Tell me the Story

In moments when I least expect it, clarity arrives.

I sat, with others around me, in a service the other day and noticed the lady at the keyboard. I know her. She was my neighbor for upwards of fifteen years. I have heard her sing. I have heard her play.

All I expected was to enjoy the music—possibly to reflect on some lyrics. It would be nice.

Nice isn’t what happened.

I hope you won’t mind. I think we call it epiphany. With a small “e”.

An arrival. A light, small but bright, blazed as my friend sang the old familiar hymn. I have never thought of it before. Never.

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sung the words. But, in her simple gift of song, the words shone with a clarity I’ve not known any other time.

The writer of the letter written to the Hebrews describes it as the fulfillment of a promise made long before. In your hearts, He will place His commandments, and on your minds they will be written indelibly. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

Is a little of that light shining through yet? Maybe, it’s just me.

Every word. Written on my heart.

Every word. Written on my heart. Click To Tweet

I am moved. Overwhelmed, even. But, the light shines on past the initial reaction and I start to wonder.

Is it just for me that He has written on my heart and in my mind?

You indulged me when I wanted to call it an epiphany. Will you indulge me a bit further?

I know the heart mentioned in the Book isn’t the physical, beating organ, but it is the center of our very being—the existence of which we cannot function without. If the physical heart circulates the life blood our brain and entire body must have for life, surely the symbolic heart we describe must circulate the very essence of who we are.

If we follow Christ, He is the essence of our being. Circulating through our veins.

So, I ask again: Is it only for my benefit that He lives within my being?

It is for my benefit. To that, there can be no argument. But, what of those around me? Those who have sin—and loss—and, in the end, death—written on their hearts?

He has put eternity in our hearts!  How could we keep that quiet?

The Apostle—my namesake—lays out the process.  How shall they call on Him unless they believe?  How will they believe unless they hear?  How could they possibly hear if we don’t tell them? (Romans 10:14)

He is the foundation, the Rock at the center of our existence!  How could we hide it?

How could we not tell the story?  How could we not ourselves write the words which have been written in our heart?  Or, speak them?  Or, sing them?

Every word, every action declares who (and whose) we are.

Well, well.  An epiphany in the season of Epiphany.  A small light as we acknowledge the Light of the World.

The Word who was born in a stable, in reality came to be inked on our hearts.  And, He invites us to share His story by sharing our own.

The Word.  Written on our hearts.

To be written on the hearts of others.

Time to tell the story. 


There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
(Maya Angelou ~ American Poet ~ 1928-2014)

If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.

If I told you my story
You would hear Victory over the enemy.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Freedom that was won for me.
And, if I told you my story
You would hear Life overcome the grave.

If I should speak, then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin,
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.
(Music Publishing LLC, Open Hands Music (SESAC) (All rights on behalf of itself and Open Hands Music adm. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
Writers: Mike Weaver / Jason Ingram


© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

All You Can Eat

What a shame!  Would you look at all we’ve got left?

My daughter had just finished slathering the whipped cream onto the tres leches cake which was for dessert.

A glance into the glass container she held showed that indeed there was almost half as much whipped cream remaining as she had spread on top of the decadent cake, already saturated with heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk.  She couldn’t have put any more atop the cake without even my sugar-craving brain thinking it was overkill.

It was Sunday afternoon, the time when we get the family together for a time of sacred learning.  Okay, so we eat a little too, but we teach each other and we glean information from the freshly plowed fields of a full week.

It is still one of the most blessed times in each week—at least to this old man’s mind anyway.

We learn in the noisiest study hall you’ve ever set foot in, the walls ringing with shouts and laughter, music and conversation.  Today, the stereo in the next room was pouring forth classical music–stuffy by most standards, but heavenly by others  (the ones that count).

On any given Sunday, the conversation at the table ranges from mundane discussion of the week past, to instructions for operating a smart phone.  We tell jokes, funny or otherwise (the preponderance of them falling into the latter category) and we trade stories of our experiences which not only entertain, but instruct.

Common subjects, such as how to communicate with our spouse, or the secrets to living in accord with our fellow man, are the simple fare for our souls, alongside astounding food for our palates.

