Susan, Lady of Leisure #3

PART THREE

Several mornings in a row Susan woke up feeling unmotivated and took her time getting out of bed. Buy the third morning she couldn’t even think of a reason she should get up and start her day. What was there to do? The flowerbeds were in great shape, no work needed there. Her house was spick and span since there was no one but herself to mess it up.

I could go sun myself on the beach, she thought, but I’ve done that three times already this week. I can hardly believe it, but loafing on the beach does get old after awhile. I’ve read all my new books. There’s nothing on TV in the morning but those silly game shows. I could drive into Bournemouth and do some shopping, but what do I really need? Nothing. I’ve no reason at all to get up; I can just roll over and sleep the morning away if I want to.

Then she sat up and gave herself a firm scolding. “This is enough, you loafer! Get yourself out of bed right this minute. Honestly, you’re getting to be like one of those patients we nurses gripe about, the ones who want to lie there and ring for Nurse all day. They moan about how tired they feel, or they’re too stiff to move. And we’re supposed to wait on them hand and foot while their muscles atrophy because they won’t move. That’s where you are headed, my girl, if you don’t smarten up.”

Susan had to smile as she thought how many times she longed to give one of those patients the same talking to. How many times hadn’t she “encouraged” some unwilling soul to get out of bed and move around, even if it hurt a bit, so they wouldn’t stiffen up? She slid her bare feet into her slippers and grabbed her housecoat. Ah, yes, one can always dish out good advice, but are you always willing to eat it off your own plate, Susie?

Half an hour later, showered and dressed, she was feeling more like herself. As she poured her coffee and sat down to breakfast, her mind turned over the possibilities for the day ahead. All these years dashing around on the ward, I’ve been telling myself that doing nothing would be so wonderful. Now here I am and it’s not so wonderful after all. I need to find something useful to do with myself. But what?

She glanced around the room and her eyes came to rest on the old Bible sitting on the shelf beside the microwave. It had belonged to her late husband, Harvey, and she treasured the old book as a memory of him.

She walked over and picked it up. “What advice would the Good Book have for me today?” Her words were as much a prayer as a question. The Psalms are always good for an encouraging read, aren’t they.

She sat down, opened the book, and found herself in the Gospel of Luke instead. She started to read and soon recognized the story of the Good Samaritan. She read through to the end of the account and came to the verse where the Pharisee asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

The question seemed to jump right off the page and slap her in the face.

She repeated the verse. “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” Suddenly she saw herself in that man. Wanting to mind his own business, undisturbed by other people and their woes.

Who are my neighbours? She glanced out the window toward the house next door. I honestly don’t have a clue! Here I am, surrounded by neighbours, but I’ve been so busy pleasing myself that I haven’t taken time for any of them. Perhaps they’d like to get to know me, too, but I may have come across as someone who doesn’t want to be bothered. Oh, dear!

Well, it’s high time. She shut the Bible. No man is an island, they say, and I’m starting to feel very marooned in my self-centered, leisurely life. Time to launch out and meet the neighbours.

Susan, Lady of Leisure #2

PART TWO

Susan took her time selecting and packing up her belongings, disposing of all the stuff she didn’t want to bother moving.

“Funny how one collects so much in a lifetime,” she told her daughter one morning. “But I want a life of a minimalist now. No more trying to find places to store knickknacks. No more cleaning clutter and moving it from one spot to another.”

Another task that took some of her time was saying her farewells at the various groups and clubs she was a member of through the years. She determined to be a minimalist in that regard, too.

“Now that I’m retired,” she told her friends at the book club, “I’m going to be careful what pies I put my finger in from now on. I may join the book club down there, or I may not, but I’m definitely not going to become so involved in organizations. I don’t regret the time I’ve contributed to Bake Sales or served on the Boards of MADD and the COPD Foundation, but now they will have to do without me.”

“We’ll see about that,” her friend said with a nod. “You may get bored and want to become involved in things down there.” She nudged Susan and winked. “Now that you have all this free time, you can bet different groups will be calling on you.”

Susan laughed. “As for being bored, that may take a year or two. And I can always say no to people who want to sign me up for this and that.”

