great stories

ernest-024[1]

Rev. E. Anderson

A CHANGE OF HEART

by Mary Simmons

How was she going to face the worst day of her life?

The coldness in the pit of my stomach settled into a lump as I slipped into the third-row pew of the country church. With my husband beside me, I welcomed the numbness that seemed to be creeping over my body. The sickening sweetness of the funeral flowers made my head giddy, and I closed my eyes against the blur of summer sun filtering through a narrow stained-glass window.

In a subconscious niche of my mind my sister’s voice repeated. ‘You shouldn’t go. If you ask me, it’s downright disrespectful to Mother. Besides, you don’t belong there.’ Why had I not been able to do as my sister had done and blot out that part of my life with my father?

The familiar refrain of ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’, a song I had loved since childhood, filled my being and offered some comfort.

Childhood. I knew that was what had brought me to this strange church, some sixty miles from where I now lived, for my father’s funeral.

I sat, listening, until a feeling of movement in the sanctuary brought me back to reality. Just across the aisle ‘the family’ was filing into the reserved pews nearest the casket. I knew that the woman my father had deserted his family for more than thirty years ago had had a young son at the time. I forced myself to take a furtive glance. Her son, no doubt, and his family, a wife and three teenagers.

‘Dearly beloved,’ the minister began, and I felt my husband’s arm around my shoulder, ‘we have gathered here to pay respect to a husband, a father.’ The bitter anger I had become so adept at suppressing towards this woman and her family through the years was already spreading over me when I saw the roses. At the head of the casket emblazoned in gold letters across a wreath of red rosebuds were the words ‘Our Pops’.

Suddenly I wanted to turn my wrath on these strangers in the middle row. How dare they claim him as theirs! It infuriated me that her grandchildren would take him as theirs when my own children had never known their grandfather.

I wanted to scream. ‘He’s not your father. He’s mine. You’re impostors, all of you!’

Bitterness washed over me in waves. I wanted to .dash the wreath of roses to the floor and run out to the privacy of our car.

Perhaps if the sympathizing congregation knew that there had been no divorce between my parents and that this woman was only a common-law wife, things might be different.

My sister had been right. I should not have come. I was angry with myself. With my husband for allowing me to come. He should not have agreed so readily when I mentioned attending.

With my heart pounding from the surging anger and resentment, I steeled myself against an outburst. I was a teacher and a writer of children’s books. I knew how to practise self-control. I had to manage my emotions now.

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, giving myself over to the strains of ‘In the Garden’, until the minister’s voice began to lull me like the metronome of my daughter’s piano practice. I was a child again, and my father with his broad shoulders and jet-black hair was riding a racing horse across the summer fields of our rolling farm. In another scene I stood proudly beside him while the men of the town vowed that I, his baby girl, was his ‘spitting image’. I thought of the times my father travelled. God knows where. And of the times when he came back home, unwrapping his tapering cigar, whistling a tune and cutting a dance step on the boards of the kitchen floor. My heart swelled with remembered love. But I saw, too, Mother’s face pursed .with pouting. I could not let her know I loved him so.

Oh, he was a ladies man. Painfully, I relived the bitter arguments ending with my father’s usual ultimatum, ‘It’ll be many moons before you see me again’, and leaving us children weeping. Had I not withstood the shame and humiliation of our small town’s gossip about my father’s escapades? Hadn’t my love, even though in secret, and my nightly prayers been constant through the years? I worked at keeping myself removed from this place until the service was over, but I was slipping back.

‘You, the family,’ the minister was saying. His concern, his condolences were, directed towards them. I could feel the bitter gall rising in me. He was my father, not theirs.

For the most part I had not tried to make contact through the years. When my father returned for his mother’s funeral, I could sense the uneasiness, the shame of his desertion. Even then I had not wanted to hurt my mother. Hadn’t she stood by us children when we needed her?

I remembered a more recent occasion. I was autographing one of my books in the large coastal city where he lived. Something compelled me to search the telephone directory for his number. I called and asked him to meet me. I dared not go to a house where she was, and he did not ask me to.

We hugged and then he took out his wallet. With the shaking hands of a man growing old, he drew from it a worn news clip­ping. I recognized it as a picture of me with the write-up of my first book.

And now he was dead. Our oldest son had taken the telephone message of his death from a stranger — perhaps one of those persons sitting across the aisle from me now. Before I knew it, my husband was guiding me from the church and out into the cemetery to the graveside. I had not intended to go there. Why had I put myself through all of this?

Averting my eyes from ‘the family’, I succumbed to my husband’s urging for me to sit in the back row of metal chairs under the awning. Seated across from me, on the other side of the casket. I noticed several familiar faces — the old druggist from the town where I had grown up, one of my father’s cousins, an aunt on my father’s side.

As the minister’s voice resumed its droning, my eyes caught sight of the wreath again. The red roses with ‘Our Pops’ had been brought from the church to the graveside. With more force than I thought possible I hated these people who sat in front of me pretending to be broken by grief.

