Sometimes You Hit A Homer

Gord and I had just finished shooing a few last gawkers away from the crash site when a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out and walked toward us, an inquisitive look on her face.

Gord rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whenever there’s a crime everyone and his pup wants to see the blood,” he grumbled.

I winked at my fellow officer. “I don’t see any pup. Just a nice looking lady.”

“Well, you deal with her, Mike. Tell her, ‘Sorry. No bodies today’.” He turned to talk with the tow truck driver and the two of them walked away.

As I watched the woman coming toward me, I guessed her to be in her late-twenties. Not pretty, exactly, but neat. Sandy blond hair fastened behind her head with a clip. Her outfit, a soft green skirt and matching flowered top, coordinated nicely.

Amanda always liked color-coordinated outfits. A twinge of grief hit me. Poets probably call this feeling “bittersweet.” Sweet memory; bitter grief. Co-ordinated sentiments?

This lady didn’t look like your usual crime-scene spectator. Did she have some business here? Neighbors had told us the owners were away on vacation so perhaps this was some friend or relative checking up on things.

She watched the tow truck driver haul away the car the young hoods had totaled, then she turned to me. “What happened, Officer?”

“We’re still investigating, ma’am, but it appears a couple of teen boys held up a gas station and tore off when police tried to stop them. They lost control making a turn, spun out, and hit this garage.”

She frowned. “I hope they weren’t killed!”

“No, just stunned a bit. They ran when our officers got here, but they’re in custody now.”

“Well, I’m sorry they crashed, but at least they’ll get the chance to think it over.”

“Yeah. Probably for six months or so.” I noticed her different accent. Out of state. “And what brings you here this morning, ma’am?”

“My friend asked me to meet her here. I wonder if she knows about this? She didn’t say anything when I talked to her earlier.”

“Your friend?”

“Brianne Rancourt. She’s been house-sitting for these folks while they’re on holidays.”

“Ah. We’ll need to talk to her.”

“We planned to meet here, check on the place, then do lunch. Shall I call her, sir?” She turned her huge peepers on me — nice denim blue ones — and my pulse did a quick double blip.

I took a deep breath. “Uh… Just give me her number and I’ll get the investigating officer to contact her.” I grabbed my notebook and she rattled off the pertinent info, then waited as I relayed it to headquarters.

She eyed the damage. “Brianne will be so shocked. She’s been house-sitting here for the past two weeks and never had any trouble. I feel sorry for the owners, coming home to this.”

Her tone, soft and gentle now, reminded me of the folks at my wife’s funeral. They’d give me a hug or pat me on the shoulder as they filed past, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, Mike.” Or they’d look at my kids and say, “This is so sad!”

I jerked my mind back to the present. “How long have you known Ms Rancourt?”

“Only ten days, actually. My Aunt lives here in Houston. She had a bad fall and broke her hip, so I took time off work and drove down from Great Falls to help her out. I met Brianne at the hospital; her aunt’s on the same ward.”

“Great Falls, Montana? Ah! That explains your accent.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Actually, we don’t have an accent. It’s you Texans that talk funny.” I chuckled at the way she drawled this last sentence.

I flipped to a new page in my notebook. “I should take down your name and number as well, ma’am.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Really? But it’s purely coincidence that I’m here now, sir.”

I put on my best stern-cop frown, avoiding those curious blue eyes. “Perhaps we’ll need to contact you for some reason.”

“Okay. I’m Shannon Ryan. As I said, I live in Great Falls. Age thirty-one — in case you need that, too.” I couldn’t miss the hint of teasing in her voice.

I grinned. “I admire your honesty, ma’am. Most women I know stop at twenty-nine.” That made her smile.

Amanda had always joked that she was going to quit counting birthdays when she hit thirty. I’d laughed and told her I’d just have to grow old all by myself then. Those words came back to haunt me now. We never dreamed she wouldn’t live to see thirty; we never foresaw a fatal aneurysm snatching her away from me and the kids.

I focused on my notebook. “Married or single?” Police records didn’t require that, but hey. We can do things different here in Texas, right?

“I’m a widow.”

That got my attention. “I’m sorry to hear that. For long?”

She sighed. “It’s been ten years for me. And Brianne was widowed two years ago. I guess that’s why we hit it off so well when we met. We can commiserate.”

My brain did the math. “You must have been married real young then?”

“Yeah. I was seventeen when we got married; Brad was eighteen. Young and foolish, folks said, but we were very much in love. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work one night. Four sweet years — far too short.” She blinked back some tears.

I nodded sympathetically. “I hear you, ma’am. I lost my wife four months ago. Feels like our time together was far too short, too.”

“My condolences,” she murmured. “Those first few months alone are a long, hard walk.”

“You’ve never remarried? Not currently, uh, involved?” Man, you’re nervy, Mike, I chided myself. But I had to ask.

“No.” She hesitated a moment. “I was engaged briefly three years ago, but that really blew up in my face. I run a daycare and it turned out he had an agenda. An ‘unnatural interest’ in children. I’ll admit a few red flags did pop up, but I so much wanted a home and family of my own that I reasoned them away.”

