The View From My Window Vol. 4

It sure seems like it was a long time ago and I guess that it was. I was about the same age as little Susie Johnson when it happened. I had spent much of the summer on my Uncle Axel’s farm in a fertile valley to the north of Crescent City. He patiently taught the rudiments of farm life. He taught me how to milk cows and feed the livestock. I learned how to drive the tractor (while sitting on his lap, all I really got to do was to steer but I had a lot of fun).

On especially hot days, when the chores were caught up, we went fishing in a special place in the creek that ran through his property. The creek took a turn at this spot and there was a pool that the fish liked to rest in. It was covered by a number of large trees so that in the hot summer, this was the coolest spot on the farm. Sometimes Aunt Lina would bring us a picnic lunch up there while we were fishing. We would eat and sit on the bank of the creek and watch our floats riding lazily on the water. It took me a long time to realize that most of that time was not really fishing time; it was a time to relax and spend time together. My uncle taught me a lot on those days. We talked about most everything a boy could talk about with a special uncle that had invested so much time listening to him. He always had a story to tell. Somehow that story would relate to things that were of interest to me and eventually (years later, actually) I realized that they were stories from the Bible.

Quite often, the story was about another little boy, just about my age, that lived a long time ago. He was the youngest of many brothers and it fell to him to tend the family’s flock of sheep. He would have to stay with the sheep constantly and care for them. He would have to make sure that they had proper grazing land, adequate water and to sleep with them at night to protect them from predators. It sounded to me like the most boring job in the whole world. He never got to spend any time with his friends or to just goof off if he wanted to. There were times on my uncle’s farm that I felt the same way. I didn’t like getting up early just to make sure that the cows were milked and all the animals fed. I didn’t mind gathering eggs so much, because I could eat them for breakfast, but the rest of the work on the farm was just that. It was work. It was boring. My aunt Lina had a pretty good-sized garden that seemed to need weeding almost constantly, that was no fun at all. I, somehow, didn’t connect the weeding with the tomatoes, beans, and corn that I enjoyed at dinner and supper each day.

I also didn’t like making sure that the cows were in the barn and the sheep in the pen each night. I thought that they would be just as well off out in the pastures like they were all day. At least I thought that until one night when I was lazy and didn’t gather all the sheep in like I was supposed to and a cougar killed one of them. My uncle was really mad for a while. He never told me so, he just didn’t say anything at all for a whole day. I felt horrible. The next day, Uncle Axel suggested that we go fishing. I was really surprised. I thought that he would stay mad at me longer than that. But, we went about midday and packed a lunch with us. We didn’t talk much on the way out there. We just walked along carrying our fishing gear and the lunch.

We passed the pasture that the sheep were in along the way and I thought again about what I had done. We stopped for just a minute and my uncle began to explain to me how sheep were really some of the most defenseless animals there were. They have no horns or big teeth to defend themselves. They can’t run fast to get away from attackers. They really rely on the shepherd to take care of them. My uncle took the time to point out to me all the things that I needed to know to really have this lesson sink in. I was responsible for those sheep. They depended on me and I let them down.

We then went to the fishing hole and set up our poles. We unpacked the lunch that Aunt Lina had packed for us and began sitting and waiting for the fish to bite. As usual, we didn’t see much action and we started to talk. I put some effort into a heartfelt apology for my laziness and my uncle made sure that I understood that he had forgiven me. That was a real load off of my small back. He then began to tell me a story about that young boy that lived so long ago.

He was out watching the sheep one day and his brothers had forgotten to bring his supper. He was getting really hungry and a little resentful of their neglect and decided that the sheep could just take care of them selves for a night. He had been taking really good care of them for several weeks. He had even spent the night with them each night and no wild animals had come even close to them. Certainly he could take one night off, get a good meal and sleep in his own bed. Well, he did just that. He took them to the same place that they had spent the night in for the last couple of nights, made sure that they had all that they needed and then began the walk toward his home.