On this Sunday, however, the learning began long before we sat down to the table.  Come to think of it, that is true on many days.

The children are beginning to help in the kitchen, cramming that small space in eager anticipation of helping Grandma finish the salad, or even to make the coffee with Grandpa.  It’s a wonder we don’t end up in the emergency room every other week, but somehow we usually manage to escape relatively unscathed.

What’s that?

Oh. You want me to talk about what we learned.  Well, as I said, there was too much whipping cream.

I just showed the kids how to run it down the garbage disposal.

Oh, yeah.  I guess that’s not really likely, is it?

What I actually did was to invite the kids to share in the bounty of too-much-cream.

There was one rule.

Each child only got one spoonful.

Well, what else was I to do?  There were adults who might want a taste, and not many grownups I know want to finish a communal bowl of gooey stuff after children have stuck spoons, which have just made the journey to and from their mouths, into it again and again.

One spoonful.

I opened the silverware drawer, which was directly under the bowl containing the delectable treat, and told them each to take a spoon.  Reiterating that they could only have one spoonful (No double dipping, you hear?), I stood aside and awaited their response.

Not one of them complained about the one spoonful rule, but they each reached into the drawer, one at a time, and took out a spoon.

I chuckled as I watched the next to the oldest select his.  The Lovely Lady laughed outright when she saw it.  Each child dipped his or her spoon into the bowl and came up with a heaping pile of pale sugary enjoyment.

One of them enjoyed his longer than any of the others.

Three of the children licked their spoons with smiles on their faces, but the next to the oldest still had cream on his as they placed theirs on the counter top and went off to do other things.

Was he just a slow eater?  Maybe he just licked it a little at a time.

No.  This young man looked into the drawer that his grandfather had opened while telling him to take a spoon and get just one spoonful, and he had realized that there was more than one size of spoon in that drawer.  Grandpa didn’t say what kind of spoon to take, so he selected the largest one in the drawer.

The other three took regular size spoons, while he selected a serving spoon.

His reward was to acquire significantly more of the coveted whipped cream than any of his siblings.

I can hear the naysayers, even as I write the words:

That wasn’t fair at all!  Surely, you didn’t allow this travesty to go on!  You made him get a smaller spoon, didn’t you?  

No.  I didn’t.

For one thing, none of the other children seemed to care.  But secondly, and more importantly, this young man had followed my instructions to the letter.

How was I to punish him for doing what was completely within the parameters I had given him?

The Lovely Lady and I were still chuckling about it as we cleared up and rinsed the dishes after the meal.  There had been other instructive things that day, as there always are, but this event stuck in our heads more than any of them.

Sometimes the instruction doesn’t come through any verbal exchange, but through actions instead.

But. . .

Still, I hear the fairness advocates muttering under their breath.

You know who you are.  

I have been among your number.  I suppose, if it comes to that, I still am.

He got more than they did!  That’s not right!

I consider the sense of fair play, and I hear the words of Martha, the sister of Lazarus, as she makes her case to the Teacher:

It’s not right!  I’m slaving away in here and she sits and listens to you talk!  Make her help me!

The Teacher reminds Martha that she has the ability to make exactly the same choice that Mary did.

Martha determined her path, prioritizing her choices, just as her sister had done.  (Luke 10:38-42)

I’m not sure how much further to wander up this trail.  

Surely, before I get to the end, I’m going to step on some toes—or perhaps, more toes than I already have.  The toes I step on are just as likely to be my own as they are to be yours.

Perhaps, I should simply close with a reminder that the silverware drawer is standing open in front of each of us.  Every single one of us has the opportunity to select the utensil we are to use for the task before us.

If you only want a little bit, pick up the small spoon.  You may be satisfied.

May be.

It’s going to take a little longer, but the enormous spoon will yield much more in the end.

How much more fair can it get?

I still like how that six-year-old boy thinks!  Now, if I can just be as wise.

Go on!  Pick up the big spoon and take a bite.

It’s good, isn’t it?




