Rest, Oh Rest

Rest, oh rest in Jesus’ arms,                                                                                         They’ll hold you close to His heart;                                                                                    Feel His tender touch so near                                                                                       Enfold you with His love.                                                                                                   Give your cares to God’s embrace.                                                                                Know His kind and gentle face.                                                                                       Rest, oh rest in Jesus’ arms,                                                                                         They’ll hold you close to His heart;                                                                                   Stay so near,                                                                                                                  Forget your fear;                                                                                                                  Let perfect love do its part.

10400803_10153084970171112_8689363937696123433_n; osiria rose; heavy grinder

Photo: 10400803_10153084970171112_8689363937696123433_n-osiria-rose-heavy-grinder.png

The Light Of A Flickering Candle

The year was at its close, and while the green and red of Christmas had turned to the silver and gold of New Year’s Eve decorations, one house stood still ensconced in its Christmas best. It had been ready for Christmas since before Thanksgiving, as though this Christmas held such goodness it could not wait for its allotted time on the calendar. To the passing observer glancing inside the window of the house there appeared to be stripes moving around. The stripes were red and blue, like a candy cane, running up and down a man’s pajama pants and ending at the new brown suede slippers he wore on his feet. There was a time when those feet walked up and down and streets of the city delivering mail to its residents. Now, however, bad knees the man had acquired playing college football and the hip replacement he’d had just two months ago gave him more of a shuffle than a gait. He’d taken early retirement in the face of the surgery. For a man once strong and active, it was a hit, but he’d made the decision and was living with it and the surgery’s resulting loss of strength.

Determination had helped him put up a tree for Christmas. Oh, it wasn’t real. He’d succumbed to practicality when he finally climbed out of the depression that had come with his wife’s death three years before, and just last year at his son’s suggestion written in a hastily scrawled letter, he had bought one at the local hardware store. It went up a lot more quickly, but it didn’t have the je ne sais quoi of the real ones sold at the lot six blocks away. Still, the lights he’d strung twinkled in the waning light of evening and ornaments collected over years of Christmases told stories of babies and childhoods and hobbies and beautiful things.

He’d climbed unsteadily on a chair and hung the mistletoe his wife had bought when they were newlyweds. He’d put out some throw pillows embroidered with poinsettias and manger scenes. As his eyes roamed over the room, it really did look like Christmas, he thought. It just needed one thing more. Every Christmas Eve since he was a boy, he’d set a candle in the window. It was for the Christchild, you see; for Mary and Joseph to find their way through the dark night to the safety of a warm place to stay. Though the first Christmas was long ago, maybe there was someone else needing that light and the warmth of home. That candlelight was more than just a light, like the star of Bethlehem. It was hope. It was invitation. It was love. It was peace. His mother had taught him that when he was old enough to light a match, and from then on that was his tradition. He’d passed it on to his son and hoped that one day his son would pass it on as well. He hoped, but he lacked certainty. Time could blur things from a son’s memory, he knew. Experiences could change a son’s priorities.

The trouble was his hand had grown unsteady from some of the medication his doctor insisted he take, and a creeping arthritis of late had made it weak. This night he’d tried and tried to light that match, but had only managed to achieve the slight odor of sulfur.

A knock at the door startled him and he shuffled to open it. It was the neighbor boy, there to belatedly collect the money he’d promised when he’d bought his wreath.

“Oh, Sammie, come in, come in,” he said when he saw him. “I’ve got it right here.”

He fished a twenty and a five out of his billfold lying on the end table and handed it to the boy.

“Say, could I ask a favor? You’re a Boy Scout, after all, you do a good deed daily,” he chuckled.

The boy looked bored, but nodded his head.

The man led him over the front window, and pulled a matchbook from his pajama pocket.

“Would you mind lighting this for me?” he asked.

“But it’s after Christmas, Mr. Simmons. We’ve already got our Christmas tree down.”

The man nodded.

“Yes, yes it’s time to put things away, isn’t it? But I just want to light this candle tonight and tomorrow I might think about putting things back in their boxes.”

