Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One Little Snowflake

Once upon a time, long ago and far away there was a little snowflake. She was one of many waiting her turn to announce the coming of yet another winter season. The delicate embroidery of each flake had been lovingly crafted by the Master Snow Maker. Still, the little snowflake felt lost and forgotten in the presence of the bigger and more complex designs.

As her time approached, the little snowflake grew more and more worried. “I can’t do this,” she whispered, for she was afraid of what might await her out in the outer limits of the heavens.

The little snowflake made one last appeal to the Master Snow Maker. Perhaps he would have compassion on her and let her wait until she too, was bigger and better.

However, he shook his head, and with a wise smile, eased her out the celestial windows along with a multitude of others whose time has also come.

“You may not become the cusp of the biggest snowball, or the cornerstone of the strongest snow fort. You might not be the first to signal the coming of winter, or freeze into perpetuity in the still waters of a waiting stream. But, you’ll be exactly what you were meant to be just as you are. You will do what you were designed to do-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o …” and his voice drifted away as she fell further and further into the dark night.

For a time she lost sight of the rest of her companions as she drifted down through puffy clouds. She was teased by gentle breezes and tossed by some that were not so gentle. Now, more than ever, the little snowflake felt small and oh so alone.

As she drifted through the blackness, she tried to remember all that the Master Snow Maker had said. “You are unique. You know that I never make even one snowflake like any other. Only you can be you.”

“But I am only one among so many,” she argued.

“You are still the only one that is YOU,” he patiently insisted.

The little snowflake felt her progress slow. The breezes had faded. The night was still and silent. The air was cold. She could see more clearly now. The clouds had drifted away leaving the skies intense with glittering stars. One in particular drew her attention. It shone more brightly than the rest, bathing the landscape in a warm glow that penetrated the cold and dark.

“I’ll head for that star,” she said to no one in particular. She picked her currents of air carefully and soon found herself under the pale light of the bright star. Below her, the little snowflake could see the outline of hills against the dark sky. Nestled among them was a village. Pale lights flickered from the rough dwellings, occasionally disappearing as their inhabitants went off to bed. Against one hill, on the edge of town, a shed rested, its tired beams sheltering the entrance to a hollow carved out of the hillside. The star on whose mantle she rode seemed to point the way to that unlikely spot.

Closer and closer the little snowflake came. In the light of the star, she saw that there were four-footed beasts huddled beside the humble shelter below her. Some of her quicker companions melted themselves into curly wool and rough hide. Others slipped through the gaps in the roughly hewn slats in the roof and came to rest on the woolen cloaks, weathered cheeks, and calloused hands of the sheep keepers seeking shelter inside the shed.

The little snowflake braced herself. Her end was coming. She wondered how it could possibly fulfill all that the Master Snow Maker had promised. She landed gently on soft and pure flesh; the tip of the tiny nose of a Child nestled deep in the straw of the feed box. He made no sound, no move to brush her away. She, so small and insignificant, would go unnoticed right to the end. Or, would she?

As the little snowflake melted into Him, she felt the warmth of His smile and sensed that, somehow, He had been waiting for her arrival. In a flash as bright as that of the star she had followed, the little snowflake knew in her deepest being that in finding Him, she had found everything and had discovered not her end, but her beginning.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tinkle and Clang

A flurry of discordant sound announced the arrival of several sections of the bell choir.

“Move it, you three. You’re late and we haven’t got much time,” chimed the Bell Master from his place on the bottom rung of the carillon.

“Nag, nag, nag,” whispered the D flat to his buddy, C, as they climbed into their places on the top level. “What’s the hurry, anyway? Clang’s got his clapper in a knot for sure this morning.”

“Morning? It’s still dark outside,” protested the F major, breathlessly hauling himself up behind the others.

The smaller bells finally got themselves into place, just as Clang struck the note that indicated readiness and silence in the ranks. He looked around, carefully checking to make sure no one was missing. Worse than a faulty note was no note at all.

“Where’s Tinkle?” he boomed from his assigned spot.

Tinkle was the littlest bell of all. Her spot was high up at the top of the carillon.

Like an evil wind brushing through the tower, the rustle of the bells created dissonance as everyone looked around, hunting for Tinkle.

“I’m here sir. Just polishing, Bell Master.” Her clear, high sound rang out as Tinkle took her place at the apex of the musical arrangement.

“That girl takes herself too seriously. ‘Just polishing, Bell Master.’ As if fingerprints made any difference to anyone,” mimicked the D flat.

“You have something to share with us?” came Clang’s voice from down below.

