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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Are you part of a miracle?

Today's crumb comes from an alert reader in California, USA.

Might our entire universe actually be a miracle? According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, astrophysicists now know that the precise value of four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetic force, plus strong and weak nuclear forces) were all determined within one-millionth of a second after the "big bang." If any of these values were changed even a smidgen, our universe would not exist at all. Multiply these parameters by countless other necessary conditions, and the odds AGAINST our universe being here are (no pun intended) astronomical.


So what about the theory that creation just happened, like a lucky roll of the dice? Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the phrase "big bang," said his atheism was greatly shaken after these discoveries. He later wrote that "a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology...The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." Theoretical physicist Paul Davies calls the appearance of intelligent design "overwhelming." Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox said, "the more we know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator...gains credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."

These scientists conclude the universe is the greatest miracle of all time. Let's claim our status as part of the universal miracle, and discover what more the "super-intellect" or Creator has in store for us.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Words worth remembering

Chinese author, scholar and dissident Liu Xiaobo has served nearly half of an 11-year sentence for subversion after calling for an end to one-party rule in China. In a message from his cell, he recently wrote that, while in prison, "I have become even more convinced that I have no personal enemies."

Liu Xiaobo

This confirms his final words at his sentencing in 2009, when he told the court, "I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity. Hatred can rot away a person's intelligence and conscience. Evil mentally will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's alright to say, "I love you!"

Today's crumb is a poem from Amos Yoder, an Amish educator from Indiana, USA. It appeared in a magazine called School Echoes, supporting education in one-room Amish school houses.

It's alright to say, "I love you!"
To someone every day,
To obey our Lord's commandment
In a real and vital way.
The world is filled with sorrows
That sometimes touch us all,
And to know that we are loved
Lifts us when we fall.


The heart can be a lonely place
When no one comes to call
But when someone says, "I love you!"
We feel we're ten feet tall.
Three little words can mean so much
And they're not hard to say.
It's alright to say, "I love you!"
To someone every day.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"There's good news tonight!"

Readers from around the world are enjoying "Crumbs of Comfort." Since the first crumb was dropped five months ago, the blog has recorded 3,617 page visits from readers in the United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Philippines, Germany, France, Mexico and Russia. It is also carried on the Web sites of three newspapers in the United States. Welcome, everyone!

H.V. Kaltenborn

Part of the inspiration for this blog comes from a beloved radio newscaster in the United States. During the most frightening days of World War II, with so many husbands and fathers facing death in combat, families would gather around their radio at home each evening. No matter what tragedy he had to report. the newscaster always opened with the same words. America waited to hear him say, "THIS IS H.V. KALTENBORN, AND THERE'S GOOD NEWS TONIGHT!" Our blog seeks to prove Mr. Kaltenborn's legendary words are still true.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have you fallen short?

Will you greet New Year's Eve with regret this year? Despite your best efforts, did you fail to reach some of the goals you set for 2014? Maybe you just ran out of time? If so, consider the Way of St. James, an important pilgrimage during the Middle Ages which many still take today. Pilgrims seeking forgiveness walk nine hundred miles from Paris to the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where legend says the remains of St. James are buried. They give their best effort, hiking across mountains, swamps and acrid plains, hoping to gain a blessing promised to all who enter the cathedral's richly ornate Door of Pardon. But some pilgrims can't quite make it. They are too weak to survive the journey, or too old. What becomes of them?


With only 75 miles to go, these weary pilgrims arrive at the quaint mountain town of Villafranca del Bierzo, where they find a modest, 12th century chapel called Little Compostela. It's the only church along the pilgrimage which has a Door of Pardon, open only to pilgrims who can't continue farther. As one 20th-century pilgrim described it, "That squat little chapel is the one I remember best. It's plain Door of Pardon tells me, 'You fell short of your ideals, but don't worry. You're on the true path, so I am blessing you right where you are.' What a boon to a life-long journey!"

In heaven, the perfect round

Today's "crumb of comfort" is a Christmas card from a reader in Redlands, CA, USA.  It illustrates the famous phrase by poet Robert Browning, "On earth the broken arcs; in heaven the perfect round."


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Eve gift

Today's crumb comes from a reader in South Bend, IN, USA. It's a three-minute video that is guaranteed to touch your heart on Christmas Eve. Prepare to be inspired.  http://www.youtube.com/embed/WxjZB5S_g7s?rel=0

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Who will you hug today?

Believe it or not, hugs may be an effective way to prevent the common cold, according to a new study from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. According to Tech Times, the benefit is greatest among people with immune systems weakened by stress due to conflict with others.

During the study, Carnegie Mellon researchers quizzed 404 people about their personal conflicts and the type of support they received. Then they exposed them to a common cold virus and put them in quarantine.
Results showed that people who felt well-supported by family and friends were less likely to fall victim to infection due to stressful situations. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support.

Professor Sheldon Cohen, who led the study, told Science Daily that increasing the frequency of hugs may be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress. This may be due to physical contact itself, or to hugging being a behavior of support. "Either way," he said, "those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Coats (and more) for the homeless

Today's inspiring "crumb" was recommended by a reader in Wake Forest, NC, USA.

Veronika Scott was a student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, majoring in industrial design. In the fall of 2010, she was given a project: design something to meet a social need. To prepare she worked at a local homeless shelter, and after five months she designed a heat-trapping coat that transforms at night into a self-heated, waterproof sleeping bag. At the end of the semester, she continued working with the homeless to improve the coat's quality and design. When one homeless woman yelled, "We don't need coats, we need jobs!" she began hiring and training homeless mothers to make the coats.

Veronika Scott, 24, CEO of The Empowerment Plan

Her class project expanded into a non-profit organization called The Empowerment Plan. By making coats, the Plan brings women out of poverty, helping them build a better life and regain their independence. In 2012 she became the youngest person ever to receive the JFK New Frontier Award, and she earned it the old-fashioned way, by dedication and hard work.

"I didn't know how to sew, and my mother taught me as we sat upstairs in my grandmother's house using her home sewing machine," she remembered. "I seam-ripped five wool coats to make a Frankenstein-like monstrosity of a jacket. It turned out awful, smelled funny and weighed 20 pounds, but I was proud of it." Her homeless friends told her it looked like a body bag, so she made three more prototypes to get a good grade in class. By the end of the project, she was known on the streets as The Coat Lady and many homeless asked for coats. She wondered, "why on earth would they want something that was a school project? I'm just a student. It was just for a grade."  But it became much more than that.

One of her first employees was a homeless Mom named Elisha. After sewing coats for Scott for three months, Elisha used her modest salary to leave the shelter and get an apartment and furniture. Her three kids enrolled in a charter school. Scott now employs 15 mothers who are or were homeless. If you have five spare minutes to hear Veronika tell her story, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=he3oPyKpw5w

Sunday, December 21, 2014

License, registration and wish list?

Nobody likes to see flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. But late in November 50 drivers in Lowell, MI, were pulled over for minor offenses, like tinted glass that was too dark, or snow covering the license plate. Oddly, all the stops were made near a Meijer store. Along with their license and registration, officer Scot VanSolkema (shown below) asked drivers if they'd finished their Christmas shopping, and what they still had to buy.

Drivers never knew their words were heard by a team of officers inside Meijer. As soon as the driver mentioned what he or she needed, officers bought and wrapped it. Within minutes, a second squad car pulled up behind VanSolkema's cruiser and his back-up appeared with a gift-wrapped box which VanSolkema gave the driver. Astonished to find the box contained exactly what they needed, drivers responded with disbelief, laughter, gratitude and tears.