“The snake!” I spat the word out, thinking of my own innocent kids.

“Yeah. How could I have not seen it? And the scandal when he was arrested really sank me. Headlines like: ‘Day care operator’s fiancé arrested for trafficking in kiddie porn’ and ‘Police investigate pedophile’s involvement with day care owner.’ I’d never left him alone with any of the kids in my care — I testified to that in court — but my business was toast. I had to sell my house and start up elsewhere.”

I gritted my teeth. “I know what I’d like to do with someone like that!”

“So I’m sure you can understand why I try not to think about marriage anymore. I’m scared to hope again for fear it’ll be ‘Three strikes, you’re out’.” She smiled then, but the tears made her eyes glisten.

She shook her head and fixed her eyes on the garage. “Anyway, this isn’t all about me, so I’d better get on my way.” She turned and walked toward her car.

Should I just let her go? Something about this lady impressed me. She’d been through the mill and could still smile. I could use someone like that in my life — someone who’d understand.

A nagging voice piped up. It’s too soon to get involved, Mike. Just drop it!

Yeah, too soon. Yet I was so lonely! The emptiness had set in as soon as the last relative left. Every day my house felt empty: the loving greetings, the noisy meals together, the hugs and kisses were all gone. Every night my bed felt lonelier.

What will people think? They’ll say you didn’t love Amanda much if you find someone else so soon.

Stuff it, I retorted. I need someone. The kids need a mother. I’ve prayed God would send me someone who’ll love my kids. And if this is my someone, I’m not letting her walk away.

“Shannon, wait…” I called. She stopped and turned around.

“I’ve been thinking — since you’re down here alone and don’t know the city, perhaps you might, uh, like an unofficial police escort? Maybe for some shopping or sightseeing? And there are some really neat cruises in the Gulf you might want to take in while you’re here.”

She was quiet for a moment. Wrestling with her own nagging voices, most likely.

“Don’t give up on finding love,” I encouraged her. “After all, not everybody strikes out. Sometimes you hit a homer on the third swing.”

Something seemed to click and her face broke into a beautiful smile. “You know,” she said, “a police escort might not be such a bad idea. Might save me from some other slippery snakes. Yeah, I’d like to look around this town more, with a little help. Since you’re offering.”

Her smile seemed to bring the sunshine into my world again. I held out my hand. “My name’s Mike Andrews, by the way. And I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who’d be glad to spend time with someone who likes children.”

She reached out and shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mike. And I do like children. In fact I always wanted house full.”

I gave her my biggest smile. “I’m with you on that one.”

The Lost Coin

fireworks-235813_640Happy New year to all my readers! I haven’t been feeling so inspired to write fiction lately, so I’ll post a story I wrote long ago but have never shared publicly. This is my version of one of the miraculous incidents recorded in the Bible.


Who dropped it?

Was it a Roman soldier, striding along the dock, digging out the boat fare from his little leather bag? Maybe he had spent a few days at the spa in Tiberius for refreshment and was on his way back to his post.

Perhaps, hurrying to the boat, he slipped on a greasy spot and one of his coins went flying. He heard it splunk as it hit the water. He shrugged and hurried on. What was one coin, anyway?

Was it a servant girl, sent to the dock to buy fish for the family’s supper? Perhaps it was her first time handling money and her hands shook as she was paying for the fish? To her horror, one silver coin slipped between her fingers. It hit the dock and before she could grab it again it rolled along a plank and over the edge. She heard it splunk as it hit the water.

Oh, what would mistress say if she came back with not enough fish?! Would the master even accuse her of stealing it? But with a smile and a nod the kind fisherman handed her all the fish she needed and waved her on her way. She would have been so grateful!

Or was it a young boy, waiting while his merchant father inspected some cargo. Perhaps his father had given him this silver coin to amuse himself through the long business talk.
Maybe he was flipping it in the air because he liked the way it sparkled in the sunshine? Then he missed catching it! With a small thump the coin landed on the dock and rolled over the edge. He heard it splunk as it fell into the water. Quickly he ran to the edge of the dock and watched it sink down, down, down.


The Bible does not say who dropped it. But God had a plan for this little silver coin.

A fish was swimming around under the dock, looking up, waiting for some juicy bug to light on the surface. Suddenly something sparkly flashed through the water, coming down, down, toward him. A huge silver beetle! Yum!

The fish opened its mouth as wide as it could, anticipating the delicious crunch, and into its mouth went the coin. But it was not juicy and squishy. It was a cold, hard lump!

The fish tried to swallow but the coin was too big. He tried to spit it out but it wouldn’t budge. He wiggled this way and that, he swam in big circles, he leaped from the water and back down. But nothing would shake this awful hard thing loose from his mouth. It was stuck!


“Hey, Simon, wait a minute!”

