Is It Too Late?

They sat at the dining room table, the two men.  Their conversation was serious, even somber.  As the younger man spoke of a life lived with purpose, the other listened with tears in his eyes.

When the older one spoke again, his voice was rife with desperation.  “You’ve made all the right choices; I’ve made all the wrong ones.  I can never go back, can never undo what has been done.”

Photo: Graham Hale

The younger thought carefully before speaking once more.  “You’re both right and wrong.  You can’t undo the past—but tonight you can determine to change the direction you go. Then the next time you look back, you will see the difference that good choices can make.”

The other man spoke again and was silent, except for his goodbyes which were abrupt.

“It’s too late for me.  Thanks for trying.”

Then he was gone.

As I write this, I am sad again.  I am watching as a young man of my acquaintance is recklessly making life choices which he will, no doubt, regret for years to come.  In a public forum, accusations are made and recriminations made in reply.  A marriage is ripped apart, almost without thought.  Another life is derailed, much like the one of the considerably older man described above.

Not in a position to suggest a different viewpoint, I stand helpless as others pat him on the back and goad him on, encouraging what they call a clean break.  It is virtually a certainty.

I pray that another path will be found for them, but I’ve seen these situations before.  People can be so stubborn—and stupid.

Of all the gifts, I’m thinking that I’m most thankful for the blank page of the moment just ahead, awaiting our first step into it, our first words coloring the empty space. Here is where the past and the future meet. This is the place where we set the memories, about which we’ll reminisce in years to come, into the history books of our minds.
Recently, in an idealistic mood, I posted the above statement for my friends to read and be encouraged by.  Tonight, the words dance on the page before me as I repeat them here, much like little children sticking out their tongues and shrieking, Nanny nanny boo boo! in their delight at my despair.

I am tempted to repent of saying the words.

They were intended to be words of reassurance, drawing a picture of delight as the reader stands poised to make memories worth recording and celebrating far into the future.

Now the words are as ashes in my mouth as I realize they are no less true for those who step into the future with bitterness and rancor, writing their impending history with the uncaring destruction of bridges which can never again be traversed.

But, as I write (and think), I am reminded that it has ever been so.  What is in the heart of men is what will make its way, however slow and inexorably, to the surface.  Selfishness in the heart begets selfishness in words and in actions.  Pettiness produces a like result.

The Preacher of the Old Testament said it well:  As a man thinks in his heart–so is he.

Later, one who had walked with Jesus repeated it when he suggested that a spring of salt water could not produce fresh water.  We make our own choices about the history which will fill the empty page of the future when it is no longer the future.

I will not repent of the words.  I’ll not wallow in despair.

Here is what I know:

The grace which has been extended to us is able to reach to the depths of our hearts.  We have only to grasp hold of it and allow its work of renewal and refreshing to be completed.

No, we can’t go back and undo the past.  The failures of those days still lie behind.  But, they no longer have to be ahead of us, too.

The previous page is covered with yesterday’s actions and words, whether kind and constructive, or harsh and devastating.  Ahead, still lies the future, clean as the artists canvas.   

Your choice…More of the same, or a new direction.

Each moment, each action will determine the history which will one day be retold.

Choose well.




Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by…
(from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost ~ American poet ~ 1874-1963)



Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…
(from Fly Like An Eagle  by the Steve Miller Band ~ ca. 1976)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Run To The Darkness

I stepped out of the back door, flashlight in my hand.  The barking of the backyard monsters was quickly silenced, but only momentarily.  As I clicked on the large light source I held, the racket commenced anew.  Observing the general area upon which the dogs were focusing their attention, I focused my light there also.  The powerful three-cell light shone a bright beam, but I still could not see well at all.  Passing through the gate while holding back the excited mutts, I turned and ambled across the street to get a better look at the object of their rancor.  Finally, I saw two glittering spots of luminescence shining back at me from the darkness.  Within seconds, I could make out the body of the cat-sized animal.  I muttered a word of disgust and extinguished the light, bending to pick up a small stone and fling it toward the source of the erstwhile reflective eyes.  The opossum sauntered away through the hedges, barely distressed by my missile. 

I stood and looked at the flashlight I held.  It is a good quality lantern, touted as one of the best on the market.  Why did it not illuminate the repulsive creature from my original vantage point, saving me the trouble of moving near to it before identifying the culprit as just another nocturnal pest?  Its brilliant beam is enough to temporarily blind anyone.  Surely it should make the darkness as bright as day.

My mind went back to another era, many years in the past.  One of my brothers was working as a roughneck, a laborer on an oil rig in the vast empty brush of rural south Texas.  Miles away from any city, these oil rigs were once common sights in that part of the great state.  He wanted to show me where he worked, so I accompanied him on a nighttime trek out into the countryside.  We left the city lights far behind and after many miles, left the traffic of the highway behind also.  We saw no homes along the way; didn’t even see another car after we turned off the highway.  A cloudy, overcast night, there was not even a sliver of moon or the twinkle of stars above us.  No lights were to be seen besides the headlights of our car.  “Watch this,” he said suddenly, braking to a stop.  He turned off the ignition and switched off the headlights of the car.  Pitch black darkness fell.  Amazed, we exited the car and stood near the front bumper.  The darkness was profound.  The only deeper darkness I can remember is what I have since experienced a time or two down below the earth while exploring caves.  To me though, it was darker than I could recall ever having been in to that point in my life.

Suddenly, we heard a sound beside us not far away in the brush, and startled, I jumped for the car door.  “Hold on,” whispered my roughneck brother, pulling a tiny flashlight from his pocket.  In the light which shone from the interior of the car, the single AA cell light he brandished was hardly reassuring.  What was he going to do with that?  “Close the door,” he commanded.  I was not without misgivings, but he seemed confident, so I complied.  He flipped the switch on the flashlight and aimed it into the darkness.  The result was nothing less than astonishing.  In spite of the diminutive size of the light source, we could see every detail of the cactus and mesquite trees next to the dirt road, and then we also saw the two yellow eyes looking back at us for just a moment before the coyote turned tail and fled out of sight.  He had been a little curious about the newcomers to his domain, but he wasn’t staying around with that blazing light focused in his face.  We laughed and after another moment or two, hopped back into the old Ford and headed once again for the bright lights of home.

