “I wouldn’t trade it for nothing'”

They had gathered for a family celebration they said. Oh, not a birthday, anniversary or birth. They were celebrating death. That’s right. A celebration of dying.

I know for some of you it might sound odd. Death is sad and mournful. There is no happiness or joy in losing someone you love you would say. But for some death is joy filled. It’s a crossing over to a better place. It’s a spiritual completion and a holy event.

For Amy it meant getting the best gift ever.

Amy was very close to her Grandmother. They visited often and shared some of the most memorable moments. When she was very small, they played together, walked together and when Amy was sick Grandma would stay with her so Mom and Dad could go to work. So they loved each other in all situations and prayed together to resolve their deepest concerns.

Like the time Amy fell while she was carrying her Mom’s best vase. Without hesitation Amy turned to Grandma and said, “It’s prayer time. This one’s a big one Grandma.” I believe that Amy thought that her Grandma had as much to do with healing and fixing things as God did. Maybe even more. That’s how much Amy trusted her Grandma. Their love could withstand anything life could throw their way.

But it was inevitable. There would certainly come a time when reality and old age would gain the upper hand. This time Grandma couldn’t kiss it and make it better. Grandma couldn’t pray this one away. You see, Grandma was dying. It was her time and what a splendid time it was.

It was Spring and the flowers that she and Amy attended to each year were in full bloom. You might think that this is the perfect time to be alive. But Grandma convinced Amy otherwise. At 91, she had lived a full life. She had no regrets. Except perhaps leaving Amy alone. But she had taken care of that, too.

“Amy,” she whispered quietly. “In my closet at home there is a small wooden box. It has your name on it. In it is all that I can give you. All that I hold dear. In that box is the secret to living a long life.”

No, she didn’t leave a fortune behind. She had no diamonds or pearls to pass on. What she left was her secret to life. On her final day she called Amy by her side. They reflected back on a life time of love, happiness and commitment. They laughed and cried and before saying goodbye, Grandma pulled her close, kissed her on the forehead and gently fell into a deep and final sleep. A sleep that would take her home to the grandest celebration of all.

Weeks after her passing Amy retrieved the box from Grandma’s closet. She took it out to the kitchen table where they shared many happy moments together. Placing the old wooden box on the table, she carefully opened it.

There inside Amy found an envelope with the words “My secret to a long life.” Her heart raced with the thought that Grandma had gone through all this trouble just for her. She held the note close to her chest and said out loud, “I love you Grandma, thanks!”

Inside the envelope was one index card. On it were written four words…”Live until you die!”

Amy roared with laughter. She ran out of the house and down the street to where her Mom was. There the two of them sat and laughed until it hurt.

Some where in that laughter Amy and her Mom decided to hold a special celebration every year. The big day was the day Grandma died. Everyone who knew and loved Grandma would come home for the big event no matter where life had taken them.

There is a profound truth in those simple words for I have found many who have long ago died in spirit and hope yet continue to breathe.

For Amy and her family it’s not a secret anymore. It’s a celebration.

Source: Bob Perks © 2001. Used with permission

Paganini

Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini is thought by many to have been history’s greatest exponent of his art. As he swept through Europe in the early 1800’s his fame was something like that of Beatlemania! His skills were so great that it was whispered he gained his ability from a pact with the devil.

It is said that one evening Paganini was performing before a packed house. As he embarked on the final piece one of the strings on his violin snapped. Undeterred Paganini kept playing. A few moments later, a second string snapped. Again Paganini kept going, now reduced to playing a classical masterpiece on just two strings. And then the unbelievable – a third string snapped. Yet Paganini kept going, finishing the piece on just one string. So brilliant was his performance that the crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.

Yet Paginini was not finished. There was the encore to come. Raising his violin above his head Paginini called to the audience “Paganini, and one string!” With that the orchestra struck up and Paginini completed his encore on just one string.

Application: Paginini was playing a magnificent but eventually flawed violin that night. Yet even with three strings broken the master musician was able to extract beautiful music from it. You and I are like flawed instruments in the hand of God, yet no matter how flawed and broken, God is still able to weave beautiful, graceful things through us when we give ourselves to serving him and others.

