A Little Off

It’s a job I do almost every day.  You’d think I know what I’m doing.  Most folks would.

Alongside the Lovely Lady, I’ve spent most of my life in this little music store. Folks bring in instruments almost daily for me to repair.  The most common request I get is to replace the strings on guitars.  

Six strings.  Take the old grungy ones off—replace them with shiny new ones.  It’s an easy job—one I could do in my sleep.  Or, so I have thought.

Today, as I finished up one such job, I learned that familiarity is not the same as expertise.  One implies comfort, the other, attentiveness.

The old, rust-covered wires had all been removed, the fingerboard cleaned and oiled, and the bright, bronze-colored strings put into place.  All that remained was to tune the guitar, a part of the job I pride myself on.

I’m good at this part!  Bringing the slack strings up to tension, I can almost always tune them to pitch, without a tuning aid of any sort, within a quarter-step of standard.  Then, with the tuning fork, completion of the job is a cinch, my sensitive ear enabling me to complete the job easily.

Do you note just the tiniest hint of pride in that last paragraph?  Perhaps there is more than a hint. Funny.  I hear the words clearly—in retrospect, that is—which a wise man spoke many centuries ago.  Pride goes before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)

I had completed the initial rough tuning and, with an electronic device attached to the headstock of the guitar, attempted to complete the job.  Note I said attempted.  

The results were somewhat less than stellar.

The first string settled into tune easily.  Likewise, the second.  When I got to the third string though—that’s when the problem began.  Perhaps it was before; I don’t really know.

I must have been distracted.  Or maybe, tired.  It doesn’t matter.  

I plucked the third string to listen to the pitch as I increased the tension.  Twisting on the knob, I waited to hear a change in the sound.  All that happened is it got really hard to turn the knob. 

I kept twisting, wondering as I did if the gear inside was damaged.  Suddenly, there was a loud BANG! and the knob became quite easy to turn.  The other thing that happened was the immediate stinging sensation on the back of my hand as the tip of the broken string hit it.

Drops of blood rose to the surface immediately and I put the back of my hand up to my mouth to draw away the blood and soothe the sting.

There was nothing to soothe the sting to my pride, though.  It was an amateur’s mistake.  The fingers on one hand had plucked the third string repeatedly, awaiting change, while the fingers on the other hand twisted the knob for the second string.

There is only a space of about one third of an inch between the strings.  One third of an inch.

Such a small distance.  Such a disastrous result.

Perhaps this is the place I should end this little morality tale.  I should talk about our sinful nature and how close we come to doing what is right.  I could even suggest that the slightest deviation from the right path will lead to destruction.  If we keep all the law, but err in one point, we are doomed.  (James 2:10)

guitar-806255_1280I don’t want to end the story there—mostly because that’s not where it ends.  I didn’t leave the broken string on the guitar.  I didn’t carry the offensive thing into my back room to await an ignominious fate in the distant future.  

When the customer arrived to retrieve his fine instrument moments later, he picked up a perfectly beautiful (and in-tune) guitar.  He ran his fingers across the strings and mused at the astounding depth of tone and beauty.

Every time, Paul—every time—I am amazed at the difference when the strings are changed!

With that, he was gone.  The stunning instrument will be played on a stage this weekend.  The audience will marvel.

Did you really think the story would end because one idiot got a third of an inch off?  I suppose some could write that story.  Not I.

I’m a believer in grace.  Second chances.  Broken strings which are replaced with new ones—and then replaced again—and again.

And again.

So, I’m a little off.  

That is true for any human who can read these words.  

Pain ensues.  Blood flows.

Grace happens.

The music is still not finished.

The Master Musician is making a masterpiece, a work of art.





For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 ~ NIV





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Normal for me isn’t normal for everyone.  

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did.

An old friend had dropped by the music store.  Just to buy some strings and shoot the breeze.  His words—not mine.. 

I wonder at how cavalierly we describe God’s appointments. We come and go by choice—so we think—and, in our arrogance we discount the value of interactions with our fellow-travelers.

Some of them are life-changing.  All are opportunities for learning, scheduled in His timetable.  

