The Chosen Oak

The Chosen Oak CoverMy first book is almost published.  It has been a very long time, too long.  However, the end is in site and I am very thankful to so many people who have helped me out along the way in this adventure.  I have gone through many changes since I started this story.  Some changes were not very nice or pleasant, but God is good all the time and in those times, God brought me back into a growing relationship with Him.

Please like my author page on Facebook as a way to keep up with release date, how to order as well as ways to help promote my book to others.  Thank you.

What is your desire and prayer?

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Do your desires change like mine do?  There are moments I have great desire and passion for something and that drives many of my decisions and how I spend my day.  But then some time later something else becomes my desire and my passion and then that receives my attention.  Don’t misunderstand me, I do believe the Holy Spirit lays things and people upon our hearts and minds to arise our passion and desire for that moment, but I also believe we are called to have a continuous, on going desire.

For example, I must have a continuous unconditional love for my wife.  I cannot wake up one morning and not desire her, but rather desire something or, God forbid, someone else.  Even if my love for her were to become conditional, then my desire for her could quickly dissipate.  The best part is, I enjoy desiring her.  I don’t sit around all day in a puppy love state of awe, I simply think of her.

I was reading in Romans a couple of weeks ago and although I was attempting to read through a few chapters in that sitting, I came to a single verse that stopped me.  Romans 10:1 Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

I have read through the Bible a few times now and have probably read this verse a dozen times, but it was as if I read it for the first time that day, sitting by a campfire we had set up in our yard.  Even though Paul knew he was called by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, his prayer and desire all the time was that the Jewish people -his people, might be saved.

I quickly asked myself is that my desire?  My immediate response (yes I responded out loud) was “yes”.  But then the crackle of the fire and the cool gentle fall breeze forced me to really stop and think about that question and I confessed aloud, “no, it’s not -always -my desire.”

After much reflection and prayer, I believe this is one of those things God commands us to desire and pray about daily.  It is easy for me to desire and pray for those like me to be saved, but what about our societal outcasts? Amazing what flames in a campfire can do to one’s mind and thoughts.  I admit, that it is easier for me to pray for those who area already fairly “cleaned-up”, but more difficult for me to pray for those who are a total mess.

The thing is, cleaned-up or a total mess is only an image humans focus on, because to be completely honest, to a Pure, Holy God we are all a total mess.  It doesn’t matter our skin color, social status, community involvement or how cute our kids are.  Without Christ we are a mess.  I thank God that I was the desire of some who cared enough about me and my depravity without Christ to take time to introduce Him to me.  Many continue to pray for my family and me.  There are moments that the prayers of the saints have sustained me through times of my neglect of the Word and personal time in prayer.

May God give you the desire to desire and pray for those around you to be saved.  May it not be a drifting fad that soon floats out of sight and thought, but may it be a constant desire.

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The Chosen Oak

The Chosen Oak

“The Chosen Oak” is a story I wrote in 2011 for a friend, Angela Monts who was given a few short months to live. “The Chosen Oak” is Angela’s personal story with symbolism and references to her and her family. “The Chosen Oak” was also written to help families explain the death of a parent or loved one to children. All proceeds from the book go to “The Chosen Oak Scholarship Fund” for students graduating from Edgewood High School.

Eleanor, Tie Your Shoes!

UPDATED: February, 2013

Eleanor was in Mrs. Smith’s third grade class at a small school in Indiana.  Eleanor was unique and creative.  Unfortunately, her uniqueness and creativity put her a few steps and a few minutes behind the rest of her class, and really the rest of the world around her. But Eleanor was perfectly happy with who she was.

A constant guarantee with Eleanor was that her shoes would be untied.  Eleanor’s teacher, Mrs. Smith, began each day by saying, “Eleanor, tie your shoes!”  This command became part of the third grade class’s morning procedure right after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet Eleanor never complained; she just knelt down and tied her shoes.  Each time Eleanor would tie her shoes well, but no matter what, at some point her shoes would become untied again.

Eleanor danced and hummed as she swung her arms freely from side to side.  Eleanor looked like a flower girl floating down the aisle at a wedding…step together…step together…step together.  Gliding like that is cute at a wedding, but when a little girl is trying to keep up with her class filing down the hallway after lunch, she will eventually fall behind.

As Mrs. Smith led her students back to their classroom after recess, she stopped, turned around, and inspected the children following quietly behind her.  Mrs. Smith  spied Eleanor lagging behind.  The frustrated teacher put her left hand on her hip and tipped her head to the left as she watched Eleanor catch up to her classmates.  Before the class could continue on to their room, Mrs. Smith issued the time-worn command, “Eleanor, tie your shoes, please.”  Mrs. Smock added the ‘please’ at the end of her sentences at times to remind herself not to get too upset.  It was her little way of ‘counting to ten’.

Because Eleanor just had caught up to her class, she was uncertain as to why they had stopped. Eleanor’s classmate, ____________, turned her head and whispered out the side of her mouth, “Eleanor, tie your shoes.”  Eleanor leaned sideways and slid down the wall as she reached her arms out to tie her shoes.  As she finished the task, her teacher said, “Eleanor, one of these days you are going to miss out on something big because your shoes are never tied.

A week later, the class was preparing for a field trip to the nearby art museum.  Mrs. Smith went through her checklist with the children.  ”Lunch bags?  Jackets? Field trip buddy?”  After every item the children responded with “Check!” growing louder and louder.

Formed in a single file line, the excited third grade class climbed onto the idling yellow bus and took their seats.  After a quick head count, the teacher motioned to the bus driver that they were ready, and the bus drove away from the school.

As the bus rumbled down the road, Eleanor sat next to the window counting the telephone poles as they whizzed by. Her friends, Sara and Tom were talking about their favorite singers.  Different names were mentioned, but the one they both agreed was their favorite was a young singer named Adora Mia Moore.