The boy struck the match and lit the candle. The man patted him on the back and walked him to the door.

“Thanks, Sammie.”

Sammie nodded and jumped off the porch to join the friend who was accompanying him on his rounds.

“What took you so long?” his friend complained as they started down the street.

“Oh, the old man wanted a candle lit.”

For some reason the boys found it funny and began to laugh as they went on their way. And the man watched them, lost in thought, as they jostled each other as boys will do.

The man finally made his way to the couch and watched some T.V. Then he did a crossword puzzle until, finally, his head drooped to his chest and he lightly slept while the candle burned. His dreams were filled with images of his boy; the boy he’d taught to ride a bike and catch a football and shoot a gun; the boy he hadn’t seen in three years.

The sound of a taxi pulling up at the curb woke him, and he made his way to the window. A young man in uniform sat for a moment looking through the window of the taxi to the candle dancing brightly just inside. He climbed out, pulling his duffle after him. Running up the walk, he smiled broadly as he caught his father’s eye through the light of the candle he had often thought of from a distant desert where such a thing had seemed very far away. Its glow reached beyond Christmas Eve, beyond an enlisted soldier’s cot, beyond changes like death and retirement and surgeries, and wrapped the father and son in its promise.

Miracle on Hoover Street

It started out like a typical morning. She woke up at 6:00, prayed for various things and people, lacking the energy for the fervent prayer mentioned in the Bible, but with the knowledge that when you don’t have the energy to do something right, you do what you can. She got up at 6:30, plodded into the kitchen in her bathrobe and slippers, poured a cup of yesterday’s cold coffee with a splash of milk, and settled into her rocking chair to read a chapter in the Bible, something she’d done nearly every day since she was baptized when a 4th grader. It was a habit. It was a good habit. It did for her what she could not do for herself. It grounded her. It supplied wisdom that wasn’t hers. It made her believe in miracles.

It was December 23rd, and a few things still needed to be done before Christmas Day. She ran down to the laundry room, started a load of laundry and was grateful that some things did most of the work themselves, like a washing machine. She drove to the mall and picked up a few last minute gifts, then to the grocery store and home again to put everything away. She still needed to run into the city to shovel a walk or two at the home of her parents and their neighbors and fix greenery and berries in their window box – something that had been delayed due to the cold. It didn’t appear the cold would abate anytime soon, though, and Christmas was two days away! She would have to haul out the ladder and get it done despite the single digit temperature.

She called her teenage son to help her (the ladder would be too heavy for one person, or at least for her to manage alone), threw a shovel in the backseat, and pulled out of the driveway.

“Slow down, Mom,” her son cautioned.

The newly licensed driver was telling his mother what she sometimes said to him when their places were reversed. When did he get to be so responsible? However, five or ten miles per hour over the limit wasn’t hurting anyone, and Christmas was two days away!

A train whistle sounded in concert with her son’s voice. She looked to her left, and there it was. What?! She had never, in all the years she’d taken this route, seen a train on this pacerfarm trainrarely used track. She braked, but the car slid on the snowy street into the path of the coming train. She could see every detail on the approaching train and as crazy as it was, considering the situation, thought it was pretty. Things do that. During the emergencies of life, things slow down, details sharpen. Maybe that’s the way things really are, and all of the other times, the times when we go about our daily business, are when we see least clearly. She gunned the accelerator and flew over the track as the train passed behind them.

And that was when two facts made their way to the front of all of the other things that needed to be done two days before Christmas. Christmas would come whether or not there was enough food in the refrigerator or the house was clean or cookies were baked. It would come despite the most beautiful decorations or no decorations at all. It would come because birthdays aren’t dependent on what we do in the days and months and years afterward to celebrate the event, but because the event happened at a place in time and cannot be changed whether people want to celebrate it or ignore it or despise it.

The second fact she remembered was that life is a series of doing what you can with God filling in the gaps. She was grateful for that because she would never be great or even adequate, but God would always be more than enough.

