Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Village Without Books: Ashling, The Dreamer

**This is a story I wrote earlier this year from the writing prompt "Reading."

Ashling’s eyes were large and watchful, his muscles taut with caution. He had never seen a stranger before. The old man’s snores filled the air like the buzzing of bees. The breeze through the window lifted strands of his silver hair causing wisps to sway like the tall grass in the meadow.

“Oversee him,” King Eldredge had told Ashling. Perhaps the king’s assignment would silence the naysayers in the isolated, but goodly kingdom of Serendipity. As a boy he had been ridiculed, called ne’er-do-well, silly heart, fanciful, and dreamer. Indeed, Ashling means dreamer or visionary.

King Eldredge was kind but he wasn’t a dreamer or visionary. He was content. For decades, none had entered Serendipity or left. The people were happy because they knew no other existence. Their minds were not cluttered with wonderings like Ashling’s.  

Ashling was no longer a boy but not quite a man.  He spent his days climbing trees, meandering through the forest, wading in the river called Mighty, and frolicking with the animals. He was in awe of his surroundings, but he had many questions. Where did the waters of Mighty journey to and from whence did they flow from? By what miracle did apples grow on trees and berries on vines? Who gave birds their song? How did the moon and sun change places? What caused females to give birth? What lies beyond Serendipity?

He pondered this and much more. When he asked questions, people answered, “It is the way of things. Only a fool and dreamer would ask such questions.” Their answers left him with an aching desire to know more.

As he approached manhood, his father said, “You must find your purpose, Son. Your head is in the clouds. Will you be a fisherman? Hunter? Planter? Carpenter? Healer? There are many choices, but you must decide.”

 Instead of thinking about his purpose, Ashling lay in the meadow in the evening. He wondered about the moon and stars. Why didn’t they fall to the ground? How did the moon change shapes from night to night?

It was the next day, while he sat in an apple tree that the old man arrived. Ashling heard braying and watched as two donkeys slowly approached. One carried pouches and crates. The other carried a man who was slumped forward. His hair was silver and his skin like burnt leather.

Ashling plucked two apples, offering them to the donkeys as he called softly, “Sir.” The old man didn’t respond. Ashling saw blood dripping to the ground and the awkward angle of the man’s right leg.

He alerted his father who summoned King Eldredge. The king’s face reflected his perplexity. “We shall care for this stranger until he is well, then send him on his way. You, Ashling, will be his overseer while my healers tend to him.”

Ashling kept his eyes watchful while his fanciful mind spun tales of the stranger. The sound of the old man’s snoring lulled Ashling into slumber. Later Ashling was roused by a hand on his shoulder. The old man’s eyes probed deeply into his as if dissecting his mind and soul. “I am Sage. My travels take me wherever I feel led. On my journey to find the dreamer, a snake frightened my donkey, who pitched me to the ground, wounding my leg. Are you the dreamer?”

“I’m Ashling. I have been called a dreamer.” Ashling’s voice trembled.

“Fetch my pouches and crates, Dreamer.”

Ashling did as he was told. He removed the objects as Sage instructed, making neat piles.

“These are books, young Ashling. They contain answers to your many questions. I am here to teach you to read.”

“I know nothing of books or what it is to read.”

Sage smiled. “Ah, my young dreamer, hand me the book on top. It is a collection of best loved poetry. It’s exquisite.”

Sage caressed the book before opening it. As Sage began to read, Ashling felt his heart sing and dance. In the words, he heard the song of birds, the rushing waters of Mighty, the growl of the lion, the symphony of forest creatures, the laughter of children. Oh, if he could do as Sage and make words from the pages burst into the air.

Sage lovingly touched each book. “This book explains the oceans, lands, and skies. This one tells of great men who have done marvelous deeds. This tells of animals, this of herbs and spices and plants. This reveals secrets of the human body.”

Sage explained each book. Every question Ashling had was answered in the books. “And you will teach me to read, Sage?”

“Yes, young dreamer, I will teach you. Reading will be your gift to share with this kingdom.”

There was one last book – old, worn and shabby. “And this book? Is it least important, Sage?”

Tears filled Sage’s eyes as he cradled the book to his bosom. “This book is life. It tells of the One who created everything you have wondered about. It tells of a love like none other. This is greater than all books combined.”

“But why is it so shabby? Have you not cared for it properly?”

“Young dreamer, this book shows the wear of many hands who have loved it with their lives, but also, the hands who sought to destroy it. It is my most treasured possession.”

From that day, the legend is told of how books and reading came to Serendipity.

(© 2014 Do not use without permission. Property of Leola Ogle.)