Back to the present, I stood and gazed disappointedly at my heavy-duty torch (as our British friends know it).  I looked around me.  Lights shone from the windows of my house.  On the corner, a street light shone reassuringly.  Beyond the place I had seen the opossum, the ambient light of a shopping center glowed warmly.  I chuckled.  There was too much light around for my super-duper flashlight to do much good!  What a problem to have.

Tonight, I’m thinking about that again.  You won’t need me to (if you’ll excuse the pun) shed much more light on this subject, will you?  The realization that we must go to dark places so that our light can be seen will be fairly self-evident.  If we stand in the blazing sunlight and shine our puny lights, not much is accomplished, is there?  We have a light inside of us which was put there for two reasons.  The first is to give us light to live by. King David reminds us that it is the Lord who keeps our lamp burning and turns our darkness into light (Psalm 18:28).  But the second reason we possess light is to bring illumination to the darkness that surrounds us.  Just because we live in a place full of light ourselves doesn’t mean that we get to stay there.

I remember a professor who, a number of years ago, spoke to me of the reason he was leaving his position  at the local Christian university for the uncertainty of a job at a state university far away.  “Here, I’m one of many who have a little impact on my students,” he explained.  “There, I’ll be one of very few.  Think of the great influence I can have in that place!”  He died just a few years after going there, but I’m confident that he accomplished his goal of shining brightly in the darkness, even for that short time.  Someday I’ll ask him.

So you see, there is a very good reason to open the gate and leave the safety of our own backyards.  That light you hold was meant to shine in the darkness.  I think I’m going to keep trekking out where it’s still dark.  You?

“Take your candle.  Run to the darkness. Go light your world.”*

“Let your light shine before men so that they will see the good that you do and glorify God in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:16~paraphrased)

“Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining–they just shine.”
(Dwight L Moody~American evangelist~1837-1899)

* From “Go Light Your World” by Chris Rice. Copyright 1995 BMG Songs, Inc.

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Recipe for Catastrophe

It was a quarter after seven in the morning and the men stood in line impatiently.  They had been promised a pancake breakfast at seven o’clock.  There were a few men there–well, at least one that I knew of–who were thinking about that extra quarter hour of sleep they could have enjoyed, instead of standing here waiting with plates in their hands.  “What’s the holdup back there?” one of the grumpier fellows asked through the serving window of the kitchen.  John replied lightheartedly, “Hold your horses!  The batter still needs to thicken a bit before I put it on the griddle.”  The seventy-something year old man grinned out across the group of men as he continued to mix the soupy concoction with a wire whisk.  “Thicken up? What do you mean?” came the question from one fellow, himself the veteran of a number of pancake breakfasts.  “Well, if I stir it long enough, it will thicken up to the consistency it needs to be,” came the explanation from old John.

The laughter from the guys in line wasn’t helpful, but the man who asked the last question stepped out of line and into the kitchen.  “You stir gravy to thicken it, not pancakes!” he exclaimed.  Grabbing a box of dry pancake mix, he sprinkled it liberally over the liquid.  Within seconds, the mess in the bowl was thickened to the density that John wanted.  He poured the batter onto the griddle and moments later, the men were sitting at tables with buttered and syrupy pancakes disappearing quickly off of the plates before them. Later that morning, they left still laughing about the idea of stirring batter to thicken it.

It was probably close to the same era that a certain redhead I know–mentioning no names, you understand–stood at the counter beside her stove at home.  It was in a day when the couple under discussion had very little cash to spend and that night’s meal was to be creamed chipped beef over toast.  It was an inexpensive meal, one which required only a small package of thin-sliced sandwich meat in gravy, poured over a couple pieces of sliced bread toasted to a golden brown color.  As she cooked, the redhead remembered the ingredients she needed for the dish without any difficulty.  She always liked to add just a touch of Worcestershire sauce after the meat and gravy were simmering in the pan, so she reached for the tall bottle of brown liquid.  Pouring in a few drops, she replaced the cap and, waiting a few seconds, took her spoon and touched it to her lips to check the flavor.  She sputtered as she tasted it.  Vanilla!  The dish was permeated with the flavor.  Vanilla in chipped beef!  What a disaster!  There was nothing else to do but eat it.  You didn’t throw out food when every meal was planned to fit a slim budget like theirs.  They got it down, but not without a good bit of grousing from the man of the house.  Thirty years later, the redhead still gets teased when he sees her pouring Worcestershire sauce in a recipe. 

Can I let you in on a secret?  Both of these people knew what they were doing.  They had experience.  We’ve all been there.  We’re performing a task with which we are familiar and we’re just coasting along.  There’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead of us and we put the whole affair on autopilot.  Before we know it, we’re in the middle of a storm and we’ve made a wrong decision, or heard one word wrong, maybe even just misunderstood the look in someone’s eyes.  John cooked at home with his wife frequently.  The only thing he did in error on that morning was to remember one thing wrong.  He recalled what he always did with gravy.  The mix needed to be thicker, so he stood there and stirred–and stirred–and stirred some more.  The problem was that he was making pancakes, not gravy.  If you stir pancake batter too long, it gets thinner and makes the finished product rubbery.  The two recipes look very similar in the mixing bowl, so it was an easy mistake to make.  In her haste, the beautiful redhead simply grabbed the wrong bottle.  Still an easy mistake.  The brown liquids are about the same consistency and are identical in appearance.  Surely that can’t make that big a difference.

“Keep your head in the game!”  I’ve heard more coaches yell that phrase at their athletes than any other.  Frequently, players who are doing the same old thing they’ve done game after game, practice after practice, tend to get careless.  Easily distracted, they continue to go through the motions, but they miss subtle changes in the direction of the play, or the signals from their teammates.  I don’t know about you, but this happens to me all the time.  I’m no athlete, but the things which I do repeatedly become “old hat” to me.  With no worries about missing a trick, I plod along automatically, until suddenly, I find myself neck deep in trouble, wondering how in the world I got in this fix.

“Stay focused.”  As we steadfastly move forward, keeping in mind both the goal and the means by which we will attain that goal,  our attentiveness to detail is of paramount importance.  It only takes one wrong turn (or a missed one) to make us lose the route completely.  Strange as it may seem, it is much easier to maintain our vigilance and keep to the path than it is to find it again, once it is lost. 