He got home right around supper time and had a splendid meal with his family, he talked and laughed with them and then crawled into his own comfortable bed. He was very tired from his days and weeks of long hours with the sheep and dropped off into a deep sleep almost immediately. In his sleep, he began to dream. He dreamed that he was still with the sheep and they had all settled down for the night and while sleeping with the sheep, he was awoken by the sound of the sheep baaing nervously. He got up to investigate and he noticed that at the far end of the flock there was a shadow moving slowly toward the sheep. The young shepherd grabbed his crook and his knife and began to move slowly around the edge of the flock toward the shadow. When he got closer, he realized that it was a lion doing some night hunting. He began to feel very frightened. He also felt like he needed to do something but was very unsure of what to do. After all, he was but a boy and this was a very large lion.

Our young shepherd awoke from his deep sleep with a start, realized the danger that he had left his flock in and immediately dressed, and began running to where he had left them. When he arrived, he could tell that they were nervous about something and as he looked around, he saw a shadow very much like the one in his dream. He realized that his dream had been for the very purpose of getting him back to protect his sheep.

My uncle paused for what seemed like a very long time…I grew impatient.

“What did he do next?” I asked him. My uncle then calmly told me that the young shepherd prayed. “What? What kind of stupid thing is that to do when a lion is about to attack?” I responded. My uncle calmly replied, “That is usually the best thing to do at a time like that. Let me finish the story.”

He started up again with the story telling me how the young boy realized that this was not something that he could take care of all by himself and so he asked for help from the most powerful friend that he had. He talked to the Lord. You see, not all those long hours with the sheep were spent in idleness. The young boy would think about the stories that he had been told from the Bible and the God that they described. He would talk the Lord and he would write poetry and songs to the Lord. He played his small harp too calm the sheep when they were restless. So now when they were in real danger, he prayed to the Lord and asked for strength and wisdom to care for his sheep properly. He began to sing to the sheep to settle them down. He picked up his staff and knife and began to slowly walk around the flock as he had in his dream. When he got about halfway around, he could see the lion clearly and approached it very slowly. Fortunately, he was approaching from downwind. The lion was stalking one of the sheep and did not notice him right away. To make a long story short, the lion did attack him but he was able to stun it with his staff and then kill it with his knife.

As a young boy, I was very impressed with this story. I was really excited that a young boy could take on a lion and win. My uncle was telling me the story to make sure that I understood the importance of taking care of the sheep properly. He also had another reason.

As an adult, I am now impressed by that story for a different reason. It was not the boy’s strength or prowess with his weapons that caused his victory over the lion. I realize now that it was the prayer that empowered and enabled the boy. As a young boy, I could not fully appreciate that. I had some glimmer of understanding. I think that now I understand better, but still, not fully. Prayer is a powerful tool. At all times, not just in times of need. Had that young boy not taken the time to reflect on the stories that he had been told and gotten to know the Lord those stories told of, he would not have been able to prevail against the lion that night. We all need to do the same.

Emmanuel, The Word becomes flesh!

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

(John 1:1-5 NLT)

He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Was there ever an event in your life that was so big you couldn’t get your head around it? Maybe the big, world famous dignitary was coming to visit your company or community you were asked to be an honored guest. Maybe your hero, someone you’ve looked up to your whole life, was coming to your house just to visit with you and you cleaned and spruced everything up so much that you hardly recognized it as your house?

You would also want to make sure that everyone knows about the event. You would feel the urge to tell everyone you know, post in on Facebook, send out Tweets, call the TV news channels.

The night before the big day you’d be so excited wouldn’t be able to sleep. You finally decide to get up hours before you need to. You take extra care getting yourself ready. As the time draws near, you can’t sit still. You can’t even stand still. Your palms sweat. You skip the coffee because you are already too jittery.

This event will change your life. It already has and it hasn’t even happened yet! You will mark the day on your calendar and celebrate the anniversary of it each year for the rest of your life. Your whole outlook on life will be different. People will never treat you the same again. Your dull, drab life will now have purpose and meaning.

