Twice.  In two days.

Twice in two days, I did good things.  Because they were in front of me to do.  And, like a student who has memorized his lessons well, I knew what must be done.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  

“Twenty dollars.  It needs more, but I’ll fix just the one thing to make it play.”

He had no more money to invest and I could help by giving the instrument a lick and a promise, as the red-headed lady who raised me used to say.  Only, as I did the repair, it became evident that the minimum that could actually be done was a sixty dollar job.  It would never play otherwise.

I had promised to make it play.  I would do that.  And, I would cover the difference.  

I was proud of myself.  I had memorized the lesson and followed its instructions to the letter.

He came to pick up the instrument.  I mentioned that I had to do more.  I might have even told him I did three times as much.  I waited for his gratitude to bubble over.  Surely he would at least shake my hand and thank me.

“I don’t know why I’m spending this money anyway.  She’ll probably not play it at all.”

With that, he was gone.

Robbed!  I’ve been robbed!  

No, not of money.  I’ve been robbed of the gratitude that should have been mine.  Where is my praise for being such a good person?  That’s it?  A word of complaint and he walks out?

I want what is rightfully mine!

Truly I say to you—they have their reward in full.

The next morning, a vehicle pulled up to the store.  The folks took care of their business and left.  No.  Scratch that.  They tried to leave.  The vehicle wouldn’t start.  It was out of gas.

Hey!  Another chance!  I bolted to the storage barn and pulled out my gas can.  It was nearly empty, but there should be enough to get them a block down the road for gas.  I told them to use it all.  No—I don’t need any money.  I’m just glad I can help.  

Unfortunately, after they poured all that was in the can in their tank, the car still wouldn’t start, so they sent someone up the road with the now-empty can to fill it up and bring it back.  I needed to take care of other customers, so I told them they could just leave the can in the storage barn when they were through.

What do you suppose they did?  Well—not what I expected.  They left the can in the storage barn and drove out of the parking lot!  Seriously!

I’ve been robbed again!  They just drove away without another word!  

And worse, they left the gas can completely empty in my barn.  Everyone knows you leave gas to pay back for what you used.  Everyone!

I want what’s rightfully mine!  

…and your Father, who sees what you do in secret will be the One who rewards you.

Clearly, someone in this narrative doesn’t understand the expectations of the love your neighbor as yourself directive.


May I take just a moment and assure you that I registered my complaint?  Vociferously.  Both with family members and with God.  They listened sympathetically. 

He didn’t.

You see—the someone in this narrative who doesn’t understand is me.  

Only me.

Sometimes, when we do the right thing, the good thing, all we hear in response is crickets.  Sure, sometimes the person we help gushes with gratitude.  It’s nice when it happens, but if that’s what we’re going for, we’ve missed the point of the original instructions.

makingthesaleIf what I anticipate when I determine to share with folks who are in need is the reward of their gratitude, or the loud proclamation of praise, all I have done is to initiate a transaction.  

I believe the Latin term is quid pro quo

Something for something.

I give you something.  You give me something in return.  The end.  

It’s the way our economic system operates.  It’s not a bad system, as human systems go.

It’s just not God’s system.

He says give without expectation of repayment.  Give so that no one knows you’re doing it.

And then He says, I’ll be the one who settles accounts—when the time is right

Like Job in the Old Testament, I sit here with my mouth open, grasping for words, but all that comes out is, I had heard about You, but now I see clearly for myself and I am ashamed.  

I said at the start it was twice.  Twice, I did good things.  It may have been more than that.  

I am determined it will be more than that.

I just won’t be telling you about it.



To give and then not feel that one has given is the very best of all ways of giving.
(Max Beerbohm ~ English essayist ~ 1872-1956)


Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
(Matthew 6:4 ~ NLT)






© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 


The Marketplace

There are times when you just know.  Beyond a shadow of doubt, you know:  This is why you are here.

This moment.  This person.

The Lovely Lady had first crack at her today.  The lady, like many others we see this time of year, is struggling with acquiring a musical instrument for her aspiring band member.  No money.  No knowledge of what constitutes a good instrument, nor how to tell if it is in good condition.  No one she can trust to be honest with her.

She does have a clarinet in her hands as she enters the music store.  She also has a discouraged look on her face.  I never heard the full story of how she came by the clarinet, but I do know she wants us to make it play correctly for her sixth grader.  She is not optimistic.

“I’m sure it needs a repad.  Can you do that for me?”