I’m purposely being vague regarding any application here, because this principle encompasses so many different things in life.  Sure, it is important in cooking, essential in sports, even critical in navigating, but especially in our everyday life, we absolutely must not lose sight of the purpose for our pilgrimage through this world. Our daily walk up the path ordained for each of us must be purposeful and resolute.  Over-stirred batter causes delays; ingredients added in error taint the mixture. 

Do I sound too legalistic, too overbearing?  I don’t mean to say that there’s no time for levity and for enjoyment.  These too, happen along the path, but they only add to the recipe.  After all, what’s a good dish without a little spice?  The interludes which we’re allowed simply make the finished product better and more palatable, unless we stay there and never move on. 

Stay focused.  Be practical, but resolute.  Stir when you need to, but know when to add the proper ingredients also.  It doesn’t hurt to look at the labels of the ingredients once in awhile, either.

Oh!  You might check the Book of Recipes frequently, as well.  None of us ever gets so good that we can’t benefit from what the Master Cook has to say about the mixture.

Bon appetit!

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”
(Isaiah 26:3~KJV)

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion.”
(Egyptian proverb)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Dancing in the Grass

The two-lane avenue led through a once-rural residential area, and was normally a quiet road, with just the occasional family station wagon on its way home, or a school bus filled with kids who were bound for several hours of captivity in the academic world.  The funeral home around the corner seldom entered the thoughts of the folks living in the neighborhood, but once in awhile, the sleepiness of the area would be disturbed as a police cruiser would speed past, lights flashing, on its way to the intersection a few blocks to the west.  There, it would stop traffic for several moments as the oncoming procession, with headlights ablaze (even in the bright sun of the afternoon), made its slow and tedious way through.  Oncoming traffic respectfully pulled over and waited to move on until the entire line of cars passed.

Not so with the young urchins at one house along the way.  At the first sight of the police cruiser, they would run to stand in the grass beside the road, awaiting the black Cadillac hearse which was sure to be close behind.  As soon as it drew near, the boys began cavorting and turning cartwheels in the grass between the palm trees that grew tall and straight.  Laughing and jumping, they played happily, as the sad procession eased along the avenue and then slowly moved out of sight.  It was an odd custom, but one which was repeated whenever the funeral caravan was spotted.

I’d like, if you’ll allow it, to speak for a few moments about death tonight.  It’s not a popular subject for polite conversation, is it?  We’re uncomfortable talking about the end of life.  We have so many euphemisms for the word “die”.  In genteel discussions, we suggest that an individual passed on or possibly passed away.  A certain fine lady I know of used to describe a family member’s death simply by saying that they went to heaven.  With others, one could perish or expire or even be deceased.  In coarser company, they would say that a person kicked the bucket or possibly even croaked.  Trying to be a bit more poetic, we suggest that they cashed in their chips or bought the farm.  However you look at it, we work extra hard to avoid saying that someone died. 

Why is that?  What makes us avoid talking directly about dying?  No one denies that it takes place; we simply don’t want to actually speak about it.  Oh, I know that there are people who are obsessed with the idea of death.  Some individuals can’t speak of anything else.  There was a young lady whose writing I once followed, simply because she posted links to some very nice music and classical poetry.  After reading a few items of hers, it struck me that she wrote and posted of nothing else but death.  Every piece of music was a dirge or requiem; every poem a tribute to some person who had died or a lament about death.  It was obviously an unhealthy preoccupation that could lead to no good end.  I quit reading her articles.  Surely, somewhere in the midst of these two extremes, either never mentioning the subject or else dwelling incessantly on it, is the middle ground upon which we can walk and learn.

The Lovely Lady’s mother died last week.  Her body died, that is.  My spiritual beliefs assure me that her spirit is alive and living with her God.  Over the last week, I have heard a good number of platitudes.  I don’t disagree with any of them.  She is better off.  She is whole again.  I wouldn’t want to make her live in that crippled and diseased body for one minute more.  But.  The “but” stands out in my mind.  Most of us don’t want to go past the trite words and talk about death in any more graphic terms.  It is a reticence born of long practice.  And, if we had no hope past our last breath in this life, that might be understandable.

The phrase from the New Testament springs to mind:  “Where, oh death, is thy victory?  Where, oh grave, is thy sting?”  That passage goes on to say that death has been swallowed up in victory, won by our Savior as He paid the price for our sins.  I will not argue the truth of the words.  I wonder though, if our reluctance to speak about death, our fear of the grave that follows death, shows how much we actually believe the words.  It stings too much to speak of it in plain language.  It almost appears that we believe death has defeated us when loved ones are taken.  We seem, at least, to fear that same defeat for ourselves one day.  As we speak in hushed tones and use our cryptic language to describe the event, we teach our children to fear as well.

The odd behavior of the urchins described earlier may be a lesson for those of us who have forgotten what it was like to know no fear of the future.  There was a time in our lives when celebration was the norm, rather than a rare occurrence.  We would live forever!  Why should you stand and be solemn when you could dance?  I will readily admit that today my face burns with embarrassment as I confess to you that I was one of those urchins.  Today, when I consider the sorrow of the occupants of the limousine and cars following…mixed with anger at the oblivious children who danced at the approach of said cars…the shame I feel is almost palpable.  Others who participated may not feel as I do, but I would like to go back and take a different course of action.  That said, there is something to applaud in the unfettered spirit of those youths.  Why should there not be a sense of celebration at the graduation of a soul which in life has grasped hold of the grace proffered by a loving Savior, and now has entered into His presence?  If that is not cause for celebration, what is?

I won’t dwell on it–in fact, will probably not speak of it here for some time–but, I hope that you will feel the freedom to talk openly about death and its role in shaping our lives and those who will come after us.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit it if you fear the unknown, but by the same token, don’t be embarrassed to celebrate when a saint, who has run the race faithfully and finished the course in fine form, is rewarded with rest and heaven.  Our sorrow as we miss their presence surely is eclipsed by our joy at their going to their real home.

I’ll not be dancing at any funerals again.  I do, however, hope that a little balance…sorrow offset with joy, our natural fear of the unknown weighed against the supernatural hope which lives inside of us…will give us the perspective intended.

