True Stories of Faith
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THE SMELL OF RAIN

A cold March wind danced around the dead of night in Dallas as the Doctor walked into the small hospital room of Diana Blessing. Still groggy from surgery, her husband David held her hand as they braced themselves for the latest news.

That afternoon of March 10, 1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24-weeks pregnant, to undergo an emergency cesarean to deliver the couple's new daughter, Danae Lu Blessing. At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor's soft words dropped like bombs.

'I don't think she's going to make it', he said, as kindly as he could. "There's only a 10-percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one". Numb with disbelief, David and Diana listened as the doctor described the devastating problems Danae would likely face if she survived. She would never walk, she would never talk, she would probably be blind, and she would certainly be prone to other catastrophic conditions from cerebral palsy to complete mental retardation, and on and on. "No! No!" was all Diana could say. She and David, with their 5-year-old son Dustin, had long dreamed of the day they would have a daughter to become a family of four. Now, within a matter of hours, that dream was slipping away.

Through the dark hours of morning as Danae held onto life by the thinnest thread, Diana slipped in and out of sleep, growing more and more determined that their tiny daughter would live - and live to be a healthy, happy young girl.

But David, fully awake and listening to additional dire details of their daughter's chances of ever leaving the hospital alive, much less healthy, knew he must confront his wife with the inevitable. David walked in and said that we needed to talk about making funeral arrangements. Diana remembers 'I felt so bad for him because he was doing everything, trying to include me in what was going on, but I just wouldn't listen, I couldn't listen.' I said, "No, that is not going to happen, no way! I don't care what the doctors say; Danae is not going to die! One day she will be just fine, and she will be coming home with us!" As if willed to live by Diana's determination, Danae clung to life hour after hour, with the help of every medical machine and marvel her miniature body could endure. But as those first days passed, a new agony set in for David and Diana. Because Danae's under-developed nervous system was essentially 'raw,' the lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort, so they couldn't even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love.

All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultraviolet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl. There was never a moment when Danae suddenly grew stronger. But as the weeks went by, she did slowly gain an ounce of weight here and an ounce of strength there. At last, when Danae turned two months old, her parents were able to hold her in their arms for the very first time. And two months later - though doctors continued to gently but grimly warn that her chances of surviving, much less living any kind of normal life, were next to zero. Danae went home from the hospital, just as her mother had predicted. Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life. She shows no signs, what so ever, of any mental or physical impairment. Simply, she is everything a little girl can be and more - but that happy ending is far from the end of her story.

One blistering afternoon in the summer of 1996 near her home in Irving, Texas, Danae was sitting in her mother's lap in the bleachers of a local ballpark where her brother Dustin's baseball team was practicing. As always, Danae was chattering non-stop with her mother and several other adults sitting nearby when she suddenly fell silent. Hugging her arms across her chest, Danae asked, "Do you smell that?" Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, "Yes, it smells like rain." Danae closed her eyes and again asked, "Do you smell that?" Once again, her mother replied, "Yes, I think we're about to get wet, it smells like rain. Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, "No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest."

Tears blurred Diana's eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children. Before the rains came, her daughter's words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along. During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life, when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danae on His chest and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.

And Jesus called the children around Him

THE OLD FISHERMAN

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face - lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, "Good evening. I've come to see if you've a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there's no bus 'til morning."

He told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon but with no success, no one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face ... I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments ..." For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: "I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning." I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready to eat I asked the old man if he would join us. "No thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn't take long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury. He didn't tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was preface with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going. At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, "Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don't seem to mind." I told him he was welcome to come again.

And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us. In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail,always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious. When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. "Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!"

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illness' would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God. Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse, As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, "If this were my plant, I'd put it in the loveliest container I had!" My friend changed my mind. "I ran short of pots," she explained, "and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn't mind starting out in this old pail. It's just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden." She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. "Here's an especially beautiful one," God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. "He won't mind starting in this small body." All this happened long ago-and now, in God's garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.


THE DAY I MET DANIEL

It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the north had brought winter's chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town square. The food and the company were both especially good that day. As we talked, my attention was drawn outside,across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying a well-worn sign that read, "I will work for food." My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square,looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car.

Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: "Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square." And so, with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor.