Lowell police chief Steve Bukala says you can tell a lot about a person in the 10 to 15-minute window of a traffic stop, whether they're having a good day or a bad day. "Then we got this idea: what if we could change a person's day in real time?" UPtv, a Christian-based television network, chose the Lowell Police Department and paid for all the gifts to promote its Uplift Someone Christmas initiative. Officers handed out presents worth about $7,000. The most expensive was as laptop computer, and the most modest was a curling iron. No motorists received tickets.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Where will you be Christmas eve?

Today "Crumbs of Comfort" salutes Rev. Kevin Massey, vice president of spiritual care at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. As reported in the Chicago Daily Herald, Massey feels it is "a great privilege" to be in the hospital on Christmas eve, visiting patients. "Loneliness, even when surrounded by many caregivers, can be quite a problem, often accompanied by despair," he says.
Rev. Massey

He feels holiday time, regardless of your religious background, is a sensitive time to be away from loved ones. Some research suggests praying with others and showing compassion and love not only relieves loneliness but also improves physical health.

"Individuals need to be treated as whole people -- meeting their spiritual needs as well as their physical, emotional and social needs," says Massey. "Any health care provider does their best work when approaching people from that human perspective." Massey values the work of "spiritual care teams" made of clergy and lay people willing to meet the spiritual, as well as the physical needs of those hospitalized.

"Everyone has a spiritual perspective," he says. "For some people it is from a certain religion, formal or not. I try to connect with everyone's spiritual perspective. We each have value as a child of God."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gold, common sense and fur?

Today's crumb comes from a friend in Indianapolis, IN, USA, who loves children.

When our four children were all four or younger, I read them a few Bible verses as they lay in their cribs each day. I knew God had entrusted them to me, and I didn't want to disappoint Him. No matter what they did as they grew up, I tried to be understanding. When they smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor looking for chicks, I understood. When they started a hotel for homeless frogs, I understood, although it took nearly two hours to catch all 23 frogs. And when my daughter covered herself with ketchup and rolled up in a blanket to see how it feels to be a hotdog, I understood. I kept my promise to raise them in the word of God, but I may have missed the mark when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring some soap to "wash up" Jesus too.
But my proudest moment came during their first Christmas pageant. My daughter played Mary. Two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. I confess I slouched low in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing baby Jesus and it bounced down the church aisle crying, "Mama-mama." She grabbed the doll and held it tightly as the wise men arrived. That's when my son, wearing a bathrobe and paper crown, announced, "We are the three wise men, and we bring gifts of gold, common sense and fur.

The congregation dissolved in laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. "I've never enjoyed a Christmas program more," laughed the pastor, wiping away tears.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Cole

Listening to a holiday concert last week by the Raleigh Boychoir recalled my years in Senior High Choir at Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Del. It was the '50s -- the era of penny loafers and saddle shoes, English bikes and paper routes. Being 15 wasn't easy, and singing in public was unthinkable, except in choir. My audition of "He's got the whole world in His hands" won me a seat in the bass section, and we rehearsed last period Tuesday and Thursday, when clubs met. Our director, Mr. Cole, who also conducted band and orchestra, let us sit on chairs to discuss our music, but made us stand when singing. From September through December, we practiced for the Christmas concert. Beside familiar carols, Mr. Cole threw in some classics. I'll never forget singing "Kyrie eleison" (Lord have mercy) and can still hear us harmonize "Gloria in Excelisis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest), even though I didn't understand the words and knew nothing of Vivaldi.

On the bright side, Mr. Cole was not like other teachers. Choir was pass/fail and nobody failed, so he was more like a friend. We could take any problem to him, no matter how personal, and he always had time to listen and discuss it. He never judged us (unless he had a conductor's baton in his hand) so we felt loved. We loved back by trying to please him. On the dark side, our early rehearsals were always terrible. He'd stop us over and over with "No, that's wrong! You can do better! Be quiet and look at me." We'd sing Kyrie eleison countless times, but it always sounded the same to me. As Christmas drew near, our rehearsals got even worse. Begging us to concentrate, he'd warn, "We're not going to be ready!" We began to wonder if our performance would be a flop.


Parents and friends filled the bleachers in the gym on concert night. A Christmas tree glowed beneath a basketball hoop. The orchestra was already seated and tuned up when we choir members filed onto risers behind it, being careful not to trip on our green and white robes. The risers were so crowded that everyone touched elbows. Lights dimmed and Mr. Cole, looking stern, raised his baton.

That's when the magic happened. Don't ask how, but on his downbeat we were no longer 50 voices struggling to blend. We were just one voice, thinking as one, singing as one, in perfect harmony. "Kyrie eleison" floated over the audience like a prayer rising to heaven, and Mr. Cole's frown became a smile. He nodded affirmatively. We forgot the gym. We forgot the audience. We forgot the time. We just sang for him, and it was Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Cole, and music directors before and since, for helping fragile teens develop self-confidence. Half-a-century later, I still remember.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A little child shall lead them

Readers who find a crumb of comfort may share it with me at horncs@gmail.com. Today's crumb comes from a faithful reader in Apex, NC, USA. He attributes it to a Dec. 6, 2002, mailing from Cedars Camps.

When my son Nicholas was in kindergarten, he spent weeks memorizing songs for his school's Winter Pageant. Parents who could not attend were invited to dress rehearsal. That morning I found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Because our public schools had stopped referring to "Christmas" I expected songs about reindeer and snowflakes. So when my son's class rose to sing "Christmas Love" I was taken aback by the bold title.

Nicholas was aglow. Those in the front row held large letters to spell out the song's title. As they sang "C is for Christmas" a child would reveal the letter C, and so on, until the entire title was spelled out. It went smoothly until a little girl in the middle held the letter M upside down, so it appeared to be W. The student audience snickered, but she had no idea they were laughing at her. Laughter continued until all the letters were displayed, and then we saw it.



A hush came over the room and eyes widened. Suddenly we understood the reason we were there; why we celebrated the holiday in the first place. For when the last letter was displayed, the message read loud and clear -- CHRISTWAS LOVE.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jewish festival in a town without Jews

As some of our neighbors prepare to celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, today's "Crumb" is offered by a reader who works for the Jewish Federation of Raleigh. It was first reported by the BBC.

Not one of the 50,000 citizens of Kutno, Poland, is Jewish. But children from schools all over town recently staged an impressive concert of Jewish music, singing old hits in Yiddish and Hebrew with a fluency few adults could match. It was the finale of an annual Festival of Jewish Culture the town has held since 1993. The reason for the festival goes back to World War II.


When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Kutno's entire Jewish community of 8,000 people was marched at gunpoint to the grounds of a deserted factory at the edge of town where Jews spent two years in filth, hunger and cold before being killed in gas vans at the Chelmno death camp.

When the war ended, survivors learned to function without their Jewish tailors, shoemakers, lawyers and merchants, but Kutno had a hole in its heart. Deep respect for the vanished culture resulted in a world-class museum in the center of Warsaw's former Jewish quarter. It tells the bittersweet story of the Jews long love affair with Poland. Feelings of curiosity, loss and kinship led a handful of people in Kutno to hold the first Sholem Asch Festival in 1993, and the event has come a long way since then. It now includes a literary competition on a Jewish theme attracting entries from all over Poland. There's a local Jewish dance band and Jewish theater performances.  In other words, it's more than just a token effort.

