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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.
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.
"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.
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
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
"Whaddaya mean?" Lisa asked.
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
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
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.
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'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 ~
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
Brent just laughed. "Yeah, right."
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.
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!"
twelfth," her dad answered. "Why?" A terrible pain ripped through Lisa's
heart. She buried her face in her hands, crying.
what's the matter?" her mother asked.
Through sobs Lisa explained
what had happened. "It was two days ago... 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
"Then I really missed it?" She nodded.
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
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:
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". ............. ~ author unknown
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
If Jesus Came To
If Jesus came to your house to
spend a day or two ..
If he came unexpectedly, I wonder what you would
Oh, I know you would give Him your nicest room to this honored
guest, and all the food you would serve to Him would be the very best;
and you would keep assuring Him you are glad to have Him there,
That serving Him in your home is joy beyond compare.
when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door with arms
outstretched in welcome to your heavenly visitor?
Or would you have to
change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines and
put the bible where they had been?
Would you turn off the television
and hope He hadn't heard?
and wished you hadn't uttered that loud,
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn
books out? Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about?
And I wonder .... if the saviour spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you go
right on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue
as it does from day to day?
Would your family conversation keep up
its usual pace?
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table
Would you sing the songs and read the books you always sing and
And let Him know the things your mind and spirit feed?
you take Jesus with you everywhere you had planned to go?
you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be
glad to have Him meet your closest friends?
Or would you hope they
would stay away till His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him
stay forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at
last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you
If Jesus Christ in person came to spend some time with
~ author unknown ~
Plant three rows of
Peace of mind
Peace of heart
Plant four rows of squash:
Plant four rows of lettuce:
Lettuce be kind
Lettuce be obedient
love one another
No garden is complete without
Turnip for meetings
Turnip for service
to help one another
We must have thyme:
Thyme for study
Thyme for prayer
with patience and cultivate with love.
~ grandma ~
Important To You?
A Native American and his friend
were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in
Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were
filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were
squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city
were almost deafening.
Suddenly, the Native American said, "I hear
His friend said, "What? You must be crazy.
You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!"
I'm sure of it," the Native American said, "I heard a
"That's crazy," said the friend. The Native
American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the
street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He
looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located
a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. "That's
incredible," said his friend. "You must have superhuman
"No," said the Native American. "My ears are no
different from yours. It all depends on what you're listening
"But that can't be!" said the friend. "I could never
hear a cricket in this noise."
"Yes, it's true," came the
reply. "It depends on what is really important to you. Here,
let me show you." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few
coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with
the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed
every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that
tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
"See what I mean?" asked the
Native American. "It all depends on what's important to
What's important to you? What do you listen
for? Some people say that there is no God, and that He never speaks
to us anymore. But perhaps they can't see or hear Him because, they
aren't listening for Him. They are living for themselves, not for
If you are in tune with God, you will be able to notice Him at
work in your life and in the world. And you'll be able to hear Him
when He Speaks.
........... ~ author unknown ~
the rise and set of the sun each day
I am thankful.
bounty and beauty of mother earth
I am thankful.
For the home
where the heart of my family resides
I am thankful.
enduring devotion of steadfast friendships
I am thankful.
the pleasure of unrestricted laughter and silly moments
For the numerous shoulders that share the weight of my
I am thankful.
For the pages of memories in my book of
I am thankful.
For all I have and all I am able to
I am thankful.
For the setting aside of an eminent
to gather in love, to pause and say:
"I am grateful for the
abundance of blessings in my life."
1999 Terri McPherson email@example.com Windsor, Ontario, Canada
I Am Thankful
...the mess to clean after a
because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay
because it means that I'm employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug
because it means I have
enough to eat.
...my shadow who watches me work
because it means I am out in the sunshine.
that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning
and gutters that need
because it means I have a home.
complaining I hear about our government
because it means we have
freedom of speech.
...the spot I find at the far end
of the parking lot
because it means I am capable of
...my huge heating bill
because it means I am
...the lady behind me in church who sings off key
because it means that I can hear.
...the piles of
laundry and ironing
because it means my loved ones are
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the
because it means I have been productive.
alarm that goes off in the early morning hours
because it means
that I'm alive
... I am also thankful for
When William Stidger taught at
Boston University, he once reflected upon the great number of un-thanked
people in his life. Those who had helped nurture him, inspire him or who
cared enough about him to leave a lasting impression.
One was a
schoolteacher he'd not heard of in many years. But he remembered that she
had gone out of her way to put a love of verse in him, and Will had loved
poetry all his life. He wrote a letter of thanks to her.
he received, written in the feeble scrawl of the aged, began, "My dear
Willie." He was delighted. Now over 50, bald and a professor, he didn't
think there was a person left in the world who would call him "Willie."
Here is that letter:
My dear Willie,
I cannot tell you how
much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small
room, cooking my own meals, lonely and, like the last leaf of autumn,
lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for
50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It
came on a blue-cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has in many
Not prone to cry easily, Will wept over that note. She was
one of the great un-thanked people from Will's past. You know them. We all
do. The teacher who made a difference. That coach we'll never forget. The
music instructor or Sunday school worker who helped us to believe in
ourselves. That scout leader who cared.
We all remember people who
shaped our lives in various ways. People whose influence changed us. Will
Stidger found a way to show his appreciation ~ he wrote them
Who are some of the un-thanked people from your past? It
may not be too late to say, "Thanks." ..........© Steve
FOR TODAY AND
May today there be peace within
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are
meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to
May you be content knowing you are a child of
Let His presence settle into your bones,
allow your soul the freedom
to sing, dance, and to bask in the
It is there for each and every one of you.
~ author unknown ~
Life is changed,
† not taken away.
in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
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Mom ~ December
©Marilyn Jeffries, Reflection of the Echo, 1974~2009
Have you fed someone today for