Monday, October 31, 2016

An alternative to media-bashing?

At a church meeting I attended recently, one man radiated a "presence" that many noticed. Folks gathered around him, and during a break I found myself talking to him about prayer. I explained that my life is so busy I have almost no time to spend in God's presence. "Do you read a newspaper?" he asked. Of course I do, either in print or online.

He said he combines reading the paper with prayer each day! Instead of bashing the media, he starts on page one, praying about each event reported there. He's especially grateful for any good news he finds on the front page. The local news is his "listening page," where he listens for any idea God might give him -- maybe writing a letter about a council vote, or taking clothes to a needy family. On the society page he prays for each new marriage and each newborn baby, and on the obit page he prays for the families of those who died. He opens his thought to God's healing through laughter on the comic page, and prays to find divine wisdom on the editorial page. I asked if he felt his prayers made a difference in the world. "Oh yes," he said, "but it begins with me."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beer fund spent on puppy food

Mitchel Craddock took his family and friends to the forest of Tennessee for his bachelor party.  The morning after their arrival, they were cooking bacon for breakfast when a strange dog appeared outside the open door. She was shy, but once the group fed her and gained her trust, she was a sweetheart. They knew she recently had pups, and eventually found a big hole in the woods with six puppies in it. They held each pup in front of the mother dog. She nuzzled their faces, and behaved as if she trusted the people holding her babies.

                                                                                                                         Trevor Jennings
The pups needed a scrub, but otherwise they were very healthy. Craddock and his groomsmen didn't expect to spend their bachelor party caring for puppies. He explained that "we pooled a bunch of money to buy food and beer. After the third day, our beer fund turned into a puppy food fund." By the end of the party, all the puppies and their Mom were adopted by the groom and his groomsmen and their families. All the dogs will live within five miles of each other. Craddock said his bride was excited when he came home with a new puppy.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Pledge of Allegiance by Red Skelton

Comedian Red Skelton (1913-1997) grew up in Vincennes, Indiana. He plied his trade as a sentimental clown figure in vaudeville, radio and television, and appeared in 30 MGM films, but his best remembered performance may have been January 14, 1969, when he stopped joking on his weekly TV show, The Red Skelton Hour, to remind us what the Pledge of Allegiance really means.

In 1954, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and by 1969 the Vietnam War rendered the United States flag a symbol of divisiveness instead of unity. Also in 1969, the Supreme Court declared compulsory Bible reading and prayer in public schools unconstitutional. Red was concerned that the words "under God" might make the Pledge unconstitutional if recited by students in public schools.  Today his heartfelt words seem more prophetic than ever.
To watch him recite the Pledge on his TV show, visit

Friday, October 28, 2016

What if the walk to school was vertical?

The small Chinese village of Atule'er sits atop a mountain that's half-a-mile high. The upside of living in Atule'er is super-fertile soil and truly awesome scenery. But for the 400 residents, there's a steep downside. To get to school, children must climb down a sheer cliff, using a haphazard system of 17 wicker ladders. At least eight kids have fallen to their death so far. It would cost $8 million to build a road to Atule'er, so Beijing decided to give residents $150,000 of sheep instead, and let the chips (or kids) fall where they may.

                                                                                                                     Chinatopix via AP
Fortunately, the children remain a their boarding school for two weeks at a time before climbing home for a five-day weekend, so the wicker ladders are not a daily risk. And believe it or not, thanks to coverage by CNN and many other media, the students' trek went viral and forced officials to consider solutions.

                                                                                                                  Chinatopix via AP
In May of this year, plans were announced to replace dangerous wicker ladders with a steel staircase with railings, so kids can walk down the mountain face. Best of all, officials actually delivered on the promise!! Construction began in August and should be finished in November. It may not be as safe as a school bus, but it's a huge improvement.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Go, Cubs, Go!

