The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 6

Jack what are you going to do with what God has shown you today?” Stunned, “Janet, I’m not so sure I know what to do. You have been a very good wife to me and I’ve been I lousy husband and father to Julie. I just don’t know if what you have found is for me.” “Why? Do you think you are any worse than any other sinner on Earth that He died for? If you do think that you are too bad to be redeemed, let me point out that you are allowing your pride to get in your way and stopping you from receiving the most precious gift that was ever given to man” responded Janet. Jack replied, “How can I be sure that Christ could care for even me?” “Jack, it says in Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ That is how you can be sure that he cares for even you. The question is what are you going to do with this most precious gift? Are you going to reject it and in the process reject eternal life and all the blessings that go with it? Or are you going to accept this wonderful gift? With the acceptance of this gift comes blessings galore; love, joy, peace, gratitude for all that He has done for you and given you no matter how much that is. Jack you’ve lived a life of anger and bitterness and emptiness long enough don’t you want something better for yourself?” Jack’s heart ached worst than ever, “Janet, when you made your decision did your heart ache?” Janet responded tenderly, “Yes, Jack worst than it ever had in my life like it was crying out to God. That is when I knew I had to take the step to open my hearts door to the knocking of the Savior. Is that what you are feeling now?” “Yes,” said Jack, “I can hardly stand it.” Janet’s own heart beat with joy, “Then may I suggest you confess your sins and ask Jesus to become the Lord of your life. Thank Him for the gift of salvation that He gave you and promise to be obedient to His word.” “Lord,” said Jack, “I’ve never come to you before and I realize the folly of that. God I am so full of sins I hardly know where to start. Please forgive me for my cruelty to my family and employees and my pride, arrogance, materialism and ungratefulness. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the Cross for me and pay the price of my sins. I accept that gift and ask You to become the Lord of my life. I realize now I’m no good at running my own life. I need You. I promise to be obedient to Your word and will. Thank You for this evening Lord, for bringing Gab and Esther into my life and for giving me my family that I had taken for granted. Thank you for Janet’s sweet spirit all these years. Help me to be the husband she deserves. Make me into the father that Julie longs for. Amen.” “Oh, Jack, I can’t express how happy you have made me. I know that you have a lot on your mind. I also know that the two or rather the three of us can face anything with God. My sweet Jack, I’m so grateful that God took everything from us and used it to bring you to Him! I’d rather start all over again with all of us knowing Him than having everything and not having Him.”

A thought occurred to Jack, “What about the fire and you and Julie? Are you grateful for that as well? How could you be grateful for that?” Disbelief and anger were surfacing in Jack at the thought of this. Janet tried to calm him, “Jack, I won’t deny that it was awful and has been terrible painful and I wish with all my heart that it had only been me that had been burned and not Julie. But I trust God and His wisdom I know that even in this He has a plan that will work to good. If this is what it had to take to get your attention I gladly pay the price and although I wish Julie wasn’t affected by this I know her heart for you well enough to know that she would gladly go through anything to have the family she now has. Please Jack see the good in this, if the fire had not happened you may have not lost the business which in turn brought you to God and to me and Julie. In this we can be grateful for all that has happened because the end product has brought wholeness to our family. Jack, don’t beat yourself up over this. I beg you to do your best to see the master plan in all this – we have the family Julie and I have been praying for continually.” With tears in his eyes, “Are you sure that you and Julie won’t hate me for the rest of our days for the consequences of my hard heart?” “Never!” responded Janet with her own tears, “We love you! Apart from God you are the love of our lives! Plus we wouldn’t be living His word if we didn’t forgive you. For in Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.’ Plus my joy is too great at having the husband I have been longing for.” “You can truly be grateful for this?” asked Jack. “Yes, my love, God has given me the gift of gratitude. I pray that you find that same gift.” Responded Janet her eyes shining in the dawning sun. “It’s a lot to take in” he admitted, “but I am getting there. I can say I’m grateful for you, Julie and the wholeness I feel in my heart, I’m grateful for your forgiveness. Hum! I guess I could say that I too have found the gift of gratitude. I love you so much Janet thank you for being so patient with me and for praying all those years that this night would one day come.” “It has been my pleasure and the joy of my heart to pray for this night. God is so good and I’m so grateful!”

