Monday, July 28, 2008

Texting Madness

Just a quick thought about texting. My son and I were in a doctor's waiting room today, and there were a total of 6 of us in there: 3 adults, 3 teens. Four of them were texting people and one of those was not only texting, but making noises as he read the responses! His phone made beeping sounds each time he pressed a button, so his corner of the room sounded like this: beep beep...beep...beep...beep beep beep...(pause)..."No way!"...beep beep...beep....beep beep beep beep...(pause)..."I can't believe it! Holy ******!"...beep...beeeeeeeeep. You get the picture.

The two teen girls kept flipping their phones open and shut; waiting with baited breath to hear from their boyfriends? Their mother was texting away with abandon, pausing, then texting furiously. No one spoke to anyone, no one looked at anyone. Joseph and I felt like dinosaurs that had been brought back to life and plopped down in the middle of a civilization we just didn't know anything about.

Though it is the way of modern life, and I make my own use of technology, believe you me, the environment in that waiting room today felt cold and sterile. Like we were life FORMS sitting there and nothing more. Then a young mother came in with a baby and toddler, and when she needed help with the baby's car seat, the texting mom jumped up and came to the rescue. Just for a moment, warmth flowed back into the room. We all smiled at the children and then-phhhttt-just like that, back to the texting and the beeping, and the waiting.

Oh well. I do know that we still share one thing: the need to fill that missing God relationship with something. Whether it be with people, technology, sports, food, or a myriad of other creative things we humans can come up with, when we lay our heads down to sleep at night, all alone in our rooms, we know for sure we need a Savior. We feel it in our solitary moments and when our hearts are hurting and sore. And in the meantime, God is searching for us...and waiting.

"The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being." Proverbs 20:27

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death." Psalm 68:19-20

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday Fiction: Life Will Be Different Now

Here's my one and only attempt at Sci-Fi for the Genres Challenge. For more great fiction, go to Pattering's Blog

Life Will Be Different Now

There’s something surreal about the night sky. The tall hillside my family and I are sitting atop is colored with blue moonlight and feathered with soft breezes. In the silence, we can hear the stirring of the grasses, the scratching of green tendrils against each other. Our sighs for the solitude are the sole evidence of human activity.

We laughed at our family jokes and told our campfire tales in the hours gone before while we waited for the sun to give over its bright rule of the earth to the evening night-lights. Now we are content to rest quietly; to listen and let the end of the day wrap around us like a warm comforter. We lean together, shoulders touching, near slumber in our peace with one another and the midnight world around us.

A streak of mean fire suddenly shoots over our heads. A vibrating, bone-shattering hum shakes our bodies as a metallic machine roars through the innocent white stars. As suddenly as that, a war takes form in the heavens directly above our hilly retreat.

Another silver machine hovers up and out from the horizon right before us. The engines of the great machines whine and grind and scream as they chase and dip toward each other in fascinating, terrifying battle. Before we can run, before we can begin to form a plan of escape, the heavens are exploding with violence and smoke. Debris rains down from the injured beasts, and fire drops singe the sweet grass all around us. More and more metallic birds join the battle and the war intensifies.

We know we are in imminent danger, yet we remain frozen at the celestial horror we’re watching. I finally regain my senses and grab the hands of my children.

I yell above the earth-shaking noise into my husband’s ear, “We’ve got to find shelter! We’ve got to run! Come on!”

He looks back at me as though in a trance. I grab at his shirt and tug him along with all my might. He comes to life and orders, “Stay down, don’t let them see us!”

We run like forest animals before a wildfire; hunkered over, helter-skelter and in no logical manner. We stumble and pant as we maneuver the dark hillside in panic. We slide down into a ravine, not more than five feet across and only as deep. There we stop and lay still.

“What’s happening?” I finally whisper. My breath hurts in my chests, the fear is causing me to hyperventilate; spots flicker my vision.

“I don’t know” James whispers back. His voice is filled with uncertainty.

“Is it an attack? Is it terrorists?” I continue.

I become aware of my little son’s body trembling from head to toe. He whimpers when I wrap my arms tighter about him. My daughter is stretched the length of me on the right. My husband is pressed against me on the left. We form a human lump; tightly we grip one another.

“Mommy, is it Armageddon?” asks the small voice of my daughter.

