For a while I lived in Australia. During the time I lived there I was bitten by a mosquito and I became infected with something called Ross River Virus, which left me very sick. When I got back to the US I was still rather weak and trying to recover. I bought a book by C.S. Lewis called, “The Screwtape Letters.” I took my new book out to the backyard and strung up my hammock. I was just about to get in when my baby niece started to cry. My younger brother was watching her but I picked her up and brought her out to the hammock.
Rocking in the hammock over the next couple of days I read the entire book to my baby niece. She seemed to enjoy laying there hearing me read and swinging back and forth. I enjoyed the time with her and learning from one of the world’s great writers.
This week that baby niece graduated high school, and I am re-reading Mr. Lewis’ book, “The Screwtape Letters.” If you have never read this particular book I recommend it. Better yet, I recommend reading it in a hammock. Or reading it to someone you love. (Or both if you can swing it…sometimes I can’t resist a pun.)
I love reading to my children. Recently I have been reading them the 1959 award winning book, “My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George. The children sit up late asking for one more chapter. I remember the desire as a youth to run off and live in the woods, I even made a bow and arrows, and learned to hit my mark well enough to hunt. I spent hours reading my Boy Scout handbooks and learning various ways to start fires and recognize plants and animals. Like most children the idea of a falcon for a friend and fellow hunter was especially cool.
This book is one of those amazing stories that makes you want to get up and see more of the world, to try new things, and appreciate all we have.
I woke up this morning and saw my one year old daughter wake up and rush to the window to stare out at the wonderful world outdoors. She is never as happy inside as she is outside (neither am I). We sure live in an amazing world- we should enjoy it.
I did a quick watercolor sketch of “Frightful,” the falcon in the story today. Even if you have grown up, I recommend taking a read down memory lane. Or reading this book for the first time. It’s a great way to spend a day.
I took about a dozen boy scouts camping last Friday night. As they boys went off to bed I sat alone by the fire, listening to the river bubbling past, and seeing the stars glimmering above. My two sons were already sound asleep, and it was just me and a little raccoon who was snooping around camp hoping for leftovers. It was a peaceful moment and the first I had felt in a couple of days.
As I banked the fire for the night, I noticed how much brighter the flames were, and how much hotter, when the logs were moved in closer together. When I have more scouts along for the camp out they seem to have more fun, and sometimes more trouble too. When we draw closer together there is more power. As the scriptures tell us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20) There is an almost tangible power when those boys are gathered together serving those in need, singing hymns, praying, or even just telling good stories around the camp fire. It is like the logs nestled together; each burning brighter thanks to the proximity of the others.
When I was a younger guy I worked for Phillips Farm on Route 118 in Maryland. My boss, Jean Phillips, was a wise and kind woman who taught me so much. I remember clearly riding with her in the car to a field one day and I asked a question about how I could to be a better farmer. Her response stuck with me and I have taken in very seriously. She told me I could learn everything I really needed to know about farming by reading the Bible. The Lord uses farming, gardening, vineyards, flocks and fields to teach us so many lessons. (Although in all fairness there isn’t much in there on tractor repair.)
Are you a hireling or a shepherd? Do you come at the first call to the vineyard or at the last hour? Have you let a field lay fallow once in a while?
This last Monday night I was out tilling my gardens (yes, I have more than one…I know I have problems). While tilling I remembered some of the lessons Mrs. Phillips taught me and lessons learned from scripture. As I prepare to start planting, I find myself again reading scripture searching for knowledge from the Lord about getting a better harvest. Try it and see what you learn!
I still recall my third birthday. At the time my family lived in Norfolk, Virginia. My Mom and Dad got me a Fisher-Price Kermit the Frog Hand Puppet (which I played with until I was about 15), some bubbles, and two plastic toy vehicles; a toy truck and a toy car. Having brother who was barely a year younger than myself meant that he too wanted to play with my new toys.