Simon Peter, who was following Jesus into the house, stopped and turned to see who was calling him. Several men were coming toward him through the crowd, those men who came around once in awhile to collect the tribute money to help pay for the upkeep of the temple.

“Your Master is staying with you right now, isn’t He?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” Peter replied, then looked around at the crowd of people. Why did they ask? The whole town of Capernaum knew that Jesus was staying at his house!

“Your Master pays tribute, doesn’t He?” another man continued. “We’re collecting. Everyone needs to pay the tax to keep up the temple.”

Peter frowned. Did He? Did Jesus pay tax for the upkeep of the temple? Well, Jesus seemed to want to live just like everyone else and obey all the laws, so He probably did.

“Yes,” answered Peter. “I believe so. I’ll go and ask Him.” But he walked into the house wondering.

Why should Jesus have to pay for the upkeep of the temple? Jesus was the Son of God–and God was the owner of the temple. Why, that would be like making Herod’s sons pay for the upkeep on their palace!

Jesus looked up at Peter as he entered the house. “Peter,” He asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth demand tribute money? From their own people, or from the foreign lands they have conquered?”

“From the foreigners,” Peter answered, puzzled.

“Then the children are free?” Jesus asked.

“Well, yes,” Peter replied, more puzzled yet.

Jesus knew what the men had asked for. He knew the question going through Peter’s mind. And he wanted to teach an important lesson to the people listening. So He explained that it was true; as God’s Son, He should not have to pay for the temple upkeep, for the temple was His Father’s earthly house.

“But we must obey the laws of the land as much as possible while we are in this life. We don’t want to offend them and cause needless trouble.”

“Take a hook and line,” He instructed, “and go down to the lake. Throw your hook into the water. The first fish you catch, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin to the tribute collector and pay the tribute for you and me.”

Peter, still puzzled, hunted through the fishing gear that he had set aside when Jesus first called him to be a disciple. A fish with a coins in its mouth?

Well, we’ll see, he thought. He found a line and a hook and headed toward the lake of Galilee.


By now the fish may have carried that awful coin in its mouth for several days. Perhaps he had swum from one end of the lake to the other searching for food, but not able to chew anything. Pressing hard on the same spots all day and all night, the coin was like a bad toothache.

He was swimming slowly in the water near Capernaum when a tiny silvery thing splashed into the water not far away. Other fish darted away, frightened by this odd-looking bug, but the big fish was so hungry!

He opened his mouth as best he could and caught the tiny thing. But it was not a bug at all. It was a sharp barbed thing that jabbed into the roof of his mouth and there it stuck.

Now something was tugging on this sharp hook. It dug deep into the roof of his mouth. He wiggled and tried to break free, but he was so weak he could hardly resist. He was being pulled closer to the shore, the hook jabbing him every time he jerked back. Finally exhausted, he gave up the fight.

Peter, standing knee-deep in the shallows, reached down and lifted the limp fish out of the water. Holding its jaws open with one hand, he carefully removed the hook. Then he poked a finger into its mouth and felt the coin.

Peter was amazed. How could it be that, in this whole huge lake, the one fish with a coin stuck in its mouth would get caught on his hook? How could it be that Jesus would know that? Grasping the coin with his finger and thumb, he gave a little tug and out it came.
Now he looked at the fish. “Someone will be happy to catch you someday, “ he said, “but you’d better fatten up a bit first.” And he tossed it back into the lake.

Then he examined the coin, marvelling. “Truly Jesus is the Lord and ruler of all Creation!” he declared as he waded back to shore.


For awhile the exhausted fish floated in the shallow water near the shore. Then he opened and closed his mouth a few times–just to be sure.

The hook was gone! That horrible big lump was gone! What a relief! He flipped his tail back and forth, pushing himself into the deeper water.

His mouth was very sore, but not too sore to nibble from the weeds growing on the lake bottom. Small water beetles swam among the weeds; he would eat lots of those. Never again was he going to be tempted by sparkling things that fell from the blue above!

He swirled his fins and away he swam, so glad to be free. Being a fish, he had no idea that he was part of one of Jesus’ miracles.

Avalanche — Part 3

I clench my fists and scold that whimpering coward inside. Come on, man! You can’t just sit here and die!

I never have been one to just lie down and let circumstances run all over me. I’ve never looked to others — or to God — for help. When life gave me a kick I tried to kick it right back. I’ve always depended on my own wits and I’m going to do that now.

I’ve got to make a hole in the snowbank outside so I can get some fresh air. So I grab my pick, but know right away that’s a silly idea. There’s no room to swing it. I toss it aside and dig with my mitts until my hands are almost frozen. I shove at the snow, demanding it to move, until the futility of it all hits me in the face again. I may as well try digging through the mountain.

I flop on the cave floor and accept the truth: there’s no way I can dig myself out of this grave. I’m going to die here — maybe in a couple of hours.

What’s so fearful about dying anyway? You just lie down and close your eyes, and it’s over. Or is it?