"Looking for the pastor?" I asked. "Not really," he replied, "Just resting." "Have you eaten today?" "Oh, I ate something early this morning." "Would you like to have lunch with me?" "Do you have some work I could do for you?" "No work," I replied. "I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch." "Sure," he replied with a smile. As he began to gather his things. I asked some surface questions. "Where you headed?" "St. Louis." "Where you from?" "Oh, all over; mostly Florida." "How long you been walking?" "Fourteen years," came the reply. I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, "Jesus is The Never Ending Story."

Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God. "Nothing's been the same since", he said, "I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now."

"Ever think of stopping?" I asked. "Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles. That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads." I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: "What's it like?"

"What?" "To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?" "Oh, it was humiliating at first.

People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me." My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned to me and said, "Come ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food,when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in." I felt as if we were on holy ground.

"Could you use another Bible?" I asked. He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite. "I've read through it 14 times,"he said. "I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see." I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful. "Where you headed from here?" "Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon." "Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?" "No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next." He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.

"Would you sign my autograph book?" he asked. "I like to keep messages from folks I meet."I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture, in Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope."

"Thanks, man," he said. "I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you." "I know," I said, "I love you, too." "The Lord is good." "Yes. He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?" I asked. "A long time," he replied. And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, "See you in the New Jerusalem." "I'll be there!" was my reply.

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bed roll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, "When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?" "You bet," I shouted back, "God bless." "God bless." And that was the last I saw of him. Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them ... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them. I remembered his words: "If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?" Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. "See you in the New Jerusalem," he said.

Yes, Daniel, I know I will ...

DON'T LET ME CRY

My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to "dad".

That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with his young, eager son. The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed.

Finally, mom stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began. Having no carpentry skills, she decided it would be best if she simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did. She read aloud the measurements, the rules of what they could do and what we couldn't do.

Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of mom). Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty proud of his "Blue Lightning", the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.

Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood derby in his hand and pride in his heart they headed to the big race. Once there Gilbert's pride turned to humility. His car was obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.

A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert's lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had "Mom".

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.

Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, 'Okay, I am ready."

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father within his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy's car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank you" as the crowd roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?" To which the young boy answered, "Oh, no sir. That wouldn't be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I don't cry when I lose."

Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn't ask God to win the race, he didn't ask God to fix the out come, Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn't cry out to God, "No fair, they had a fathers help".

No, he went to his Father for strength. Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God's strength to get through the struggle. Gilbert didn't pray to win, thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to lose with dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father also showed the crowd that he wasn't there without a "dad", but His Father was most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.


THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD


And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt.18:3-4

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking.

Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high-chair tray. His eyes were wide with excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment.

It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed.

His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. "Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there."

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room,"Do ya know patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo."

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to side step him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's "pick-me-up" position.

Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor gently, so gently, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back.

No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest - unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain.

I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift."

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me."

I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?" when He shared His for all eternity.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children."


GOD'S VOICE

Several years ago I owned a car wash/express lube with my father. During this time God put a very beautiful woman of God in our business. Neither myself or my wife was saved. We started going to church at Terry's request and felt God calling us till we both broke down at the alter and gave our lives to Christ. Terry ministered to us when we needed uplifting but her presence was such and inspiration during hard times. One such time was when I had back surgery, removing a ruptured disk. I was devastated. Normally active, athletic and healthy I was learning how frail I was. Recovery was slow.

I was working December 2, 1995 running our business when an employee said, "Jim, you gotta see this. Someone is crushed under a van in front of the car wash." I immediately went to the front and saw something mangled under the van and people standing around. I felt as if I had to run. I did and started calling for employees to follow. I got to the van and sure enough there was a person under the van. I remember everything being really quiet inside of me and God's voice speaking, "lift the van". I remember not thinking but going to the back of the van and lifting it, not just waist high but chest high. The reality set in, I then prayed God don't let this crush me. I started to become frightened. Then I felt a wave of calm fill me then I yelled pull him out. People were still not responding. One of my Christian employees went under the van and pulled him out. I went to the side of the victim but he was not breathing and had no pulse.