My husband looks at me in surprise. Questions are forming, but he keeps them to himself.
“No, of course not, Sara.” he assures.

Suddenly, I hear sounds that freeze my blood. Footsteps! Stealthy, sneaking steps trying not to disturb the whispering grasses. I immediately put my fingers to my lips. The children grow tense, their eyes wide with fright.

I fight the desperate urge to jump out of hiding to run as fast and as far as I can, with my children in tow. I begin to pray as the unknown stalker comes closer. I hear the silent soldier stop at the edge of our hiding place, directly over us. I raise only my eyes. A menacing figure looks back at me.

“Are you all right?” asks a deep male voice.

The form is human, but the eyes are not. As I stare, I realize it’s a man wearing night vision goggles.

“Are you American?” asks James.

“Yes. I need to get you out of here, right now, sir.” the soldier replies.

“What’s happening?” I ask urgently.

“An attack. Unknown enemy. From…” he shrugs. We three adults lock eyes, but our questions can’t be answered.

He hurries us before him toward the dark side of the hill. We’re led to an armored vehicle, told nothing as we climb inside. As he walks away, he turns.

“Life will be different now,” he says.

I shudder. War has come at last.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Traveling To Unst

Do you know where Unst is? My son and I discovered this little known, northern UK island a couple of years ago. We sent an email to the official Unst website and, lo and behold, received one back! Since that time, we've "visited" the island a few times via the Internet. We think its fascinating, though very isolated.

Unst is off the coast of Scotland-the UK's northern-most island. Its most famous claim to fame is that it adjoins the island of Shetland where-you guessed it-the Shetland pony originated. The Vikings were there at some point in history and it is home to those funny little birds called "puffins".

While exploring Unst this last time, we discovered a tourist spot called "Bobby's Bus Shelter". It's a little bus stop that one of the children on Unst decided to decorate with sofa, curtains, microwave, and TV. It became something of a quirky tourist "must see", equated to the "loneliest phone booth" in the world (which happens to be in the USA's Nevada desert). We found many photos on the web about Bobby's bus shelter, but this led us to a rather sad mystery story.

Seems Bobby's father was an outspoken critic of the oil industry and had been a part of a new company on Unst that was promoting the production of hydrogen and wind as a renewable energy source. There was even a car that was able to drive around Unst using this combination as fuel!

One night, Bobby's father did not return home from work. He was missing for several years, and many theories arose as to what happened to him. Then, in February of 2008, a thigh bone that had been found on the shore near where he went missing was confirmed as belonging to Bobby's dad. The supposition is that his dad was swept off of one of the steep cliffs by the very winds he used to help make his renewable energy.

This made us sad...we had always thought of Unst as a kind of fantasy island,free from modern cares and steeped in old ways and charming old houses. The death of Bobby's dad brought home to us the reality that many little villages and isolated outposts of the world are filled with people. Real people who love and laugh, work and play, and die...just like the rest of us. And just like us, they need the Lord.

Unst has the distinction of having the northern-most church in the UK within its boundaries. I'm curious as to what role that church plays in the life of the island's people. Did Bobby's daddy hear the gospel there?

We all have the ability to travel to a place like Unst; a place where the isolated and the lost live. A place that might very well be right next door. My prayer is that I become sensitive to the Holy Spirit's listen to His voice as He calls me to the side of someone who needs to hear the gospel one more time, or maybe for the first time.

It's comforting to know that though Unst has little recognition in our modern world, the Eyes of the God who created it is always on this little island so far away and on all the people who live there. And I plan to keep the people of Unst in my prayers.

For more information on Unst, click on this link: The Island of Unst

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fiction: The Flim Flam Fair

This story is special to me. It was my very first Editor's Choice for FaithWriters. I hope you enjoy reading it and here's more wonderful fiction at Pattering's Blog

The Flim Flam Fair

“Hey, Skeet, the carnival’s settin’ up over at the old Giant Tiger parking lot. Me, Tom, and Richard are gonna go after supper tonight. Wanna come?”

“I heard about it. My Daddy says I cain’t go on over there because it’s nothin’ but a Flim Flam Fair.”

“A what?”

“Flim Flam Fair.”

“What’s that?”

“He says they’s confidence men in them games. They’ll tell you lies same as look at you. Anything to get at your pocket.”