The Lovely Lady opens the case and looks over the horn, expecting the worst.  Since I am busy with another customer, I leave her to handle things by herself.  It is obvious she is a little confused, and I expect a call for help momentarily.  What I hear is her suggesting the lady is mistaken.

“Well, a repad is quite expensive, but I’m not sure that’s what you need.  Let’s wait for the expert.”  (She always says that, but it’s not really a good description of my abilities.)

As soon as I can break free, I head for the counter where the diminutive lady is waiting, still with an unhappy visage.  I’m prepared to point out the problem areas and make an estimate for the nervous mom.  Taking the individual pieces of the horn in my hand one after another, I look for something to point to.  Nothing.

That can’t be right.  This lady came in expecting big problems.  Surely I can find something.  

I look again.  Testing the sealing ability of the pads, I find no sign of any leaks anywhere on the instrument.  The corks are fine.  A little dingy, but completely intact.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the clarinet.  

I have a dilemma.

The lady came in expecting to leave the instrument with us for repair.  She assumes there will be a sizable charge due when the repair is finished.

I’m in business to make a profit.  How hard can this be?

“Oh yes, Ma’am.  We really do need to replace quite a few pads here.  And, the corks—they’ll need to be changed also.  It won’t cost as much as a repad, but still, it will take a good bit to get this horn into shape for your daughter.”

So easy.  She would never know.  It’s what she expects anyway.  

The decision is made without hesitation.  It is who I am—who we are.  Now.

“No Ma’am.  The horn is in excellent condition.  What?  Oh no.  No charge.”

You would hardly have recognized the woman who walked out that door as the same lady who had come in moments earlier.  A smile shone across her face, the like of which hadn’t likely been seen there recently.

I felt good.  I felt bad.

It was almost the same feeling I had a day or two ago, when a girl and her mom had come in to purchase a small item.  The lady spoke no English.  None at all.  Her daughter translated every word for her as the transaction was made.

The two were still in the store when a regular customer of mine walked nearby shaking his head.  His eyes shot daggers at the two, as he spoke the words to me.

“I hate that!  Why don’t they learn our language?”

Do you know how easy it would have been for me to simply nod my head?  Just a nod.  No words would have been necessary.  

But, this also is why I am here.

I explained to him my admiration for folks who leave their land in search of a better life for their families.  Struggling to be at home in a strange place, they walk out of their door into a battleground every day.  I will not participate in the hatred of another human being.  

I say the words kindly to him, but he rolls his eyes in disgust as he walks out.

I may have lost a customer.  I hope not,  but I would do it again.

I felt bad.  I felt good.

This is why I’m here.  It’s why you’re where you are.  

To do the right thing.  Even when we’d rather do the easy thing.

To show a life that is different because of what God has done in us.  

It is how He works in this world—how He has always worked.

I don’t necessarily want this to be why I’m here.  Sometimes, I wonder why God won’t leave me alone to make a comfortable living like any other red-blooded American.  If that means taking advantage of folks who have their wallets in their hands, so be it.  If I have to walk on a few people to gain the approval of others, why not?

And then I remember a God who told His Chosen People that their scales were to be honest, their weights to be accurate, their measurements to be correct.

Thousands of years ago, He made it clear.  

The world has one standard: Every man for himself.  All is fair in love and war.

God has another standard, a standard which has never changed:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Period.

The standard applies in our family life; it applies to our friendships; it applies in our churches.  And, no less than any other place, it applies in the marketplace.

opensignPerhaps, more.

The marketplace is where who we really are is on display for all to see.  It’s where our integrity comes out of the dark of night, and into the light of day.

It’s where our talk of following a Savior is proven, or else belied, by our walk.

Can I let you in on a secret?  I have kept my mouth shut too many times.  I have found myself letting folks spend more than they should on things they didn’t need.  

I don’t write about the two interactions above to draw attention to my stellar accomplishments, but rather to draw attention to who we need to be—who we must be in our marketplace.

We all fail in our determination to walk in integrity—I, as often as anyone I know.  

But.  Grace.

Grace is a wonderful thing; its beauty is in its resilience.  Failures become victories.  Timidity becomes boldness.

Selfishness becomes love.

The Teacher spent a good bit of His time in the marketplace.  

Doing good. Showing love.

Our turn.