When Eleanor heard the name Adora Mia Moore, her attention shifted instantly to her friends, and she joined their conversation. Eleanor went on and on gushing about how much she loved Adora Mia Moore and how she hoped to meet her one day. Eleanor’s friends enthusiastically and rather loudly agreed that she was indeed the coolest singer ever.  Mrs. Smith stood up, turned around, and signaled for the children to settle down.  Eleanor turned back to the window and dreamed of meeting Adora Mia Moore someday.

The yellow bus stopped in front of the art museum.  Stepping off the bus and looking around, the children quickly paired up with their field trip buddies.  Almost instantly, Mrs. Smock spotted Eleanor twirling around on the busy sidewalk. She quickly grabbed the girl’s arm and declared, “Eleanor, you will be my special field trip buddy today.”  The teacher gave a crooked smile, and puffed at her bangs that had already fallen into her face.

The children entered the museum arm in arm with their buddies, lunch bags clutched in their free hands.  Eleanor’s teacher took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then she said, “Okay Eleanor, tie your shoes and let’s get going.”

Eleanor had never been inside an art museum before, and she loved it.  As Mrs. Smith watched Eleanor, she thought to herself that someday Eleanor probably would create something beautiful and worthy of the art museum.  Eleanor led her teacher around every corner and down every hallway, fixing her eyes on every exhibit. Sometime later, an exhausted Mrs. Smith plopped down on a bench and said, “Eleanor, tie you shoes and then we will take a break to eat lunch,”

Eleanor sat down on a small bench which backed up to Mrs. Smith’s. She reached down, tied her shoes and enjoyed her lunch.  Mrs. Smock lifted an energy drink out of her bag, but decided against drinking it. She reasoned that an energy drink plus the afternoon with Eleanor would surely send her nerves into overdrive.

Eleanor finished her lunch first, stood up, took her teacher by the hand and begged her to come along to see what neat things were in the next room.  At that moment Mrs. Smock saw Eleanor a little bit differently.  She saw her for the child-like faith that she, more than other children, possessed.  Eleanor’s teacher felt that children were often expected to perform at a high level for the next test or challenge.  She missed children expressing their curiosity, using their imaginations and demonstrating their creativity.  Eleanor definitely was curious, imaginative and creative, and Mrs. Smith certainly loved those things about her.

Mrs. Smith smiled and then followed Eleanor into the next room.  She spent the rest of the afternoon following Eleanor from exhibit to exhibit.  It was nearing the time when the children were to gather back in front of the museum.  It was now Mrs. Smith’s turn to lead Eleanor, as they made their way out of the museum.  Eleanor took in as much as she could as her teacher tugged on her arm and led her outside, down the steps and onto the sidewalk.

Eleanor and her teacher were the first ones outside, but soon the rest of the class quickly made their way out to the sidewalk and lined up to be counted.  Once all the children were accounted for, Mrs. Smith glanced over her class one last time as the bus roared to a stop in front of the museum to return the excited children back to their school.  The teacher looked at Eleanor and said yet again, “Eleanor, tie your shoes.

Eleanor knelt down next to a metal bin which held the daily newspaper.  She looked down as she concentrated hard on tying her shoes.  Suddenly, there was a great commotion.  The children became giddy and began to scream, point, and jump up and down.  One of the girls said, “It’s you!  It’s really YOU!”  All the screaming children nearly became a mob as they tried to get the attention of a beautiful passerby.

Their teacher apologized to the young woman who was talking on her cell phone.  The celebrity ignored the annoying children and was halfway down the block before the teacher regained control of her class.  Oblivious to what just had happened; Eleanor stood up and asked what was going on.

One of Eleanor’s friends, Izzy, quickly explained, “Eleanor you missed it!  Adora Mia Moore just walked by!  You missed it!   She was so cool talking on her cell phone.  I bet she was talking to Taylor Latefordinner.  I hear they are dating.”  The little girl squealed and became so excited that she stirred the other children into chaos once again. Mrs. Smock regained control by herding the children onto the bus.

Eleanor was stunned; she couldn’t believe it!  She missed the one and only opportunity she had to meet the one person she wanted to meet more than anyone else.  She missed meeting Adora Mia Moore all because she had to tie her shoes.

On the bus ride back to the school, Eleanor sat next to her teacher.  Mrs. Smith  had hoped she would be alone on the bus. She wanted to use the time to calm her nerves after spending the day with the overly active Eleanor.

But there Eleanor sat, swinging her legs up and down.  Eleanor’s teacher tried to relax by resting her head against the bus window and closing her eyes.  Then Eleanor spoke, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith.  You know what?  I really liked the museum today.  Thank you for taking us.”  Mrs. Smock turned her head to look at Eleanor who seemed to already be dreaming about what she might create that would someday be in an art museum.   Eleanor’s teacher smiled and softly replied, “You’re welcome dear.”  She closed her eyes and returned her head to rest against the window.

That weekend Eleanor’s classmates retold and exaggerated their stories of meeting Adora Mia Moore to their parents.  Monday came and Eleanor stood with the rest of her class.  She placed her left hand on her chest, but quickly switched and put her right hand over her heart as she and the rest of the class recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  The class finished, “…with liberty and justice for all.”  Eleanor added, “A-men.”  As the class sat down Mrs. Smith out of habit said, “Eleanor, tie your…”  But she stopped in mid-sentence.  Eleanor’s shoes were tied.  In fact, Eleanor’s shoes were never untied again.

More Important than Recess

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This was a story I told Esther last night.  It was fun telling this story, because Esther was getting mad at Mrs. Britnel.  BTW- “Mrs. Britnel” was the name of my first grade teacher.  She was old and frail, but you did not goof off in her class.  One memory I have of her was when she read us the story, “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly”, we all thought SHE was the old woman.  Of course I was the idiot that raised my hand and asked, “Mrs. Britnel, are you the old woman who swallowed the fly?”  Enjoy!

More Important  Than Recess?

