Easter Week {Day 8}

The Day of Triumph!

What a glorious day it is!

The day that conquered death, brought hope to all mankind, and gives us hope of a better life to come!

The Empty Egg

It was obvious that eight-year-old Stephen's mental retardation was becoming even more severe. His Sunday school teacher did her best to include Stephen in the classroom activities and to avoid situations which might prompt his classmates to make fun of him.
In April, she gave each of the eight children in the class an empty plastic Easter egg and instructed them to place inside the container an object that represented new life in spring. Fearing that Stephen might not have caught on, and not wanting to embarrass him, the teacher had the children place all the containers on the desk so that she could open them.

The first had a tiny flower in it. "What a lovely sign of new life," said the teacher. One of the students couldn't help but erupt, "I brought that one!"

Next came a rock. The teacher assumed this must be Stephen's since rocks don't symbolize new life. But Billy shouted that his rock had moss on it, and moss represented new life. "Very good, Billy," agreed the teacher.

A butterfly flew from the third container and another child bragged that her choice was the best of all.

The fourth container was empty. This must be Stephen's, thought the teacher, quickly reaching for a different one.

"Teacher, please don't skip mine," interrupted Stephen.
"But it's empty, Stephen." said the teacher gently.

"That's right," said Stephen, "The tomb was empty, and that represents new life for everyone."

Later that summer, Stephen's condition worsened and he died. At his funeral on his casket, mourners found eight plastic Easter eggs, all of them empty.

I hope you have enjoyed participating in this Easter Week with me.
Each year as I re-read these stories I am reminded of the new start available to us all-  these changes are up to us and can begin again and again.

I pray you all have a wonderful Easter morn and celebration of the hope we have through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

He Lives!!

Easter Week {Day 7}

The Day of Silence

How hard this day must have been for Christ's family and friends- He was gone.

Today is a great day to reflect on the changes we want to make to live more Christ centered lives and become more like He is. 

I remember the first time I read this story... still hits hard everytime.

Forgiven Forever

Lisa sat on the floor of her old room, staring at the box that lay in front of her. It was an old shoe box that she had decorated to become a memory box many years before. Stickers and penciled flowers covered the top and sides.

Its edges were worn, the corners of the lid taped so as to keep their shape.

It had been three years since Lisa last opened the box. A sudden move to Boston had kept her from packing it. But now that she was back home, she
took the time to look again at the memories.

Fingering the corners of the box and stroking its cover, Lisa pictured in her mind what was inside.

There was a photo of the family trip to the Grand Canyon, a note from her friend telling her that Nick Bicotti liked her, and the Indian arrowhead she
had found while on her senior class trip. One by one, she remembered the items in the box, lingering over the sweetest, until she came to the last and  only painful memory. She knew what it looked like--a single sheet of paper upon which lines had been drawn to form boxes, 490 of them to be exact.
And each box contained a check mark, one for each time.

The story behind it..........

"How many times must I forgive my brother?" the disciple Peter had asked Jesus. "Seven times?" Lisa's Sunday school teacher had read Jesus' surprise answer to the class. "Seventy times seven."

Lisa had leaned over to her brother Brent as the teacher continued reading. "How many times is that?" she whispered. Brent, though two years younger, was smarter than she was.

"Four hundred and ninety," Brent wrote on the corner of his Sunday school paper. Lisa saw the message, nodded, and sat back in her chair. She watched her brother as the lesson continued. He was small for his age, with narrow shoulders and short arms. His glasses were too large for his face, and his hair always matted in swirls. He bordered on being a nerd, but his incredible skills at everything, especially music, made him popular with his classmates.

Brent had learned to play the piano at age four, the clarinet at age seven, and had just begun to play oboe. His music teachers said he'd be a famous
musician someday. There was only one thing at which Lisa was better than Brent--basketball. They played it almost every afternoon after school.

Brent could have refused to play, but he knew that it was Lisa's only joy in the midst of her struggles to get C's and D's at school.

Lisa's attention came back to her Sunday school teacher as the woman finished the lesson and closed with prayer. That same Sunday afternoon found brother and sister playing basketball in the driveway. It was then that the counting had begun. Brent was guarding Lisa as she dribbled toward the basket. He had tried to bat the ball away, got his face near her elbow, and took a shot on the chin. "Ow!", he cried out and turned away.