I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as on the steeple of the Church.
I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles; but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at the crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek… And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about. And that is where Christ’s men ought to be and what church people ought to be about.
(George Macleod ~ Scottish minister/theologian ~ 1895-1991)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

Count it All What?

The morose lad leaned against the doorway to the kitchen.  Arms folded across his chest defiantly, he delivered his message to anyone who would listen.

“Apparently, we can’t stay for dessert.”

With that, he turned and stalked out of the room.  

We tried not to.  We didn’t want to embarrass the boy.  Still, it was pretty funny.  No.  More like hilarious.  To us anyway.  The laughter started quietly and swelled from there.  I’m sure he heard us.  It didn’t make him any happier.

Dessert is an important event at Grandma’s house.  It would be a sore trial for him to miss it.

Learning to live with disappointment is a hard lesson for a nine-year-old.

Count it all joy, my brothers…

A friend of mine complained publicly the other day.  She was playing a game of Scrabble and the word she wanted to play was disallowed.  As it happens, sull is not a real word.  Even though her mother had used it all her life.

“Don’t get all sulled up, just because you can’t go out and play!”  

It’s a colloquialism meaning to be sullen, or to pout.  Still—it’s not in the dictionary as a word one can play in a game of Scrabble.

I wonder if I could say my friend was all sulled up?  She did have those letters in her hand and she certainly wanted to be able to play that word.

Learning to live with disappointment is a hard lesson for a twenty-nine-year-old.  Or a forty-nine-year-old.  Or whatever.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials…

I can’t begin to enumerate the times I have been disappointed in life.  Few of us could.  Again and again, we set our sights on a goal, only to find that we will not be able to attain it.

The goals may be insignificant; they may be vital. From daily to-do lists to potentially life-altering events, we meet with unexpected barriers—obstacles which seem impossible to overcome.

In fact, they may be impossible to overcome.  We may have to modify our expectations.  We may have to find a Plan B.  

Or we could just get all sulled up and pout.

“Can I go to Chinbaby-215867_1280a on your lip?”

The red-headed lady who raised me had a way with words.  This particular phrase was intended to make the pouter pull in their lower lip and smile, a goal it sometimes achieved.  Just not usually with me.

I liked to pout.  I could sit and mope for hours when disappointed.

It’s not something to brag about.

I want to believe I have grown more mature as the years have passed, but the Lovely Lady, that other red-headed lady in my life, could obliterate that fantasy for us.  She has seen me in mid-pout.  Oh, the lip doesn’t come out any longer.  The tears aren’t nearly as close to the surface.

That doesn’t mean I don’t wallow in the disappointment.  I do.

But I am, little by little, coming to the understanding that the trials I face—and overcome—make me a better person.  It’s true for all of us.

…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Standing, or lying, in the same place, agonizing over the pain and emptiness we feel when we don’t achieve some lofty—or not so lofty—goal, gets us nowhere.  We’re still standing in the same place.

It’s time to move on.  Past the unhappiness.  Past the frustration.  Past the regrets.

The goal hasn’t changed.  We’re still on the journey.

Are we going to sit here all sulled up?  Or are we moving on ahead in joy, steadfast and persevering?

I’m tucking my lip away and heading on.

You coming with?





Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
(Ephesians 6:10 ~ ESV)


It is when we are at our darkest hour, when we can see no evidence that God loves us, or that He is even there to listen to our prayers, much less answer them—and yet, we still obey.
It is then that the devil is reminded that his cause is lost.
(Tom King ~ American writer/teacher)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

Strangers—In a Foreign Land

“My daughter no is playing the trumpet now.  You buy it, yes?”

The lady, probably in her thirties, peered at me almost imploringly.  I wasn’t going to disappoint her.  During this most hectic of times in our music business, used band instruments are at a premium and we take advantage of every opportunity to purchase those which are in good condition.

The woman’s command of the English language was fragile at best.  I would have to be careful in these negotiations to be sure that I communicated clearly what I was willing to pay for the horn.  But first, I needed some background.

“Your daughter quit band?”

“Yes.  He don’t wants to play music anymore.”  (Throughout our conversation, she referred to her daughter as he repeatedly—not yet grasping the usage of English pronouns completely.)

The disappointment in her voice was unequivocal.  The longer we talked, the more clearly she showed her unhappiness.  

“He don’t wants to make music.  He not have interest in band anymore.”