The whole group then toasted her new life of ‘footloose and fancy free.”

Finally the day came when the last thing had been loaded on the moving van and it was heading off. Susan locked her apartment door for the last time, handed in the keys to the super, and drove away. She took her time driving down to the coast, hitting a few tourist spots en route. She stopped at some small village tea shops, savoring her new freedom as well as the local cuisines. Life is so good, she told herself.

She arrived at the cottage to find the moving van had already arrived and unloaded everything so she got right to work. It took her a few weeks to unpack and get her belongings stowed into their proper places in her new home. And of course yard work now occupied some of her time. The last owner had a gorgeous flower garden Susan intended to keep up. All her life she’d wanted one.

The next month flew by as Susan enjoyed her flowers, puttered around the house, and visited the local stores. Being only half an hour from the beach, she spent quite a few mornings stretched out in the sunshine. Not ever one to sit in front of the television, she spent the pleasant summer evenings reading or doing walkabouts in the neighborhood. She met and chatted with her new neighbors from time to time.

Yes, this was the retirement life she’d always dreamed of. Nothing to do, no appointments to keep. Sure, she missed the hustle and bustle of the hospital ward at times. As much as she was glad to get away from that old routine, being totally without one started to bother her a bit. The first few weeks she’d told herself, There’s no hurry. I can sleep til noon if I wish. But now she was starting to think, I can’t just let myself go to pot, either. I don’t want to morph into a couch potato here!

One day an odd, empty feeling came over her. It took her awhile to define it, but finally it condensed into a question: Do I have any real purpose in life anymore?

She brushed it away at first, yet somehow that question rose up like a mountain, looming over her, dark and scary. Susan trembled. She didn’t have an answer.

To be continued…

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!”

Mrs Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

PART III

As I said, I never dreamed that things have gotten so bad in our city that these guests lodging in our our own house would be in danger — and our own lives as well. But a few hours after supper we begin to hear sounds, voices and then shouting, outside.

Lot sends out a servant to find out what’s what the townsmen want. Before long he returns, looking seriously scared, and says to Lot, “There’s a crowd gathered in the street out there, sir, and they don’t look friendly.”

I peeked out a window. Now that was an understatement. The gang advancing toward out house almost looked vicious!

Lot goes to the door and some one shouts that he should send these two young men out. Next thing others are calling the same thing and Lot is outside now trying to calm them down. We’re all horrified when we realize what this crowd has in mind.

I told you Sodom isn’t very safe, but really! These young men have ought to be more careful about coming into a city and upsetting everyone. People should study the travel guides and find out about the inhabitants of a place before wandering willy-nilly about the country side expecting some kind soul to take them in.

And Lot might have known better than to bring them here. Maybe he could have spoken a kind word in their ear — a bit of warning — and sent them on their way before sundown.

Wait! What was that I heard? Lot, what are you saying? Not our precious daughters. What insanity would make you offer to send our beautiful girls out to that pack of wolves just to protect these two strangers?

As a precaution I order the girls to disappear, to go with the maidservants and hide on the roof top.

Well, thank goodness! These young men showed some good sense and dragged Lot back into the house. The mob was almost at the door; I was afraid they were going to tear Lot apart. Now everyone is stumbling around out there as if they can’t figure out where they are or where they should go. I’m so thankful they aren’t battering our door down to get in!

Seeing what they’ve done to the men outside, I’m beginning to wonder if these young men really are supernatural messengers. But why have they come? In any case, I pray God will have mercy on us this night!

Lot just came to me now and said the men are telling him we have to leave Sodom, that our daughters and their families need to get out, too. Fat chance our sons-in-law are going to pack up everything and go flying out of town on the say so of two strange foreigners. (I’m not sure they believe in angels and may think we’ve lost it.)

I’m not very willing myself, but I’d better do some packing, as Lot insists. The servants are helping, but they aren’t at all interesting in joining us on our wild flight into the night. Good thing we still have the two girls at home to help. Oh, dear, we are too old for all this upheaval!