Esther was in the second grade.  She was a good student who concentrated on her school work.  She paid attention to her teacher when she was speaking.  Esther always tried to do the right thing.  Her mommy and daddy loved her and taught her how to be respectful of her elders and of those adults who have authority over her.  Esther’s teacher was Mrs. Britnel.  Mrs. Britnel was a grumpy, old woman who had seen many second graders come and go.  She never smiled.  Her forehead had permanent wrinkles from constantly scowling at the children.  Most students would tell jokes about Mrs. Britnel while they road the bus to and from school.  They would make up stories about her and joke about how old and mean she is.  Esther never joined in with the teasing.  In fact when her classmates began to tell stories about Mrs. Britnel she would quietly remove herself from where they were.

Every afternoon the students had recess.  They would come back to their classroom after lunch, put their jackets on and line up to be dismissed to play outside.  However, every afternoon as the children were putting their coats on, Mrs. Britnel would require Esther to stay inside and clean up the classroom.  The children would be in a hurry hanging their lunch boxes up and putting their coats on and Mrs. Britnel would say, “Esther, I need you to stay back here and clean up the classroom.”  Each day Esther simply replied, “Yes Mrs. Britnel.”

Esther obviously wanted to be outside with her friends playing on the merry-go-round and swinging on the swings, but she obeyed Mrs. Britnel and stayed back to pick up tiny pieces of torn paper that was on the floor.  Mrs. Britnel had her wipe down the chalk board with a wet rag.  By the time Esther was done cleaning the classroom her friends were making their way down the hall back to the room.

After about two weeks of not being allowed to go to recess but rather stay back to clean the classroom, Esther was frustrated to a point of not wanting to do that anymore (Who could blame her right?).  One afternoon Esther explained her situation to her daddy while she sat on his lap.  Although her daddy didn’t like Esther being singled out and not able to go outside to play during recess, he encouraged her by reminding her of what Jesus told his followers.  “…in this world you will have trouble, but hang in there, don’t worry, I have overcome the world.”  Esther wasn’t quite sure what that meant, all she knew is she felt picked on by a grumpy, old, mean teacher who didn’t appreciate what she was doing.  Her daddy reminded her that sometimes as Christians we do things we don’t want to do in order to somehow show others we are different because we follow the teachings of Jesus.  Esther rested her head on her daddy’s shoulder while setting on his lap.  His shirt soaking up her silent tears.  “I know daddy.  It’s just hard.”  Esther quietly confessed.

“I know it is sweetheart, but sometimes doing the right thing is also the hardest thing to for us to do.”  He replied.  He told her he was sorry she was being picked on like this, squeezed her tight then said, “I’m proud of you though.  And I know God is proud of you too.  But you know what?  Somethings are just more important than recess.”

The next day just like all the other days before Mrs. Britnel had dismissed the children to recess, but asked Esther to stay and clean the classroom.  “Yes Mrs. Britnel.”  Esther once again replied.  But this time, after throwing crumpled up paper towels from the floor away in the waste basket by Mrs. Britnel’s desk Esther politely asked, “Excuse me, Mrs. Britnel?  May I ask you a question?”

“What is it dear?”  Mrs. Britnel responded looking over her reading glasses barely resting on the tip of her nose.  “Mrs. Britnel, I don’t mind helping clean the classroom every once-in-awhile, but I would also like to be able to go outside to play with my friends too.”  Esther said.  “You would, huh.  Thank you for sharing dear.  Don’t forget to wipe down the chalk board.”   Mrs. Britnel brashly replied.  Esther felt like crying right there, but she tried hard to remember what her daddy told her the night before.  So she replied, “Yes Mrs. Britnel.”  Then turned to wet a rag to wipe the chalk boards down.

The next day was Friday.  Esther and her class were walking down the hall back to their classroom after lunch.  When they entered the room, Mrs. Britnel gave the order for the students to get their coats on and line up for recess.  And just like every day before asked Esther to stay back to clean up the classroom.  Esther felt a warm feeling come over her as her eyes began to well with tears.  She wiped her tears with the sleeve of her shirt before turning to face Mrs. Britnel.  As Esther watched her classmates leave the room for recess Esther wanted nothing more than to be able to go out with them.  Then Mrs. Britnel asked her to come over to her desk.  Normally she just expects Esther to begin cleaning.  Esther walked over to her desk.

Mrs. Britnel took her reading glasses off as the dangled from the gold chain attached to each stem.  She looked at Esther and began speaking, “Esther, every single day for the past two weeks I have not let you go outside for recess.  I have ordered you to stay here and clean the classroom.  Everyday you simply reply with ‘Yes Mrs. Britnel’.  You have never complained.  You have never thrown a fit.  You simply obey.”  She paused never taking her eyes off the big little girl with curiosity, then she continued with a single word question, “Why?”.

Esther wasn’t sure what to say.  Then she once again remembered her daddy’s words and responded,  “I’ve been taught that because I am a Christian that I am to respect my elders and those in authority over me.  Because I try to live my life the way Jesus taught me to, I know that I am supposed to do things for others that I may not want to do.”  Esther then added, “Even if that person isn’t very fair or nice to me.”

Mrs. Britnel was not ready for that response.  She questioned, “You mean you clean the classroom every day instead of going out to recess because of what Jesus taught you?”  Esther replied faithfully with, “Yes Mrs. Britnel.”

“But I have been rather insensitive and even mean towards you and you never complained or threw a fit.”  Mrs. Britnel still could not comprehend someone behaving that way when they had been treated so poorly.  Esther rallied the courage one more time then spoke, “Jesus told his followers that if this world treats you badly, not to worry about that, because He has overcome the world.  I know that even though you haven’t treated me very fairly these past couple of weeks, I know that if I obey you as my teacher that you might be able to see a difference in me from all the others in my class.  If I am different it is because I try to live my life like Jesus did.”

Mrs. Britnel’s countenance lifted.  Her face seemed to take on a younger fresher look.  “Esther, if a second grader can put up with a mean old lady like me, with the attitude you have shown all because you try to be like Jesus, then I want to be like this Jesus too.”  Mrs. Britnel smiled.