Things got really still inside of me again and God commanded me to breath life back into him. This time I hesitated. I saw all of the blood and was scared of aids or other diseases. God spoke to me and reassured me. Then said breath. As I did this I was aware that over 40 people were praying from the road, my wife, employees, passersby. After the breath his eyes popped open. It was so clear and peaceful. He turned out to be a 14 year old boy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He made a miraculous recovery with out scars. His parents, their whole church and over 1400 people prayed for me as I had developed a lump on my surgery scar and was having pain. It was completely healed the next day. The boys name is Issac Burrows. He and his parents were precious people of God. I told him that God had a beautiful plan for his life and never to doubt or question Gods plan.

I want everyone to know that it was an honor to be used by the most Holy One. All the Glory and Honor to God. God speaks to us all. You too my friend have heard his voice. I have not responded many times thinking this can't be right, I'll pray some more about it. Then it is gone. If you lose the opportunity to serve God you miss a beautiful blessing. Be responsive, right then. God has a plan for each of our lives. I thank him everyday for his plan for mine and have completely surrendered every part of my life to Jesus. If you don't know him or are away, he's waiting for you. Don't miss his call. His Mercy and Joy are yours for the asking. Don't miss the call.


THE RADIO

As told to me by my minister, as related to him from the minister that it happened to.

It was a cold evening in upper New York State, it looked like it could snow. The mountain roads were damp with sheets of ice, so it was strange to see a four door sedan speeding recklessly through the night. Inside the car was a woman probably in her late thirties looking at the road as if in a trance. She wasn't aware of the tires squealing on the turns. You see it didn't matter to her if she ran off the road and crashed into the valley below, because she was going to kill herself.

We don't know why her life had no meaning to her any more. It could have been a bad marriage or the abortion of a child, whisky or dope. The main thing was she had no where to turn, no one to trust, no one including herself that thought her life had any value. She had come up this road before. But tonight she was determined she would make it to the top and then off the road and into the gorge.

Upset and nervous she switched on the radio to calm down until she reached the top. A calm voice came on and she listened, it was a minister. She had never been very religious even as a child, her family was always to busy for church. This man was talking about Jesus. How much He loved us, how He died for us. She wished she had something to die for. Something besides putting an end to her problems.

The minister was inviting people to the service now, he was giving the address of the church. It was a country church on the same highway she was on. A small town up ahead. She had been through it before. It was almost to the top of the mountain. She might stop and find out more about this man Jesus and what He died for. She would like to have a purpose to her death, something besides escaping her miserable life.

As she went into the Church the same man with the quite voice was speaking. Her mind was still not functioning well but she was picking up some of the words. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son ... "Because he loves me" says the Lord, "I will rescue him" ... "I will not forsake you, I will never leave you" ... The time passed and tears were running down her eyes. The service was over and the man was calling people to be saved. He was staring at her. She knew he was talking to her. She quietly got up and walked down the aisle and knelt before him as she dedicated her life to Jesus.

She felt new, clean, her troubles were just a memory. People were smiling at her and hugging her. Two people said they loved her, another asked if she would come back and join them. The minister brought his wife to meet her. She smiled at the minister and thanked him. She said "my life was almost over when I heard your broadcast." "What do you mean sister?" "Your radio broadcast, I heard it in the car right before I came in." "Sister we are a very small church we don't have a radio broadcast."


A Kindness returned:


The man slowly looked up. This was a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new. She looked like that she had never missed a meal in her life. His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before.

"Leave me alone," he growled.

To his amazement, the woman continued standing.

She was smiling - her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

"No," he answered sarcastically. "I've just come from dining with the president. Now go away." The woman's smile became even broader.

Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm. "What are you doing, lady?" The man asked angrily. "I said to leave me alone."

Just then a policeman came up. "Is there any problem, ma'am?" he asked.

"No problem here, officer," the woman answered. "I'm just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?"

The officer scratched his head. "That's old Jack. He's been a fixture around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?"

"See that cafeteria over there?" she asked. "I'm going to get him something to eat and get him out of the cold for awhile."

"Are you crazy, lady?" the homeless man resisted. "I don't want to go in there!"

Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up.

"Let me go, officer. I didn't do anything."

"This is a good deal for you, Jack," the officer answered. "Don't blow it."