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

I told my friend of the salt shaker.  It was simply a recounting of an ordinary Sunday dinner, with a mention of the addition of that seventy-year-old relic to our table.  I never intended it to be more than a memory from my childhood of sitting at a table, much like the one at which I sit every Sunday after spending the morning with some of the finest people I know.

It is the reality I have known for all of my life.  Oh, the cast has changed, the faces around the table much younger now in comparison to mine, but nothing much has changed otherwise.  

It’s just Sunday dinner with family and friends—God’s chosen recreation for a Lord’s Day afternoon.  How could it be otherwise?

I sit in the dim light as I write this and I cringe, my face fallen.  The arrogance!  The presumption!  

God’s chosen recreation?  Really?

My old friend listened to my retelling of the joyful occasion with a smile spread across his countenance.  Finally, he spoke.  

We never did that.  I don’t ever remember sitting around the table with my family when I was a kid.  It still almost never happens.

The story unfolded.  As my friend spoke, I could see the emotions in his eyes, but the smile never left his face.  He has learned to be thankful.  I’m not sure I could.

It was a story of a childhood spent knowing neither parent cared enough to be there for him and his siblings.  The telling of the story involved a father who abandoned them outright and a mother who dealt them out to friends and relatives, like so many belongings she didn’t need anymore.

He was raised by his mother’s boss.  Not even a family member.  Seeing his siblings only sporadically in his childhood, there were never any opportunities for family dinners.  He was thankful for the occasional contact with them at all.

I said there was a smile on his face as he spoke.  I’m sure there was none on mine.  How could there be?

Such a sad childhood. Surely no good could come of that.  The story would continue in addiction and broken relationships.  Perhaps, even a stay in prison would round out the sad history.

Not so.  Today, normal for my friend is a healthy relationship with the woman he has been married to for many years.  Time spent with children and grandchildren are his routine now.  He makes music with others in his church fellowship every week and then teaches a Bible study.

All without Sunday dinners.  Among other things.

I am confused.  No, not really confused.

I am sad for the loving family my friend missed out on as a child.  Every child should have the shelter of his or her father’s strong arms to protect and the warm embrace of a mother to comfort and console. It doesn’t always happen.

Did I say I was sad?  I admit it; I grieve for all who have hard times, whether children or adult.  

people-527647_640That said, I am filled with joy that, in spite of the difficult road he has negotiated to get here, my friend is now a fellow traveler with me and many others.  I marvel at the thought.

We are not all drawn from the same material.  Somehow though, we have been woven into the same cloth.  

The fabric of our lives is stronger for the weaving together.

 I love the discipline of tradition, comfort like that of a well-worn pair of shoes, and the reassurance of routine.  That doesn’t mean it is what every person needs—or receives—in this life.

The realization that my friend has had none of those and is able to live a life of integrity—and joy—is humbling and eye-opening at the same time.  

My life is richer for having him (and many like him) in it.

Perhaps it’s time to recognize God’s recreation is not exactly as we would prescribe it.

God’s chosen recreation is that we spend time communicating and sharing His love with people.  Family.  Strangers.  Enemies.  Old friends.

Does it happen at the Sunday dinner table?  Sure, it does.  It also happens around campfires in the woods and leaning against the car at the local Sonic restaurant.

God’s chosen recreation isn’t what we say it is, but what He says it is. (Isaiah 55:9)  

His classroom isn’t in the education wing of your church, but in music stores, and parks, and bars.  Yes, I said bars.

His appointments.  Scheduled when He determines.

I’m still learning to recognize them.  

As He chooses, He is making one Body out of many parts.  In many ways, we are as dissimilar as it is possible to be.  (1 Corinthians 12:12)

But the companionship we share as we are being made into who He needs us to be is pure joy. (Romans 12:10)

Heaven won’t be much better.  Okay, a little better.

Still.  A taste.

His recreation.




It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
(Winnie-the-Pooh ~ A.A. Milne ~ English author ~ 1882-1956)



There’s not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met.
(Jim Henson ~ American puppeteer/screenwriter ~ 1936-1990)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The Magical Sky Fairy

Thinking that some magical sky fairy will take care of your problems is a problem in itself.  

The words appeared in my Twitter feed today in response to a recent article I posted there.  I have seen them before, or at least similar words.

The young lady who wrote them doesn’t believe in God.  She is not alone in her unbelief.