Esther had never seen her smile before.  Esther looked down at Mrs. Britnel’s desk then back to her face.  Her smile had grown bigger and her face was brighter.  Esther spoke up, “If you want to, you can come to church with me this Sunday?”   Mrs. Britnel had never been to church before, but accepted Esther’s offer.

The following Monday afternoon when Mrs. Britnel lined her class up for recess, Esther stayed near the back of the line.  She didn’t have her jacket on, thinking she would be staying to clean the classroom.  Mrs. Britnel’s voice broke through the commotion, “Thomas, why don’t you stay back and clean up the classroom today?”  Thomas stomped his foot and huffed, “What?  Do I have to?”  “YES!”  was all Mrs. Britnel replied (she was still a tough old bird).  Esther looked up at Mrs. Britnel and smiled.  Mrs. Britnel pointed to the student’s cubby area and said, “Esther you better put your jacket on, it’s a little chilly today.”  Esther smiled then leaped back to her cubby, grabbed her green jacket and for the first time in two weeks lined up for recess.

Day #34 (2 Chronicles 24 – Ezra 10)

“So we fasted and petitioned our God about his, and he answered our prayer.”

(Ezra 8:23)

Have you ever been so confident about facing something that you felt you did not have to do any preparations?  Maybe you felt so good about an upcoming test that you neglected to study.  Maybe you knew an opponent you would face on Saturday was any competition for you so you did not train.  How did that work out for you?

Have you ever been that confident in God and his intervention and protection that you threw caution to the wind and put yourself in a dangerous situation for his sake?

The King of Persia, Cyrus, just conquered the Babylonian empire.  King Nebuchadnezzar captured thousands of Israelites and brought them to Babylon.  When king Cyrus captured Babylon, he released any Israelite who wanted to return to Jerusalem the freedom to return (Ezra 1).  Thousands took him up and were led by Ezra back to Jerusalem once the Temple had been rebuilt.

Ezra was a leader who had confidence in his God to protect him and the others from thieves and raiders along the way.  He was so confident that he did not ask the king for soldiers or horsemen to protect them.  Ezra reasoned, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22b).

Verse 31b reads, “…The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.”  May we have such a confident faith in our God -Who is the same as Ezra’s God -to not worry about what is going to happen to us.  May we trust in Him to protect us and care for us.  May you fast and petition whatever it is you will be facing and may you have a sure faith in your God to answer your prayer.

Day #33 (2 Chronicles 24-35)

“And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
(2 Chronicles 30:20)

In chapter 29 of 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah takes over as king of Judah.  “Hezekiah, …did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Hezekiah took over the Kingdom after yet another “administration” had turned its back on the One True God.  Ahaz, the previous king, spent 16 years setting up idols and images of other gods to worship throughout Jerusalem.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Hezekiah comes along, opens the doors to the temple, and repairs them and all that damage done by Ahaz inside the temple.  Hezekiah re-established the priests and Levites to their positions of taking care of order and sacrifice for the people.  Hezekiah dedicated himself and encouraged the people to return to the worship of their God.

All of Chapter 29 Hezekiah, the priests and Levites are purifying the temple and consecrating (making themselves ceremonially clean) themselves to once again mediate between God and his people.  The people quickly and with open hearts returned to worship God, but there was a problem.  The people came to worship, offer sacrifice and participate in the Passover supper, but they had not  yet been purified.  They were not cleaned up according to the Law to participate in that fellowship with God.

Hezekiah sees the people so sincere of heart and their desire to get back in a right relationship with God that they neglect the purification process.  So Hezekiah speaks to the Lord and says, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God -the Lord, the God of his fathers -even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” (2 Chronicles 30:18b-19)

The Scripture continues, “And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” (v. 20)  Without trying to come across irreverent to corporate worship and the orderly worship we are to practice, may we have the hearts of the people at the Passover supper.  May our hearts be, “…set on seeking God…”  Besides, no amount of ceremonially washing or quitting a bad habit is enough to purify us before a Holy God.  God is the same today as he was in Hezekiah’s day.  When we come before him with a heart that seeks Him, HE will heal us.  And cleanse us.

Day #32 (2 Chronicles 8-23)

In Chapter 18 of 2 Chronicles the evil King Ahab (king of Israel) wants to wage war on Ramoth Gilead and asks King Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) to align with him in the battle.  Jehoshaphat tells Ahab to seek the council of the Lord.  So Ahab calls 400 prophets.  He asks them if they should go to war with Ramoth Gilead, and they reply with one voice, “Go, for God will give it into the king’s hand.”

Jehoshaphat wasn’t convinced with these 400 “prophets”.  So he asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”  Ahab says there is, Micaiah, but he hates him because Micaiah never prophesies anything good about  Ahab, only bad.  Jehoshaphat insisted they inquire of Micaiah whether they should wage war.

While the two kings sat on their thrones waiting for Micaiah to arrive, the 400 prophets continued in reassuring the king that the Lord will give them victory.  When the messenger arrives at Micaiah’s home he tells him that all these other prophets are telling the king he will be victorious, so don’t say anything that would make the king angry or go against the other prophets.  Micaiah replies, “…I can tell him only what my God says.”

When Micaiah arrives before the kings, Ahab asks him if they should attack Ramoth Gilead.  “Attack and be victorious, for the y will be given into your hand.”  Micaiah exclaimed.

Were you expecting Micaiah to stand up to the king and say something completely contradictory to what the prophets were saying?  Me too.  Then I read on.  Ahab knew that Micaiah was being sarcastic and said (basically), “Dog-gone-it Micaiah, how many times do I have to tell you…”

Micaiah finally told Ahab that go ahead and do battle with Ramoth Gilead, but you will not survive.  Ahab bent on doing away with Micaiah, put him in prison, “…until he returned from battle.”  Micaiah, who was probably being hauled out in shackles by this time, replies to the king, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.”