And, even though you probably need no such reminder, it might be good to keep in mind that–

Our God is good, all of the time!

“Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive…We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects. And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life.”
(“Weight of Glory” a sermon by C.S.Lewis~Irish novelist/theologian~1898-1963)

“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keep out joy.”
(Jim Rohn~American motivational speaker)

 © Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Your People Shall Be My People

She didn’t come to dinner last week.  It seems that she may never do that again.  I thought, as her time in the frail body she inhabits nears an end, it might be appropriate to post this earlier essay again.

Your People, My People

Most Sunday afternoons, my seat is immediately to her left at the dinner table.  As the dishes are passed, I make sure that she gets a small serving of each item.  I cut her meat to a manageable size.  Move the glass closer to her so she doesn’t have to struggle with it.  The salad is topped with her favorite dressing.  While dinner is in progress, every once in awhile I’ll explain a comment someone else has made.  And then, even if she doesn’t finish her vegetables, she always wants dessert.  As the meal comes to an end, I even remove her bib for her.

It’s not who you think.  Yes, there are children at the table who need help, but they get that from their mom, or maybe their dad.  Often, even their grandma (the Lovely Lady, herself) helps with their care.  The person sitting to my right is the children’s great-grandma, my mother-in-law.  She was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis several years before I came on the scene and time has not been kind to her.  Gnarled hands, with fingers which are misshapen and bent to the side, sit at the ends of arms with artificial elbows and shoulders whose cartilage has now dissolved almost completely.  Her pain is constant; her inability to do the mundane tasks we take for granted, such as buttering a roll, leaving her dependent on the same sort of help required by the toddlers at the table.

I won’t go on about the hardships, nor will I dwell on the demands she makes.  Her life is now one of waiting for other people to fulfill her needs.  She can be a hard taskmaster.  I’ll gladly do my part.  Why?  She is my Lovely Lady’s mother.  More might be said, but it doesn’t need to be.

Recently, one of the cable television channels introduced a new program, with which they think a lot of people can identify.  They believe the audience will be agog with excitement each week as they air this show about spouses at war with their in-laws.  “Monster-In-Laws”, they call it.  Not only is their usage of the language incorrect, but the premise itself is odious to me.  I will not watch even one minute of this abomination.  Ever.  I know they will attempt to offer a solution as each thirty-minute episode winds down, but that’s not how they’re selling it to the potential audience.  On other fronts, too, I am sick to death of “mother-in-law jokes”; tired of the assumption that we have no choice but to do battle with our spouse’s parents.

I guess you know that once in awhile, I get a “burr under my saddle” about a subject.  I try to keep from taking it out on you folks.  But, I would be derelict if I missed the chance to urge each of you to show respect to your in-laws. Love them.  Care for them, just as you care for your spouse.  They raised that person you married, got them through school, provided for them.  In a manner of speaking, your mother-in-law, your father-in-law, is your spouse. They certainly are a part of their life, both past and future.  As you disrespect the in-laws, you disrespect your wife or your husband.  What?  That’s not an easy task for you?  Too bad.  It’s a debt you owe to the one you love, the one you promised to “cherish from this day forward”.  So, take the time; make the effort.  I’m still finding that, over time, it’s a debt that gets easier and easier to pay.  

My mother-in-law is failing quickly as she approaches the end of her time on this earth.  Only the Lord knows how much longer she will be with us.  But the Lovely Lady loves and cares for her.  So do I.   So will I.

“But Ruth replied, …Where you go, I will go.  Where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
(Ruth 1:16)

 © Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Further Up, Further In

 The lethargic young man is on his way to becoming a musician.  He has already taken several years of piano lessons.  He is even fairly good at it.  Perhaps, I should say was good at it.  When he started the lessons, he flew through the method books, desperate to get to the next volume and play the music he has heard the older students performing.  Then something happened, something so subtle that no one noticed it.  What happened was–nothing.  That’s right; nothing happened.  He has no reason to keep reaching, no motivation to practice, no challenge to reach for.  All he has to look forward to in the realm of being a pianist was playing the same classical pieces on his own or the hymns for his father’s weekly services at the nursing homes.  He really doesn’t want to do either.  So he has quit trying, wallowing in the morass of Bach’s Two and Three-Part Inventions.  But change is in the wind.

photo: Unhindered by Talent

A couple of years ago, he started playing in the band.  First, on a banged up old cornet, so old that the lacquer was completely gone.  The brown thing was an embarrassment, both to him and the band director, so a change was made.  He is now a French Horn player, using an instrument provided by the school.  Excitement is back again!  He wants to play and so he practices.  Then, again, Newton’s first law of motion comes into play, and the brakes of boredom are applied to the velocity of first zeal.  The vehicle of music making slows to a crawl.  But once more, change is in the wind.

A young energetic band director encourages the young man, teaching private lessons, pushing and encouraging.  It helps, but then the energy flags as before.  The director understands and has another card up his sleeve.  The band is strongly encouraged to attend a concert with the local high school band and a very fine, nationally known trumpet soloist.  The young teen sits up and notices this!  The band is skilled beyond his belief and the soloist is spectacular!  He realizes that these kids playing on the stage are barely more than five years his senior.  He could be doing that in a few years!  Someday, he could even be as good as the soloist who is called back for more than one encore!  The fire is raging afresh.

Sometimes, we just need to see the possibilities (and possibly touch them and feel them) to be re-energized and re-animated ourselves. Just a glimpse of the future can blow a gentle breeze on the coals which have died down and with a little additional fuel, the flame burns bright again.  Again and again in the young man’s formative years, these experiences had that effect.  They still have that effect on the aging man he has now become.  But, there is a dark side to this picture.

Almost a century ago, as the first World War wound to a close, a witty person penned some words to a song which would become quite popular in this country.  He asked the musical question regarding the boys coming home from the war in Europe…coming home to their farms, their small towns, and their old lives.  “How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)”  Understanding that seeing bigger and better attractions than they’ve ever seen before will leave their ardor for farming, and soda fountains, and high school sweethearts flagging, the poet suggests that nothing will ever be the same for them (and their families and friends) again.  The bright lights have not only been seen in the distance, but they’ve been experienced up close; the boys have bathed in their glow.  After that, he fears that everything about home will have lost its appeal.

