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Secret Santa

Secret Santa

After a decade, Santa’s secret is out. And no one is complaining. In fact, he’s intrigued enough people that earlier stories were shared quickly by over 40 million viewers on social media. Hearing this example during the holiday season of Love Lived Large renews a person’s faith in the kindness of mankind.

As originally reported by Steve Hartman’s On the Road (CBS, 12-19-14), a wealthy businessman from Kansas City has anonymously reprised his role as “Secret Santa” each year for the past decade. He has brought joy to unsuspecting recipients in the form of $100 bills. And it’s not just a handful of startled beneficiaries. Would you believe a thousand such bills are typically handed out each year by this generous man? For those of you mathematically challenged, that’s $100,000.

Dressed in a red Santa outfit with red cap, this rather large man makes the rounds among surprised recipients, often while they’re shopping in local stores. Sometimes, Secret Santa has enlisted the help of local police officers. At a time when “Blue” has been beset with negative news, imagine the joy it also brings to their hearts as they are able to stop a motorist and hand out a $100 bill instead of a traffic ticket. Some even worried that their body cams would get crushed by the exuberant hugs received in return.

Secret Santa is driven by a belief that kindness is the bridge between all people. That’s worth repeating: kindness is the bridge between all people. So, how does he choose those who will receive the $100 gifts? He says he just goes by a hunch about those that are most in need. As it turns out, many of the recipients have told him that their children would not have received Christmas presents if not for his generosity.

Indeed, we can all be thankful for this real Santa who is no longer a secret—who sets an example for all of us about Love Lived Large. We are anxious to hear news again this year that he is making the rounds!

Merry Christmas!

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Sending Grandma to Prison

Sending Grandma to Prison

If I were to tell you  my 81-year-old grandmother was in prison, you’d probably begin to feel some sympathy not only for my grandmother, but perhaps also for me. But this grandmother from Lansing, Kansas is not an inmate, nor is she my grandmother, even though I’d love to claim her.

Sue Ellen is a frequent visitor to the Lansing Correctional Facility. While there she reaches out to the many prisoners, trying to bring about their personal transformation. I heard about her through Steve Hartman (CBS, On the Road, 11/1/13).

Sue Ellen’s hope is that prisoners can become kinder and more empathetic people. She believes that each person has both a beast and an angel inside them. Letting their beast out has brought them to where they are now. If they could only get in touch with their angels, true transformation might take place.

So are any of these hardened prison inmates listening to granny? Are any really searching for their inner angels? Yes, indeed. Apparently, more than just a few have succeeded over the years—whether they have found that angel, or whether Sue Ellen’s interest in them has just had a profound life-lasting effect. The recidivism rate, the rate at which people revert back to crime, in this facility is only 10%. That compares with 50% for the other prisons in Kansas! Bring on a few more grannies.

Without a doubt, Sue Ellen has made a difference in the Lansing, Kansas prison. Getting in touch with inner angels is important. But before she could help others, she needed to get in touch with that angel residing inside of herself, and learn to use it for good works. Many prisoners now living productive lives thank God she succeeded. What an example of Love Lived Large!

“We love because God first loved us.”

(1 John 4:19)

 

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Family of Five Gone

Family of Five Gone
Undated courtesy photo of Jamison and Kathryne Pals, with their children, from left, Ezra, Violet and Calvin. The family, from St. Paul, were killed Sunday, July 31, 2016 when their van was struck from behind by a semi-trailer truck on I-80 in western Nebraska. The couple was on their way to missionary training in Colorado. Photo courtesy of WorldVenture.

Photo courtesy of WorldVenture

The Ultimate Love Comes Forth.

Welcome! I am launching this blog about extraordinary acts of love, what I call Love Lived Large, by paying tribute to a friend, Jamison Pals. I first met Jamison through Feed My Starving Children, a Twin Cities based charity providing meals to hungry children across the world. For eight years I’ve volunteered as a spokesman on behalf of this organization. Until recently, Jamison had been a grant writer and scheduler of the FMSC speakers.

I was surprised when several months ago Jamison announced that he was leaving FMSC. It turns out he and his wife had a lifetime dream to do missions work in Japan. They sold almost all of their worldly possessions, began training, and planned to finish that up in Denver early August. This “all in” dedication to the next chapter of their lives was an example of Love Lived Large, in and of itself.

In a flash, however, their plans all changed on July 31st in Nebraska. In a construction zone on the freeway, their van was rear-ended by a semi-truck with an inattentive driver. All the Pals family members–Jamison, Kathryne, and young children Ezra, Violet, and Calvin were killed. The painful news shocked many. God had taken them all so soon!

The funeral service followed soon thereafter at Bethlehem Church in Mpls. Eulogies for each of the family members tried to lift spirits, but five small urns in the foreground were a constant reminder of how tragic this horrific accident had been. For those hundreds who attended or watched the live streaming, what then transpired may have surprised some, but not those who really knew the faith of these devout families.

Before all, Gordy and Nancy Engen expressed, on behalf of the Pals as well, their wish that the reckless driver had access to the program broadcast. They were not so much concerned that he could view the proceedings. They wanted, rather, to personally invite him to connect with the forgiveness they already held in their hearts! The truck driver had just tragically ended the lives on this earth of their daughter, son-in-law, and three young grandchildren, yet they were already talking about forgiveness. How loving is that? A most remarkable example of Love Lived Large, and an appropriate, albeit tear-inducing, way to begin this series.

Since the Pals family deaths, there has been an outpouring of love and an interest by others in fulfilling their dream of becoming missionaries in Japan.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

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