So keep dreaming. dear friends. YOU, like young Ashling, may have a gift for your kingdom.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship With Christmas: Confessions of a Christmas-holic

It is two days after Christmas and I have been reduced to a drooling, mumbling, pajama-clad couch potato. In December a few years ago, I made a trip to the dermatologist where my daughter, Stephanie, works. I had burning, itching hives covering my neck and chest that felt like a hundred stinging ants.  “Well, looks like you were here last December for the same thing,” said the doctor.  “That’s it! It has been confirmed. I’m allergic to Christmas,” I replied.

I love Jesus. I serve Him as closely and faithfully as I can, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love everything about it. I hate the amount of work that it entails. I confess, I am responsible for much of my Christmas to-do list. All those cookies I bake – dozens and dozens – to give to neighbors, family and friends. And my family reproduces like sex-starved rabbits, so my gift list is a continually growing, demanding parasite.

Thank God gift giving is my love language. Otherwise, I would eradicate that leech-list – set fire to it and cackle like the Wicked Witch of the West. Even though I purchase sale items all year long, I find myself scrambling and searching in a psychotic frenzy at the last minute every December. This year I had tons of little boy gifts, but many more little girls than boys in the family. Seriously, though, why can’t a three-month-old baby girl get a set of Hot Wheels as a gift? Who makes these rules anyway? I have a confession: little boys are easier to buy for than little girls, but men are harder to buy for than women. That is my truth, so there!

Then all the meals! Somehow I manage to keep up my usual “everyone-comes-to-my-house-for-lunch-after-church-every-Sunday” ritual. I had not fully recovered from all that cooking/baking I did for Thanksgiving when the kitchen fairy – that cursed, wretched, slave-driving creature – reminded me I have much to do in December.

And don’t ask me why I drive myself to be the Queen of Christmas Decorating. I even do the front yard d├ęcor with lights and everything. But I have learned a valuable, sanity-saving secret. Let there be no item set out at Christmas – or any other time – that is more precious to you than the tiny hands that may break it. My younger self was not so gracious about this. But now I let my grandkids and great-grandkids rearrange my village, take baby Jesus out of the nativity, touch Santas with not-so-clean fingers….you get the idea. And every year, something gets broken. And I always ask the tearful offender, “What do I love more? You or (that thing) you broke? Of course, I love you more.”

To make this December worse, I started off the first week with some coughing, achy, sneezing, fatigued virus from hell. It lasted a week. Then the Sunday night before Christmas – after having thirty plus people here that day for lunch and to play that steal-the-gift game – I got a horrid bug that kept me up most of the night with some demonic minion twisting a burning knife in my stomach.

I had to babysit a grandson Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. To top that off, my youngest daughter, Heather’s, husband ended up in ICU, so I had those three grandkids too. I was facing a Christmas Eve meal and festivities for 20-30 family, plus preparing a complete meal to take to the in-laws in another city on Christmas day.

Heaving a heavy sigh while every bone and muscle in my sixty-six year old body groans in protest, I am forever grateful for Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, who chose to be born as a helpless newborn with a destiny to sacrifice His mortal, human body because of His profound love for mankind. Words are inadequate to express the depth of my love for my Lord and savior.

This Christmas, I am especially grateful that my son-in-law, Bobby, got released from the hospital to be with his family for Christmas. Also, my sweet grandson, Nathanael, and his wife, Jessica, handed me a box of Cerrata’s Chocolates, and said, “Our other Christmas gift is that we’re going to have a baby.”  A miracle I have been praying about for almost two years. Only a handful know the significance of that announcement. 

And because I love my family and friends, I will always look forward to Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 at My House

Ah, Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving 2014 is now a thing of the past. I trust yours was filled with family, friends, food, fun, fellowship, and gratitude for all the many blessings in your life. Please don’t say you have nothing to be grateful for. The fact that you are alive is a blessing.

My family is huge. Okay, I know I’ve said it before about my huge family. Make no doubt, I KNOW I am blessed and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the human dynamics when you get so many people together usually has an element of stress for me and my sweet husband, Jeff. We are peace-loving, no drama, let’s-just-all-get-along people. Conflict keeps us awake at night.

Forty two people were at my house for Thanksgiving and we all did get along. We usually do. BUT….there’s always that potential for fireworks. The majority of my family is Christians, but we welcome all family whether they’re believers or not.

We also have some drama lovers, some who struggle with drugs and alcohol or other issues. Every family has those. We even have a couple of ultra liberals. That’s like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole when you come to my house.

Well, the alcoholics stayed sober, the drama lovers kept their actions and attitudes in check, and the ultra liberals kept their mouths shut. It was a very blessed day, indeed.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

It’s not the great food that people will remember when they come to my or your home. It is the love and acceptance they feel. Always be kind and loving, even when it’s thrown back in your face. Love covers….everything.