In a world where bitter sectarian conflicts grab most of the headlines, a Jewish festival in a town without Jews is surely worth celebrating. Happy Chanukah.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shoplifting grandma thanks policeman

Meet Helen Johnson, a 47-year-old grandmother from Tarrant, Alabama. She lives with two daughters, two grandchildren and a niece on disability and welfare. This month her disability check got lost in the mail. She went to Dollar General with her last $1.25, hoping to buy eggs, but she was fifty cents short. Her grandkids had not eaten for two days, and she thought they might die unless she fed them, so she stole five eggs, putting them in her pocket. But they broke, and a store clerk called the police when Johnson admitted stealing them. When officer William Stacy arrived, she expected to be arrested. She started crying. She offered her last $1.25 to pay for the broken eggs. Officer Stacy told her to park on the side of the parking lot and wait. Then he went inside the store and bought her a dozen eggs. When he handed them to her, she became very emotional. A bystander named Robert Tripp caught the kind deed on camera and posted it to Facebook with the hashtag #feelgoodstoryof the day.  It went viral, racking up more than 650,000 views.


The next day, Tarrant Police had to bring in an extra dispatch officer to handle a stream of calls from across America offering donations. Officers set up a fund at People's First Federal Credit Union in Tarrant to hold all the money pouring in for the Johnson family. One man from New York who called with a donation admitted he'd hated police for several months, but this incident totally changed his mind.

A few days after the egg incident, Officer Stacy and some colleagues arrived at Johnson's home with two truckloads of donated food, enough to keep her family fed through Christmas. When she saw the food, plus clothing and Christmas gifts for the kids, Johnson broke down. "I just busted out and started hollering," she said. "I would have been a good cheerleader." She says her life has been changed forever because of Officer Stacy. "This was not food," she said. "This was manna from heaven."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bringing up the brass

Once each year in the United States, the Army and Navy military academies compete on the football field. In honor of today's game, we salute Army Sgt. Marty Maher, who personally knew and inspired more Army officers than anyone else in history. How did he do it?

In 1896 Marty came to New York State from his home in Ireland. A clumsy lad, he found work as a waiter in the West Point dining hall, and after breaking countless dishes, he enlisted as a private in the Army. He was assigned to the West Point gym, where he claimed he could not swim a stroke, but from 1899 to 1928, he taught hundreds of young cadets with names like Bradley, Pershing and Eisenhower to swim. Marty not only knew them all. He nurtured them, winning so much respect that the corps of cadets named him an honorary member of the classes of 1912, 1926 and 1928.

After 55 years at West Point, Marty wrote a memoir called "Bringing Up the Brass." The preface was written by one of his former cadet swimming students, General Dwight Eisenhower, who would soon be elected President. Ike wrote, "I cannot put too high an estimate on the help Marty gave my morale. With his quick Irish wit and talent for understanding, he did the same for many others. This forward is meant to be a testament of the admiration and affection one soldier feels for an old friend, associate and helper, Sgt. Marty Maher of West Point."

Marty died on 17 January, 1961, at age 84, and is buried in the West Point Cemetery. His life inspired a movie called "The Long Gray Line" starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. Here's an 8-minute clip from the film.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPuPC0WDVyM

Friday, December 12, 2014

Practicing delight

Today, as "Crumbs of Comfort" celebrates its 3,000th page view, our post from a reader in Raleigh, NC, USA, is a clipping she saved from the April 25, 2007 issue of The Christian Science Monitor. The author was Susi Gregg Fowler. The photo comes from a reader in St. Louis, MO, USA.

"My friend's daughter wanted an 'A' in algebra. And because her teacher had a school-wide reputation for being tough, she knew it was going to be a struggle. Night after night, my friend and her husband watched their daughter struggle with math homework. They listened to her practice the powers of 10 and, amazed, saw her studying diligently for tests. One day my friend walked in on her daughter smiling beatifically from the couch. 'What's going on?' she asked. 'You sure look happy.'

The face of joy

"Her daughter smiled up at her. 'I'm practicing delight,' she said. My friend was baffled. Was this the religious practice of some cult? A theater exercise? 'What do you mean?' she finally asked. Her daughter continued to smile.

"'This is the way I'm going to look when Mrs. B tells me I got an A in Algebra. I'm practicing delight.'

"My friend was charmed, as was I when she told me. How often, I thought, do I practice the opposite of what this young girl chose? By worrying, or what some call 'catastrophizing' -- imagining the worst. How much more fun to practice delight. At worst, we could lift our spirits for a time. At best, we might master the face of joy. If this isn't a religious practice, it ought to be!"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gratitude: the memory of the heart

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has done eight years of extensive research on gratitude. He calls it a "chosen emotion" because it compels us to surrender a victim mentality and sense of entitlement. More than just positive thinking, Emmons finds that gratitude actually improves physical health. The jury is still out on exactly how it makes you feel better, but it appears to boost the immune system. In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater energy and better sleep quality, relative to a control group.


Gratitude also has positive side-effects. It allows us to celebrate the present. It blocks toxic emotions like resentment and regret. It strengthens our social ties and sense of self-worth. It turns denial into acceptance; mistakes into helpful lessons, and what we have into enough by placing less importance on material goods. Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all life, and a corresponding responsibility to others. To see a 5-minute video that will make you smile and trigger your own gratitude, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO2o98Zpzg8

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A movie made with prayer

Louis Zamperini, who died last July at 97, was an Olympian runner and prisoner-of-war whose story of survival is told in the movie "Unbroken." After enduring 47 days on a raft in the Pacific following a near-fatal plane crash, he was brutally tortured in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. He was nearly a broken man when he reluctantly attended a Billy Graham crusade in 1949. Graham's words wakened Zamperini's faith, and enabled him to forgive his captors and overcome his struggles. When approached about a movie, he asked that his Christian beliefs not be the focus of the film, since he felt it's message of forgiveness would have more universal appeal. But Angelina Jolie, who directed the film, said he became like a father and grandfather to her, and some of his faith may have rubbed off.

Angelina Joie and Louis Zamperini

According to Zamperini's daughter, Cynthia Garris, (as reported in The Christian Post) Angelina was not religious and had never prayed before, but at the very last scene of the movie she needed a miracle. Sunlight was necessary to shoot the scene, but it was raining. "Angelina said 'I don't know what I'm doing so I'll do what Louie would do.' She got on her knees a prayed for a miracle. Everybody saw it. Then it stopped raining and the sun came out. Angelina said, 'let's get this take' and they shot the take. When Angelina said 'cut' it started to rain again," Garris recalled.

Zamberini died last July, surrounded by loved ones. Garris remembers Angelina pointing above, saying "I know he's with us. I know he's there with God."

 "Unbroken" opens in theatres on Christmas day. Before seeing it, please watch this 10-minute video so you'll know who Louie Zamperini really is. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyhFPqRZE9c

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paper or plastic? or Jingle Bells?

Today's crumb is a short, joyful video contributed by a loyal reader near Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Born in Germany, she explains that EDEKA is Germany's largest supermarket chain. One of their stores prepared a surprise for Christmas shoppers. They hid 13 cameras, and switched off the lights one day as customers waited in lines to check-out. Cashiers continued to scan items through check-out when suddenly the scanners began beeping a familiar tune! The cashiers had choreographed a holiday classic to the delight of shoppers. This video is guaranteed to make you smile.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=H965m0Hkk5M

Monday, December 8, 2014

A spelling lesson

When I was a boy in Sunday school, I knew a sweet old lady who sometimes cared for babies in our church nursery. She was Frances Thatcher, and 45 years earlier, from 1907 until 1910, she'd been a housekeeper in the home of Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Christian Science church.

Frances said she found working at Mrs. Eddy's home frustrating at first. She hoped to be useful in some spiritual way, but all she was asked to do was sweep floors, vacuum rugs and dust and polish furniture. Finally she complained to a more senior member of the staff, "When can I do some holy work for Mrs. Eddy, instead of just homely work?"

Final home of Mary Baker Eddy

Her colleague invited her to spell the words homely and holy. The only difference between them is the word ME. "When you purify your sense of 'me' and understand what God knows about you, then all your work will become holy," he said.