And yet even if such a thing happened to you, it would pale in comparison with the event that we celebrate each December 25th. On that day, each year, we commemorate the single most important event in human history.

Bigger than any visiting dignitary, more important than any hero you could imagine is the entry into the world of the one who created it. He came not just to visit, He came to live. He came to take up residence with us. He came to become one of us. He came to experience life as we experience it. He came to feel life as we do. All the ups, downs, inconveniences and discomfort that comes with being wholly human. He would love, laugh, cry and smile just like we do. More importantly He would die for us.

Let’s not let all of that get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. Let’s not get distracted by the cute little baby and familiar stories and forget what is really happening here. The Lord God of the Universe, the mighty and awesome God that created everything there is loves us so much that He became one of us to tell us about that love. Maybe you still can’t get your head around all of that, but take just a few moments to contemplate that this day.

GOD, as a Baby!

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! [Blessed are you among women.]" Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. "Don’t be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!"

(Luke 1:26-33) NLT

How long had the Jews been waiting, hoping, and yearning for this baby? They had been waiting since the first promise of a Savior, right after the fall in Genesis. Many are the prophecies about this baby in the scriptures. They had been waiting for so long that many had [or had lost hope]given up hope. Most still clung to a form of their ancient religion, but they no longer believed in its power.

Have we also given up hope? Have we also lost our faith in what God can do in our lives today? In the words of today’s reading is the hope of the ages. It’s not just a birth announcement; it’s God entering into our world. He is going to be one of us. He will live like us. He will be cold and hot, hungry and full, sad and happy. All of the things that we are and all of the things that we experience will be His lot too. He will be born weak and powerless just as we were. He will be one of us! How much He must love us to want to be with us that much.

The promise of a baby borne of a virgin is something only God can do. There can be no counterfeits. The promise is real. It is genuine. In it is the foundation of the hope we can have that God cares about us, about me … about you. He is doing the impossible for us. He is doing it for no other reason than He cares for us. He loves us so much He is willing to become one of us. Believe in that love. Believe in the hope He brings to us.

The Best Christmas Present Ever

I want to share with you a little story that I did some years ago…

 

Narrator: One weekend, Susie and Stanley were spending the weekend with their Grandparents. Grammie was busy elsewhere in the house. Grandpa was in the kitchen whipping up a batch of his world famous oatmeal raisin cookies. The two kids have been trying to decide what would be the best Christmas present to get.

Stanley: But Susie, I still think that a complete collection of Tonka trucks would be the best ever. Just think of all the dirt you could move!!

Susie: Oh yeah, and you know how mom feels about all that dirt. Now what I think is that new Barbie doll with all of her stuff like the big house that looks like a castle & cars & boats & clothes…wow, that would be great!!

Stanley: But that’s girl stuff!!

Susie: Yes and trucks are boy stuff. We gotta think of something that anybody would like.

Stanley: Well, then…how about computer games? Remember that game where you had to find things and it took us nearly a week of looking together to find everything?? That was fun and we both like it.

Susie: Yes, that’s true and we both played with the Legos and Lincoln Logs. I made a doll house out them and you built a fort.

Stanley: But maybe older kids & grownups wouldn’t like that stuff as much as we would.

Susie: You’re right, Stanley. Hmm, what would ANYBODY like to get…???

Stanley: Hey! Maybe we could ask Grampa. He could help us figure it out.

Together: Yeah!!!

Both kids jump up and rush into the kitchen….

Together: Grampa!!!

Looking up from his cookie mix…

Grampa: Hey there kiddos! How are my two favorite grandchildren?

Together: Grampa! We’re you’re only grandchildren.

Grampa: Well, that doesn’t change the fact that you are my two favorite grandchildren in the whole wide world. Now, what is it that you two want? The world famous oatmeal raisin cookies have not even gone in the oven yet. I was just tasting the dough to make sure I haven’t left anything out.

Susie: Grampa! They are not cooked yet! Ewww!! Yuck!!