Jim Schlegel, 97, is a Pearl Harbor veteran and a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. He was there when the Cubs played the World Series back in 1945. He still has ticket stubs from two of the games. The Cubs lost that series, but Jim has cheered them on for the past 71 years, hoping they'd get another shot.
Now the Cubs are in the series again, and thanks to his loving granddaughter Helen, he'll be cheering in the stands. Helen set up a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $10,000 to buy two tickets to a World Series game. Her campaign was noticed by Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC's "The Profit," who was looking for an ideal fan worthy of free tickets. He gave two front-row Game 3 tickets to Jim, who will take his son to Wrigley Field for the Friday night game. "My grandpa is beyond excited," said Helen. "It all just feels so unreal still." The money she raised will be donated to an organization supporting veterans.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From servant to millionaire

Martha Matilda Harper was born in Ontario in 1857. She was the fourth of 10 children and her parents were dirt poor. Each of their children was farmed out to work for others. When Martha was only seven, her dad got her a job as a servant to family members. Any wages she earned were sent to him. She cooked, cleaned, laundered and scrubbed, while her uncle and aunts gave her no love. She waited and learned, and at 12 she became a housekeeper for a widowed physician. He and his family helped Martha grow and thrive. He also taught her about scalp hygiene at a time when water was scarce and few people washed their hair. He even let her use his special formula hair tonic.

Using his tonic, her hair grew long and strong, and she became convinced that cleanliness was a key to true beauty. In 1882, at 25, she moved to Rochester, NY, working as a housekeeper to save money for her own business. When illness threatened to ruin her plans, she sought prayerful help from a Christian Scientist and soon recovered. Impressed by Christian Science ideals, she became a member of the church.

She invented the first reclining shampoo chair and opened a shop offering hair care. Upper-crust women lined up to have their hair treated by the Harper Method. With Rochester as headquarters, she developed the first salon franchise system in the United States. She insisted that servant girls or poor working woman own the first hundred Harper salons. She founded training schools to teach the Harper Method, using no chemicals on clients' skin or hair, but only organic products developed and sold by her own factories. Eventually she had about 500 salons around the world, which offered evening hours to meet the needs of busy mothers. After she retired in 1932, her (much younger) husband ran the business until his passing in 1965. Since then, Harper Method salons, sold and resold, have disappeared from the American business landscape. Martha died in 1950 at age 92. From a scrub girl to a wealthy business leader, she is credited with developing the modern franchise system.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Couple offers shelter and hope to 2,000 young men

Back in 1980, Ann and Terry Panks turned their home in Manchester, England, into a refuge for young homeless men. The couple's home, called Copperdale, is a former police station which they enlarged to offer ten bedrooms to residents. An empty church is home to a gym, music studio, IT suite and meeting hall, and has become a focal point of the community. Most of their guests come through the probation service or care homes.

                                                                                                                        Sunday Mirror
By 2012, the couple had offered shelter and hope to 1,000 young men. Since then, that number has doubled. Ann and Terry are now in their 80s and show no sign of slowing down. They still enjoy helping residents apply for college or for jobs, but Terry says "more importantly, we spend a lot of time just talking with the lads about their lives." Recently they were surprised by a party where more than 60 former residents who are now successful adults thanked them for their generosity. "One of the best things was hearing from one of our former residents, Brian, who got in touch after seeing us on telly," said Ann. "He was an imp with us, but rang to say he's started his own IT business and would help with our computers anytime."

Monday, October 24, 2016

"She was afraid she was going to get arrested."

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Sheriff's office is not far from a homeless shelter, so officers often see homeless people wandering around. But usually they are wearing shoes. On October 5, Deputy Brandon Hendrix noticed a homeless woman outside the station who was barefoot, so he approached her. "What was so funny about it was that, when he approached her, she was really afraid she was going to get arrested," said Casey Roebuck, director of public information for the Sheriff's office. But Hendrix never intended the arrest the woman.

