You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11, 2001.Neither will I.I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say , “Good-bye.” I held his fingers steady as he dialed.It gave him peace to say, “Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK..I am ready to go.” I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn’t coming home that night.I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out for me for help. “I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!” I said, of course I will show you the way home – only believe in me now.”I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls. I took him home to tend to his flock in Heaven. He heard my voice and answered.I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer. I was with the crew as they were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faith has saved them.I was in Texas, Kansas, London. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense me?I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name – though not all know me. Some met me for the first time on the 86th floor.Some sought me with their last breath.Some couldn’t hear me calling to them through the smoke and flames; “Come to me…this way…take my hand.” Some chose, for the final time, to ignore me.I did not place you in the tower that day. You may not know why, but I do. However, if you were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for me?September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you. But someday your journey will end. And I will be there for you as well. Seek me now while I may be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are “ready to go.”I will be in the stairwell of your final moments. Remember…I love you.~God
• 1 (10-1/2-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken with herbs soup • 1 cup sour cream • 1/2 cup sliced green onion • 1 cooked rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded (about 3 cups) • 2 sleeves salted snack crackers, crushed • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Step 2
Spray a 2-1/2-quart baking dish (or a 9×9 square baking dish) with non-stick cooking spray.Step 3
In a large bowl, mix together the soup, sour cream and green onion. Stir in the chicken, and spread the mixture into the prepared dish.Step 4
In that same bowl, combine the crushed crackers with melted butter. Sprinkle the cracker mixture over the casserole.Step 5
Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cracker topping is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly.
The older I get the swifter time passes, especially betweenMemorial Day and Labor Day. One Labor Day stands out. It was the last Labor Day we were all together as a family under one roof. The next summer our first-born son Kyle would leave for a year of missionary service and then college a continent away. On that Labor Day evening, we drove to Grand Haven on the WestCoast of Michigan. In a resort town like Grand Haven the wholeAtmosphere changes after Labor Day. When we arrived it was cool and fall-like. The sun was droppingSteadily into the lake. We strode quickly trying to reach theLighthouse at the end of the pier before the sunset. As we walked,The sun touched the horizon and then steadily sank from sight. Everyone had gathered and waited to see the last sunset ofSummer and they were talking about how quickly the sun had set.Walking along I heard more than one person say, “That was over soFast.” All I could think about, walking out toward the sunset withMy precious first-born son, was about how quickly the sunset on ourLast summer together had come. The whole family gathered at the foot of the lighthouse on theEnd of the pier and watched the sky turn golden-orange. A few boatsGrowled into the harbor for the evening. A ship sat out on theHorizon moving imperceptibly slow going who-knows-where. GentleWaves lapped the rocks. Occasionally a bigger wave spouted up inSpray and mist. We all stood close to keep each other warm. ThereWas a sweetness in the air. My heart grew tender and alive to theWorld around me. My mind went back through the years with my son. They passedSwiftly. We went to a few ball games together. We camped outTogether a few times. Together we gazed into a few campfires.Together we floated a few rivers. We went fishing a few times. WeWashed the car together a few times. I taught him to tie a tie,Shake hands, and drink his coffee black. I taught him the books ofThe Bible. I taught him to ride a bike and a few days later I taughtHim to drive. Together we laughed and cried. We loved a couple of dogsTogether, buried them together, and together we hurt. A few times weWalked together under a full moon in awe at the wonder of God’sWorld. Together we sang and prayed and worshipped God. And soon, for the first time, we would go on — but notTogether. The reality of it settled in on me that night on the pier. As the purple of night pushed in on the pale blue and orangeTwilight we turned and made our way back. Kyle was holding hisLittle sister Hope. She was giggling over his shoulder at her motherWhen suddenly she said “Momma” for the first time. Lois was delighted and her eyes glowed. Hope looked back withThe same lively brown eyes… One child ready to go make his way in the world was carryingAnother just learning to talk. When we reached the boardwalk we all turned and saw theLighthouse and pier lights blinking red against the dusk. A stringOf white harbor lights lined the catwalk. The afterglow of the sunCast the lighthouse and the pier light in a sharp black silhouette. Stars appeared in the growing darkness overhead. Lovers heldOne another or walked hand-in-hand. Fishermen sauntered in withTheir gear along the lighted walkway. In an hour we had watched the sun set on summer and turnedToward autumn with a life-long memory in our hearts. I felt the painThat always comes with love and my soul whispered, “Breathe deep,Walk slow, hold tight to those you love, the sun is setting and itWill be over so fast.”
Our house was directly across the street fromThe clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital inBaltimore. We lived downstairs and rented theUpstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.One summer evening as I was fixing supper,There was a knock at the door. I opened it toSee a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardlyTaller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as IStared at the stooped, shriveled body. But theAppalling thing was his face, lopsided fromSwelling, red and raw.Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “GoodEvening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room forJust one night. I came for a treatment this morningFrom the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’til morning.”He told me he’d been hunting for a room sinceNoon but with no success, no one seemed toHave a room. “I guess it’s my face… I know it looksTerrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”For a moment I hesitated, but his next wordsConvinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chairOn the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest onThe porch. I went inside and finished getting supper.When we were ready, I asked the old man if heWould join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.”And he held up a brown paper bag.When I had finished the dishes, I went out onThe porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’tTake a long time to see that this old man had anOversized heart crowded into that tiny body.He told me he fished for a living to support hisDaughter, her five children, and her husband,Who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, everyOther sentence was preface with a thanks to GodFor a blessing. He was grateful that no painAccompanied his disease, which was apparentlyA form of skin cancer. He thanked God for givingHim the strength to keep going.At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s roomFor him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linensWere neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch.He refused breakfast, but just before he left for hisBus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said,”Could I please come back and stay the next time IHave a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I canSleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and thenAdded, “Your children made me feel at home.Grownups are bothered by my face, but childrenDon’t seem to mind.”I told him he was welcome to come again.And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven inThe morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and aQuart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. HeSaid he had shucked them that morning before heLeft so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his busLeft at 4:00 a.m. And I wondered what time he hadTo get up in order to do this for us.In the years he came to stay overnight with us thereWas never a time that he did not bring us fish orOysters or vegetables from his garden.Other times we received packages in the mail,Always by special delivery; fish and oysters packedIn a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leafCarefully washed. Knowing that he must walk threeMiles to mail these, and knowing how little moneyHe had made the gifts doubly precious.When I received these little remembrances, I oftenThought of a comment our next-door neighbor madeAfter he left that first morning.”Did you keep that awful looking man last night? ITurned him away! You can lose roomers by puttingUp such people!”Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh!If only they could have known him, perhaps theirIllnesses would have been easier to bear.I know our family always will be grateful to have knownHim; from him we learned what it was to accept theBad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.Recently I was visiting a friend, who has a green-House, as she showed me her flowers, we came toThe most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum,Bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise,It was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket.I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put itin the loveliest container I had!”My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” sheExplained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be,I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail.It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly,But I was imagining just such a scene in heaven.”Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might haveSaid when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman.”He won’t mind starting in this small body.”All this happened long ago — and now, in God’s garden,How tall this lovely soul must stand.