“ If you promise him you won’t be playin’ the games, maybe he’ll change his mind and let you go.”


“Go on. Ask him.”

I dug the toe of my Redball Jets in the dirt and waited. I was hopin’ his Daddy would give in and let him come along because Skeet’s got the funniest jokes of us boys. He’s a dad-burned ol’ ham.

The screen door squealed open and banged shut. Skeet come out on the porch.

“What’d he say?”

“He told me I better not be spendin’ my money at no place like that. But I promised I’d only go to the tents and rides and I won’t go anywheres near them stupid games. He said OK then but be home by 9:00.”

“Whoo-hoo! Let’s go!”

We run to Tom’s house and after we got him, we tore off to find Richard and then headed on over to the carnival.

The lights was strung up across the entrance, and the music from the merry-go-round was pumpin’ somethin’ fierce. It ‘bout made my head bust, that stinkin’ racket. We took off runnin’ toward the rides for bigger kids and piled on to the Scrambler first thing. Then we rode the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Witch’s Wheel.

We must’a rode that thing fifty million times before Richard started sayin’ he might puke, so we looked for a tent to sit in until his stomach stopped heavin’. We wanted to find somethin’ free. We walked up and down that there midway, but all we saw was men callin’ out and tryin’ to sell us this-n-that. It was pitiful.

Skeet said he’d like to try knockin’ the milk jugs down with a baseball, but he was afraid somebody’d tell his Daddy, and hoo-boy, he’d be in for it. We finally wandered into a tent down at the end. It had some music comin’ out, but it weren’t no way as bad as that merry-go-round noise.

“Hello, boys. Y’all ready for a story?”

This man was standin’ there with a guitar strapped on over his shoulder. He pointed us to some seats, and we set down while he tuned up.

“Any of you boys know the story of Jesus?” he asked.

We had no idea who in the world he was talkin’ about. He smiled and started plunkin’ away on his guitar. He told a story about a man who come down from heaven so he could save people from the pits of hell. This Jesus had all the power in the world and coulda’ kept hisself from dyin’, but he didn’t. Then he rose up to heaven again. It was sad and happy all at once.

After the man was done singin’, Skeet looked at him and asked, “Are you a dad-burned confidence man?”

“Now, son, why would you ask me that?”

“’Well, my Daddy said they’s confidence men all over this here fair, and they tell some whoppin’ big stories to get at our money. I think you just told us the biggest tale ever was ‘cause they ain’t no man goin’ to let hisself get killed for somebody who ain’t no good to start with.”

“Boys, most folks won’t take punishment for someone else, but Jesus isn’t like that. He loves each of you so much, he gave his life so you could be saved. And it’s free for the asking. No charge.”

He give us some tiny books called “The New Testament.” He said them books had a whole mess of stories about Jesus in ‘em. We put ‘em in our pockets and took off to find the Giant Ferris Wheel.

Later in bed, I got to thinkin’ about that Jesus fella. I decided I’d give it a try, and if it was a flim flam, well, so what. It didn’t cost me nothin’ but a prayer. But I had a feelin’. Jesus wasn’t no confidence man. My heart was tellin’ me he was true blue. Tomorrow, I’d read that tiny little book to find out more.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sustenance from His Hand

The sun is finally shining in Ohio and the summer is making its glory known. A cardinal and a humming bird are taking turns giving me a show as they fly past my living room window. A soft breeze is letting the trees show off their delicate, leafy arms and small insects are busy shopping for the best nectar in the neighborhood.

These are the kinds of days that point my heart to the Lord. His creation mesmerizes me and makes me wonder at the powerful, yet gentle ability He has to put this kind of awesome beauty in my everyday life. I have a wistful feeling about it all because I wish I would slow down enough to view each day this way. I wish I would get up each morning and take the time to be outside, feel the rustling breeze on the back of my neck, and lift my face to the sun.

Even rainy days hold their own kind of beauty if I'd take the time to find it. Sometimes I see birds flexing their wings in a sudden shower, their feathers repelling the drops of moisture like rain coats. They lift their beaks to the rain and let it roll off their faces before giving their whole bodies a vigorous shake. Small individual waterfalls drop off their shoulders to soak whatever is beneath them on the ground.