Everyone froze. More than once Clang had said out loud that he wished they never had to have contact with their human counterparts—the evil always rubbed off a bit, like fingerprints on the burnished surface of a bell.

“Uhmmmmm, no sir. I was just, well, wondering what all the rush was about,” stuttered the offender. “It’s not even daylight yet.”

“Well, if—and I know keeping time for you doesn’t usually include knowing what day it is—you had been paying attention during rehearsals, you would have remembered that dawn today is the biggest moment of our year. Today we bring hope to the world.”

From somewhere in the middle of the bevy of bells came the dulcet tones of one of the G’s. “But, boss, do you really think anyone listens to us? It’s nasty out there. Everyone knows what happened to poor Liberty. Those humans are a mean lot and we don’t seem to be making much of an impact.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the group at G’s unintentional play on notes. The subdued merriment stopped as Clang’s clapper sounded for silence.

“I’ll admit that I sometimes have my doubts as to whether anyone gets our message, but that’s not the point. The point is that we have a message that we have been assigned to deliver, we’ve been practicing faithfully for this last year, and we are going to chime out that message no matter what. It’s up to the Master Musician to do the rest. So, are we ready? It’s almost time.”

The bell choir stirred, positioning themselves, clappers at the ready, all eyes on Clang.


“Yes, sir?”

“Don’t forget, your part is critical. Sometimes people don’t hear the high notes, so you can’t hesitate or show weakness.”

“I won’t let you down, sir.”

Slowly the blackness outside the tower retreated before the insistence of the watery light of a winter sun. As it peeked above the horizon, Clang readied himself, gave the choir one last check, and nodded to Tinkle.

The high, light sound rang out loud and clear, followed by a rolling scale of melodious notes that reverberated across the awakening town.

Far below the tower, in the manse beside the church, a pastor looked up from his prayers. He had wrestled all night with his Christmas morning message. What could he say that would bring hope to a world where evil ruled men’s hearts, where even Christmas was banned with an “X”? How could he make sense of a world where, in the name of preserving peace, war was wrought?

He listened, remembered, and smiled. Hope was in God’s final note—which had yet to be played.


And in despair I bowed my head/There is no peace on earth I said/For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good will toward men/
Then peeled the bells more loud and sweet/God is not dead nor doth he sleep/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/Of peace on earth, good will toward men./
(from: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rock Solid




“Got ‘em.”

“Window frames with glass?”


“Doors, front and back?”

“Double check.”

“Nails, various sizes?”



“That went out with the ice age, but if you insist, check.”

“Paint, several shapes of blue?”

“Why blue?”

“Reminds me of the sea. You know; tranquility, sea birds, setting sun, and all that.”

“Right. Anything else?”

Mr. MacLean scanned his list, and seeing only checkmarks, sighed in relief.

“Nope, everything is present and accounted for. Tomorrow we begin to build.”

And so it was that as soon as dawn broke the next day, MacLean’s crew began work on his fine brick house nestled among the trees by the river. Day after day, they toiled. The weeks past as the investment of McLean’s lifetime took form before his proud eyes.

MacLean was a fine man, upstanding and well respected in his community. He gave generously of his time, and his considerable wealth, to support charities and worthy causes of all kinds. People commented that he deserved his new home by the river. It was a tribute to hard work, clean living, and an open hand.

The property had been his own choice, for which he had spent a great deal of money. The sound of the current fascinated him, as it tumbled over the rocks in the shallows of the river. The boathouse would go just to the left of the house so as not to obstruct his view.

As the masterpiece of human art and craft took shape, MacLean did have his moments of concern. The river was not his to control, or to own. There were others who were building nearby. Just off to the right, and higher up on the bluff, another house was under construction.

Just think. I worked all my life for this land and this house, and someone gave this guy that land.

MacLean had seen his soon-to-be neighbour around town. The man wasn’t ashamed to tell everyone of the gift that he had been given. He seemed a man without pride in his accomplishments, though it certainly could not be said that he was any less generous than MacLean himself.

As the summer wore on, the two houses rose together. The townsfolk often came to check up on the progress of each, marveling at their similarities, and their differences.

“Well, they are certainly houses,” commented one observant individual.

Doors, floors and furnishings; in the basics, they looked the same. However, MacLean’s neighbour seemed content to let his house take the shape of the land it sat on, while MacLean made the land conform to the blueprints he had so carefully drawn up.

Finally, the house by the river was finished.

“Mr. MacLean, you got a winner here,” said the foreman as he finished gathering up his tools and his crew. “That guy up there will be feeling some stiff breezes while you enjoy this sheltered corner of the river bank.”