I want to strike back.  Ugly words come in response to her mocking ones.  I can’t help it.  They rise without permission—a natural reaction from a human standpoint.

Immediately, I realize I will never say them. It is not who I am—or, more to the point—not the person He is making me.  But, I want to examine her motivation, to wonder publicly why someone who claims there is no God would be so vigilant to mock those who believe in Him.  Perhaps, I should write about that.

But I wonder.  I wonder.

What if this is not about her?  Do I really believe in some sky fairy?  Is that what God is to me?

Click your heels together three times and repeat the words, there’s no place like home.

Is that all this is?  Is it all humbug?  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

My mind races as I review the evidence.  I want desperately to be able to speak intelligent and convincing words.  I know I’m supposed to be ready to give an answer—to explain the hope I have deep inside.(1 Peter 3:15)

But then, I remember that I can’t convince anyone; it’s not my job.  I will give the answer.  That is my job.

The convincing?  That’s way above my pay grade. (John 16:8)

So?  Is it real?  Do I live as if it is?

A few weeks ago, I came back from my childhood home with treasures. They are items which have little value to any other human being on this planet, but which are priceless to me.  My memories are tied up in many of them.

Last Sunday, three generations of my family gathered, as we do each week, to sit around the dining room table and make new memories.  I thought perhaps it was time to inject an old one into the conversation.

As I prepared the table earlier, I cleaned and filled a glass and aluminum container with little white granules.  Then I set the old salt shaker down in the center of the table to await the arrival of our guests.

Five generations.  Five generations of my family have used that salt shaker now.  I flavored mashed potatoes and vegetables from that shaker at my grandmother’s table when I was not even as old as my youngest grandchild is now.

Five generations.  Lovely folk I have personally interacted with.  Members of each of those generations have asked their questions and made their decisions to follow the same God.  I’m sure there were others before them.  I trust there will be more to follow.

IMG_3999 [1904502]Wanting to save a photo of the shaker on the table, I set it out the other day.  As I snapped the shutter, I noticed the reflection on the table’s surface.

I can’t help it.  My brain just works that way.  The mental picture was more real to me than the actual photo.

Salt.  Light.


The Teacher made it clear that His followers were exactly that.  Salt.  And light.  Salt to help preserve the world.  Light to show them the way.  (Matthew 5:13-16)

We must keep our lives fresh and relevant.  We can’t hide the light that shines from within us, or fade into the background.

Funny.  The instructions I remember better right now have to do with the words we say.  Let speech be flavored with grace, as though seasoned with salt. (Colossians 4:6)

The other instructions have to do with how we act.  In the middle of a world bent on evil and twisted living, we need to shine like stars beaming out of the blackness of the universe.  (Philippians 2:15)

It’s real.  The God I follow is not fake, not made up.  Of that, I am convinced.

I’ve asked the questions.  Again.  And again.  I’ve asked the questions and had them answered.  Like those before me and those who are coming after me, I believe because I’ve seen the evidence in walking, talking witnesses.  Folks who are salt and light.

I will follow in their footsteps, because others are following in mine.

And others are watching from a distance.

They are watching.  And mocking.

And perhaps, asking their own questions.

I hope it’s not too much to ask if they can be preserved long enough to see the light shining in their own darkness.

I want to be salt.  And light.




Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
(Colossians 4:5-6 ~ NASB)


Grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.
(Karl Barth ~ Swiss theologian ~ 1886-1968)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Better Things

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!

The red-headed woman who raised me was at it again.  I have told you before that my mother had an almost endless supply of catchy sayings, many of them almost silly in their logic.  This one was different.  It actually made sense to me.

It makes more sense to me now.  And, that’s a problem.

You see, I know what having a negative outlook on life does to you.  Read the original words again.

Do you see the circle they create?  When you’re sick and tired of being just that, the cycle repeats itself.  Again.  And again.  And again.  It may be exactly what the person who coined the phrase vicious cycle had in mind.

I have come to realize in recent days how easy it is to become a part of that cycle.  Oh, I’m not sick–not physically.  Perhaps I’m a little tired, but not sick.  But it is easy to think about the sad things in life and let myself sink down into sadness myself.  The sad things don’t even have to be happening to me.

