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ernest reading poseRev. E. Anderson

NEWSNIGHT by Manuel Almada

He knows his clients only by voice.

Every day at 6 p.m. Raymond Flagg picks up the newspaper and wheels himself over to the telephone.

Well, first, there’s the death of Hal Thompson, aged seventy-three, of New Bedford. He was a lawyer. Did you know him? Oh, I’m so sorry.’ ‘There’s a happy item about

Mrs John Owens. She had a baby boy.’

And so it goes. Ray Flagg is a news broadcaster with a unique audience, and one of the most appreciative; one blind person at a time. Each evening until late, Flagg is busy telephoning his blind clients to read them items from the local newspaper, the New

Bedford Standard Times.

He knows his clients only by voice: their ages range from fifty- eight to seventy-eight. There is no charge for Flagg’s services. He feels that what he does is its own reward.
‘This helps and cheers me as I hope it helps and cheers them, too. What would I do if I were all alone?’

There was a time when he was. When his wife died in March 1965, the world became an empty place for Raymond Flagg. Overnight, the modest first-floor apartment where the couple had lived for twenty-six years became a painfully lonely place.
Flagg, now sixty-five, had no alternative but to stay in the apartment. He is confined to a wheelchair: when he was a child, infantile paralysis crippled his body but not his spirit.

One day, something a friend said gave Flagg the idea that has helped fill the aching void left by his wife.

‘Blind people like to know what is in the daily newspaper but have no one to read it to them,’ the friend had remarked.

Ever since, Flagg has been reading the papers to his blind friends bringing the world closer to them and to himself.

Flagg is self-sufficient. He cooks -his own meals and does his own housekeeping. A tiny pension supplies my his needs. He is most grateful for that independence. ‘I don’t need help. Thank God for that.’

The man who is grateful to God for not needing help from others is equally grateful for the privilege of being able to help others.

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ernest-024[1]

Rev. E. Anderson
RECURRING DREAM by June David

A disturbed night saves a life.

My mother had been haunted by the same dream for five nights in a row. She described it to me as I took her to the hospital for an operation to relieve a slipped disc.

‘It’s snowing,’ she said. ‘In the distance I can see headlights approaching. When they come close, I recognize a hearse. It stops in front of me. A door opens and the driver motions me inside . . .’

Against her wishes, I told Mum’s doctors and nurses about the dream so they would be sensitive to her fears about the operation.

Before dawn on the day of her surgery the snow began to fall. At 7.15 I went to her hospital room to be with her while she was prepared. An orderly came in and I helped him get Mum on the trolley. We were waiting at the lift when a nurse hurried up. ‘The surgery has been cancelled,’ she said. I

Finally, I was able to reach our doctor to find out what was going on. ‘Well, I woke up during the night and couldn’t go back to sleep,’ he said. ‘Something was bothering me. I looked outside and saw the snow. I thought about your mother’s dream. I called the hospital and ordered a second electrocardiogram. It caught a heart condition that didn’t show up on the first one. The lab called the anaesthetist and he cancelled the procedure.’

The doctor hesitated and took a deep breath.

‘If your mother had had the anaesthetic, ‘well .. .’

Later I found out what he did not say then. Under anaesthesia, Mum would have been in grave danger of dying of heart failure.

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Rev. E. Anderson
A DREAM COME TRUE 

Norman Vincent Peale

Persistence made it happen for a young woman with all the odds stacked against her.
A big thought can be one of the strongest forces in the world. I was impressed with that idea all over again when I heard the story of Mary Crowe. ‘
Young Mary was washing her father’s overalls one day when the big thought struck her. ‘

In her mind she saw herself graduating from college in cap and gown, accepting her diploma, ready to start a career.
Since Mary came from a low-income family, her dream seemed out of sight. There would never be enough money to send Mary to college. Besides, no member of her family had ever gone to college. But Mary held on to that thought. In secondary school she studied hard, and spoke freely of her dream to teachers and friends. When her final day at school came, her principal called her into his office.

‘I have an envelope for you,’ he said.

It contained a scholarship to a nearby college. The power of a thought had produced its first dividend. But the scholarship could cover only part of her college expenses. Mary took every part-time job she could find and became a waitress, a housemaid, a cook.