“Yes, indeed, there’s no doubt about it, I have built a great house of which I can be justifiably proud.”

And MacLean entered his house; sat in the expensive furniture he has carefully selected from the finest stores, and watched the river flow by his door.

In November, cold air from the north heralded the coming of the first of the early winter storms. The breezes, about which the supervisor had commented, turned into stiff winds that buffeted the house on the bluff. Down by the river, the trees sheltered MacLean, and he hardly noticed that the climate had changed. He went to sleep in peace, with the sound of the currents filling his dreams.

He awoke to a loud banging on his front door and two inches of water splashing across his bedroom floor.

“MacLean, hurry. The river is rising rapidly. You have to get out now.”

It was the neighbour from the bluff. MacLean flung open the front door. The boathouse was already gone, and his beautiful home was creaking and groaning, already buckling as the swelling tide of river water lashed at its walls and posts.

There was no time to save anything and in what seemed like an eternity of minutes, MacLean found himself in the house on the bluff, watching as the river washed away all that was so valued by him. The water never reached his neighbour’s house.

“Where did I go wrong?”

His neighbour placed a comforting hand on MacLean’s shoulder.

“You wouldn’t have lost anything if you had built on the Rock.”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cereal Killer

Hither, thither, up and down,
Across the factory floor,
“Where is that boy, what has he done?”
Yelled Crackle with a roar.

“We can’t proceed, there is no chance,
Everything’s too quiet.
Production’s stopped, no means to find
A place in human diet.”

Pop was annoyed; there was no doubt—
Perhaps a bit afraid.
Some evil could have entered here
And made a nasty raid—

To steal a third of Krispies' fame
And hide it in a dungeon
A ransom ask, or worse to come,
To kill the sweet curmudgeon.

‘Tis true Snap’s temper was quite short,
But that should not require
A punishment as foul as death
A fate that is so dire.

Crackle paced and Pop thought hard.
The problem was confusing
A dozen reasons came and went
Each one set him to musing.

“Perhaps he fell into his bowl
And drowned in low-fat milk.
We need to go and see if he
Needs help from his own ilk.”

While empty boxes stood in rows,
Crackle’s ire grew.
No work was done, no food produced,
He knew just what he’d do:

“I’ll break his neck when next I see
My misbegotten brother.
If he’s not dead, or locked away,
Send running to his mother.”

Pop grew tall and spoke his mind:
“You speak in such a fury
Your words are harsh, but so untrue,
I hope that it’s just worry.”

The factory door swung open wide
A gasp was heard from all
As onto factory floor walked in
The cause of Crackle’s gall.

“So sorry, guys, I overslept.
I hope that you’ll decide
To overlook this lapse of mine.”
On grace, Snap now relied.

Pop was relieved there hadn’t been
A death, or something other
But Crackle wasn’t so inclined
To pardon his dear brother.

“Have you no sense of what is right?
You could have used your cell
To tell us that you were delayed,
That all was right and well.”

True to form, Snap’s fuse was short
No one could deny it
Both brothers took to fisticuffs
Thus ending all the quiet.

The rice got puffed, the boxes trembled,
Waxed paper tumbled ‘round,
As brothers fought to a dead heat;
Not ceding any ground.

Pop was forced to intervene
His veins about to shatter
With face so red from such disgrace
And nerves about to tatter.

“All this fuss, and useless muss,
‘Cuz Snap was late for work
I must take charge, as fathers should,
My duty not to shirk.”

“Please understand that what you do
Has many repercussions.
The children want ‘Snap,’ ‘Crackle,’ ‘Pop,’
Not rice with head concussions.”

“The sound they hear should happy be
Not of war, but peace.
So let’s forgive and move along
Production to increase.”

The lessons learned from Krispie sounds
Within our hearts should lurk:
Think the best, control your ire—
And don’t be late for work.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons at Kilometer 2.5

It’s said that a person can never go home. That’s not true—I do it whenever I can.

Home surrounds Gillies Lake. The lake’s not as big as it used to be, only two and a half kilometers around. If memory serves, that’s because there isn’t a dredge stuck in the middle of it anymore, pumping out mud from the mineshafts that run under the town.

The city has turned the lake and its surrounding fringe into a conservation area complete with walking trail. So let’s go for a walk.

Most of the local ducks hang out near the picnic tables at the entrance. They know there will always be leftover bread for them. I watch for a while. The thermal travel mug will keep my coffee hot until I get to my spot. The ducks remind me that God has a picnic table too. Like them, I wait with eager anticipation for His supply. Unlike them, He doesn’t bring me scraps. It’s always first-class with God.