Still–all of the sudden I realize I’m repeating the phrase in my own head.  It’s not just a memory of my Mom’s voice saying the words anymore.

I hear it, not in her voice, but in my own as my spirit takes on the burdens of life.

Any day, I expect the words to actually come from my mouth as I speak to the Lovely Lady, or to my friends, or to a customer.

There is hardship all around me.  With our instant communication, I know about more of it than ever before.  To be fair, it may also be my time of life.  I’m not sure.  That said, I don’t ever want to expect bad from this amazing world which the Creator has made for us and placed us into.

Friends tell me things will only get worse–that this is just prophecy coming to pass–almost as if that justifies negativity and depression.

It doesn’t.

Right before the start of this new year–it only began three weeks ago, you know–I made a list of things I intend to revisit over the course of the  year.  They are thoughts which have occurred to me as I consider the future, a future which I contend is bright, not dark.

The first words in my list are these:

I refuse to believe our future is not at least as bright as our past.  No!  Brighter!

I know some of you who read these words are in the throes of disaster at this very moment.  My heart tells me that in the next months I will experience some of those same woes.

The statement stands.

Circumstances, no matter how dark, do not determine the condition of our spirits, unless we allow them to.  If we take the sadness, the sorrow, the worry to our hearts, we may find ourselves, like the red-headed lady, in the cycle of being sick and tired of life as we know it.

But, I want to affirm that the sadness, the sorrow, and the worry do not belong to us at all, and it is theft for us to keep them for ourselves.

I see those eyebrows going up as you read the word theft.  You wonder who the victim of the crime is, don’t you?  I believe we steal from God Himself when we selfishly hold those cares closely.  Our instructions are clear.  We are told to cast all of our cares on Him in light of His care for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

daybreakThey are not ours to keep, not ours to cling to, not ours to add to our collection like so many grisly reminders of battles lost or omens of a dark future.

Not ours.  His.

There is life yet to be lived.  It will not be lived in the dark.

Brighter, I say!

I’m ready to walk in the sunlight, but I wouldn’t mind some company along the road.

You coming along?




“It is not so dark here,” said Theoden.
“No,” said Gandalf.  “Nor does age lie so heavily on your shoulders as some would have you think.”
(from The Two Towers ~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English educator/novelist ~ 1892-1973)


For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
(Psalm 27:5 ~ NASB)




“What day is it?”
“It’s today!” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
(A.A. Milne ~ English children’s author ~ 1882-1956)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Beauty and Chaos

He’s doing an art project.

artist-brush-983590_1280An art project. 

Only two months ago, his little boy died.

Today, he’s working at making something beautiful. 

I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this one.  I have a few questions.

Does God feel sadness?  How is it that He keeps giving us beautiful things, long after we, made in His image, have hurt and destroyed others, also made in His image? 

Long after we killed His only Son.

Why would He continue to bring us each new gorgeous dawn—each new colorful Spring—He who upholds all with the power of His hands?  (Colossians 1:16-17)

Does He feel sadness?

His Son did, as He walked on the earth.  I’ve told you before of one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  I’ve committed it to memory.  Even now, I can remember it word for word.

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Along with His followers, He felt intense sadness.  He had no fear of lessening His influence on them by allowing them to see His tears.  There was no embarrassment in showing His emotional state.

Yet, He was the embodiment of His Heavenly Father.  The exact image. (Colossians 1:15-16)

God feels sorrow.

He feels sorrow, yet He continues to astound us with beauty.

Me?  I mope when I’m sad.  I sit in my chair and sigh pitifully.  I gripe and I grouse, lashing out at those around me.

Work on an art project when I’m down?  Produce things of beauty when I hurt?  Hardly.

He does.

The young artist/father I visited with in my business today does, too.  He, in the midst of the storm, turns to creativity to bring beauty out of his chaos.  Then, when the art project fizzles, he makes music.

From the ashes of catastrophe, he draws out beauty.  

It doesn’t mean the pain of loss isn’t ever-present—a shadow lurking on the fringes.  He just refuses to wallow in it, to let it have the reins of his existence.

The sun didn’t show its face today in the sky.  The gray day worked its way into my spirit in much the same way the cold crept into my bones  But in my store, the brilliant illumination couldn’t be cloaked.