It wasn’t more than 5 minutes after opening the car and truck that my little brother decided to yank the axles and wheels right off of both vehicles. I sat there on the linoleum floor looking at my brand new toys ripped to pieces only minutes after getting them. My brother, who to be fair was only 2, had broken the clips that held the axle in place on the toy car. The front axle of the truck had been bent. Neither vehicle was usable. I stared for a few moments. I didn’t cry or yell, I just looked.
I grabbed the axle of the car which was the same width, and held it for a few moments. With some experimentation I replaced the broken front axle of the truck by using the smaller car axle. I now had a truck that looked cooler with it’s small front tires and big back tires, and it rolled across the floor better with the more smooth car tires. What once had been broken was now a much more fun toy truck. My brother and I played with that truck for quite a while; although I did have to remind him not to pull off the wheels.
Some times we feel broken. We may not even understand why we feel that way. Although we may feel broken for the moment, God can fix us right up! Trust in Him, and he will direct your paths for good.
I entered my local NPR station’s pledge drive mug art contest this year. Doing just a loose watercolor sketch was a fun way to communicate their theme, celebrating 65 years on the air.
This came in my email today:
“The Votes Are In!
We’re proud to announce the winner of this year’s UPR Art Mug Contest is…
Congratulations to Stephen and his awesome design!
Stephen writes of his submission: ‘Since so many of us enjoy UPR while driving, a loose watercolor sketch of the road and mountains seemed applicable. It has been 65 great years and there is still a long road ahead. Thank you to everyone who contributes to make UPR possible.’
Stephen’s winning design will be printed on this year’s UPR Mug, which will be available to all of you as a thank you gift during our Spring 2018 Pledge Drive, March 22-29. So if you are one of the many people who loved this design get ready to show your support for it and for Utah Public Radio by donating during the Pledge Drive.”
Thanks to everyone who voted.
Last year I was home from work for a day and not feeling well at all. My three year old daughter wanted to know if I would read to her. After about 8 books I really just needed some time to rest. So I hopped onto my video subscription website and went looking something for both of us to enjoy. When I saw ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood,’ in the list the choice was easy. I laid there on the couch with my daughter and tuned into the very first episode Fred Rogers aired. It was like a time machine taking me back to my own childhood. My three year old LOVED it, and asked to watch a second one, which we did.
A few months later I found myself reading an article on Fred Rogers in the news. I found a book of some of his quotes. I was again feeling inspired to be a better person because of this simple man and his quiet ministry.
These last few months have seemed turbulent. We can make the world a better place. We determine everyday through our actions what kind of a person we will become. As I mentioned in an earlier post the most important step we can take is our next step. Well neighbor, I hope we all choose to make our next step one of kindness.
I read a wonderfully thought provoking quote today at the end of a book by Brandon Sanderson. I thought it worth sharing:
“A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us.
But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. The failure becomes our destination.
To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.”
What will your next step be?
There is something magical that happens when pen and paper meet. When it’s a story I am writing it is just fun to watch the characters develop and see what comes next. When it is a picture I am drawing there is the anticipation of how it will look in the end. If you haven’t used pen and paper to express something special to you in a while–I challenge you to try it. I challenge you to send a letter, write a thank you note, write a story, or draw a picture. See the magic of pen and paper. Here is the start of a drawing I began at work today of a historic house I have seen many times. The picture is nothing amazing but it was a magic way to spend 10 minutes.
Nominate your favorite #LightTheWorld participants to win good books! Every year the LDS church encourages us to focus on Christ by lighting our world with good works. This year, authors at Cedar Fort and other presses would like to say thank you to those candles on the hill. When you find a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post that you think lights the world, please comment using the hashtag #LightTheWorldWithBooks.* Both YOU, the nominator, and YOUR FRIEND, the nominee, will automatically be entered to win one of 25 books, mailed right to the doorstep. For official rules and details on the prize books, visit nikkitrionfo.com.
*PLEASE NOTE: If the original post is private (as many on FB and especially IG are), to guarantee we at Light The World With Books see the post, you may also share the post on our Light the World with Books Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LighttheWorldwithBooks/. A screenshot works; a share; a post that simply says who you are and who you nominated–any of that is fine. We don’t need to be technical; we just need to see you!