Saturday, April 30, 2011

Entertaining Angels




It was fifty years ago, on a hot summer day, in the deep south.

We lived on a dirt road, on a sand lot. We were, what was known as "dirt poor."

I had been playing outside all morning in the sand. Suddenly, I heard a sharp clanking sound behind me and looking over my shoulder, my eyes were drawn to a strange sight!

Across the dirt road were two rows of men, dressed in black and white, striped, baggy uniforms. Their faces were covered with dust and sweat. They looked so weary, and they were chained together with huge, black, iron chains. Hanging from the end of each chained row was a big, black, iron ball. They were, as polite people said in those days, a "Chain Gang," guarded by two, heavily armed guards.

I stared at the prisoners as they settled uncomfortably down in the dirt, under the shade of some straggly trees.
One of the guards walked towards me.

Nodding as he passed, he went up to our front door and knocked. My mother appeared at the door, and I heard the guard ask if he could have permission to get water from the pump, in the backyard, so that "his men" could "have a drink." My mother agreed, but I saw a look of concern on her face, as she called me inside.

I stared through the window as each prisoner was unchained from the line, to hobble over to the pump and drink his fill from a small tin cup, while a guard watched vigilantly. It wasn't long before they were all chained back up again, with prisoners and guards retreating into the shade, away from an unrelenting sun.

I heard my mother call me into the kitchen, and I entered, to see her bustling around with tins of tuna fish, mayonnaise, our last loaf of bread, and two, big, pitchers of lemonade. In what seemed "a blink of an eye," she had made a tray of sandwiches using all the tuna we were to have had for that night's supper.

My mother was smiling as she handed me one of the pitchers of lemonade, cautioning me to carry it "carefully" and to "not spill a drop." Then, lifting the tray in one hand and holding a pitcher in her other hand, she marched me to the door, deftly opening it with her foot, and trotted me across the street.

She approached the guards, flashing them with a brilliant smile.

"We had some leftovers from lunch," she said, "and I was wondering if we could share with you and your men." She smiled at each of the men, searching their dark eyes with her own eyes of "robin's egg blue." Everyone started to their feet. "Oh no!" she said. "Stay where you are! I'll just serve you!"

Calling me to her side, she went from guard to guard, then from prisoner to prisoner - filling each tin cup with lemonade, and giving each man a sandwich. It was very quiet, except for a "thank you, ma'am," and the clanking of the chains. Very soon we were at the end of the line, my mother's eyes softly scanning each face.

The last prisoner was a big man, his dark skin pouring with sweat, and streaked with dust. Suddenly, his face broke into a wonderful smile, as he looked up into my mother's eyes, and he said, "Ma'am, I've wondered all my life if I'd ever see an angel, and now I have! Thank you!"

Again, my mother's smile took in the whole group. "You're all welcome!" she said. "God bless you." Then we walked across to the house, with empty tray and pitchers, and back inside. Soon, the men moved on, and I never saw them again.

The only explanation my mother ever gave me, for that strange and wonderful day, was that I "remember, always, to entertain strangers, for by doing so, you may entertain angels, without knowing." Then, with a mysterious smile, she went about the rest of the day.

I don't remember what we ate for supper, that night. I just know it was served by an angel.

Jaye Lewis

Jaye Lewis is an award winning inspirational writer and contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Entertaining Angels appeared in the 2005 edition of Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul. It is also the inspiration for Jaye's website: www.entertainingangels.org and the title for the first installment of her e-book which will be available through her website, sometime in late spring or early summer. Jaye lives in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, USA.

Have Faith and Move Forward



I remember about a year or so ago I decided to reread Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. I was going through a hard time. I had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I was very scared!

I didn't really know what stage the cancer was. I was in the middle of having surgery to have the tumor removed and had not yet found out how far the cancer had progressed and if it was in an early "curable stage". The good news is it was, and my treatment was nothing compared with what some woman go through. I was still so scared and the emotional toll it placed on my mind and feelings was probably the hardest thing for me to deal within my life.

Anyway, just before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had decided to expand my business. I own an art gallery in a very wealthy area of California, but found that the downtown area had become less busy in the last few years. I wanted to have a "satellite" store" in another part of town that was heavily populated with shoppers.