Lisa saw her opening and drove to the basket, making an easy lay-up. She gloated over her success but stopped when she saw Brent. "You okay?",she
asked. Brent shrugged his shoulders.

"Sorry," Lisa said. "Really. It was a cheap shot."

"It's all right. I forgive you," he said. A thin smile then formed on his face. "Just 489 more times though."

"Whaddaya mean?" Lisa asked.

"You know...what we learned in Sunday school today. You're supposed to forgive someone 490 times. I just forgave you, so now you have 489 left,"
he kidded. The two of them laughed at the thought of keeping track of every time Lisa had done something to Brent. They were sure she had gone past 490 long ago.

The rain interrupted their game, and the two moved indoors. "Wanna play Battleship?" Lisa asked. Brent agreed, and they were soon on the floor of the living room with their game boards in front of them. Each took turns calling out a letter and number combination, hoping to hit each other's ships.

Lisa knew she was in trouble as the game went on. Brent had only lost one ship out of five. Lisa had lost three. Desperate to win, she found herself leaning over the edge of Brent's barrier ever so slightly. She was thus able to see where Brent had placed two of his ships. She quickly evened the score.

Pleased, Lisa searched once more for the location of the last two ships. She peered over the barrier again, but this time Brent caught her in the act. "Hey, you're cheating!" He stared at her in disbelief.

Lisa's face turned red. Her lips quivered. "I'm sorry," she said, staring at the carpet. There was not much Brent could say. He knew Lisa sometimes did things like this. He felt sorry that Lisa found so few things she could do well. It was wrong for her to cheat, but he knew the temptation was hard
for her. "Okay, I forgive you," Brent said. Then he added with a small laugh, "I guess it's down to 488 now, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so." She returned his kindness with a weak smile and added, "Thanks for being my brother, Brent."

Brent's forgiving spirit gripped Lisa, and she wanted him to know how sorry she was. It was that evening that she had made the chart with the 490 boxes. She showed it to him before he went to bed.

"We can keep track of every time I mess up and you forgive me," she said.

"See, I'll put a check in each box--like this." She placed two marks in the upper left-hand boxes.

"These are for today." Brent raised his hands to protest. "You don't need to keep--"

"Yes I do!" Lisa interrupted. "You're always forgiving me, and I want to keep track. Just let me do this!" She went back to her room and tacked the chart to her bulletin board.

There were many opportunities to fill in the chart in the years that followed. She once told the kids at school that Brent talked in his sleep and called out Rhonda Hill's name, even though it wasn't true. The teasing caused Brent days and days of misery. When she realized how cruel she had been,
Lisa apologized sincerely. That night she marked box number 96. Forgiveness number 211 came in the tenth grade when Lisa failed to bring home
his English book. Brent had stayed home sick that day and had asked her to bring it so he could study for a quiz. She forgot and he got a C.

Number 393 was for lost keys...418 for the extra bleach she put in the washer, which ruined his favorite polo shirt...449, the dent she had put in his car when she had borrowed it.

There was a small ceremony when Lisa checked number 490. She used a gold pen for the check mark, had Brent sign the chart, and then placed it in her memory box.

"I guess that's the end," Lisa said. "No more screw-ups from me anymore!"

Brent just laughed. "Yeah, right."

Number 491 was just another one of Lisa's careless mistakes, but its hurt lasted a lifetime. Brent had become all that his music teachers said he would. Few could play the oboe better than he. In his fourth year at the best music school in the United States, he received the opportunity of a
lifetime--a chance to try out for New York City's great orchestra.

The tryout would be held sometime during the following two weeks. It would be the fulfillment of his young dreams. But he never got the chance.  Brent had been out when the call about the tryout came to the house. Lisa was the only one home and on her way out the door, eager to get to work on time.

"Two-thirty on the tenth," the secretary said on the phone. Lisa did not have a pen, but she told herself that she could remember it. "Got it. Thanks." I can remember that, she thought. But she did not. It was a week later around the dinner table that Lisa realized her mistake.

