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I am working late at night in a 24-hour pharmacy. There are only three customers in the store: a scruffy but clean young couple and another gentleman. The woman in the young couple is very heavily pregnant, and her partner is picking up the range of baby hats we carry and holding them up against her stomach, then looking at the prices and sadly putting them back. They pick up a packet of the cheapest pain medication we carry and bring it to the counter.

Female Customer: “I’m sorry, but can you please ask the pharmacist if these are safe for me to take?”

Me: “Of course!”

While we’re waiting for the pharmacist to come out, they tell me they’re expecting their daughter any day now. The pharmacist has been watching the young couple since they came in.

Pharmacist: “These are fine, but can I ask why you need them?”

Female Customer: “Oh, I have a horrible cough that’s making my back ache even worse. I can’t get to sleep.”

The pharmacist goes through a list of cough medicines safe for her to take, before the young man shakes his head with tears in his eyes.

Male Customer: “I’m sorry, I’ve just lost my job and we really can’t afford any of those. Sorry for wasting your time.”

Pharmacist: “That’s okay, but this packet is damaged, and legally I can’t let you take it. Seeing as it was the last one, let me and [my name] go look in the back for some more.”

The pharmacist takes me out the back, where he puts three packets of name brand painkillers, four bottles of name brand cough syrup, a wheat bag for her back, a tin of formula, a packet of newborn nappies and a few of the hats the couple was looking at into a box. He hands me the box and tells me to take it out to them. I do and they both burst into tears, thanking us over and over again. They leave with huge smiles on their faces.

Female Customer: “Thank you again!”

Other Customer: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but over hear. Did you say you just lost your job at [local company]?”

Male Customer: “Yes, I was an IT tech.”

Other Customer: “I own [other computer store in the area], and I’m looking for a new tech. Can you start tomorrow?”

There were tears all round that night. A week later, the young woman brought in her beautiful daughter and a giant batch of cupcakes for the pharmacy staff. Best night at work ever!

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I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.

As I got older, the more I questioned the efficacy of my salvation prayer because, let’s be honest, the five-year-old motives behind it didn’t exactly demonstrate any depth of understanding about what I was doing.

On the one hand, my parents taught me a lot about the Bible, so by that age, I really had developed a childhood affection for the miracle-working Savior who held little kids in His lap and then died to save them.

On the other hand, I wanted to be born again because I would get to take the grape juice and cracker during communion at our Baptist Church — not to mention the most important reason of all: I would avoid going to hell. These reasons didn’t seem like very good ones for wanting to commit my eternal life to God, so I eventually began to wonder if perhaps I hadn’t actually been saved after all.

My insecurity about my salvation inspired me to repeatedly redo my salvation prayer, but it never seemed like it was enough. I wanted something more official. I needed a prayer that would unquestionably provide my eternal connection to Jesus. But there was a vignette in the Easter story that provided the security that a prayer for salvation never could.

A Thief’s Last Words

As Jesus was hanging there and His life was almost over, He had a brief conversation with one of the two thieves hanging on either side of Him. The gospel of Matthew tells us that this thief had actually been mocking Jesus earlier in his crucifixion. But Luke tells us the rest of the story: With the clock ticking down on his life, the thief had a sudden change of heart and made a simple request: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”

The man was a low-life, a common criminal attempting a desperate deathbed conversion, and all he could utter was a request that wasn’t exactly profound: “Remember me.”

Jesus didn’t do an inventory of the man’s good or bad deeds before He responded. He didn’t ignore him or wait until the man said the perfect words. “Remember me” was more than enough. In the final minutes of their lives, Jesus responded, “Truly I say to you, today you’ll be with Me in Paradise.”

Maybe you won’t go to church this Easter — maybe you don’t even want to. Maybe you’re a believer who’s insecure about your salvation. Maybe the idea of praying about something as monumental as your eternal salvation seems intimidating to you — you wouldn’t even know where to start. Start here: “Remember me.”

It doesn’t matter if your motives are self-interested or if you’ve never shown any desire to follow Jesus. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you’ve made and how many more you’re likely to make. He’s there willing and waiting to take you home with Him.