                                                                               Tulsa County Sheriff's Office
Instead, he grabbed a fellow officer (protocol whenever a male officer has a female in his car) and drove her to Walmart. There he let her pick out a pair of shoes that matched her dress, and at check-out he paid for them. The fellow officer was so touched by this kindness that he snapped the photo above, which was posted on Facebook and went viral. Dep. Hendrix was reluctant to have his name mentioned in the Facebook post. "He didn't do this for recognition or publicity," said Roebuck. "He really just wanted to help."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

He's the man who never complains

When the Ruby Tuesday's restaurant where Kevan Finley worked as a cook shut down, he could not find another job locally, so he began cooking at another Ruby Tuesday's. It was nine miles away in Mentor, Ohio. Kevan, who is 30 years old, had no car, so he walked 18 miles to work and back, six days a week. His hike took 10 hours each day, but his co-workers never knew about it until three months after he was hired. Why not? Because he never complains.

When they did find out, his co-workers decided to surprise him with a gift they knew he deserved. They started driving him home, while they secretly launched a Go Fund Me campaign to buy him a vehicle. In only 17 days the restaurant raised over $8,000 for the man who never complains. As soon as Kevan passes his road test and gets his driver's license, he plans to buy a truck, have it insured, and set aside some of the money for future repairs.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Can everyone find love again?

Millie Taylor-Morrison had been happily married for 41 years before her husband died in 1992. One of the guests at her long-ago wedding was Harold Morrison. Over the decades, she and Harold lost touch, but reconnected at New Beginning Faith Fellowship Ministries in Orange, NJ. When Harold got sick, Millie picked him up and took him to church every Sunday. When he became too ill to stay alone, she invited him to move in with her. His health returned, and after a year they decided to get married. Why? Because as a Christian she felt strongly about having a man in the house without being married, and she wanted to be a good role model for her granddaughters. She is 86. He is 85.

                                                                                                  Courtesy of family
A former model, Millie made her elegant outfit for the October 16 wedding. According to Millie's granddaughter, "The look on everyone's face when they saw her, but especially the look on Harold's face when he saw her walking down the aisle -- it was the absolute sweetest thing you could ever see. He teared up. It was beautiful. My Nana just beamed with happiness. This is a true testament that age is just a number and everyone can find love again."  (Note: Since it began "Crumbs of Comfort" has received more than 30,000 page views, and has 800 inspiring posts in its archive. Thank you, readers.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Divorced mom thanks her ex-husband

Sara Woodard-Ortiz survived a painful divorce two years ago. She lives in Illinois with her daughter, and recently wrote an open letter to her ex-husband which may surprise you. It says in part, "Dear ex-husband, I used to call you names behind your back after our divorce. It ruined not only our marriage, but my self-confidence and my hopes and dreams for the future. Over the past two years, the pain as been replaced with gratitude. Here are four things I thank you for.

(1) I am eternally grateful you provided the other half of our daughter's DNA. Olivia is my whole life. I know she is your whole life too. (2) Thank you for cutting up my food into bite-sized pieces while I breastfed our daughter. That's one of my favorite memories of our marriage. (3) Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of love and marriage. My favorite quote is, 'Marriage isn't 50/50. Marriage has to be 100/100. It's not about dividing everything, but giving everything you've got.' (4) Thank you for giving me a second chance at happiness. I've learned I'm capable of enduring far more than I thought was possible. I've learned how to love myself and how great it feels to be single. I used to call you names after our divorce. That was before I realized how much there is to thank you for."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Son asks mom to pack him two school lunches

For the past few months, 14-year-old Dylan Duran of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has taken two lunches to school each day. He asked his mom to pack two because he noticed another boy who only ate a fruit cup each noon. Dylan suspected the boy could not afford more food, and wanted to help.

                                                                                                            Josette Duran / Facebook
Then one day the school principal called called his mom, Josette Duran, in for a meeting. The other boy's mom found out Josette had been feeding her son. She just got a job, and want to repay Josette, but Josette refused the money. She said the players on the volleyball team she coaches raised $400 to fund her good deed. She took their gift and used it to pay off past-due lunch accounts for ALL the kids at her son's school. "Now nobody owes that school any money, and everyone can eat," she said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What becomes of retired racing dogs?

