Be the One!

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Be the One!

James R. Aist

“The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you, as you have done it for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you have done it for Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Recently, I began to reflect on some of the instances when someone took the initiative to step up and be the one who blessed me by filling a need in my life that I couldn’t fill on my own. As a result, I felt a flush of gratitude and appreciation for these thoughtful and generous people and for what they did for me. I am writing this article to encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to “be the one” yourself. As you read on, keep in mind that my family had to move every 2-3 years, because Daddy was a Methodist minister. So, hold on, we’re going to move around a bit!

Let me begin by sharing with you three of the blessings that came quickly to my mind that day. The first of these happened when I was about 12 years old, we were living in Evening Shade, Arkansas, and Daddy didn’t have much time to spend with me at that time. Mr. Thomas was the Principal of the local school and a very avid and accomplished fisherman. He was firm with the students, but he also had a sweet, calming spirit about him. We knew that he had our best interests in mind. I greatly admired and respected Mr. Thomas. Well, one Friday afternoon, he approached me at school and asked if I would like to go fishing with him the next day! At first, I was taken aback that he would think of me, a 12 year old boy, as a fishing buddy. But I quickly agreed to go, and we had a great time together. He treated me as if I were his equal, at least for that one afternoon, and I learned some things about fishing from a real master.

The second blessing came to me about three years later. I had just been selected to be on the varsity basketball team at Batesville High School and was about to experience my first away game. I had some warm clothing to help keep me warm on the long, cold school bus rides from away games, but I hadn’t thought much about anything more substantial for the coldest nights. My family couldn’t afford anything warmer for me anyway. Then one day as I was passing by the old General Store in Bethesda on my way home from basketball practice, the store owner, Mr. Porter, caught my attention and asked me to come inside, because he had a surprise for me. So, I went inside, and he handed me a large, flat, cardboard box. When I opened the box, inside was a brand new, hooded, parka, perfect for long, cold bus rides late at night! He said to me, “I didn’t want you to get cold coming back from your away games, so I got you this.” Well, I was quick to thank him for the gift, and I was amazed that he would even think to do that for me, when I hadn’t even given it a thought myself until then.

The third blessing I will share with you came a couple of years later when I had made the basketball team at Springdale High School. We lived 6 miles away, in Elm Springs, I didn’t have a car, and my parents were unable to provide me a ride home after away games. So, it seemed to me that I would have to give up on playing basketball for my last two years of high school, which would be a major letdown, to say the least. So, I told  coach Sanders that I couldn’t play after all, and why, but he was not discouraged. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I will give you a ride home after the away games.” “But that’s six miles each way, it will be very late at night, and you have a family to go home to after the games!”, I countered. “Thats OK,” he said, “I want to do it.” Once again, I was amazed that he would make that kind of sacrifice for me. It hadn’t crossed my mind to ask him for a ride, and I wasn’t even his star player.

As you can see, the common element in all three of these stories is that someone saw a need in my life and just took care of it themselves. That is what “grace” looks like. Grace cannot be either earned or deserved; it can only be offered and received. And so it is with salvation: we are saved, not by works, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. So, as we continue our journey through life, let’s extend grace to those around us as the opportunities arise and as we are able. Let’s us “Be the One!” In doing so, we will not only be helping someone in need (that’s a good thing), but we will also be glorifying God by modeling His grace to others.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

 

A Day to Remember

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A Day to Remember

 James R. Aist

We all have our “good days” and our “bad days.” Most days it seems to be a mixture of the two. And so it is with me, as well. However, there is one particular day in my life that stands out far above all the other good days I have had. This day came together for me in the Spring of 1971, while I was a Ph.D. student in Plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

As I was soon to graduate with a Ph.D., I had been busy preparing for the next logical steps in my career and my family. Applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, had been sent in. Job applications had been made to a couple of prestigious institutions with strong programs in Plant Pathology. My wife and I were trying for our first baby, as I was soon to be earning a suitable salary to support a family. Of course, I didn’t know either if or when any of these aspirations would be realized, but I did my best to make them all happen in the near future. I was optimistic, as is my nature.

After several months of anxious waiting, the unbelievable became reality, all in one morning: first, I got a letter in the mail from the National Institutes of Health, and they offered me a full-ride Postdoctoral Fellowship for Switzerland; next, I got a phone call from the Chairman of the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University offering me a tenure-track faculty position that was literally tailor-made for me (I kid you not!) at a starting salary of $11,000 per year; and finally, my wife walked into my cubicle and announced that she was pregnant with our first child!

Well, needless to say, I was truly amazed, overwhelmed and rendered mentally useless for productive work the remainder of the day, so I shared the good news with my Major Professor and went home to bask in the avalanche of good news that God had blessed me with that morning. It was hard to believe, but it really was true.

However, there was still one potential “fly in the ointment” that had to be resolved before I could benefit fully from all these blessings: my job offer and my Postdoctoral Fellowship were both scheduled to begin in September of that year. So, I called the Department Chairman at Cornell and asked if I could go ahead and accept the Postdoctoral Fellowship and start my job at Cornell in September of 1972 instead of 1971. “Sure”, he said, “Go ahead and get your postdoctoral training in Zurich first, and we’ll hold your job for you in the meantime.” Wow, I was delighted that it was all going to work out just as I had hoped! But, this fairytale-like adventure didn’t end there. When I returned to the U.S. to assume my faculty position at Cornell, there was a letter in my mailbox from the Department Chairman stating that he was including me in the salary-increase program for the year I was in Zurich, and my new starting salary would be increased from $11,000 to $12,000 per year; I got a salary increase before I even started work at Cornell!

I truly am a blessed man, and I give God all of the praise and all of the glory for the favor that had to come my way in order for all this to happen as it did. And His timing is impeccable!

(To enjoy more of my short stories, click HERE)