Please Don’t Dog Ear The Pages

“Oh, yeah.  Tell him I’d like to have a new copy of Watership Down.  I can’t read the one I have now.”

My son, kind man that he is, wants to buy his father a gift for Christmas, even though I’ve said many times that I need nothing.  The Lovely Lady knows better and sends him ideas by text—secretly, she thinks.

We were riding toward home this evening, after a trip to a neighboring town, and my brain jumped to the thought.  As I usually do, I spoke without considering the consequences.

Well, I guess they will not be, strictly speaking, consequences. However, the Lovely Lady now has a new aberration to consider in her husband’s character, thanks to my premature announcement.  (I’m not sure it’s well-advised to give her too many of these points of oddness to think about at one time.)

She probably didn’t expect me to see the eye-roll that preceded her next question.  I suppose I didn’t really see it as much as I felt it.

What’s wrong with the copy on the bookshelf?  It looks perfectly legible to me.

She knew the answer.  She just wanted to hear it from me.

I fell in love with the story many years ago, back when I was young and full of dreams.  I still enjoy reading through it, now that I’m old and full of dreams.  The only problem is, I gave away my old, worn paperback copy back a ways. 

I thought I wouldn’t need it anymore.

We had been in a favorite book shop one afternoon, looking for bargains, when I saw it.  No, I saw IT.

IT was a beautiful hardback, with the dust jacket intact—paper, covered with clear plastic—and crisp, clean pages.  The price, written inside the back cover in pencil was exorbitant, ten times what I would normally pay for a good hardback—fifty times what I’d pay for a decent paperback.

We couldn’t afford it. 

We bought it anyway.

We walked out of the little book store with a near-mint First American Edition of the book.  I would never need to thumb through that old, tattered paperback again.  Never.

The truth of the matter is, I’ve never read the beautiful hardback.  Never.

I never will.  The book’s value is in its rarity, its exclusivity, its pristine condition.

The thing is, when I read, I live.  I eat.  Chocolate and grease stains attest to the fact.  I drink coffee or juice—suitable evidence can be provided.

I carry my books out to the bench in the back yard and, if interrupted rigorously enough, lay them down to scratch the ears of my dogs or play a game of fetch with them. 

I’ve always been told books are your friends, meaning I should handle them with kid gloves, but I don’t treat my friends that way.  I live life with them. 

I leave my mark on them and they leave their mark on me. 

Not so with this hardback.  It may be the worst fifty dollars I ever spent.  I can’t read it, nor can I sell it.  You don’t sell your friends  (unless your name is Judas).

She understands me, the Lovely Lady.  She just likes to make sure I know that, once in a while.

I think she sent a message to our son as we rode.  I don’t know for sure.  My mind was far away.  Even farther away than Watership Down.

Have you ever wondered?  Many do.  I can’t understand how one wouldn’t.

Why did the Savior of the world have to come like this?  Why a baby, born in a stable?  Why did smelly shepherds have to come, and weird foreigners have to follow a strange star?

Why did He live, wandering the land of His birth, homeless and un-celebrated? 

Why did He die a criminal’s death, hanging in shame on a crude cross of wood?

I would have had Him come as a triumphant conqueror, dressed in white and ruling from His palace, far above the smells and cries and demands of the filthy, backward people who walked the roads and worked in the marketplace.

I would have had. . .


He came to be a friend to sinners, didn’t He?   

Like any friend, He would leave His mark on us.

And, we would leave our mark on Him.

He would leave His mark on us and we would leave our mark on Him. Click To Tweet

No pristine first edition, He.  Our very own volume, well-worn and dog-eared, to learn from firsthand.

The Word became flesh.  Living with us. (John 1:14)

His life an open book, one might say.

Maybe it’s time to read the book again.

I hope no one will mind if I dog ear a page or two.



I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor ornery people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.
(I Wonder As I Wander ~ John Jacob Niles ~ © 1945 by G. Schirmer, Inc. All rights reserved.  Used by permission.)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Thick and Thin

The sheaf is growing thin.  