“Father, another humbled and grateful heart.” says Gab, as he goes down the hospital hall and disappears.

By Joy Dara Stephenson

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 5

Gab appeared in the hallway and stayed in the shadows where he observed as, Jack went on to first tell her how he had managed to not only loose the house in the fire but because of his ill temper as he put it he had managed to loose the business as well. How he had met Gab that night the last night of the business and all that they had done together.

Janet’s response surprised Jack. She seemed pleased that they had shared the food and his encounter with the homeless rather than being furious about loosing their livelihood. He went on to tell of Esther how peculiar she seemed in the light of that place and how her story had got him thinking. “Do you think that this Christ could truly do what this Esther woman claims He did for her?” he asked Janet. “What do you think?” Jack replied, “Janet if you could just see how Esther truly had nothing, not even most of her teeth anymore but the joy that she had seemed genuine enough. I can hardly believe that I’m finding myself envying a woman that has nothing but this Savior she speaks so lovingly about. I also need to tell you that I realize that I’ve been perfectly awful to you and Julie. I don’t understand how you could stand living with me. It’s like my eyes have been opened up to the man I’ve been and I can’t say that I like him very much, to be honest I very ashamed of the husband and father that I’ve been to you and Julie. I wouldn’t blame either one of you if you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. I felt that way coming here. I was hoping you would be asleep and I could just be near you with my thoughts. I was too ashamed to hope that you would want any part of me. I was bad enough when our life was perfect but since the fire I’ve avoided you and Julie when you both needed me the most.” At this Jack stopped he heard something he wasn’t sure his ears were serving him well, it sounded like tears and laughter. This is definitely not the response that he was expecting. Jack questioned, “Are you crying or laughing at me?” Janet softly responded, “Oh, Jack, don’t you know that this is what Julie and I have been longing for, even before the fire? The tears are tears of joy and relief that our life together might be all that I’ve been hoping and praying for, please forgive the laughter but it just hits me as funny that now that you’re becoming the man I’ve always loved, you think that now I would turn my back on you. Heaven’s no! God is finally granting the desires of my heart.” Jack was shocked, “How could I be married to you for so many years and not know that you were one of them, a Christian? You weren’t when we met and married were you?”Janet lovingly responded, “No, Jack, I did not deceive you when we were dating and got married into thinking you were marrying something other than what I was.

Not long after our marriage I got lonely. You were so distant and busy with the business. It seemed the only time you needed or wanted me was to parade me around and use me as a show piece at various events other than that you were content to have me stay at home and be a dutiful wife. You gave me everything but what I longed for most, you. Then a neighbor invited me to some teas at her church and at one of them I finally realized the emptiness in my heart could never be filled by anyone but God. So I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It wasn’t that I was trying to keep it from you; I desperately wanted to share it with you. The problem being we never really talked and you were always so busy that this has been our first real conversation since my conversion decades ago. I asked my Christian sisters how best to approach you with my faith. They suggested that I do as the Bible says for wives to be submissive to their husbands and to always be loving to you and that through my actions not my words an opportunity to speak might present itself. Since the restaurant kept you so busy it was easy to fellowship at church with you never even knowing I wasn’t home because you were always at work. Then when Julie was born my sisters in Christ helped me to train her up in the Lord. At every meal she prays that her daddy might love her like her Heavenly Father. She will be so pleased to know that your heart has changed.