Light overcomes darkness.  Always.


Maybe it’s time for us to give the dark times to a God who still makes beauty from darkness.

Give your dark times to a God who still makes beauty from darkness. Click To Tweet

I’m thinking brighter days are ahead.



Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
(Martin Luther King Jr. ~ American pastor/civil rights activist ~ 1929-1968)



And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
(Genesis 1:2-4 ~ KJV)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.



Winding Paths

I’ve believed it for a long time.  I’ve even used the illustration myself before.

I’m not so sure anymore.

The boy learning to plow tries his hand at running the tractor.  Completing his first row, he turns back proudly to view the result of his effort only to see a wobbly, wandering furrow.

You’ve heard it before, of course.  If you’ve read enough of my writing, you know how much I love a moral. There’s definitely a moral to this one.

Eyes on the prize.

Somehow, I’m not sure this one is as clear-cut as it used to be.

tractor-1048402_1280The old farmer takes the wheel of the tractor and turns it around, suggesting to the lad that he needs to keep his eye on the goal.  Pick a landmark far ahead and steer a course straight toward that.  Don’t look at the ground; focus on the target.  He plows a straight furrow every time.

Long term goals.

We revere men of straight paths.  Focused on their destination, they move steadily in the same direction, never faltering, ever resolute.

Is there such a man?  Perhaps.  I have thought I knew some, but I’ve been disappointed before.  We live in a world of distractions.  Even the most focused human is bound to falter, maybe even to veer off the path, given the right diversion.

We make idols of men, believing a lie. 

 Only one Man lived a faithful life of purpose, never faltering from His purpose.

True, He’s the one we follow.  Still, we take wrong turns.  We misplace our resolve.

I spoke with a friend today, sadly relating my experience of watching a life lived in a straight line for many years, only to see it veer off on a incredible tangent just as the person neared the goal. So close—close and yet so very far.

A long obedience in the same direction, only to disappoint as the prize was within their grasp.

I wonder.  Is there something wrong with the assumption that a straight line is the only way this following thing works?

When the Teacher told them to follow Him, was He asking those men to pick a target way out in the future, at the very end of their life and aim for that?  I somehow don’t think that was what He had in mind.  He didn’t ask them to pledge their lifelong service

He just said, “Follow me.”

That’s it. Follow.

I don’t have to know where the end of the road is.  I don’t have to worry about interchanges and alternate routes before I get there.  I’m not a navigator.

A follower, that’s what I am.  I’m not that good at it, but it’s all I’ve ever claimed to be.

It seems that we want to set our sights on the straight-liners, the ones who stride along, head held high, secure in the knowledge they are on the right road.  If we do, we’ll be disappointed nearly every time.

We weren’t called to follow them.

We’re only called to follow the One who faithfully followed His Father.  Every step. (John 15:10)

Probably, the furrow He plowed would not have appeared to be a straight one to any onlookers.  Certainly, it wasn’t to the religious leaders of that day.  They knew the right path.  Knew it.

But, they didn’t recognize the one He walked.  He stopped in at too many parties, got caught in too many storms at sea, and touched too many lepers.  Surely, this one couldn’t be following God!

We can’t be sure how straight the road will be from here on out.  I don’t think we need to be worried about it.

If we stick close, we’ll be able to make the sharp turns when He does.

We may not stride in with head held high.  But stumbling in with head hanging, knowing we followed all the way will be enough.

Oh.  We should probably be ready to make a detour or two to visit a sick friend—or check on that fellow in jail.

The path is not all that straight, after all.




Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
(Matthew 16:24 ~ NASB)


All the way my Savior leads me,
  Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
  Feeds me with the living bread.
(Fanny J Crosby ~ American hymn-writer ~ 1820-1915)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Slaying a (small) Dragon

Medieval_KnightI’m smiling to myself as I write tonight.  You might even say I’m a little smug.

What’s that?

No, today wasn’t all that great a day.  I didn’t get all my work done; I even sent someone the wrong product.  I’ll deal with that some other time.  I didn’t make any huge sales, and haven’t found a wonderful vintage guitar which will net me an enormous profit.

So, what is it that’s making me smile?

I’ll tell you. I fixed the kitchen faucet.  Two days ago.

Yep.  Still smiling.

