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Inspirational Stories Page

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Faith in small things has repercussions that ripple all the way out.
In a huge, dark room a little match can light up the place.
Joni Eareckson Tada

 

Click on any of these stories to read

How to Catch a Monkey

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Teddy And Mrs Thompson

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The Dreams of Three Little Trees

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40 Rules for Living

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Eskimo Wolf Hunters

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Now I Get it

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The Little Girl And The Piano

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The Meaning of Life

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Is Church Attendance Important?

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Trying to Be Like Father

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HOW TO CATCH A MONKEY

African hunters have a clever way of trapping monkeys.

They slice a coconut in two, hollow it out, and in one half of the shell cut a hole just big enough for a monkey's hand to pass through. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half before fastening together the two halves of the coconut shell. Finally, they secure the coconut to a tree with a rope, retreat into the jungle, and wait.

Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey swings by, smells the delicious orange, and discovers its location inside the coconut. The monkey then slips his hand through the small hole, grasps the orange, and tries to pull it through the hole. Of course, the orange won't come out; it's too big for the hole. To no avail the persistent monkey continues to pull and pull, never realizing the danger he is in.

While the monkey struggles with the orange, the hunters simply stroll in and capture the monkey by throwing a net over him. As long as the monkey keeps his fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped.

It's too bad the poor monkey could save its own life if it would only let go of the orange. It rarely occurs to a monkey, however, that it can't have both the orange and its freedom. That delicious orange becomes a deadly trap.

Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and money."

Adapted from Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, 1994 Youth Specialties, Inc.

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TEDDY AND MRS THOMPSON

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie.

Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath.

And Teddy was unpleasant. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then marking the F at the top of the paper biggest of all. Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him, either.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's records and put Teddy's off until last. When she opened his file, she was in for a surprise. His first-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...he is a joy to be around."

His second-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy continues to work hard but his mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon

affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem."

By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.

Her children brought her presents, all in gay ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy's, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of cologne. She stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed behind just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to." After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and speaking. Instead, she began to teach children. Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called "Teddy". As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne.

By the end of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class and...well, he had also become the "pet" of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he'd had in elementary school, she was his favourite. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.

He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still his favourite teacher of all time. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honours. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favourite teacher.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still his favourite teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering...well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. You'll have to decide yourself whether or not she wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. But, I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like...well, just like she smelled many years before, on that last day of school, before the Christmas Holiday began.

You never can tell what type of impact you may make on another's life by your actions or lack of action. Sometimes just a smile on the street to a passing stranger can make a difference we could never imagine. Would it be nice if we all could have this impact on people?

From Chidi at: http://users.iol.it/cdi

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THE DREAMS OF THREE LITTLE TREES

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be travelling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" The first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. "I wish I could make a cradle for him." her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful." she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Traditional folk tale

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40 RULES FOR LIVING

  1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

  2. Memorize your favourite poem.

  3. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

  4. When you say, "I love you," mean it.

  5. When you say, "I'm sorry," look the person in the eye.

  6. Never laugh at anyone's dreams.

  7. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.

  8. Don't judge people by their relatives.

  9. Talk slow but think quick.

  10. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, "Why do you want to know?"

  11. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

  12. Call your mom.

  13. Say "Bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.

  14. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

  15. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.

  16. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

  17. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

  18. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

  19. Marry someone you love to talk to. As you get older, conversational skills will be as important as any other.

  20. Spend some time alone.

  21. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

  22. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

  23. Read more books and watch less TV.

  24. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll get to enjoy it a second time.

  25. Trust in God but lock your car.

  26. A loving atmosphere in your home is so important. Do all you can to create a tranquil harmonious home.

  27. In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.

  28. Read between the lines.

  29. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

  30. Be gentle with the earth.

  31. Pray -- there's immeasurable power in it.

  32. Never interrupt when you are being flattered.

  33. Mind your own business.

  34. Don't trust a lover who doesn't close his/her eyes when you kiss them.

  35. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

  36. If you make a lot of money, put it to use helping others while you are living. That is wealth's greatest satisfaction.