Licking his lips & fingers…

Stanley: I don’t know, Susie, this tastes kind of good. This would go great with ice cream Grampa!

Grampa: What was it you guys wanted anyway??

Stanley: Oh, yeah…we wanted you to help us figure something out.

Susie: That’s right. We have been trying to figure out what the best ever Christmas present would be. Stanley thinks that it would be Tonka trucks & stuff. I think that it would be all the new Barbie dolls & stuff. Then we thought about computer games that we could both play or Lego’s or Lincoln Logs or…

Grampa: Whoa there little one, I got the idea. Why don’t the two of you sit down at the table there while I put this first tray of my world famous oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven? We’ll talk while they are baking & maybe we can sample them fresh out of the oven.

Both kids: All Right!!!

Grampa: Now let me get this oven door open and put this tray in…make sure that the temperature is just right and set the timer. Good! All done! Now, let’s talk about this present thing. I don’t think that you kids are thinking big enough. Let’s think about the best present ever given. Not just the Christmas type. I seem to remember a story that starts like this.

A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when God had just created the earth. He had just finished making all of the animals and fish and plants & trees. He said that all of this is good, but… He then took some mud and created Adam. (I think that is why boys like dirt so much.) When Adam was awake and had looked around a little bit, God asked him to name all the animals. Well, that took awhile, but, after Adam was done, he was a little lonely. All of the animals had males and females. They had someone to spend time with and talk with and stuff, but…Adam didn’t. God knew that this was making Adam sad. So, He put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs and made Eve. She was a present from God to Adam. God then gave the whole world to Adam and Eve to rule over and be masters of. That was a pretty big present if you ask me.

Well, pretty soon Adam and Eve messed up and sinned against God. This pretty much messed up everything all around. They got kicked out of the garden that God had planted for them to live in and they had to work hard every day just to survive. Sin had been brought into the world by their disobedience and the world has been a mess ever since.

But, even as God was kicking them out of the garden, He made a promise that one day He would send someone to do something about the mess that they made.

Well, a lot of time passed and God gave lots of presents to His people. Sometimes the presents were people to help them out when they were in trouble like Noah and Moses. Sometimes He gave them food and water where there wasn’t any like when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert for 40 years. God fed them twice a day.

When they got to the Chosen Land, He helped them take control of it and get settled. He sent people called Judges to help them when they forgot about God and got themselves in trouble. He gave them a king when they wanted one. When they were taken into captivity after forgetting about God again for a long time, He sent them Daniel and kept him from getting eaten in the lions den. He sent them Queen Esther to keep them from getting killed by the evil Haman. He brought them back to Israel when He said that He would and even after they were conquered by the Romans, the finally time came for the best preset of all.

There was a young girl named Mary we talked about her before, do you remember? Do you remember how when the angel told her that she was going to become pregnant and she said that couldn’t be because she was not married and the angel told her that all things are possible with God? She told the angel that it was ok with her because it was going to be from God. Do you also remember that she did get married and she and her husband Joseph had to travel all the way to Bethlehem because the Roman Caesar wanted to count everyone? And then there was no room at the inn and they had to sleep in the stable? And then angels appeared to some shepards to tell them that a wonderful thing was about to happen? Do you remember what the angel said?

“But the angel said to them, do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The angels were talking about Jesus. He was the one that God promised to Adam and Eve that would clean up the mess that they had made. Jesus came to clean us and take away all of our sins by dying on the cross for us.

Jesus is the Best Christmas Present Ever.

Stanley: Wow Grampa! That’s really cool. I never thought of it that way before.

Susie: That’s right Stanley and now because we have asked Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour, we can go to heaven when we die and live for Him while we are alive.

Stanley: And we can pray to Him when we feel lonely or scared or for just any old reason.

Grampa: That’s right kids. I think that you understand really well. Oops, the timer just went off. Who wants some of my fresh hot world famous oatmeal raisin cookies???

