Sunday, March 7, 2010

360 Sunday Extra

Actions Speak Loudest

Vincent Van Gogh was not always an artist. In fact, he wanted to be a church pastor and was even sent to the Belgian mining community of Borinage in 1879. He discovered that the miners there endured deplorable working conditions and poverty-level wages. Their families were malnourished and struggled simply to survive. He felt concerned that the small stipend he received from the church allowed him a moderate life- style, which, in contrast, seemed to him unfair.

One cold February evening, while he watched the miners trudging home, he spotted an old man staggering toward him across the fields, wrapped in a burlap sack for warmth. Van Gogh laid his own clothing out on the bed, set aside enough for one change, and decided to give the rest away. He gave the old man a suit of clothes and he gave his overcoat to a pregnant woman whose husband had been killed in a cave-in.

He lived on starvation rations and spent his stipend on food for the miners. When children in one family contracted typhoid fever, though feverish himself, he packed up his bed and took it to them.

A prosperous family in the community offered him free room and board. Van Gogh declined the offer, stating that it was the final temptation he must reject if he was to faithfully serve his community of poor miners.

He believed that if he wanted them to trust him, he must become one of them. And if they were to learn of the love of God through him, he must love them enough to share with them.

He was acutely aware of the wide chasm between words and actions. He knew that our lives always speak louder and clearer than our words. Maybe that is why Francis of Assisi often said to his monks, "Wherever you go, preach. Use words if necessary."

Author Unknown

Keep Your Fork

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. One of her requests was to be buried with her favorite Bible.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the pastor's reply. "This is very important," the woman continued.. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say,"keep your fork." It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: "Keep Your Fork. The best is yet to come"

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Author Unknown

The Legend of the Starfish

A vacationing businessman was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy was walked slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed the beached starfish back into the ocean. The businessman, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, "I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day. Surely such an industrious and kind hearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?" The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, "It makes a difference to that one."

The Lighthouse

There was in a certain city a harbor where ships from all over the world would come and dock. However, the harbor was in between a treacherous and rocky shore. During stormy nights, ships would see the city lights off in the distance and head toward the lights hoping to find refuge from the pounding surf.

The ships would struggle against the storm as they made their way to the safety of the harbor. As they drew near, seeing the dangerous rocks, the captain of the ship would try to turn and avoid striking the rocks but it was to late. Many ships were destroyed and hundreds of sailors lost their lives because they did not know of the danger. You see, the people of the city did not feel that it was necessary to build a lighthouse. Besides, it would cost too much money to build a lighthouse they reasoned. So year after year and storm after storm ships would be ship wrecked and many lives lost.

There was a man in that city that saw the need. He felt grief and heartache because the people of the city were content to let the ships be destroyed and were not willing to rescue the drowning sailors. So he took it upon himself to do something about it. He tried to recruit volunteers to help him but no one wanted to. He persisted, looking for someone to help him, but they all just laughed at him and said that he was crazy to risk his life to try to save strangers and people who looked different.

Determined to make a difference, he sold everything that he had and bought a piece of land close to the shore and built his house there. It was a lighthouse.

So during stormy nights, the man would make sure that the light from the lighthouse was shining as bright as it could so the ships could be warned of the dangerous rocks. His lighthouse saved hundreds of lives and ships from being ship wrecked that year. But it wasn't enough because even with the lighthouse some of the storms were so powerful that the ships struggling to come into the harbor were tossed about by the wind and the waves that they would get smashed against the rocks.

Being a compassionate man, he would run to the roaring sea at the risk of his own life to rescue as many sailors as he could. Then he would bring them into the warmth and safety of the lighthouse. Once there he would heal their wounds and feed them until they were able to sail again.

The man labored by himself for years rescuing sailors and caring for their needs. Each person that he saved was so grateful to him that they couldn't thank him enough for rescuing them from certain death. But all the man could feel was sadness because many more sailors died in the sea than he could save. "If only I had help," he would say. "If only someone would see the need as I do and come and help. Lord please send someone to help, I can't do it all by myself," he prayed.

Then one day it happened, his prayers were answered. His generosity became well known in the land. People in the city began to volunteer to come and help the man keep vigil during stormy nights. Men began to take shifts keeping watch and helping rescue sailors. Then women started cooking and preparing bandages for the wounded sailors. The children did whatever they could to help lift the spirits of the sick.

Ships still wreck along the treacherous shoreline, but now because there are so many people there to help the man, many more lives are saved than are lost. Together Everyone Accomplished Much. Together they made a difference.

- by Danny Lizarraga

Thanks to Georgia Girl

Read more inspiring short stories of love, hope, faith and courage to lift your spirit and warm your heart at

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