As I walk on, there are signposts giving directions and posters revealing interesting information about the lake’s habitat. Their presence reminds me of how important God’s directions to me are as He speaks through His Word and by His Spirit.

A few summers ago, a friend asked me to dog-sit. Chloe loved the walk around Gillies. She respected the bigger pooches, but I had to watch her around the little, yappy, ones. Their self-importance drove them to challenge her. Given half the chance the big Lab would have been more than happy to swallow them whole. I laughed at her but remember how often my own insecurities have caused similar reactions. As time passes, I’m learning just how “big” I am in my Father’s eyes and how little I have to prove.

I walk past the recently planted saplings. Each tree has been placed in memory of a loved one who has passed on. At the base of each is a small plaque with the person’s name inscribed on it. Memorial trees, in various stages of growth, dot the park. God will remember me, not with a plaque under a tree, but with a signature written in blood in His great Book of Life. That’s even better.

The path begins to climb a bit, crossing a creek that ends in a smaller pool of quieter water where the ducks and geese raise their young. I’m thankful for God’s “still waters” where I can rest safely. There are lots of benches, but I wait until I get to the one at the top of the hill. Here I sit to drink my coffee and look out across the lake.

The bulrushes and long grasses whisper in the breeze. Little ripples, scattering watery diamonds in their wake, flash across the surface of the water, chasing each other in their race to the finish line at the shore. The summer sun is hot on my back. It’s quiet.

How strange to be so removed from all the activity taking place just a short distance away. It’s like a world inside a world. I am reminded that this is how a Christian lives, in a holy, hushed world of intimate relationship with God even in the midst of chaos.

I walk again. The path curves along the eastern edge of the lake. There is another entrance on this side. A few cars are parked, their drivers napping behind the wheel, or taking their lunch breaks at one of the several picnic tables.

Then the path curves again, moving into brush and trees on the north end. Birds, butterflies, and bugs, flitter everywhere. There is the sweet smell of wilderness right here in the heart of town. Here, more than anywhere else, I feel God walking beside me.

The western side of the lake, just beyond the beach I used to come to as a kid, was the last to be developed. Here, the faded elegance of what was once “Nob Hill” (the politer version of “Snob Hill”) overlooks Gillies. Until recently, we still had to climb the hill and make a detour along several blocks of city streets to get back to the entrance to the conservation area. Today, a wooden walkway surrounded by trees and grasses runs right along the shoreline, avoiding the houses. The path is finally complete.

Someday life’s detours will also be a thing of the past. The circle will be complete, and I will be home, really home, in more ways than one.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pink Slipped

Almost every student has a nightmare that features a door marked “Principal’s Office.” I managed to avoid that door (except for one unhappy incident in the third grade) until I was about to graduate from seminary.

The dreaded pink slip appeared in my mailbox just a few weeks before graduation day. “See the dean” was all it said. Frankly terrified of this austere and serious man, I was extremely nervous when I knocked at his door and was granted permission to enter his inner sanctum.

As was his custom, he got straight to the point. “I would like to ask you to give your testimony at the graduation ceremony.” The relief that came with the realization that I hadn’t committed some terrible sin was replaced with the horrible thought of standing in front of a thousand people, dropping my cue cards, and forgetting what I was supposed to say. However, I would have agreed to just about anything to get out of the room so the conversation was short.

Two days later another pink slip found its way into my mailbox. “See the dean.”

I entered with more confidence this time. After all, he hadn’t devoured me on my first visit.

“The person with the best scholastic and ministry record in the graduation class usually gives the valedictory address, but he has been completing his studies from overseas and obviously won’t be here for the service. You have the second best standing in your class so I would like you to give the address on behalf of your classmates.”

This was all news to me. I had never compared my grades or my service with anyone else in my class. To think that I was even second momentarily stunned me. If giving my testimony had made me nervous, this possibility was many times worse. But how do you turn down the dean? So I agreed.

Several days later, the pink slip reappeared. “See the dean.”

The room felt different when I entered. The dean seemed uncomfortable. Did I detect a look of chagrin on his face? The answer to that was not long in coming.

“The Board of Directors met last night and they feel that since this is a school that is trying to attract men and prepare them for ministry, they think that a man should give the valedictory address. I’m sorry, but would you still be willing to give your testimony?”

It took me years before I thought to be offended at what his statement implied: Seminary wasn’t really intended for girls and I wasn’t the poster girl for attracting boys! But at that precise moment I was quite happy to agree and escape his office.