Stanley: Grampa, do you think that it would be a good idea to tell our friends about Jesus being the best Christmas present ever? I was thinking about telling my friend Whitney and maybe Johnnie.

Grampa: I think that would be the best idea that anyone could ever have.

Susie: That’s right! If we tell other people about it, it would be like giving them the best Christmas present ever and we could give it to everyone we know!! Like I could tell my friend Cherry!

Grampa: That’s right Susie and you too Stanley. Stanley, could you get the milk from the refrigerator? Susie, could you get some small plates. I think that you two will need some milk and cookies before you go & tell all of you friends about Jesus and ask them to accept God’s Best Christmas Present ever.

The View From My Window Vol. 3

It was a night like no other in recent memory for me. I’m talking about last Sunday’s evening service at Grace Neighborhood Church. It was Missionary Emphasis Sunday at the lively little church that serves our neighborhood and many of you who read this column have participated in more than a few of those. They are always a great time to hear about the lives of missionaries in the field. The stories that they have to tell are always inspiring and often exciting to hear. This year was no different. Well, actually, it was different in a very significant way. We have also been present when the parents of the pastor have come to visit. Very seldom do we see these two events combined.

We heard from a missionary couple that had served 30 years in Africa. The two of them were each called to serve in Africa while they were still children (and best friends). They grew up knowing that they would go there to serve as adults. They married while training in Bible College and went straight to Africa after graduation. They spent close to 30 years in the field, raised a family and brought countless hundreds to the Saviour during those many years. These two saints had the home movies, slides and stories to tell and we will hear more about those later. But, there was another aspect that made this event very special.

You see these two missionaries are the Reverend John Johnson and his wife Susie, the parents of the pastor of Grace Neighborhood Church, Tom Johnson. He was raised, in Africa, by these two marvelous folks. He grew up on the mission field in Africa; and Tom, like his father, was called to serve the Lord as a child. He also married his sweetheart in Bible College. However, instead of going to the foreign mission field, Tom and his lovely bride were called to an inner city mission field. That would be us, folks. Our fair city that once sent missionaries to the foreign fields, now receives them. Truly, Tom Johnson and his family were sent to us from Africa as missionaries.

In the home movies, slides and stories that I mentioned earlier, we were treated to glimpses of 30 years of missionary work in Africa. In the earliest pictures, we saw a very young couple, very much in love with their Lord and each other. We saw, in the following hour, first hand images and accounts that spanned a long career that brought the light of the Gospel to a dark land. This couple served the people of Africa by loving them, building churches, building schools, building clinics, translating the scripture into a dozen or more dialects and the list goes on. They also survived the onslaught of disease, draught and war. Through all of this, they stayed with the people they were there to serve and loved them into heaven. Oh yes, they were also raising the son that has become the pastor of our little church.

In later years, they focused on training young nationals to carry on the work that they had started. This work was informal at first, but eventually they established a Bible School to carry on that work. Twenty seven churches are now pastored by graduates of that school. Their work expanded to overseeing the missionary work in the entire region of the country that they served in and eventually, they retired. Well, it might be more accurate to say that they just changed missionary fields. They have been kept busy traveling around the country (and the world) speaking about their experiences on the field, raising money for missions and recruiting young people to fill their shoes overseas. People are responding to these two missionaries for missions. Young people especially are responding in large numbers. Susie and John know a bit about being called as children since they tell the story of how a missionary named Dr. Anderson spoke in their church in the northern town of Millville and called for volunteers for the mission field. They each responded and felt clearly of their own call to the field. They have shown a single-minded dedication to their calling that is rare in today’s world. People don’t seem to stick with any one thing more than a few years. I can only hope that they example that they are setting will be followed by more young people.

An example of that single-mindedness may be forming in their own family and their dedication to service of the Gospel. When John and Susie gave the invitation at the end of the service, they also invited any who felt called to serve the Lord in missions to come forward. A number of our young people did. Among them was another Susie. Young Susie Johnson, the daughter of the pastor and the granddaughter of the speakers came forward to offer herself for service. It looks like the Johnson family may be going for a 3rd generation in the ministry. What a legacy!