Mary’s dream came true when she graduated from college. Then she took a course in insurance. When she presented herself to a local insurance company for a job, she was turned down. She applied again. The answer was no. She kept going back until the manager, to get rid of her, snapped. ‘All right, here’s a rate book and a desk. But I can’t give you a drawing account or any secretarial help.’

Twenty-five years later Mary Crowe’s associates in that company gathered at a special dinner in her honour, recognizing her for her outstanding achievements as an insurance saleswoman.

‘Each of us is constantly in a state of becoming,’ she said, giving her formula for success. through enthusiasm, prayer and faith you can become what you think. Not that your life will be without problems. But along the way problems will be over- come. Ask and believe; dream and believe; work and believe.’

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Rev. E.Anderson
A NICE TRICK – ANTIQUES

Connie Wells

Lured by a sign saying ‘Antiques’, my husband and I stopped at a cottage a where two elderly sisters ushered us into the living room and served us tea. When we asked to see the antiques, one announced hesitantly, ‘We’re the antiques!’
‘We needed friends,’ the other explained. ‘But how could We make them? That’s when we thought of the antiques sign. Only nice people appreciate lovely things.

Remember though, our sign doesn’t say, “Antiques for Sale”! i
‘We’ve made so many lasting friendships’, the other added, ‘that we’re sure God isn’t angry about our little trick!’

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Rev. E.Anderson

WRESTLING WITH ALLIGATORS

Robert Green

Whump! A reptilian head reared up two feet from my face!

I figured my assignment would be routine that night in 1991. Some older folks in a trailer park had called Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, worried about a big alligator in a nearby pond. My job as a trapper is to capture and relocate such animals to an area where they won’t be a nuisance.

Night is the best time to find these wary critters. They usually lurk underwater with only their eyes protruding. It’s possible to spot them because in the dark those eyes reflect light like balls of fire. After kissing my wife and three daughters goodnight, I loaded my gear into the pickup: a coil of heavy rope and a roll of electrician’s tape, a miner’s headlamp with waist-mounted battery, and a ‘bang stick’ – a pole rigged to fire a .44-calibre bullet. The stick was in case I had to kill a dangerous animal, but that was the last thing I wanted to do. I firmly believe that God put these creatures, as with all his creation, on earth for a reason.

Believing that we’ve been given responsibility for the earth’s ani­mals, means respecting and taking care of them. I have loved ani­mals all my life, and feel a particular sympathy for alligators. Once killed indiscriminately until they were nearly extinct, alligators are now protected by law. Granted, their looks don’t exactly warm your heart, but they are basically solitary creatures who are afraid of humans unless – and here’s the trouble – people feed them. It’s against the law, but ignorant people will toss them marshmallows, bread, and other snacks. As a result, alligators lose their fear of humans and associate them with food. Sadly, that’s when an animal may turn into a menace and have to be destroyed.

This happened to one unfortunate gator who was befriended by secretaries at an electric company in Palm Bay. The women ate lunch each day at an outdoor picnic table and began sharing their sandwiches with him. They thought it cute to find him waiting every noon. They didn’t think it so cute, however, when he tried to force his way into their building. Now their lunch partner has been turned into expensive pocketbooks. I prefer a live animal any time.

That’s why, when I headed my pickup to Merritt Island that night, I was grateful my quarry wasn’t considered dangerous. I’d be able to transport him alive to an uninhabited area. Such places are becoming scarce in Florida. Alligators are being squeezed out by tourism, shopping centres, golf courses and water pollution.

As I drove on I remembered my father teaching me how animals benefit from one another. Years ago, as we walked around our central Florida farm, he had pointed to a big tree loaded with white egrets.

‘Know why that place is a good place for a rookery son? Because a big gator lives in that water hole beneath it. He helps protect the birds from the racoons, possums and snakes that prey on them. If that gator leaves, the rookery could be in trouble.’

Dad showed me a water-filled wallow. ‘Gator made that for his home,’ he said. ‘Comes a bit drought, other animals depend on it for drinking, and the gator gets some easy meals he wouldn’t get other­wise.’ Dad called a lot of these mutually beneficial arrangements nature’s balance. ‘God’s plan for everything interacting.’ Scientists call this symbiosis.

