By Rena Mammen
By Randy Billington
Author Unknown

* * * * * * * *

By Rena Mammen
(c) 2000 Rena Mammen, all rights reserved

The loveliness that I behold
is far beyond compare.
The joy I sense in my soul
tells me that You're near.

I see You in red roses
that bloom across the vines.
I feel You in the gentle wind
that sweeps across my face.

Your hand enfolds me like a glove
of love and tenderness,
And I'm reminded that Your love God
surrounds me, forever more.

* * * * * * * *

By Randy Billington
(c) 2000 Randy Billington, all rights reserved

My Dear Friend,

I have thought and prayed much about you as you prepare to deal
with changes - not entirely of your choosing, as you say(!) --
that call you to move far away and devote your time and attention
to matters less close to your heart than those that have occupied
you in recent months. My meditations on your behalf find their
parallel in recent realizations from my own life about the rich
depths of God's love. I am facing my own challenges of trust in
giving every speck of my life to him, including concerns about
professional career, material and financial concerns, my hopes
for a Christian life mate, and . . . well, everything. I
attended a spiritual leadership conference last weekend with
Saddleback Church at which I communicated my willingness to
surrender all these concerns to go into full time work for God if
that is what he wants me to do. Frankly, my mind is beset by
millions of possibilities that I will need to rely heavily on
others' guidance in this area. However, I am also actively
working on studies to gain insight into the more particular
details of God's plan for my life. When the service or
opportunity, or relationship, or whatever it happens to be,
does come along, I definitely want to be ready.

The revelations in my own life lately have given me confidence
that God can and will use and lead me, and you, in ways that we
might hardly be able to dream of now. Think how many of the
Biblical stories involve things happening in peoples' lives long
after most of us would have thought they should have happened.
Abraham had given up on God's promise that he and Sarah would
have a son, and had impatiently pursued an ill-fated alternative
plan with Hagar, before he finally saw God's plans answered in
his life on God's own timetable. Abraham's son, Isaac waited
some time before God brought Rebecca to his life, and had Jacob's
wish to immediately have Rachel as his wife been granted, he
would not have had the ten sons born of Leah, or their progeny,
without whom there might never have been a surviving body known
as the "children of Israel." Moses spent time that to him must
have seemed wasted "exiled" as a shepherd before God sought to
use him more actively. And Jesus own ministry, of course, was
not fashioned according to human logic by whichever precious moment had to
be spent practically. Rather, much of his adult
life was spent in a carpenter shop, with only three years
reserved to accomplish the most important work for which anyone
was ever born. All of these Bible stories remind us that God's
mysterious ways are not obvious to us, and unfold according to a
different logic or timing than we might conceive. Please forgive
me if these perspectives are second nature to you and I seem to be repeating
the obvious. I restate them to refresh the
perspective from which trust in God as we willingly embrace life's

* * * * * * * *

Author Unknown

Right before the jetway door closed, I scrambled
aboard the plane going from LA to Chicago, lugging my
laptop and overstuffed briefcase. It was the first
leg of an important business trip a few weeks before
Christmas, and I was running late. I had a ton of
work to catch up on, half wishing, half praying I
muttered, "Please God, do me a favor; let there be
an empty seat next to mine, I don't need any distractions."

I was on the aisle in a two seat row. Across sat a
businesswoman with her nose buried in a newspaper. No
problem. But in the seat beside mine, next to the
window, was a young boy wearing a big red tag around
his neck: Minor Traveling Unattended.

The kid sat perfectly still, hands in his lap, eyes
straight ahead. He'd probably been told never to talk
to strangers. Good, I thought.

Then the flight attendant came by. "Michael, I have
to sit down because we're about to take off," she said to
the little boy. "This nice man will answer any of your
questions, okay?"

Did I have a choice? I offered my hand, and Michael
shook it twice, straight up and down. "Hi, I'm
Jerry," I said. "You must be about 7 years old."

"I'll bet you don't have any kids," he responded.

"Why do you think that? Sure I do." I took out my
wallet to show him pictures.

"Because I'm six."

"I was way off, huh?"

The captains' voice came over the speakers: "Flight
attendants, prepare for takeoff." Michael pulled his
seat belt tighter and gripped the armrests as the jet
engines roared.

I leaned over and said, "Right about now, I usually
say a prayer. I ask God to keep the plane safe and to
send angels to protect us."

"Amen," he said, then added, "but I'm not afraid of
dying. I'm not afraid because my mama's already in

"I'm sorry." I said.

"Why are you sorry?" he asked, peering out the window
as the plane lifted off.

"I'm sorry you don't have your mama here." My briefcase
jostled at my feet, reminding me of all the work I needed
to do.

"Look at those boats down there!" Michael said as the
plane banked over the Pacific. "Where are they going?"

"Just going sailing, having a good time. And there's
probably a fishing boat full of guys like you and me."

"Doing what?" he asked.

"Just fishing, maybe for bass or tuna. Does your dad
ever take you fishing?"

"I don't have a dad." Michael sadly responded.