We’ll check in on young Susie from time to time to see how she is doing. By all accounts, she is as precocious as her grandmother is and looks just like her too.

I would like to leave you all, this week, with the thought that dedication to service and caring for others is not a dead thing. We have not lost it completely in our modern society. It can be hard to find at times, but it is still alive. This family has it coursing through their veins stronger than usual and it shows no signs of abating in them. Little Susie Johnson is proof of that.

I want to challenge all of you, my readers, to look around you and find a way to care for someone else. Lend a helping hand to those around you. Help the helpless. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Read the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25. For help on how to get involved, visit Grace Neighborhood Church and talk to Pastor Tom. He can point you in the right direction.

Until next week, God Bless and Godspeed.

The View from My Window Vol.2

I am about to break the rules of blogging again…stay with me though. I hope you find it interesting.

I can see and hear a lot of things from my window. Today, I’m listening to sounds and smells coming from inside our apartment. The grandchildren are visiting, watching TV, playing games on the computer. Last night we spent some time reading and telling Bible stories and my wife heated up some cinnamon rolls that we had picked up from the Murphy’s. They smell almost as good as going over to the bakery. Mmm! The combination of grandchildren, bible stories and cinnamon rolls is mighty good!

It reminds me of a time when we first moved into the neighborhood. We were looking for ways to get involved in the neighborhood and to meet new people when we heard about the mission from the Murphy’s. I called the volunteer coordinator and asked what we could do. I have rarely heard such an enthusiastic response and such a long list of needs. After talking for some time we settled on doing a music and story time in the family shelter. I first tried it on a Tuesday evening and was I surprised! I had been doing that sort of thing in churches for years. Most of these children and families had never been to a church and had no clue about what to expect from me. I started with the music and since the children had never heard any of the songs that I was doing, it was really hard to get them to settle down. I was beginning to think that I was the wrong person for the job until I started to tell the story. I had selected a Bible story that had a bit of adventure in it and even though these children had never heard a Bible story before, but, they seemed to get locked into the story very quickly. You could have heard a pin drop in that room! I never would have believed it. But, then I recalled the reaction of my own children, grandchildren and Sunday school kids. They almost always react the same way and adults are not much different. People have always loved a good story.

Maybe that’s why God put so much of the Bible into story form. Actually, the whole Bible is one big story. It is the story of God’s love for his created children, us. Some people have called it the “Greatest Story Ever Told”. It is amazing in its depth and breadth. I read a piece on the internet by Craig von Buseck, a CBN.com Producer. In his article entitled “Did You Ever Wonder What The Bible Was All About?” he says that “The Bible is the story of Jesus”. I think that he is exactly right. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the sign for Bible in American Sign Language is a combination of the sign for “Jesus” and the sign for “book”. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation is a story without equal. Everything that can be experienced by humankind is described. Every emotion and choice is there, whether good or bad. It would seem that every other book ever written owes a debt to it. Not so much, I suppose, in that is was not the first book ever written down, but that it has so much of who and what we are.

I suppose that this is why children of (all ages) are enraptured by stories from the Bible. They are ageless and classic and never lose their relevance to our daily lives. I will probably never forget that first time at the mission. Not only were the children quiet as the proverbial church mice, but their parents were as well. I told the story of Nehemiah and how he went back to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the wall. I have also told the stories of Esther and Zacchaeus and the Apostle Paul. The children who have never been to church are now learning some of the classical lessons from the Bible and getting to know it’s author from these stories. I think that is the primary object after all, to teach people about their creator and their saviour. They also serve to teach us how to love each other. That is something that is lacking in almost every area of our world these days. The task of continuing to tell Bible stories may seem like a small thing in some eyes, but, I think that it is a large thing in a world that sorely needs the wisdom and guidance supplied by these stories.

