Prodigal Son

Artist: Pompeo Batoni
Artist: Pompeo Batoni

Sarah’s Special Christmas



Sarah’s Special Christmas

By David Nelson


Sarah was an industrious young girl, saving all her money during the year to buy her mother a very special necklace from Johnson’s Jewelers.

She and her mother were looking last December and her mother, in a moment of total honesty, said, “If your dad has extra money, I’d ask him for that beautiful necklace so I could keep your picture next to my heart.”

They grinned and hugged each other in that special mom to daughter embrace. Later, Sarah returned to get the name and stock number for her secret surprise next Christmas. 

Well, it was almost next Christmas and Sarah had saved nearly all the money she needed, $125! It was so hard to not spend any of her money during the year. Many times she almost weakened to buy herself or her friends a treat. But she refused even when her best friend, Caroline, begged her to go to a movie starring their favorite actress. With tears in her eyes, she held fast to her promise, keeping her money safe in her bedroom.

Every week, Sarah stopped by Johnson’s to remind herself of why she was saving all her money. The necklace, with a heart-shaped locket always gleamed and sparkled back at her. Two more weeks and you will be mine, she thought. Mom will be so surprised.

The following two weeks were filled with all things Christmas. Decorating the tree, the house, lights on the house and wrapping presents for friends and relatives. It was just about time for Sarah to pick up the necklace. She couldn’t help grinning as she pictured her mom opening the box.

Two days before she was scheduled to get the necklace, Sarah decided to tell Caroline why she had been saving all her money. She knew she would be excited for her when she found out. 

Caroline’s mother opened the door and invited Sarah in. She seemed downcast. “Can I see Caroline?” she asked. Mrs. Willis replied, “Of course, honey. But she is not in a good mood. We got some bad news today. See if you can cheer her up for me.”

Caroline was on her bed, crying into her pillow. Sarah sat beside her and spoke her name, “Caroline, what’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s so terrible, Sarah. My dad got fired today. He’s been at his job for longer than I can remember and they sold the company last week. Today he was called in and they fired him. And it’s Christmas.”

“I am so sorry. What can I do to help?” She wondered why she asked that question. What could she possibly do to help Caroline’s  dad?

“I don’t think you can do anything. His final check was very small because they made him pay off his loan before he left. Now he can’t get the car out of the shop to look for work. His cousin Billy said he could work for him until he finds a better job.”

“Then why are you so sad? He has another job right away.”

“Because after he paid for rent and stuff, he doesn’t have any money to pay for the car repair. And he needs the car to go to work tomorrow.”

“Wow. That’s horrible. Does your mom have any money?” And then a little voice spoke inside Sarah–“You have $125 to help your friend’s father. Give it to them.” Sarah was horrified to think of giving up her mom’s money. She had saved all year and her mother deserved the necklace. Giving the money to Caroline’s dad wouldn’t be fair. It was his fault he got fired, I am sure.

“What? You know my mom doesn’t work, Sarah. But actually, I have $15 I’m giving to dad. It’s all I have. Maybe he can talk the repair guy to put it on credit.”

“Yeah, maybe he can. Listen, I have to go now. Give me a hug.”

Wiping her eyes, Caroline said, “Why’d you come over?”

“Oh, no reason. I just wanted to talk. See you later.”

Why should I have to give her my money, Sarah wrestled with that little voice. I’m just a kid. He dad wouldn’t even take my money…probably. I’ve saved all year for my mother. Her joy was ebbing away, taking her excitement with it. Is this fair, she wondered. 

Standing in front of Johnson’s Jewelry with tears streaming down her face, Sarah knew she had to give the money to Mr. Willis. Her mom and dad were always giving stuff away and they told her it was what we are supposed to do…help others, especially when it isn’t easy.

Now she was in the store, staring at the necklace. “Come to pick it up?” a voice nearby said. “I’ve watched you come in all year and I figured you would get it for Christmas. Like me to wrap it up young lady?”

Sarah whirled around and ran out the door, crying as she ran all the way to the Willis’.

Mrs. Willis let her into the kitchen where Caroline and her father were sitting. Sarah reached into her pocket and pulled out the wad of bills, totaling $125, and dropped them onto the table.

“I’ve saved this money and I want you to have it, Mr. Willis. Caroline told me you can’t pay for the car repair so I want you to have the money. You don’t have to pay me back.”

Mr. and Mrs. Willis and Caroline were speechless as they stared at the wad of bills. Sarah ran all the way home, still sobbing. She cried herself to sleep.

“Honey, wake up,” her mother said, gently rubbing her back. “Your dad and I want to talk with you and it’s time to eat.”

She splashed some water on her swollen eyes and joined her folks in the kitchen. “Sarah, we are so proud of you,” her father said, tears in his eyes. “We know how hard it was to save all year for that special gift for your mother. But giving it away at the last minute was amazing. You are so generous, sweetheart. So loving and kind.”

Sarah was puzzled. How did they know what she saved for? “How did you know?”

“You’re not going to believe this,” her dad said, “but I was planning on buying her the same necklace. So today, when I went in to pick it up, the clerk told me about you coming month after month all year and then today how you ran away without buying it I wondered what had happened. So your mother called the Willis’ and they told us what you did. Honey you made us so proud. So very proud. We know how difficult they was. And your generosity was worth a thousand necklaces.”

“I love you so much, mom. But I knew you would want me to give my money to Mr. Willis.”