I had found the "perfect" spot. It was positioned between two "perfect" stores and was in a small shopping center in town that had just been renovated and was bustling with shoppers! The space had been rented and remodeled, but then the tenants backed out of the lease and it was ready for me to rent it! The rent was inexpensive and it was "MY" spot!

I had made an appointment to meet the landlord and sign the contract the next day....then I received a call from my Doctor saying that I had in fact, had Breast Cancer and we needed to operate as soon as possible. I was not able at that point to sign the contract and had to let my "perfect spot" go. It was rented shortly after that. 

Within the last two years every time I had gone by that shopping center I would grunt to myself, "that space should have been mine". "If I hadn't gotten cancer, I would be in that space and all would be well". I started feeling sorry for myself.

That's when I decided to reread The Power of Positive Thinking. I remember reading in the book about a man that had lost his promotion to another man that the company had brought to fill the position. He was so angry and felt that it was so unjust for the company and God to not let him have this promotion. He had worked harder and longer than the other man in the company and felt he was the "perfect" man for the job. He was devastated.

He and his wife struggled to let go of that promotion and focus on moving forward and accept that this was not the time or the job for him at this point in his career.Two years later the President of this company stepped down from his position and this man became the President of that company! What an inspirational story I thought to myself. Yes, they tell me all the time "sometimes when things pass you by it's because there is something better waiting for you in the wings", " You need to have faith and move forward", so that's what I did. I had faith and I moved forward.

It's been a little over two years since my cancer diagnosis and I feel like I'm back to normal again. I have moved forward and a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, a friend of mine called me to tell me that there was a space opening up beside him in a very good building that has only art galleries in it. It is a building known for having very good high end galleries and collectors from all over the country and the world come to visit this building and the galleries that are in it. Well, I'm sure you know that this was my "Perfect" spot! Yes in deed....I got a bigger space, in a better place, for less money!!!! I can't tell you how the story of the man in the Norman Vincent Peale Book came rushing back to my mind. Yes, it is true! It is! Faith and the ability to let go and move on is what was needed. I did that, I trusted and I gave myself and God time to work things out.

Next month the gallery opens and though it is a small gallery space, it is a "perfect" space, it is the space that was given to me by God.

Karen Imperial

Feel free to email your thoughts to Karen on her story to: ktheimp@gmail.com and take the time to view her gallery website at: www.bryantstreet.com

Friday, April 29, 2011

Riding Out Life's Tsunamis



It has been over a month now since a powerful magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan. The confirmed death toll is over 13,000 and continues to rise. In the midst of all the horror stories are occasional heroic tales of survival and rescue. One of the most fascinating is that of Susumu Sugawara.

The 64-year-old Sugawara is the owner-operator of a small boat named "Sunflower." After the massive earthquake and in view of the tsunami warnings being broadcast, he had to make a quick decision. Should he head for high ground on his island of Oshima? Should he put his boat to sea and try to ride out the fury? His chose to launch his boat and head for deep water offshore.

"I knew if I didn't save my boat," he told a CNN reporter, "my island would be isolated and in trouble." So he ran to his 42-year-old craft that can hold about 20 people at a time and went full-throttle toward the deadly waves that would kill people whose names and faces he knew. Then he saw the wall of water.

Accustomed to waves ten to twelve feet high, this one was fully 50 to 60 feet high. Sugawara knew that he and his boat could easily wind up at the bottom of the sea. He drove straight for it - "climbing the wave like a mountain," as he put it. And the mountain seemed only to grow bigger and bigger. There was a huge crash of water over him. Only then could he see the horizon. He had survived!

Sugawara made his way back to his now-devastated Oshima. For the month since, he has been a lifeline by making hourly trips to the mainland to ferry people and supplies. If people can help pay for gasoline, he accepts money. If they have lost everything and can pay nothing, he still welcomes them aboard.

I'm no sailor or boat captain. I don't know if the Japanese captain made the reasonable and right decision on that fateful day. I can only report and rejoice at the outcome. He lived through the ordeal and is helping others with a sense of sensitivity to their suffering the rest of us can only admire from a distance.

Here is the lesson from this story for me: Against my hesitation and fear, it makes more sense to ride into the teeth of life's challenges than to run away.
There is a cash-flow crisis. There is an unexpected problem with a product. A major supplier has failed, or a major customer has bailed. Some executives kick into denial mode or ball up in a fetal position. Their companies fail. Leaders steer right into the problem and act with integrity to name and face the problem.

