Friday, December 27, 2013

In the Eye of A Tiger

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Enough is enough. I’m getting out of here!

She slipped away from the back door of the farmhouse, heading southwest more or less, in the direction of the setting sun.

Captured, then tossed unceremoniously into a potato sack, she’d been torn away from her home just before the cold of winter set in. She’d had no choice but to stay where her captor finally released her. Having been born in a shed, a return to a barn had not been such a huge culture shock. But the world was finally returning to life again and she was anxious to take advantage of the warmer, more amenable breezes. The sodden earth would cushion, and silence, her already quiet steps.

She paused at the edge of the underbrush, took one look back at the house, then disappeared; grey morphing into grey in the dying light of day. There would be no more farm labour forced from her. She was going home.

Impregnated by a wandering feral; who had never returned to see the result of their mutual, and overwhelming, need, she had given birth to three sons — gingers just like their father. They had been noisy and demanding from the moment they had been delivered in the hayloft one cold winter’s eve.

They’re still noisy and demanding, roughhousing all the time, and decidedly ill mannered. I’m not hanging around waiting for the next vagrant to appear and do it to me again.

The next morning found her crouched by a creek at the back corner of the farm. The ice was long gone but the usual trickle of water, swollen by the spring thaw, was now a veritable raging river to her. She hated getting wet, but there didn’t seem to be any other option, unless …

She backed up. Forepaws gripping the ground, she raised her backside off the ground and with an exaggerated wiggle, she sprang into the air — and landed, safe and dry, on the other side of the water. With a bound, she was off again.

Going home — I’ll find it no matter where it is, or how far away. I can, and I will.

The anxiety to go home almost overcame her usual cautious nature. She barreled out of the bush at lightning speed and barely missed being crushed by a four-wheeled monster careening down a side road. Just in the nick of time, she turned in mid-stride and bounced back into the ditch.

Reason prevailed. She waited, listening carefully for the telltale “chug-a-lugs” that signaled the approach of one of the worst enemies of her kind. How often had she warned the kits about the danger? How many dead creatures, victims all, unheedingly sacrificed to the gods of the road, had she pointed out to them?

When the only sounds she could hear were friendly, she crossed to the other side. Something told her that this was the way to go. She would follow, but not too closely, the path the road took. When the monsters passed, she hid in the grasses and reeds. At night she hunted; a task easier now than it had been when she had first come to the farm. At home, she grew up listening for the sound of the can opener and waiting for the currents to carry the scent of meat or milk to her nose. On the farm, she returned to her roots, darting and dashing amongst the grasses and grains, in pursuit of anything smaller and weaker than she was.

Grass yielded slowly to pavement. Houses became more frequent. Monsters to avoid increased. There were more fences to climb, more humans to watch from the shadows of garbage cans. It was necessary to make detours at times, putting distance between herself and others of her kind. Their pungent claim to ownership assailed her frequently as she cut through the heart of town. She confined her travels to nighttime now, passing her days under porches or under the leafy abundance of rhubarb plants.

At last, she recognized streets, yards, and laneways. This was HER territory. She was almost home. The timeless inborn urge strengthened within her, giving wings to tired feet.

She paused under a mock orange bush in her backyard. Carefully, she licked upward from the tip of her tail and washed her face and ears.

Stepping out, she settled herself quietly by the door, waiting.

The door opened, and …

“Mom! Tiger’s come home.”

Meow. Is that a can being opened that I hear?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mildred's Mouse House

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Millie discovers a unique way of giving Jesus the birthday present He could have used two thousand years ago.

Mildred, a child of about 7
Robin, Mildred’s 12 year old brother

A kitchen with a back door leading to the yard.

Scene One
Mom is in the kitchen cooking. Robin is working on homework at one end of the kitchen table. Mildred is at the other end, elbows on the table, holding up her head with her hands, looking very glum.

Robin (looking up and across at Milly):
"Mr. Henderson paid me yesterday. Now I have enough to do ALL my Christmas shopping."

"That’s nice. If you like, we can go to the mall on Saturday. Milly can come with us."

"Don’t want to."

"Why not?"

"Don’t have any money. Can’t buy anything for anybody without money."

"I’ll lend you some. Course, I’ll have to charge you interest."

"What’s “interest”?"