I don’t think that we will ever not need to be reminded to love our neighbor, that envy and jealousy can lead to violence (or even murder) or that prayer can sustain us in dark times. God has provided us with a wealth of stories in the Bible, each one focused on some particular need that we have. Sometimes we realize that need, sometimes we forget. There is a unique joy that I get in retelling the stories. You see, I need the same reminders that you do. We have that in common. It is part of our humanity. It is part of our lostness. It is part of how much we all need the same loving care from each other. But, mostly we need to be reminded of our need for our Saviour.

Much in the same way that we can all appreciate the marvelous smell of fresh or reheated cinnamon rolls, we can all appreciate sitting on the floor like a child being told fascinating stories of long ago and far away. Especially if those stories speak to us deep inside in ways that we didn’t know we needed. They are stories that remind us of a home that we seem to have forgotten about. Like Jesus said in Mat 19:14: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” (The Message) Children also know good stuff when they run into it.

I’ve already broken the blogging rules…

I just learned this evening that my posts to this blog are only supposed to be 250 words or less. I blew way past that in my first entry. But, that is the way I begin most things. I try all the wrong things first until I learn the right way to do them.
Perhaps, that is a good way to learn things. I dive right in with no preconceived notion of what I am supposed to be doing. I learn a lot of interesting life lessons that way.
I can only encourage you to try this method with the knowledge that I am still alive and mostly useful at writing stories.

The View From My Window Vol.1

This piece is something that I wrote several years ago to describe a neighborhood in the fictitious town of Crescent City. It is the setting I have chosen for the new stories of Susie and Johnny that I have been writing.

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I can see and hear a lot of things from my window. You see, I am a writer. My wife Carol and our cat Norman live in a condo that is in a neighborhood with many other apartment buildings. It is an older neighborhood that is coming to life again after many years of neglect. There are many small shops, businesses and a few schools. In our apartment, my desk is positioned so that I sit close to the front window of our apartment. I can look out and watch people. I have witnessed many events looking out my window. Mostly just little, normal, every day events like the hearing the laughter of children, angry shouts of someone that feels hurt or wronged. I can also hear the seasons. I hear birds singing in the spring and the soft crunch that people make when they are walking by in freshly fallen snow. I like to tell the stories that I see and hear from my window.

Sometimes, I can smell things through my window. Just yesterday I caught the smell of fresh bread baking. So, I just have to get out and get some. It made me SO hungry. You see there’s a small bakery just up the street. Rob and Jenna Murphy just opened it up about a couple of months ago. Nice kids & hard workers too. They make some of the best French and sourdough bread that I have ever tasted; the biggest, fluffiest, sweetest, fullest cream puffs you have ever seen or tasted and…and….and gigantic cinnamon rolls to DIE for.

I like Rob and Jenna a lot. Let me tell you a little bit about them. They were married just a few years ago right out of community college. They both worked really hard in the culinary program there and at other bakeries learning the craft of what they do. They also managed to scrape together enough time and money to send Jenna to a special culinary school to learn to be a pastry chef while Rob specialized in artisan breads. After that, they found an old storefront and spent the rest of their savings and some borrowed money setting up their dream.

They didn’t get a whole lot of business to begin with so they gave away samples of their baked goods around the neighborhood. Gradually, the word got around and people started buying their breads and pastries there. After awhile, Rob & Jenna picked up some used tables & chairs from a restaurant that closed and set a few up in a corner of the storefront so that customers could sit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea and with their fresh morning pastry right there in the shop. Rob is planning on starting to serve sandwiches & soups for lunch. I’m looking forward to that. His bread is fantastic.

I go over every couple of days for a loaf of Rob’s bread and one of Jenna’s giant cinnamon rolls. Jenna told me that I could cut the roll in quarters and freeze some of it. I can now heat the unused portion in the microwave and have fresh hot cinnamon roll every morning with my coffee. On days when I am wrestling with writers block, the thought (and smell) of that cinnamon roll coming warm and fresh out of the microwave are all that I need to make me excited enough to get up and face the day!