How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.
(Psalm 119:103 ~ NLT)

When making your choice in life, do not forget to live.
(Samuel Johnson ~ English author/lexicographer ~ 1709-1784)

Pay attention now!  I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.
(Matthew 10:16 ~ ISV)



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




The pond is a large one beside a major roadway.  Each spring, the rains fill it to overflowing, the excess water siphoning over the banks and making broad rivulets down the hillside. That fortunate overflow makes its passage to the river nearby, joining with the rest of the huge torrent as it shoves its way with abandon down the waterway, to join ever wider rivers, eventually making its way inexorably down to the sea.

Fortunate overflow?

How could water be fortunate?  

I suppose one would have to stay around for a few months to understand that point of view.

The pond, for a short time, is a beautiful sight, so much so that some optimistic folks have built park benches and even a dock from which to fish or swim floating on the surface near the bank.  During the months blessed with rain, there is frequent use made of these improvements.  Romantic couples sit by the water’s edge; children splash and paddle in the clear, sparkling liquid that fills the reservoir; even a fisherman or two might stand on the bank, tossing lures under the snags and stones that line the end of the basin.

But, the day comes–sooner than one might think–when no one considers By Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK (A green pond  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commonseven sticking a toe in this pond, much less gazing on it admiringly.  The water which was not blessed to make its way to freedom while still clear and refreshing, has turned a grotesquely green hue and is rapidly covered with a layer which defies any brave soul to violate its surface.

Presently, there are  no admirers, and the once-popular retreat is abandoned, bereft of visible activity of any kind.  The unfortunate water left behind in the rainy season is trapped in a putrid sea of green, stinky scum.

How could this happen?

What disaster has struck this beautiful body of water, to leave it so–lorn of appeal and purpose?

Simple.  The rains have all but ceased, and the water that replenishes the pond comes sporadically, but not in a deluge as before.  When it does fall, none escapes over the side.  

The new supply only goes into the depression in the ground, not out of it.

There is no flow, no moving current.  The biological eco-system produces nutrients, lots of them, upon which the algae feeds, and then it thrives in the bright sunlight.  Soon the green scum is out of control, making the pond useless for any kind of recreation.

A chance conversation with a customer drove my thoughts to that unattractive place again just recently.

“I’ve come to the point in my life where there are no expectations of anything from me,” he declared.

I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I prodded a bit.

He explained, “For most of my life, I’ve been engaged, and active with other people.  I’m getting older now and I no longer have to interact with them.  I get to just enjoy the things I’ve learned and am learning.”

It seems my friend believes he has earned this respite–that his God has given it to him as a reward for hard work.

As he speaks, my mind wanders. All I see in my vision is that scum-covered pond.

Imagine!  Of all the times when he should be sharing, in copious quantities, what he has learned, he chooses to become a hermit.  Satisfied to keep his knowledge and wisdom to himself, he will die happy.  

I say his, but I intend that you understand clearly I don’t believe it is his in any way.

Every single thing we have is a gift; we have deserved none of it!

It not only should be shared, it must be shared.

To keep knowledge and wisdom to ourselves is to become thieves, not once—not twice—but three times.

First, we steal from our Creator, from whom all good things come.  They are His, not ours.

We steal from those waiting downstream for the bounty to overflow.

We steal from ourselves, preventing interaction which keeps us vibrant and active.  

Like the pond, that which once attracted visitors now repels them.  We even suffer personally, as all activity moves deep under the surface.  

Trapped in an eternal cycle, we regurgitate the same old things again and again, never interacting and never sharing.


The word describes smelly, putrid water that is trapped and still.  Likewise, it describes our souls when we move ourselves prematurely out of the current and flow of life.

Give me the white water of the rapids any day!

I want to be rushing to the sea, surrounded by others who are going the same direction.

The torrent of the raging river is alive and dynamic.

The backwater of the stagnant pond is instead, defunct and listless, going nowhere.

I think I’ll keep rolling along.  There is still a bend or two to go around before I reach the ocean.

 The company along the way has been a treat, too.  I hope you’ll keep moving right along with me.  We’ve got lots more to learn together as we go.

Besides, I’m not a fan of scum-covered green water.