"Don’t pay any attention to your brother. He’s being silly. Maybe you could make some Christmas presents out of things you already have."

"I don’t want some of her homemade junk."

Mom (with warning in her voice):
"Robin, that’s enough. With that kind of attitude you don’t deserve any kind of present from Milly. Maybe we could make things easier for all of us this year. How about we write down the names of all the people we are going to give presents to and put them in a hat. Then each of us can draw a name and buy a present for just that one person?"

"Hey, then I only get one present."

"Robin, Christmas isn’t about how many presents YOU get, remember?"

"Okay, okay. Actually it’s not a bad idea. Then I only have to buy one present and I’ll still have money left for me."

Mom (signs and shakes her head):
"Sometimes, I wonder if Scrooge didn’t somehow get trapped in a twelve year old’s body."


"Who’s Scrooge?"

"Never mind. It’s not important."

"I ALWAYS wonder about Robin. But I don’t even have money for one present. What if I get Grannie’s name?"

"That’s easy. Grannie says she’s going to heaven soon and there isn’t a thing that she needs. You wouldn’t have to buy her anything."

Milly & Mom (horrified)

"Well, that’s what she said."

"You know, I think I have the solution to this problem. How about we don’t buy any presents for anyone this year?"

Robin and Milly:

"No, I’m serious. Whose birthday is it anyway?"

"Jesus’ birthday."

"Right. So, why are we buying presents for everyone except the person who is celebrating the birthday?"

"Cause we have to. We’ve always done it that way. We need to. I NEED Christmas presents."

"Look at it this way, Robin. Think of all the money you will have left from your paper route if you don’t have to buy any Christmas presents."

Robin (thinks for a moment):
"Well, there is that."

"But, Mom. I still don’t have any money to buy Jesus a Christmas present either."

"Jesus is like Grannie. He doesn’t need anything either cause he’s already in heaven."

Milly (throws something at her brother):
"Mom, tell him to stop."

"Yes, Robin, please stop being disrespectful. You are right…"

Robin (interrupting):
"See, I told you."

"…to a point. How about we think about doing, rather than buying?"

"What good stuff doesn’t cost money?"

"If we had been around when Jesus was born, we could have done lots of things for him with what we already have. Robin could have given up his bedroom so that Mary could have her baby in a warm and safe place."

"Why my room?"

"Milly, you could have given him your doll’s bed so that he would have a nice place to sleep. I could have given some of this nice chicken soup to Mary and Joseph and warmed a bottle of milk for the baby".

"But Jesus is in heaven, and he doesn’t need me to do anything like that for him now."

"Well, you could do something for him, by doing something for someone else, just as if you were doing it for Jesus. He’s like that kind of present. Think about it for a while. Meanwhile son, you and I have a date upstairs with your room. We clean it or we condemn it."

"Aw, Mom. You can’t be serious."

(Mom leads Robin off protesting all the way. The lights fade with Mildred still sitting at the table deep in thought.)

Scene Two
The lights come up as Milly closes the door leading out into the back yard. Mom enters with Robin.

Robin (complaining):
"Four hours, I can’t believe it took us four hours to do that room. I’ll never be able to find anything ever again. I’m wiped. I’m starving. When’s dinner?"

"Soon. Clear your things off the table. Milly can set it and we’ll be ready to eat."

(The children begin those chores. Mom reaches for her pot holder only to discover that it’s missing.)

"Milly, have you seen my pot holder? I thought I left it right here beside the stove when Robin and I went up to clean his room."

"I took it."

"Well, give it back so we can eat."

"You took it? What for?"

Milly (hesitatingly):
"I got thinking about what you said, you know, doing something to help someone else, just as if I was doing it for Baby Jesus. I needed the pot holder."

"I knew it. Too much thinking and she’s flipped out."

Mom (in a warning tone of voice):
"Robin. You did want supper, didn’t you?"

"Sure. (Pause) Oh, I get it. Zip the lip."

"Right. Now, Mildred, explain to me what the pot holder has to do with what we talked about?"

"Well, Jesus doesn’t need a bedroom or a blanket or chicken soup or milk, but I found someone else who does. But my blanket didn’t fit in the bed, so I took the pot holder to use as a blanket."

"You used the pot holder for a blanket. What person do you know who would need a pot holder for a blanket?"