  37. Learn the rules then break some.

  38. Remember that the best relationship is one where your love for each other is greater than your need for each other.

  39. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

  40. Remember that your character is your destiny.

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ESKIMO WOLF HUNTERS

According to tradition, this is how an Eskimo hunter kills a wolf.

First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. He then adds layer after layer of blood until the blade is completely concealed by the frozen blood.

Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the cold Arctic night. His craving for blood becomes so great that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue. Nor does he recognize the instant when his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite continues to crave more until in the morning light, the wolf is found dead on the snow!

Many begin using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or engaging in unsafe sexual behaviour for the same reasons that the wolf begins licking the knife blade. It seems safe and delicious at first, but it doesn't satisfy. More and more is desired, leading to a crisis or death.

Adapted from Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, 1994 Youth Specialties, Inc.

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NOW I GET IT

I remember seeing a kid in the grocery store with dirt and old food on his face, wearing a filthy T-shirt, barefoot and eating a two-pound candy bar. I couldn't imagine why his mother had brought him to the store looking that way and why she would give him a candy bar at 10 in the morning. That was before I had four kids. Now I know why.

His face was dirty because he was going through a phase in which having his face wiped seemed worse to him than getting beaten. She chose not to do either. His T-shirt was filthy because it was his favourite one. He wore it every day and every night. Just as they were walking out the door to go to the store, he had pulled it out of the clothes hamper and surprised her with it at the front door. By then she didn't dare risk interrupting the momentum she'd built toward the car by going back into the house to get a clean one. He had shoes on when they left for the store, but he took them of in the car and threw one out the window on the freeway. She was relieved it was the left shoe, since he'd thrown a right one out the window the week before. He was eating a big candy bar because she had promised him he could pick out his own treat at the store if he didn't throw the cat into the pool for a whole week. She was desperate because it was the neighbour's cat and couldn't swim.

I used to think that my children would eat only fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and free-range chicken. Now I look forward to our semiweekly luncheon at McDonald's. I have acquired a genuine love for secret sauce, and relish the fact that my kids can't do anything wrong there. This includes drenching their french fries in ketchup, then spitting their cola out on top of the fries, moulding the whole mess into a big ball, then throwing it at one another.

Before, when I would see a woman wheeling a kid around in a dirty stroller, I'd ask myself, "Why did she give birth to that child if she didn't plan to keep the stroller clean?" The other week at my annual stroller washing party, I found ground cover growing in the storage compartment of one of mine.

When I would see children throwing fits in public, I would wonder why the parents didn't just tie the kids' arms and legs together and put them in the trunk of the car until they had finished shopping. Now I know it's because they left the rope at home.

When several children were screaming in an airplane, I'd wonder why there wasn't a separate airplane, and a separate planet, for kids. I know now that their parents wish the same thing and that they had to take the kids to attend the family reunion at Aunt Lois' so they could see Uncle George before he kicked the bucket.

The kids were crying because their parents wouldn't let them eat the headset, stick their fingers in the ear of the lady in front of them, or press the attendant call button for the 100th time. The parents were preoccupied with trying to decide where to change the really smelly diaper. Should they change it on the seat next to the couple

on their honeymoon, or on the floor in the back where five perky flight attendants were playing bumper cars with those one-ton food carts? Forget the bathroom. They were designed to hold one person with short legs. The parents feared that the smell would cause a panicky passenger to pull open the emergency exit in order to trigger the release of the oxygen masks, and they'd all be sucked out of the airplane.

Now when I see a little girl wearing cowboy boots on the wrong feet, a pink bathing suit on backward and Army helmet, I think "She IS absolutely sure that her shoes are on the right feet, and she likes the way the helmet looks with the swimsuit. And, no, she doesn't want to wear a jacket because 'she likes to be cold'. She is happy."

From Janet Konttinen, San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 1997.

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THE LITTLE GIRL AND THE PIANO

A little girl wanted to become a great pianist, but all she could play on the piano was the simple little tune, "Chopsticks." No matter how hard she tried, that was the best she could do. Her parents decided after some time to arrange for a great maestro to teach her to play properly. Of course, the little girl was delighted.