Around midnight I pulled up to the pond. The gator wasn’t any­where to be seen, but the water backed up into a wild swampy area. I figured he’d be in there. Stashing my rope, tape and bang stick by a palm tree, I crawled into the thicket looking for signs of him. The air was fetid and humid. My headlamp cast crazy shadows as I crept through the cat-tails, my knees banging on twisted tree roots and my hair snagged by thorny bushes. All of a sudden I spot­ted his trail.

As I crouched, deciding where to set a trap, I heard a rustle. Then, whump! A reptilian head reared up two feet from my face!

We both froze. He wasn’t any happier to see me up close and personal than I was to see him. Lifting his seven-foot-long body on clawed feet, he turned and lunged down the trail towards the water. Not wanting to lose him, I dove on to his armour-plated back, groping for a hold around his neck, but my fingers couldn’t meet. His strong, musky smell filled my nostrils. Scaly skin jabbed my stomach as I bear-hugged the writhing creature. He swung his huge head at me, massive jaws snapping with the speed of a rattler. I knew those teeth could tear off my arm in a second.

Now we were into a real wrestling match. I grasped at his jaws. A gator’s powerful jaw-closing muscles can crunch iron-hard tortoise shells like a biscuit. But he uses a weaker set of muscles to open his mouth and if you can get a grip around them and keep his mouth closed, you have a chance.

He bucked and twisted, his ferocious growls and hisses vibrating through me as I clung to him. Finally, with my legs wrapped around him, and his head pressed to the ground, he quietened down. Then, as if gaining strength, the gator exploded, twisting wildly. It was all I could do to keep a grip on him as he lunged and jerked.

Suddenly, a swaying myrtle bush knocked over my headlamp, leaving me in total blackness. Holding the gator’s mouth closed with my right hand, I frantically rummaged with my left in the weeds to retrieve the lamp. Finally I managed to slip it back on and re-plug the cord into the battery pack. I tried to drag his gyrating body inch by inch across jumbled roots and through thick brush to the tree where I had stashed the tape and rope. But a bush hit the headlamp and again sent it flying into the weeds. As if sensing his opportunity, the animal slammed me with his tail, sending me sprawling.

I had a job to do. I needed to get this gator, and stay alive in the process. I grabbed him again and yanked him along. Five feet. Ten feet. My arms ached, my hands throbbed. Twenty-five feet. Half standing, half kneeling, I dug my boots into the earth and dragged the thrashing alligator another seventy-five feet.

With one last heave I pulled the animal to the palm tree. I groped for the tape with my left hand, pulled off a length with my teeth and wrapped it around the alligator’s jaws. Then I roped him to the tree and collapsed on the ground. It was 2.30 a.m., one and a half hours since our battle had begun. He was tired too and spent the night there safely until I went back to collect him in the morning.

I loaded him into the back of my pickup and drove to a secluded area in central Florida. There I eased my friend into knee-deep water where he’d feel safe. After untying him, I removed the tape that bound his jaws and watched him swim into the tea-coloured stream. Like all of us, he deserved the chance to start over again.

I stood surveying the peaceful scene. A snowy egret high-stepped elegantly through the shallows, a pelican swooped past grey-mussed trees, another alligator on a far rock sunned himself like some pre-historic relic, and I remembered God looking at everything that he had made, and saying how good it was. There are those who wrinkle their noses at alligators and ask, ‘Just what good are they?’ Well, to my way of thinking, God’s ‘everything’ includes alligators.

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Rev.E.Anderson

TRUE CONFESSION

Paul Galanti

At that instant of spiritual and psychological checkmate, I experienced something so powerful that it still affects my life to this day.

I was lashed to a wooden stool in an unheated interrogation room at what we POWs ruefully called the Hanoi Hilton. The ropes binding my hands behind me cut deep into my wrists. On the floor a few feet in front of me was a bowl of watery gruel in a rusted, lopsided tin. This was day ten of another period of torture and interrogation.

By then I had been a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for two and a half years after being shot down during my ninety-seventh combat mission. After I ejected from my crippled Navy Skyhawk attack bomber, an enemy bullet had caught me in the neck while I dangled helplessly from my parachute. Captured, I had been forced to march for twelve days to the prison in Hanoi. There the process of breaking me down began, as it did for all POWs, with trying to force me to sign a written confession of my ‘war crimes’. I was bru­tally beaten and psychologically tortured. Still, like most of my com­patriots, I refused to sign.