Greyhounds are the most popular racing dogs. They can run 40 miles per hour, and they also have sweet temperaments. When they are retired, they need happy homes and lots of hugs, but before they can be pets they need to be retrained and taught to relax. Enter the Prisoner Pet Program.

                                                                                                            Greyhound Racing, Victoria
In Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, retired greyhounds may be paired with prisoners at two minimum-security prisons -- Dhurringile and Tarrengower. For the inmates, who have committed low-level crimes, it's a privilege to train and nurture a pet. For the greyhounds, it's a way to begin adjusting to normal life, outside the race course or the kennel. Prisoner Pet Program is a win-win.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Volleyball/choir kid scores big!

Marina Garcia plays on the Holmes High School volleyball team in San Antonio, Texas. At a recent game, she remembers, "We were about to stand for the national anthem as we noticed that the CD wasn't working." According to her coach, "Well, the anthem wouldn't play, so we sent our volleyball/choir kid out there on a whim. Wow!"

"I didn't feel nervous," Marina said. "I felt excited because I get to sing. I honestly couldn't ask for more." Standing on the sidelines near the bleachers, she grabbed a mike and began. The crowd fell silent in stunned amazement at her heartfelt rendition. She recalled, "They all had smiles on their faces. Some of them teared up. Some of them told me they had the chills. It was so exciting! To see and hear Marina's impromptu performance, visit

Monday, October 17, 2016

If the shoe fits, give it!

When Hector was a sophomore at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas, he was running with the wrong crowd. "I didn't have the best home life, and I gave attitude to the teachers," he said. But one teacher and coach, Thomas Walser, treated Hector like a son. "Words can't describe the impact that coach has had on my life," Hector admits. "Coach really invested so much time into me to turn my life around." Now a senior. Hector expects to be the first person in his family to attend college. But before leaving high school, he had to thank coach in a meaningful way. And he did.

Hector explains, "Two years ago he mentioned his favorite shoes he never got. I don't think coach remembered the conversation, but being a sneakerhead, I remembered it." Recently, Hector walked into Walser's room and put a black box on his desk. When the teacher opened it, he found a pair of Air Jordans -- the shoes he'd wanted since sixth grade and never got. Walser was so thrilled he put the shoes on and hugged Hector three times. He explained, "The fact that he gave me the shoes is not what is really meaningful about it. It's the fact that this kid cared enough about me that he held on to that story for two years and wanted to show his appreciation for me."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Letters from heaven

Abby Van Metre recently turned 18. She lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and hoped to receive an iPhone for her birthday, but instead she got an antique wooden box that had been locked for 17 years. When she celebrated her first birthday, family members and friends all wrote her letters which she could read when she was 18. They were put in the box. It was sealed, and Abbey never knew about it. The contents of the time capsule touched her heart. Here's why.

                                                                                               Abby Van Metre / Facebook
"I started crying. It was sheer happiness that I got one more conversation with loved ones, one more 'I love you,' one more piece of advice," she said. One letter from an uncle who died three years ago in an auto accident, hit her hard because "it was like talking to him again." But some of the notes evoked laughter. One of her cousins, who is now a big, burly Marine, was seven when he wrote his letter to the one-year-old baby. He enclosed his favorite Pokemon card, and wrote, "When you open this, can I please have that back?" Abby's mom filmed opening the box and posted it on Facebook, hoping their 300 friends would see it. A few days later, it had been viewed by millions from around the world. Was Abbey disappointed not to get an iPhone? "I wouldn't trade this gift my parents gave me for anything," she said.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Jewish boy lives his spiritual values

Aryeh Berkovits, 10, lives in Sydney, Australia. He saw homeless people sleeping on the streets, and wanted to help. Why? "One of the Jewish values is caring and kindness, so I thought I'd take that into mind and make a portable homeless house to help other people," he said. He started with a basic model, a box built around a bed, and adapted it to a homeless person, giving sunlight through the roof, solar energy, water catchment, and comfort.