Mill: (beginning to look a little worried):
"I don’t know any babies like Jesus that I could do something for, so I thought maybe helping other babies might be okay."

"Other babies? What other babies?"

"Um. Dad plugged the hole going into the basement last week so that the mice couldn’t get in the house."


"Well, He took the mice out of the basement before he plugged the hole."


"It’s cold outside and they can’t come into the basement, or live in the house."

Mom: (slowly)

"The mice had babies. I saw them in the shed."


"So I took my old doll house out to the shed. I put it down flat and filled all the rooms up with those wood shavings that dad had in the basement. But I didn’t have any blankets to put on top to keep the babies warm. So I took the pot holders."

"All of them?"

"Mostly. I’m sorry."

(Milly begins to cry.)

"Milly, honey, don’t cry."

"You’re not mad at me?"

"No honey, I’m not angry with you. You did for those mice what you would have done if Jesus had needed a warm place to sleep, didn’t you?"

"I wanted to. I thought that if the mice were happy and warm, Jesus would be too. But I am sorry about the pot holders."

"I really do want those pot holders back. But don’t worry. I think I can find something that will work just as well to cover up the babies’ beds and keep all of them warm."

"Can we eat now?"


"Yes, honey."

"I did something else too."

"What did you do?"

"I took the mice some chicken soup."

"You did what?"

Mom (laughing):
"Did you leave enough for us?"

"I think so."

"Good. Put the bowls out and then you can give thanks."

(Milly puts out the bowls and Mom serves the soup.)

"Dear Jesus. Thank you for Mom and Dad. And Robin too. Thank you for giving us a warm place to live, and food to eat. I’m sorry no one was there to give you those things when you were a baby but I hope you like your birthday present even if you can’t enjoy it yourself. Amen."


"And, Lord, please make sure the mice are careful with Mom’s pot holders."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Forever Beginning

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“Grandpa? Grandpa? You okay?”

Joey peered around the corner of the doorway. The groans that had called him away from his play had also sent a tingle of fear up his young spine. The sun had climbed down from its midday heights and now streamed through the windows that looked west across the garden.

“Grandpa?” Once more came the question, this time as a plea.

The boy used to play in the sunroom where his grandfather now lay, stretched out on the daybed. However, since his last heart attack, the old man now occupied the room. The stairs to the bedrooms on the upper floor just took too much effort.

The boy eased into the room. Finally, love overcame fear, drawing Joey closer to the prone figure. He reached out a tentative hand. His parents had told him that his grandfather might not be with them much longer. The family visits had become more frequent. The adults meant to reassure him with such frank talk, but every grunt and groan now filled him with terror.

At Joey’s touch, the old man seemed to rouse himself. He rolled over, squinting at the bright light forming a halo around his grandson’s figure.

“Joey? That you, laddie?”

“Yah, grandpa. I heard you groan, and I thought, well, I thought, …” The boy’s voice trailed away. How could he mention death to a man he wanted to live forever.

The old man chuckled, pushing himself to a sitting position. He took a moment to catch his breath after the effort, then pulled the boy into the sheltered gap between his knees.

“You thought I was dying when you heard the groaning. No, I was just complaining to the good Lord.”

At the boy’s puzzled look, the old man laughed again. “Guess I’d better explain. You go to Sunday School so you know about creation, don’t you?”

Joey nodded.

“Well, things were good back then at the start. Everything was just the way God wanted it. And then…”

Now into the story, Joey was eager to show what he knew.

“Then Adam and Eve ate the apple.”

His grandfather smiled. “Well, it might not have been an apple, but you got the rest right. When those two sinned, the whole world started to die, and it’s been dying by bits and pieces ever since. But just like me, it’s not going quietly.”

By this time, Joey had climbed up on his grandfather’s knees, and then thought better of it as the old man winced. He began to wiggle his way down.

“No, stay. It’s okay. Remember you were telling me about earthquakes and all them plates rubbing together and causing the ground to shake?”

Grandpa’s ears provided fertile soil for the seeds of learning that Joey was accumulating. He was pleased that his grandfather remembered, and smiled in acknowledgment.

“Well,” continued the old man, “those plates bumping, grinding, and rubbing each other are like my knees—they’re telling anyone who’ll listen that the pieces don’t fit right anymore. And when things don’t work like they’re supposed to, they complain.”