It is a story we hear again and again.  The attrition rate of students who begin band is very high.  Many don’t want to practice; some struggle with the concept of reading music or manipulating the instrument.  Sports may interfere with their rehearsal schedule.  Any number of reasons could explain why so many students drop out of band.

None of those arguments made any difference to this mother.  She wanted her daughter to be a musician.

It wasn’t going to happen.  She was unhappy.  

No. She was distraught.

I made her a fair offer on the instrument, one she wasn’t likely to turn down.  She didn’t turn it down, but as I took care of the necessary details, a light began to dawn.

She stood, right in the spot I had thought she was begging me to buy the trumpet, and she cried.  I paid her the money and she left, still sniffing.

I’m a little slow on the uptake.  I thought perhaps she was unhappy about the amount she had received for the horn.  I couldn’t understand that.  I gave her more than any other music store would have.  

Then it began to sink in.

She didn’t really want me to buy the trumpet.  

It was the end of her dream for her daughter.  The girl would not be a musician.

Oh, this mom understood it was not selling the horn that was the problem.  She knew the decision was already made.  It was just that the act of taking the payment for the horn meant it was final.

The last nail in the coffin.  

Still sniffing back the tears, she left.  She left me standing there to think about reality and unrealized dreams.  And strangers in a foreign land.

I hope there is no one who thinks I am making fun of this dear lady who speaks with a strange accent and jumbles her words.  I am not.  At all.  

I have nothing but respect for folks who leave the homeland of their parents and attempt to make a better life for themselves and their families in a place completely foreign to them.

But, when I think about foreign places, I can’t help but wonder about why it sometimes feels as if I’m already there.  

You too?

Oh, not in the same way as an immigrant family would.  The physical displacement and learning curve are not what I am thinking of now, but in some ways, it is a lot like it.

I don’t speak the same language as many around me.  I don’t spend time in the activities they do.  When I do, I’m uncomfortable, as if that were something my people wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) do.  

You know—where I’m from.  

My people.

I try to fit in—really, I do.  Funny.  I have always tried.  A square peg in a round hole.  Sometimes the square peg can be forced into the round hole.  I’ve seen it done by numerous children with their play sets.  But, then the square peg is stuck.  It’s not a good place to be.

And, the language!

I’ve seen the looks.  Conversations with folks are going great when I suggest that prayer might help.  Or, I talk about God’s provision.  Or worse, I mention the word sin.  Maybe even heaven or hell.

You would think I have just called my daughter a he.  Or used the wrong conjugation for the verb in the sentence.  No one says a thing, but looks are shot back and forth between others in the conversation.  Eyebrows are lifted and heads shaken.

Do I speak with a foreign accent?  Maybe you do too.

As believers, we have a different heritage, a different lineage, and those will be evident to the natives around us.  It’s a good thing, as uncomfortable as it sounds.  The day will come when we’ll be in our native land.  

The square pegs will come to rest in the square holes, as we were always intended to do.

But now, in this foreign land, we also, as my friend today, live with disappointments and shattered dreams.  Family members make poor choices, electing to follow bad advice and go their own way.  Plans don’t work out the way we want them to.

The Teacher spoke to His followers as He warned them of disappointments to come in this foreign land, reassuring them that they could take heart, because even the foreign land was under His control.

If it was true then, could it be any different in this place in which we find ourselves?  

Maybe it’s time to face reality and let go of those mementos of our broken hopes and expectations.  Will there be tears—and fears?  Sure.  A few.  Maybe a lot.

But, we can’t hoard all those reminders of the past.  We must move on through this place—headed for the place we were meant to be.  The place where there will be no more disappointments.

You and I speak the same language, don’t we?  Maybe we could travel that way together.

It might be just over the next hill.  

Time will tell.



Do you know what a foreign accent is?  It’s a sign of bravery.
(Amy Chua ~ American lawyer/writer)


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.
(John 16:33 ~ NIV)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved. 


If Tomorrow Never Comes

Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.

“I’ll just take this with me, okay?  There might be a poem in it I can use.” 

I looked over at the Lovely Lady as I headed toward the door earlier tonight, waving the thin volume in the air as I spoke.  The little book of popular poetry from the nineteenth century had come from her parent’s home (and possibly her grandparent’s before that), so I felt I needed her approval.

Smiling at me, she told me to take it.  She never expected anything less when she brought it home a while back. 

The little book of verse is lying open on my desk even now, along with three or four others.  I really didn’t think I would find anything spectacular in it. 

Poetry is just poetry.  Sometimes.