I eyed the battered tin, as did the rats in the grimy, freezing room. To eat, I had to rock my stool until it fell forward. Then, like a starving animal, I would lap up my one daily ration of gruel, hoping the guard outside wouldn’t wait too long before coming in and pulling me upright again, lest the rats eat the dribbles of food off my chin. But this was a respite. Sooner or later another torture session would begin.

Torture could last hours at a time to twist my limbs into pretzel-like restraints until the agony was beyond unbearable and the only reality was the stupefying pain. When my mind drifted my captors shouts and slaps penetrated the haze, bringing me back.

Worse, in  some  ways was the  time  between interrogations. Dragged back to my dingy cell, I languished in cramped isolation for months. I was forbidden to speak with my fellow prisoners. communicating only sporadically by whispering and surreptitious tapping in code on the walls. The days passed most in silence. I spent long, solitary hours trying to keep myself sane by formulating to the minutest detail all the grand business schemes I planned to carry out after the war. Sometimes I watched what we called Hanoi racing spiders, big furry things that could actually rout the rats and devour lizards that sped over the rough, clammy walls.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the gruel. I knew I needed its paltry nourishment to endure another round of barbarous punishment in the interrogation room, but I could not bring myself to fall over and lap it up. I tried to pray for strength. Dear Lord ..

Even quasi-religious types like me turned to praye regularly in the Hanoi Hilton. I was the son of a highly decorated Army colonel and had attended ecumenical chapels at bases all over the world most of my life. But faith had never meant much to me. I was more interested in the hard-living, girl-chasing image the fighter pilots cultivated. I toned that down when I married Phyllis, but religion  was still pretty much a Sunday morning kind of thing

On Sunday mornings at the Hanoi Hilton, though, I at last made a deep connection with faith. None of us could afford to turn his back on God. Three deliberate, commanding thumps on the wall were the signal for all of us to stand for services. Alone in our cells, we said the Lord’s Prayer, our voices mingling in the narrow passageway outside.

Now, awaiting the return of my tormentors and trying to gather an appetite for the cold slop in the dirty pan, I felt I couldn’t go on even with God’s help. I was too weak, too broken. I would never sign a confession, but I couldn’t endure much more of this agony. What was the sense of eating? I was dying anyway, dying from the inside out, not just from the pain but also from the utter senseless­ness of it. I was at a point where it seemed almost a crime to go on living. I decided I wouldn’t eat. I would die instead.

Slumped on my stool at that instant of spiritual and psychological checkmate, I experienced something so powerful that it still affects my life to this day. With complete clarity I realized I was not alone in that desolate room. The veil of suffering lifted and I clearly saw a figure standing near me. He wore a white robe more vivid than any earthly garment I have ever seen. Though I could not make out his features, I listened to his voice with my whole being, as he told me, ‘Paul, you are going to be all right. I am always with you.’

I was still bound, but suddenly I felt free, the flames of my despair smothered by comfort and reassurance. Those words, I knew, were the words of Jesus, delivered by an angel. It was God alone who had command over life, and He was telling me that with him all suffering could be endured, all pain soothed.

Suddenly my companion was no longer visible, and I was alone again with my pitiful meal. Yet it beckoned me like a feast. I tipped over the stool and ate gratefully.

I survived two more weeks of intermittent torture with the interrogators, and for four more years I was a captive in the Hanoi Hilton. In 1973 I was finally able to come home and get started on some of those business plans I had dreamed up in my prison cell. That day when the angel delivered the words that saved me, I did make a confession — a confession of faith. My life was saved, not just once but for ever.

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Rev. E. Anderson
TRAIN TO BARCELONA
Jori Senter Stuart

It was spring break, I was 18 and life was wonderful. I had just completed one semester of school in Germany and was on my way to a second term in England. Between semesters, a friend and I decided to do a little sightseeing and had charted our course to cover eight countries in twenty-eight days.

We had just spent a few days basking in the sun-filled little town of Nice along the French Riviera. Now our francs had almost run out—a sign it was time to pack up and move on. We stuffed our meagre belongings into our backpacks and lumbered to the train station like a couple of pack mules.

By the time we arrived at the train station, the mass of humanity waiting for trains had already begun to spill out into the streets. Apparently, all 50,000 college students on spring break were trying to take the morning train out of Nice. As we elbowed our way to the ticket counter, we kept hearing the ominous words: “train strike.”