Persons began milling about. The service was over. I turned towards my husband only to find him engaged in a conversation with some gentleman behind him. My resentment grew to include him. Couldn’t he see that I wanted to get away from here?

Then someone touched me on the arm — and I was face to face with the woman I had hated all these years.

‘You’re Mary Mice, aren’t you? I recognized you from your picture.’

I am sure my face registered a mixture of feelings. I was not prepared for this soft-spoken person before me. I had expected a cheap, coarse-looking woman. Instead, her silver hair lay in loose curls, and dark linen dress covered a somewhat matronly yet neat figure. Her glistening blue eyes held nothing but love as she said, ‘Your father was so proud of you’.

Her son took her by the arm and his wife and children flanked either side, their eyes red from weeping.

Standing there at a loss for words I could see that this ‘other woman’ was not the brazen home-wrecker I had imagined. I could even see why my father had been attracted to her. I didn’t condone what he had done to my mother – what he had done to all of us -but I felt my anger melting away. For the first time since hearing of my father’s death, I knew I was going to cry. I swallowed a sob. This little family’s suffering was real and heartfelt. They had loved my father deeply. I knew what I had to say.

‘I know,’ I heard myself getting out the words, ‘that all of you loved my father very much.”

Her face creased in a sad smile. She reached out and caught my hand. ‘God bless you for coming.’

Groups of persons were moving up to offer words of comfort to my father’s new family. I squeezed the warm hand that held mine and then my husband was beside me, guiding me between the grave markers to our car.

Tears poured down my face, not tears of anger and resentment but of relief. I was grateful to my husband for his silence. I needed to deal with the change that had taken place in my heart.

Although the sun was almost down, I felt a warm glow. In a flash I knew what had been holding me back all the time. Church-going person though I was, I had not understood that at the heart of real Christian love lies forgiveness. No longer was the wreath of red roses by the grave a threat to my love for my father or to his for me. Rather it was like a circle of love. Why had I not been able to see that the more love there is in one’s heart the wider the circle becomes?

Finally I looked at my husband. ‘I’m glad we came,’ I said. ‘Very glad.’

He put his hand over mine and nodded.

‘Yes,’ was all he said.

 lake

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gospel nuggets

ernest reading pose

 Rev. E. Anderson

CHANGED LIVES

Reading    2 Corinthians  5

Text           2 Corinthians 5: 17

Introduction

REQUIRMENT:  What is needed amongst all the sons of men, irrespective of genealogy, nationality, status, history etc., is the need to be truly changed. Anyone with any degree of understanding should recognize the fact that men are not what they ought to be. The actual and real man that we have on view is far from the ideal of perfection and fulfilling a true and worthwhile destiny. There is no true specimen of excellence or impeccable standard to be seen on view because all are marred and effected from within by the power and dynamic of sin  – Romans 3: 23.

RECOGNITION:  Civilization past and society present confirms the truth and fact that people needed and do need to be completely overhauled and renewed. This has to be accepted not only at a national but at a personal level. Without exception, all need to have a work of radical transformation take place inside their beings so that they can be as they ought to be and live a life of freedom and fulfilment. Without question, all require to be converted by someone or something for the better, and it must be now sensed by the individual. The desire to be changed must exist and find expression.

REVELATION: It can come quite a shock to the mind of people that there is a person that can affect all the right radical changes and bring and achieve the greatest renewal and renovation of life and affairs. The answer is not to found in a code of ethics or religious creeds or in a stoical, disciplined formula: it is found and known in a person, Jesus Christ. The real reason why He came into the world was in order to deal with man’s past, to give him a new life and nature in the present and to set him up ready for an eternal destiny. There are no limits to what He can effect when once He is allowed on the scene and into life. When a person receives Christ on board into life such becomes a Christian and a glorious life commences;

“”When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”  – 2 Cor. 5:17              Living Bible

1/. HE HAS THE POWER TO CLEAN UP THE IMMORAL LIFE – JOHN 4: 8

One of the things He loves to do is to take hold of a life that has been blasted and bruised by sin and to clean it up and give something better within to live for. He revealed this factor when He moved to show His grace, compassion and power to two women who had become blighted by evil and were treated with disdain – John 4; 8.

2/. HE HAS THE POWER TO RELEASE AND RENEW THE OPPRESSED LIFE – MARK 4:19,20

There are people who somehow sense that they are being victimized and feel there is an oppressive and destructive force that seeks their undoing. They are conscious of an inward power that is most suggestive and seeks to rule their thoughts, desires and actions. These forces seek to take over and seek to produce hell within on earth and there is a desire to be freed. It is well within the capacity and ministry of Christ to utterly liberate from such awful realities.

He deliberately went to set a man free whose life was a virtual hell. He was completely disorientated in mind and in a situation where no one wanted anything to do with him Mark 5: 1-17. He then gave him something to life for – vv18-20.