Thirty-nine years ago, it was a mammoth binder filled with pages—one crisp, white leaf for every day which would pass in my chosen profession.  There was not yet a mark on any one of them; the story could only be written second by second, minute by minute.

The minutes turned into hours, weeks, months, and now years.  At first, even the minutes moved by like syrup on the coldest February morning.  And now, at the end, they fly like sand through the fingers of a child at the seashore

Page after page has been filled—lines with their scrawled script, margins with scribbled abbreviations.  Even the edges are covered with notes, reminders now of appointments never made, but still kept.

Funny.  Such a historical document should be conserved for the future, a textbook of success and failure, methods to be passed on to generations not yet even contemplated.  It has not been.

The pages lie at my feet in tatters.  Each page—completed—has merely been torn from the binder and dropped wearily to the floor at the end of the days.

withcustomersThere are mornings when I stoop down and scan a scrap of the paper underfoot.  Memory springs to mind and a smile might cross my face, itself a little more lined and aged than when the binder was first opened.

Frequently, a customer stirs through the debris and reminds me of a memory they have shared, as well.  My customers are friends, not income streams, and the memories are mostly sweet.  Mostly.

Bittersweet, these days.


The sheaf is growing thin.  

The crisp, white leaves gripped in my fist are precious and few now.  I am loath to fill them and let them drop to the worn carpet beneath my shoes.

Today was a day for the scraps of paper to be read.  As if the stress of a national election and its surprising outcome were not enough for one twenty-four hour period, the queue of old friends waiting their turn to reminisce and then to embellish the scraps of years past wound through my door from before opening time to well after the sun dropped behind the western horizon.

Each brought a gift, the gift of listening and speaking.  It is the way of friendship.

Iron sharpens iron, sometimes painfully, often by polishing gently.  (Proverbs 27:17)

Iron sharpens iron, sometimes painfully, often by polishing gently. Click To Tweet

I have been the recipient of such gifts many times over the years.  Grateful is too insignificant a word to describe what I feel.

I glance at the scraps of paper they have each left behind, scraps bearing their names and experiences, and I remember that I am a rich man.  How could I not be—with a life full of such amazing people?

Yet, I spoke with one friend today of my unhappiness with how thin the sheaf of papers is now.  He reminded me (gently) that God is still leading into the future.

God is still leading into the future. Click To Tweet

I said earlier it was my chosen profession, but it was never I who chose it.  The path was chosen for me—each step of my young life leading me to it and then through it, until now, as I near old age, I find myself stepping away from it at last.

I could never, in my wildest childhood dreams, have planned out such a journey, but He did.  Every step.

The days left in this little music store are flying.  There are not many more pages yet to be filled here.

I want them to be filled with words such as I heard today.  I want them to be filled with people whose faces I see in my memories tonight.

And, I think as I consider the thin sheaf of papers yet to be written in my business—I wonder how thick that other sheaf is?

The book was so thick on the day we entered this world.  Crisp and white, each page awaiting the record that has now been written, it had an adequate supply to last our whole lives through.

It is thinner than when we began.  The opportunities for achievements to be recorded, events to be heralded, dwindle everyday.

Sometimes, I pick up the scraps from those pages, too.  I’ve shared some few of those memories with you.  The ones I’m willing to bring to the light of day again.

Others of the scraps will never be seen or read by anyone else, except by Him.  He reads every one of them.  The thought makes me cringe, but not because I fear any punishment.  No, I cringe because, as any child with his Father, I never want to disappoint.

And, I have.  Again and again, I have disappointed.

Those pages are filled, never to be written on again.  My Father’s disappointment is past, the sins and missteps erased by His astounding grace.

Still, there are more blank pages.  How many?  I don’t know.

Perhaps, the sheaf is growing thin.  Possibly, it still contains years worth of crisp, white leaves to be filled with the record of tasks fulfilled, and a legacy left for many who will follow.

Either way, He guides my steps.

He always has.

Through thick, and now, through thin…

He knew how to lead then.

He knows how to lead now.

Be still my soul.



He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ~ NASB)



Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
(from Be Still My Soul ~ Katharina von Schlegel ~ German poet ~ 1697-1768)






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