When the little girl and her parents arrived at the maestro's mansion for the first lesson, they were escorted by the butler into the parlour, where they saw a beautiful concert grand piano. Immediately, the little girl dashed over to the piano and began playing "Chopsticks." Her embarrassed parents started across the room to tell her to stop, but as she played, the maestro entered the room and encouraged the little girl to continue.

The maestro then took a seat on the piano bench next to the little girl, listening to her play. After a moment he began to play along with her, adding chords, runs, and arpeggios. The little girl continued to play "Chopsticks." The parents couldn't believe their ears. They were hearing a beautiful piano duet, played by their daughter and the maestro, and amazingly enough, the central theme of it was still "Chopsticks."

At times you may feel like you're a nobody, that you will never accomplish great things. But think of that little girl. All she could play was "Chopsticks." Nobody wanted to hear "Chopsticks." It was an embarrassment to her parents and annoying to everyone else. Yet the maestro encouraged her to keep on playing.

God knows what you can do. He created you with gifts and talents. Sure, compared to some people's abilities, your gifts and talents may seem like "Chopsticks"-- not very original and not very spectacular. But God says, "Keep on playing--and make some room on the piano bench for Me." God is able to take the little that we are able to do and turn it into something beautiful for Him.

Adapted from Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, 1994 Youth Specialties, Inc.

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THE MEANING OF LIFE

A story is told by Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, about a seminar he once attended in Greece. On the last day of the conference, the discussion leader walked over to the bright light of an open window and looked out. Then he asked if there were any questions. Fulghum laughingly asked him what was the meaning of life. Everyone in attendance laughed and stirred to leave. However, the leader held up his hand to ask for silence and then responded "I will answer your question." He took his wallet out of his pocket and removed a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. Then he explained "When I was a small child during World War II, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun could never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places that I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game, but a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light - be it truth or understanding or knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the dark places of human hearts - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life." (1)

Do we reflect the light of Christ into the darkness of other people's lives? Will the world be a better place for our having been in it?

From It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, by Robert Fulghum. Ivy Books, 988.

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IS CHURCH ATTENDANCE IMPORTANT?

A pastor heard that one of his parishioners was going about announcing to one and all that he would no longer attend church services. This rebellious parishioner was advancing the familiar argument that he could communicate with God just as easily out in the fields with nature as his setting for worship. One winter evening, the pastor called on this reluctant member of his flock for a friendly visit. The two men sat before the fireplace making small talk, but studiously avoiding the issue of church attendance. After a while, the pastor took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth. As the two watched in silence, the coal quickly ceased burning and turned an ashen gray, while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The pastor's silent message was not lost on the parishioner. After a long pause, he turned to the pastor and said "I'll be back at services next Sunday." (1)

In Community Is Strength. From The Sower's Seeds, copyright 1990 by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R., p. 72. Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ 07430.

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JUST TRYING TO BE LIKE THE FATHER

The Reverend Bob Stamps is a delightful man with a good sense of humour. He is also bald. One night Bob and his wife decided to go out to dinner. So they hired a babysitter to take care of their little children. While they were gone, the babysitter got interested in a television program and wasn't watching the children very carefully. Their little boy Peter, got into his father's electric shaver and shaved a big landing strip right down the middle of his head. When Bob came home, he was furious. He said, "Peter! I told you never to play with my shaver. Now you are going to get a spanking that you will never forget!" He was just about to administer that spanking when Peter looked up at him and said, "Wait until you see sister!" Bob said that he and his wife were horrified when they went into the next room and saw their little four-year-old daughter with all of the hair shaved off of her head. She looked like a little skinned rabbit. By this time, Bob was really furious. He grabbed up Peter and said, "Now you are really going to get it." Just as he lifted his hand and started to bring it down, Peter looked up at him with tears in his eyes and said, "But Daddy! WE WERE JUST TRYING TO LOOK LIKE YOU!" There was one little boy who didn't get a spanking that night. Instead he got an explanation and a hug.

Adapted From a sermon by Dr. Joe Harding, quoted in A New Daddy, from Eight Habits of Highly Effective Families, copyright 1997 by Seven Worlds Corporation.

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