I have a pretty good idea how this will go. We’ll head off into the desert and spend a miserable night, then by morning everyone will have come to their senses and we’ll come back home again. I hope and pray once these men have left us whatever their message is and are gone on their way we can settle down and resume our normal lives.

The towns folk may be annoyed with Lot for a few weeks but they will soon forget it. Then, as I said before, the next time he wants to bring strangers home I’m putting my foot down.

They’re urging us to hurry so I’d best get moving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve told Mrs. Lot’s story in a contemporary voice, not just for fun, but because this really is a story for our times. I don’t think she had a clue what was coming, and neither do we, but the Bible tells us there’ll be a day when this world as we know it will come to an abrupt end. All the things we love and claim as our own will someday be gone. This may not come in our generation — or it may — but Jesus tells us about His return to our world, comparing it to the destruction of Sodom.

Luke 17:28-30
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

II Peter 3:9-14
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Mrs Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

PART II

Next I tell them the art gallery is open until eight tonight; they could probably spend some time there. “The Sodom Art Museum has a fine display of master pieces and there’s also an extensive collection of textile arts, wood carvings and pottery. I’ve also seen some cute miniature statues of the various gods of this land.”

He looked a bit horrified so I hastened to add, “Of course we know they are just silly images, but they are well made and interesting just to look at. I never worship them, though.”

My suggestion was met by sad frowns of disapproval from both of them. Critical types, I gather. For me it’s all relatively innocent, you know — just art.

By this time I’m getting impatient with them. I don’t want these fellows sitting around all evening with their gloomy countenances. So I try again, something totally innocent this time. I suggest that if music and the art gallery don’t appeal, they can maybe just stroll around Sodom and check out the architecture. Our architects have designed some very elaborate temples and an impressive civic center. With inlaid stones and colored marble, they’ve created some really nice patterns so worth seeing.

The one man just looked at me awhile and his face was so sad, like he was pondering some deep dark secret. Goodness, I thought to myself, this young man needs to be on anti-depressants! I even thought of suggesting he might try some for awhile if he was feeling really blue about life, but of course Lot wouldn’t appreciate me being rude to guests. So I just bit my tongue and refrained from suggesting any other attractions. If they want to sit here all evening and play tiddlywinks, it’s okay with me.

Now I will confess Sodom isn’t the greatest place to visit. As I said before, there are some really strange people here, but we try to be forbearing. It’s how they’ve been brought up, you know. We take the chance to say a few words now and then, but mostly we leave people to make their own decisions.

Yes, the people here are a rough bunch and their customs are so discouraging at times. Lot is often horrified by the immoral behaviour going on amongst the younger folks of this town, but I tell him, “We’re old, Lot. We have a different value system. You can’t expect the young folks to be as straight-laced as we were. We need to just love them as they are.”

He tells me it grieves him every day to see innocent children dragged into this perversion and I heartily agree. But what can he and I do except be a good example? “Let’s just live and let live,” I say. And he usually listens.

Though some times he gets so disgusted he even talks of moving back to the hills where his Uncle Abraham lives. I have no ears for that idea. “What?” I say. “Leave our daughters and their families. Lot, you know I’d never be parted from our precious grandchildren.”

I remind him of our lovely home and yard. “It would mean leaving everything we’ve ever worked for! I’m not interested in living up in the hills, and can’t bear the thought of going somewhere else and starting all over again at my age. Think again. Besides, we have no guarantees the next place we live would be any better, so I’m staying right here.”

Lot is a wonderful man, but sometimes he seems a little short-sighted, so I help him take a good look at things. And maybe if I’d been there when he was talking to these young fellows he brought home, I would have realized they would bring us nothing but trouble with the towns folk and persuaded them – nicely, of course– to go on their way to the next town. Maybe not, though, for I didn’t realize just how bad things have gotten here.

To be concluded tomorrow….

Mrs. Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

Mrs. Lot Muses

He’s a good man, my Lot. He’s always been a good husband and father; I have no complaints about that. He treats our servants well, pays them fair wages. He’s donated to various charities over the years; offers beggars a handout ever so often; never kicks stray dogs. And he’s always been kind to strangers coming into Sodom. (Which is what has gotten us into the mess we’re in now.)