And that, dear readers, is a miracle in my December posts on miracles that is personal; because the she in this post is me, and Christmas is one day away, and I’m still here.

Photo: pacerfarm-train1.jpg

A Sparrow Falls (continued 1)

About the size of a quarter, the light sparkled and danced and bobbed and flashed within the space of a square foot or so. Seeing it brought to the bird a sense of happiness; the kind of happiness and freedom it felt in the spring when the plants broke from the earth in a carefree chorus of liberation. Watching it gave the little bird a temporary reprieve from its cold nest of hardened earth and icy snow and reminded it of warm rains and sweet air and dependable sunlight. The light took away its fear. As it watched the light, entertained by its dance in the middle of the cold night, it sensed another presence.

A wolf walked silently through the woods, watching the light, too, as if it was calling him wolf - mrwallpaper.comby name. The bird tried to blend into the bush as much as it could. The wolf would be hungry on such a night. But as surely as birds migrate south for winter, as surely as light breaks through darkness, the wolf padded softly right over to where the little bird huddled. It lay down so closely to the bird that its black and gray fur touched the brown feathers.  It, too, watched the dancing light, and through the long night the little bird was warmed by the heat of the wolf until it slept and regained its strength. As morning dawned and the sun broke through the sharp cold of the night, the wolf rose from its place of rest and trotted deeper into the woods.

And, after a snack of dried berries from the bush under which it had hidden, the little bird took flight.


A Sparrow Falls

A film of ice crystals hung in the air, obscuring the faint light of the gibbous moon and adding their frosty touch to the piercing cold. The woods, quiet in the approaching night, cast long shadows over the sparse ground. A crispy, brown leaf, the refugee of the fall just past, scuttered over the ice-covered snow, caught briefly on a downed tree’s twig, then, slightly ragged from its collision, was caught in the wind’s updraft and smashed against a tree trunk, its crumbling pieces disappearing into the night.

The cold this year had come suddenly, like death; anticipated in the future but never expected in the present. One morning the frost of the evening before had warmed to the happy coolness of autumn. Hardy plants that had withstood the night’s cold showed their oranges and rusts and ambers to a day that warmed the ground again with the promise of more. The sun shone high and bright in a sky of faded blue.

Geese had stopped to rest on the lakes, then rose up again, beckoned by some silent call and formed their V in a goodbye for now salute. Sparrows had danced in the sky in an undulating arch as they made their way to warmer climes.

Then it hit. A cold Arctic wind swept down into the day of promised Autumn warmth and stripped it of its heat. In the bluster of snow and ice that surprised even the birds, one was swept from its migrating course, left behind by the others struggling now to fly fastgoodfreephotos.com6 and high. Carried by the wicked wind, it found some relief in the shelter of a nearby woods; but the wind continued until the day waned, and the exhausted bird huddled under a bare bush as the wind died and the cold remained.

The little bird, its brown feathers covering a downy layer underneath, began to shiver. Its energy was spent, so as day turned to night it lay, as it must, ready for its fate, understanding somehow it had seen its last dawn. It lay under the white light of the moon in the impenetrable cold with nothing to shield it when above the bird the dancing movement of a tiny light caught its attention.

to be continued…

story prompt: Matthew 10: 29-31

The Box

She picked up the box and examined it. It was ivory with the raised shape of a deer in the center and outlines of vines and berries traveling over its surface. How often had she passed by this box without noticing the detail that had gone into its design? How many days had she seen it without really looking at it?

Hers was a lifetime of inattention, she thought. A lifetime of distraction and hurry. Life was, after all, so full of details and important things that could not wait. It had happened so quickly that thinking of it now still made her shake her head as if to clear it. A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts.

“Ms. Stryker?”

She turned and looked at the care attendant.

“Sybil. Just Sybil,” she answered.

“Ms. Stryker, the van is here to take you for your doctor’s appointment.”

A lump began forming in her throat. It would be the same as it had been for over two years now. Always the same. Probing and asking questions over and over again, questions she had by now memorized. The prognosis was set in stone.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” she answered, dismissing the attendant with a nod.

