ARCHIVED ESSAYS FROM OUTSIDE SOURCES
- The author is indicated when known -
THE SANDS OF CHRISTMAS
By Michael Marks
I had no Christmas spirit when I breathed a weary sigh,
and looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.
The laundry wasn't finished and the car I had to fix,
My stocks were down another point, the Chargers lost by six.
And so with only minutes till my son got home from school
I gave up on the drudgery and grabbed a wooden stool.
The burdens that I carried were about all I could take,
and so I flipped the TV on to catch a little break.
I came upon a desert scene in shades of tan and rust,
No snowflakes hung upon the wind, just clouds of swirling dust.
And where the reindeer should have stood before a laden sleigh,
eight Humvees ran a column right behind an M1A.
A group of boys walked past the tank, not one was past his teens,
Their eyes were hard as polished flint, their faces drawn and lean.
They walked the street in armor with their rifles shouldered tight,
their dearest wish for Christmas, just to have a silent night.
Other soldiers gathered, hunkered down against the wind,
To share a scrap of mail and dreams of going home again.
There wasn't much at all to put their lonely hearts at ease,
They had no Christmas turkey, just a pack of MREs.
They didn't have a garland or a stocking I could see,
They didn't need an ornament--they lacked a Christmas tree.
They didn't have a present even though it was tradition,
the only boxes I could see were labeled "ammunition."
I felt a little tug and found my son now by my side,
He asked me what it was I feared, and why it was I cried.
I swept him up into my arms and held him oh so near
and kissed him on the forehead as I whispered in his ear.
There's nothing wrong my little son, for safe we sleep tonight,
our heroes stand on foreign land to give us all the right,
to worry on the things in life that mean nothing at all,
instead of wondering if we will be the next to fall.
He looked at me as children do and said it's always right,
to thank the ones who help us and perhaps that we should write.
And so we pushed aside the bills and sat to draft a note,
to thank the many far from home, and this is what we wrote:
God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home.
Remember that we love you so, and that you're not alone.
The gift you give you share with all, a present every day,
You give the gift of liberty and that we can't repay.
Copyright 2003 Michael Marks: "I freely submit this poem for reprint without reservation--
this is an open and grateful tribute to the men and women who serve every day to keep our nation safe
Count Your Blessings, Not Your Problems
- author unknown
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill.
In the room of 200 he asked, who would like this $20 bill?
Hands started going up. He said, I am going to give it to someone, but first let me do this. He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, who still wants it? Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, What if I do this? And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.
Now who still wants it? Still the hands went into the air.
My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what happens to you, you will never lose your value: dirty or clean crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you.
The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or whom we know, but by WHO WE ARE.
You are special - Don't EVER forget it. If you do not pass this on, you may never know the lives it touches, the hurting hearts that it can bring comfort to.
Count your blessings, not your problems.
THE WEATHERED OLD BARN
- author unknown
A stranger came by the other day with an offer that set me to thinking. He wanted to buy the old barn that sits out by the highway. I told him right off he was crazy. He was a city type, you could tell by his clothes, his car, his hands, and the way he talked.
He said he was driving by and saw that beautiful barn sitting out in the tall grass and wanted to know if it was for sale. I told him he had a funny idea of beauty. Sure, it was a handsome building in its day. But then, there's been a lot of winters pass with their snow and ice and howling wind. The summer sun's beat down on that old barn till all the paint's gone, and the wood has turned silver gray.
Now the old building leans a good deal, looking kind of tired. Yet, that fellow called it beautiful. That set me to thinking. I walked out to the field and just stood there, gazing at that old barn. The stranger said he planned to use the lumber to line the walls of his den in a new country home he's building down the road. He said you couldn't get paint that beautiful. Only years of standing in the weather, bearing the storms and scorching sun, only that can produce beautiful barn wood. It came to me then. We're a lot like that, you and I. Only it's on the inside that the beauty grows with us. Sure we turn silver gray too... and lean a bit more than we did when we were young and full of sap. But the Good Lord knows what He's doing.
And as the years pass He's busy using the hard wealth of our lives, the dry spells and the stormy seasons, to do a job of beautifying our souls that nothing else can produce. And to think how often folks holler because they want life easy!