Call out to Him. Trust that He’s willing to welcome you into His kingdom. Ask Him to remember you today. His certain response will have nothing to do with your worthiness and everything to do with His unfailing love.

This column was originally published on April 13, 2017.

Joshua Rogers is a writer and attorney who lives in Washington, D.C. You can follow Joshua on Twitter @MrJoshuaRogers and Facebook, and read more of his writing at JoshuaRogers.com.

Vintage Dilbert  September 12, 2012

Vintage Dilbert September 12, 2012

A long lost sheep, Shrek, became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shorn (shave) it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just under ten pounds, with the exception usually reaching fifteen pounds, maximum. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece. Simply because he was away from his shepherd.

This reminds me of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think Shrek is much like a person who knows Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ’s constant refining of our character, we’re going to accumulate extra weight in this world—a weight we don’t have to bear.

When Shrek was found, a professional sheep shearer took care of Shrek’s fleece in twenty-eight minutes. Shrek’s sixty pound fleece was finally removed. All it took was coming home to his shepherd.

I believe Christ can lift the burdens we carry, if only we stop hiding. He can shave off our ‘fleece’—that is, our self-imposed burdens brought about by wandering from our Good Shepherd.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

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Vintage Dilbert August 23, 1993

Vintage Dilbert
August 23, 1993

One day I stopped to think about growing apples. I was munching a delicious, juicy apple and took a big bite. As a result I got an apple seed into my mouth. I spat it out into my hand, with the intention of throwing it away. But instead I looked at the apple seed. Really looked. It was dark brown, almost black. It’s shape reminded me of a candle flame. A little dark brown candle flame…

I realized I was holding an apple tree in the palm of my hand. A little seed with the potential to become a beautiful big tree; a tree that could grow thousands of apples in its lifetime. Thousands of apples, each containing several seeds, each capable of growing a new tree which again could produce thousands of apples. Why then the world wasn’t filled with apple trees?

It is a rule of nature that only a few of these seeds grow. Most never do or are destroyed early on in their growth.

And it came to my mind, it’s quite often so with people’s dreams. Wonderful ideas come to our minds but they die too soon – we don’t tend to the little saplings, we don’t protect them as we should. And then one day we wonder what happened to our dreams, why did they never come true?

I put the apple seed on the table and bent down to see how the light was reflected from it, this nature’s tiny wonder. I wondered when someone was seriously growing apples, how many times they had to try to get a seed to germinate? How much work did it require?

Maybe it was like with our dreams: the seeds of your dreams did not automatically grow. Like planting an apple tree. It might take many trys; like a hundred job applications to get that good job. You might send your manuscript out two hundred times before it was accepted. You might meet dozens of people until you meet the true friend.

But if you kept on sowing the seeds of your dream, one day you would succeed. And after that others would comment on how you were lucky to be successful – when in fact you probably failed more often than you would like to count. But you were good at failing – you learned, you adapted, and then with your new knowlegde you tried again. And again. And again. And one day success was yours.

I picked up the apple seed again – but instead of throwing it away I took an empty flower pot, poured some earth into it and planted the seed. Maybe one day it would grown into a proud tree. I’d never know if I didn’t try.

Some people think their best time in life is when they are young. Once they’ve hit the 40-mark, they begin to tell how it is of no use any more to start achieving new things.

I refuse to believe that. There are plenty of examples out there that prove you can achieve amazing things even in your mature years.

I love the little story of a woman who decided she wanted to go and study when she was in her forties. Her husband asked her. “Do you realize that if you start your studies now, you will be fifty when you graduate?” To which this admirable lady replied “Darling – I shall be fifty in any case.”

So go ahead and follow your dreams. Start today. No matter what they are, no matter what your age, and no matter what others think of it. It’s your life after all.

 

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Vintage Dilbert August 21, 2001

Vintage Dilbert
August 21, 2001

I closed Words of Affirmation – a book I was reading with my morning coffee. It did not seem to have the effect I wanted.