Some folks say you wake up to a whole new world: some say it’s heaven or hell. I’ve had some preachers tell me God’s keeping records in a big book and when you die you stand before Him and are judged by what’s written in that book. What will He say to me? Have I been good enough to get a pass for Heaven?

Some tell you your whole life passes before your eyes just before you die and you get to review all the things you’ve done in this world. All your failings and mistakes. I lean my head back against the cold stone and contemplate what that procession might look like. Scenes of the past pop into my mind, decisions I made, things I’ve said, people I’ve loved, some fights I’ve been in.

I think about my lust for gold. Yep, I see it now for it what it is: lust. For me it’s been like an insatiable thirst. I wanted lots of it, I wanted to get it before the other guy, and keep it for myself. I wanted all the nice stuff money could buy, the security of a fat bank account that would keep me through my old age.

I think of a Bible verse I heard one time: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” I sadly shake my head. No, I probably haven’t been good enough to join them saints when they go marching in.

For an instant I contemplate bargaining with God. I tell Him, “Lord, if you’ll just get me out of this situation, I’ll serve you forever. I’ll become the best Christian there ever was; I’ll be in church every Sunday, give my gold to the poor, become a preacher. Hey, Lord, I’ll even sing in the choir if that’s what You want.”

I remember other men who’ve made those same promises when they were in dire straits, and kept them, too. But I can name a few others who’ve have gone back on all their vows as soon as the circumstances changed.

Yeah, I could promise God all that, but what if there’s no miracle for me anyway? What if this is simply going to be my last day? A kind of acceptance settles into me. I need to make peace with my Maker now, if I can, because I’m going to be looking Him in the eye right shortly.

Even in the blackness I shut my eyes when I start to pray. “Are you there, God? Do you hear me? Do you know me? What’s going to happen when I die? Will you let me into your heaven? Will you — can you — forgive all the sins of my life?”

Soft as sifting snow, a few Bible verses slide into my thoughts. “God sent his only Son… whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Songs I learned as a gaffer at school, rehearsing them over and over for the Christmas program. Never would have dreamed I’d remember them here and now. “Peace on earth, goodwill to men… Unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord…” I contemplate the Good News we sang about then and wonder if it could be for me, too.

Another verse came into my mind, one I heard in a fiery sermon one day: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

I sigh another prayer. “Lord, is this an offer you’re making me, such a selfish sinner as I have been? You know I have nothing to give You in exchange. Except maybe this gold — and I guess it’s really Yours anyway, seeing You put it into the rock in the first place. But if You are hearing me and giving me this verse, if You can wash me pure as this snow outside today, and if You’re willing to do it, then I accept. I’ll give You whatever life I have left in this world and all my days in the next, if You’ll only clean me up and make me fit for Your heaven.”

I can never completely explain the peace that pours through me in that instant. I feel so light I could float, and so free. Suddenly I needed to be in the light so I fished a candle out of my pocket, lit it, and set it up on a chunk of wood. Symbolic, I guess.

For maybe an hour — you lose all sense of time in a place like that — I talk with God about my past, the people I knew, all the places I’d been. And He lets me know He’s been there with me, has seen and felt it all. Then He washes my past, forgives it all. I feel so new — like the fresh buds that pop out in springtime, even on an old tree. I’ve scoffed at the term a lot, but today I understand what “born again” really means.

Then I start to feel cold and sleepy. I stretch out on the floor and tell Him, “Thank You, Lord. I’m ready to go now, whenever You want to come for me.”

A few minutes later I hear a sound, another rumbling above me. I feel vibrations and hear thuds like falling rocks. Another avalanche! The noise is so fierce now I start shaking. This time even the cave seemed to shudder; instinctively I roll onto my belly and curl up, using my parka hood to cover my head. Is this the end, I wonder? My last minutes?

Suddenly I’m aware that the cave was filled with light. I lift my head, realizing the snow has tumbled away from the opening. I listen as the avalanche makes its way to the valley below. Finally all is silent. I crawl to the entrance and look outside, shutting my eyes against the dazzling sun. The clouds have almost all drifted away now; it’s a beautiful day.

Yes, it’s a glorious day to be alive!

The House that Tom & Susie Built

“Oh, to be more patient!” Susie sighed as she got ready for bed that night. If only Tom could see my point! I don’t want to be a nag but he needs to make some changes — for the good of our home.

For one thing, he could say ‘No’ to some of these pleas for help. Like this morning when Uncle Jim called. Could Tom do a few repairs for Grandma?

“Yes, we love Grandma,” Susie had countered, “but any of your cousins could help her. They just say they’re too busy; well, we’re busy, too! We’ll never get our own house finished if you’re always helping this one and that one. Say ‘No’ this time!”

And had he listened? No. Then he wasn’t home in time for dinner, either, and the children became whiny and hard to manage. Irked, Susie grumbled at him after he did get home until he snapped back at her and stomped out to mow the lawn. The girls stood looking at her in wide-eyed silence until she shooed them outside to play. And Javon started to fuss.