I agree wholeheartedly with those immortal words of the late humorist Erma Bombeck:

Green is not a happy color.




If thou would’st have that stream of hard-earn’d knowledge, of Wisdom heaven-born, remain sweet running waters, thou should’st not leave it to become a stagnant pond.

(Sir Frances Bacon~English lawyer/philosopher~1561-1626)

For just as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, yielding seed for the sower and bread for eating, so will my message be that goes out of my mouth–it won’t return to me empty.  Instead, it will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:10,11~ISV)



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

Picking My Brain

“Say! You’re a great teacher! Thanks for helping me understand all that!”

I had never seen the slender young man before, but we had spent the last hour in my music store discussing a myriad of subjects. Banjos, violins, vintage guitars–you name it, if there was one of them in the store, we talked about it.

The twenty-something fellow was like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information I laid out for him. After we had talked about the construction of the century-old violin he brought in for an appraisal, we also discussed its accessories and value. By the time I had exhausted my knowledge of the violin family, he was profuse in his praise.

“How can you know so much about this?”

A little embarrassed, I gently brushed aside the compliment, and he wandered through the store for awhile, stopping to admire a vintage acoustic guitar on display. Before we finished our conversation about that subject, we had widened the field of the discussion to include several other old instruments hanging in the place. Again, he was amazed.

brainpicking“Really! I’ve never had anyone who could tell me so much about musical instruments.”

He continued to pump me about the various instruments, asking questions that made me reach back into my memory of the basics and methodology of each one. I must have passed his test, because at the end of the hour, he concluded his comments with the above statement about teaching.

I’m laughing.

I tried teaching one time. 

Tried. Failed


I didn’t have the patience. Seriously, when I told a student something a single time at a lesson, I expected them to retain that information as long as they were studying the subject. Why else would I have told them?

I taught you this last week! Why do I need to tell you again?

Now you’re laughing. I’m not a teacher. The nice young man is wrong.

May I tell you what I do know?

What I do know is that not one idea in my brain belongs to me. Not one.

What I do know is that there is no knowledge which I retain about any subject that I acquired without the assistance of someone else. None.

Everything I have has been given me. Everything. Some may wish to argue the point, but I contend that none of us has acquired anything of ourselves. Oh, I don’t mean that we haven’t worked to attain it, but we cannot even claim the credit for the strength to do that work, much less the intellect to understand the subject in which we claim expertise.

Captain of my own ship? What a fraud! 

Many who have affirmed that status find, to their chagrin, that it is a complete falsehood. Physical strength may be gone in a moment’s time. So too, the intellect is as likely to be snatched away as it is to remain at our beck and call throughout our lives.

I must share my meager store of information because it was never mine to hoard. It was never mine to dole out. It has never been mine to sell to the highest bidder.

I may not be able to teach skillfully, but I can talk endlessly. That will come as no surprise to those who know me well, nor to quite a few folks who know me hardly at all, but nonetheless have endured my oral ramblings at length.

The Lovely Lady and I sneaked out to eat at a fast food restaurant tonight. The girl at the cash register called out the total for our meals and then added a phrase I’ve never heard before. I don’t even think it’s a real thing.

“With your Wise Person Discount, your total will be eleven dollars and seventy-nine cents.”

Huh?  Wise Person Discount?  Are you kidding me?  Just because I’m getting old?

I took the discount. I’m grateful for the compliment. 

Still, I’m not sure she really understands the concept of wisdom. Wrinkles and gray hair aren’t equivalent to wisdom. Some of the most foolish folks I know are much older than I. That said, it is to be hoped that the passage of years has brought with it a tiny bit, perhaps just an iota, of wisdom. But that too will be a gift, unearned, unmerited.

I still believe that every good thing comes from the Giver of all good gifts.

Freely we have received; freely we must give.

It’s not much, but I’m going to keep dispensing the knowledge contained in my head. Perhaps a bit of wisdom will be thrown in here and there.

Hey. It’s possible.

Come see me and pick my brain. We’ll see.





“True wisdom exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
(Socrates ~ Classical Greek philosopher ~ ca. 469 BC-399 BC)


“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
(James 1:5 ~ NIV)



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