Upon learning of her paraplegic state, it had not taken long for her husband to leave her and even less time for her to lose her job. Visitors had come and gone. Family members showed up on a rotating basis, except for her grandmother. Her grandmother had come that first horrible night and had taken a taxi every Sunday after church thereafter, sitting and visiting; telling jokes; singing in her warbling, wavering, winsome soprano; and bringing some small thing now and then – a tin of cookies or an article from the newspaper or a little memento from home. And sometime during each of those visits her grandmother would sit in silent prayer, intent and immoveable.

One time Sybil had said out loud what she thought whenever she saw her grandmother’s eyes begin to close or to stare off into space into a realm through which most others didn’t pass. “Grandma, stop praying for a miracle. It’s done. I’ve accepted it. We need to move on.”

Her grandmother had simply glanced up and caught her eye with an intensity she remembered from her childhood. It was a look that said, “Do not presume to know more than your elder”.

The next Sunday, her grandmother had brought the box from Sybil’s parents’ home where she had left it along with the things of childhood so many years ago. It was one that her grandmother had given to her when she was born. She had stored little treasures in it when she was young, then it had sat on her dresser through years of other, more important things. The Sunday she brought it, her grandmother had set it on her dresser and there it had remained without a glance from its owner.

Just this week, she had felt an inexplicable prompting to examine it, but ignored its pull. Why? It wasn’t as though she had pressing meetings any longer, nor appointments nor social engagements nor visits from friends. Not many, anyway.

The care attendant came to her door again.

“Ms. Stryker, the driver says he’s on a schedule. You really need to come. Here, let me help you,” she said as she moved to take the handles of the wheelchair.

“No,” Sybil said more firmly than she had in a long time. She softened. “No, tell him I need just another minute.”

She lifted the lid, expecting to find some little trinket of a forgotten childhood. None was there. Instead it was filled with slips of paper. She picked up one near the top and read, “Please help her to be a good girl. Bless her life. Keep her safe.”

Sybil’s eyebrows knit in confusion. She picked up another. “I don’t know what’s bothering her at school, but would you please help her? Please send a good friend. Please give her success.”

“She says she’s in love and she doesn’t see him clearly, so I’m asking you to help her see. Or change him. Either one.”

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for this dear girl.”

As she pulled slip after slip out of the box, tears burned her eyes as she began to realize what she was reading. Long after the slips should have run out, long after there were more in her lap than could have ever fit in the box, they continued, spilling onto the floor.

goodfreephotos.com7“If only that deer had crossed the highway a minute later. If only she had been delayed or left for home sooner. Oh, I know I’m going on like you know I do. Please heal her. Please make her walk again.”

“Please, somehow help her to believe that you are bigger than she is or her doctor is or anything is in this world. Help her to believe in miracles.”

Sybil reached for a Kleenex and dabbed harshly at her eyes. She pulled her chair closer to the dresser to set the box in its place, but as she picked it up, she lost her grip and it began to fall. It would break, she knew. There would be no putting it back together. She lunged for it, and that’s when it happened.

She didn’t fall. And as she stood for the first time in two years, the rescued box in her hands, she looked up. There in the doorway was her grandmother.

“I had a feeling you might want to go for a walk today,” was all she said as Sybil left the wheelchair and walked to the door.


The Two Blind Men

The snow fell like little diamonds on the two as they walked, deep in conversation. Oblivious to the scenes around them, they reminded the company president of two ants as he glanced down from the window of his top floor office before returning to his work. As the friends made their way past the large window of a corner café, a patron looked out and saw that in the intensity of their conversation, they did not notice the woolen scarf of the one closest to the window had caught on the window ledge, was pulled from where it had carelessly rested on his coat and now lay in the gathering snow beneath. An old woman in a thread-bare coat turned the corner they had just rounded, found the scarf and, crossing herself, bent to retrieve it, wrapping it around her neck to gain its precious warmth. The stars began to come out, winking here and there in the dark velvet sky and casting pinprick lights from their million miles away in the heavens. The two increased their pace, as they trudged up a slight hill in their walk.