Susie warmed up a bottle for him. “I guess I should apologize,” she told Javon as she fed him his bottle. “But maybe your daddy will think about this, too, and see that charity begins at home.” She brushed away the feelings of guilt.

Javon fell asleep and she started to vacuum, but she found resentment a bitter companion and was very thankful when Tom came in to say he was sorry. She apologized, too, and they both agreed that they wanted a happy home.

That night Susie whispered a prayer into her pillow. “I do want to be a good helpmeet for him, Lord. But there’s so much to do around here and the children need their Dad and… Well, You know it all. Please help us.” Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.

Next thing Susie knew, she and Tom were walking down a long road that stretched out ahead of them, then started to curve.

As they walked along, she had a sense of years passing. She glanced at Tom and saw with surprise that he had a cane in his other hand and was leaning on it a lot. She saw the grey in his hair and knew that hers was turning white, too.

Suddenly from around the bend in the road a man came toward them. With a spring in his step and a cheerful hello, he beckoned them.

“You must be the Reeds. I’ve come to show you your new house.”

She and Tom looked at each other in surprise and delight. The man, who seemed to be a real estate agent, led them around the next bend. Beside the road they saw a lovely new cottage.

Susie gasped. “Is this ours?”

“No,” the agent replied, “this is the home of John and Linda Thomas.”

Right then an elderly couple opened the door and waved at them. It was indeed a couple they knew from their congregation, but they were both very old now.

“Well, they certainly do deserve that neat home,” said Susie. “They’ve been so faithful in the church and such a good example to us all.”

The man smiled. “Yes, they’ve been building well all these years.”

They walked along farther and passed other houses, some looking very good and some rather ramshackle. One place wasn’t much more than a heap of crooked boards tossed together. The couple outside were bickering with each other.

The agent shook his head. “Even in old age some folks are still trying to decide whose fault it is.”

“I hope we don’t have them for neighbours,” Susie said curtly.

A few miles later the agent stopped beside another house. “And here we are, folks. This one is yours!”

Tom and Susie walked over to the house and eyed it dubiously. The siding had some jagged edges, a few boards were put on at odd angles. The door frame wasn’t quite straight.

“This is ours?” Tom sounded puzzled. He studied it up and down, and wandered around to the back, leaving Susie alone with the agent.

Susie examined the house and said to herself, “Somebody sure made a mess of things!”
The man seemed to read her thoughts. “It has been fairly well built. A few flaws here and there, but most of it is quite sound.”

He opened the door and Susie followed him into the cottage. Floor tiles were missing here and there. The fireplace stones stuck out at odd angles; amazing they didn’t tumble down!

“Oh, there must be some mistake,” she protested. “This can’t be ours!”

“Madam, I assure you, there’s no mistake,” he answered politely. “This is the house you and Tom have been building all these years. And you’ve done a halfway decent job, too. Some really good materials here.” He rapped on the wall. “Most of the subfloor is good wood. Most of the studs are in place, though some are a bit warped. Most of the roof is intact.”

“But…we would never build a place like this!”

“This is indeed your work, Mrs. Reed. What you have here is what you’ve put into your marriage all these years. You reap what you sow, you know.”

He pointed to the floor tiles. “Most of the time you and Tom have spoken to each other with respect — but not always.” Then he indicated several holes in the ceiling. “You and Tom have patched up most of your quarrels, but not all of them.” He waved at the gaps between the wall and the ceiling. “Times when each of you insisted on getting your own way. A bit was lost in your building. Selfishness is such a thief!”

Susie examined the fireplace with its stones askew and he explained. “These are the times you’ve accepted each other’s faults charitably — or complained angrily. They’re all here, just as you’ve stacked them.”

Susie cringed. What he was saying was too true. Sick at heart, she walked into the kitchen. The cabinets looked attractive, except that some of the doors were warped.
She didn’t dare ask, but he told her anyway. “Most of the time you’ve been honest with each other, but not always.”

Susie blushed, remembering a few of those times. “If only we’d known it would all show up like this,” she wailed. “How can we ever live here?”

The agent drew himself up in a huff. “That’s not my problem, Mrs. Reed. I’m only the agent of Time. My job was to bring you here and I have. All these years you and Tom have been building your old age. And may I remind you that when you were young you thought these things were good enough. ‘About like other couples,’ I believe you said then.”

He walked over to the entrance. “If you’d wanted something better now, you should have started years ago. Remember the old proverb: A wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Susie hung her head in shame. “If I’d only known I was building I’d someday have to live with…”

“Perhaps you could still make a few repairs,” he suggested cheerfully as he opened the door. “And now, good day, Mrs. Reed. I have others to bring to their houses, too, including your children. They’re married now and are building their own homes.”

“My children! What kind of houses will they have? If only they could see…”

“No doubt they will be following the example you’ve left them, so their houses will be half-ways decent, too,” he assured her. Then he stepped out the door into a whoosh of wind and was gone, leaving Susie standing there contemplating his last words.