He’s well respected in town, too, I’ll have you know. Every day he sits in the gate with the other elders and his advice is appreciated. Whenever a difficult situation arises in regard to our city, the town fathers will seek Lot’s counsel. They say they can expect Lot to come up with viable solutions because he has a good understanding.

So I really shouldn’t complain, but tomorrow morning I’m definitely putting my foot down. I don’t want to risk ever having this happen again. Never again will I spend a wild night like this one!

As I said, Lot has always been kind to strangers. Sometimes he brings home company on short notice and I try to go along with it and not complain. Well, this morning, he tells me, he was sitting in the gate with the other ‘grey beards’ and in walks these two young fellows, looking around like they have obviously never been here before.

Something about them appealed to Lot – and I have to admit they seem to be very fine young men – so apparently Lot jumped up and invited them home for supper. He said they were talking of just sleeping in the street tonight and, as I said, Lot has a good understanding of the way things work around here. He was afraid they’d get mugged – or worse. (I must admit, there are some really strange people in this city.) So rather than see them sleep in the park, he told them they can spend the night with us.

Anyway, Lot comes into the house this afternoon and tells me about these two men he’s asked home, wondering if we could treat them to our hospitality and good cooking for supper and could they stay the night? I must confess I was rather flattered and didn’t mind sharing our space. Innocent as I was, I didn’t foresee any problems. In fact, such handsome young men might even make good sons-in-law some day, should they decide to settle down here.

So Lot brings them into the house and shows them to the guest room where they can stretch out for awhile if they wish. Then Lot instructs the servants to get them anything they need. After this Lot comes to me and he whispers in my ear, “I think these fellows are angels.”

I didn’t take this very seriously at first. “They’d better be,” I whispered right back. “Remember we have two beautiful daughters at home and we don’t want any hanky-panky.”

(Mind you, it might almost serve him right if something did happen and one of these fellows ran off with Beth or Sue. Our poor daughters are getting teased constantly these days by all their friends because they are still so innocent.)

You know how smart young folks can be once they get wise to the facts of life. The other girls torment our daughters, telling them they’ll grow old and wrinkled and still be single because their prude of a father won’t ever let them out of his sight. I remind them that their other sisters found good husbands and they will, too, but teenagers are so eager to experience everything. It’s hard for them to wait for someone that suits their Dad.

Back to my story. These young men settled down in the guest room for a couple of hours and then we called them for supper. At the table they seemed nice enough, and I tried to make a few suggestions as to how they might spend the evening.

I told them the Gomorrah Generation Singers are going to be performing tonight and they might want to take it in. (Gomorrah being a city just down the plain from ours an we have a lot to do with each other.) “This group is world-famous for their talent and harmony. You won’t hear any better.”

The one young man looked at me and said, “I have already heard music infinitely more beautiful.”

“Oh,” says I, somewhat taken aback. “Do you have some really good singers where you come from, too?”

“The music is heavenly, an angelic choir,” he answered. Then he sighed, seemed almost as if he were homesick. “Compared to them your singing groups are like clashing cymbals.”

I’ll confess I was a little miffed at his dismissal of our local talent. After all, I myself have heard some beautiful sounds come from this choir – and the musical arrangements are out of this world. Incredible talent, I’d say! He didn’t have to brag up his own country so much.

To be continued tomorrow…

 

The Tenderfoot

The minute he stepped out of the stagecoach that morning we could tell he was a tenderfoot. A real lily. His boots were clean; his jeans had no holes; his hands had no callouses. After the first afternoon of riding the trail in the hot sunshine he says he’s feeling “a bit faint.” La-de-dah.

The second day on the trail he asked the cook if we’d ever be served oysters. Can you imagine? Cook’s roar of laughter almost spooked the cattle. But we’d break him in. We make all our new ranch hands into real cowpokes if we can and we usually have a lot of fun doing it. But this one was a real jewel – or should I say “a pearl.”