Moving to the present, we acquired a new television the other day.  Well, it is new to us, but that’s almost beside the point.  I had suggested to the Lovely Lady that, with the initiation of High Definition Television, our old set had become hard to see.  I could no longer view scores in athletic contests and the edges of the picture were cut off by the new wider view, which our old square screen could not accommodate.  We’ll not blame my old eyes–the equipment was simply outdated.  We jumped at a chance to trade an item with a relative for his three year old flat-screen model and installed it in our house last week.  Attaching the cable, along with a new cable box, and flipping a few channels, the realization hit me.  There are a lot of channels which I don’t receive, because I haven’t purchased the “premium” package from the cable company.  As I flip past these channels, the new digital TV tells me what they are.  All kinds of sports programming, creative channels which the Lovely Lady would love, even movie channels which offer the latest fare from Hollywood…all of these and many more show up as I click past.  I want those channels for myself. 

What happened?  A week ago, I didn’t want those channels; could have cared less about them.  Today, I can’t live without them.  You see, in the intervening time, I caught a glimpse of what could be.  Before, I only knew what was.  And, it was enough.  Now, I want more.  Every time I see those non-channels go past as I hold down the remote’s buttons, I want them to be places to stop on my television.  I know they are within reach.  All I have to do is to pick up the telephone and say the word.  The blank spaces will be filled if I do that.  Of course, there will be a corresponding blank space in my wallet every month as well, but I will acquire what I desire.

Do you see what I mean by the dark side?  The same thing which motivated me to be a better musician, to reach further and go higher, also drives my desire to acquire more unnecessary junk; to waste money on unprofitable time-wasting programming.  Seeing the possibilities, having eyes opened to what can be, not only lifts us up to be better people, but it can drive us to our knees in coveting and lusting after what we cannot, or should not, have.  Talk about a double edged sword!

I’m trying not to preach, but if you will allow me a little more freedom, I will suggest that the examples I’ve used above are in no way comprehensive, nor do they really even scratch the surface of the dark side to this issue.  We all know of families which are being torn apart by greed, or pornography, or illicit affairs. These have almost all grown from the seed of discontent, planted as individuals have seen, and been seduced by, attractive images of something claiming to be bigger and better than what they have.  The images lie, but nonetheless they work on the minds and hearts of men and women; calling them to action, with disastrous results.  Again and again, people act on those lies, only to see new images of bigger and better things, still calling them deeper and deeper into the trap which their life has become.

The Preacher, Solomon, said it clearly.  “There is a way that seems right to men, but it ends up badly.”  Well, he really said that it ends up in death and destruction.  And before that, he said, “Don’t lean on your own knowledge, but trust God with your heart.”

It’s good advice.  Choices will be made.  The path will be selected.  Are you going up?  Or, are you headed down?  It’s not too late to turn around, if you can still read this.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Keep your eyes open for the possibilities today.  When you make your choices though, make sure you’re headed further up and further in. 

The other direction is simply down and out.


“This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” 
(from “The Last Battle”~C.S. Lewis~Irish novelist/theologian~1898-1963)

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
(Colossians 3:2~KJV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The Genuine Article

We had wandered miles that afternoon.  Okay, maybe not miles.  It certainly seemed like miles.  As we are prone to do now and again, the Lovely Lady and I had taken an afternoon away from the mundane world of  lawn-mowing and assorted yard chores (for me), and laundry and music preparation (for her).  We headed for a few of the exotic, glamorous destinations we like to call flea markets.  Okay, again, maybe not so glamorous.  For us though, it is always possible to lose ourselves in the unusual and the vintage, and sometimes the just plain ludicrous, offerings to be found in the aisles of these modern day bazaars.  We don’t really look for anything in particular.  We just pick up items we find interesting and exclaim things like, “I had one of these, growing up.”  We love books and tools, furniture and dishes, even the odd musical instrument or toy.  It is relaxing and stress-free, and after all these years, we still enjoy each other’s company.  Strange, huh?

On this particular day, we had just looked hopefully at a set of century-old books and then decided that the price was a little steep, so we kept moving down the row of neat (and some not-so-neat) booths, giving each a chance to snag our attention with its hidden treasures.  All of the sudden, there it was!  The beautiful little painting hung on the wall in a cheap frame, matted with paper certain to be leaching acid into the artwork, and the back covered in brown kraft paper.  The price was affordable…fifteen dollars.  Examining the little painting of the Tower Bridge in London, England, we decided (erroneously, it turned out) that it was probably a water color, fairly well done, by an artist who was not familiar to us.  The price wasn’t much of a gamble, so we purchased it, along with a few dishes that had caught the Lovely Lady’s fancy.

Later that evening, I started doing a little detective work.  The artist, I found, was actually well-known for his limited edition prints, with most of them drawing a price of over thirty times what we had paid.  I should have been ecstatic, but I had a problem.  Like my strange fixation with books, I just can’t bring myself to sell an art item I have purchased.  I buy art.  I don’t sell it.  It was pleasant to discover that the little object was worth more than we paid, but I would never make a profit from it.  I also had another problem.  I don’t hang prints on my wall.  Yep, another strange foible.  I want original pieces of art on the wall, not copies that someone else has on their wall, too.  Upon removing the kraft paper from the back of this pretty little piece, I found an original label that substantiated my suspicion that it was indeed a limited edition print, valuable to be sure, but not an item I was likely to hang on my wall.

I hear you muttering.  “What a nut!  It’s a beautiful picture!  It might even be worth quite a bit of money!  How stupid can you be?”  You’re probably right.  It’s just that, there on the hand-written label on the back of this picture, I’m told that this is number fifty-seven of a printing of ninety-nine copies of this pretty little picture.  Ninety-eight other people in the world have this same picture hanging on their walls!  Ninety-eight!  Right or wrong, I decided long ago that I like original artwork, not copies.  The originals I possess may not have as much monetary value; they may even be uglier than most, but one thing is certain:  No one else has the same thing hanging on their wall.