"So, Brent," his mom asked him, "When do you try out?"

"Don't know yet. They're supposed to call." Lisa froze in her seat.

"Oh, no!" she blurted out loud. "What's today's date? Quick!"

"It's the twelfth," her dad answered. "Why?"

A terrible pain ripped through Lisa's heart. She buried her face in her hands, crying. "Lisa, what's the matter?" her mother asked.

Through sobs Lisa explained what had happened. "It was two days ago...the tryout... two-thirty... the call came... last week." Brent sat back in his chair, not believing Lisa.

"Is this one of your jokes, sis?" he asked, though he could tell her misery was real. She shook her head, still unable to look at him.

"Then I really missed it?" She nodded.

Brent ran out of the kitchen without a word. He did not come out of his room the rest of the evening. Lisa tried once to knock on the door, but she could not face him. She went to her room where she cried bitterly.

Suddenly she knew that she had to do. She had ruined Brent's life. He could never forgive her for that. She had failed her family, and there was nothing to do but to leave home. Lisa packed her pickup truck in the middle of the night and left a note behind, telling her folks she'd be all right. She began writing a note to Brent, but her words sounded empty to her. Nothing I say could make a difference anyway, she thought.

Two days later she got a job as a waitress in Boston. She found an apartment not too far from the restaurant. Her parents tried many times to reach her, but Lisa ignored their letters.

"It's too late," she wrote them once. "I've ruined Brent's life, and I'm not coming back."

Lisa did not think she would ever see home again. But one day in the restaurant where she worked she saw a face she knew. "Lisa!" said Mrs. Nelson, looking up from her plate. "What a surprise."

The woman was a friend of Lisa's family from back home. "I was so sorry to hear about your brother," Mrs. Nelson said softly. "Such a terrible accident. But we can be thankful that he died quickly. He didn't suffer."

Lisa stared at the woman in shock.

"Wh-hat," she finally stammered.

It couldn't be! Her brother? Dead? The woman quickly saw that Lisa did not know about the accident. She told the girl the sad story of the speeding car, the rush to the hospital, the doctors working over Brent. But all they could do was not enough to save him.

Lisa returned home that afternoon.

Now she found herself in her room thinking about her brother as she held the small box that held some of her memories of him. Sadly, she opened the box and peered inside. It was as she remembered, except for one item--Brent's chart. It was not there. In its place, at the bottom of the box, was an envelope. Her hands shook as she tore it open and removed a letter.

The first page read:

Dear Lisa,

It was you who kept count, not me. But if you're stubborn enough to keep count, use the new chart I've made for you.


Lisa turned to the second page where she found a chart just like the one she had made as a child, but on this one the lines were drawn in perfect precision. And unlike the chart she had kept, there was but one check mark in the upper left- hand corner. Written in red felt tip pen over the
entire page were the words: "Number 491. Forgiven, forever."

Easter Week {Day 6}

Good Friday

I find often in life that it is easy to be happy with where we are-

Working to grow is just so hard and sometimes may not seem worth the effort.

There was, however, someone who new it was worth it and that we were worth it!

He is just waiting for us to take the step forward to work towards a better life- one He can show us how to live and become.

The Pearls 

The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with  her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them; a circle of glistening white  pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy, can I have them? Oh, Mommy,  please!"
Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked  back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. "A  dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll  think of some extra chores for you an in no time you can save enough money to  buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get  another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17  pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to  the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten  cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at  last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere -Sunday school, kindergarten, even  to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a  bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed,  he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story.  One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"  "Oh, yes, Daddy. You know that I love you." "Then give me your pearls."   "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess - the white horse from   my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you  gave me. She’s my favorite." "That’s okay, Honey. Daddy love you. Good   night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, "Do   you love me?" "Daddy, you know I love you." "Then give me your pearls."  "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one  I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow   blanket that matches her sleeper." "That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless  you, little one. Daddy love you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later, when  her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed  Indian-style. As he came close, He noticed her chin was trembling and one  silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?"  Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And  when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy.  It’s for you." With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy  reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other  hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a  strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the  time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.   So like our Heavenly Father.