She turned around to look over the house again and a wave of despair overcame her. How many repairs could they make at this late date? She sat down in a chair and began to sob.
Then Tom was beside her and his arm was around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry. We’ll do what we can.”

Suddenly she was sitting up in bed, with Tom’s arm around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry,” he was saying. “You must have had a bad dream.”

Susie nodded, then thought again. “No, I’ve had a very good dream. and I hope I’ll remember it for a long time. She leaned on his shoulder. “Oh, Tom, I’ve been fussing so much about getting this earthly house finished and I’ve been neglecting the most important one!”


Just before the battle Captain James looked over his troops and smiled. A number of them were seasoned warriors, battle-scarred and victorious; they’d stand at the forefront. A half dozen other troops, new to the King & Cause, he would put in the middle. They’d all had basic training and now joined the ranks, but they needed to improve their skills in an actual battle. Some were young and might become weary with heavy hand-to-hand combat against the foe; he didn’t want to see them blown away in the first skirmish so he placed them at the rear.

He noticed Frankie making practice thrusts with his sword. Frankie was one of the new recruits, on fire for the Cause, though some would call his nature bold and brash. He had a tendency to swing his weapon and his words a little carelessly, knocking a few noses out of joint at times, but this zeal was slowly being tempered by concern for the outfit as a whole.

“Frankie’s learning to be a team player,” James told his Aide one day. “I can see great potential. I really like his enthusiasm–just hope he doesn’t lose it all.”

“I think you should place Penny in the line-up next to Frankie for this next battle,” his Aide said. “She has an important lesson to learn this time.”

“You’re right,” said the Captain. “On the surface Penny seems like a timid sort, but I suspect she still has a lot of self-centredness to overcome. Too wrapped up in her own feelings. I’m really hoping that experiencing the glories of the war and seeing victories won will encourage her to stop focusing so much on herself and put her heart into the Cause.”

“Maybe seeing Frankie’s enthusiasm will draw her out, too,” he added. “Otherwise I wonder how long she’ll stand up as a soldier for the Lord. There’s no way any soldier can avoid conflict and a battlefield isn’t a bed of roses.” Captain James had done his best to prepare his troops, but in the heat of battle soldiers either toughened up or were fried. How would Penny react under fire?

He gave a few last instructions, then shouted, “Forward, March!” They were on their way to face the foe.

The field was hazy that day. Frankie, sword upright, thought he saw an enemy approaching from the left, close to Penny, and took a hefty swing in that direction. The enemy soldier nimbly jumped back and the tip of Frankie’s sword gave Penny a jab. Blood started to trickle down her arm.

“I’ve been wounded,” she shrieked.

“I am so sorry,” Frankie gasped. “I was trying to protect you.”

“But you wounded me,” she wailed.

“Look, everybody,” she yelled. “Frankie wounded me. Look at all this blood!” A few of the rear soldiers stopped to look at her arm.

Several front line soldiers, already full of gashes and stabs, turned to assess her injury. One said sympathetically, “I’m sorry this happened, but it’s not that serious. Just hold up your sword and concentrate on fighting the enemy.”

“But I’ve been WOUNDED, “ she screamed. “Look, my blood is pouring out!”

Captain James hurried over. He frowned at the minor injury and wondered how best to deal with the whimpering Penny. “If you can’t keep on fighting, then you’d better hurry to the Great Physician’s tent. He can heal it.”

“But I can’t. I’m wounded – just look at all this blood! And the pain is unbearable. There’s no way I can walk back to His tent. Someone will have to carry me.”

“I’ll help,” Frankie volunteered.

“Don’t you touch me, you jerk! You’ve caused enough trouble already.”

“But there was an enemy soldier right ready to slice you in half,” Frankie protested. “At least I thought I saw one.”

“Oh, yeah, right. You thought. You are SO careless.”

With a sigh Captain James called two of his strongest men. “Can you take her back behind the lines and leave her in the hands of the Great Physician.”

“But Captain, we can’t hardly spare any men,” another soldier said. “We won’t be able to take the enemy bunker and rescue the prisoners they’ve captured.”

“We have to protect our own troops, too. We must get her off the battlefield; the enemy will cut her to ribbons if she just stands here. You and Mike go with her; if needs be, pick her up and carry her.”

“The crybaby. She’s got two good legs; she can walk,” Mike grumbled.

“But I’ve been wounded,” Penny wailed. “How can I be expected to walk? Don’t you guys have any compassion? When I get back to headquarters I’m requesting a transfer.”

“It’s all my fault,” Frankie moaned. “I should have been more careful. But I really thought I was helping her. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a soldier?” He tossed his sword down.

Captain James put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Frankie, the King called you and you enlisted, so of course you’re cut out to be a soldier. In every war there are wounded people–and some are a lot more easily wounded than others. But don’t let this discourage you or I’ll be out TWO soldiers. Pick up your sword and do the best you can. We have a war to fight.”

So Frankie grabbed his sword and hurried to join the battle again, resolving to be more careful in future.