Finally, and with some difficulty, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria and sat him at a table in a remote corner. It was the middle of the morning, so most of the breakfast crowd had already left and the lunch bunch had not yet arrived. The manager strode across the cafeteria and stood by the table.

"What's going on here, officer?" he asked. "What is all this. Is this man in trouble?"

"This lady brought this man in here to be fed," the policeman answered.

"Not in here!" the manager replied angrily. "Having a person like that here is bad for business."

Old Jack smiled a toothless grin. "See, lady. I told you so. Now if you'll let me go. I didn't want to come here in the first place."

The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled. "Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?"

"Of course I am," the manager answered impatiently. "They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms."

"And do you make a goodly amount of money providing food at these weekly meetings?"

"What business is that of yours?"

"I, sir, am Penelope Eddy, president and CEO of the company."

"Oh."

The woman smiled again. "I thought that might make a difference."

She glanced at the cop who was busy stifling a giggle. "Would you like to join us in a cup of coffee and a meal, officer?"

"No thanks, ma'am," the officer replied. "I'm on duty."

"Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee to go?"

"Yes, ma'am. That would be very nice."

The cafeteria manager turned on his heel. "I'll get your coffee for you right away, officer."

The officer watched him walk away. "You certainly put him in his place," he said.

"That was not my intent. Believe it or not, I have a reason for all this."

She sat down at the table across from her amazed dinner guest. She stared at him intently. "Jack, do you remember me?"

Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes "I think so - I mean you do look familiar."

"I'm a little older perhaps," she said. "Maybe I've even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry."

"Ma'am?" the officer said questioningly. He couldn't believe that such a magnificently turned out woman could ever have been hungry.

"I was just out of college," the woman began. "I had come to the city looking for a job, but I couldn't find anything. Finally I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for days. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat."

Jack lit up with a smile. "Now I remember," he said. "I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy."

"I know," the woman continued. "Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over, I saw you put the price of my food in the cash register. I knew then that everything would be alright."

"So you started your own business?" Old Jack said.

"I got a job that very afternoon. I worked my way up. Eventually I started my own business, that, with the help of God, prospered." She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. "When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He's the personnel director of my company. I'll go talk to him now and I'm certain he'll find something for you to do around the office." She smiled. "I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always opened to you."

There were tears in the old man's eyes. "How can I ever thank you?" he said.

"Don't thank me," the woman answered. "To God goes the glory. Thank Jesus. He led me to you."

Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the woman paused at the entrance before going their separate ways. "Thank you for all your help, officer," she said.

"On the contrary, Ms. Eddy," he answered. "Thank you. I saw a miracle today, something that I will never forget. And ... And thank you for the coffee."


Calm in the midst of the storm:

Years ago, I was enthralled as I listened to a pastor who for several years had faithfully served the church. His executive responsibilities had taken him all over this country. As he concluded his message, he told of one of the most frightening yet thought-provoking experiences of his life.

He had been on a long flight from one place to another. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: Fasten your seat belts. Then, after a while, a calm voice said, "We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened."

As he looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice of the announcer said, "We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us."

And then the storm broke. The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightening lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash.

The pastor confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, "As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm.

Then, I suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and every thing within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world. When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm, when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid." The minister could hardly believe his eyes.

It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, our pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid.

The sweet child replied, "Sir, my Dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home."

There are many kinds of storms that buffet us.

Physical, mental, financial, domestic, and many other storms can easily and quickly darken our skies and throw our plane into apparently uncontrollable movement. We have all known such times, and let us be honest and confess, it is much easier to be at rest when our feet are on the ground than when we are being tossed about a darkened sky.

Let us remember: Our Father is the Pilot. He is in control and He is taking us home

The Catholic Church, in her 2000-year history, is never wanting in awe-inspiring stories of heroism and martyrdom.

From the persecutions of ancient Rome to the Communist atrocities of the 20th century, the Church always had faithful sons and daughters who exhibited extraordinary courage and resolve in face of the most extremes of adversities. One little known story though no less edifying is that of a little Chinese girl-martyr at the time when China had just been run over by the Communists. It is the poignant tale of a little girl�s faith, zeal and keen Catholic sense overcoming fear and oppression.