Source: Information from Paginini website and “Sermon Notes”

Paderwaski

A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano bought tickets for a performance by Ignace Paderewski, the famous Polish concert pianist. When the night arrived they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage.

Soon the mother found a friend to talk to and the boy slipped away. When eight o’clock arrived, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the piano stool, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on stage and quickly moved to the piano.

“Don’t quit – keep playing” he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderweski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obligato. Together the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerised.

In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing”. And as we do he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created.

Source: Leadership Magazine, Spring 1983

Is That It?

George Harrison was one of the Beatles, one of the greatest and most influential pop bands of all time. Harrison knew fame, adulation, the pleasure of mastering his craft, the sense that his was a formative influence on music. So his comment in the Beatles Anthology is instructive: “When you’ve had all the experiences – met all the famous people, made some money, toured the world and got all the acclaim – you still think ‘is that it?’. Some people might be satisfied with that, but I wasn’t and I’m still not.”

Source: Reported by Ananova News Service, Nov 30 2001

Everything In Its Place

Most of us have become familiar with the Amish people of the United States as a result of the film Witness. There we learned that Amish people avoid modern technology. They have no TV sets in their homes, no telephones inside the home, and electricity is hooked into the barn but not the house. Such a lifestyle seems to us very harsh and rigorous, but an Amish bishop once explained why it is the Amish live this way. He suggested that most technology had in fact had a negative effect on people’s lives. Television was a good example. It brought violence and poor ethical values into our homes, so much so that many people would like to watch less TV but find they can’t.

Does this mean the Amish are against modern technology? No, explained the bishop. The Amish simply want to keep it in its proper place. The Amish weren’t against telephones. In fact he’d had one installed down the lane from his house. A telephone was handy to have in an emergency or to call distant family and friends. But why bring it into the house. “Telephones intrude into the most precious moments of life.” said the bishop. “You may be talking to your children or sharing something important with your wife; if the phone rings, you will allow it to interrupt what you’re saying. The family can be at prayer, and if the phone rings you will stop and answer it. You could be with your wife in bed, and you will allow the ringing telephone to interrupt what you are doing there!”

Similarly electricity could be a good thing, if kept in its proper place. The Amish in his community had electricty in their barns to refrigerate their milk, but they kept it out of their homes. Why? Because they felt it disrupted the natural rhythms of life. With electricity people stay up late instead of going to bed. With electricity people listen to radios and watch TV that involve them with the outside world rather than their Amish community.

What about tractors? If the Amish will use electricity in their barns, why not tractors in their fields. The Bishop explained that with a tractor a person can plow their field on their own. But using a horse drawn plow the whole family needed to be involved. So rejecting the tractor was a way to create family solidarity.

The Amish have perhaps given more thought to this issue than most of us have. While we may not agree with the Amish on everything we certainly could follow their lead in asking about how we can make modern technology work for us rather than allowing it to determine our lives.

Source: Bishop’s comments reported in Tony Campolo, Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God (Word, 1997)

If I Had My Life to Live Over Again

“If I had my life to live over again,
I would try to make more mistakes next time…
I’d try not to be so damned perfect;
I’d relax more, I’d limber up,
I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip;
In fact, I know of very few things I’d take quite so seriously;
I’d be crazier … and I’d certainly be less-hygienic;
I’d take more chances … I’d take more trips …
I’d climb more mountains … I’d swim more rivers …
And I’d watch more sunsets;
I’d burn more gasoline,
I’d eat more ice cream – and fewer beans;
I’d have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones,

You see, I was one of those people who lived prophylactically and sensibly,
hour-after-hour and day-after-day;
Oh, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my moments,
But if I had it to do all over, I’d have more of those moments,
In fact, I’d try to have nothing but wonderful moments, side-by-side.

I was one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute;
If I had it to do all over again, I’d travel lighter next time.

If I had my life to live all over again,
I’d start barefoot earlier in the spring
and I’d stay that way later in the fall;
I’d play hooky a lot more;
I’d ride more merry-go-rounds, I’d pick more flowers,
I’d hug more children,
I’d tell more people that I loved them,
If I had my life to live over again;
But, you see, I don’t.”