                                                                                                             Facebook / Sophie Cotsis
His teacher at Kesser Torah College, Colin May, helped him workshop the project, which is made of recyclable materials and sits on wheels. The small unit took Aryeh seven days to build, and cost him $200. With help from the Sydney Alliance and Jewish House, Aryeh took his shelter to the New South Wales parliament. "I went to the back of the parliament house to share the house and ideas with some politicians," he said. "I think they were proud."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When police and firemen are busy, who ya' gonna call?

Claire Olsen is 87 and lives alone in Palm Beach, FL. As hurricane Matthew hit the beach, she phoned her grandson Eric in Nebraska to say she just lost power and "this is a nightmare." For the next two days, Eric tried to call her, but nobody answered. He called Palm Beach police and fire department to ask for a wellness check, but their lines were tied up because of the storm. He didn't know anyone else in Palm Beach, so as a last resort he called Papa John's.

He wrote special instructions when he ordered the pepperoni pizza for his grandmother. The delivery man was to call Eric when the pie was delivered and put his cell phone to Claire Olsen's ear so he could talk to her and be sure she was okay. Pizza deliveryman Lance Tyler said that when Claire Olsen spoke with her grandson, her expression was "just priceless." She described the pizza as "fantastic." Later Eric joked, "Police and fire couldn't do it, but Papa John's got there in 30 minutes and put a cellphone to her ear."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Everybody is somebody to someone

Rewind to Christmastime in downtown San Francisco.  Kevin Adler wanted to make the season special, so he walked down Market Street asking homeless people if they'd like to make a holiday video message for a loved one. One man who consented was Jeffrey. Adler remembers, "He was a little bit out of it, but once I asked him about his family, he got incredibly lucid," saying he had not seen his family in a long time. That night Adler found a Facebook group associated with Jeffrey's hometown in Pennsylvania. He sent Jeffrey's video to them. They shared it, and within 20 minutes Jeffrey's sister was tagged. Adler called her and learned Jeffrey had been a missing person for 12 years. Within three weeks, his hometown raised $5,000 to bring him home and rehabilitate him.

Since then, Adler has founded Miracle Messages. Out of 45 video messages recorded and sent by Miracle Messages volunteers (like those shown above), there have been nearly 20 reunions. Eight of these reunions resulted in stable housing. Believe it or not, over 5,000 people have already reached out wanting to start chapters of Miracle Messages in their own towns. If you'd like more information, visit

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Another crumb from a our reader in Redlands, CA.

On October 3, deputies were dispatched to Laurel Street in Hesperia, California, where a young girl was found wandering alone, wearing only a diaper. Three deputies went door-to-door looking for the parents when one was flagged down by the child's distraught mother. She said her daughter had autism and a history of running off. They put child safety locks on the doors, but when the mother fell asleep after breastfeeding the family's newest addition, the 7-year-old discovered how to unlock the door and ran away.

"I could see the hurdles the mother had to go through," said deputy Scott Lafond, who felt a dead bolt requiring a key would prevent the child from opening the door in the future. He went to the local K-Mart where the manager on duty offered to donate the lock. LaFond returned to the home and personally installed the lock on the metal screen door. The mother was so touched by the deputy's kindness that (unknown to him) she snapped the photo above and shared it with a newspaper reporter. Why did LaFond go the extra mile in this case? "She's doing everything she can do with what she has," he said. "Unless you are living in that situation or have first-hand experience, most people have no idea what these parents go through."

Monday, October 10, 2016

Passers-by take action to save baby

It happened recently outside a 7-Eleven in Clackamas County, Oregon. Ty Thompson, 20, and his friend Koltan Transue, 18, saw a woman who appeared to be drunk drive her car over a curb and into some bushes as she tried to exit the parking lot. When they spotted a baby (wearing only a diaper) sitting on the front seat beside her, the young men took action.

