Series 2


I’m inept when it comes to working on cars.

As I looked across the street I had a hands-and-feet view of someone working on their car up by the front wheel. I couldn’t tell what the problem was, but even with obscured observation I knew the breakdown was more involved than changing a flat.

I watched for a couple of minutes; the inner voice said, “Go see if the person needs help.” My mind went to all the things I needed to get done and my lack of even a cell phone to offer. Still, I knew the voice.

“Do you need help?” I asked. “Sure,” the stout, fortysomething lady responded. “It’s kind of embarrassing being on Main St. fixing your car.”

She was greasy.  Two jacks were under the car. Her make-do tools were scattered around as she attempted to fix her rusty 1983 Chevy.

We pried and pounded and pried some more. And pounded some more. Finally she kicked the hub and the ball joint slipped into place. She put the tire back on. Then she tried to start the car--- the battery was dead. We put some jumper cables on; the car wouldn’t start. One of the battery terminals started to smoke. Oops! I had installed the clamps on the wrong terminals.

Frustrating. It would make a person want to scream.

Yet during the whole fiasco, this lady never raised her voice, she never complained, and she never showed anxiety or frustration. Her demeanor was peaceful—like an angel. Even when she kicked the misaligned hub into place, she was purposeful and gracious.

Finally, the car started. She shook my hand, thanked me, and even tried to give me the little bit of money she had before driving off.

Still pondering the experience that evening; I received an e-mail with this Bible verse: “Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

Was the lady an angel? Probably not.  But . . .


Muito Bom

When he touched my hand, he touched my heart.

My destination was the prayer chapel-- that’s where my focus was.  Walking across the missionary compound, a small hand found my hand; unexpectedly I was holding hands with one of the orphans who lived there.

I was thousands of miles from home, just off the east coast of Africa; the affection was welcomed.

I stumbled through some elementary conversation which consisted more of gestures and smiles than of the Portuguese language. Name and age are always easy to interpret. My new friend was ten year old Fanuel.

I struggled to communicate. “Father?” No. “Mother?” No.  With his answers, sadness came over Fanuel’s face that pierced my heart. He turned, looking away from me.

Now what do I say? What do I say to a child whose parents are probably dead? A child who has probably lived on the streets and is hoping to bury these unpleasant, haunting memories.

I prayed silently, “God help me.”

“Fanuel” I said. He looked at me. God let my eyes communicate love: “Fanuel, es muito bom.” Translation: Fanuel is very good.

He almost started crying; so did I.

The simple phrase: “Fanuel is very good” impacted him in a way I never could have imagined. Later as I thought over his reaction, I realized that I may have been the only person in his life to ever tell him he was good.

The wisdom of the Bible says, “Pleasant words are as dripping honey, sweet to the soul.”

Two and a half weeks later, I hugged Fanuel and gently rubbed his short, bristly hair. I kneeled in the sand, looking him in the eyes for the last time: “Fanuel es muito bom.” I smiled inside as I saw the sweetness in his soul.


Mr. Smiley Face Lives Here

“Why do you have Mr. Smiley Face hanging in the window?” laughed eight year old Jackie. It must seem strange. My wife had brought another one home; they’re all over the house—Mr. Smiley faces.

You know what his yellow faced grin looks like. This two-foot tall version with blue legs and arms, wearing pink smiley face emblazoned shoes was pretty much over the edge in the sane home décor category. Hanging there in the living room window in a fish net, he’s a comment magnet.

I don’t particularly like all the smiley faces; they’re O.K., but I love what they symbolize.

In her early 40’s my wife suffered with illness and depression—nothing to smile about. She searched for relief from doctors, psychologists, and self help books.

A psychologist said, “You need to explore the spiritual side of life.” Her initial reaction to me: “That’s stupid; I just want my health back. I want to be happy.”

Then while searching for self-help books at the library, she “accidentally” picked up a Christian book. An inner journey was sparked. A Bible verse in the book became her beacon of hope: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

The journey was long. And then one day she found what she was looking for; she found Jesus.

Mr. Smiley Face symbolizes the joy she discovered.

I smiled and looked at Jackie. I told her the eight-year-old’s version of Mr. Smiley Face’s residence at our home-- “Smile, Jesus loves you.”



“Death like a Gypsy comes to steal everything precious . . .” Those were the last words I heard as I flicked off the radio, dashing out the door heading to work.

En route the radio in my head was on continual play—“Death like a Gypsy . . .” I couldn’t shake the words I had heard on that Christian radio station. The musician had created a simple word formula—death equals Gypsy, Gypsy equals thief. Kind of catchy, unless your ethnic heritage is Gypsy.

I still remember the pointing-fingers-behind-the-back talk when a Gypsy girl attended my school briefly when I was in eighth grade. Was her greatest fault she was born a Gypsy?

I knew nothing about gypsies; I had no true understanding of their history or culture. I didn’t know their heritage included devastating prejudice since arriving in Europe seven hundred years ago or the fact that over a million Gypsies were executed during the Holocaust. Or even the fact that until 1994 there were anti-Gypsy laws on the books in the U.S., including making it illegal for a Gypsy to own a home.

Kids can be so cruel—with their words . . . and then we become adults.

One of the songs in the Bible has these lyrics: “Hear this, all you people of the world; both humble and exalted, rich and poor alike. My mouth will speak wise words; the utterance of my heart, my inner man will be intelligent understanding.”

It’s a song; it’s a proclamation; it’s a choice.

God, help me to speak wise words and give me intelligent understanding of people different than myself.


Cottage Cheese

The words danced out of her mouth: “Momma and grandma are number one, Jesus is number two and cottage cheese is number three” While fueling herself with the white milky curds, eleven year old Sharnae shared her philosophy of life.

Immediately, her brother Robert protested, “Cottage cheese can’t be number three!” His choice for number three-- it had to be family. He did concede that cottage cheese could rank fourth in her life.

I protest also. For the record I place Jesus as number one. And cottage cheese as the number three priority in life or even number four?--  no way. That slot should be for pizza.

Or nachos, or barbequed chicken, or your favorite food. 

Let’s be real. I love good food; you love good food. But, I need to move it down the list.

The Bible talks often about food, with one of the more peculiar references being the diet of John the Baptist. He subsisted on locust and wild honey—that’s it.  According to Jesus, there was no greater man than John the Baptist. Yet, did he eat a great man’s diet?

The Bible has these diet adjusting, tasty words: “I will praise God as long as I live, and in God’s name I will lift my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest foods.”

Praising God, that was John’s diet for a great man.