They took the old barn down today and hauled it away to beautify a rich man's house. And I reckon someday you and I'll be hauled off to Heaven to take on whatever chores the Good Lord has for us on the Great Sky Ranch. And I suspect we'll be more beautiful then for the seasons we've been through here... and just maybe even add a bit of beauty to our Father's house.
May today there be peace within you. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly." - quote by Lorraine K. Mitchell
Some Things You Keep
- author unknown
Some things you keep. Like good teeth. Warm coats.
Bald husbands. They're good for you, reliable and practical and so sublime that to throw them away would make the garbage man a thief.
So you hang on, because something old is sometimes better than something new, and what you know is often better than a stranger.
These are my thoughts, they make me sound old, old and tame, and dull at a time when everybody else is risky and racy and flashing all that's new and improved in their lives.
New careers, new thighs, new lips, new cars. The world is dizzy with trade-ins. I could keep track, but I don't think I want to.
I grew up in the fifties with practical parents -- a mother, God bless her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it -- A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.
They weren't poor, my parents, they were just satisfied. Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away.
I can see them now, Dad in trousers and tee shirt and Mom in a housedress, lawnmower in one's hand, dishtowel in the other's. It was a time for fixing things -- a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress.
Things you keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, reheating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant there'd always be more.
But then my mother died, and on that clear autumn night, in the chill of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any 'more.' Sometimes what you care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.
So, while you have it, it's best to love it and care for it and fix it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. That's true for marriage and old cars and children with bad report cards and dogs with bad hips and aging parents. You keep them because they're worth it, because you're worth it.
Some things you keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate you grew up with, there's just some things that make life important....people you know are special....and you KEEP them close!
- author unknown
Finally, someone has said what I think has been on every American's mind!!!!! This is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a local newspaper.
"IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT!!" I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture, here in the USA. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand.
This idea of America, being a multi -cultural community, has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.
We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language! ENGLISH. "In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, of Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is and always will be part of our culture.
If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. Remember, "Delta is ready when you are and they can have you there by nightfall".
This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle. Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But, once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.
If you agree with this message, pass it on . If you don't agree, pass it on anyway. What the heck! This is AMERICA, after all!
Older Than Dirt
- author unknown
My Dad was cleaning out my grandmother's house and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea.
She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to "sprinkle" clothes with because we didn't have steam irons.
Man, I am old ... - author unknown
How Many Do You Remember??
Head lights dimmer switches on the floor
Ignition switches on the dashboard
Heaters mounted on the inside of the fire wall
Real ice boxes [Ask your Mom about that]
Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.
Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner.
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals.
Older Than Dirt Quiz - author unknown
Count all the ones that you remember- not the ones you were told about!
Ratings at the bottom.
1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed bottle
5. Coffee shops with tableside jukeboxes
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Party lines
8. Newsreels before the movie
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Olive - 6933)
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S&H Green Stamps
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulb
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork popguns
25. Wash tub wringers
If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt!
Chinese Good Luck
You may not believe in this but the advice is great!
THE FOLLOWING IS A CHINESE
GOOD LUCK TANTRA TOTEM
- author unknown
Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.
Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.
When you say, "I love you", mean it.
When you say, "I'm sorry", look the person in the eye.
Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
Believe in love at first sight.
Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.
Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.
In disagreements, fight fairly. Please No name calling.
Don't judge people by their relatives.
Talk slowly but think quickly.
When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, "Why do you want to know?"
Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze.
When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others;
Responsibility for all your actions.
Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.
Spend some time alone.
Sand & Stone
- author unknown
A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand: "Today my best friend slapped me in the face." They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath.
The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but his friend saved him.
After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: "Today my best friend saved my life." The friend, who had slapped and saved his best friend, asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now, you write on a stone, why?"
The other friend replied: "When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away, but when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your blessings in stone.
Words of Wisdom
- author unknown
The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know... I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.
I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.
She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty - seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"
I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.
"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.
She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."
"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends.
Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.
She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us...
She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.
As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."
As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success."
"You have to laugh and find humor every day."
"You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!"
"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change."
"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."
She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."
She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.
At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.
One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
A DOG'S PRAYER
- by Beth Harris
Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.
Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.
When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements, and I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth... though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper.
Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.
And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest... and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.
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