Frances took this advice to heart. Instead of playing the role of frustrated housekeeper, she prayed to express her true identity as "the image and likeness of God" (Gen. 1:26). She tried harder to "seek...first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33) and to let her light so shine before men that they may see her good works and glorify her Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5: 16)

Before long, she no longer felt under-valued. She felt like a loved child of God, filled with peace and joy. Her attitude changed. Eventually she was promoted to other duties in the home, but it made no difference to her, since she understood why all her work was holy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pride of comparison

A few years ago, an old hospital in a small, midwestern town needed to expand. Plans were drawn for a new facility with modern equipment. The little hospital served everyone in town, plus a large community of Amish living on farms outside town. The hospital charter required that one of the directors always be Amish.

As work began, Amish craftsmen donated time and labor to build lovely furniture for the lobby. They also built elaborate custom cabinetry for the obstetrical wing. Each birthing room looked like a luxury hotel suite until cabinets were opened to reveal the latest medical equipment. The Amish took great pride in this work, since they believe work is a form of worship. But they took no pride in themselves. They believe no man is better than another in the eyes of God, and personal pride is a sin.

Shortly before the new hospital was about to open, a cash shortfall was discovered. There was no money to pay for a piece of costly equipment for the emergency room. The administrator informed the board, and the Amish member promised to "do what he could." What happened next surprised everyone.

About a week after the need was known, an Amish farmer approached the hospital on a horse-drawn farm wagon carrying bulging potato sacks. Instead of parking in the lot, he drove to the front door. He unloaded the sacks and carried them to the administrator's office. After the last sack was inside, he left without comment.

When staff began opening the sacks, they didn't find any potatoes, but only cash, cash and more cash. It took time to tally it all up. The sacks contained $80,000.00 -- all in cash.

But why cash? Why didn't the Amish who were well-to-do just write checks? Because this might set them apart as "better" than their neighbors who made smaller donations. By using only cash, they eliminated the pride of comparison. The administrator told me his staff will never forget that lesson.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

My worst Christmas Eve service

Did you ever yearn to attend an old-fashioned Christmas Eve service in a country church? Many Decembers ago, I drove from my home in metro-Boston to the town of North Conway, NH. It's tiny compared to Boston, but filled with upscale stores and eateries, not to mention Mt. Washington. After some holiday shopping, I scanned the local paper for Christmas services. Sadly, I was a week early, and the only Christmas service was in an even smaller village a few miles away. Hoping for the best, I drove the rain-soaked farm roads to the village -- really just a crossroad -- where a tired clapboard church sat on one corner. Visitors were not expected, but I dripped through the door anyway. This church had seen better days. Instead of pews, there were ancient wooden folding chairs. The wall behind the alter was decorated with contact paper I'd seen at Woolworths. Instead of chandeliers, bare bulbs hung from the ceiling on cords, and as the service began, they all snapped off with a loud click, plunging the room into blackness. I regretted coming, but then things got worse. A dozen Sunday School kids lined up in front. Each one lit a candle. So far, so good. Then one-at-a-time they read (I'm not making this up) verses from Hallmark Christmas cards! After each kid read his card, he blew out his candle. Parents, many wearing dungarees, were obviously as pleased as punch. I wanted to drop through the floor, until there was just one kid standing with a lit candle -- the last girl in line. She didn't have a Hallmark card. She had a Bible, and she read, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."


It was only one verse of I Corinthians, but she garbled it. Instead of "tinkling cymbal" she said "twinkling symbol." Then she blew out her candle, and as we sat in silent darkness I realized something. Until then, my Christmas had been a "tinkling cymbal" -- mindless, noisy, selfish gift buying. But Christmas isn't a tinkling cymbal, it's a twinkling symbol -- a star wise men still follow to find the infinite love of God, manifest as a babe in a manger. I asked myself, "where will I spend this Christmas, at the mall or at the manger?"

With a loud snap, the glaring overhead bulbs came on, and folks began rising from their rickety chairs. As I left, the pastor met me at the door and apologized. He said he only serves here once a month, but has a church in North Conway "where we have a real Christmas service." I told him his apology was not needed. In that worn-out old chapel, a holy angel disguised as a little girl had reminded me what Christmas really means.

Friday, December 5, 2014

100 years ago this Christmas

World War I was only five months old at the end of November, 1914. A crushing German advance had been stopped by the Allies before it could reach Paris. Opposing armies stared at each other from lines of hastily built defensive trenches. Between the trenches was no-man's-land, sometimes only 30 yards wide. Trench warfare was abominable since continuous sniping, machine gun fire and artillery shelling took a deadly toll, but the misery was relieved on Christmas day. British soldier Frank Richards wrote home, "On Christmas morning we stuck up a board that said 'Merry Christmas.'The Germans had stuck up a similar one. Two of our men put down their arms and jumped on the parapet with hands above their heads. Two Germans did the same, our men going out to meet them. They shook hands and then we all got out of the trench. We met in the middle of no-man's-land. The German company commander asked our commander if we'd accept two barrels of beer from a brewery they captured. He accepted, and a few Germans rolled the barrels over and we took them to our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to their trench to get bottles and glasses. Officers on both sides clinked glasses and drunk to each other's health. Our commander gave them a plum pudding."


In a letter to his wife, British General Walter Congreve described how German and British soldiers exchanged cigarettes, sang Christmas carols together and played football (soccer) with a makeshift ball. Soldiers at the Western Front had not expected to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destroy the spirit of Christmas. As a Highland Regiment officer said in The Times in 1915, "It is a great hope for future peace when two great nations hating each other as foes have seldom hated, should on Christmas day (and for all that word implies) lay down their arms, exchange smokes and wish each other happiness."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Helping a man forget his pain

Today's "crumb" was offered by a faithful reader in South Bend, Indiana, USA. It's a five-minute TV clip which may touch your heart.

In the Bible Paul writes, "I mean not that other men be eased and ye burdened, but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want..." (II Cor. 8:13-14) Wealthy individuals who share their abundance with those in need fulfill this Scripture. Here's a beautiful example you may not be aware of. Enjoy!  http://blog.theveteranssite.com/jay-leno-surprise/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=vetfan&utm_campaign=jay-leno-surprise&utm_term=20141201

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On going home for Christmas

This poem was written by Edgar Guest. The illustration is by Norman Rockwell.

He little knew the sorrow that was in his vacant chair;
He never guessed they'd miss him, or he'd surely have been there.
He couldn't see his mother or the lump that filled her throat,
Or the tear that started falling as she read his hasty note.
And he couldn't see his father sitting sorrowful and dumb,
Or he never would have written that he thought he couldn't come.

He couldn't see the fading of the cheeks that once were pink,
And the silver in the tresses; and he didn't stop to think
How the years are passing swiftly, and next Christmas it might be
There would be no home to visit and no mother dear to see.
He didn't think about it. I'll not say he didn't care.
He was heedless and forgetful, or he'd surely have been there.


Are you going home for Christmas? Have you written you'll be there?
Going home to kiss your mother and show her that you care?
Going home to see your father in a way to make him glad?
If you're not, I hope there'll never come a time you wish you had.
Just sit down and write  letter -- it will make their heartstrings hum
With a tune of perfect gladness -- if you tell them that you'll come.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Saviour, like a shepherd lead us..."

Do you know how it feels to be stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve? You'd like to be with family, but instead you're stranded with strangers. That's how passengers felt on Christmas Eve, 1876, as they travelled by steam boat up the Delaware River. Several had gathered on deck, looking out at the calm, starlit night when someone said, "Mr. Sankey is aboard!" and immediately there were cries of "let him sing for us."

