Two Brothers – Part 2

The day had finally arrived for their Harvest Offering. At the end of the season, the family brought together offerings to the Lord to thank Him for the bounty that He had provided for them. Each member of the family brought the best of what their labors had produced. Adam and Eve both brought their offerings first. Then it was the boy’s turn.

Cain hurriedly brought a basket overflowing with items that he had grown this season. Each one had been selected with care. Adam noticed that, even though the basket was overflowing, the produce was among the ripest, very ripe. Some were almost beyond use. He also noticed that the basket was one size smaller than last year. He was not pleased with what his son had done and decided that he would talk to him about it after the ceremony. His oldest son was quickly done with his portion of their ceremony and backed away from the altar.

Abel’s gift was from the best of his youngest lambs. They were without blemish of any sort. Some of them had already been sacrificially killed to prepare for this offering. He slowly and carefully placed them on the altar, along with the choicest fat. He took his time, making sure that everything was just so. He seemed to be talking to himself as he was working at the altar. When he was done, he bowed his head down low and backed away slowly.

Adam approached the altar slowly. He carried with him a torch and lit the wood that had been carefully arranged on the altar and the offerings were consumed. Almost. After the flames had leaped high into the sky and the smoke curled up toward the heavens, there was one item left on the altar that was left mostly untouched by the flames. It was Cain’s basket.

The rest of the family looked first at the basket and then at Cain in disbelief. Cain stared at the basket. His eyes then dropped to the ground. He then turned and ran toward his fields as fast as he could go. Eve started to go after him, but Adam held her back. “He needs to sort this out for himself, Eve. This is between him and the Lord.” Adam said.

Eve turned to her husband, looked into his eyes, and said, “Adam, what happened? Why was his basket not burned with the rest?” Adam responded, “Sweetheart, did you look at that basket? It’s smaller than last year and the produce was all past the peak of ripeness. He didn’t offer the Lord his best and the Lord rejected his offering. He needs to look into his own heart and be honest with the Lord about his motivations and his heart.”

“But, Adam, did you see his face. I have never seen him look so hurt and rejected before. His pride was severely damaged here. I’m really worried about him.” Eve countered. Adam responded, “I think that maybe his pride may have been the issue. It needs to be taken down some. This will be good for him. It’s a lesson he needs to learn. He’s just doing it the hard way.”

Eve looked at her husband and said, “Adam, I don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in who you are or what you do. I’m going to talk to him. I can bring him around. I always have.” Adam took her gently into his arms and said, “At least wait until he comes home for dinner tonight. He’ll have calmed down by then.” “All right, I’ll wait,” she said and nestled into his embrace. Adam looked around for Abel and saw him walking off in the same direction that his brother had run and thought that maybe a brother-to-brother talk was long overdue. Maybe Abel could reach his brother in a way that he had not been able to lately. He turned toward the house with Eve by his side and, together, they walked home.

Abel knew just where to look. Cain always went to the same place when things were tough and confusing. The two boys had spent a lot of time there together when they were little. It was a rock overlooking the river and shaded by a number of trees. Abel headed out across the fields toward the river in search of his brother.

The Garden Gate – Conclusion

By this time, Horace had had enough and decided to put his own two cents in. He cleared his throat and said in his most official voice, “Young lady, please remove yourself from the entrance to my home or I shall be forced to take steps to have you removed!”

“Who ARE you?” Amanda asked. Horace then flew down to a lower branch so that she could more easily see him. “Oh, yes, please forgive my poor manners. My name is Horace Alexander Bumpworth III. This tree is my home, the plumbing has gone out of whack, and the plumbers have just arrived only to find you sitting directly in front of the entrance to my elevator and since beavers cannot climb a tree that is their only way in. So…can you please move yourself so that they can get in?”

Now it took Amanda just a moment to realize what she was being told and then jumped up to clear the way saying, “Oh yes, I am very sorry, I didn’t know.”

Horace replied, “That’s quite alright, no harm done. Maury, would you please go and get the beavers back here so that they can go on with their work?” Maury said, “Sure Horace, right away.

Amanda watched Maury fly off to retrieve the beavers and then looked at Horace who asked, “And who might you be, young lady?”

With a slight hesitation, because she had never spoken to an owl before, Amanda replied, “My name is Amanda Applewhite. I live with my father on a farm in, in…” Amanda looked all around trying to get her bearings and realized that she was not quite sure which way was home. “It’s in that direction,” she said pointing west.