Source: Credited to a number of people, but commonly to Nadine Stair, age 85, Lousville, USA

God, Why Don’t You Do Something?

One day a young woman was walking home from work when she saw a sight a little girl standing on the street corner, begging. The little girl’s clothes were paper thin and dirty, her her matted and unclean, and her cheeks red from the cold.

The young woman dropped a few coins in the begging bowl, gave the girl a smile and walked on. As she walked she started to feel guilty. How could she go home to her warm house with its full pantry and well supplied wardrobe while this little girl shivered on the street.

The young woman also began to feel angry, angry with God. She let her feeling be known in a prayer of protest. “God, how can you let these sort of things happen? Why don’t you do something to help this girl?”

And then, to her surprise God answered. He said, “I did do something. I created you.”

Galileo's Telescope

In the year 1609 a man looked through a telescope and unleashed a revolution that would change the world forever. His name was Galileo Galilei. But how did this simple act of looking through a telescope unleash a revolution? Because Galileo Galilee was looking at the surface of the moon, and saw that it was full of craters and mountains. To you and I this is old news, but to Galileo and the people of his day it was a terrifying revolution. Galileo had grown up learning what everyone in his day “knew” to be “fact”. The earth was the changeable, imperfect, impure centre of an unchangeable, perfect and pure universe. And this universe spoke powerfully of God and humanity’s place in it. The earth was placed at the centre of the universe because humankind was at the centre of God’s concern. The various elements of the universe – the sun, moon and stars, existed for our benefit and ours alone. We were the focus of God’s unfathomable love. The heavens, being the creation of a pure, perfect and unchangeable God, were likewise pure, perfect and unchangeable. All that is, except the earth, which had become impure, imperfect and changeable as a result of human sin. Being at the centre of God’s concerns God had sent Christ to atone for our sin and reconcile us to himself.

But with one glance through his telescope Galileo’s view of the world was changed forever. The heavens were not perfect, pure and unchangeable and the earth was not the centre of the universe. Rather, the earth was a ball of mud floating through the vast, dark expanse of space. And so it raised the question. If we were not the physical centre of the universe, were we the centre of God’s love and purposes?

In the year Galileo died another great scientist, Isaac Newtown was born. Newton was the towering genius of his day, who demonstrated that the earth was part of an infinite universe governed by a variety of laws. These operated with mathematical certainty. If we knew those laws and the precise details of each circumstance we could accurately predict every event that would happen. Not just some events like the appearance of comets, but every event of the future. This seemed to make a miracle working, involved God impossible. God was removed from the ever-present helper to the Divine Watchmaker, who made the clock, then wound it up and let it go.

All however was not lost. Though we came to discover we were floating on a ball of mud through an infinite expanse of space governed by unmovable laws of nature, we take comfort that we human beings were created by God in 4004BC and created distinct from the animals to occupy a special place in his creation. But the comfort was ever so brief. For hot on the heels of Newtown came the geologist James Hutton and his argument that the earth’s shape was the result of tiny but continual changes taking place over aeons of time. Now we were not only a speck in space but a speck in time. Then came the final, dizzying blow to our sense of place, Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. We were not the special, unique creation of God but the distant descendents of prehistoric microbes and the cousin of the ape.

This has become the dominant story of our culture, the mental map by which we navigate life. We see the world around us that we can see and touch as what is truly real. We pursue the only logical goal in such a world – individual happiness – and believe we’ll find it solely in what we can see and touch – possessions, relationships, work, leisure.

Source: Scott Higgins

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the greatest and most influential architects of the twentieth century. As a boy he used to a lot of time on his uncle’s farm in Spring Green, USA. It was there that he had one of the most formative experiences of his life. He was 9 years old, it was a winter’s day, and he and his uncle had just walked across a snow-covered field. Frank’s uncle stopped the young boy and pointed to the tracks they had left in the snow. Frank’s meandered all over the place, while his uncle’s went in a straight line from start to finish. “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.”

