One day, at the age of twenty-eight, I was working as a salesman, driving my car through an industrial park outside of Chicago, Illinois.
Suddenly, a large semi-truck, trying to back into a receiving dock, pulled out in front of me, causing me to quickly apply my brakes to avoid hitting it.
Instead of apologizing, the driver of the truck glared down, looking at me from inside his cab and shouting profanity, calling me a name while giving me his middle finger! He looked straight into my eyes as if daring me to do something about what he had just done to me.
His belligerent invitation was clear, “You want some of this”?
Instantly, I became furious at his insult! For years after participating in college football and track, I religiously weight trained for two hours a day until I could bench press 335 lbs. and do 119 push-ups in a minute. There was no way I was going to take this type of treatment sitting down! I pulled my car over, got out, slammed the door shut, and asked him if “He had a problem he wanted me to fix.”
Upon seeing this, the driver responded by violently jerking his emergency brake on and jumping down from the top of his rig, yelling and threatening to physically harm me.
I quickly ascertained that this guy was obviously no slouch. He wore a crew cut, like a young Mike Ditka, and his shirtsleeves were rolled up past his deltoid muscles, exposing the tattoos he had all up and down the sides of his arms. He was only about 5’8″ tall, but he was also 5’8″ wide, and his physique resembled a coke machine. His cowboy belt buckle was bigger than my head, and his aggressive, herky-jerky movements reminded me of the Tasmanian devil character from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
His hardened appearance looked as if he had definitely spent some time in prison.
Anticipating a fight, I tore off my suit coat and threw it to the ground. I planted my feet squarely beneath me, turned the left side of my upper body toward the driver, and put up my two dukes.
He shouted at me again as he came toward me, asking “What’s your problem?”
With my right fist cocked under my chin, I pointed at the driver with my left hand as I listed for him in categorical order the number of offenses I felt he had committed against me. When I finished making my points, he did something I will never forget.
He put his hands on his hips, dropped his chin to his chest, and stared down at the ground, as if he were thinking about something. After a long pause, he shook his head no, looked up and extended his right hand to me as if to shake mine.
“You’re right” he said, “I did those things to you, will you forgive me?”
“What”? I asked in disbelief.
He repeated himself and said, “You’re right man, I did all those things you said, will you forgive me?”
I was stunned as I stood there with my fists up, looking at his outstretched hand. “Are you serious?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yea, man,” he said, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” And he continued his offer to shake hands.
“Don’t take it,” I thought, “It’s a trick. The moment I agree to take his hand and shake it, he’ll sucker punch me.”
After a long awkward moment, I very slowly and carefully reached out with my left hand and shook the tips of his fingers, while my right fist remained cocked under my chin. As I shook the fingertips of his right hand, he said, “I’m sorry for what I did.”
I was shocked and began to feel embarrassed and convicted by my own behavior. “I’m sorry, too,” I mumbled, “Sometimes I just get too mad.”
He wished me a good day, climbed back up into his rig and drove off, leaving me standing they’re alone in the street, trying to understand what had just happened. We could have really hurt each other that day, but the driver of the truck wouldn’t allow it to happen.
I gathered up my suit coat from the ground and walked slowly back to my car. I was so humbled by the experience; I told the Lord I would never, ever lose my temper again while driving in my car. In the past twenty-seven years since that incident with the truck driver occurred, I’ve kept my promise.
Now, when people are rude to me in their cars I just smile and wave, get out of their way, and pray for their happiness.
Looking back, I can’t help but believe that the truck driver was probably like me, an infant Christian, too. Most truck drivers, as rough as he looked, don’t stop themselves in the middle of a heated confrontation and use words like “forgive” unless they are a Christian themselves, and in his case, a better one than I was that day.
The Bible says, in Proverbs 25:22, that “when you’re kind to your enemy, it’s like pouring hot coals on their head.”
I always used to think that verse meant you were punishing or hurting your enemy in some way, until it was explained to me that when your kind to your enemy, the hot coals you’re pouring on their head aren’t meant to hurt them but to melt your enemy’s heart.
That truck driver changed my life for forever that day when he asked me for forgiveness. As a result, he melted my heart out there in the middle of the street and made me a better man for it.
How many people’s lives have we impacted and improved recently by practicing “meekness”? Many times we as Christians are given the opportunity to melt the heart of an unbeliever by extending kindness to them when they don’t deserve it. If we’re going to win souls for Christ, we have to be ready to demonstrate “meekness” and restrain ourselves from hurting people back when they offend and mistreat us.
When Abraham Lincoln was finally elected President of the United States after being repeatedly attacked and personally ridiculed being called an ugly monster and a monkey by those running against him, his constituents urged Lincoln to finally use his new Presidential power to payback and “destroy his enemies”. Lincoln, a Christian refused and responded by saying “He destroyed his enemies when he made them his friends.”
He poured hot coals on their heads and melted their hearts!
If our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, as he was being beaten and crucified for our sins, we need to follow his example by loving, forgiving and praying for those who persecute us.
We need to melt our enemy’s hearts.