The narrative that follows is an adaptation of the English translation of an unnamed priest�s first hand account of the events that happened during the Communist takeover in China (presumably around 1949.) The story was extracted from a collection of beautiful Eucharistic stories and miracles compiled by Fr. Karl Maria Harrer and published originally in German (Die sch�en Eucharistischen Wunder.)

Uncertain times

When the Communists first came into town, the parish priest started to feel uneasy about his fate not knowing how the intruders would act. During each day that passed, he paid keen attention to every din or commotion that transpired outside the church as he knelt in prayer inside. He was on edge expecting to be executed at any moment.

Just a day after the unwelcome band of soldiers arrived, someone paid him a visit. Thinking it was the police, he was struck with terror. Could this be his end? But contrary to his worst fears, the man at the door turned out to be cordial. As they conversed in Chinese, he was told to proceed with his daily routine. As they parted, his guest accepted a cigar, bowed and eventually left seemingly contented.

Days, weeks and months passed without any untoward incident. He would run into soldiers in the streets but they would only look at him with a straight, cold face but not without a dose of curiosity. Once, he felt perturbed when a certain inspector dropped by to see him.

Turning the tables

One beautiful summer�s day, just when things seemed to be settling down, the dreadful gang of communists finally descended on the town to turn things upside-down. Four soldiers and the inspector unceremoniously barged into the priest�s school house.

The inspector announced to the shocked schoolchildren that sweeping and drastic changes would be implemented from then on. In one fell swoop, the fearsome commander and his cohorts began tearing down the crucifix, holy pictures, blackboards and statues from the walls and laid them on the desks.

In a stentorian voice, he barked orders at the terrified children to put the articles in a box and to take them to the toilet while he threatened them with his handgun. In spite of the harsh treatment, the children resisted but eventually complied reluctantly.

An icon of resistance

But deep back in the room, sat a little girl in her desk; unmoving, with hands folded, and lips tightly shut. As the inspector caught sight of her, he immediately rushed in her direction and shouted curses at her. Mad as hell, he threatened her, �Take this!� But the girl only looked down and hardly flinched thus sending the rest of the terrorized children to gawk with bated breath.

Amidst the ghastly silence, a shot rang out shattering glass and driving the children into tears and screams. The violent disturbance attracted curious townsfolk to gather in front of the school.

The inspector kept on shouting furiously. And yet the little girl remained silent, still frozen like a statue, a big tear rolling off her cheek. At the point of losing composure at the girl�s staunch yet quiet defiance, he turned his ire at the crowd and snapped, �Go find this girl�s father and bring the townspeople here in the church!�

Desecration of the Hosts

As the church filled with people, the little girl�s father was ushered in with hands bound behind his back and placed to the right of the communion rail. Immediately, the girl was forcefully shoved into the communion rail.

The inspector spoke to the crowd and mocked the people�s belief in the Real Presence. And in a malicious and sarcastic tone, he announced that they were tricked into believing that God is present in the tabernacle. In fact, he told them he and his gang of soldiers would stamp on the Hosts with their boots to show nothing would happen.

Then the soldiers rushed on to the tabernacle and forced it opened with their revolvers. The tense crowd watched in silent disbelief. The inspector seized the ciborium, took the lid off and scattered the Hosts on the sanctuary floor.

Egging on his soldiers, he ordered them to go and step on the Hosts. And without hesitation they carried out the dastardly act. Not content with that, he taunted the crowd, �Do you still believe in those fairytales your priest told you?�

Turning to the child�s father he asked him if he still believed. No sooner did the father say yes did the inspector order him to be hauled away.

Dispersal

A non-commissioned officer then entered the scene who spoke with the inspector. They reached an agreement and the inspector submitted to higher authority. The crowd was told to disperse leaving the little girl alone in the communion rail.

The soldiers incarcerated the priest in the church�s coal bin where a small opening allowed him to see the area of the sanctuary where the Hosts lay strewn on the floor as well as the little girl who was leaning on the wall.

A beautiful lady

While peering through the opening, the priest saw a lovely young woman clad in beautiful garments enter and smile. As she hugged her, she said, "Poor child! Poor little one, what have these men done to you? Come with me. Will you?" The child broke into sobs and sought comfort in the woman�s arm and they left.