Right then an enemy soldier sneaked up behind Captain James and whispered. “You are one lousy commander. You should never have put those two beside each other. Because of your poor decision one of your soldiers is down and another may feel so guilty he’ll give up the fight, too.”

The Captain ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah. Maybe it is my fault. I should have arranged them differently.” He fell to his knees and cried, “Lord forgive me!”

His Aide hurried over and put the enemy soldier to flight. He took the Captain by the arm, lifted him up and gave him a kind pat on the back. “Don’t listen to his lies. You did your best, Sir. And the Great Physician is well able to heal her.”

“If she wants it badly enough. I hate to say it, but some folks seem to take a strange delight in their pain. Their moment of glory, kind of.”

“Well, let’s hope she rallies. The Great Physician will do His utmost to work with her.”

Meanwhile, back on the medical bench by the Great Physician’s tent, Penny sat watching her blood drip on the ground and re-examining the pain of it all. She wished the Great Physician would show up once and heal her. By and by another soldier joined her on the bench. He had a gaping head wound and one arm was almost severed.

“Man, are you ever bleeding,” Penny said, sliding farther down the bench. She didn’t need his blood splattering on her yet, too.

“Caught in major enemy fire. I’m needing the Great Physician real bad,” he said weakly.

“I do, too. See this deep wound, all this blood. Got it from a fellow soldier, too. Supposed to be, anyway. I think he’s a real yoyo.”

“My only son was killed by a drunk driver. Never fought such a battle in my life. But I won!” The man’s eyes shone. “I was able to forgive that young man.

“You forgave him? The scum! He didn’t deserve it.”

“Maybe not, but I need healing for the pain I’m feeling every day – and I wouldn’t be here getting that help if I were still so bin the awful pit of bitterness. I’m so thankful to be delivered from that place!”

“Besides, everybody needs forgiveness once in awhile,” he added. “Really, none of us deserve it.”

Penny frowned. He sounded weird; must be that head wound was muddling his thinking. She returned her gaze to her wound; thankfully it was still dripping. The Great Physician needed to see just how bad it was.

Awhile later she looked up and saw the man who’d been beside her walking away, erect and pain-free even though his one arm was gone. Right then a horrible thought came to her: what if she ’d need to have her arm amputated, too? She sure hoped Frankie got a few good slashes himself. He needed to suffer, too.

But the Great Physician must have come by and she hadn’t noticed. Why hadn’t she seen Him. Why wasn’t His voice loud enough for her to hear? Or had He not called her? Didn’t He care about her? She could bleed to death sitting here.

Penny didn’t realize that the Great Physician HAD come by, at least a dozen times, and gently called her name. She was so focused on her injury she hadn’t even noticed. She’s still sitting there waiting to be healed.

Story by Christine Goodnough, Originally posted July 11, 2012


Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.


A Dip in the Pity-Puddle

Spring took a big step backward yesterday; the temperature dropped to -20 C last night and is supposed to go down to -24 tonight. (That’s -8 and -11 F) and stay cool all weekend.

A black bird crossed my path this afternoon – not a raven but a genuine blackbird. We took a trip to Outlook and saw Canada geese as well; a few of them were sitting on an ice floe in the river. It’s still pretty cold for the poor birds!

The Lord spoke to me about self-pity a few mornings ago. I was feeling really bad for the way a certain situation had turned out, something I’d gotten involved in on behalf of a friend. I’d had a talk with someone, hoping to explain my friend’s problem, but my listener had reacted negatively and later tongue-lashed my friend.

Of course I felt quite upset when I heard this from my friend. Instead of helping matters I seemingly had made them worse. The next morning I sat mulling this over, feeling blue, despairing of any improvement in the situation. Then the Lord asked me in a gentle way, “How much of your feeling here is actually self-pity?”


But I opened my mind to that question and could see that, yeah, some of my feelings really do stem from a well disguised self-pity. Then a strange thing happened: as I admitted it, that “blue cloud” lifted and the whole thing didn’t look half as bad.

When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” He was serious. It really does!

“Even our tears need washing in the blood of Christ before they can be acceptable.”

I was talking to my friend again this morning, encouraging her to pray about the issues that are troubling her. I feel that God is the only one who can really help her and she agreed with that, but she can’t bring herself to believe in, or talk to, Someone she can’t see. That’s a tough one! Or is it?

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

(Part of this was posted simultaneously on “Inspirational Thoughts.”)

The Quick Red Fox and the Howling Hound

spotted dogOnce upon a time a man who lived all alone in a small farming village was given a pup. He was a gangly creature with funny floppy ears — no beauty prizes would he ever win — but the little hound was very loving and his owner grew very fond of him. Every day the man would take his dog out to the field with him as he hoed his corn; at night he’d put the hound in a pen in his back yard and go to bed.

Down the street a ways lived an elderly widow with a big rambling back winking One night a prowling fox found the place to his liking and took up residence under an old shed in this yard.