For the last year or more, the kitchen faucet at our house has leaked from the base if you moved the spout while the water was running.  And I, being the handyman that I am, suggested to the Lovely Lady that she not move the spout while the water was running.

Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  It was a pain–for over a year.  Then last week, it started leaking from the base whether you moved the spout or not.  And I, being the handyman that I am, suggested that a plumber could replace the faucet for us.  The Lovely Lady, long suffering spouse that she is, suggested that she didn’t want a new faucet and wondered aloud if I could effect a repair myself.

A visit to the local handyman center (no, they don’t sell handymen there, they just equip the bumbling ones such as myself) cost me a couple of dollars for a package of rubber o-rings.  The net price of the one I needed was about twenty cents.

Sliding that rubber piece over the lower end of the spout, I put it back into place and tightened the connection.  Turning the water on, I held my breath as I examined the chrome base of the faucet.

Voila!  No leak!

Gingerly, I moved the spout back and forth as the water poured forth.  Still no leak! I’m pretty sure I did a little dance right there in the kitchen.  I was (and am) ecstatic!

No knight errant, killing a dragon and saving the damsel in distress could have been more triumphant than I.  My dragon may have only been a chrome plated faucet and the damsel in distress, my lovely bride of a number of years (I forget how many), but the dragon is slain and the maid is free of her prison!

“How silly!”  I hear the naysayers already muttering.  “Save your celebration for a real conquest.”

I’m going to suggest as politely as I can, that you may feel free to keep your opinions to yourself.

The little things bring immense pleasure.

Our lives are a parade of little things, bombarding us one after another.  We conquer them and we rejoice momentarily, preparing to face the next one.  The Teacher understood this as He told of the woman who had lost one coin and turned her house upside down to find it.  In the middle of the night, the house blazed with light as she swept the floor to retrieve that one little coin.  Then, when she found it, she called her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her.

One coin!  Silly?  Not in the slightest!

Revel in the small successes!  

Delight in the unassuming conquests!

I’m convinced that our lives will never be free of battles to be fought and won—some large, but most small.  All are worthy of our full attention and all are worthy of our delight and celebration, when finished.

I’ve said many times that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, meaning simply that we need not fret and worry about the insignificant issues.  That said, we still must deal with them, ticking off the minor victories one after the other.

I hope that you have a little something today that you are smiling to yourself about.  You might even have called your best friend to let them in on it.  Go you!  Celebrate to your heart’s content.

For my part, I think I’ll head home now to run a little water in the kitchen sink again.  Might even swing the spout around a time or two.

If you hear me humming Willie the Giant’s song from Mickey and the Beanstalk as I do it, take no notice.

“I’m a most amazing guy, a most amazing guy am I…Fe Fi Fo Fum, He Hi Ho Hum…”





Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize that they were the big things.
(Robert Brault~American writer and philosopher)


What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
(Matthew 18:12~NASB)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

In Quiet Places

A giant in the world of rock music died yesterday.  

The tributes to David Bowie have filled the pages of social media.  Videos have been shared, stories told, organ solos have even been performed in cathedrals.  And now, the questions are being raised.

Is David Bowie in heaven?  Did he become a believer in the waning days of his life?

I’m not going to talk about him.  Not exactly, anyway.  

You will find the discussion of his final destination in the days to come upon the sensational pages of other blogs.  Anger and name-calling will follow—both by believers and non-believers alike.  I choose not to participate.

Still, in the quiet of this night, I consider the possibilities.  For him—and for all of us.  

I wonder—what about these quiet hours, the lonely time between times, when no one else is stirring?  They are some of the most soul-searching intervals I have experienced.  Surely, there’s a chance?

I’m aware that I’m a man of strange habits—late-night writing sessions, followed by wandering through the house speaking to shadows and arguing with the walls.  Not everyone spends their nights in the same fashion.

But, many who are creatures of habit, making their way to bed at regular hours and planning for early morning arising, sometimes find themselves at the mercy of the night.  

For some, when life is proceeding smoothly and all is well in their world, the nights are blissful oblivion.  No questions are whispered into the dark; no prayers are addressed to the ceiling (and beyond).

But life is not all smooth lanes and well-oiled machinery.  