News travels fast in a small school and it wasn’t long before my classmates knew what had happened in the dean’s office. They felt that I had been treated unfairly but I insisted that it was scary enough to give my testimony and I was happy just to leave the whole thing alone.

A little while later yet another pink slip arrived in my box. “See the dean.” At that point I wondered if I was ever going to graduate! Back to the office I went.

“We have a problem. Every one of the men in your class has refused to give the valedictorian’s address. The only way any of them will agree to do so is if you are allowed to share the honour.”

At another time, in another place, and with another person, I might have held the poor man’s toes to the coals and refused, just to make a point. But I could tell he was already feeling pretty miserable about the whole mess. Later I would remember that, decades before, this man had lost his position in another seminary because he had defended his own wife’s right, as a respected Greek scholar, to teach Biblical languages to men. The discrimination wasn’t his. So I agreed. Two of us would share the podium.

And so it was.

The following year, I received an invitation to the seminary’s graduation service. The valedictorian—only one this time—was a girl.

I smiled.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A House of Prayer

At the age of twelve, the Son visited His Father’s official residence in Jerusalem. It seems that at that point in time it was also a place of learning, since we are told that he was found: “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46 NIV). The picture was very different some twenty-one years later. Mark tells the story this way: “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (Mark 11:15, 16 NIV).

Jesus, upon arriving at the temple, entered first through the outer court, the court of Gentiles. No gentile was ever allowed beyond this point, but, here in this court, the gentiles who had converted to Judaism were allowed to pray. At least that had been the original intent. But the Gentiles couldn’t pray because, with the sanction of the high priest, the outer court had been turned into a mall for the sale of all the items necessary for temple sacrifice. Vats of wine and oil, kegs of salt and pens of approved sacrificial animals and birds were everywhere. In the Palestine of that day, Roman, Greek and Jewish money was in circulation. Exchange houses had to be provided so that the international visitors to the Holy Place, could change their money into Jewish coin. All males, 20 years of age and older were required by law to pay this temple tax.

Praying in the outer court would have been difficult amid such a carnival atmosphere. As well, it appears that people going about their business outside of temple property had become too lazy to walk around the Holy Place, so they simply carried all their merchandise through the temple, using it as a public street.

Jesus was outraged. “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17 NIV), he proclaimed. The religious leaders present would have understood this quote from Isaiah 56:7 that prophesied the day when Jews and Gentiles would worship God together in one place. Even more did they understand the next reference that the Lord quoted: “But you have made it a den of robbers”. The reference to “the den of robbers” comes from Jeremiah 7:11 and was a prophecy concerning the judgment that would fall on Jerusalem, the temple, her leaders and her people, for abandoning their God. Jeremiah’s prophecy is scathing and condemning. He writes: “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’ —safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name become a den of robbers to you … I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer … I will thrust you from my presence … my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place” (Jeremiah 7:9-11, 13, 15, 20 NIV). And so it would be. Only a few short years later, in 70 A.D., Jerusalem and the Temple, were destroyed as the Roman armies led by Titus ravaged the land.

The Son came back to His Father’s official residence at the end of His ministry with one more warning. His desire, in this moment of righteous indignation, was to remove that which hindered the Gentiles from being able to worship God in quietness and reverence, as God intended that they should. He also took one more opportunity to call His people back to Himself.

My house will be called a house of prayer” he shouts. It is interesting that He didn’t say: “My house will be called a house of preaching”, or “My house will be called a house of teaching”, or “My house will be called a house of worship”, or a house of service, or a house of fellowship, or a house of sacrifice. It was to be “a house of prayer”. Hanging over the steeples and stained glass of today’s church is our death sentence. Like the Temple, the majority of churches are no longer houses of prayer. If God condemned one generation for abandoning His prime purpose for His house, why would He not condemn another for doing the same thing?

God’s house was to be a place of prayer for the nations. Foreigners would be welcomed — a reference to the day when the gospel invitation would be extended to the Gentiles. God’s house would be a house of prayer for the marginalized. Isaiah’s prophecy states that eunuchs, those who had once been denied the right to enter the court to pray and worship because of their physical deformities, would no longer be excluded. There would be no room in God’s house for discrimination.

It is important to the Lord that His house be set aside for worship and instruction. But it is vital to Him that His house be a house of prayer. The walls, floors, windows and doors are not sacred. Neither is, (dare I say it) the pulpit or the communion table. What is sacred are the purposes for which these things are used. We are not to use His house for purposes other than those He intended, We are to facilitate prayer in God’s house, and we are not to neglect to make prayer in His house a major focus of our public worship, as well as in our private devotions.