“No trains,” the man behind the counter confirmed. “May be a day. May be a week.”

Discouraged, we looked for a spot to set up camp. Once settled, we took stock of our situation. Between the two of us, we had enough food to last the day. Bottled water, two peanut butter-jelly sandwiches and two oranges. Our monetary supply consisted of exactly twelve francs. Suddenly we felt a very long way from home.

Seven hours later, the scene had not changed much except the crowd was larger, tempers were hotter, and word of the stranded tourists had made it out to the streets. Rough looking teens began to slouch among the throng, looking for easy tar¬gets. I was comforted some by the group of American students who were camped out next to us. They were busy playing cards and writing postcards home.

“I’m going to call around and find a way out of this place.” My friend was obviously growing impatient. “You watch the stuff and I’ll go make a few phone calls.”

I wadded my jacket against the pillar and tried to settle in for the night. Things were growing quieter in the station.

Suddenly, from behind the pillar I heard the voice hissing at me, “Don’t say anything. Just give me your money and your passport and we’ll leave you alone.”

He had come out from behind the pillar and stood tall and menacing in front of me. His hat hung low over his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand….” I was hoping he would get frustrated and give up.

He obviously was not so easily put off.

“You know what I want, American. I suggest you stop playing games with me before I get really angry….”

Even as he spit the words at me, a stranger from the group of American students next to us had grabbed my arm and was pulling me to my feet.

“Our train has just pulled in. Grab your pack and let’s go before we lose our seats.”

A blond pony-tailed girl in baggy sweatshirt and jeans was hoisting my friend’s backpack onto her shoulders, chatting to me all the while.

“Where did you go? I’ve been looking all over for you…come on, we have to run. You will excuse us, won’t you?” She brushed us both past the would-be robber. He was too surprised to say anything but in one last-ditch effort he grabbed at my arm. My rescuer was too quick for him as she propelled me through the crowd.
After what seemed an eternity of pushing and shoving, we reached a clearing in the crowd. Shaking, I set my backpack beside a bench and turned to thank the one who had just saved me. But all I found was my friend’s red backpack, leaning neatly up against the wall. The gray sweatshirt and blond ponytail had disappeared back into the crowd.

Suddenly I heard my name being called.

“Jori.” My friend was running down the platform toward me. “Where have you been? Why didn’t you stay by the pillar?”

We sat down on the bench and I began to tell my adventure. I was interrupted by the announcement over the public address system.

“Train to Barcelona now arriving on Track 4. Train to Barcelona now arriving on Track 4.”

We looked up at the platform number above our heads and saw we were sitting on platform number 4! Already we could see the engine’s light shining at us from down the track.

Later, as we watched the French countryside glide by outside our train window, I said to my friend, “And I didn’t even get to say thank you to her.”

My friend said simply, “I think she knows.”

And somehow, I felt she did too.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. – Psalm 91: 11

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Rev. E. Anderson
THE TRAIN STOPS JUST IN TIME

The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlamp spearing the black darkness ahead. The train was carrying Queen Victoria.

Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s headlights was a weird figure in a black cloak, standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brakes and brought the train to a grinding halt.

He and his fellow trains-man climbed out to see what had stopped them. They could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch, the engineer walked a few yards farther up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. A bridge had been washed out and had fallen into a swollen stream. If he had not heeded the ghostly figure, the train would have plunged into the stream.

While the bridge and tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery.

At the base of the engine’s headlamp was a huge moth. The engineer looked at it for a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back into his cab, he switched on the lamp and saw the “phantom flagman” in the beam. He knew what had happened: the moth had flown into the beam, seconds before the train reached the washed-out bridge. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure waving its arms. When Queen Victoria was told of the strange happening she said, “I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.”

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Rev. E. Anderson
THE MAN WHO COULDN’T READ Gary Smith

For as long as John Corcoran could remember, words had mocked him. The letters in sentences traded places, vowel sounds lost themselves in the tunnels of his ears. In school he’d sit at his desk, stupid and silent as a stone, knowing he would be different from everyone else forever. If only someone had sat next to that little boy, put an arm around his shoulder and said, I’ll help you. Don’t be scared.’