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 3

Jack looked around the room and his gaze fell upon a women that appeared mostly toothless, with a weather beaten face and straggly matted grey hair. In his world this woman would have been one of the most unwanted and unaccepted or even unnoticed because until just recently he did his best to make these people invisible to him. With all of her grotesqueness she had something more that attracted her to him. First there was a sound. The harder he listened the more he realized that she was singing a happy song. Then it was that toothless smile that not only light up her face but radiated all around her. The last thing that drew him to her were her eyes. They shone as bright as the sun and twinkled like stars in the heavens and danced like a youth 1/10 her age. They drew him in to her in awe and wonderment. Never had he seen eyes like hers. He walked to her purposefully and quickly as not to miss her for fear she may leave before he could ask his questions. He introduced himself and asked her what her name was, she replied, “My name is Esther. Is there something on your mind Jack?” Well, that was easy he thought this fascinating woman seemed also able to see into his soul and know that there was something on his heart. “Yes there is something I want,” started Jack “I’ve been noticing how happy you are I might even use the word grateful, yet as near as I can tell you have nothing. How can that be? What is it that fills you with this joy that I so plainly see on you?” “Oh, Jack,” Esther replied, “this indeed is a worthy question. I would be most honored to tell you of the joy I’ve found. But first I must know are you pressed for time?” At this he wasn’t sure, he had no idea of his companions plans for there evening together. He looked quizzically at Gab and he smiled back and nodded. “No,” replied Jack, “I’m not pressed for time. I’m all yours Esther.” “I’m glad to know that,” said Esther, “it’s been a long path and it takes a while to tell.”

“You know I wasn’t always the woman that you see. I had a grand house with upstairs and downstairs servants. I had grounds men for the gardens and the pool and tennis courts and a chauffeur to drive me and one for my husband and they did all the upkeep on the many cars we had. With all of that Jack I lacked the most important thing I lacked gratitude for what I had and I had no joy. My heart was empty and cold. When my husband was jailed for embezzling from his own company I lost it all in a matter of days. When I lost my wealth I lost what friends I thought I had. They were there for the good times but when the bad times hit they were nowhere to be found. The hard heart that I had so cautiously crafted and built at first became even harder when I started blaming all of my losses on my husband. In an attempt to distance myself from him and the losses I listened to some ill advice and divorced him. While in prison and with nothing to look forward to since now I had turned my back on him and not stayed true to my vows of for better or worse he killed himself. The news of this was the beginning of my undoing and a massive change began to take place in my heart. I hurt for the first time at what I had done to my husband and how I had abandoned him. With no where to go and no friends I soon found myself on the streets. This was a truly humbling experience considering where I had come from and how far I had fallen. I had no one, nothing or so I thought. I soon learned that there was a community of hurting people feeling much the way I was feeling here. In the shelters I quickly learned the ones to ask questions of for help with survival skills. So I survived at first with a bitter heart at all I had lost. But as I began to look around me I noticed that there were those that were as equally as bad off as I was that were doing more than surviving. This made me very curious. How could anyone in our circumstances do anything other than merely survive? I wanted to know, as I suspect you want to know, how anyone could find joy in such a place? Am I right?” Jack nodded. Esther smiled her eyes dancing all the more, “This is a true mystery. One I’m honored to share with you. I finally asked my new friends how they could be what appeared to be joyful in such lowly circumstances. Their first answer was but one word – gratitude. All I could think as I left them is what do they have to be grateful for? What do any of us here have to be grateful for? This answer at first angered me more than comforted me. I walked away with an even harder heart than I had had before. I thought these people are truly nuts. I’ve wasted my breathe on a bunch of lunatics! I stayed away from them for a while and soon found myself in the company of some lost souls that really were truly out of their right mind. This got me thinking. If my former friends really were not lunatics they must have had something with this “gratitude” thing. But I was still at a loss as to how to possess it. So I eventually returned to my friends and they welcomed me back with open arms. Which made me realize that they had something more than gratitude they also had acceptance, what I would later discover was love. These were qualities that my friends of the grand old days didn’t truly possess. I became more and more attracted to them. But where was all this coming from in the midst of poverty and utter despair?

The Gift of Gratitude – A Series of Short Story Part 2

That evening as he returned to the restaurant to welcome the dinner crowd a black darkness clothed him. This was not a night to be employed at his restaurant. Although he was his charming self to the clients possibly even more charming than usual. He was even more cruel than usual to his staff. It would appear that there was nothing that they could do to please him and that they were all a bunch of bumbling buffoons. Even the chief who usually was spared his tirades was included in them this night; no, this was not the night to have Jack as a boss.