If it was so important to Christ that His Father’s house be a house of prayer, then it should be important to us as well. To the extent that we are “houses of prayer”, corporately or individually, to that extent God will bless both us and our land.


Friday, March 20, 2015

A Little Bird Told Me (Google images)
The barnyard was all a-buzz. Actually, all a-twitter might be a more accurate statement.

“I tell you, Sweetie, Gertie Goatbuster is in big trouble now.”

Swiftness Swallowpater didn’t stop to catch his breath, not even once, as he shared the news with Mrs. Swallowpater. All the little Swallowpaters kept up an unceasing chatter asking impertinent questions of their unheeding elders.

“What, Daddy …?”

“How, Pappy …?”

“Where, Padre…?” (This particular Swallowpater was at the head of his Spanish class. As you know, swallows vacation in Capistrano, Argentina.)

“I overheard … er … heard it personally from Clarissa Cowbell herself. Gertie got up at the Barnyard Brethren Assembly and spoke.

Sweetie looked puzzled.

“Gertie is always bleating about something, so what’s …”

“Mama, goats don’t bleat,” admonished the Swallowpater who thought he was smarter than every other bird in the nest.

“… so unusual about her speaking?” asked mother without missing a beat.

“Dear, that’s Harry Horsenpfeffer’s job. Remember, he went away to Equestrian College and learned the meaning of all the knee nudges and the whip whaps. He’s schooled. Gertie’s a goat—garbage in, garbage out.”

“Swiftness, the children are present, please watch your beak!”

“Sorry, but this upsets me so. Percy Piglettington is calling a meeting of the Barnboard to discuss the situation. You know what he’s like when he gets his tail in a curl.”

Sweetie cocked her head, ruffling her feathers at the thought of Percy on a rampage.

“I don’t understand. Did Harry know this was going to happen?”

“That’s what Percy is going to bring up at the meeting. Harry knew. In fact, he encouraged the outrage. He told Percy that Gertie was gifted and that he wanted to help her use the gift.”

“Oh cool. Do we get presents too, Daddy?”

“Hush, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that Harry told Percy, who told Clarissa, who sort of told me, that Gertie has a special ability to speak to the Barnyard. It’s a gift she got from the Cre-itter-ator.”

The mention of the Cre-itter-ator inspired silence in the little Swallowpaters, if only for a brief moment.


“Yes, son?”

The smart-beak hesitated, not wanting his question to reveal any ignorance on his part.

“She’s a she.”

The elders exchanged puzzled glances.

“I mean; Gertie’s a nanny goat. Didn’t you tell me that nannies were not allowed to speak in the Barnyard? The Cre-itter-ator must have made a mistake if he gave her that gift.”

Father Swallowpater considered for a moment. If he said that the Cre-itter-ator, who held all their lives in his hands, had made mistake—well, that was unthinkable. However, if he said that Gertie did have the gift, he would be building his nest in the farthest corner of the pasture next year, no longer welcome in the barnyard. Percy would see to that.

“Well, maybe Gertie has the gift so that she can tell the Cre-itter-ator’s stories to people like Calico Caterwaul, or Penny Heninger, or …”

“Sweetie Swallowpater?”

Swiftness looked at his good wife. There was a glint in her unblinking eye that warned him that he might be building that new nest BEFORE next year.

“Swiftness, if Gertie has the gift, her stories wouldn’t be any different than Harry’s, would they?”

“No, but …”

“If the stories are the same, who delivers them doesn’t matter, does it?”

“But, we’ve never had a she tell the Cre-itter-ator’s stories before.”


Swiftness turned to the littlest of the swallows.

“Yes, son?”

“Gertie’s been telling the kids, the calves, the foals, the chicks and the piglets, all those stories for years. Everything we know about the Cre-itter-ator, we know because of her. Did she do something bad talking to us?”

Swiftness’ heart was torn at the troubled look in his youngest son’s eyes. More importantly, the question had reminded him that just about everything HE knew about the stories he had also learned from Nanny Gertie. She’d always had the gift.

Truth triumphed over custom.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie. Kids, please forgive me. I shouldn’t have said what I did about Nanny. She does have the gift. I know it, you know it, and Harry knows it too. I’m sure the Cre-itter-ator wouldn’t have given it to her, if he didn’t expect her to tell the stories to anyone who would listen.”

Sweetie pecked her husband on the cheek.

“What about that Barnboard meeting?”