The voice of one rose, “I’m telling you, all of us want a miracle,”

“If such things exist,” the other interrupted.

“If such things exist,” the one acknowledged, “but no one wants to be in the place it would take to get one. Nobody wants to be in the place where a miracle is their only option. Who wants to have everything taken away with nothing to fall back on? Who wants to feel so desperate they think they’ll go crazy?”

His companion nodded his head.

“At any rate,” the companion replied, “if someone did witness a miracle,”

“If such things exist,” the one reminded him.

“If such things exist,” the companion agreed,” he would have had to wish for it or ask for it for a very long time, I would think.”

“Oh, no doubt about it,” the one remarked, as they unwittingly passed the life-size crèche in the yard of a local church, “a person would absolutely need to know they needed it before they witnessed a miracle.”

Atta boy, Clarence!

Sometimes, actually very often now when I read or watch the news, I feel like I’m watching Bedford Falls turn into Pottersville. It’s hard to believe that things are moving at an ever increasing speed toward the loss of what is dear to most folks: freedom, morality, generosity … you know, the things that make life wonderful. I shouldn’t be surprised that a few people can convince many people that for instance, if someone has more than you do, they should be forced to give some of their assets to someone else to give to you; or that if you want something important it becomes a right rather than a personal goal; or that it’s wrong to actually have a sense of right and wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am.

I speak to the George Baileys out there who do their part – big or small – to make a difference in these times. Don’t give up. One day you will find that the Mr. Gower in your life is better off even if he doesn’t know it, that the Violet whose path you’ve crossed really had it in her to be decent and she was because of you, and that the street you cross every day is better because you do that thing you do. Those thousand points of light really do matter. Overcome evil with good.

The Yes Man

His heels clicked on the polished floor as he walked quickly to suite 300. The low buzz of his watch alarm sounded only once as he raised his wrist to press it off. This was exactly the time he usually sat down at his desk, placed his coffee cup neatly its coaster, and began the day’s work. People joked they could set their watches by his movements, and he felt proud. Not every man could join precision and structure so seamlessly. It was, to his mind, what made a man dependable.

He briskly knocked twice on the door and entered at the invitation of the voice within.

A smile tugged at his mouth, though looking at him, one would not have known.  Madeleine wore a red skirt and red and white pinstriped blouse with matching shoes.  Her short, red hair just touched the back of her collar. Looking at the combination made him wince. A gold bracelet hung heavy on her small wrist. He noted one earring lying on her desk by the phone. It was her habit to remove it to talk on the instrument, and she invariably forgot to replace it. He had once overheard her in the lunchroom saying that she had lost three earrings because of her habit, but it was obvious to him now the losses had not deterred her.

Madeleine was sitting at her desk typing and spoke above the tick-tack of the keys. “I buzzed her when you knocked, Mr. Nordrum. She’s expecting you. Go on in.”

“Thank you, Ms. Hallowitz.”

He nodded once and stepped toward the double doors. He knocked twice and turned the shiny knob. Its click was music to his ears. The doorknob was such a simple device, beautiful in its simplicity and precision. He wished he could have met its inventor.

He clicked the door shut behind him and stood, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Mr. Nordrum. On the dot as I knew you would be,” she said with clipped articulation, motioning to a chair in front of her desk.

“Ms. Marley.”

He sat soundlessly in front of her. Her black suit matched her hair which was pulled back into a neat chignon. Her nails were polished with a color that matched her skin.  He looked at her now; her face was carefully made up so that no blotches or variations of color were evident – only a clean layer of peach tone. Her eyes were as gray and direct as her speech.

“Mr. Nordrum, it has come to my attention that there is a poster – unapproved, of course – hanging in the hallway by the lunchroom.”

“I’ll take care of it, Ms. Marley.”

Ms. Marley leaned forward and tapped her fingers together.