As the days progressed it appeared much to the doctors’ amazement that his wife and daughter would both pull through this horrific tragedy. They still didn’t show much hope for reconstructive surgery. Jack was pleased that their lives had been spared but he couldn’t help question what kind of lives had been left to them? Left to them all?

As the days grew into weeks his disposition at work grew even worse. The employees could barely handle coming in to work, including the chief who was beginning to think of options he may have else where. Should this happen Jack’s business world would crumble before him. His livelihood rested on the chief and keeping him happy and Jack no longer was even pretending to make an attempt at this. He had also lost the ability he had always had to fool the patrons with his charm and fanais.

Jack’s clientèle was dwindling under his harsh nature. One and a half months after the fire the chief gave notice he was moving to a competitor. Jack scrambled at attempting to save his business but word had already gotten out what it was like to work for him. There was not a single chief that wanted to leave their restaurant. He tried the chief schools but word about him had already reached the schools and no amount of finagling could lure a chief to his business. The rest of the employees were leaving by the droves and by the chief’s last night it was Jack and the chief alone there. Usually this would have been an impossible night to try to get everything accomplished but the business was already dead they had but three patrons the whole night, a couple from out of town that knew nothing of the restaurants recent reputation, and an odd man with a twinkle in his eye. The couple where oblivious to their surroundings, fully engaged in one another and said nothing to Jack other than to order and compliment him on the wonderful meal before they left. The odd man sitting alone asked Jack, “Are you grateful for all you have?” This was the straw that broke the camels back. “Am I grateful, grateful for what? Should I be grateful that this is the last night of my business, my livelihood? Or should I be grateful that my house burnt to the ground with all my possessions and the only things that escaped the fire my wife and daughter are now horribly disfigured from it and in constant pain and there is nothing I can do for them? What may I ask you is there to be grateful for?” At this more than rage filled Jack’s heart which had so consumed him these many weeks, but tears began to fill his eyes. The carefully constructed wall had started to crumble and feelings, something very new to Jack began to penetrate through. The gentleman gently said, “Are you going to visit your family after you close the restaurant?” Jack was taken aback from his words. He realized that this was the first conversation he had had about them outside of the phone call with the policeman and the doctors. “I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do after closing.” He admitted honestly. “Well, if you don’t mind I’d like to stay with you as you close and figure it all out” said the gentleman. A feeling of resignation swept over him, he replied, “Sure, do whatever you like.”

As Jack continued on with the chores of closing up for the last time, the man prayed, “Lord, continue to guide me in how to minister to him. He is hurting even more than I believe he knows. Guide my words and give me tact. Use me as your instrument of love to this bleeding soul. Grant me Your wisdom and discernment. And give me stamina I believe this is going to be a long night. Amen.”

Jack approached the man and said, “Well I’m done here. By the way if we are going to spend this evening together I’d like to know your name.” The man replied, “My name is Gabriel, but my friends call me Gab. You can call me Gab.” Jack was amazed, “I don’t have any friends” he admitted, “and you’re going to let me call you Gab?” “Yep” said Gab, “Now where do you want to go?” Jack wasn’t sure they had closed the restaurant early it was just 8pm but that meant it was after visiting hours at the hospital and most likely by now his wife and daughter would be asleep. “I really haven’t anywhere to go” he honestly assessed. Gab asked, “Do you have any left-over food from tonight’s specials?” “Yes I do I was just going to through it away. The new owners sure won’t need it.” Replied Jack. Gab thought that he’d take it a step further, “Was all the food in the restaurant included in the sale?” Jack explained that the food was not a part of the deal and he had wondered what he was going to do with it. Gab had an idea, “Do you have a van or truck that we can transport the food in” Jack assured him he did. “Great” said Gab, “I have the perfect plan for tonight. Let’s load up all the food and take it to the local mission for the homeless. We can reheat this evenings meals and leave the rest for them to use as they need.” This seemed like as good as any idea to Jack, surely better than throwing all that food away. They packed everything up and went on down to the shelter, a place Jack had never been to.