Ira Sankey

Known nationally as "The Sweet Singer of Methodism," Ira Sankey (1840-1908) provided music for many of Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic crusades. Before he opened his mouth that Christmas Eve, he prayed, asking God what to sing. Instead of a holiday carol, this hymn came to his heart. "Saviour, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care. In thy pleasant pastures feed us. For our use thy fold prepare."

After hearing this song, a rough-looking man stepped forward to ask Sankey, "Did you serve in the Union Army? Can you remember doing picket duty on a moonlit night in 1862?" Sankey said yes.

"I was in the Confederate Army," the stranger said, "and I saw you standing your post. I raised my musket and took aim. You were at close range, clearly visible in the moonlight. I knew I would not miss. But suddenly you began to sing 'Saviour, like a shepherd lead us.' I took my finger off the trigger to listen, figuring I would shoot you afterward, but then I remembered how often my mother sang that song to me. When you finished, I could not raise my arm to fire my gun. I thought, 'The God who was able to save that man from certain death must be great and mighty.' I've wandered far and wide since then, but not yet found the Saviour."

Deeply moved, Sankey hugged the man who could have killed him, and that Christmas Eve the former soldier found the great and tender shepherd as his Saviour. A perfect Christmas gift!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Meet me under the eagle

In the Bible we read, "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude...saying Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." (Rev. 19:6) If that happened today, it would probably be in a church, right? Or maybe a concert hall. But in a busy store during rush hour where customers might stop buying stuff to listen? Believe it or not, yes. Here's where, and why.

When John Wanamaker opened his department store in Philadelphia, he was such a devout Christian that he refused to advertise in the Sunday newspaper. He never served alcohol in his famous Crystal Tea Room. He felt shopping should be a cultural experience, so in 1909 he hired 13 freight cars to bring the 10,000 pipe organ from the St. Louis World's Fair to his store. It was installed on one wall of the Grand Court, the seven story atrium. He expanded the instrument to more than 28,000 pipes, making it the world's largest. (The biggest pipe is so wide that a Shetland pony once posed inside it.) Wanamaker also built a transmitter atop his store so Philadelphians who owned radio receivers could hear live organ concerts at home. In addition to the organ, he purchased a bronze eagle from the St. Louis World's Fair's German Exhibit. Weighing more than a ton,  it has 5,000 bronze feathers and sits on a granite base. Since its installation in the Grand Court, all Philadelphians know what it means when you say, "Meet me under the eagle."


On Oct. 30, 2010, hundreds of shoppers searching for bargains noticed the organ began playing louder than usual during the daily noontime concert. Then they were startled when 688 singers posing as shoppers burst into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

If you have five spare minutes and would like to "meet me under the eagle" for this event, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU  See how true "Christmas" shopping feels.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"He's nothing but a bum."

Today's Crumb comes from a reader in Raleigh, NC. It first appeared on Christmas Day, 1969, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. See if you can can guess who wrote it.

"One Christmas Eve when I was very young, I was Christmas shopping with my father. He had me loaded down the packages and I was tired. I was thinking how good it would be go get home when a beggar, bleary-eyed and unshaven, came up to me and touched my hand and asked for money. His hand was so dirty that I recoiled and brushed him aside.


"My father said, 'It's Christmas Eve, Norman. You should not treat a man that way.' 'But Dad, he's nothing but a bum!' I said. 'There's no such thing as a bum. He's a child of God, my boy.' My father took out his wallet and handed me a dollar. 'Take this, go up to him, speak with respect and tell him you're giving him this dollar in the name of Christ.'  'Oh, I don't want to say that.' But my father insisted, 'Go and do as I tell you.' So I ran and caught up with the man and said, 'Excuse me, sir, I give you this dollar in the name of Christ.' He looked absolutely surprised. Then a wonderful smile spread over his face. His nobility came out. 'I thank you, sir, in the name of Christ,' he said. All my irritation faded away. The dingy street suddenly seemed beautiful. I glimpsed the transformation that comes over people when you think of them as children of God. It is this that really makes Christmas merry."

Norman grew up to be Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hawley, Carbondale and Moscow

A warm greeting to readers from Hawley PA, Carbondale PA and Moscow PA, who can now find Crumbs of Comfort in their local papers -- the News Eagle, the News and the Villager. In our salad days (August, 1964) a friend and I hiked from Hawley to Carbondale in ten hours, and then paid a cab driver $15 to take us home, so the area is dear to my heart. If you have any potential "crumbs" you like to offer for possible use in this blog, email me at horncs@gmail.com  And again, welcome!

The hug shared 'round the world

On November 25, 2014, several thousand people gathered in Portland, OR, to voice opinions about the Ferguson, MO incident. Among the protesters was young Devonte Hart, seen here with Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum.

According to his adoptive parents, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, Devonte has a heart of gold but struggles to live fearlessly around police and people who don't understand the complexity of racism. He trembled and cried until his sweater was wet with tears as he stood alone in front of the police barricade holding a sign that said "free hugs," unsure how police would react. Sgt. Barnum saw him crying and called him over to ask why. After a short chat, Barnum looked at Devonte's sign and said, "Do I get one of those?" That's when freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen caught this picture, which attracted worldwide attention. But who is Devonte Hart?

Devonte was born 12 years ago with drugs pumping through his body. By the time he was four, he had smoked, consumed alcohol, handled guns, been shot at, and suffered severe abuse and neglect. He knew only a few words, including the F-word and the S-word. He was a violent toddler with many disabilities, until Jen and Sarah adopted him and his two siblings seven years ago.

"I felt there was no way we could raise this child," Jen admits, "but something was pulling at my heart." Surrounded by unconditional love, patience and acceptance, Devonte defied all odds and grew into a generous, kind, charismatic young man. "He inspires me every day," says Jen. "He's proven the doctors, psychologists and teachers wrong. People often tell us how lucky he is that we adopted him, but we most certainly are the lucky ones. He's living proof that our past does not dictate our future."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yes, Virginia....

If the title of this post rings a bell, you already may know about the most famous editorial ever written in an English-language newspaper. But you may not recall the backstory.
Virginia O'Hanlon

In September, 1897, classmates teased 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon because she still believed in Santa Claus. They told her there was no Santa, so she asked her Dad. Instead of the usual answer, he urged her to write to a local newspaper called the Sun, because "if you see it in the Sun, it's so." When her note arrived in the newsroom, it simply asked, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" The editor passed it off to a sardonic veteran Sun editorial writer named Frank Church. A former Civil War correspondent who'd seen lots of misery and suffering in the war, Church reportedly "bristled and pooh-poohed" at first, but under deadline and in fewer than 500 words he composed an editorial which would later be translated 20 languages and even set to music. Since editorials are not signed, Church's authorship was not revealed until his death is 1906.

Raised on New York City's upper east side, Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas was the daughter of a doctor. She pursued a career in education, earning a PhD from Fordham University. Throughout her life, she often received inquiries about her letter, and invitations to read Church's editorial. She died in 1971 at age 81. In 2006, Virginia's great-granddaughter brought the original letter to Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised at $20,000. To read her letter and Frank Church's famous reply, visit http://www.newseum.org/exhibits/online/yes-virginia/

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What does it mean to be "family?"

What does it mean to spend Thanksgiving with "family?" Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood. Helena Weglowski and Mira Wexler know what "family" means.

When Mira and Helena were children, Mira's parents lived and worked on the Weglowski farm in Poland. The Wexlers were Jewish. The Weglowskis were Catholic. The girls were best friends. After Nazis occupied Poland, all Jews including the Wexlers were sent to a ghetto in Ludwipol, now part of Ukraine. Mira's Dad was killed, so Mira and her Mom escaped back to the Weglowski farm, where they remained hidden for two years. Helena and her family would have been killed if the Nazis knew they were harboring Jews. Sometimes Mira and her Mom hid outside in the forest near the farm, and Helena would bring them winter clothing and hot food. Sometimes they came inside the Weglowski farmhouse to rest and be warmed. When the war ended, they moved to Brazil, where Mira's Mom passed away some years later.