By - Jim Wehrheim
Every eye in the doctor’s waiting room turned toward the weary-looking mother pushing a wheelchair into the room. A severely disabled boy lolled back in the chair.
Another boy sitting near the door smiled tentatively at the boy in the wheelchair, whose face was transformed as he smiled back. The boy sitting near the door stood and approached the wheelchair.
“Hi!” he said. “My name is Tim. What’s yours?”
The mother replied softly, “His name is Jerry. He can’t talk.”
Tim said, “That’s all right. I’ll just talk to him, if it’s okay.”
“I like your shoes, Jerry,” Tim continued. He lifted his foot so Jerry could see. “They’re almost like mine.”
Jerry smiled, and the two boys “talked” until Jerry was called back to see the doctor. Everyone in the waiting room was silent, awed by the love and acceptance Tim had exhibited in reaching out to Jerry.
God constantly admonishes us to love, and we live in a world that is as hungry for love as it is for bread. Our love for God is reflected in the love we show for others. The measure of our love for God is showcased through the love we show others.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God” 1 John 4:7a NASB
Written by - Jean P. Sours in The Upper Room Daily Devotional
My husband had to take a business trip this week. It is only the second time we have been apart in our three years of marriage.
I always hate when he leaves. I arrive at the airport at least a half hour in advance in the event his plane should arrive early. We live in Canada, and he flies through the Toronto airport.
For anyone who has ever traveled through Toronto, you know how busy it can get. I was surprised though how busy it was for a Tuesday evening. There were hundreds of people waiting in an area made for half that many people. Everyone was trying to squeeze as close as they could to the ramp where the departing passengers emerge.
I stood back a bit since I still had time to wait for my husband. For the next forty-five minutes, I watched the crowd.
There were people holding balloons, teddy bears, and flowers waiting for their loved ones. There were people videoing reunions and people taking pictures of friends and loved ones as they embraced for the first time. There were French kisses (a kiss on each cheek) and French kisses (the passionate kisses of lovers, who have been apart too long).
There were hugs, smiles, tears and more hugs. As one man came down the ramp, a group of about 20 people started cheering. There was a young woman who dropped her luggage halfway down the ramp and ran into the arms of the young man, who was so excited to see her.
Minnie, Mickey, Eeyore and Pooh arrived in the arms of a group of children, who went running into the waiting arms of parents and grandparents.
I saw so much love in that waiting area that, as I was standing there, waiting for my husband, I could not help but wonder what the world would be like if everyday life were like the waiting area of that airport.
Imagine how loved we would all feel if at the end of every day, we were welcomed home with hugs, kisses and smiles, and knew how much we were valued and missed.
A few minutes later, I saw the love of my life, coming down the ramp. I knew the smile on my face matched all the others in the crowd, and it wasn’t long before I was in his arms. As we headed out of the airport hand in hand, I looked over my shoulder and smiled as the next group of passengers came walking down the ramp.
By - Donna G.
There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.
“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there son?”
“Just some old birds,” came the reply.
“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.
“Take ’em home and have fun with ’em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”
“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”
“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take ’em to them.”
The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”
“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing – they ain’t even pretty!”
“How much?” the pastor asked again. The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?” The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.
Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:
One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.
“Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”
“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.
Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”
“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked.
“Oh, I’ll kill ’em,” Satan glared proudly.
“How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked.
“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don’t want those people!!”
“How much?” He asked again.
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.”
Jesus said, “DONE!” Then He paid the price.
The pastor picked up the cage, opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.
I was 17 when I met him, and I only knew him for two days. Yet, the memory of him warms my heart even now. He was a middle-aged priest from Ireland, visiting the same Chicago seminary that I was. He had a thick, red hair and a thousand freckles. His cheerfulness, laughter, and smile were contagious to everyone around him. His deep, Irish accent seemed to sing when he spoke, and every room he entered seemed a little brighter.
Over the years, I have forgotten the jokes he told and the stories he shared, but one thing he said still lives on in my mind. One evening, one of the other teenagers, visiting the seminary, joked that our smiling “Saint Patrick” certainly didn’t fit the mold of the solemn and serious priest.
To this, our new friend just laughed harder and said, “Well, my boy, if God didn’t want us to be happy, then why does smiling feel so darned good and frowning feel so darned bad?”
I took that moment with me and stored it in a special place in my soul. Even though I took a different path and didn’t become a priest myself, the lesson I learned from that merry Irishman has stayed with me. I knew, from that time on, that God not only loves us, but also wants us to be happy in our lives here. We may face challenges, tragedies, suffering, loss, and eventually, our own deaths. But with God’s love, we can still choose to give joy, live in joy, and make this world a more loving and joyous place for everyone.
I never saw that angel from Ireland again. I am sure, though, that wherever he is right now, he is spreading joy and sharing love. That red-headed Child of God gave me a glorious example of how to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, even while we are still here on Earth. Because of him, I laugh more, love more and smile more. He was right, smiling does feel so darned good. May all of your days be full of smiles.
By - Joseph J. Mazzella - firstname.lastname@example.org