“You sure complain a lot,” observed Joey.

His grandfather looked at him in mock surprise. “Who, me?” He laughed, then said, “What does your mommy do when you complain about being sick?”

“She does stuff to make me feel better,” replied the boy.

“Sure. She lets you stay home from school, gives you medicine, and fills you full of red Jell-O®. Well, God’s doing stuff to make me, and the earth, feel better too.

“But, you’re gonna …” Joey’s voice trailed off again.

“Die? Sure.” He hugged the boy close, feeling his anxiety. “At the start everything was good. Now it’s all coming to an end, dying from sin. To get back to the beginning we have to get past the end. The end is where the beginning starts all over again. Dying is an end God planned so that He could fix things, to give us a new beginning, to make us like we once were.”

“Can’t I come with you?” protested the boy, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Not now But, I’ll tell you what; I do know how you can get ready to come, not just for a visit, but to live a beginning that never ends with me and Jesus. Do you want to know how?”

Joey gravely nodded his head.

As the gathering darkness seeped across the tiles of the sunroom, Grandpa’s forever beginning dawned in a little boy’s heart.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Quiz

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When we entered the classroom, our New Testament professor was sitting, perched on the edge of the desk like a falcon anticipating lunch. The slight smile did not bode well for us—he never smiled, at least not in class. There was a piece of paper, face down, on each desk. The dreaded surprise quiz waited like irresistible bait.

“Start now,” he instructed, after we had all taken our seats.

I turned my paper over. After a quick scan, I realized that the questions were based on quotes from the Gospels. We were to decide whether Jesus’ demands on His listeners were too hard, or too soft.

Come follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.

Sounds easy, except these guys and their families survived on real fish. How did they imagine they would support their families? I’d be more than a little concerned under the same circumstances.

I checked the square that read “too hard.”

Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The Jews must have loved this one, considering the Romans were walking all over them. I’ll bet the fellow the Good Samaritan helped didn’t take his robbery lying down—well, not at first anyway. I might let someone hit me once, but twice. No way.

I marked another “too hard.”

Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.

They probably thought that was a good deal—for the other guy. I don’t mind helping out but I don’t do “door mat.”

Another “too hard.”

My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Well, the whip might have been a little excessive. Maybe prayer meetings in Jesus’ day weren’t down to a few little old ladies like they are today. Prayer is kinda passé. Okay, so cheating the visitors wasn’t exactly kosher, but I mean, what’s wrong with a few bake sales and bingos? Gotta get money into the church somehow.

I checked the fourth “too hard.”

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

I wonder if He was talking to Judas? He couldn’t have meant the others ‘cause they didn’t have anything anyway. After all a little nest egg, and a nice house in the burbs isn’t bad, is it? A car, and maybe … Nah, the normal stuff wouldn’t lead to greed.

I nibbled on the end of my pencil. The quiz was simple. So far, everything was too hard. Jesus must have been exaggerating for emphasis, overstating His case to get the attention of His listeners.

I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

The guy was a thief, and he started out by insulting Jesus, just like his buddy. Nope, I’d make him work a little harder, maybe sweat a little, before I’d give him paradise.

I put a heavy, emphatic mark beside “too soft.”

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

Believing isn’t work. It’s easy—sort of. You gotta do stuff too.

I checked a second “too easy” though I wasn’t quite so sure on this one.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Okay, there’s love and there’s love. He wouldn’t expect us all to die for Him, would He? Not literally. Mind you, just about all the disciples did. But that was then, and this is now.

I put down a definite “too hard.”

“Put your pencils down,” instructed the professor. “I know I usually ask you to pass your papers to the person next to you before we go over the correct answers. But I’m not going to do that this time. I want you to take your papers home, read through the quotes again carefully.”

He began to pass out copies of the same quiz as he continued speaking.

“Reconsider your answers and pray over them. Then do the quiz again. Tomorrow I want you to come back to class prepared to tell us what you discovered. What adjustments in your thinking have to be made in order for you to bring your life more into line with Jesus’ words and example?”

Something told me the homework would be the real test.

Matthew 4:19
Matthew 5:39
Mark 10:43, 44
Mark 11:17
Luke 12:15
Luke 23:43
John 6:29
John 13:34