It was a Monday morning. A dark, wet November morning when it seemed like it would take a million years to get to summer again. So dark I was sure I did not even remember what summer looked like anymore. And no affirmation seemed to work. I thought bears got it right – what a perfect idea to sleep through the lousiest part of the year and wake up when spring came!

I got into a conversation with a coworker about this when I got to work.

You don’t think words of affirmation work? He asked me.

…words of affirmation.

Today – no.

I used to think so too, he said, until I realized the effect my words had on a certain person.

What do you mean?

Well, it was someone I knew pretty well. I have to say I treated him rather badly.

You? But you are always so positive! How did you treat him badly?

I told him I did not like anything about him, really. I looked at him and said he had grown a belly. That his face was sagging. His hair was thinning. I told him I did not even like his name.

I could not find words. I just did not believe him. He could see what I was thinking and nodded.

I swear this is true. You can imagine what it did to his self-esteem. If we hear such negative affirmations about ourselves, we tend to believe them, don’t you agree?

Well I sure agreed.

I still cannot believe you! I said, – You are always encouraging others. How can it be possible you would have said such words to anyone you know?

Such words and even more, he nodded.  Now I am not proud of myself, but I thought this would be useful for you to know when you wonder if words of affirmation work.  It wasn’t only what I said, I also did pretty bad things to him. When he was feeling low, I did not want to sympathize but told him he should snap out of it and play cheerful.  When he was hungry I did not give him a chance to eat proper food.  When he felt like doing something fun I said to him that he was being childish and having fun was not productive.  After all he was always short on cash so obviously he was a lazy worker.

No…

And worst of all, when he was sick and needed care, I did not care.  I told him to get up and get to work. And when he did, I never told him he did good work.  Oh no, I only told him he could do better.

I knew my coworker had been a boss at a smaller firm before.  But still, surely he would never have behaved in such a way towards his employees?

You could say I was ashamed of him, he said,  I wanted to get rid of him because he just wasn’t good enough for me, but couldn’t.

But… That was heartless!

He nodded.

I agree. I was a horrible person. I was cruel towards him. And I could see the effect of my words on him. He was depressed most of the time, tried to drown his sorrows by watching TV, drinking too much and calling in sick whenever he could.

Well no wonder!  I exclaimed, but I have to say I never would have believed you could behave in such a way!

Then one day it all changed, he said.

What happened?

I stood there in front of the bathroom mirror one morning. I saw the dark circles under his eyes, I saw the excess weight.  I saw the hair that needed cutting. And I saw the eyes that once had looked at the world eagerly.  Now they were so sad and tired.  And there and then I realized he deserved better.  I knew the time had come to start finding good things about myself.  So I told the man whom I had disliked so many years that he was a good person after all.  I decided to like every likeable thing about myself and tell it to myself too.

My jaw dropped.

 

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know
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Vintage Dilbert August 13, 2002

Vintage Dilbert
August 13, 2002

 

Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I’m working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said, “Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile, not the money!”

 

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Vintage Dilbert March 25, 2016

Vintage Dilbert
March 25, 2016

Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic, terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and had sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School.

At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher. One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Teresa’s for a consultation.

As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!”

Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.”

Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read or write. Why waste any more time trying?

As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. “Oh God,” she said aloud, “here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family! Please help me to be more patient with Jeremy.”

From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loudly enough for the whole class to hear. The other children snickered, and Doris’ face turned red. She stammered, “Wh-Why, that’s very nice, Jeremy. Now please take your seat.”

Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”

Yes, Miss Miller!” the children responded enthusiastically – all except for Jeremy. He just listened intently, his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them. That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.

The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they completed their Math lesson, it was time to open the eggs. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arms. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.

The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that is new life, too” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.”

Next Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that the moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. “My Daddy helped me!” he beamed.

Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, of course, he did not understand her instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.

Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Flustered, Doris replied, “but Jeremy – your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty too!”

Time stopped. When she could speak again. Doris asked him, ” Do you know why the tomb was empty?”

“Oh yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!”

The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the school yard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.

Three months later Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.

Author - Ida Mae Kemp
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