Men and women in the past did just as many of us do today, sitting and meditating on our days and nights—remembering that we haven’t accomplished what we intended—recalling some important lesson we don’t want to lose in the gray haze of our busy lives.  Dashing down words onto a page, we save the thoughts for another night, or another morning.  Line by line, the thoughts and words take shape, achieving a semblance of wisdom or wit—or not.

As I glanced through the little book tonight, my eyes fell on the concluding line of a poem by the man who penned the words to that great old hymn, This is My Father’s World.  The line is copied above, but I’ll repeat it here to save you the trouble of looking for it.

Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.

I froze in the act of flipping to the next page.  Then I reached for my phone.  Only a week ago, I saved a thought in my notes there, a thought that had arrested me one afternoon.  One afternoon—on one of those days.

You know the kind of day I mean.  The cares and troubles of the world already pressing down on you are joined by a mountain of tasks to be completed.  To add to it all, nothing is going as it should.  Nothing.  One failure after another—one disgruntled patron after another, lead to the terrifying feeling of drowning.

The words I wrote that afternoon are still there, where I saved them in black and white, and the fear returns.

There are days when I panic and wonder, how do I get to tomorrow from here? Click To Tweet

underwaterThere are days when I panic and wonder, how do I get to tomorrow from here?

The fear of drowning is real—the fear is—even if the danger is not. 

My mind wanders and I see an eight-year-old lad with short blond hair and brown skin crouched beside a swimming pool.  Wound up like a spring, he is watching the camp’s activity director closely.  The man holds a silver steel ring in his hand and then with a quick motion, releases it into the air to fall in the deep end of the pool.  Within a second, the boy is diving into the water, eight feet deep and well over his head. 

The idea is to retrieve the ring from the bottom of the pool more quickly than the other boys have achieved the task.  He is sure he can do better.  There is no fear at all in his mind—yet.

Dropping quickly, he heads for the spot he last sighted the target.  As he nears the bottom, his ears begin to pop; the water pressure at that depth is much higher than in the air above or even in the shallows of the other end.  No matter, he is still confident, but for some reason cannot see the ring.

His eyes have started burning in the chlorine-treated water and his ears are actually hurting a little now.  The boy finds himself a little disoriented, but looking above through squinted eyelids, determines where he is in relationship to the sides and the water’s surface, and continues feeling along the bottom of the concrete pool.  Then he feels it.

No.  Not the ring; He feels the fear

He is running out of oxygen in his lungs.  He had taken a huge breath prior to jumping in, but his discomfort has used up precious time and burned more air than he expected.  It is all he can do to persevere and grab the ring as his hand contacts it. 

No, it wasn’t the ring after all, but only the grill around the pool’s drain. 

Now panic really is gripping him, his heart pounding uncontrollably in his chest, but he won’t give up. 

There!  There it is!  He has it in his hand and heads to the surface.  But, in his panic, he forgets to push off on the bottom and is left to flail and kick his way up, eight long feet to the life-giving oxygen.

In his mind, he is drowning.  He can’t get there; the pressure in his lungs is too great.  He will have to exhale and breathe in before he reaches the surface.  It hurts too much!  He knows he will die, simply knows it!

Just as he exhales, the pressure exploding from his mouth and nose, his blond head emerges from the water.  Gasping the precious, life-giving oxygen into his lungs, he stabs his hand above his head in triumph—just as if he hadn’t given up all hope just seconds before—and shows the ring to the waiting group.

Two things I remember, fifty years along the road of life.  Two things.

The waiting group of swimmers wasn’t all that impressed.  No one congratulated me on persevering though the panic.  In fact, not one of my fellow campers ever admitted to feeling that same fear.  Not one.

Neither did I.  Never.  Until now.

The second thing?  I had to do it all again the very next day.  And the next day, and the next.

Life keeps coming at us.  Daily.  And, we either face it and go through, or we fail in our aspirations.  We persevere and push on, or we are overcome and give up.

I don’t want anyone to believe they are the only one who feels that fear.  The thing I’m sure of is there is someone close to me and to you right now who is feeling it.  Maybe you should ask the person next to you if they’ve ever felt the panic.  If they’re honest, they will remember a time.  They might even be going through it right this minute.

How about it?  Are your eyes burning?  Are your lungs bursting?  Is your heart beating so fast you think it may never recover?

Me too.