Horace ruffled his feathers, gave a little hoot, and said, “Well, it seems that you have gotten yourself lost. Perhaps you should turn right around and head home right away. You wouldn’t want to anyone to worry about you, so off you go! Goodbye! On your way!” Then he flew back up to his front porch.

Amanda just stood there staring at Horace as he perched about halfway up the tree. She realized that unless she looked really hard she couldn’t see that there was a little structure sticking out of the tree. Horace opened what looked like a little door and went inside. She then thought that she could hear a door close. She shook her head, looked around the clearing for the beavers and didn’t see a thing. She looked up again and tried to see Horace’s front porch again and it wasn’t there! Amanda closed her eyes, shook her head again, looked all around, and could see no trace of the owl or the beavers.

She closed her eyes and began to rub them. She was just starting to think that she had imagined it all when she opened her eyes again and found that herself yawning and stretching her arms. She realized that she was sitting down and leaning up against the tree again. She could hear the buzz as a dragonfly went close by her ear towards the stream and then up into a shaft of sunlight before disappearing.

Amanda wondered if she had just dreamed the whole thing, shook her head again and then headed home. She had a real story to tell her dad, but she was not sure exactly what to tell him. When she got to the place where the garden gate was, she opened it, walked through and closed it. She walked a little ways toward where she had entered into the forest and turned around. The path was gone. She took a couple of steps back toward the gate and now it was gone too. She stood and stared for just a minute, reached back and felt a lump on the back of her head. “Ouch!” she said out loud and was surprised by the sound of her own voice. Her head hurt and she decided that she had better go home.

When she reached the edge of the forest, she could see that the sun was getting low in the sky. It was then that she realized that she had a bunch of wildflowers in her hand. She turned toward home and ran.

The Garden Gate – Part Three

Maury buzzed over toward the lead beaver and said “Melvin, you hang on to those big teeth of yours. Horace will be right down and figure this out.” Melvin looked at his watch, started tapping his right foot, and then said, “Well, we’re on the clock. Time started when we left the shop. It makes no difference to me whether we spend the time working or not.” Melvin then turned around and spoke to the rest of the beavers, “Okay boys, break time. I saw a small stand of birches on the way in. Let’s go back that-a-way and get a little snack!” Then they all turned around and walked back the way that they came.

Now Horace saw the beavers headed away from his tree and began to squawk loudly. “Hey there, you beavers, come back here! Come back here this instant! I have been waiting for you to get here for three days and I won’t have you leaving before you even get started!! Come back!!”

Maury flew up to Horace and shouted at him, “Settle down Horace, they are just going to lunch while we…YOU figure out what to do with that little girl down there.” “How am I supposed to know what to do with her?” replied Horace. She’s just another lost human. We get them every so often. I don’t know what to do with her.”

“Well, we’ll have to think of something and soon or those beavers will leave and you will have to schedule them again for another day”, said Maury.

“I can’t do that,” moaned Horace, “it’ll be another week before they can get out here again. I can’t stand being without running water. I already have dishes piled up all over in the kitchen, dirty laundry and I haven’t been able to make iced tea for almost a week! I can’t stand it, I tell you!” Horace was nearly shouting by this time and the noise caused Amanda to begin to stir. Horace and Maury both flew down to see if they could get her to wake up and leave.

Amanda felt very groggy and had a terrific headache from banging her head up against the tree, her vision was a bit blurred as she opened her eyes but it began to clear as she tried to sit up and get her bearings. She put her hands flat on the ground and began pushing herself up and to try to stand, but she got very dizzy and plopped right back down again and said “Whew! What happened? I think that I took a little nap and when I woke up I must have still been dreaming because I thought I saw the ugliest dragonfly I have ever seen and it was sitting right on my nose. Wow! What a dream that must have been!”

Now Maury is a very proud dragonfly and thinks that he is quite handsome. He took great offense to what Amanda said and said so loudly. “Just what do you mean by that? I am not ugly! In fact, I am said to be quite attractive to the damselflies in the area. Humph, ugly indeed!”

Amanda looked in the direction of Maury’s voice to see the little dragonfly sitting on a leaf of a low hanging branch. He was looking quite stern for a dragonfly and she could not believe her eyes or her ears.

“Did you just talk to me?” Amanda said in a very surprised voice.

