“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
Norman Vincent Peale, author and minister
“Would you please take a picture of me?”
The old timer didn’t seem to mind climbing out of his truck after I flagged him down. His smile assured me there would be no problem.
I stood beside a large sign carved in the shape of Ohio. It read,
“BOWERSVILLE BIRTHPLACE OF THE REVEREND NORMAN VINCENT PEALE MINISTER AND AUTHOR”
On Wednesday, December 29, 1993 I traveled south on Interstate 71, fifty miles from my home in Columbus. Turning onto State Route 72 I arrived in the tiny village of Bowersville.
It was just after 11A.M. Miles away in New York City, at the Marble Collegiate Church, funeral services were just beginning for Dr. Peale, author of the classic bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking. He had died on Christmas Eve. Unable to make the trip to New York, I had come to Bowersville. In my own way, I was there to pay respect to a humble man who had changed my life.
It took less than a minute to travel along State Route 72 from the historical marker to the other end of town where an identical sign was located. The village population was 350. A tiny post office shared half a building with Gill’s Diner. Nearby was a volunteer fire station, gas station, and senior center. On one edge of town was a feed mill. On the other an elementary school. The village had three churches. Several old and stately looking brick buildings stood boarded up. A cluster of houses completed the setting. With directions from a waitress, I was soon standing in front of the house where Norman Vincent Peale was born.
Trouble finds a doorway into everyone’s life. Financial setbacks, divorce, depression, and a bunch of other calamities have all been my companions. But traveling on that same road were books and sermons by Dr. Peale. During the difficult times, I found hope, comfort, and encouragement in his words.
“Empty pockets never held anyone back.
Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”
“Imagination is the true magic carpet.”
“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things.
When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.”
I met him twice. Among my prize possessions is a picture of the two of us shaking hands. As I stood gazing at the place where the incredible life of Dr. Peale began, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for the gift of his ministry.
God has big ideas in little beginnings. We are all reminded of that each year when we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus. The tiny village of Bethlehem gave the world its greatest gift and from the tiny village of Bowersville, God added the gift of Norman Vincent Peale.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above…”
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