Witnessing a marvel from his cell

As time went by, the priest lost track of hours and days while imprisoned in the coal bin. He endured the stillness of the surroundings and at times he heard sounds he wasn�t used to. One morning, he heard the door open quietly. Through the little opening, the priest saw the little Chinese girl sneaking ever so carefully into the sanctuary, kneeling and bowing in homage. As she lowered her head, she took a desecrated Host with her tongue. She raised her head, folded her hands, closed her eyes and prayed in silence. Several moments later, she arose and departed.

Every morning the priest witnessed the uplifting scene that became a source of comfort inside the dark and somber environs of his makeshift prison cell. There he eagerly waited the break of dawn expecting to see the sweet, enchanting, little girl receive and adore the Host. Though it occurred many times, he couldn�t recall how often times she came to practice the soul-stirring daily ritual.

A Heroic Death

But alas, the day of final reckoning arrived. As the little heroine went through her daily pious exercise one morning; knees bent, hands folded and absorbed in deep prayer, the church door behind her burst open. Tumultuous screams stirred the air and a shot rang out.

As the priest hurriedly looked through his peephole, he saw the pallid little girl crawl agonizingly along the floor as she reached a Host to receive Holy Communion. When the soldier drew near to check on her, she tried in vain to pull herself up and to fold her hands. Instead she fell on her back and hit her head on the floor with a thud. The little Chinese girl-martyr lay dead motionless on the floor. For a moment, the soldier stood hesitant not knowing what to make of his deed and its fatal outcome. Finally, he turned around and stormed out of the church.

Set free

The moving yet harrowing scene left the priest in a state of shock. While he pondered on that painful experience, his prison door opened and the same soldier went in to announce that he was free to go.

Without any hesitation, he scampered towards the sanctuary to see the lifeless little girl. As he knelt besides her, the soldier approached him and uttered, �Sir, if in every town there was such a little girl, no soldier would ever fight for the Communists!�

Fortunately, the priest still had time to give the little martyr a decent burial. As he left the cemetery and walked along the road, a man approached and invited him into his car. He dropped him off at the border.

Edifying example

The story above moved Archbishop Fulton Sheen to make a vow to pray a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the rest of his life. But who wouldn�t be? Indeed, the little Chinese girl�s zeal to receive and adore the desecrated Hosts on the sanctuary floor is really worth emulating much more in our days when lukewarm Catholics take for granted the Real Presence in the church tabernacle. Her acts of reverence put to shame those who present themselves before the Blessed Sacrament in questionable attire or those who fail to show respect by observing silence. May this little Chinese girl-martyr be a shining and glorious example for all of us. May she spur us to make a firm resolve the next time we visit a church to thank Our Lord Jesus Christ for the privilege and opportunity to adore Him FREELY in the Blessed Sacrament!


HOW TO STAY SAFE
IN THE WORLD TODAY

Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.


Do not stay home because 17% of all accidents occur in the home.


Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians.


Avoid traveling by air, rail, or water because 16% of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.


Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in Hospitals. So, ... above all else, avoid hospitals.

BUT, ...
You will be pleased to learn that only 001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is at church!

... And ... Bible study is safe too.
The percentage of deaths during Bible study is even less.

So, ... for SAFETY'S sake -
Attend church,
and read your Bible.
IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE!


The Rabbi's Gift
 
A monastery had fallen upon hard times.
 
Once a great order, cultural changes over the past few hundred
years had sapped its strength. All of its branch houses were
closed and there were only five monks left in the decaying
mother house: the abbot and four others, all over 70 years of
age. Clearly it was a dying order.
 
In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little
hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a
hermitage. The monks could always sense when the rabbi was in
the woods, and during one such visit it occurred to the abbot to
pay the rabbi a visit and to ask if he might have some advice
that could save the monastery.
 
The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot
explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only
commiserate with him. "I know how it is," he said. "The spirit
has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost
no one comes to the synagogue anymore."
 
So the old men wept together. They read parts of sacred
scriptures and spoke quietly of deep things. When the abbot
finally rose to leave, they embraced, and he asked again:
"Is there nothing you can tell me to help me save my dying
order?" "No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice
to give.
 
The only thing I can say is that one of you is the Messiah."
 