Only 6 years old and he didn't have a dad, and his Mom
had died, and here he was flying halfway across the
country all by himself. The least I could do was make
sure he had a good flight. With my foot I pushed my
briefcase under my seat.

"Do they have a bathroom here?" he asked, squirming a

"Sure," I said, "let me take you there." I showed him
how to work the 'Occupied' sign, and what buttons to
push on the sink, then he closed the door. When he
emerged, he wore a wet shirt and a huge smile. "That
sink shoots water everywhere!" The attendants smiled.

Michael got the VIP treatment from the crew during
snack time. I took out my laptop and tried to work on
a talk I had to give, but my mind kept going to Michael.
I couldn't stop looking at the crumpled grocery bag on the
floor by his seat. He'd told me that everything he owned
was in that bag. Poor kid.

While Michael was getting a tour of the cockpit the
flight attendant told me his grandmother would pick
him up in Chicago. In the seat pocket a large manila
envelope held all the paperwork regarding his custody.

He came back explaining, "I got wings! I got cards!
I got more peanuts. I saw the pilot and he said I
could come back anytime!"

For a while he stared at the manila envelope. "What
are you thinking?" I asked Michael. He didn't answer.
He buried his face in his hands and started sobbing. It
had been years since I'd heard a little one cry like that.
My kids were grown -- still I don't think they'd ever cried
so hard. I rubbed his back and wondered where the flight attendant was.

"What's the matter buddy?" I asked.

All I got were muffled words "I don't know my grandma. Mama
didn't want her to come visit and see her sick. What if Grandma
doesn't want me? Where will I go?"

"Michael, do you remember the Christmas story? Mary
and Joseph and the baby Jesus? Remember how they came
to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born? It was late and
cold, and they didn't have anywhere to stay, no family, no
hotels, not even hospitals where babies could be born. Well,
God was watching out for them. He found them a place to stay;
a stable with animals."

"Wait, wait," Michael tugged on my sleeve. "I know
Jesus. I remember now." Then he closed his eyes,
lifted his head and began to sing. His voice rang out
with a strength that rocked his tiny frame. "Jeeesus
looooves me--thiiiiiis I knowwwwwww. For the Biiiiiible
tells meeeeee sooooo....."

Passengers turned or stood up to see the little boy
who made the large sound. Michael didn't notice his
audience. With his eyes shut tight and voice lifted
high, he was in a good place.

"You've got a great voice," I told him when he was
done. "I've never heard anyone sing like that."

"Mama said God gave me good pipes just like my
Grandma's," he said. "My Grandma loves to sing, she
sings in her church choir."

"Well, I'll bet you can sing there too. The two of
you will be running that choir."

The seat belt sign came on as we approached O'Hare.
The flight attendant came by and said we just have a
few minutes now, but she told Michael it's important
that he put on his seat belt. People started stirring
in their seats, like the kids before the final school
bell. By the time the seat belt sign went off, passengers
were rushing down the aisle. Michael and I stayed seated.

"Are you gonna go with me?" he asked.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world buddy!" I assured

Clutching his bag and the manila envelope in one hand,
he grabbed my hand with the other. The two of us
followed the flight attendant down the jetway. All
the noises of the airport seemed to fill the corridor.
Michael stopped, flipping his hand from mine, he dropped
to his is knees. His mouth quivered. His eyes brimmed with tears.

"What's wrong Michael? I'll carry you if you want."

He opened his mouth and moved his lips, but it was as
if his words were stuck in his throat. When I knelt
next to him, he grabbed my neck. I felt his warm, wet
face as he whispered in my ear, "I want my mama!!!"

I tried to stand, but Michael squeezed my neck even
harder. Then I heard a rattle of footsteps on the
corridor's metal floor.

"Is that you baby?" I couldn't see the woman behind
me, but I heard the warmth in her voice. "Oh baby,"
she cried. "Come here. Grandma loves you so much. I
need a hug baby. Let go of that nice man," she knelt
beside Michael and me.

Michael's grandma stroked his arm. I smelled a hint
of orange blossoms.

"You've got folks waiting for you out there Michael.
Do you know that you've got aunts and uncles and
cousins?" She patted his skinny shoulders and started
humming. Then she lifted her head and sang. I wondered
if the flight attendant told her what to sing, or maybe she
just knew what was right. Her strong, clear voice filled the
passageway, "Jesus loves me -- this I know..."

Michael's gasps quieted. Still holding him, I rose, nodded
hello to his grandma and watched her pick up the grocery bag.
Right before we got to the doorway to the terminal, Michael
loosened his grip around my neck and reached for his grandma.

As soon as she walked across the threshold with him,
cheers erupted. From the size of the crowd, I figured
family, friends, pastors, elders, deacons, choir members
and most of the neighbors had come to meet A tall man tugged
on Michael's ear and pulled off the red sign around his neck.
It no longer applied. As I made my way to the gate for my
connecting flight, I barely noticed the weight of my overstuffed
briefcase and laptop. I started to wonder who would be in the
seat next to mine this time...... And I smiled.

* * * * * * * *

Except where otherwise noted, (c) copyright 1999-2001 Destiny Music, Inc. All rights reserved.