Murphy's Law Goes to Church:
—the year's lowest attendance will occur when the superintendent makes a visit
—members living 15 miles away will be 15 minutes early and members living within two blocks away will be 15 minutes late
—saying "let us pray" causes babies to cry
—the shorter the agenda, the longer the meeting
—no matter how many show up for choir rehearsal, you will always need one more copy of the music
—church furnaces and air conditioners always seem to rest on Sundays.
Tragedy doesn't play fair. The hands dealt in his card game have many jokers and the rules change whenever he wants. There's no skill, no strategy, just a blur of cards and lots of losers. Most of us try never to sit down at his table. But some of us can't help it.
Like Edwin Thomas. His crime? His last name. That was all. His last name was Booth. As in John Wilkes Booth. Edwin was a promising young actor with a bright career. At fifteen he made his debut on stage playing Tressel to his father's Richard III. In a few years he was leading Shakespearean tragedies throughout the United States and Europe. He was the Olivier of his day—in a class all by himself.
Edwin's younger brother John was also an actor—not the caliber that Edwin was, but accomplished nonetheless. He had given a memorable interpretation of Brutus in 1863 in the play Julius Caesar, by the New York Winter Garden Theater.
Two years later, he shot Abraham Lincoln from the stage of Ford's Theater. John Wilkes Booth brought tragedy on himself. But he also brought it upon his innocent older brother.
No longer would Edwin Booth be known for his magnificent dramatic abilities—now he would go down in history as the brother of a presidential assassin. All because of his last name.
But there is a bizarre twist to this tragedy underscoring how undeserving Edwin was of such a fate. He carried with him a letter from the Chief Secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant, thanking him for an act of bravery. While waiting for a train on the platform at Jersey City, a coach he was about to get on lurched forward. He whirled and saw a young boy who had slipped from the edge
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of the platform, and, by linking his leg around the railing, grabbed the fellow by the collar. The grateful boy recognized him, but he didn't know the boy. It wasn't until he received a letter of thanks that he learned the young lad was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of his brother's future victim.
Tragedy. It doesn't play fair.—Paul Aurandt, Destiny: From Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" (New York: Bantam Books, 1983)
When Giuseppe Verdi at the age of eighteen applied at the Conservatory in Milan to be accepted as a student of music, the school officials were not impressed by his audition. In fact, they considered his efforts inadequate and his position at the keyboard all wrong. They turned down the greatest musician who ever applied for entrance at this school. Later, in honor of Verdi, they changed the name of the Conservatory of Milan to the Verdi Conservatory.
At a boat-rental concession, the manager went to the lake's edge and yelled through his megaphone, "Number ninety-nine, come in, please. Your time is up." Several minutes passed, but the boat didn't return. "Boat number ninety-nine," he again hollered, "return to the dock immediately or I'll have to charge you overtime." "Something is wrong here, boss," his assistant said. We have only seventy-five boats. There is no number ninety-nine."
The manager thought for a moment and then raised his megaphone. "Boat number sixty-six," he yelled. "Are you having trouble out there?"—Roger F. Pit-tenger in CATHOLIC DIGEST
In 1938 Winston Churchill published a collection of his speeches under the title ARMS AND THE COVENANT. There was to be an American edition of the work, but the publishers felt that the title would not mean much to US readers, who were not very interested in the League of Nations. Churchill was asked to suggest an alternative. In due course he sent a cable suggesting The Years of the Locust." Somehow the phrase got garbled in transmission and arrived in the publishers' offices as "The Years of the Lotus." The editors puzzled over what was
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intended and eventually, following through the association of lotuses and slumber, came up with the title WHILE ENGLAND SLEPT. The book duly appeared under this title and was a great success.—Clifford Fadiman, Editor, THE LITTLE, BROWN BOOK OF ANECDOTES (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985)
If the ever-reliable (although not always coherent) Mr. Casey Stengel can be believed, Yogi Berra, peerless catcher for the New York Yankees ball club in the good old days, once performed a kind act indeed.
The team was in spring training in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Yogi was digesting his evening meal on the veranda of a hotel there, when his attention was drawn to a little girl who was playing on the deeply sloped corrugated-tin awning of a store across the road. She was teetering closer and closer to the awning's edge, and sure enough, there came the moment when she fell off.
That's when Yogi, quick as a flash, leaped to his feet, dashed across the road and caught the little girl in his arms before she hit the pavement.
Unfortunately, continues Mr. Stengel with a perfectly straight face, Yogi took the fine edge off his praiseworthy gesture when out of sheer force of habit--he threw the little girl to second base!-Bennet Cerf, STORIES TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER (New York: Random House)
This is how we sometimes feel:
Bill was having a terrible day. First, his car was towed for being illegally parked. Then, when he retrieved it, he immediately got hit by a lady in a Ford, crumpling his entire right side. When he got home, he found out that his house had burnt down because he'd left the toaster on. When he went next door to make a call to his insurance man, he found out his policy had run out the day before yesterday. If that weren't bad enough, he opened his mailbox to find a letter from the IRS—they wanted to chat with him about some auditing matters.
Bill could take it no longer. He fell to the ground, pounding his fist and shouted to God: 'Why Me God? Why Me?"
A booming voice replied from the heavens, "It's because I don't like you, Bill."
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Samuel Rutherford was a preacher in England in the 17th century. His biography is rich with illustrations of a man who lived by God's grace through trials—for throughout his ministry he was imprisoned, lost many loved ones, and eventually was executed for his beliefs. Listen to how his biographer reported this saint's misery and his attitude towards it:
"Thus nine years were spent in Anworth (his parish) . . . There was sorrow, as well as joy, for the shadows of death gathered around his home. In 1630 his wife Euphram died at the end of a long and painful illness, and in 1635 the life of his mother, who was living with him, slowly moved to its close. The two children of his marriage also died in the manse and he learned by experience how hard it is to keep sight of God in a storm. He too fell ill with "a fever tertian" and for three months and more, he could only preach once a week with great difficulty. But the dews of sorrow shone with grace and lustre in the light of God's love and gave him a rich new insight into the hearts of his people. "The great Master Gardener in a wonderful providence with His own hand planted me here; he wrote in 1631, and here I will abide til the great Master of the Vineyard think fit to transplant me."
Rutherford had discovered the secret to victory as well as trial—seeing the Master Gardener's loving hand amidst the thorns as well as the flowers.— Marcus Loane, MAKERS OF PURITAN HISTORY (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961) p. 65.
"Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men." Benjamin Disraeli
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