                                                                                                                       Photo by KATU
"I seen the lady had a beer in her hand," said Thompson. "I wasn't going to let her drive off with a kid in the car." Transue blocked the woman's car in the parking lot with his truck and called 911, while Thompson opened the driver's door and took the keys from the car. Thompson then removed the baby and both men tried to keep her warm and calm. The driver, Laura Rose Ann Wood, 29, kept asking them not to interfere because she had just regained custody of her child. She appeared extremely intoxicated. Police arrested her for DUI and recklessly endangering another person. The one-year-old baby is being cared for by the Oregon Department of Human Services. The two men said they hope Wood gets the help she needs. "I feel like we did a big thing," said Thompson. "I feel like we saved some lives."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

France outlaws food waste

France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from discarding or destroying unsold food. Instead, they now must donate it all to charities and food banks. The law was passed unanimously by the French senate after a grassroots campaign by French shoppers and anti-poverty activists.

The law requires food banks and charities to collect and stock donated food in properly hygienic conditions and distribute it "with dignity." This means food must be given out at a proper food bank or center where human contact and conversation is fostered, rather than, for example, simply organized as a hand-out on the street. The law has been welcomed by food banks, and campaigners now hope to persuade all EU member nations to adopt similar legislation.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Learning to read? Think outside the cage.

Problem #1: Many children are shy about reading out loud. They know they'll be stopped and corrected if they mispronounce a word. But what if they had a listener who never corrected them, and loved hearing their voice? Problem #2: When dogs are brought to a shelter, the animals usually crouch fearfully in the back of their kennels. But dogs most likely to be adopted are always relaxed in the front of their kennels, trustful of humans. Last December, the Humane Society of Missouri found a way to solve both these problems.

Boys and girls who want to "help" at the Humane Society can join the Shelter Buddies Reading Program. All they need to bring is a book, or two. The program coaxes dogs into trusting humans by having children sit in front of the kennel of a dog they want to read to. As the dogs slowly adjust to the presence of humans, they move forward until they are sitting in front of the child. But the dogs never interrupt the readers or correct them. Children are also encouraged to give a treat to dogs who make it to the front of the kennel by the time they finish their book. The program has been a huge success. The Humane Society's assistant director, JoEllyn Klepacki, says results have been "just amazing."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A video about "working mom guilt"

Jessica O'Dowd returned to work after several months of maternity leave. She felt she wasn't doing as good a job at work as before her pregnancy, and she wasn't being as good a mom after returning to her job. She expected all this to be confirmed at her annual performance interview, where she admitted frankly that she felt "spread thin."

We're not sure if Jessica knew it, but her interview was filmed by Chicco, a global maker of baby products. What happened after she "confessed" her faults will warm your heart. Have a tissue handy and turn up your sound before watching You might want to share this post with any moms you know who have returned to work full-time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Saving India, one drop at at time

Aabid Surti of Mumbai (Bombay), India, recalls that his childhood was spent "on the pavement. There was a fight for every drop of water. Every bucket we had to fight for. And that legacy stayed with me." Since then, he's written 80 books and seven plays, hosted 16 exhibits of his paintings and won a National Award for his short story collection. Now he's 80, but has no plans to retire. Why not? "Once, when I went to a friend's place, I saw a tap leaking, and it hurt me," he says.

So in 2007 he started a one-man NGO called "Drop Dead." Here's how it works. "We target a big building, especially in the ghettos of Mumbai, every Monday. If the building secretary agrees, we put up posters that say Drop Dead. People see them all week. On Saturday we distribute our pamphlets explaining our work and why we will visit their homes on Sunday. Finally, on Sunday, we go and fix the leaking faucets."  In the first year, he visited 1,666 houses on Mira Road and repaired 414 leaking taps free of charge. Is your faucet dripping?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Policeman combines prayer with action

As reported in The Christian Science Monitor, Mark Ross learned last Sunday that his 15-year-old sister had died in a fatal car crash. Ross needed to get from Indiana back to his home in Detroit to grieve with his family, so he asked a friend to drive him. The friend agreed, even though his license was suspended. They were zipping across Ohio when highway patrolman Sgt. David Robison pulled them over for speeding. The driver was arrested for driving without a license. This left Ross with no way to get home to his family.

