Friday, March 25, 2005

My (Second) Favorite Easter Story

This story messes me up every time I read it. If its new to you, enjoy, and pass it around.

By Eddie Ogan

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12,and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.
When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.
Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.
We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.
That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.

We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet.

But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.

As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!

Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.
We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed--I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.

Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.

When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."

Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."
We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so?

From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

(Want to know whatever happened to Eddie Ogan? Here's an article that tells more of the story behind the author...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

you only get the days you get

OK, so its been a while! This blogging thing can be demanding. The desire to wax poetic, devotional, or thought provoking is still strong, but the busyness of life makes that tough. Will plan to broaden my range and just get out there more often, even if just commentating on life.

Speaking of commentating, its hard not to notice two newsmaking women the last couple of weeks. First is Ashley Smith, the single mother from Atlanta whose heroism and bravery has landed her face on the covers of magazines and national headline news. I find the story quite remarkable. I'm not a huge salesman of The Purpose Driven Life. I have read it, it is good, and perhaps I should read it again. I have no beef with it either as some might. However, its hard to argue with it in this instance. No, as Warren points out, his book isn't saving anybody. It's the 1500 verses of Scripture woven into the book and upon which its based that's doing the transformation.

A couple of articles worth your time....

Another hard-to-miss story in the news is that of Terri Schiavo (read the Rick Warren interview with Larry King above - he has some interesting things to say about both Angela Smith, her kidnapper, AND Terri Schiavo).

What are we learning from this?

First, living wills are a smart idea, and we all should have one.

Second, there are issues in life where there will be no clear-cut answer - most of us will say that life matters, but then turn around and say "but I hope that if that ever happened to me, my family wouldn't let me exist in that state." Or something like that.

Third, politicians will always be politicians. I laughed out loud when I heard a "prominent Senator" speak out that the government should have no say in this private family matter. Oh, BTW, the same prominent Senator who feels the government should have something to say about other private family matters like abortion. Which is it? I guess whatever is popular at the moment.

Lastly, I heard a quote not long ago..."You only get the days you get." We don't know what tomorrow holds. We don't even know about the rest of our day. Maybe a gunman forces himself into our apartment and holds us hostage. Maybe we're confined to a wheelchair because of an accident or a disease. Maybe we're part of the collateral damage during a terrorist bombing. Sound outlandish? There are those who would tell you it may have sounded ludicrous to them...before it happened to them. Bottom line: we don't know when our how our life will come to an end, or when it might be radically altared. All we have control of is how we live our lives.

How am I living mine? How are YOU living yours?