“You will be glad to know that your father bought the necklace for me and so I bought you one too. Here.”

During her life, Sarah shared the story of saving her money all year and then giving it away just before she bought the necklace for her mother. Her children and grandchildren knew it by heart after a few tellings but they too, became generous, loving people, giving away sacrificially, just as Christ did for everyone. 



The unrelenting sun scorched everything in the arid oilfields. The grizzled, rough-and-tumble men approached the lone speaker slowly, determined to stop his mouth permanently. A few feet away now, the solitary sentinel turned to face them, eyes penetrating, fire like.

 “Boys?” he Inquired.

 “We come to show you your words ain’t enough to stand against us. We come to shut you up once and for all,” they said.

 Squaring his slight shoulders and facing his threatening accusers directly, the slender young man opened his mouth, but the words were from another realm, “Is not My word like fire? declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”1

 As though held by an unseen force, the men were frozen, mouths agape, eyes wide. They were silent.

 He continued, “Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. But now at last, God sent His Son to bring His message to us. God created the universe by His Son, and everything will someday belong to the Son. God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like Him in every way. By His own mighty word, He holds the universe together.”2

 Without a word, the hardened, sunbaked men sank to their knees with their heads bowed, tears streaming down their crevassed faces.

 Only God knows if this was the only time men were baptized from a canteen!

1. Jeremiah 23:29; 2. Hebrews 1:1-3


The Fall of Pride

  In weakness we can find strength, God’s perfect strength. But in our strength, our pride, when fully developed, we can find desolation and pain. Such was the case in my life many years ago in a place far away.
  I was a faithful Christian, involved in church leadership, teaching Bible classes, volunteering at the children’s private Christian school. I was the epitome of walking after the Lord…on the outside.
  Inside I had allowed doubt and lust to establish a foothold in my heart and mind. Subtly I allowed stray looks, personal remarks and thoughts to slide in and build comfortable seating arrangements in my inner man, in my heart.
  As my flesh grew stronger, my Spirit weakened. And then one day, the dike broke, the floodwaters gushed forth, overwhelming the land of my mind. I acted on my desires rather than asking God to provide a way of escape as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  The pounding force of the pent up desires carved a new path for me, no longer walking on the narrow and straight way, I found friends and satisfaction on the wider way; the one that leads to perdition. Step by step, I walked away from His voice, His pleading, His warnings.
  One night, after dropping off my date at the door of a restaurant, I found a parking place nearby. Just as I set the brake, I heard an audible voice say, “Don’t do it!” I was shocked and stunned. I looked to my right, expecting to see the Lord. Nothing. Again the voice said, clearly, “Don’t do it!”
  Now if my life had been a movie, I would have broken down, called out to God for forgiveness and run back to Him. It was not and I did not. My pride was running the show. I was not yet ready to repent!
  I walked further away from my Savior (who never gave up on me), burrowing deeper into the abyss of broken promises and fractured ideals. Peace? What peace, I am too busy feeding my flesh, looking for that all-elusive satisfaction.
  Within a few months, my newly erected wide-path world collapsed, taking me down with it. There I was, standing in the middle of the road, shaking my head, wondering what happened.
  This time He didn’t need to speak audibly. Apparently I had not buried the Holy Spirit’s guidance completely because I “knew” that He was calling me back. You’ve gone far enough, he let me know. My grace is sufficient to restore you. Repent and walk away from this sin. This time I did break down and pour out my soul, asking for forgiveness, knowing He would grant my request…already had.
  That was more than thirty years past. Since then, God has healed my heart, given me a new life, a wonderful wife and new Bible classes to teach. My flesh remains alert, ready to strengthen my pride but this time I refuse to relent, I will continue to call upon the Lord to deliver me and forgive me each time I am tempted and drawn away.
  And He always does…with a smile and a reminder that His blood shed on the cross gave me absolute forgiveness and a new life.

All In A Day’s Work

One of my father-in-law’s favorite stories took place on a cattle ranch in West Texas.  It seems the cook wanted to quit because the men complained so much about the quality of cooking.  After much persuasion, “cookie” agreed to stay on with the following condition:  “The first man to complain about my cooking will be the cook!”  Everyone readily agreed, not wanting the job themselves.

The very next meal was bread and beans.  As the men sat down to eat, one of the cowpunchers said, “Boy, howdy, these beans are salty.”

Absolute silence as the cook reached for his apron strings.

“But that’s just the way I like ’em,” the cowpuncher quickly added.

©David Nelson

The Voice

His life had been a constant turmoil; one colossal blunder after another: the drowning of his son, the divorce following, the business failure. All gone. Alone, he opened the gun cabinet, loaded the nickel-plated Colt, set a note on his dresser and headed for his son’s tree house. A fitting place to finalize his life.

Once settled in, he reached for the Cold beside him, not wanting to prolong the act. But his hand was frozen above the gun. He could not move his arm or fingers. Confusion and panic set in. Then fear and then the wind. Somehow, in the wind, was a voice.

“I love you. I gave everything for you, even My Son. My only Son. I I gave Him freely. His death was more than I could bear too. I know how you feel. I will walk with you every day. Don’t give up. My love for you will balance your loss. You can trust me always.

Now free to use his arm and hand, he picked up the Colt. . .and stuffed it in his waistband so he could climb safely out of the tree house. After he locked the pistol back in his cabinet, he opened the phone book, under churches.

David Nelson