                                                                                            Mark E. Ross / Facebook
"I explained to the officer that my sister had died and that I needed to get back to my mother asap," Ross later wrote on Facebook. "I broke down crying and he saw the sincerity of my cry. He reaches over and began praying over me and my family." But Sgt. Robison didn't just talk the talk. He also walked the walk. He drove Ross 100 miles to a restaurant in Detroit where his family met him. Ross said, "Everybody knows how much I dislike cops, but I am truly grateful for this guy. He gave me hope. It was so overwhelming it kind of took me away from my own reality." Ross's family was so touched by Sgt. Robison's kindness that they invited him to attend the girl's funeral.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The hymn with only seven notes

Pastor Martin Rinkart ministered in the walled city of Eilenburg-Saxony during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. As Eilenberg became a overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area, its residents suffered epidemic and famine. For example, during 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, Rinkart conducted 4,480 funerals -- between 40 and 50 each day -- including a service for his wife, who died of starvation. Surrounded by suffering and death, he wrote a prayer of gratitude for his children. Today it's a popular hymn called "Now Thank We All Our God."

The hymn has only seven notes, making it very easy to sing. Knowing its history, you may enjoy hearing it sung by the congregation of beautiful Beverly Minster (shown above), a parish church in the market village of Beverly, in Yorkshire, England. To see the church and hear the hymn (following some brief comments), visit

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Guidance counseling at its best

September 28 started off like a normal day at Sycamore Middle School in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Guidance counselor Molly Hudgens (shown below) was ready to greet students at her office when a 14-year-old boy walked in. He explained that he wanted to kill some teachers and a police officer, but not students. She asked if he had a gun, and he showed her the .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun with two loaded magazines which he had in his waistband. He said he came to her because she was the only person who could talk him out of it.

                                                                                                  Ashland City Times / File photo
"I'm not surprised. She's the type of person that would be easy for her to get through to somebody. She has a very loving, caring, motherly personality," said Hudgens' friend Jessica Williams. Hudgens has taught at Sycamore Middle School since 1999. She started as a language arts teacher and joined the counseling department in 2006. She has a Master's degree in school counseling. She and the student talked for about 45 minutes before he agreed to give her the gun. The student was then arrested by a school resource officer. No shots were fired and there was no struggle. The next day, Hudgens said modestly, "Yesterday my previous training and experience granted me the opportunity to help a student in need, while protecting our school family as well." No classes were interrupted.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The man who saved the world

Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant in the Soviet army on September 26, 1983. The cold war was at its peak, and Petrov was on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow. His job was to watch the satellite early warning network and let higher-ups know if any missiles were approaching the Soviet Union. At 40 minutes after midnight, computers indicated one American missile was approaching. Petrov assumed it was a false alarm. The Americans would never attack with just one missile. A short time later, computers spotted a second missile and then a third. If he failed to report these missiles, they would destroy Moscow in 22 minutes. If he did report them, Russia would launch its own missiles toward the United States under the "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD) policy followed by both nations. Petrov decided to regard all the computer readings as false alarms.

Under extreme pressure, he made the right decision, but it defied military protocol. Petrov was not punished, but neither was he rewarded, since his actions revealed imperfections in the Soviet military system and cast his superiors in a bad light. He was no longer considered a "reliable" officer and was reassigned to a less sensitive post until he retired. Today he is a pensioner, living in relative poverty. He does not regard himself as a hero. He says, "I was just doing my job." But other disagree. In 2004 the Association of World Citizens gave him its World Citizen award and $1,000, and in 2006 he was honored at the United Nations.