Hang in there. Today, we fight. Ah, but tomorrow? Tomorrow, we sing. Click To Tweet

Hang in there.  Today we fight.

Ah, but tomorrow?

Tomorrow, we sing.





Be strong!
It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long;
Faint not—fight on!  Tomorrow comes the song.
(From Be Strong by Maltbie Babcock ~ American hymn writer ~ 1858-1901)


When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust.  I will not be afraid.
(Psalm 56:3,4 ~ NIV)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

A Scratch Behind the Ears

“Good patient, Paul.”

The man in the mask had taken his hands out of my opened mouth for a moment, not because he was finished (as I hoped), but only to change the bit on the drill he held.  It was, at least, a welcome change from the horrid grinding that had ensued each previous time he returned the drill to the wide-open aperture in my face.

Since the nice young lady manipulating the peripheral equipment necessary for the proceedings still had her  hand in the opening through which I normally communicate, the only response I had to the dentist’s statement was a surprised, “Mumph?”

I suppose I might have been trying to find my happy place (no mean feat in that chamber of horrors) as the procedure wore on, but I must have missed a part of his statement.  I was confused.

YoungGouldFor all the world, it seemed to me the good doctor had just given me the equivalent of a good dog, Rover!   I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if his next communication had been shake!  To my relief, it wasn’t.

“I said, ‘You’re a good patient, Paul.’  Not everyone is as calm and responsive to instructions as you.”

The vision of Rover sitting up and shaking hands with the masked man faded, and the drill began its inexorable grinding inside of my mouth once more.  I had something new to think about, anyway.

I’m a good patient!  Better than average.  Take that, you teenyboppers with your fake white smiles!  How do you like them apples, Mr. Mid-life Crisis with your new teeth veneers?

Somehow, reality has a way of catching up eventually.  My thoughts began to turn to the shallowness being exhibited by the aging man in the dentist’s chair at that exact moment.  What kind of man, mature in age—if nothing else, takes a simple statement such as the dentist had just made and turns it into a reason for celebration?

Just how hungry for compliments would one have to be for those words to elicit a celebration of that magnitude?

I was ashamed.

Still, it didn’t keep me from bragging to the Lovely Lady when I saw her a few hours later.

“He told me I was a good patient!”

Her response was less than enthusiastic.  “That’s nice.”

I remembered once again that it’s not a stellar accomplishment.  Truth be told, I was ashamed anew for telling her about it, anyway. Sheesh!  Still celebrating, in spite of my self-castigation while finishing my tenure in the dentist’s chair.

Perhaps, it’s time to let the curtain fall on that unfortunate performance. Often, the longer the production runs, the worse it gets.

But no.  I don’t think I’ll do that.  Sometimes, we learn.

Sometimes, we do better.  You be the judge.

Later that same afternoon, after the Lidocaine had worn off and I could feel my cheek again, an old customer came to see me.  I was busy with another patron, but as soon as I could get free, I headed over to see my old friend and his wife.

As I shook his hand, he told me that I would need to excuse him, because he couldn’t talk normally right then.  That’s right.  He had just come from the dentist.

The wheels started turning.  I bet you think I bragged about being a better patient than he was.  I didn’t.

The wheels in my head drove me to a conclusion that I don’t often reach, though.  Believing that his having had an encounter with a dentist on the same day was no coincidence, I determined that (as my dentist had) I should compliment him on something.

I didn’t really know why.

Funny.  I didn’t really even want to.  I did it anyway.

Maybe I should explain something.  I usually have a hard time giving compliments to folks I see as being in competition with me.  I have to make myself compliment other writers.  I don’t often say nice things about other French horn players.  I think it may have something to do with the idea that in building them up, I will diminish myself.

Foolishness?  Perhaps.  It seems to be a common ailment, though.  Within the society we live and move, it is more common to tear down those who are in the same field than it is to build them up.

On this day though—the Day of the Dentist—I was able to break that cycle.  The man in front of me has recently begun to build and sell guitars.  I had heard good things about them.

I told him so.

It meant a great deal to my friend.  He was humble about it.  His wife wasn’t, whipping out her cell phone to show me pictures.  We talked for fifteen minutes about his instruments and building techniques.

The last thing I remember about his visit was that lop-sided grin as he turned to say goodbye one last time, going out the door.  You know—the Lidocaine still hadn’t worn off for him.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I offer a couple of observations on human behavior.  Maybe more than a couple.