Helena (left) and Mira
The girls had not met for 70 years, until they were reunited this week by the New York-based Foundation for the Righteous, which honors Gentiles who risked their lives to care for Jews during the Holocaust. "I couldn't even dream this moment would happen," said Mira, who was flown to NYC from her home in Brazil. Soon after Helena came through customs from Poland, the women saw each other in a briefing room at JFK airport. Smiles swept across their faces, followed by tears of joy. "I'm extremely happy to see Mira again," Helena said. "The war destroyed everything, but now we can be together." They celebrated Thanksgiving this week together, as family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Three neighbor ladies

The Bible says God is love, so why don't we always get what we ask for when we pray? Does He really say "yes" to some prayers and "no" to others, which are equally worthy? I asked a friend about this a few years ago, and he told me the story of three neighbor ladies.

Early one morning, the first lady lay her dish towels on the grass to bleach in the sun. The second lady put her plants out on the patio since they needed sunlight to stay healthy. And the third lady was seen hanging laundry on the clothes line to dry.


Before long, the sun came up, and you'll never guess what happened. Without knowing each lady's expectation, it bleached the dish towels, grew the plants and dried the laundry. A coincidence? No.

My friend said the outcomes were not determined by the sun. They were determined by the need, and when I pray, I should have as much faith in God as those neighbor ladies had in the sunrise. They never doubted it would happen, and if I never doubt God's love, I can rest assured that even if I don't get what I ask for when I pray, I will always get what I need.

He also told me God's cell number. You might want to put it on speed-dial. It's Isaiah 65:24. There's no area code because, wherever you are, it's always a local call.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is Thanksgiving a noun or a verb?

Today we salute Bob Macauley and Andy Lam. Bob gave others reasons to be thankful, and Andy learned what thanksgiving means.

Bob had a gifted childhood, attending Philips Academy and Yale university, where he was roommates with George H.W. Bush. But from his youth he had an huge streak of generosity. For example, when the Vietnam War ended and Saigon was about to fall in 1975, the United States hoped to airlift 2,000 orphans to the United States. Sadly, the first plane in Operation Baby Lift, carrying more than 100 children, crashed on take-off. Many lives were lost. When he heard another military jet would not be available for eleven days, Bob took things into his own hands. He leased a Boeing 747 from Pan American Airways, mortgaging his home to cover the bill, and arranged to transport crash survivors and other children to America. "Someone will always give you reasons why it can't be done," he said in 1990. "Just mow 'em down. Make things happen."

Evacuating Saigon as Communists enter city.

Andy was not part of Operation Baby Lift. He was 11 in 1975 when he and his family fled Saigon  in a C-130 cargo plane filled with weeping refugees. He was the privileged son of General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His Dad decided to stay behind to fight on in the jungle. When Andy's family arrived in the U.S wearing rags, an impoverished aunt took them in -- ten people in her two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.

That fall his English teacher taught him to say the word Thanksgiving as they decorated classroom bulletin boards with paper pumpkins. "Ssshthanks give in" was as close as he could come. Besides, the holiday had nothing to do with him, since he had nothing to be thankful for. But suddenly he did! His Dad called to say he'd soon join them. He was no longer a war hero, but he brought joy with him. Then Andy remembered his white, black, Filipino and Mexican school friends. One taught him to play baseball. Another protected him from bullies. Another offered to take Andy on his family vacation. And the English teacher made Andy his pet. That Thanksgiving his family sat on the floor and ate two giant turkeys donated by charities. There was even talk of a trip next summer to a magical place called Disneyland!

Today, Andy's Dad is a retired bank executive. His brother is an engineer. His sister lives in a luxury San Francisco condo, and he's a successful author  and editor. But the Thanksgiving he'll never forget was his first one, when he sat on the floor wearing donated clothes, and was just learning to pronounce the word.

For Andy, Thanksgiving was a noun. For Bob it was a verb. Which is it to you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

A reason for thanksgiving

How thankful would you be if you left $4,000,000 in a taxi, and the driver returned it to you? Grammy nominee classical violinist Philippe Quint accidentally left a Stradivarius violin on the back seat of a cab he took from Newark Liberty International Airport to his home in Manhattan. A few hours later, Newark police called to say the instrument had been found and was at the airport taxi stand with the cab driver who took him home. The two connected and the violin was returned. "Anybody out here would have done the same thing," said the driver, Mohammed Khalil, a devout Muslim. Quint was so thankful he gave Khalil all the money in his wallet, but afterwards realized that was not nearly enough. "I had to share part of myself, my music," he said. "These drivers work so hard. I doubt they get a chance to go to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.


So Quint arranged to give a 30-minute mini-concert on a makeshift stage in the airport taxicab holding area. Under a weathered vinyl canopy he played five pieces including the theme from the movie "The Red Violin" and the Meditation from Massenet's opera "Thais." The cabbies clapped and whistled and danced in the aisles. Afterwards the virtuoso was mobbed by drivers seeking his autograph. "I was so pleased to see them dancing," he said. "That never happens."

Afterwards Quint posed for pictures with Khalil, whom he invited to a concert at Carnegie Hall. As it happened, Khalil had been planning for months to retire, and driving Quint to Manhattan was his final fare. To meet Quint and Khalil, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGivELEG0Ko

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Thinking of someone other than himself"

A logger named Leo Moody has lived quietly in Maine for 44 years. He was never in the limelight. Like most of us, he works hard all day and comes home each evening. Is he worried about terrorists fighting in Iraq? Maybe. Does he oppose Obama's immigration policy? Hard to say, since very few people even knew his name until last week. when, like Superman opening his shirt, Leo revealed a brave and noble heart.

Driving home from work, he saw a car overturned in a lake near Kossuth Township, about 175 miles northeast of Portland. Like most of us, he pulled over and called 911. The accident happened after Stephen McGouldrick lost control of his SUV on an icy stretch of Rt. 6 and rolled the vehicle down an embankment into 2-1/2 feet of water. Stephen and his passengers, who suffered minor injuries, all reached shore, but one told Leo that her baby was trapped in the back seat.


Without hesitation, Leo jumped into the cold water and swam to the vehicle. He crawled into the flooded car and used a knife to cut seat belts and release the car seat, freeing a three-month-old baby. He said his hands were so cold he couldn't feel them as he cut the straps, but "I kept telling myself, don't drop the knife." (He always carries a knife for peeling apples.)

Carrying the baby, who was not breathing, he swam back to shore and handed the child to Wade Shorey, another passerby, who used CPR to revive the infant.

Leo's wife Betsy said he arrived home soaking wet and shaken up after the rescue.  Like most Mainers, she apparently doesn't waste words. Asked about his life-saving heroism, she simply said, "Just another reason why I love him...thinking of someone other than himself."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Elephants never forget

You're invited to email inspiring stories to horncs@gmail.com. If they pass the truthorfiction test, they may become a future crumb of comfort. Today's crumb comes from a reader in Canada.

Lawrence Anthony was an international environmentalist and author. He is often remembered in South Africa for rescuing and rehabilitating a herd of violent, rogue elephants who had escaped their enclosure and were wreaking havoc across KwaZulu Natal. The elephants were about to be shot, when Anthony was able to communicate with the herd's matriarch by body language and the tone of his voice. He brought them to a safe reserve, and became known as "the elephant whisperer." Apparently they never forgot him.

Approaching the Anthony home in South Africa.