We would rather surround ourselves with people that tell us things that we want to hear.  We like to be told by those around us good things about ourselves.  No one likes the person who has a message of conviction.  We don’t want to hear the things we are doing wrong.  We want to be reminded how good and popular we are.

But you know what is even more uncomfortable than being told something negative about yourself is being the person who has to tell a friend something they need to change or do differently.  Micaiah had courage and faith in his relationship with God.  He didn’t care about what even the king thought of his message his only responsibility was to speak “…only what his God tells him to speak.”  May you pray for the spirit of Micaiah to dwell in you and give you the courage to speak what the Lord has told you to speak.

You are Important

Okay, i would like your help with this one.  The following story (i know it’s a long one) is one I told Esther a few weeks ago at bedtime, and is partially based on true events (or feelings).    After Beth and I prayed with Esther and Beth kissed her goodnight and left her room, Esther confessed how she didn’t feel important and that all her friends have cool video game players and other cool toys and she doesn’t have anything like that.  So I made up the following story to show her that she IS important and her value doesn’t come from having video games and the latest toys.  This also came after we returned from Joplin, MO with our youth group (Esther was there too).  We spent the week after Christmas helping with clean up and rebuilding projects, so the concept of a storm was fresh in her mind as well.

Here is where I need your help.  I just finished the rough draft and I normally print off my stories and pass them around to the ladies in the office and to beth to help with all my grammatical mistakes.  But this time I thought I would ask for anyone who reads it to help me out.  I would eventually like to have this one published too, but for now I will be content with posting here.  (BTW -you won’t hurt my feelings with any corrections, changes or insights.) Enjoy!

“YOU ARE IMPORTANT!”

Esther lived on a small farm outside a small town.  She loved living on the farm.  She had chores to do in the morning before leaving for school and in the evening before eating dinner.  She had sheep, goats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits.  She also had a dog named Valentine.  Esther and her parents tended a three acre garden with many varieties of produce to be sold fresh or canned to enjoy during the winter months.  On the hillside behind their farmhouse were many fruit trees.  Esther loved walking through the orchard picking pears and peaches in her reach and eating them along the hillside.

It was a Saturday morning and Esther’s dad was working on putting up a new pin for a pair of calves they were getting in later that day.  Esther loved helping her daddy and, truth be told; he loved having her help him.  This particular job required some difficult work.  Esther tried to help her daddy, but this time the job was too difficult for her.  This made her frustrated.  She threw her hammer down and said, “I can’t do anything.”

Her dad knowing he needed to take a small break to reassure his daughter of her importance.  “Esther, you can do so many things.  You can do things that I can’t.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Well, like when we are putting fence up.  I can’t be at two places at the same time.  I need you to run down the fence row to secure the wire so I can pull it tight.  If I tried to feed and care for all of our animals, it would take me all day.  You are so important to me.” He reassured her.

“I just feel that I’m too small to do anything big or important.”  She still wasn’t convinced.

“Esther, you are too small to do certain things.  That’s fine.  As far as being too small to do anything important, that’s not true.  We have no idea what the Lord has planned for you.  You may be doing something that doesn’t seem that important, but because you are obedient, God may be using that for a grand purpose.”  Her father encouraged her.

Esther’s dad took a drink of coffee, handed her the empty cup and said, “There is something only you can do that is very important.”  He leaned in and smiled.

“What?”

“You can get me some more coffee.”  He squeezed her so tightly she coughed.  They laughed together, he told her how much he loved her, and she took the cup inside to fill it up with hot, fresh coffee.  When she returned, her dad had raised the wall and was trying to nail it to the corner post but was having trouble.  Esther set the cup down with steam rising from the opening.  She leaned up against the wall letting out a little grunt as she put her all into holding the wall for her daddy so he could secure it properly.

Monday morning had snuck up faster than Esther wanted it to.  She came back into the kitchen after doing her chores.  Her mom had a steaming bowl of strawberry oatmeal.  “I put the strawberries you picked in your oatmeal.  Even though you ate more than you picked yesterday, I thought you would enjoy a few more this morning.”   She smiled as she looked at Esther revealing that she saw how many strawberries she ate while picking in the patch.

Esther enjoyed her breakfast, kissed her mom good bye, and walked out to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus.  The diesel engine roared as it climbed the hill towards Esther’s farm.  The breaks squeaked as it came to a stop in front of their drive.  Esther got on the bus.  The driver told her good morning then watched in the mirror until she sat down with her classmates.  The bus began to roll down the road on its way to the next stop.

Immediately Esther was in the middle of her classmates showing off their latest electronic gadgets.  They were passing them around, but only to others with games compatible with their own.  Esther tried to join them, but she didn’t have anything to show off.  She sat back against her seat and began to look out the window as the bus made its way into town towards the school house.  Esther wished she had cool things like her friends had.  It seemed like everyone had something neat, except for her.

The school week went by at its usual pace.  Esther continued doing her chores in the morning and evenings, but wasn’t as happy as she normally was.  It was Thursday evening and Esther had just sat down at the table.  Her dad was in the bathroom washing up for dinner.  Esther’s mom noticed something was bothering her so she asked her what was wrong.

“It seems like everyone else has all these cool electronic toys and I don’t have anything like that.  They always bring them to school and show them off to each other, but they don’t let me play with them, because I don’t have anything to share with them.”  Esther’s eyes began to well up with tears, and her chin began to quiver.  She sniffed her nose and looked down.  When she did a tear overflowed and ran down her cheek.

Esther’s mom sat down next to her at the table.  She put her arm around her and said, “I’m sorry your friends are leaving you out like that.  I’m sorry you feel alone because you don’t have any of those toys to share.  But Esther, what you have here on this farm is so much more valuable than any video game or electronic gadget or cell phone.”