The Bible is filled with words about God's glory through His creation. He tells us often in His word that He supplies the needs of all He has created:

"He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call" Psalms 147:8-9

"He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth..." Psalms 104:13-14

"How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures." Psalms 104:24

"These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things." Psalms 104:27-28

Today I want to look to God...gather my sustenance from His hand...and be satisfied with the good things He gives me each day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Fiction: A Contentious Woman is an Old Blue Hen

My Friday Fiction story is based on my great-grandmother. She was austere and not very nice. My dad, as a child, had to contend with her moods and orneriness often when his mother died from TB and his father went away from home to find work. But his grandfather, whom I remember even though he died when I was young, was a gentle and loving man. Enjoy the fiction and be sure to read the other Friday Fiction stories at Pattering's Blog!

A Contentious Woman is an Old Blue Hen

“Roger, get in here right now!”

I set my jaw as I watch Grandma go back inside. I sometimes hate that old woman. She’s got a beak on her that looks exactly like the one on Ruby Orwieler’s mangy pet owl, and I hate it, too. Ruby showed me how to feed it chicken once, and it nearly took my thumb off.

I shuffle reluctantly up to the door, press my nose against the dusty screen, and do a quick surveillance inside. I spy my grandpa sitting on the ragged couch shoved against the wall. He sees me peeking in, and throws a thumb out toward the kitchen. His mouth has a hint of laughter in it, but he keeps his chuckles to himself. Grandpa John knows better than to pick a fight with the Old Blue Hen.

I open the screen door slowly, trying to keep the rusty hinges from squealing on me, but Grandma’s hearing is too keen. I hear her coming before I see her with her black Red Cross shoes shuffling over the gritty wood floor. My ears close tight against the quarrelsome and cantankerous whining I know is coming.

“I never saw such a boy as you! You load your stomach with food every day, but can you so much as hoe one row of potatoes? No! And those brothers of yours don’t do a thing to help either. Take right after your Daddy, and you do, too! Your old man is the laziest son was ever born to a woman. Why I ever had one like him I’ll never understand…”

Her background noise is tiresome, and inside, it eats me up. She knows I can’t help it if my Daddy took off to Michigan after Mom died. My brothers and me are just as flummoxed over his leaving us as she is. What he did’s not right, most folks know, but they don’t blame us or rag on us about it. He’s gone, so why does she have to keep beating a dead horse?

When she turns her ranting self toward the kitchen again, I glare a hole into the back of her head. Grandpa rises stiffly and steps silently over to me.

“Roger, I found a nice place to sit and think. Want to come along?”

”What about her?” I jerk my head in the direction of the kitchen.

Grandpa puts his finger to his lips and smiles. He reaches over and switches on the Crosby radio sitting by the window. The sounds of the Grand Old Opry fills the musty room as he eases us out the door and onto the porch. The scrawny chickens scatter as we scurry across the sparse grass together.

“Where’re we going, Grandpa?”

“Up there.” he points ahead of us.

The dirt road winds away to the edge of the horizon under trees heavy with summer foliage. Our shoes kick up mini dust tornadoes around our ankles, and the heat presses down on our bare heads like a hot iron. After awhile, we leave the road and climb the steep hill that rises before us. I’m surprised to find a shack hanging precariously to the side of the mountain, its front porch sagging downward like an old man’s mouth. We scramble up and sit with our feet swinging in the air.

“Grandpa, why’s she like that? Why’s that Old Blue He-“ I stop.

He grins at me and wipes his forehead with his red bandanna but he doesn’t say a word.

“Anyway, she hates me so bad, and I haven’t done anything to her!”

“It isn’t you, boy. It’s your Daddy. She’s all mixed up. She loves him, but she knows he isn’t doing right by you kids. It makes her feel mean and ornery, and you get the short end of the stick because of it.”

“I wish she’d just let up. I wish…” I shut my eyes against sudden tears.

Grandpa pats my shoulder and we sit in silence a while.

“A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.”* Grandpa says. He turns and grins at me again. “That’s from the Bible, and I reckon I got to pray about both of those things. You can help me pray, if you want to.”

“I guess I can.”

My mind is filled up with all my worries, but as I sit with Grandpa, I start to feel better.

*Proverbs 19:13 King James Version

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Treadmills Are No Fun!