Among each other, elephants remember and mourn the loss of loved ones. When an elephant walks past a place where a loved one has died, it will stop and pause silently for several minutes. The elephants Anthony saved regarded him as their friend.

Two days after he passed away in 2012, two herds of wild elephants led by two matriarchs arrived at his rural compound in the vast Thula Thula Game Reserve.  A total of 31 elephants had walked single-file over 12 miles through the Zululand bush from their habitat to his home. They had not been near the house for three years, but knew where they were going. To pay respect to a friend who saved their lives, the elephants stayed and fasted for two days and nights before returning to their habitat.

How they knew he died remains a mystery.

Friday, November 21, 2014

When churches close, what remains?

Going to church is no longer cool. According to the Pew Research Center, two thirds of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation.

The US Census Bureau says about 1,000 new churches open each year, but more than 4,000 disband and close their doors forever. So what's left behind when a church disbands? Some edifices are sold to other denominations, or converted into condos or music venues. One former Protestant church is now the Dan Quayle Vice-Presidential Museum. Members who worshipped or taught Sunday School or played the piano in these disbanded churches are long forgotten, except in Boonville, Indiana.

Mark Hendrickson presents grants for 2014

When the Christian Science church in Boonville disbanded in 1995, its few remaining members voted to leave a legacy to the community they loved. After the edifice was sold and all debts paid, they used most of their surplus funds to establish an irrevocable trust at Boonville's People's Trust and Savings Bank. The trust is administered by bank president Mark Hendrickson, the only surviving member of the church. Grants from the trust are awarded each year to non-profit organizations within Warrick County which uphold the church's values through community service.

Last week, in the photo shown above, Hendrickson awarded a total of $53,000 to deserving non-profits, including $2,000 to a soup kitchen, $6,000 to the Tri-State Food Bank, and $5,000 to the Warrick County Council on Aging. 

It's not known how much money is in the trust, but only interest is used when awarding grants each year. In the past 19 years, local agencies have received $1.4 million, and the church not forgotten.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For children and grand-children

Does God ever talk to kids? And if He does, do they hear Him? I was told in Sunday School that God watches over everyone, and tells us what we need to do. But I never actually heard God's voice until one dark night at summer camp.

Boys at our camp lived in 8-man Army tents in the woods. Behind each tent, a wire clothesline was strung between two trees, where we'd hang our swimsuits to dry after swimming. The lines lasted for years, but they got rusty over time. Eventually they turned brown and were invisible at night.


One night I decided to leave my tent and visit a pal two tents away. Instead of walking in front of the tents, I took a shortcut by running through the woods behind them. The stars were out, so I could see the ground and was careful not to trip on anything. Then all the sudden, I heard one word like it was spoken to me. It was 'DUCK!" I knew exactly what to do, and pulled my head down real low. Just then I felt an unused rusty metal clothesline wire brush over my crew cut. If I hadn't ducked at that instant, it would have struck me across the face at eye-level.

I knew it had to be God's voice, for three reasons. (1) It was a totally new idea, farthest from my thought;  (2) I understood it immediately, and (3) it produced a blessing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The legacy of Gander

Today as "Crumbs of Comfort" achieves two benchmarks -- 100 posts and 2,500 page views -- let's remember the legacy of Gander. Many of us know where we were when we heard about the tragedy of 9-11, but some may have forgotten that U.S. airspace was closed for a few days after the attacks. This meant passengers flying home to the States were all diverted to Canada. It was a challenge for big city Canadian airports, but for the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, it provoked a miracle of kindness.

Gander was a town of 10,000 residents with two police officers. Its airport usually received eight domestic flights daily. On September 11, 2001, 39 airliners carrying 6,579 passengers rapidly landed, one-after-another. Most passengers didn't know why they were diverted until after they landed. All had to spend that first night trying to sleep on their plane as 9-11 news trickled in. Little did they know it would be four days until American airspace reopened, but outside the airport, the people of Gander were opening their hearts.
As one flight attendant recalls, "Gander and surrounding communities had closed all high schools and meeting halls, converting them into mass lodging areas. Some had cots or mats and sleeping bags with pillows all set up, and high school students were required to care for their 'guests.' A convoy of school busses showed up at the side of our plane and passengers were taken to the terminal for processing. Our 218 passengers stayed at a high school in Lewisport. Families were kept together, while the elderly were taken to private homes. Food was prepared by local residents and brought to the schools. Bakeries stayed open late, making fresh bread for 'the plane people.' Every need was met for these unfortunate travelers. When they came back onboard,  passengers cried while telling of the kindness they received. Everyone knew everyone else by name and exchanged phone numbers and email addresses."

But the passengers on this flight did not forget the people of Gander, as you'll see if you watch the 5-minute video linked here.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJskIhGbDq4

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prayer saves life of Muslim feminist

Meet Shukria Barakzai, 42, an outspoken feminist in Afghanistan. When she was 25, during the rule of the Taliban, she was caught walking outdoors without a male escort. The "religious police" flogged her in public with a rubber whip, as a warning to others. "There was no way I was going to accept that kind of thing," she said, so she set up an underground school for girls in her home. Hundreds received their education through her secret school.

Walking away from damaged car.

She also started Afghanistan's first magazine for women, and today, beside being a mother of five, she's one of 69 woman MPs elected to the Kabul government. She's received many threats on her life, but insists, "I am not afraid, I am a strong, proud, democratic Muslim woman fighting for the lives of my children."

This week she survived an assassination attempt. A suicide bomber in a car first tried to ram her vehicle as she drove to parliament. The attacker then detonated explosives, triggering a blast that was heard across the capitol and drew hundreds of people to the scene. Three bystanders were killed, and more than a dozen were wounded, including Barakzai's driver. Seen above walking away from her damaged car, she had only minor injuries, and believes she knows why.

She told the Reuters news agency, "I survived because of my people's prayers."

A two-minute video of Shukria explaining her values is linked here. www.youtube.com/watch?v=66_PtOkMH8A

Monday, November 17, 2014

One lump, or two?

As some of you know, Eddie Guest (1895-1959) was a syndicated columnist with the Detroit Free Press. He never claimed to be a poet, but for more than 30 years his daily columns were heartwarming verses. In 1906 he married Nellie Crossman of Detroit. They had two children, Edgar Jr. (called Bud) and Janet. Guest shared their births and many other personal moments with readers through his columns. His sincerity was apparent to all who attended his public readings, where he would weep unashamedly at the sentiments his verses aroused within him. Eventually he wrote 11,000 poems syndicated in 300 papers and republished in 20 books. The verse below was dedicated to his faithful wife Nellie. It made sense to many husbands who read it in the Free Press, and it describes my wife exactly. Yours too? Why not tell her, today.


Nellie made a cup of tea, made and poured it out for me,
And above the steaming brew smiled and asked me, "one or two?"
Saucily she tossed her head. "Make it sweet for me," I said.

Two sweet lumps of sugar fell into that small china well,
But I knew the while I drained every drop the cup contained,
More than sugar in the tea made the beverage sweet for me.

This to her I tried to say in that golden yesterday --
Life is like a cup of tea which time poureth endlessly.
Brewed by trial's constant heat, needing love to make it sweet.

Then I caught her looking up and I held my dainty cup
Out to her and bravely said, "Here is all that lies ahead,
Here is all my life to be. Will you make it sweet for me?

That was years ago, and now there is silver in her brow;
We have sorrowed, we have smiled, we've been hurt and reconciled.
But whatever had to be, she has made it sweet for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A glass of milk

Does it "pay" to do small kindnesses for strangers? You feel good about yourself, but is there ever any benefit down the road? Consider this true story.

Dr. Howard Kelley (1858-1943) earned his M.D. at U of Pennsylvania in 1882. When he was 31, he was hired as the first professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During his 30-year career at Hopkins he invented numerous medical devices still used today, and received countless honors.