“Yes, I did!” Maury exclaimed, “You insulted me. I was just trying to wake you up so that the plumbers could get into Horace’s tree. His water pipes are not working and you were blocking the entrance to the elevator.”

Now, Amanda could not believe her eyes or her ears. “You’re a talking dragonfly?” She said to herself and she blinked real hard and then shook her head to try to clear her thoughts. “This is NOT happening to me!” But, when she looked again, Maury was still there and he was still talking. “You just have to move! Horace really needs the plumbers to fix his water pipes and …”

The Garden Gate – Part Two

Now Horace looked down at the reclining figure at the base of the tree in which he made his home and moaned to himself. “Not only do I have a case of insomnia, but now there’s a young girl blocking the door to my tree! How are the beavers going to get in to fix the plumbing? Oh, drat and bother … Maury! Maury, where are you?”

“I’m over here on the other side of the house looking out for the beavers like you asked me to do. What is it now?” Maury flew back to where Horace was sitting and looking down toward the ground.

“Look down there,” he said pointing down with one wing. “There’s a girl down on the ground blocking the entrance to my tree on the ground. If that’s blocked the beavers can’t get in to fix the plumbing, can you go down and tickle her nose and make her go away so the beavers can get in….please?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Horace? She might swat me and kill me. I don’t think that I like the idea very much. It sounds too dangerous to me”, he said with a slight smirk on his face.

“Oh come on Maury, I know for a fact that you’ve done that nose tickle thing a hundred times for fun. And that was on a napping bear! I’ve seen you move quicker than anyone thought you could. Come on, you know you can do it! Please?”

“That’s right I did annoy a few bears for fun, didn’t I? I am pretty fast aren’t I? Oh alright, I’ll do it. You just watch me and see how fast I am! Wait! I’ve got a new technique I’ve wanted to try. Watch this!”

When Amanda awoke from her nap, she had just opened her eyes and was starting to stretch only to discover a dragonfly sitting on her nose, staring right at her. Her eyes opened up very wide, and she stared back. She tried to back up, away from the dragonfly, but because she was already leaning against the tree, could not.  Amazingly, the dragonfly didn’t fly away. It just stayed right there on the end of her nose staring at her. Amanda was so surprised she just sat there, staring back.

“Maury, what are you doing down there? You’re supposed to be getting her to move so the plumbers can get to the door.” came Horace’s voice from up in the tree.

Amanda suddenly realized that these creatures were talking. She looked up at Horace and then back at Maury again and then tried to sort of stand up and jump backward at the same time, but only succeeded in hitting her head against the tree, knocking herself out. She then slumped down against the tree, back into her original position. Then the Maury lifted off from her nose and hovered above her.

“Oh hold on to your pin feathers, Horace. I was trying not to scare her to death, but, you seem to have accomplished that with your impatient shouting.” Maury shot back. “Now get down here and check to see if she’s dead or if you can wake her up again.”

Just then, a small group of beavers waddled into the clearing. Each of them was wearing a small tool belt, a hard hat and a small bag of tools that clanged and clanked with each step they took. They walked up close to the tree where Amanda lay unconscious and stopped. Each one of them stared at the girl. “Hey! What is this?” said the one in front. “How are we supposed to get up to Horace’s with that…that…human in the way?”

The Garden Gate – Part One

It was one of those days. You know the kind I mean. One of those days in late summer that you can actually smell summer in the air. That heavy, sweet smell that hangs thickly over the ground as you walk. Amanda found herself thinking that a small breeze would be as welcome as an ice cream cone. She was out taking a long afternoon walk and had decided to look for some wildflowers to put on the dinner table. Her mom always liked to do that when she was alive and when Amanda did it, it made her dad smile. She loved making her dad smile. He did far too little of that these days.

Thinking about her mom made her sad. Thinking about seeing her dad not smiling because he missed her mom so much, made her even more sad. She tried to pray when she felt this way. Somehow, talking to God, even without words, helped to ease her sadness. She began to sing an old hymn that she had heard and sung in their little church.

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.

This is what she found herself doing today, walking, singing and talking with God in the summer sun.

She wasn’t actually paying attention to the time as she walked this afternoon. School wasn’t going to start up again for another few weeks and she was relishing the freedom to waste an entire afternoon. She had left the house shortly after lunch to find the flowers, so she was just wandering in the fields east of the house along the edge of the woods the bordered their property, picking flowers as she went.