By this time Esther had rested her head against her mother’s chest as her dad walked in the dining room and asked what was wrong.  She filled him in with what Esther had just told her.  He sat down next to her putting his arm around both Esther and her mommy.  He waited for a moment then gently spoke, “Do you remember the other day when you got frustrated because you didn’t think you could do anything?”  She didn’t respond just sniffed her runny nose again.

He continued, “Do you remember what I told you?”  She lifted her head trying to remember that morning.  “I told you that sometime it feels like you are too little to do anything important, but God has different plans for you.  What you think is unimportant may actually be something very important to God’s plan.  The same is true when it comes to those video games.  You may not have the latest video game or electronic gadget, but what you are able to provide to people from this farm is far more valuable than any video game.  One day you may understand that.”

She wiped her tears with her shirt sleeves.  Her mother scrunched her nose preferring her to use a tissue.  Esther and her mom brought the dinner to the table, her father gave the blessing and they enjoyed another incredible home cooked meal.

The wind was blowing outside.  Esther’s dad finished his meal quicker than normal, excused himself as he placed his plate in the kitchen sink.  He finished off his drink while standing over the sink and then set the glass down next to the plate.  He put his John Deere cap on, snapped up his coat and slipped his gloves on.  He was going out to make sure the animals and outbuildings were ready for the coming storm.  When he went opened the door, the wind caught the storm door and nearly pulled it from his grip.

The gust filled the house and blew over a lamp.  Esther picked it back up as her mom pushed the door against the wind to latch it shut.

Esther was in bed, but not asleep when her daddy finally came back in.  She could hear him talking to her mom about the storm.  She listened as her eyes searched back and forth in the pink glow from her nightlight.  “It’s still west of us, but coming this way and fast.  We are under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning right now and a Tornado watch.  It looks like the worst of it is going to stay just south of us, but we are going to get some straight line winds and maybe hail.”

Esther was nervous, but clung to her stuffed animal.  Esther’s dog Valentine didn’t like storms either so she hopped up at the foot of Esther’s bed and laid down.  Esther slipped her toes under her dog’s belly.  She liked how that kept them warm.  The two friends were braver together than if they were alone.  Esther fell asleep but seemed to be woken up immediately.  Her dad had picked her up in both arms and whispered that they were going to sleep downstairs in the basement tonight.  Esther could hear the tornado siren, but was able to fall back to sleep.  There is something comforting about being in your father’s arms when you are in the middle of a storm.

The wind rushed outside.  The rains came down hard.  Esther slept with her mother on the couch while her dad looked out the window watching buckets tumble across their property.  The siren moaned as it faded out.  Everything seemed to be okay so far, then just as quickly as the winds and rains roared through they had passed.

Esther woke up on the couch in the basement.  She looked confused why she was in the basement.  Her mom was upstairs in the kitchen.  She could smell coffee brewing and sausage and eggs cooking.  She carried her stuffed animal upstairs to the main floor of their home.  Valentine had joined the family in the kitchen as well.  “Mom, why did I sleep downstairs?” she asked.  Her mother filled her in with the previous night’s storm.

“Daddy is outside right now cleaning up if you want to go out and help him.  Why don’t you eat some breakfast first.  When you go out, take him his cup of coffee.”  Her mother told her as she set a plate of scrambled eggs and two sausage links on the table in front of her.  Esther quickly finished her breakfast ran upstairs to put on her jeans and sweatshirt.  She came clambering back down the steps, leaping from the third step from the bottom of the stairs.  She sat on the bench by the door and pulled her boots on.  Esther grabbed her daddy’s coffee and went out the front door looking for him.

Sometimes the most violent nighttime storms deliver the most beautiful, sun filled mornings.  This was one of those mornings; calm, sunny and cool.  Esther found her dad coming out of the barn.  She ran over to him, spilling coffee all the way.  He hugged her and asked how she was doing.  He told her he had a lot of clean-up around the farm and he needed her help.  He gave her lists of things to be done, but was interrupted when Esther’s mom hollered from the front porch that he had a phone call.

Esther went to remove fallen limbs from the sheep pen as her daddy went to take the call.  He came back from the house and told Esther he had to drive into town and asked if she wanted to come along.  She tossed the last batch of limbs over the fence of the sheep pen then climbed over.  She ran over to the passenger side door of her daddy’s old brown Ford pick-up truck.  She slid over to the middle seat.  She loved shifting for him going down the old country roads.

On the way into town, her daddy told her that the storm was a lot worse in town and that some homes had even been destroyed.  Esther asked if it was a tornado and he told her that the news isn’t reporting that yet, but the destruction looks like tornado damage.

The closer they got the more devastation they saw.  Large tree limbs snapped from their trunks lie across driveways and roofs.  Shingles littered yards.  Esther stopped counting the leaves that covered the ground instead of the skyline.  She sat up as high as her seatbelt would let her to look around.  Her daddy was quiet.

They pulled into a driveway, but had to stop abruptly because a tree had been uprooted and crumbled a parked car.  The home behind the tree was completely destroyed.  It looked like a Lincoln Log house might look after a mischievous boy slapped it with his hand.  The roof lay sideways atop leaning walls.  Some walls were missing altogether.  The inside of this home was exposed.  Esther and her dad got out and walked up to the house.  Esther held on to her daddy’s hand.  The owners of the home came out from behind.  The man shook Esther’s dad’s hand and thanked him for coming out.

Esther recognized the boy who stayed back next to his mom.  His name was Kenny.  He rode her bus and was in her class.  She waved at him and he waved back as he leaned his head on his mother’s hip.  Esther’s dad and the man talked for a while, she heard her dad reassure him things would be okay and that he would help out anywhere he could.  The two men shook hands and Esther and her dad returned to their truck.  They backed out and drove down the street.  More homes were destroyed.  Some were worse than Kenny’s home and some were not quite as bad.

Esther and her dad made their way back to their farm.  Esther asked her daddy, “Daddy, what are my friends and those people going to do?  They don’t have a home to live in.”  Her dad spent the rest of the ride home explaining that some would stay in their homes and others would have to stay in local hotels until they can get their homes rebuilt.