When the abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks
gathered around him to ask, "Well, what did the rabbi say?"
 
"He couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and read
holy scriptures together. Although, just as I was leaving, he
did say something rather strange. He said that the Messiah is
one of us. I don't know what he meant."
 
In the days and weeks that followed, the old monks pondered this
and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the
rabbi's words.
 
The Messiah is one of us?  Could he possibly have meant one of
us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one?
 
Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he
probably meant Father Abbot. On the other hand, he might have
meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man.
 
He surely could not have meant Brother Eldred! Eldred is always
so crotchety. Though, come to think of it, Eldred is virtually
always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean
Brother Eldred.
 
But certainly not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a
real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for
somehow always being there for you when you need him. Maybe
Phillip is the Messiah.
 
Of course the rabbi didn't mean me, each of them thought in turn
about themselves. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just
an ordinary person. Yet suppose he did? Suppose I am the Messiah?
O, God, not me, each thought. I couldn't be that much for the
others,
 
Could I?
 
As they each contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to
treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance
that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off
chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began
to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
 
It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the
monastery, to picnic on its green lawn, to wander along its many
paths, even to sit in the old chapel to meditate. As they did
so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed this aura of
extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old
monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the
atmosphere of the place.
 
Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery
more frequently to picnic, to play, to pray.
 
They began to bring their friends to show them this special
place. And their friends brought their friends.
Then it happened that some of the younger visitors started to
talk more and more with the old monks.
 
After awhile, one asked if he could join them.
Then another. And another.
Within a few years, the monastery had once again become a
thriving order and thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant
community of spirituality and light

                              " The Room."
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings.
As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I have liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed at."

Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've yelled at my brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents Often there were many more cards than expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.

Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I have watched," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me.

One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards...
But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes... No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.

No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes.
Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him.. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, and so alive.
The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards.. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

Pass it on


A few years ago, I was having an incredibly tough time in my life. I felt as though my world was crumbling. Everything seemed to be going wrong for me.  

To start with, I was overworked and overwhelmed, trying to finish my pre-med degree while holding down a night job as a nurse. I was working through a hurtful breakup, my parents were going away for almost two months and I was alone in the house, and my computer crashed.

But these were only the minor things. The crisis was that I had received my score on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), a test that determines admittance into medical school. This was an exam I had studied for day and night for months. 

I had done too poorly to gain entry. I was crushed.

Being a doctor was my lifelong dream. Yet after years of working as a nurse to pay my way through four long years of pre-med studies, I would have to kiss it all good-bye. I felt that all those years with little sleep and hard work were a total waste.

Mourning the loss of my aspirations, I was very depressed and desperate. I figured I should find another career since I didn't want to stay a nurse and constantly be reminded of a failed dream as I saw all the new, young doctors. 

As I cried to my mother, who almost canceled her trip to be with me, she told me to pray and ask God for His help and guidance. That's all I could do, and so I did exactly that.  

A few days later, a close friend was comforting me over the phone as I cried. He told me an anecdote about President Abraham Lincoln that I was not aware of. He told me that everything he did in his early life was failure, failure, failure, after failure.  And then as we all know, he was a success. Those were my friend's words.  

The very next day I was waiting in line at a store when something caught my attention. I looked up to see a computer monitor of some sort on the cashier's booth facing me. 

On it was a picture of Abraham Lincoln -- and an inscription next to his image that said, "Failure, failure, failure, failure, success. Pass it on." 

At that exact same second my cell phone rang. I picked it up and it was my friend, who had told me the night before almost these exact same words!

It was obvious to me that this was a message from God to not give up.  

From that day on, things started getting better and the problems started fixing themselves. Most important, today I am halfway finished with medical school. I am preparing for my first board exam and am at the top of my class with a perfect grade point average.  

It seems as though He wanted me to go in this direction and did not allow me to give up. I still receive messages from Him that direct me through my path in life and he always comes through. 

I am sharing this with those who will read this because I believe G-d sent me a message that day in the store to "Pass it On." I hope so much that this will show you all that if you need help or guidance please do NOT hesitate to ask Him. 

Be open to receiving miracles and allow yourself to be touched by the hand of God. Bless you all. 


Tal Y.
New York

 

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