“I’ve been giving this some thought, Mr. Nordrum. We’ve had trouble with this for three weeks in a row.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“It makes me wonder what our staff believes about this office. In fact, Mr. Nordrum, it makes me wonder what the citizens of this state believe about this office.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I was elected Governor not once, but twice.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I have served our citizenry well, Mr. Nordrum.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“It is time for a change, Mr. Nordrum, and,” Ms. Marley nodded her head slightly as though she was about to bestow a great honor on her employee, “I have determined you are the man best suited for the job.”

The import of such a nod from his superior was not lost to Mr. Nordrum.

He replied in his most confident voice, “Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I have thought this over for some time. I can assure you, Mr. Nordrum, this has been long in coming in a state that begs for decency and order. There is far too much,” here she searched for a word and, finding it, spit it out like an air drill, “difference,” she pursed her lips as though she was tasting something sour, “difference,” repeated, “in our diversity.”

“Diversity is something you have given much time in promoting,” he answered.

Ms. Marley stood from her chair and threw back her shoulders.

“It has been a very effective effort,” she agreed with just the right amount of modesty and pride.

“However,” she continued, “not everyone cares as deeply about it as they should.”

“Excuse me, Ms. Marley,” Mr. Nordrum interrupted, “but you made the word ‘should’ a misdemeanor offense last month.”

His boss’s face reddened slightly.

“How careless of me, but,” and here she directed a steel-like gaze on her employee, “I think you know what I meant.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I would like you, Mr. Nordrum, to make a list of all of the variations at work against our contemporary society; deviations from what we consider acceptable and appropriate in this state.”

The tall woman turned to face the window. Her eyes darted over the traffic beyond it to the commons spreading like a wide sea in front of the grand building.

Abruptly she spun around and commanded, “Have it on my desk day after tomorrow.”

Mr. Nordrum nodded.

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

He rose from his chair and walked to the door.

“Mr. Nordrum.”

He turned slightly.

“Yes, Ms. Marley?”

“9:01 a.m.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

He silently shut the door behind him.

As he walked through the reception area a muffled, “Good-bye, Mr. Nordrum,” came from beneath the desk.

The top half of Madeleine Hallowitz was enveloped underneath, undoubtedly looking for a lost earring, leaving the bottom half still in the chair to unwittingly entertain those awaiting their appointments.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

In this culture and time in history, the people who receive attention and honor tend to be those who are on T.V.: news reporters and commentators, actors, major politicians, and those in professional sports. I often wonder how this is regarded in its place in history or should I say with what degree of triviality this is regarded (save, perhaps, for major politicians. Or not).

The question then is: who should receive attention and honor?


The positions that receive the most attention and honor in our culture are usually not the most important. I think it’s marvelous that women have more options than ever to be successful and influential. They should. (In fact, it shouldn’t even be a discussion any more, but it crops up from time to time.) Two important roles, that of wife and mother, should not be overlooked in that success, and if they are it is to the detriment of society.

Although divorce is acceptable and commonplace now, it is in everyone’s best interest to work at staying married (save for abuse or unfaithfulness). Being a good wife is not always a bed of roses, and sometimes it’s the last place on earth you want to be. Sorry, guys, everyone has bad days, except my husband, of course. He is always thrilled to be married to me. Be the one who shows the world marriage is for keeps, not just for convenience. In this day of wimped out men, do what you can to encourage your husband to be brave, to be a man of courage, to be strong.

In this day of undisciplined children and an alarming future, raise children who can say no to others and to self, who can see beyond the immediate and develop long-term thinking, who have been taught to read their Bible every day and pray every day, who listen for God’s voice in their lives.

When did we get to the place of valuing something trivial because it makes money or brings attention and devaluing something that brings in no money or status but affects the lives of family members? We might assess our influence in terms of title or money. However, the consequence of our lives will be much larger if we don’t think in those terms. Ask God to use you however He sees fit without regard for the applause of others. He might give you a big place in which to serve or He might give you a rocking chair and prayer shawl. Embrace either. Because He, my friends, is the power behind the hand that rocks the cradle that rules the world.