Esther and her family spent the weekend in town helping clean up and remove debris from yards and streets.  Everyone in the community had come out to help their neighbors.  Some houses that were not as damaged were able to receive their families back, but other homes were completely destroyed.  Chainsaws and trucks echoed throughout the small town.

Monday morning Esther got on the bus but there weren’t as many of her friends on this time.  She found out that some of them had to move temporarily to a hotel or with family members because their homes were unlivable.  Kenny was still on the bus, but he wasn’t showing off his latest gadget.  He just sat quietly in his seat.  Esther was sitting across from him.  She asked how he was doing with their home the way it was.  He told her things were okay, but that his room was the worst hit.

School was different.  Some of Esther’s classmates seemed sad.  Everyone in town was safe from the storm, but many homes were destroyed.  Many of Esther’s friends lost all they had.  Teachers spent the next couple of days being sensitive and attentive to the needs of their students.  Esther began to think of ways she could help her friends.

She remembered what her daddy had told her that even though she is little she has a big job to do.  But this time the job seemed too big -too big for a little girl like her anyway.  Besides her family didn’t have a lot of money.  They didn’t have a lot of things to give.  The next couple of days Esther and her mom had to do more of the chores around the farm because her daddy spent most of that time helping those in town rebuild their homes.

On Friday after school Esther’s dad was home.  It was the first time he was home that entire week before the sun went down.   He was out in their barn cleaning out their horse’s hooves.  Princess had been out in the pasture during the storm and had several small rocks wedged in sensitive nooks with the mud.  He slowly stood up, as he let Princess’s back left leg down.  He stretched his back out by slowly leaning backwards.   He walked over to Esther with a little limp from the pain in his back from being bent over.

He gave her a hug and asked her how she had been.  He told her how much he missed her the past few days.  Esther told her daddy how she wished she could do more to help her classmates.  Her dad roughed her hair up and told her how proud he was of her.  Then he asked her to help carry the basket of eggs up to the porch.

Esther was surprised how many eggs had been gathered.  They already had eight dozen eggs in the refrigerator.  She set the basket on the porch than ran back to the barn.  Esther’s daddy asked if she would go out to the garden and gather up the tomatoes and vegetable that were ready to be picked.  She spent the next 45 minutes in the garden gathering the ripe produce.  She set piles of tomatoes on the corner of the garden.  She had another pile of cucumbers, and had nearly filled a bushel basket with thick, long green beans.

Her dad had come out by this time with three empty baskets to put the produce in.  He told her to take the baskets up to the house and set them on the porch.  Esther asked her daddy what to do with the baskets that were already filled with vegetables on the porch.  He told her to just set them to the side to make room for what she just picked.

It was almost time for dinner but her daddy had one more job for Esther to finish.  He told her he wanted her to ride on the tractor with him up to their orchard to pick apples, pears and peaches.  The tractor was pulling a hay wagon with several empty apple crates around the sides of the wagon.  Esther’s daddy stopped the tractor in the middle of the orchard on a lane just big enough for the wagon to pass through gently brushing against the growing branches.

Esther took two crates to the row of peach trees.  Her daddy took four crates over to the taller apple trees.  They quietly got to work plucking ripe fruit from the trees and carefully laying them in the crates.  Esther could only fill her crate about half full.  She knew if she filled it any higher she would not be able to carry it back to the wagon, let alone lift it back up on the wagon.

Esther quickly filled her two crates and grabbed two more.  She filled one more with peaches then slid it out to the lane for her daddy to carry back to the wagon.  She took the other crate to a row of pear trees.  The pear trees were Esther’s favorite.  Esther knew the most ripe, ready-to-eat pears would already be on the ground.  So she carefully stepped on patches of grass then squatted down to pick the ripe, yellow pears within reach.

She quickly filled her crate and dragged that to the lane and ran back to the wagon to get more crates.  Her daddy interrupted her gallop which slowed to a stuttering jog.  “Just fill up one more crate.  It’s time for dinner.”  Her daddy told her.  Esther sent a thumb in the air to acknowledge his command.  She grabbed the crate, tried to balance it on her head as she made her way back to the pear trees.  She might have made it all the way, if it wasn’t for a rogue branch that caught the crate and tipped it off her head.

Esther again quickly filled the last crate with pears.  She tried to carry the last crate back to the wagon, since her daddy had already picked up the lonesome crates waiting in the lane.  Esther had a pear clutched in her mouth as she leaned back holding the crate to her belly for more leverage (Her daddy taught her how to use her belly to help carry things.  He was able to carry very heavy objects using this method.  Esther giggles when he does that.).

She made it almost all the way back to the wagon, when her daddy came over to her and said, “Here, let me help you out.”  He reached out and grabbed the pear in her mouth and took a big bite on the other side of the fat pear.  He left the heavy crate for her to carry.  “Daddy!!!”  Esther said cocking her head to the side.  He smiled, shoved the pear back in her mouth and took the crate from her.

Esther rode on the hay wagon back to their farm.  He pulled the wagon next to his old brown truck.  Esther hopped off before he had turned the tractor off and ran up to the house.  “Take your boots off before you go inside.”  Her daddy reminded her.  She sat down on the steps of the porch and took off her boots.  She jumped up.  One sock had come off in her boot and the other sock was about to fall of her foot.  She clamped her toes down to keep it from falling off.

Esther sat down at their kitchen table for a simple meal her mommy prepared.  Looking around at the spread of fresh produce and steaming roast Esther’s daddy put his hand on her back and said, “Esther, everything on our table tonight came from our farm.  The Lord is good.  Let’s thank him.”  Esther took her daddy and mommy’s hands as they bowed their heads.

Esther softly spoke pure words of appreciation and continued help for her friends at school.  When she finished praying, her mommy began to take scoops of food out of the bowls and pass them around.  Esther finished filling her plate as she passed the basket of warm rolls to her daddy.  Esther’s dad filled the family in with updates on those who lost their homes and electricity in the storm.