Or maybe the problem is far more serious. A spouse says the marriage is over. The police or hospital calls with a parent's worst nightmare about an arrest or accident. Maybe you get a diagnosis that sounds like a death sentence. Do you run and hide? Self-medicate with drugs or alcohol? Or do you steer into the teeth of the storm and pray for courage you have never had to display before?
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face," said Eleanor Roosevelt. "You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next one that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." 

Rubel Shelly

Rubel Shelly is a Preacher and Professor of Religion and Philosophy located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In addition to church and academic responsibilities, he has worked actively with such community projects as Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, From Nashville With Love, Metro (Nashville) Public Schools, Faith Family Medical Clinic, and Operation Andrew Ministries. To learn more about Rubel please go to: www.RubelShelly.com

Conquering the Stairs



Have you ever let fear conquer you? Well today, you're going to read about an amazing dog who helped me overcome mine.

Caspian was a new addition to my household. He had shown up in the front yard of my 100 year old Virginia farmhouse one early morning. He was skin and bones, covered with ticks, fleas and sores, and had been shot - his skinny body riddled with buckshot. I took one look at this pathetic animal and told him he was home.

It took weeks of vet treatments, baths and many bowls of food, but he finally began to look like a dog that was going to make it. His bones began to disappear, his coat took on a shine, and he became my constant shadow to show his appreciation for me saving his life. He was always with me - except when I went upstairs to my office.


My home had a wide expanse of wooden stairs that led to the 2nd floor. Caspian was terrified of them. It didn't matter what I did to build his confidence, or what wonderful tidbit of food I tempted him with, he refused to climb those stairs. He would just cower at the bottom stair and shake all over whenever I got him near them. Yet when I went up to my office, he was overcome with despair at being separated from me and laid at the bottom whimpering and whining.

I had no idea what had created this fear, and I had even less of an idea of how to conquer it. After two weeks of daily attempts, I finally gave up. If he didn't want to climb the stairs - so be it. But my only defense from his pitiful whining was to turn the music up any time I needed to be in my office. When I would leave my office and come downstairs, Caspian would erupt with frantic joy to be reunited once again. 

About a month into this pattern, I was awakened one morning by a noise. I lay in bed trying to identify what it was.
Click, click, click. Silence. Click, click, click. Silence.
It kept on for close to fifteen minutes before my curiosity finally overwhelmed my desire to stay under the warm covers. I threw aside my quilt, grabbed a robe and went out to investigate. When I identified the source of the noise, I just stood there with my mouth wide open.
I watched as Caspian carefully climbed the stairs. Click, click, click. He got to the top, turned around, and then started back down. Click, click, click.

When he got to the bottom, he turned and gazed at me as if to say, It's really no big deal. I can do this!

And then he did it again, and again, and again. at least 25 more times - after already having done it for 15 minutes before I finally came to investigate. 

I watched his confidence grow with each ascent and descent of the "dreaded stairs." His tongue hung out in joy and at the end his tail was wagging is triumph over his fears. He knew he would never again have to be separated from me because of the stairs. 

I already loved him, but that day I gained an incredible respect for his courage and resilience. I was also challenged about what I was willing to do to overcome my fears. Was I willing to stare my fears in the face and then take the steps to overcome that fear? Was I willing to feel the fear, and then do it anyway? Was I willing to attack my fears, for as long as it took to overcome them? I made a lot of decisions that day that have given me a much richer life - and I have Caspian to thank for it!

So now I pose the same questions to you: Are you willing to stare your fears in the face and then take the steps to overcome them? Are you willing to feel the fear, and then do it anyway? Are you willing to attack your fears for as long as it takes to overcome them?
Every time you are faced with a fear, try to remember a courageous dog that was able to conquer his fears with love and determination - and then follow his lead. All of us are afraid of something in our lives. There is no shame in being afraid. The key to victory, however, is to face your fear head on and do whatever it takes to overcome it. You can let your fears stop you from achieving all you want in life, or. you can follow Caspian's lead and conquer the stairs!

Ginny Dye

Ginny Dye is the Founder and CEO of The Ultimate Life Company - created to empower you to live your ultimate life! Learn from your favorite speakers, claim FREE bonuses, GET PAID, and make a difference in the world every day! Click here to learn more and see a personal video from Ginny.