Is there a point to this rambling post, you ask?  I hope so.  You see, I’m pretty sure that, if we can extend the analogy of paintings and prints to people, we were all intended to be originals.  Not one of us bears a label which declares us to be number fifty-seven out of ninety-nine copies produced.  Just yesterday, I had a conversation with the Lovely Lady about how strange each of us is in someone’s eyes.  I have no doubt that I have been labeled strange, or odd, or even weird, more times than I could imagine.  I gladly take ownership of those labels.  It means that I’m an original and I think that’s greatly to be preferred to the numbered copy label.

Why then, do we spend our whole lives trying to fit in?  We shove and squeeze and contort ourselves to become whatever is “normal”, never realizing that who we really are is much more important than who we can pretend to be.  We buy the “in” clothes, drive the “in” cars, and live in the “in” neighborhoods, all to meet someone else’s expectations.  I used to think that it was just those of us who grew up in church who “wanted to be clones”, as a semi-popular Christian song put it a number of years ago.  I’m confident now that making ourselves into copies is a universal problem, often with serious consequences.  The masks we wear and the facades we construct hide individuals, originals who were never intended to take on the different identities we are forced into.  Often, we force our children, our friends, and even our spouses into the molds we have constructed, simply because we have our own goals and aspirations for them. We never stop to realize that the individual inside of the mold is sure to break out sooner or later, frequently in a way which causes damage and pain to all involved.  Original is good.  It’s just not always comfortable, but it’s how God designed us.

Every single one of us is an original piece of art, intended by our Creator to be individuals and to achieve our own purpose in life.  We won’t all be an oil painting, or a wood-carving, or even a pen-and-ink abstract drawing.  Like snow-flakes, or fingerprints, not one of us is the same as anyone else.  Instead of ridiculing the odd, the “different”, why don’t we celebrate them?  I know I fit into those categories. I’ll let you in on another secret…I’m pretty sure you do, too.

It’s a good thing.

“Everyone in the world is strange but me and thee.  And sometimes, I’m not too sure about thee.”
(Anonymous quotation, probably of Welsh origin)

“Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”
(Oscar Wilde~Irish poet~1854-1900)

Originally published 12/29/11 under the title “A Real Original”

 © Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

About These Junkies…

Every day the addicts come in.  I can always tell the junkies from those who are just recreational users.  As I talk with the folks who have the monkey on their back, their eyes shift this way and that; they hardly hear a word I’m saying.  As they reply to my queries, they lose their train of thought and have to pause to rethink the question.  Then, in mid-sentence, they will stop short and, pointing in the direction of the object of their obsession, the words come out unbidden.  “I have to have it!  How much?”

I am, of course, speaking about people who are addicted to the musical instruments of which I am the purveyor.  To any number of folks who walk through my door on a regular basis, these are things which they crave, things without which they cannot live.  You who don’t suffer this affliction will laugh, but the need to acquire certain instruments is insurmountable to many.  I suppose that we might call it more of a dependency than an addiction, since the need is psychological and not physical, but nevertheless, it is a difficult thing to shake.

My mind leaps to a time, just a few years ago, when one customer began periodically bringing in guitars for me to either purchase from, or sell for, him.  They were very expensive guitars, some of them selling originally in the thousands of dollars.  I would look over the instrument and ask, “Are you sure you want to sell this beautiful instrument?  It’s perfect in every way!”  The answer came repeatedly, “I’m just tired of it.  I bought another one last week.”  Each time, the instrument would go for a fraction of its original cost, but he didn’t seem to care.  Nothing mattered except the latest acquisition.  “It’s the one I’ve always wanted!  This is the one!”  A few months later, he would return to sell the one, since another one had taken its place.  I made the mistake of calling his attention to the foolishness of his actions one too many times, I suppose, since his visits ceased one day without any explanation.  I hope he got some help, or at least stopped throwing away such great sums of money in that way.

Again, I hear the laughter of a few folks who can’t see how buying and selling instruments could be a habit which could require counseling.  I have indeed known of cases which required intervention.  There was one man with whom I did business many years ago who required counseling over a long period of time.  His psychiatrist advised him to cease buying and selling guitars altogether, since it had taken over his every waking moment (and even kept him awake many nights).  Quite a number of people I know are so driven to acquire instruments that they will risk damaging their family’s financial stability and even their marriages to do it.

It’s not always the beautiful instruments which control people either.  Only this afternoon, one of my regular customers came in to pick up an item.  While he was here, he walked back to where the PA mixers usually sit.  I could tell, without looking, when he saw it.  The sharp intake of his breath was audible to me even though I was around the corner and across the room.  I knew exactly what he was looking at, because I know him.  It was an old mixing board from the 1980’s.  He exclaimed, “Where did you get this?”  The longer we talked, the more agitated he became.  “My wife will be mad, but she’ll just have to tough it,” he exclaimed.  “I’m buying it!”  He already has at least three mixing boards at home.  He doesn’t need another one.  He knows this.  But, the desire to own this vintage board has him in its grip and he is beyond struggling to get away from it.  I talked him out of it today, but if it is still here the next time he comes by, I’m not sure that anything I say will keep him from purchasing it, regardless of whether it causes damage to his relationship with his wife or not.

Again, I’m confident that a few readers are still skeptical of the serious nature of what is under discussion here.  Let me move on a bit further and see if I can clarify.  Perhaps, if I select a subject with which others of you are familiar, you will see the problem.  I wonder…if we talk about lady’s shoes, could you identify?  I know people who are driven to buy every “cute” pair of shoes they see.  How many pairs are in your closet?  Ten?  Twenty?  Fifty?  One hundred?  Perhaps shoes aren’t your obsession.  Possibly you buy fishing equipment.  Anything from tackle to boats–there are plenty of things to be hoarded in this category.   Maybe you have to have the newest technological wonder out there.  The latest smart phone, the latest television, the latest laptop or notebook; if it plugs in or uses batteries, you need it.  For some, it will be artwork, or books, or even makeup and beauty treatments.

Without spending a lot of time preaching at you, I do wonder if we really understand the problem here.  We all, every one of us, are inclined to excess in our love of objects.  Whether guitars or shoes, cars or comic books, we attach an inordinate amount of importance to these objects to the detriment of our relationships, our reputations, and our religion.  Yes, our religion.  Our God tells us that we are not to put any other object of worship above our adoration of Him.  And, our obsession with things is diametrically opposed to the very idea of a God to whom we owe complete fidelity.  Jesus made this eminently clear when He taught that we cannot serve God and material things.  When things fill our hearts and minds, there is no room for love, for service, or for worship.