“How about we take the fledglings? Gertie isn’t the only one with a Cre-itter-ator-given right to speak.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

God On Broadband (Google Images)
Why don’t you go home? You’ve been at this for more than thirty years. You don’t owe anything to anyone after all these years of service.

I’m mulling the words over in my mind. What is it that keeps me here? It’s not like anyone is depending on me to stay. No, I’ve been very careful to NOT become indispensable, not to be the tool, but to help believers form their own tools cultivating for themselves the ground God wants to bless with abundant spiritual growth. If they were more dependent, I could convince myself that I couldn’t leave them.

You’re the author of your own redundancy. You’ve equipped them well enough to work yourself out of a job. So, go somewhere else! Your gifts are portable.

I think I’ve done all I can do; all God wanted me to do. In any case, I haven’t got another generation-of-disciples-to-equip in me. I can’t repeat the process anymore, that spark is gone. I can no longer return after Home Assignment and pick up where I left off. For one thing, there isn’t anything now to pick up after. For another, the Lord has called me to go in a different direction, to fulfill a dream.

So, go home.

I can’t. The Lord has changed the mission, but I don’t have any indication that the place is any different. Besides, any major changes in location for me have always come from phone calls out of the clear blue sky at unexpected moments.

If you’re waiting for a phone call these days, you may wait forever —you’ve been “on hold” for a while now.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t wait for a phone call — being that specific is kind of like putting God in a box. Maybe I’m hoping for some catastrophic event to happen: earthquake, coup, getting my pink slip in the mail. I’d be forced to leave. The latter won’t happen — missionaries seldom get fired — and I really don’t want to go through the former. I’m paralyzed, waiting for something to happen, and I don’t understand why!

Someone is going to be issuing you a dose of Prozac any minute now. You must be going through a mid-life crisis. It could be too many traumatic changes and stresses over these last few years. You’re depressed. Remember, a general, non-specific feeling of unhappiness is one of the signs.

And talking to myself is a sign of … ? Anyway, I’m eating, sleeping, socializing, and working well. I like this country as much as I like my own — most of the time. I love this apartment with its “view-to-die-for.” On top of all that, I have been allowed the freedom to follow my dream and go in a new direction with the blessing of my superiors.

Then why are you so unsettled? Why are you having such a hard time getting down to making the dream a reality, to posting your mileage signs on the highway of your new direction? Why are you waiting for a phone call?

I’ve waited so long for this, and now that it’s here, I’m afraid that it won’t be what I have imagined it to be. Part of me doesn’t want it to be as good as the other part of me dreams it will be. Maybe the wait for the phone call is just my way of putting off the fulfilling of the dream, so that its culmination doesn’t become a stumbling block, an idol, or a false source of satisfaction. If I hold off the source of temporal joy, then I can hang on more tightly to the source of eternal joy.

Do you think you know yourself so well, that you can be sure you’d dethrone God with a dream? Do you really believe He gave you the chance to go in this direction, to make this dream a reality, if He didn’t want you to go there, if you were going to fail Him once you arrived? Location has nothing to do with this, does it?

I guess not. Gifts, like dreams, are portable. I can use them, and live them out anywhere. Also, I’m not talking to myself, am I?

It started out that way, but I eavesdrop a lot. A friend of mine once said that I would never lead you where I couldn’t keep you. He was right. Now go, enjoy living out the dream, whatever it takes you. Consider this your phone call.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Greenborough Circle Chronicles: Tibby's Tail

A winter came and went before someone moved into Number 55, Greenborough
Google Images
Circle. At the end of June, a large moving van pulled up in front of the house. The neighbours watched from behind shuttered and curtained windows as a houseful of goods was unloaded. A thin, yellow tabby also watched from the shelter of the cedar hedge behind the tool shed. The quiet of the empty house and yard had made the shed a safe haven for the stray. She had wintered there, sliding in and out through a gap between the door and its frame.

The house was stale with the scent of despair and loneliness. The human who had once occupied it had been gone for a long, long time, even before physically abandoning its rooms.* As windows and doors sprang open to receive the new occupants, the house seemed to take a deep, relieved, breath.

“But I measured …” protested Thomas Tibbits.

“…the doors, not width of the curve in hall,” finished his wife, Sarah.

Their king-size bed wouldn’t make the corner. They ended up parking the mattress and the box spring in the garage.

Once the truck was unloaded, the movers backed it out of the driveway and headed out to the main road. Quiet again reigned on the Circle though chaos still ruled in the house, as boxes and bags were shuffled around and unpacked.

The only useable beds were those belonging to Jason and Michael, the Tibbits’ sons. As soon as the delivery pizza had been consumed, they were sent off to get reacquainted with them.