We were sure to warn him that when he used nature’s biffy he should turn over every rock around in case a rattler was hidden under one. After all, we’d say, “You don’t want any painful jabs in the behind and we don’t want to have to lance and drain ‘em.” Of course we all stood around sober as a judge as we told him, and he still hasn’t been informed that there are no rattlers in these parts.

After that I don’t know if he was more scared of the rattlers or of us; every time he lit off his horse he looked around real careful first. Well, that was just too good to resist, you know. One afternoon while the rest of us rode on, Art slips back and picks up this garter snake he’d seen beside the trail. Carries it along in his saddle bag until we make camp. When our tenderfoot goes off to dreamland, Art sticks this snake in one of his boots.

Next morning you should have heard him yell when he stuck his toe into the boot and the poor snake wriggled a bit. ‘Course we all offer to cut of a few of his toes if the snake bit him. Cook flashed a nasty-looking cleaver and we tell him it’s the only way to save his life. Thought he was going to keel over right there and then, ‘til he realized we were just funning him.

Early one morning, just for fun, Sam pours out a little gun powder around a dried up bush, then trails off behind a nearby tree. When our tenderfoot ambles off toward the woods for some privacy, Sam’s waiting, flat out, behind that tree. He lights the gunpowder and we all watch out the corner of our eye as this little flash of white zips long to the bush and gets there at exactly the same minute as our new cowpoke. Suddenly there was this poof and flash as the bush combusted. He jumped three feet and took off running. Did we ever laugh!

Oh, we had our fun with that guy in the four days he was with us. But he found the work too strenuous, so he quit and went to college. I believe he became a dentist; heard his name in the capital city one time I was there.

Look him up if you ever get a toothache. He was a good guy; probably didn’t deserve a bunch of rascals like us.

Robbery, 1920’s Version

VICTIM
by Edgar Guest

“Hands up!” the stranger shouted, with a terrifying curse.
“Come on, be quick about it!” Then he calmly took my purse.
I saw his gleaming pistol, and ‘twas folly to complain;
I kept reaching for the ceiling as he took my watch and chain.
But I thought as he was leaving: Well, I know the worst right now.
Though I can’t approve his methods–they’re not doubtful anyhow.

I’ll know how much is missing just the moment he is gone.
There will be no disappointment and no heartache later on.
He didn’t cite me figures on the fortunes men have made,
or say for every dollar ten would some day be repaid.
Oh, I’ve suffered many losses!  Though unarmed the others came,
and with gentler, suaver manner, the result was just the same.

As he walked away and carried off my money in his coat
it pleased me to remember that I didn’t sign a note.
And it pleased me to remember once the man had gone away
I was done with the transaction – there’d be nothing more to pay.
And I made this observation when I’d rallied from the shock:
“Well, some rob me with a pistol –and some sell me worthless stock.”

From The Friendly Way
by Edgar A Guest
© 1931 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Additional Thoughts:

If a person takes the time to study just how things went in the 20s and what economic practices led up to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, then compare it with what happened in the 1990s , you discover that people don’t learn many lessons from history. ☹

In the 20s the stock market was so strong the banks started making collateral-free loans to people buying stocks, which pushed stock prices up and up, which led more people to get into buying and taking bigger risks.  Con men got in on this, selling stocks in companies that had little hopes of return.  Profits were easy until someone got nervous…

In the 1990s banks were encouraged to make more money available to home buyers, so they made sub-prime loans, which made for smaller monthly payments during the first few years.  This practice led to a strong real estate market.  Loans officers competed to write the most mortgages.  Until the real interest rate came due…

One Canadian bank, hearing about how easy it was to get a mortgage in the US, had someone phone and check it out.  Posing as home buyer, using an alias and an address that didn’t exist, he applied and was approved for a $200,000 mortgage in ten minutes.  No home appraisal, no credit check.

In the States if a person can’t make his mortgage payments he can walk into the bank, hand over the keys, and be free of further obligation.  Here in Canada we can give back the keys, but we’re still legally responsible for the balance of the mortgage.  If the bank forecloses and sells a $200,000 home for half that, the mortgage holder is obligated to pay the remainder.  This gives people serious second thoughts about walking away.

WOUNDED!

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