Perhaps it’s time that we determine that things will not come between us and our God; between us and our spouse, between us and our neighbor.  It is time for us to take whatever steps are necessary to shake off the monkey on our backs, whatever that may be.

Freedom from obsession brings freedom to love people.  Freedom from excess leads to freedom to serve God.  It’s time to break free from desire; to kick the habit of needing things.

Of course, I’m hoping that a few of you will still need some guitar strings or drum sticks.  If everyone stops buying stuff, I may have to find a real job. 

“You shall have no other Gods before me.”
(Exodus 20:3~NIV)

“A man with an obsession is a man with very little sales resistance.”
(C.S. Lewis~British novelist/scholar~1897-1963)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Enjoying the Trip

It seemed an insurmountable barrier.  I can’t count the number of mornings when, as a boy, I would vow to myself that this would be the day that the barrier came down.  I would pass the test.  I would enter the ranks of the conquerors over whom the barrier held no power, no authority.  No more would I heed the unspoken threat which said, “Danger!  This far!  No further!”  But day after day, I failed to live up to my own expectation.  Again and again, I attempted the trial, only to be rejected.  Ah!  But, the day on which I triumphed?  What a time of jubilation!  I will never forget it!

Boy!  That must have been some monster obstacle, huh?  Probably something like one of those huge wooden walls with the rope hanging down that you had to climb up and fling yourself over the top?  You’ll be disappointed when you realize that this unyielding obstruction, which foiled me on so many attempts to get past it, was nothing more than a simple nylon rope.  Standing on the side of the swimming pool at the boys’ camp, you would laugh as you viewed the insignificant, puny thing.  A nylon rope with miniature buoys attached to make it float on top of the water, and which divided the shallow end of the pool from the deep end.  Who couldn’t get past that thing easily?  Well, I suppose I could have gone under it anytime I wished.  Possibly, I could have jumped over it.  But, the camp director had clearly set out the rules at the beginning of the week and his minions (the teenaged junior counselors) had enforced them doggedly.  Until each camper had demonstrated his ability to swim the length of the pool twice without stopping and within the designated time period, his freedom in the pool would be limited to the shallow side of the rope.  Several valiant attempts on my part to pass the test were failures, and still the dreaded rope blocked any hope of ever reaching the other end of the pool.

What was so important about breaching that line across the water?  To this young boy, the most important single destination in the swimming pool was the diving board, and it sat smack dab at the other edge of the deepest part of the pool.  To use the diving board, one must first prove that he could safely propel himself through the water without sinking to the bottom of the pool.  Everyday, as I paddled around in the shallow end of the water, I thought of nothing else than being on the other side of that rope.  Even the rope itself drew us, like flies to carrion.  We congregated near it, sat on it, even balanced as we stood on it, but we could not violate the space beyond it without first passing the dreaded test.

The day I passed that test, I was ecstatic.  I had beaten the challenge, and conquered the pool; I was victorious!  That afternoon, as we went to free swim, I thought of nothing else than being in the deep water.  I would never bother with the shallow end of the pool again.  Deep water for me from now on!  After waiting an interminable amount of time for my turn on the diving board. I dove into the water; slicing down deep, almost to the drain at the bottom.  Then I shoved back up to the top of the water, to hear someone yelling at me from the diving board.  “Get out of the way!”  I hurried to the side of the pool and hastened to do it again.  As I repeated the process a few times though, I became aware that I was spending very little time in the pool, and most of my precious free swim minutes waiting to dive.  Realization hit me slowly.  This wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  I enjoyed diving for a little while, but I wanted to swim.  I tried swimming along the side of the pool in the deep end, but soon found that there was no place to rest here.  Latching onto the ladder as I swam past, I hung there and caught my breath.  Suddenly, I realized something else.

Most of the people in the shallow end of the pool could swim.  They had passed the test long ago.  The rope was no barrier to them, but they understood something I hadn’t.  Having a firm footing under you, and the ability to put your feet down and rest from your labors, is nothing to sneer at.  Just because you can swim in the deep end, doesn’t mean that you must.  As with most things in life, balance is as important as excitement.

I learned an important lesson that day.  I’m still learning it. I have observed, over and over, as friends and family members have struggled to achieve some goal, only to see them crash and burn when they achieve it.  A diploma must be acquired and the focus is completely on achieving that quest.  A couple seems unable to have children and they try desperately to become pregnant, going from doctor to doctor and clinic to clinic to make it happen.  A better job, a bigger house, a long awaited trip…all are in sight, but just beyond the grasp, so we struggle to reach the goal.  Each time the goal, which has been the focus of the individual for a period of time, is reached, I have seen disappointment and depression take over, as the person comes to grip with the realization that the thing which they coveted and strove for is not at all what they had expected.  “Is this all there is?” one person asked me, just before he folded emotionally.  The question resounds in my mind still.

I have struggled with this idea, that achieving goals leads to disappointment, but it is true only because we humans are strange creatures.  We believe that if we could just achieve that certain status, could just complete that one special project, could just finish this last lifelong goal, we’ll be content.  It will be the icing on the cake and we can sit and admire what we have done. Alas, it never works that way. A wise woman once said to me, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  Oh, many people had said it before her and many have said it since, but my Mom had a way with cliches’ which brought the words to life.  The first time I heard it, I’m sure I was confused by the imagery, but I soon came to understand the concept.

The longer I live, the more I realize that we make the cake and then we eat what we have made.  But after our feast we remember that the reality of life is this: As long as we are drawing breath, we will need more to eat, so each goal is followed by another one.  I don’t believe that our Creator ever intended that we should be able to sit and say, “I am done.  I have reached the apex and will try no longer.”  He put inside each of us the desire to go further and do more.

I remember the first time I realized that even the heroes in the Bible stories which we heard in Sunday School had this problem.  I was shocked as I considered Elijah’s amazing triumph over the prophets of the false god.  Against all hope, he bested them in the contest to bring down fire from the heavens, and they were wiped from the face of the earth.  What did the conquering hero do?  He went and hid in a cave and whimpered.  I am encouraged to realize that we share a common trait with this great man.  It means that there is hope for us yet.