For the sake of my health, I'm forced to use my treadmill every day now. Each morning after I get up, one of the first things I think about is my date with that wretched machine. I try to think of the exercise to come in positive ways, but so help me, I just can't! I try all kinds of gimmicks to get myself on there and then I have to keep up the gimmicks to get myself to stay on there. (Have you ever noticed that time stands still when you're on one of those things?) My goal is to walk twice a day for 15 minutes, but time just drags while I'm "walking". Today, I let my blood sugar get too low while I was walking. I didn't test before I started to see if I was already on the low side, and exercise tends to make blood sugar drop, so I suffered a little once I was finished walking until the sugar level came back into a normal range.

Sometimes, I have a foul attitude about the spiritual exercises I need to do to keep myself fit, also. I drag my feet getting into the word...I grumble about the daily devotions that can keep me healthy. If I'd only dig in and read, then I'd leave my devotional time feeling better, but it's too easy to get distracted by other things and leave off the spiritual exercise that makes me grow more fit to serve the Lord and His kingdom. And just like I did with the treadmill today, I sometimes jump ahead of the Lord's plans for my day; I end up feeling "low" in spirit and often drained because I didn't prepare first.

I'm finding that as I grow older, the balance between what's good for me and what's easier for me is ever more fragile, in physical and spiritual matters. I'm learning that just going through my days with little conscious effort like I did when I was younger doesn't cut it anymore. I need to listen to the Lord's voice and bring myself into communion with His Spirit more often and with greater sensitivity. I love this verse in James 1:4:

"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

My prayer is that I will persevere so that I can grow and become complete in the Lord...not lacking anything and prepared for whatever appointment God may bring to me each day. May God grant my prayer...and maybe He could help speed time up while I'm on the treadmill, too!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday, July 5, 2008
Book Questions

I've been tagged by Vonnie

Here's my answers to some questions about my favorite books:

1.Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?

My sister's future first grade teacher wanted her to learn to read a little (we had no kindergarten in the country, so she sent a stack of Dr. Seuss books for her to learn basic reading before school started. I thought that if I learned to read also, I'd get to go to school with her. I taught myself to read the books and then presented myself to Mom on my sister's first morning for school. "I'm ready. I can read." It broke my heart to learn that was NOT the only criteria to be allowed to go to school.

2. What are some books you read as a child?

Dr. Seuss, The Piano, The Robe, Jane Eyre, Bobbsey Twins, The Secret Garden, A Lantern in Her Hand, The Little House on the Prairie books, and any book I wanted to read in the Jr. High library. (I'd read most of the Elementary books, so the librarian gave me permission to read in the Jr. High side. That's why I read "The Robe" in 6th grade! Didn't understand most of it, but read it anyway!)

3. What is your favorite genre?

If it's a book, I'm willing to read it! Some of my favorites are Mysteries, Chick-Lit, and Biographies.

4. Do you have a favorite novel? Only one?

Jane Eyre and God is an Englishman, the Mitford Series and any Dale Cramer book.

5. Where do you usually read?

Bed, bathtub, chair in living room.

6. When do you usually read?

Every night before I turn out the lights-no matter how late it is-I can't sleep without reading! If it's a good book, I'll read rather than do anything else-especially in the winter.

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?

Usually, but if I'm reading a good book, I'll read it straight through without reading anything else.

8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?

I read nonfiction during the day. Rarely do I read it at night unless it's a biography or autobiography.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?

I buy some, but also use the Public Library a lot, too. I can check out and read several books in four week's time!

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?

I keep most of my books, but I sometimes put them in garage sales or send them to Goodwill.

11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them?

We read all of the Frog and Toad books, the Chapter books, the Boxcar Children, the Classics, Dr. Seuss, Little House books, etc.

12. What are you reading now?

Jane Eyre (for the hundreth time!) and a chicklit book that I can't remember the title of!

13. Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?

No, but I can't wait to read Jan Karan's latest or the latest Sisterchick book. ( :

14. What’s next?

Jan Karan's latest or the Sisterchicks in Britain (or something like that!)

15. What books would you like to reread?

I like to get all the Mitford books and read them straight through. I like to read any series books straight through.

16. Who are your favorite authors?

Robin Gunn Jones, Charlotte Bronte (she has many good books besides Jane Eyre!), Jan Karan, Dale Cramer, and a local author named Gauss who writes Amish mystery stories.