Thus began an interesting routine: at night the fox, off on his hunting expedition, would hurry past the dog’s pen. The hound would catch sight of it and would howl. Then he’d settle down and sleep for some hours. At the first light of dawn the fox would slip back to its den. The dog, catching a whiff of it, would start baying again.

dog & catThe owner didn’t know what was setting the dog off, but he concluded it must be some wild animal passing. Anyway, dogs do bark now and then. He gave the matter little thought until one morning his neighbor came banging on his door.

When he opened the door his neighbor shook a fist in his face. “You have to get rid of that howling hound! He’s keeping me awake all night long.”

The owner was amazed. “How can that be! My dog only barks a few times at night and a few times in the morning. It’s not like he’s barking all night long.”

“That may be,” said the scowling neighbor. “But I lie awake all night because I never know when he’s going to bark.”

So is he who anxiously waits for troubles that is he sure will come sooner or later.
floppy-ear dog
Epilogue: The dog was spared because the neighbor, after getting all hot and bothered about the issue and losing many nights of sleep, finally made his request to the one who could actually do something about the matter.

Does that sound familiar, too?

Called By My Name

He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” John 10:3

To be called by a wrong name always brings a disturbing aura with it.

A Mr. & Mrs. Schmidt, due to become first-time parents in several months, moved from one large city to another some distance away. They were strangers there, and commented on it that their phone would seldom ring; their friends would all need to call them long distance.

No sooner were they moving into their house when the phone rang. “Hello, Mrs. Glover?” asked a strange voice.

“I am not Mrs. Glover,” said Mrs. Schmidt, and went back to her unpacking. Time and again the phone rang with the same ‘Mrs. Glover’ being targeted, a lady who had evidently been elderly and very genial.

Looking in the directory, the Schmidts became aware that there were numerous Glovers in the area. It became a family joke as the Schmidts daily tallied the calls. Their phone rang more often than it ever had before. However, the incidents did lessen toward the time when their baby was due.

One early morning the baby came, a big boy with a healthy squall. Mrs. Schmidt was exhausted. She and her husband exulted over him for a little while, and then she dropped off into a well-earned sleep. Hours later she awakened, longing to hold her little boy. She rang for someone to please bring her the baby.

The nurse appeared in the door, the baby in her arms. “Here’s your girl, Mrs. Glover,” she said brightly.

“I am NOT Mrs. Glover!” Mrs. Schmidt fairly shouted, “and I DON’T have a girl!”

When Jesus calls us there is never a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ He knows who we are and everything peculiar to us personally. To Him we are all unique and He calls us in ways suited to our particular needs. He is a Friend who knows us, and our characteristics through and through.

Have you ever found yourself in a crowd holding a hand, thinking it was your husband’s…only to discover, much to your chagrin, that it belonged to some other man? When we walk with Jesus, with our hand in His, we are promised again and again that we shall “not be ashamed.”

When the Lord speaks MY NAME, it is tailored for me, and for my need of the moment…even if there are million Margarets in the world!

He does the same for you. Listen for Him today.

Written by my friend, Margaret Penner Toews;
first published in Canaquest Friendship Newsletter for Women

Want to Change Your Life?

Someone involved in handing out Christian literature received permission from the owner to put a tract rack in a small store. A few moments later he looked back and saw one of the employees pull out one of the tracts and start reading it.

He spun around and blurted out, “Don’t read that! Unless you want to change your life.”

The employee, stunned for a moment, answered, “Doesn’t everyone want to change their life?”

Do you want to change your life?

Looking at the history of our world, the goal of change has always been improvement. It may not pan out, but that’s almost always our aim. What improvements do you wish you could see in your life?

When Jesus walked by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-9) he saw a man lying there and he basically asked this fellow the same question: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Do you want to change your life or are you happy just lying here watching the world go by and visiting with your cronies? Jesus’ concept of change involved this cripple getting up and walking away from this place, disposing of that grubby old bedroll and rejoining the human race. Getting a job; working every day; making payments on a home.

He could have made shekels rain down from Heaven on the poor unfortunate, but Jesus’ help didn’t involve a cash handout.

If Jesus Christ walked by your house today and you glimpsed him as he was passing, would you run out and talk to him, knowing he’s in the business of miracles? What miracle would you ask for? To win the Lottery? A happy home? A physical healing?

If he sat down with you and talked about changing your life, what would you say about the things you feel need to change? What would He say? Do you already know some things He’d point out? What if He held out to you a package that contained enough power to make this change? Would you take it?

What answer would you and I give today if Jesus asked us, “Wilt thou be made whole?” I’ve been pondering that question for myself. How would I define “change”? In what ways would I qualify or limit the word “whole”? How willing am I for change that would involve giving up certain things?

One day I was talking with a neighbor who was very grieved about her smoking habit. She had already lamented to me at an earlier time, “ This thing has got my life. I’m never free.”

Well, this day I suggested, “I believe God can work a miracle for you and take away your desire to smoke; I know He’s done this for others. Would you be happy if He did? Shall you and I kneel down right now and ask Him to do that for you?”

For whatever reason, she declined my offer.