Something drew her in the direction of the tall trees, perhaps it was the thought of some shade and cool breezes. Perhaps, it was something else. She never really thought about it. She just found herself headed toward the woods and when she entered the shadows of the forest, the coolness of the air nearly caused her to shiver. It was like entering a different world. One that was fresh and green. Those were welcome feelings on such a hot sticky afternoon. It was also lush with sounds that she had not heard just a minute before.

As she walked through the thick woods, she saw the most unusual thing. There was a garden gate. It was just a little, simple white wooden garden gate, slightly open with no fence on either side. Curious, she thought to herself as she walked over to it and looked for just a minute. Though not freshly painted, it did not look neglected. Then she touched it, just to make sure it was real. She swung it all the way open, then back and forth. There was just a slight squeak. Finally, she walked through it and, instinctively closed it. The woods seemed different on this side of the gate and there was a path that she hadn’t seen just a minute before. She decided to follow it. She was curious now.

She distinctly heard the call of an owl and then the sound of the breeze moving the branches of the trees that surrounded her on the path. Now there was the sound of the creek that bordered her farm and provided them with water and many fish suppers. She could not recall ever having seen this part of it before. That struck her as a little odd, but it was surprisingly restful and Amanda began to feel just the slightest bit tired. As she came near the creek, she decided to sit at the base of a gigantic tree and rest. No sooner had she sat down and leaned up against the tree that her eyelids became very heavy and she drifted off to sleep, a very deep sleep. She could hear the hooting of that owl again as she passed into unconsciousness thinking that it was odd to hear an owl in the daytime.

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library – Part 1

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library

By: Steve Mathisen

 

“Elwood!”

The tall boy rolled over and tried to use his pillow to block the sound of his name being called.

“Elwood Phineas Dunkle! Get yourself out of bed and down here for breakfast this very minute,” his mother shouted

He knew the tone and that she would no longer tolerate being ignored.

He groaned, rolled over, slid out of bed, pulled on jeans and T-shirt and headed for the kitchen with a slight detour to the bathroom to wash up.

When he got to the table there was a book instead of his cereal bowl. Elwood looked at his mom.

“That book is due today. You need to make a trip to the library.”

“But Mom, I was going to−”

She set his bowl in place.

“You can do that after your trip to the library.”

“Okay, Mom.”

After breakfast, Elwood put the book in his backpack and rode his bike toward the library.

He was taking a shortcut through the park when his shoelace came untied and got tangled up in the chain of his bicycle. He glanced down at his foot and hit a hidden tree root. The bike stopped suddenly. Elwood did a complete flip over the handlebars and landed staring up at the sky through the branches of a huge oak tree.

“Well, that was a dumb move,” Elwood said to himself. As he began tying his loose shoelace, he looked around for his bike only to see its rear wheel disappear around the trunk of the tree.

Forgetting his laces he jumped up and yelled, “Hey, that’s my bike!” and then ran to where he had last seen his bike and … nothing. There was no bike to be seen anywhere. He ran back around the other way and again … nothing.

“What is going on here?” He said.

Clunk!

“What was that?” Elwood ran around the tree again looking for the source of the sound and once again … nothing.

Clang!

He looked up and saw his bike, hanging twenty feet up, bouncing against the tree and going higher, with a rope around the handlebars!

Elwood quickly found the lowest branch and scrambled up the tree after his bike. He just barely got his hand on the rear wheel of the bike before it disappeared into the darkness of the upper branches of the tree. He climbed higher. He wanted to know what was going on.

He felt cold … and blind. It was so dark toward the top of the tree that he couldn’t see anything but, he heard voices.

His eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see three guys on a platform that was built right into the top of the tree. They had at least a half-dozen bikes. The guys were taking them apart, putting the little parts in boxes and hanging the bigger parts on racks hung on branches.

“Bike thieves”, he whispered, “right here in the middle of the park, hidden up in a tree!”

No one seemed to notice him, so he climbed back down to a lower branch and started thinking about what he had to do to get his bike back.

His brain was working rapid fire coming up with ideas and tossing them out as impractical. Finally, he thought of three possible ideas.

First, he could climb back up and steal his bike back. That wouldn’t work though because the guys up in the tree were all bigger than he was.

Second, he could round up all his friends but, even with all of his friends they probably couldn’t overpower those guys and force them to give him his bike back.

“I’ll go to Uncle Jim; he’s a police officer.”

“But wait, he’s going to want proof!”