A devout evangelical Christian, he was known to share his faith openly, and he loved taking long walks through the countryside to observe plants and animals. While hiking one day, he became thirsty and stopped at a farmhouse to ask for a glass of water. The young woman who answered the door felt he looked hungry, and brought him a fresh glass of milk instead. He visited with her briefly and then resumed his hike. Sometime later, this woman arrived at the hospital needing surgery. When Dr. Kelly saw her name, he agreed to be her surgeon. Afterwards, the bill was brought to her room. It would have taken all her savings to pay it, but across the bottom were the words, "Paid in full with one glass of milk."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Say 'Amen,' Somebody!

"Say Amen, Somebody" is an exuberant documentary spotlighting the special world of gospel music. At least 24 hand-clapping songs are featured within the film's joyous 100 minutes. Special emphasis is given to the careers of two of gospel's legendary performers, "Mother" Willie Mae Ford Smith, and "Professor" Thomas A. Dorsey. The camera visits a storefront church, a gospel music convention, classes where Dorsey explains the many songs he has written and where "Mother" Smith instructs would-be gospel soloists. The music alone makes the film worth seeing, but it also glows with warmth and friendliness and heart-touching family scenes. If you'd like to see the trailer, here's a link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyPWiBmJ3x4  After seeing the trailer, if you'd like to own a DVD of the movie for yourself or a dear friend, you can buy it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000KHX7HG/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=32560740031&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8008250945693764284&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_33uf413h89_b

After watching "Say Amen, Somebody," I was touched most by a gospel hymn called "Jesus Dropped the Charges" by the O'Neal twins. Think of it as a trial scene, set to music. The lyrics say, in part:

I was guilty of all the charges, doomed and disgraced,
But Jesus by his special love saved me by his grace.
I was guilty for so long; lived in sin too long,
But Jesus with his special love gave me a brand new song.

Jesus dropped the charges, although I was wrong.
Jesus dropped the charges and gave me a brand new song.
Jesus dropped the charges, cast them all away.
He dropped the charges, and at Calvary I heard him say,
"Case dismissed! Case dismissed!"
Saved by grace.

To hear the O'Neal twins sing this song in the movie, click this link.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAMi0yaPNRk

Friday, November 14, 2014

The lesson of Peanut Week

Have you ever felt ignored by someone who owed you a kindness? Were you resentful?  I was, and here's why.

The camp I attended as a boy had an event each summer called Peanut Week. We all received a peanut with someone else's name wrapped around it. We ate the peanut and some of us also ate the paper, to keep the name secret. It was the name of our peanut, the camper we'd do nice things  for all week, anonymously. We were his "shell." Next weekend, one at a time, we'd each reveal our identity to our peanut and give him a homemade friendship stick, usually a slightly decorated twig.

I'm third from right, in dark t-shirt.

I tried to do something nice for my peanut each day. Once I made his bed. Another time I snuck a copy of Hot Rod Magazine under his pillow. He had no clue how it got there. But nothing good happened to me! Not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I asked my counselor if I had a shell, and he said "yes, don't worry about it," but I was mad. I could hardly wait for Saturday so I could tell my shell "thanks for nothing!" in front of everybody.

At the end of the week, we all gathered around a big council fire to exchange sticks. One at a time, each camper learned who his shell was. Finally a counselor got up and walked over to me. He was my shell, and he gave me the most elaborate friendship stick anyone had ever seen at camp. It was delicately cut from a birch log, with my name carved into it, and the year, on a surface carved into diamond shapes. Everybody around me admired it, and I was no longer mad.

Peanut Week taught me a lesson that summer. We're all peanuts, and God is our shell. Even if we don't see evidence of God every single day, we can rest assured He hasn't forgotten us, and at the final assembly, He'll give us the best gift anyone ever received -- eternal life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"the most unpromising boy of the whole lot"

Following a wave of immigration, New York City in the 1800's had thousands of orphaned children called "street urchins." They begged for food to survive. A few lived at the Children's Aid Society Orphanage, but founder Charles Brace felt kids need families, not orphanages, so he organized the orphan trains. Between 1854 and 1929, about 120,000 abandoned children were given a set of new clothes and sent on trains to rural towns in the south and midwest for adoption by farm families. Upon arrival at each town, they were lined up a stage for inspection. If an adult wanted a child and the child agreed, the deal was done. Most farmers preferred boys who could be raised as farmhands. Girls were last to be chosen, since many farm wives felt threatened by them. Most adoptees picked well-groomed, polite children, but not Judge John Green. He picked John Brady. Perhaps he remembered the Bible verse where God reminds the prophet Samuel, "...I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

John Brady was an Irish Catholic boy who had lived on the streets of NY to avoid his father's drunken beatings. When he turned 11, he declared himself an orphan and boarded an orphan train bound for Indiana. After it arrived in Noblesville, he and fellow-orphans were fed at the Ferguson Hotel and put on display for possible adoption.
"It was the most motley crowd of youngsters I ever did see," said Judge Green, who lived in the nearby town of Tipton. "I decided to take John home with me because I felt he was the homeliest, toughest and most unpromising  boy in the whole lot. I wanted to see what could be done with such a specimen of humanity." What was done?

John grew into a fine young man, respected by everyone. After high school, he was appointed master of the Mud Creek Public School in Sharpesville.  Eventually he continued his education, graduating from Yale University in 1874. He moved to Alaska, where in 1878 he founded a college to train Eskimos. He then served three terms as Governor of Alaska, all because Judge Green picked him instead of a "more promising" orphan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The wind beneath his wings

When I worked for the Pilot-News in Plymouth, IN, in 1990, we had a scanner in the newsroom, crackling messages from police and fire dispatchers. One day the siren at the volunteer fire department wailed and the scanner said "Plane in trouble over the airport." Three of us grabbed notepads and cameras and hopped in a car for a quick drive to the airfield north of town. When we arrived, city police and county sheriff cars were already parked beside the terminal with lights flashing. EMTs arrived minutes later, along with three fire engines. What was the problem?

Culver Military Academy, 15 miles south of town, had an aeronautics department. High school "cadets" over 16 could earn their pilot's license by logging airtime in one of the academy's four single-engine Piper Warrior training planes, like the one shown below. Each plane had dual controls, and one of the planes was circling overhead, burning off fuel. Upon take off, the instructor and student-pilot both felt a problem with the wheel under one wing. They circled low over the Culver field requesting visual inspection. The wheel had fallen off, so the instructor took the controls and flew with his student to Plymouth, where the grass runway was longer.

With so many flashing lights around the field, drivers on the highway next to the airport began pulling over to watch. One later told me, "I knew something was very wrong, so I prayed that God would be the wind beneath the wings of anyone in trouble."

The terminal put communication between the tower and the pilot on the PA system for all to hear. Fire trucks lined up at one end of the field, along with ambulances, ready to roll forward behind the damaged plane as it landed. My job was to stand next to the runway where the plane might stop if it crashed, to get photos of the explosion.

Over the PA system we heard the instructor radio, "One more circle, and I'm coming down." What happened next amazed us all. As the plane approached the field, the instructor tipped it 20 degrees, so only the one surviving wheel touched the ground. Then he kept the plane balanced on that wheel all the way down the field, until the Piper slowed, and stopped and flopped, with no damage and no injuries.

Absent an explosion, I ran to the plane for a comment from the "cadet" student as he climbed out. Had he been afraid? "No sir!" he replied smartly. "I have complete confidence in my instructor, sir."

Many praised the pilot for his skill that day. Some felt he was lucky. But at least one lady watching from her car near the highway thanked God for being the wind beneath his wings.