Surprise after surprise…

On Christmas Day, 1939, Britain’s King George VI, the father of Elizabeth II, decided to do something he detested and speak publicly on the radio. He had a speech defect known as a stammer, but determined he would revive a custom his late father had started and bring an annual message to the British people. This being the first Christmas of the war with Germany, he rightly thought they could use the encouragement.

While the king and his staff were working on his broadcast message, someone sent a clipping from the Times of London to Buckingham Palace. The little article contained a prayer of sorts that had been found on a postcard in the desk of a deceased Bristol doctor. That man’s daughter had used it on greeting cards, one of which was received by a Mrs. J. C. M. Allen of Clifton, who had kept it. Realizing the words were appropriate for her country at the outbreak of the war, she passed the postcard on to the newspaper.

Just after 3 pm on Christmas Day, King George began with these words to his people: “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted. In the meantime I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you.”

Then, he delivered the lines which had come their circuitous route, from the doctor’s office to his daughter, to Mrs. Allen who sent it to the Times, and thence to the palace. Now, those words were being given to the world.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’”

In his book “1940,” Laurence Thompson tells what happened next.

Newspaper editors began a frantic search for the author of that piece. Cables flashed across the Atlantic in the hope that the Americans might know. Some suggested G. K. Chesterton, John Bunyan or Thomas a Kempis. Then, the BBC announced the name of the author: 64-year-old Miss Minnie Louise Haskins.

Thompson writes, “Miss Haskins, a retired lecturer of the London School of Economics, then living at Crowborough, in Sussex, had not heard the King’s broadcast, but had been listening during the evening to a BBC summary of the speech, when the words spoken struck her as ‘oddly familiar.’ Not until the quotation was finished did she remember that, many years before, she had written something like this in a slim volume of verse called ‘The Desert,’ which had been privately printed in 1908 and sold in aid of Zenana missionary work in India.”

Within days, Minnie Louise Haskins was famous. Her little volume of poetry was republished and went through eight more printings. By 1943, some 43,000 copies had been sold. Thompson writes, “It achieved for her what a lifetime’s work in factory welfare and social science had been unable to do: an entry in ‘Who’s Who’ and an obituary in the Times when she died in 1957.”

I found this while reading the Laurence Thompson book and thought you would appreciate it.

6 thoughts on “Surprise after surprise…

  1. Brother Joe,
    I am constantly amazed how God takes the most innocuous of statements and forever changes the world. I don’t thank you enough for your constant inspiring posts. They mean a great deal to me, more than you will ever know.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. bro joe,
    Thanks for letting the Lord use you today – with a message I needed to hear. “10 Things you should never say to your pastor” and “Surprise After Surprise” hit me right where I am today. May I share my story with you?

    I have been seeking to be faithful to God’s call to me (in 1964) to ministry. I served as pastor from ’66-’95, then as DOM from ’95-’17. After retirement I served two interim pastor roles in 2017 & 2018. In 2018, I lost my last siblings within 3 weeks of each other. In 2019, my mom died at the age of 92. During these years I had several medical issues resulting in back surgery and 2 knee replacements. Most significant was the discovery 2 1/2 years ago that I have Parkinson’s Disease.

    Because of PD and not knowing how contracting covid might be, my wife & I did not go to church for the better part of the last two years. During this time, I got good control of most of the PD issues through meds. However, the most significant loss to me – because of PD – is communication. I have difficulty being heard and understood – because of a lack of necessary volume and at times severe stuttering and stammering. I have not been able to preach in the past 18 months.

    I have prayed and asked God to heal me of the difficulty of communication. I have also asked the Lord to show me how I could still serve in His Kingdom in some capacity of ministry. After our pastor of 22 years retired, the Lord led me to reach out in a specific prayer ministry to our church staff and also to make contact and offer ministry of prayer and support to several pastors in our area (with whom I had served as DOM) and also young ministers just beginning their ministry. This has been fulfilling service for me and I hope for them as well.

    I have also begun to use my talents in writing. For many years I have enjoyed writing and expressing myself through sermons, short essays and poetry. Just recently our new pastor (Trey Waldrup, from Brookhaven, MS) asked me to write SS materials for our adults for the 6 Sundays of Advent. This has been so rewarding to hear about how my work is helping folks in our church connect with Christ @Christmas in a new and spiritually enriching way.

    I would like to ask you to pray for me concerning my future in ministry. In January, I will be going for speech therapy at Auburn University. If you knew a great a BAMA fan I was – you would understand how I felt about going to the campus of AU. kind of reminds me of God’s call to Jonah to go to Nineveh! :0

    I thank my God every time in bump into your ministry. your words are always insightful and clearly encouraging. I pray for you, your health, your wife and your ministry,

  3. May the Lord bless you. Through your ability to connect everyday events with spiritual truths like Jesus did, the preaching of the gospel is improved far more than you could know.

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