Trouble will come. Sleep will flee.  Rest will escape.

Pleas will be delivered to Heaven and promises made.  Tears will be shed. 

I don’t suppose it’s true for all, but I suspect it happens to more than will admit it.

chairAnd finally, in the receding years of my life, I have discovered a truth I never imagined.  

Those times in the quiet hours are precious.  They are life-changing.  They are priceless.

When all is as we imagine it should be, we have no time for God.  We have no need for God.  Rich in things, we fill the days with noise and commotion, and exhausted, fall into our beds, never giving a thought to the poverty of our souls.

Yet, in our darkest night, He will be found.  It seems it’s always, finally, in our darkness that we seek His light.  

He’s there waiting, too.  (Psalm 139:11-12)

When the one who slept beside you in your bed all those years never will again and you cry for them in the night, He will be found.

When disease tears at the body of your child and you scream silently into the dark, He hears.

When the emptiness of life on your own drives you, at last, to give it all to Him, He’s waiting.

He’s always been waiting. (Revelation 3:20)

Did David Bowie find Him in the darkness of his night?  Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

I don’t know.

But you can.

I have.

Again and again.




You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
    my God turns my darkness into light.
(Psalm 18:28 ~ NIV)



But something tells me that you hide
When all the world is warm and tired
You cry a little in the dark, well so do I.
(from Letter to Hermione ~ David Bowie ~ English singer/actor ~ 1947-2016)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

Into the Sun

I’ve spent a few hours staring into the sun.  

That didn’t come out quite right.  Let me try again.

I’ve spent long periods of time looking at someone standing right in front of the sun—which has kind of the same effect.  I just didn’t want you to think I had ignored my mother’s instruction about not looking at the sun.  

But, in fact, it was at my mother’s instructions I looked at the person standing in front of brightthe sun.  That person was my father—taking a photograph of the family.

To a young child, there was no greater torture.  Don’t blink, they said and then made you stare at the brightest light imaginable while the exact setting was selected on the old Kodak Hawkeye box camera and children were shuffled around to achieve the ideal composition.

The pictures weren’t very good anyway.  For all the torture we endured, we still squinted, blinked, and put our hands over our eyes at just the wrong moment, and were captured on film for all eternity.  

Everybody smile, they said.  

We tried.

I brought the little camera home a little while back.  No, not the Kodak.  That was my parents’ camera.  This was a little cheap plastic box camera, purchased through the Sears & Roebuck catalog.  It was mine fifty years ago.  Still is.  It has my name written on the side of it, in my best nine-year-old printing.

snappyI’ll never take another photograph with it, but the memory of the power that was endowed by the little plastic box will stay with me forever.

With it, I could stop time!  Precious moments could be saved and relived whenever I wanted.  Pets, friends, even creations from my own hands would never be lost.


We don’t think of photographs quite the same way anymore.  Every person who carries a phone has a camera—much better than any which were available in my childhood.  Taking a photo isn’t even an event today.  

But, I remember the day when the sight of a camera would make my siblings scurry for cover.  I recall when the arrival of that package of black and white photos in the mail was a grand event—when all of those siblings wanted to make sure they hadn’t been caught doing embarrassing things.

It was a distinct possibility.

Years ago, I read that in some cultures photographs are rare because the people believe the camera would steal your soul.  While not all cultures this belief has been attributed to actually hold to it, there is adequate proof some did—and many still do.

Photographs steal your soul.  

I’m skeptical.  That said, I do understand how someone might think this.  Your exact image has been captured on paper.  How can that not take something away from you?  

We laugh.  Still, today, many no longer can live in the moment, enjoying events as they unfold, because they are intent on snapping photographs to view later and to show to their friends.  Selfies, we call them.  One must be sure they are in their own picture!  It will be proof one day that they actually were there.  

Never mind that your back was turned to the event itself. You’ll always have the photograph.

Perhaps a part of our soul is stolen as the camera snaps.  I don’t know.

My mind is again back in the sixties.  Looking into the sun.  Shadows must be avoided at all cost.

Standing in the bright light of day.

But, I remember some events I would have been embarrassed to have recorded on camera.  Those happened in the shadows, perhaps even in complete darkness.

Mom wasn’t around to remind me to look toward the light.  Dad wasn’t recording the action for posterity.