He saw something on each face as they served up the reheated specials that reminded him of what another man had told him in passing it seemed a lifetime ago. Gab saw the change taking place in Jack’s eyes and slowly beginning to creep to his heart. It was a long, icy journey with many a road block but Gab felt sure that this new friend was capable of completing the journey begun so many weeks before. Gab inquired, “You’re thinking something or remembering something aren’t you Jack?” “Yes, these people who are receiving this food all have an expression on their face that reminds me of what a stranger said to me once a long time ago, ‘Gratitude is the blessing of a humble heart.’” “You don’t say,” said Gab, “what does that mean to you?” Jack pondered he hadn’t taken his musings that far yet. “Well,” answered Jack, “these people have nothing no home, no job, no family and yet they seem so grateful for this food. They are I suppose of the humblest of means I’ve ever met yet they have found something to be grateful for. It’s hard to understand why they aren’t angry, mad and bitter.” “Like you?” Gab asked. “Yes, to my shame like me.” Jack replied. “How can they have even less than I have and have gratitude?” “That’s a good question.” Gab responded, “Why don’t you ask one of them.” “Do you think they will be offended by my question?” Jack asked. Gab answered back, “Seek out the one that has most of what you seek.”

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Series

Jack was a hard man. He everything he did was done with great determination, ambition, pride, and confidence (to the point of arrogance).  It was hard to be Jack’s employee, it was, hard to be his friend, but, it was even harder to be his wife and daughter.

Jack was also a very successful man. He owned a very up scale trendy restaurant that was heading for franchising in numerous states across the country. He wore all the best designers in clothes, shoes, & jewelry (only the finest watches for him). He made certain that his very beautiful wife wore the best of the best (to complete the appearance of the perfect wife) and that his daughter was the most stylish of any child anywhere that they went. Yes, Jack was a successful man and that success meant the world to him. He wore it on his sleeve for the entire world to see.

If you were to ask Jack if he was a happy man, without a thought he would have said yes. But if he had truly stopped to think about the question I’m not sure he would have known the answer. For in truth with all of his pursuits all he truly felt was empty. This was not a feeling he acknowledged or even allowed himself to feel. But deep down in the deepest of his core that was all that was there a, hallow, lonely, empty, nothing. This did not bother Jack; he was a man of action not feeling, a man of accomplishments always making improvements to an already high end, high class and perfect model…or so he thought.

One day while opening up the restaurant for business he came across an odd man with a twinkle in his eye. The man questioned, “Are you grateful for all you have?” Jack replied, “I’ve done well for myself.” Not truly caring but something about the man made him feel compelled to ask, “Why do you ask?” The man replied, “Because gratitude is the blessing of a humble heart.” And the man proceeded to go his way. Likewise Jack continued on with his day, thinking nothing of the encounter.

Jack received a phone call from a policeman. He was calling to inform him that there had been a fire at his house. The policeman told him that he could see his wife and daughter at the hospital and that he should get there fast. The doctors had said that it didn’t look good.

When he arrived at the hospital Dr. Thomas Logan informed him that both his wife and daughter had received extensive burns over their bodies and that it would be touch and go for a while as to whether or not their systems could take the shock of the injuries. If their bodies could handle the next few days things would look hopeful. Thinking ahead, Jack ask Dr. Logan, “When would they be able to get constructive surgery and just where are their burns anyway?” The doctor went on to explain that his wife had been burned over 80% of her body and there was just so much that they could do. It would be a long, painful process and that her body particularly her face would never be the same. His daughter had been burned over 75% of her body and would most likely never have hair on her head again and the reconstructive surgery for face may fair better than his wife’s but not by much.

Because of a spark from an electric cord on their Christmas tree. Jack’s ideal life had been crushed in less than an hour’s time his perfect home and belongings lay burnt to the crisp with nothing but ashes to show for all his hard work and success. Worse of all his beautiful wife and adorable daughter where now horribly disfigured creatures, wrapped like cocoons never to be seen again as they had once graced is arms. Something inside him cracked. Could it be the impenetrable wall he’d worked so hard all his life to build was loosing its strength? Time alone would tell.