He reached into his pocket for his “Emergency Only” phone.

“It has a camera and this is an emergency.”

A Bump on the Head – Conclusion

“Young man, just who are you addressing in that insolent tone?”

Josh turned around to see Mrs. Harbaugh towering over him. She stood with her hands on her hips and her graying hair pulled in a bun so tight she always looked like her face was going to rip.

Josh felt his face flush, “No one, Mrs. Harbaugh. I was just talking to myself. Sorry if I was too loud.”

Mrs. Harbaugh harrumphed, “I thought you might have been talking to Louie. He gets a bit snarky from time to time but we should always be polite to him.”

“He gets snarky?”

“Yes, it means smart-alecky. He has something of a twisted sense of humor. Don’t let him get to you. Just ignore him if he is rude.”

“You mean, you’ve heard him talk?”

The whole class began to laugh.

“Oh yes, all the time! I have tried to teach him some manners but, he doesn’t seem to understand etiquette.”

“How did I not know that?”

Louie’s voice came from behind him. “You’ve got a short attention span, or so I’ve been told.”

Mrs. Harbaugh spoke again, “See what I mean. Snarky. But enough of that, we have a class to conduct.” She turned on her heels and began addressing the class about the next lesson.

Louie said, “I am not snarky. I just have a weird sense of humor.”

Josh peeked at him, “It’s kind of rude if you ask me.”

The class got down to the business of the geography of Peru but Josh’s head began to hurt badly and he asked permission to go see the school nurse.

Sitting in the nurse’s office, Josh began to hear strangely muffled voices that sounded like they had bubbles in them.

“So you think that’s him, Thelma?”

“I sure do, Daphne. He matches the description I heard from Oscar.”

Josh started looking around to see where the voices were coming from and then noticed the two big goldfish in the nurse’s fish tank looked like they were staring at him. As soon as he looked at them, they swam off in opposite directions.

He shook his head as if he could make the voices go away but just made his head hurt worse.

The nurse came in and examined Josh.

“So young man, it looks like you got yourself quite an egg on your head. What happened?”

“I was ducking under a low branch on my way to school and didn’t duck low enough.”

“I’ll say you didn’t! That’s quite an egg on your head. Are you having any pain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been having a pretty bad headache and …”

“And what?”

“Nothing. I just have a really bad headache.”

“Well, I think that’s enough to send you home so your mom can take care of you. I don’t think you have a concussion. But you do need to rest and let the swelling go down.”

“I live real close by, I can walk home.”

“All right, but I’m going to call your Mom and let her know you are on your way.”

“Ok, thanks …”

Josh got two notes from the nurse, one for his teacher and one for his mom. He went back to his classroom and gave Mrs. Harbaugh the one for her.

She read it and told him to pack up his things and go home. As he was doing that, he looked at Louie and the hamster stuck his tongue out at him.

“See ‘ya later kiddo!”

A wave of pain shot through Josh’s head, so he ignored Louie, threw his backpack over his shoulder and headed home.

Instead of just a few animals talking, there now seemed to be a whole chorus of animal talk going on. It was like being in a crowded airport with all sorts of conversations going on around him. It made his head hurt even more.

Josh decided to take the same short cut home through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That … hurt …” Josh put his hand on his head and felt a two very sore lumps the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then … everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and started to sit up when he saw his mom’s face. She was kneeling next to him and said, “Buddy? Are you ok? Mrs. Binkley called me and said that you knocked yourself cold ducking under this old tree limb.”

Josh looked at Howie and Howie just twisted his head, smiled curiously and let out a small “woof!”

“Is that all you have to say, Howie?”

Josh reached into his pocket for the note the nurse gave him for his mom and nothing was there. He then hurriedly checked all the rest of his pockets and looked around on the ground to see if he had dropped it.

His mom asked, “What are you looking for, Josh?”

Josh looked at his mom and said, “I guess nothing. You know, I think I just had a bad dream while I was knocked out. I had this dream that I heard …”

Josh put his hand on his head, but only felt one very sore lump.

Howie responded with another “woof.”

The cat said “meow” and the robin said “chirp.”

“Heard what?” his mom asked.

“Oh, nothing … maybe I better go home and lay down for a while.”

“I think that’s a really good idea. I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be home sick today and then I’ll call the doctor to see if he wants to see you.”

As they walked toward home, Josh thought he heard Howie say, “See ‘ya later Buddy.”