Set your goals.  Set them high.  But remember, as you strive and work to achieve them, that there will be life after they are accomplished.  Plan for more; anticipate even loftier heights.  I love the thought expressed in one of Robert Browning’s poems, when he says, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp; or what’s a heaven for?”  We reach further and higher, stretching ourselves as we do, growing to the stature that our Creator intended.

As we reach, we rejoice in what has been accomplished; it is admirable, and yet, still incomplete.

Keep reaching, my friend.  Where there’s life, there’s work to be done.

And, there is joy in the journey.

“…and forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before me, I press toward the mark, for the prize…”
(Philippians 3:13b, 14a~KJV)

“There is a joy in the journey
There’s a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey.”

(Joy In The Journey by Michael Card~American songwriter/singer)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.


She was frustrated.  A husband can tell, you know.  Especially when she says, “I’m so frustrated with this!” Her afternoon had been spent, at first making good progress, but as the time sped past, with ever longer delays in the actual project.

After another of her famous Sunday dinners, the Lovely Lady had sat down on the couch prepared to work on a craft project.  Her husband wasn’t aware of what was happening at first.  It is possible that he fell asleep for a moment or two.  There was, after all, a warm fire, and the recliner was in a position which made it more probable.  As I said, it was possible…Regardless, there she was on her couch, with a tangle of yarn in her hands.  She was frustrated.

She had struggled with the tangle for quite some time when suddenly she was making progress in pulling out  a few feet more of the yarn.  Perhaps this was going to work out after all.  Alas, it was a false hope.  A final tug proved that no more would pull out.  She sighed deeply and searched for her scissors.  Her husband wondered why she wanted the scissors.  “I have to cut the yarn, so I can pull it out the other direction,” she answered, realizing that he was a mere man and wouldn’t be able to work this one out for himself.  He decided to help her look for the scissors, but secretly he wondered why she didn’t just throw away the tag end of the skein of yarn.  The entire thing had cost less than a dollar.  There were quite a few more skeins sitting in that bag at her feet.  But, he knew better than to ask.  She doesn’t throw away perfectly good yarn.  Even if it is tangled up.  He is sure that he is right, but holds his tongue.  In a few moments and after a fair amount of labor, she has not one, but three smaller balls of yarn which have been salvaged and dropped into the yarn sack to be used in the future, as need arises.  He chuckles to himself.

Later that same night the man sits down to his desk and prepares to put a few of his random thoughts into words once again.  As he considers a subject worthy of his contemplation, his eye falls on an item near the back of the desk.  It is one of hundreds of odd items stacked (not neatly) on the workspace.  The old yellow pedal has been there for a year or more.  It doesn’t work.  Come to think of it, it may never work again.  A mass produced, cheaply made electronic guitar effect, it never was worth much to start with.  He should throw it away.  But he doesn’t.  Someone might be able to repair it someday.  Perhaps some of the parts might be salvaged to repair another one, closer to working condition than this one.  He is hard put to explain his reticence in disposing of the worthless thing. The value of the salvaged parts from it would be less than a dollar or two.  The Lovely Lady’s husband resolves to get rid of it tonight. He picks it up to toss into the trash and feels the weight in his hand.  No.  He sighs as he places it again on his desk and moves on to other things.  If she saw it, she would be the one chuckling this time.

One might wonder if this couple could be candidates to appear in an episode of one of next season’s television shows about hoarders.  Clearly, they need to get some perspective on setting priorities.  Almost certainly, these two are not indicative of the normal American family.  Or, are they?  I’m going to take a chance and tell you that these two are very much like most folks they (and probably, you) know.  They’ve been taught that you don’t throw away anything which has value.  They learned that you clean your plate at meals and save the leftovers for later.  “Waste not, want not.”   “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

I’m wondering tonight what would happen if we placed the same value on people that we do on things in our lives.  I’ve heard frequently from folks that they don’t expend effort on people who are broken.  Oh, they don’t say it quite like that.  One says, “I have to set priorities and deal only with people who don’t make too many demands on my time.”  Another posts, “Never waste time on people who think you don’t matter.”  Again and again, I have folks say that they won’t use up their energy to be friends with people who won’t make an effort themselves.  Does anyone see the incongruity here? We spend hours to salvage broken and used up things, but can’t be bothered to save a used up person.  We collect useless items in hopes that someday we’ll find a purpose for them, moving them from one place to another rather than dispose of them, but let a friend offend us one time and we shove them away, never to interact with them again.  We keep things, but we throw away people.

There is a piano which sits in my living room.  In appearance, the old piano is beautiful, but the sound it makes is dreadful.  I noticed as the Lovely Lady played yesterday that the notes almost sounded jangly as she worked through different chord combinations.  When played one at a time, the notes sounded just fine.  As she added thirds and fifths and octaves, however, the resulting sound almost caused me physical pain.  I couldn’t stand to be in the same room while she played.  I think we might have to throw the piano away and get a new one.  What do you think?

Idiocy, you say?  What’s that?  I should call the the piano tuner?  Yes, that might do it.  I’ll call him this week.  We can keep the piano.

The lesson of the piano is clear.  Many times, the easy thing would be for us to quit trying to make music together.  If there is a cacophony when we interact with other voices, why bother trying to make harmony?  The answer is that we are not made to be solo instruments, but we are made to function in concord with one another; we must produce harmony, each note blending with the others as it plays its part.  It takes work to keep the instrument in tune, but it make a lot more sense than throwing out the whole affair.

I’m pretty sure that we will, each one of us, always have our own silly things which are valuable to us, and that’s okay.  We need to be sure though, that we don’t allow those things to become more important than the people God brings across our pathway. 

He doesn’t make any throw-away people.  Not one.

“We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.”
 (Romans 15:2~God’s Word)

“I keep a treasure or two near my skin, precious as rings to me.”
(The hobbit, Pippin in “Lord of the Rings”~J.R.R.Tolkien)

“We ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household belongings, which, when worn with use, we throw away.”
(Plutarch~Ancient Greek Author~46-119)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.