“And, what about us, dear?” said Sarah sweetly, “now that we can’t get our bed down the hall.”

“We’ll sleep on the hide-a-bed. It’s set up in the guest room. Tomorrow I’ll figure out how to get the mattress and box spring around the corner.” Thomas was, after all, an engineer. It would be embarrassing if he couldn’t come up with a solution.

“Uh-huh,” Mrs. Tibbits said. She was already wondering how to turn the garage into a master bedroom.

Exhaustion and excitement brought on deep and dreamless sleep for all the members of the Tibbits’ household on that first night. No one heard, or felt, the stealthy entrance of the tabby, just a bit before dawn arrived to welcome a new day of moving-in madness. She had cautiously slunk across the yard and entered through the open kitchen window. The cat had never been in the house before and her natural curiosity overcame her.

Later that morning, Sarah worked at organizing the kitchen and the boys occupied themselves in their bedrooms, making their own creative design disaster out of the contents of their boxes and bags. Thomas folded the hideaway up with a sigh of satisfaction. Tonight they would sleep in their own room on their own mattress. By the end of the day, 55 Greenborough Circle looked more like a home and less like a landfill.

The enclave of Greenborough Circle was made up of older ranch-style houses, built when recreation rooms were relegated to the basement. Sarah Tibbits had already decided that the spare bedroom upstairs could play that role in their lives while they worked on some home improvement in the lower regions of the house. The boys happily settled in to watching television and playing computer games from the comfort of the sofa-cum-bed.

It was Michael, in one of those rare quiet moments in what was temporary designated as the family room, who first saw it.

“Mom, come quick, there’s a snake in here.” After the words left his mouth, Michael repented of them. Mom was not the one to call about snakes. Happily, Thomas, still on holidays from work while he got their new home in order, was the one who responded to the call. Sarah was right behind him—emphasis on the “behind.”

“Where’s this snake?” questioned Thomas.

“There,” said Michael, pointing to the bottom corner of the sofa bed. The tip of a long, thin, “something” was visible. It twitched, and Sarah let out a high squeak.

Thomas approached, his mind accessing stored memories.

“Relax,” he said. “There are no poisonous snakes in this area.”

The “something” twitched again, and Thomas drew back in horror.

“It’s not a snake, and it’s INSIDE the sofa bed,” he exclaimed. It didn’t take an engineer to know that inside a sofa bed there isn’t any room for anything except, well, the mattress and the springs that make up the bed part of the dynamic sleeping duo.

Fearing what could await them all, Thomas carefully removed the cushions from the sofa, handed them back to his wife, and then pulled on the tab that released the bed.

Hours later, a somewhat flattened tabby purred contentedly in Michael Tibbits’ lap.

“How did she get in there?” queried Jason.

“I guess she came in the night your mom and I had to sleep on the hideaway. She must have sought shelter under the sofa while the bed was still unmade. When I started to fold it back up, she was too frightened to come out and got stuck between the springs and the back of the sofa.”**

“Why didn’t she cry?” asked Michael.

His mother raised her eyebrows in mock incredulity as she looked over at her youngest.

“And, you two would have heard her with the television at full volume, or with that silly music playing that accompanies your computer games? If she hadn’t managed to get her tail out, we wouldn’t have noticed her until …” Sarah voice trailed off. The thought was too gruesome to contemplate.

Jason looked over at the sleeping tabby. “So, do we keep her, or what?”

Thomas rubbed his chin, exchanging a meaningful glance with his wife.

“Well, we’ll have to check to make sure she doesn’t belong to any of our new neighbours first. I doubt it, considering how thin she is, and the absence of a tag. I guess we owe her that much since we squashed her in a sofa bed for two days without food and water…”

“…And jumped on her,” added Sarah.

“…But you guys will have to look after her,” their father continued.

Jason tried for a “It-really-doesn’t-matter-to-me” look, while Michael’s enthusiasm threatened to pop him, and the cat, out of the recliner appropriated for the cat’s “healing” process.

So it was that a stray tabby found a new home at Number 55, Greenborough Circle. They named her, “Tibby,” though Michael created a computerized pedigree for her and carefully wrote out “Tibby Tibbits’ Tail” on the certificate. Love is sometimes spelled with three T’s.

And Tibby? Well, according to her new family, she became the best cat in the world. She was no fool: The house was certainly a long step up from the tool shed.

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering” —Hebrews 13:2-3.

See The Greenborough Circle Chronicles, Buster’s Bones ( for details
* Based on an actual happening