But no one had heard of dyslexia then. And John couldn’t tell them that the left side of his brain, the lobe humans use to arrange symbols logically in a sequence, had always misfired. ‘

Instead, in second grade they put him in the “dumb” row. In third grade a_ nun handed a yardstick to‘ the other children when John refused to read or write and let each student have a crack at his legs. In fourth grade his teacher called on him to read and let one minute of quiet pile upon another until the child thought he would suffocate. Then he was passed on to the next grade and the next. John Corcoran never failed a year in his life.

In his senior year, John was voted homecoming king, with the valedictorian and starred on the team. His mom kissed him when he graduated – and kept talking about college. College? It would be insane to consider. But he finally decided on the Texas at El Paso where he could try out for the basketball team. He took a deep breath, closed his re-crossed enemy lines. .

John asked each new friend: Which teachers gave essay tests? Which gave multiple choice? The minute he stepped out of a class, he tore the pages of
notebook, in case anyone asked to see He stared at thick textbooks in the evening so his roommate wouldn’t doubt. And he lay in bed, exhausted in mind but unable to sleep, unable to make his whirring mind let go. John promised he’d go to Mass 30 days straight the crack of dawn, if only God would let him get his degree.

He got his diploma. He gave God his 30 days of Mass. Now what? Maybe he was addicted to the edge. Maybe the thing he felt most insecure about—his mind—was what he needed most to have admired. Maybe that’s why, in 1961 he became a teacher.

John taught in California. Each day he had a student read the textbook to the class. He gave standardized tests that he could grade by placing a form with holes over with each correct answer and he lay in bed for hours on week-end mornings depressed. t

Then he met Kathy,‘ an A student and a nurse. Not a leaf, like John. A rock. ‘There’s something I have to tell you Kathy,’ he said one night in 1965 before their marriage, “I can’t read”.

He’s a teacher she thought. He must mean he can’t read well. Kathy didn’t understand until years later when years later she saw John unable to read a children’s book to their 18-month-old daughter. Kathy filled out his forms, read and wrote letters. Why didn’t he simply ask her to teach him to read and write? He couldn’t believe that anyone could teach him.

At age 28 John borrowed $2,500, bought a second house, fixed it up and rented it. He bought and rented another. And another. His business got bigger and bigger until he needed a secretary, a lawyer and a partner.

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Rev. E. Anderson
THE LITTLE LAMB

Donna Paulson

“He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” -Isaiah 40:11

“God, I really need You today,” I whispered, grabbing a handful of sand and watching the grains flow from my closed fist. “Here I am, feeling like that little lost lamb again.”

I loved this image of myself as a lamb being protected by the Good Shepherd. It helped me feel free to talk to God. As a single mother, I prayed for each of my four children and for the ability to take care of them. It was overwhelming keeping my family out of trouble, and at times I feared that I was failing miserably. Some days like this, brought feelings of being alone and abandoned.
That morning, while reading the Bible I came across the verse, “He will feed His flock like shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.” (Isaiah 40:11) This scripture had a special meaning to me. It had been shown to me a few months earlier by a counsellor, when I’d approached her for prayer because of a hard situation I was having with my daughter. The counsellor, underlining the words with her finger, had emphasized the remaining text, “He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those with young.”

I took this as a promise from God that He was there to help me raise my children, providing the grace I needed. Although it was encouraging to be reminded of this again, my sadness lingered. I needed something more.
It was warm and sunny so on my way home from work I decided to go to the beach. I drove to State Beach, a stretch of shoreline over four miles long. Since it was September, off-season, the beach was deserted. I could choose anywhere along the road to stop. I arbitrarily picked a spot, parked my car, and trudged over the dune and down a path. As I sat on my towel, my gaze searched the untroubled sea and cloudless sky.

Picking up a seashell I started dragging it along the sand in a wide arc about me. “Father God,” I murmured, recalling a verse from the psalms, “Your thoughts to me are precious and… they’re more in number than the sand.” I swallowed hard. “I need You.”

As the shell in my hand dug into the sand, it struck something hard. I glimpsed a bit of white. Sweeping away the sand with my fingers, a little plastic figure emerged. I picked it up. When I realized what it was, a shock of surprise and joy hit me.

Had some child brought his toy farm animals to the beach last summer, leaving this behind? And if so, what were the odds that out of four miles of beach I picked this dune to walk down, and this spot on which to sit? Or had a loving Creator planted it, a special gift, in the sand where I sat?

For in my hand was the figure of a lamb, a message from God to me.

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