“The rebuilding is coming along just fine, but so many of the families don’t have much for food to eat and what they have is all canned because no one has power yet to cook.”  Esther’s dad said this for an audience of one.  And Esther heard it loud and clear.  No one spoke for the next few minutes then Esther broke the silence, “Daddy, what about all the vegetables and eggs and fruit we have on the porch?  Can we give that to those families who don’t have much to eat?”

“Esther, I think that would be a great idea.  How about after supper you and I load up the truck and we will go in to town tomorrow to deliver it to your friends.”  Her daddy said with a proud smile on his face.

Esther hurried through her dinner and asked to be excused.  Her mommy said to finish your milk, then you can go outside and load up the truck.  Esther drank her milk so fast she had a wet, white milk mustache.  She wiped it off with her sleeve.  Her mother tried to stop her, but it was too late.  Her mother smiled, but shook her head and looked at Esther’s dad and said, “She gets that from you you know.”

Esther’s dad had just finished his milk and wiped his mouth with his sleeve when he realized he was busted.  He smiled at her, kissed her on the forehead and said with a dirt eatin’ grin, “Sorry.”

By the time Esther’s dad got out to the truck Esther had loaded up the eggs, green beans and tomatoes from their porch.  She stood in the bed of the truck as her daddy handed her the crates of fruit they had just picked.  The truck was loaded with fresh produce and eggs.  “We’ll put some canned beef in tomorrow before we head into town.”  Her daddy told her.  The two went inside as the first stars began to appear in the sky.

The next morning, Esther woke to the usual smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen.  Her mom and dad were already downstairs boxing up canned beef and other canned items from their pantry.  Esther got dressed, went downstairs and asked if she could have some coffee.  Her mom told her just a minute then opened a cabinet and pulled down a Winnie the Pooh coffee cup. She filled it half way with milk then put a splash of coffee in. It was just enough to tint the coffee a light cream color.  Esther took a sip and said, “Ah, I love coffee.”  The three laughed as Esther’s dad took the last box out to the truck.  “I’m ready if you are Esther?”  He said as the screen door clapped against the frame behind him.

Esther gave her mommy a big kiss, ran out the front door and climbed into her dad’s old brown truck.  Her dad had just started up the old truck and nursed the gas peddle to get the old truck up to a smooth idle.  The pair made their way back into town taking the same route they took one week earlier.  They pulled into Esther’s friend Kenny’s house first.  The tree that blocked the driveway a week ago was gone and most of the heavy debris was gone.  The house that exposed its inner rooms was boarded up with plywood and two by four temporary supports.

Roofers were already at work putting on a new roof.  Esther followed her daddy out the driver’s side door.  When she slid off the seat, her elbow tapped the horn on the steering wheel surprising the roofers with a quick, sharp, “beep.”  Esther said oops as she landed on the ground, twisting herself in the direction of the tailgate.

She climbed up and started lifting out crate of food.  Her daddy told her to slow down.  Your friend doesn’t want a basket of tomatoes. He unfolded a brown paper grocery bag and said, “Okay, hand me a few cans of canned beef.”  Esther handed him the pint jars of canned beef.  Although it didn’t look very good, canned beef was Esther’s favorite snack to take with her on fishing trips.

“Now put some canned carrots and tomato sauce.  Then put some fruit, fresh tomatoes and green beans on the jars.  Then put that carton of eggs on top.”  Her dad ordered as he pointed what items he wanted.   Esther filed the bag with all she could.  It was too heavy for her to carry, so she creatively slid the bag with the side of her foot to the lowered tailgate.  Her dad scooped it up and headed for the house, Esther leaped off the tailgate like she was jumping off a dock into a lake on a hot summer day.

She caught up to her dad in just a few bounds.  They had to enter the house from the side.  Kenny and his family were able to stay in their home, but so much of it was still under construction.  Kenny opened the door after Esther knocked on it.  His mom walked up behind Kenny and invited them in.  She was surprised to see Esther and her dad with such a big bag of fresh food.  Esther told Kenny that she picked some pears and tomatoes for them.

Kenny’s mom truly appreciated the gesture, but tried to refuse the offering.  Kenny looked at his mom and Esther looked at her dad.  (Sometimes children can give and receive a gift so much more willingly than adults can.)  Esther’s dad explained how they have been blessed with more than they will ever use and they have so much more in the back of the truck to give out.  “If you don’t take it, I’ll have to feed it to the pigs because it’s gonna spoil.”  Esther honestly explained.

Kenny’s mom smiled and nodded at Esther’s dad.  “Thank you so much.  This means so much to us.  You have no idea.”  Kenny’s mom said as she took the bag from Esther’s dad.  “I guess we never really appreciated the simple things in life like fresh veggies and a roof over our heads.  It’s hard to appreciate our needs when we are so consumed with our wants.”  His mother continued.

Esther looked up at her dad.  Even though she is only eight years old, Esther understood what she meant.  Video games and the latest toys are neat, but there are some things so much more important.  Esther had a whole truck bed full of necessities that her friends and their families would need.  She also knew the right thing to do is to give all she can to those who are in need.

Esther and her dad climbed back in their truck and made their way through town stopping at the homes of families in need.  It was about one thirty when Esther realized they hadn’t eaten lunch yet.  “Daddy, I’m hungry.” She confessed –she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to be hungry when so many of her friends don’t have food to eat.  Her dad reassured her that is perfectly fine.  They pulled over along a lane leading to a corn field off the country road they were on.

The sat on the tailgate and ate from the jar of canned beef and other fresh leftovers in the back of the truck.  They each finished with a fresh pear.  The juice ran down Esther’s chin so she wiped it clean with the sleeve of her shirt.  She looked up at her daddy awaiting a “you-know-better-than-that” look, but to her surprise, he was wiping the dripping juice from his chin with his sleeve too.

She smiled, but shook her head, “Daddy!!!”

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