Come to think about it, there are still some activities I don’t want saved for people to see.  The dark works better for them.  I might be embarrassed to see the photographs those would yield.

The Teacher spoke of folks like me—at least, like me at those embarrassing times.  He declared that men loved darkness rather than light for one reason—they wish to hide their evil deeds. (John 3:19)

I wonder if it’s time to come out into the light of day again.

The Son may make us squint a bit.  

The shadows will all disappear.

Perhaps, it’s time again to make some memories worth viewing later.  Memories which will last forever.  Literally.

Everybody smile!




This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:5-7 ~ NASB)


Which of my photographs is my favorite?  The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
(Imogene Cunningham ~ American photographer ~ 1883-1976)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Lost and Found

He left the wallet.  Just walked away from it.

The set of strings he needed for his guitar paid for, he inserted his debit card back into the slot.  Folding the cloth-covered wallet closed, he walked to the back of the music store, carrying it still in his hand.

WalletI didn’t notice the stray item until long after he had walked on down the road.  Even then, I knew it was his.

How do you do that?  Walk away from your wallet, I mean.

He took his little guitar.  Strapped it over his shoulder carefully before opening the front door to the shop.  Carefully.

The guitar is worth, perhaps, forty dollars.

He took the guitar, but left the wallet.

I looked in the wallet.  There was no cash—not that I expected any.  There were, however, several items I would not like to lose myself.

The debit card was there, for starters.  How do you function without that?  Perhaps the absence of cash in the wallet meant there was an ample supply of the same in his pocket.  It seems though, that he would have used cash for a small purchase such as he had made earlier, if he had it.

No.  The debit card was his connection to cash.  He left that with the wallet.

There was a drivers license.  How would he answer the nice policeman, when he said the words driver’s license and registration, please?  How would he cash a check?  It’s likely he’d need to, since the debit card was you-know-where.

There was a lot more.  I didn’t sift through it all.  The only reason I looked at all was to find a way to contact the man.  I found nothing of the sort.  

I did see one more thing though—an item, well two items, really—both more important that any of the others I found.

I found a photo of the man’s grandson.  Then, one of his son.  Treasure!  Good-looking young men, both of them.  How do you leave those behind?

Over two weeks ago, he left the wallet.  Two weeks, and not one phone call.  He never asked.  Never.

Not even today, when he came back into the store to buy more strings.  

I looked at him and smiled, knowing he’d mention the missing wallet soon. It had to be weighing on him heavily.  Perhaps, he even felt guilty about neglecting to come back and retrieve the item.  Surely, he’d mention it presently.

He never did.

I couldn’t stand it.  I handed him the wallet, smiling expectantly.  

He grinned sheepishly and said, “Oh, there it is.  I wondered if I’d have to contact the bank soon.”

When his wife arrived to pick him up later, he didn’t even mention the wallet to her.

I’m confused. And, a little disappointed.  Well?  I wanted him to shake my hand vigorously and exclaim in a loud voice about the little cloth single-fold wallet and its contents.

It’s what I would have done.

Oh.  There it is.

It’s not the epitome of relief—not the pinnacle of joy—is it?

I have more to say tonight, much more.  

I want to talk about treasures we leave behind, purposely and accidentally.  

I want to speak of our search for false treasure, while genuine treasure is staring us in the face.  

I wish I could awaken the desire in each reader to seek that which has been lost for so long.

Still.  The Teacher thought it enough to simply tell the stories of losing—and finding—that which had been lost.  He was sure His listeners would understand His meaning. (Luke 15)

The red-headed lady who raised me always asked the same question when I was looking for something I had lost.

Where did you last see it?

It seems we lose many things over the course of a lifetime—love, joy, passion, purpose.  Maybe, it’s time we began to seek them again.

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that at the end of our search, whatever it is we seek, He’ll be waiting.  After all, He’s the One who promised if we ask we’ll receive, if we seek we’ll find, and if we knock doors will be opened.  (Luke 11:9-10)

Start where you last saw it.  It’s sure to be close by.

Oh.  A little enthusiasm when we find what was lost would be nice, too.  





There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.
(J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English educator/writer/poet ~ 1892-1973)


Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
(Luke 15:8-10 ~ NIV)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.