Now, I have tagged Naye and Diane to answer these questions and find two other people to tag.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fiction Friday: Exit Quickly, Stage Right

My contribution to Fiction Friday is following a theme that's been alive in our family this week: Christmas! Because I was very ill on Christmas this past year, we decided to leave our small, "Charlie Brown-ish" type Christmas tree up downstairs to celebrate Christmas again when I felt better. Well, I feel a little better so we decided to have our second celebration today-July 4th! So, Merry Christmas-Happy Fourth of July and enjoy the story!

More great fiction can be read at :Pattering's Blog

Exit Quickly, Stage Right

“Lights, please.”

Each time the stage director says that, I think of Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas. * No one else seems to get the connection though. But then again, no one else in our congregation so much as smiles when our pastor pronounces “HAIRS” for “HEIRS” either.

The annual Christmas play at New Life Church is moving along splendidly, and I’m as surprised by that as anyone, considering how awful we were in practice. Me especially. I have the starring role, and I’m not starring-role material, let me tell you. I nearly fell off my chair when the director, who also happens to be the Children’s Church pastor, handed me the part. She thought it would “stretch” me a little.

I was “stretched” with the first line. The practices have been six long weeks of pure…well, maybe not that bad, but it’s not been good.

I tried to convince the director to take the part back and give it to someone else, but she laughed when I told her that I’m going to ruin her play. “Now, John, don’t be so hard on yourself. Jesus will help you!” She actually put her hand out to pat my head but caught herself in time. I thought, Okay. Don’t blame me, though, when the whole thing blows up. I warned you.

But, guess what? It’s actually going well, and I haven’t missed a single line; knock on wood.

I’m pretty happy with my performance so far. I’m even happier that I can do it sans glasses. I think modern day glasses on Bible characters ruins the authenticity. I’m pretty pleased I was able to think up that costume change, and I’ve gotten through the first act just fine without my glasses.

Well, there’s my cue; time to mosey on out.

Hmmm. The scene doesn’t quite look the same, but I think I can see my way clear to find the inn door. Ah, there it is. Now, what is my line…oh yeah.

“Good innkeeper, have you a room for my wife and me? We’ve been traveling…huh?“ I can’t tell for sure, but I think the innkeeper’s waving at me. If I squint…yes. Yes, he is waving, but I have no idea why. Oh well, best to push on and get this scene over with.

“Uh, as I said, (how’s that for improv?), we’ve been traveling fo-“

For heaven’s sake…what is going on? The audience is laughing! This isn’t a funny part. In fact, there IS no funny part in this play. What in the world…?

“Good Sir, please come on over to my inn. I think you will find that my inn, OVER HERE, is a fine establishment.”

Huh? Why’s he saying that? That’s not in the play…Oh! There’s the inn! What have I been talking to? I squint and focus my bleary vision…is it…the donkey? Oh no!

Sweat is breaking out on my forehead. The laughter is loud and growing. Humph. This congregation will laugh at a man talking to a donkey, but not at a pastor that says hairs instead of heirs?

I stumble downstage and stand mutely before the innkeeper. His cheeks are red and he looks flustered. We face each other in silence since I’ve now forgotten my lines. From the wings, the disembodied prompter’s voice whispers emphatically, “My wife is going to have a child.”

“Uh…MY WIFE IS GOING TO HAVE A CHILD!” I mimic, but adrenaline and panic have me by the throat, and I yell the line, almost scream it, at the astonished innkeeper.

Oh no. What a disaster! I hear the pastor, along with the rest of the congregation, howling now with laughter. Yeah, as if he’s never said anything funny from up here.

I steamroll my way through the rest of the play, wrecking scene after scene, and at the end, when it’s time for the cast call, the congregation gives me a standing ovation. I’m humiliated; nothing’s worse than pity clapping.

As soon as possible, I retrieve my glasses and head for the back entrance. Pastor catches my eye and laughs, giving me a thumbs up. Traitor. Just before I hit the door, the director makes a beeline for me.

“Don’t feel bad, John,” she chirps. “You did a good job, except your eyes looked a little wild. And now that you’ve gotten one play under your belt, next year will be even better!”

*A Charlie Brown Christmas, Written by Charles M. Schultz, Directed by Bill Melendez, 1965