Oh and they take all of their leftovers to the mission over on Front street. Now THERE are some happy folks!

That brings me to the point of this week’s View. These two are working hard and living out the American dream. They are also doing something else. They are living their faith out loud in front of all of our neighbors. It’s not just that they take leftovers to the mission; they are open with all of their customers. You notice something different about their shop as soon as you walk in. The music in their shop is a mix of old hymns and new contemporary Christian music. It’s always there in the background. It’s not in your face. The cheerful attitude of the Murphy’s tells you that there is something different about them. They always treat all of their customers like family. It’s not unusual for Jenna or Rob to sit down with a customer over a cup of coffee and discussing whatever is on the customer’s mind. People feel free to share their lives with Rob and Jenna. They seem to possess wisdom beyond their years. Between the great food and the great people in their shop, Rob & Jenna are already making an impact in the neighborhood.

Well, I’m headed out to get some of that bread that I have been smelling all morning while I was writing this. I think that I see some garlic bread and pasta in our future. Do you want to come along? Great! I’ll show you around the neighborhood on the way. Let’s go!

Out the door, down the stairs through the lobby and out to the street. It is a beautiful day out today. I see lot’s of blue sky and some white fluffy clouds with just the lightest breeze that is coming from the direction of the Murphy’s Bakery.

Across the street you can see, our corner grocery run by the Nguyen family. They are originally from Vietnam so they have some additional items in their store that reflect their heritage. When we have our annual neighborhood block party they serve some of that delicious Vietnamese Pho Beef & Noodle soup. That stuff is unbelievable! They have three some small children that are in the local school.

On the corner on this side of the street is Mr. Cimino’s Butcher shop. Tony and his wife Rosalie have run this shop for almost thirty years. Their children have all grown up and started their own families. Some have left the area, but two of the children, Maria and Tony junior are working in the shop so the grandchildren are there too a lot of the time when they are not in school. They are learning the business from their parents and grandparents. My family gets all of our meat from there, but we especially love the Italian sausage and prosciutto that we get from them. It is wonderful stuff. Oh, and you can always hear an Italian opera somewhere in the background of their shop. I never really liked opera when I was growing up, but, now, I always associate it with the Cimino’s Butcher shop and that wonderful sausage and prosciutto. It gives me a warm feeling to hear La Boheme when I walk down the street or hear bits and pieces of Rigolleto from my open window.

Across the street we have our little drugstore; Harry’s has been here so long that it still has the racks of comic books near the front door and the soda fountain counter. You can still get real old fashioned soda’s here and ice cream sundaes. This drugstore is run by Harry. I don’t know Harry’s last name. Everyone just calls him Harry and I have never asked about it. He has been a pharmacist almost since, well, it’s just been a really long time. It’s also a great place to get cards for all of the occasions of life and just a little bit of almost everything else. It is amazing the stuff that he has in there. If you can’t find it, just ask Harry. He’s got it in there somewhere.

Across the street you can see the Anderson’s Hardware store. There is another place with almost anything that you can think of. Bob Anderson took the store over from his uncle about 5 years ago and associated with Big-Value to get more name recognition, but he has still kept that neighborhood feel to the store. His wife Marion usually runs the counter and makes all the keys, but Bob is always there helping people with their projects or teaching dummies like me how to change a washer or fix a hole in the wall. He even came over one time to help me install a ceiling fan with a light fixture for our dining room. Talk about great service! Bob and Marion have become close friends of ours. We love spending time with them.

About two blocks up the street is our church. It is called Grace Neighborhood Church. Our pastor Tom Johnson spends a lot of time visiting with folks in our neighborhood and it seems like every time there is a need some where, there he is lending a helping hand. The next time you visit, I‘ll take you up to visit him. He’s a great guy and you’ll love his wife Margie and their two kids, Susie and Stanley.

Well, here we are at the Murphy’s so I’ll say goodbye until we meet again to discover what I can see in the View from my window. God Bless you.