When you compliment others, you diminish no one.  A relationship is not a zero sum game, in which one party gains and the other loses.  A compliment is not an expenditure; it is an investment.  Everyone stands to gain from it.  Even bystanders.  My friend’s better half was affected positively as she heard her husband’s accomplishments touted.

When the shoe is on the other foot, and you are the one being complimented, don’t let it go to your head.  A pat on the back is just that—a pat.  It’s not a back rub, or an all-day spa treatment.  Acknowledge it, file it away to remember, and move on.  Being a good patient at the dentist isn’t a life accomplishment, nor does it merit a mention in the local newspaper.

Lastly—Compliment others because you love them.  The Apostle who loved to write letters (he must have—he wrote so many!) suggested that we must treat folks as more important than we ourselves are.  The result is that the whole body is made stronger—including ourselves.

Just so you know—I’m really not that good a patient at the dentist’s.

Still, it was nice of him to say so.  I promise, I’ll not include it in a resumé, should I ever have the need to apply for a new position.

I am, however, quite accomplished at shaking hands.

Maybe that will earn me at least a scratch behind the ears.




My child, I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat.
(Mark Twain ~ American humorist/author ~ 1835-1910)


Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 ~ Holman Christian Standard Bible)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Noonday Bright

The birthplace of Christianity was the tomb.  The birthplace of splendor is desolation.  Spring is conceived in the dark womb of Winter.  And light is inevitably the offspring of darkness.  All this present heaviness of night is surely but the prelude to a better dawn.  The voice of God and the voice of Nature proclaim that the best is yet to be—always, the best is yet to be.
(Robert Cromie)

There is an unseen current of distress which I sense in much of my interaction with folks these days.  From my friends who use their understanding of the Bible to prop up their dim view of the future of civilization, to those who see the changing political landscape in our country—indeed, in the world—as proof of our impending calamity, there is an air of certainty and of finality.

I myself, and no time more than when I sit down to write, have of late been overcome by the melancholy sense of things which have passed beyond recall.  Friends are missing from my life—friends who were here just moments ago.  Family members have disappeared—people I loved and who loved me—never to be encountered again while I breathe this air.

All is dark.  The end will soon be upon us all.

But, is it?  Will it?

I cannot begin to count the number of times in my lifetime I have heard folks predict the ending of this world.  From the same Bible I read and believe, they have found proof of days and seasons, and some, even times.  But, again and again, the day, the season, and yes, even the time has passed and life continues here on this spinning ball.

I do not wish to discount the prophecies cited, but I am skeptical of the ability of any living man to  successfully render an accurate reading of passing events with hopes of naming the day or even the season in which the end will come.

It seems to me that it is not our purpose in this life to look to the ending of time, but to work while we still have it on our side.

springsongBut, I have a different purpose here, a purpose not tied up in prophecy or politics.  The writer of Hebrews suggests we have a responsibility to encourage each other.  He says it is even more imperative as we see the end approaching.  Even more.

Encourage, verb:  Give support, confidence, or hope, to (someone).

I’m ready to be done with the doom and gloom, to move out from under the cloud of defeat and into the light of victory.  That said, it seems we start from a position of disadvantage.  It is dark and cold here in the real world.

In this dark world, where is the light of day to be found?

If you noticed the painting above, you may have had the passing thought: how sweet—a little girl looking at a songbird.

You would be partially right.  There is a little girl.  There is even a songbird.  You would also be partially wrong.

She is not looking at the bird.  The artist’s daughter, the subject of this touching tableau, is completely blind.

The world in which the little girl grew up and lived was permanently dark.  It didn’t stop her from hearing the song of the robin and knowing winter could not last forever.  The barren ground would explode with grasses and flowers; the trees would burst forth into bloom, filling the air with the aroma of their buds.  In the heart of that little girl, who would never see Spring, the glory of that blessed season was already bursting forth.

Spring is conceived in the dark womb of Winter.

I refuse to live in the dark of  night, when all about me is the orange of the sunrise.  I cannot remain in the black grip of sadness, when the joy promised in the morning is already at hand.

Do you hear the robin’s song too?  Are you ready to head out in the early blush of dawn on a road that leads to a noonday bright?

It is not so dark here.  Maybe we could travel together a while.

The voice of God and the voice of Nature proclaim that the best is yet to be—always, the best is yet to be.




For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright.
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.
(from We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations ~ H Ernest Nichol ~1862-1928)


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(John 14:27 ~ NIV)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.