Years later the world-famous architect pointed to the important lesson he learned that day, but it was not the lesson his uncle had intended him to learn. “I determined right then,” said Frank Lloyd Wright, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

Sources: Details found at Biography.com and Focus on the Family letter, September, 1992, p. 14

A Fresh Start

Fydor Doestoevsky is one of the greatest novelists of all time. He describes an experience when he was 27 as a turning point in his life. Doestoevsky came from the privileged class of 19th century Russia, but was committed to the liberation of the oppressed working class, the serfs. He joined a revolutionary liberation group, and as a result was arrested in April 1849. Placed in a maximum security prison, conditions were terrible. Doestoevsky slept on a hard straw bed in a small, damp room without much light. For eight months Doestoevsky and his fellow prisoners were questioned and kept in jail.

In October, the prisoners were removed from their cells and led to waiting carriages. They were not sure of their fate, but assumed the sentence would be light. When the carriages stopped, the prisoners were led onto a square and lined up on a gallows. The men were sentenced to be shot; they were given a cross to kiss, the chance to confess to a priest, and then were dressed in peasant shirts and hoods for the execution. The first three men in line were led to some stakes and tied; the soldiers took aim, and held their positions. Then from nowhere a drum roll was heard and a messenger from the Tsar rode in on a horse, with a pardon for Doestoevsky and his fellow prisoners. They were taken back to prison, with the intention they be sent to prison in Siberia.

In a letter to his brother Mikhail, Doestoevsky describes his new outlook towards life. “When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul – then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness.”

In a novel he later wrote, The Idiot, Doestoevsky describes an execution scene similar to the one he experienced. he describes the thoughts of the 27 year old victim as he awaited death, certainly his reflections on his own near execution. “What if I didn’t have to die!…I would turn every minute into an age, nothing would be wasted, every minute would be accounted for…(Part I, chapter 5)

A Perfect Heart

A young man once stood on a street corner, opened his coat, and cried, “Look at my heart, look at my perfect, perfect heart.” A crowd soon gathered, impressed by his perfect heart. They stood in awe of a heart without blemish, perfect and complete in every way.

Soon an old man walked by and paused to see what the commotion was all about. When he heard the young man proudly crying “Look at my perfect heart” the old man pushed his way to the front to get a closer look. And when he saw the young man’s heart he scolded him. “Son, that’s not a perfect heart. If you want to see a perfect heart you need to see mine.” With that the old man opened his coat to reveal and old, knotted and ugly heart. It was full of bumps and holes, and pieces of it had broken off here and there.

The crowd began to laugh, but the old man raised his hand and began to speak. “See this bump” he said, “That’s when I me my first love. Oh, how the sun shone that day, how bright the colours of the universe were, how sweet the swinging of the birds in the trees. What a wonderful moment it was…Ah, but see this hole, that’s when my first love and I broke up. How it pained me, and pains me still. But the hole once ran much deeper. The years have managed to fill it in a lot…See this bump, that’s when I me the woman who became my life partner. Oh, what a wonderful life we had – year after year of shared companionship, of laughter, tears and joy. This scratch here is when we had a blazing row that threatened to end our marriage – but we made up and moved on…Over here, this place where a piece of my heart has been broken off, this is when she passed away. Oh the ache – yes it still aches even today, for she took a part of my heart to the grave with her, but I trust she will return it to me someday…Ah, but here’s another great bump. This was when we began our family. You’ll notice the hole beside it. That’s when we learned we could not bear our own children. How hard it was to accept, how painful to live with. But the bump is when we got our adopted daughter – our very own beautiful little girl to raise as our own. And yes, there are scratches and indentations surrounding the bump – the times we fought and yelled. But always we learned to forgive, and so this bump grows ever bigger.”

The old man went on to describe many other bumps and holes and scratches on his heart, and when he finished the crowd was silent. “You see son” he aid, turning to the young man with the unblemished heart, “yours is not a perfect heart, for it has not lived, it has not been touched with joy and tears and laughter and love and pain and anguish and hardship and celebration. Only when you are an old man like me will you be able to look upon a gnarled and battered heart and be able to say, ‘yes, now that is a perfect heart.'”

 

Source: original story by Rev. Garry Izzard, rewritten and used with permission.