3/. HE HAS THE POWER TO TRANSFORM THE RELIGIOUS LIFE – JOHN 3; ACTS 8 & 9

Many have discovered the emptiness and vanity of religions where people are taken up with a traditional belief and way of life that has no dynamic life or life-style. There is nothing worse than dead religion. It professes something that it is not and lacks the dynamic to bring vital renewal. Many become waylaid and trapped by a lot of religious duties and performances that have no potential to generate life and blessedness.

A religious leader came to Christ because he sensed a real deficiency in his own being and felt He could help. Christ showed in him very clearly that he needed to be born again and that simply means he required a new nature planting within by God’s gracious regenerating Spirit and he would begin to think and live anew.

Illustration:  Paul bound by religious knowledge and tradition – Phil. 3 – Thankfully he had a dynamic conversion – Acts 9. It changed him and the whole course of his life and history.

4/. HE HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE THE HARD AND CALLOUS LIFE – LUKE 9: 51-55

People do not realize how hard, difficult, obstinate and violent the spirit and heart can become. There comes intransigence in human nature that causes people to be resentful, bitter and vengeful. It shows up unexpectedly at times in those you least expect: with a James and John as they pass through a village that would not entertain Christ. They were brothers in the flesh and they appear to adopt a brutal attitude – v54. Christ showed that they were, in some respects, no better than the Samaritans. Their hardline and tough attitude needed remedying. They were ‘sons of thunder’ right enough that required conversion.

5/. HE HAS THE POWER TO STRAIGHTEN THE TWISTED LIFE – LUKE 19: 1-10

There can be many bents and twists in human nature and behaviour that are more than in a corkscrew. People become twisted and bent by many kinds of evil that leaves them as deformed personalities. The ability to lie and cheat and defraud is there and works to the detriment and damage of individuals. However Jacob managed to live with his name, ‘twister’ is quite astonishing. The result of this kind of thing breaks relationships and spoils the bond of trust.

Illustration:  Zacchaeus – in one great move this man was changed

6/. HE HAS THE POWER TO TRANSFIGURE THE HELPLESS AND HOPELESS LIFE – 1 CORINTHIANS 1: 27,28

To those who feel they are and have nothing, Christ can dramatically alter the view of themselves and change the perspective for the future for good. He has the remarkable ability to come to those who sense their worthlessness, powerlessness and uselessness and impart new thoughts, evaluation, and vision with regards to their identity, worth and destiny. He takes hold of very ordinary folks and begins to make them extraordinary. The most pessimistic can be come the most optimistic; the fearful the most believing, the unachieving the most achieving etc.

Illustration:  Christ on His apostles – Queen Mother The eternal optimist

CONCLUSION

Where does it all begin? It is when the individual person recognizes the need to be changed and is prepared to come to Christ the One who can transform completely in the way he has ordained. There has to be the readiness to repent and turn to Him fully so that he can do His radical work.

Be assured of this: Christ wants to change YOU and make you anew. It is a known fact that above everything else this is the main object of His mission to earth, to effect the work of conversion in those who will respond to Him. The opportunity must not be lost for Christ to begin His immediate work. No one should leave it until it is too late.

 lake 6

 

a time to laugh

ernestanderson

Rev. E. Anderson

A DRINK FUNNY

A fellow hosted a dinner party for people from work and everyone was encouraged to bring their children.

All during dinner one co-worker’s tiny daughter stared at the man sitting across from her.

The girl could hardly eat her food from staring.

The man checked his tie, felt his face for food, patted his hair in place, but nothing stopped her staring. He tried his best to just ignore her but finally it was too much for him. He asked her, “Sweetie, why are you staring at me?”

The table went quiet for her response.

The little girl said, “I just want to see how you drink like a fish!”

TRUCK DRIVER FUNNY

A truck driver stopped at a roadside diner for lunch. He ordered a cheeseburger, coffee, and a slice of apple pie.

As he was about to eat, three motorcycles pulled up outside. The bikers came in, and one grabbed the trucker’s cheeseburger and took a bite from it. The second one drank the trucker’s coffee, and the third wolfed down the apple pie.

The truck driver didn’t say a word. He simply got up, paid the cashier, and left.

When he was gone, one of the motorcyclists said, “He ain’t much of a man, is he?”

“He’s not much of a driver, either,” the cashier replied, “He just backed his truck over three motorcycles.” 

 A BATTERY FUNNY

An angry motorist went back to the garage where he had purchased an expensive battery for his car just six months earlier.

“Listen,” the motorist growled to the owner of the garage, “when I bought this battery you said it would be the last battery my car would ever need. It died after only six months!”

“Sorry,” apologized the garage owner. “I didn’t think your car would last longer than that.”

TODAY’S THOT

No man goes before his time — unless the boss leaves early.

 PICT0028