Monthly Archives: February 2023

The Amazing Shrew

Recently Fox’s “The Five” during their “One more thing” segment asked their audience to identify a very strange little creature. Very small with a funny pig-like nose almost as big as it was, it was really cute. When we were told it was a shrew I had to laugh. It didn’t look anything like the one shrew I once knew, the tiny shrew who taught me a big lesson.

I was a student at Young Harris College in the north Georgia mountains in 1963. My dormitory, East Appleby, accommodated two to a room with a bath down the hall. There were some strict rules, such as lights out at 11:00, no moving in the halls except at break time, and absolutely no food in the rooms. We had good meals in the dining hall (at least I thought so) but it was such a long time from supper to lights out. And we were always hungry. Whoever could bring nice cookies or brownies back after a weekend at home hoarded them in her dresser. We convinced ourselves it was a wise and smart thing to store up any food we could and share it with very close friends. How could that be wrong?

I returned one Sunday afternoon with a foil wrapped package of delicious oatmeal cookies. I hid them jubilantly and carefully in my top drawer right behind my socks. My mother had put walnuts in those cookies and they were so good! My roommate and I each ate one that night taking great joy in the nutty treats.

The first sign I saw that something was going wrong was a few days later when I discovered a strange hole in one of my socks. Day by day I found new holes in my socks, a nice sweater, and finally my evening dress I was to wear to my very first big dance. Scrounging in my drawer for the destructive culprit I found many crumbs. That did it! We ate the last cookies that night, I cleaned out my drawer, and hoped whatever it was would stop eating my clothes.

About 9:30 my roommate and I were diligently studying when she suddenly began to scream, jumped up on her bed pointing frantically at one corner. I saw only a fast flash of gray somewhere near my dresser. I tried to find the little fellow, not being sure what I would do with it. Opening both our closets and every drawer revealed nothing alive. I finally persuaded my roommate to go to bed and thought I would stay awake to catch the culprit. I went to sleep and woke to something rustling but by the time I started toward the sound it stopped.

The next night I started out the door to go to the shower and felt a whoosh as something ran between my legs. I saw this tiny bit of fur flashing down the hall between girls who burst into hysteria. There was no catching the rodent who ran into another room and totally disappeared. Shrieks and total drama broke out as the hall filled with pajama clad girls, some curious, some terrified. We tried until lights out (and even after!) to find the intruder but finally went to bed, careful to inspect our beds and check our shoes.

There were no more signs of the tiny creature for two or three days. Then one morning everyone was wakened by the most terrifying cry of anguish and horror. We spilled into the hall and found girls crowding into a certain room, the one in which the rodent had last been seen. We pushed and nudged each other trying to see what the uproar was about. There stood Meg, occupant of the room, in front of her dresser, crying and shaking. Eventually we all were able to see the tiny rodent’s dead body floating in a glass of water.

Of course our housemother came to see what was going on. I suddenly felt very conspicuous as everyone pointed fingers at me declaring my cookies had attracted the varmint. For some reason the housemother didn’t give me any demerits. But I was humiliated. I didn’t tell on the other treat hoarders because that would have meant no more cookies. But we were all much more careful after that. We made sure we put cookies in a tight tin.

That little shrew looked nothing like those I saw on television. He was skinny as a finger and didn’t have that very big nose. Maybe he wasn’t even a shrew. But whatever he was he sure taught me a lesson I never forgot: Never think your sins won’t find you out. By the way, it was pretty hard mending that evening dress!

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Story of a Love Song

I love Valentine’s Day. I love sharing valentines–silly, mushy, and beautiful ones. Love receiving them, too! I love chocolates, flowers, and sweet stories. And, of course, I love my own special Valentine of 57 years! But the greatest Lover of all is our Savior.

Recently I was reminded of the beautiful song, “The Love of God.” I can hear my mother’s voice in my head when I hum the tune, as well as other voices, like my oldest brother’s who sang it so beautifully. I became intrigued with tracking down who wrote this song, under what circumstances, and found an interesting story.

I had to piece the story together as different Google sources recorded various authors and circumstances with dates back to 1000. (I do complain about social media taking over to the point people don’t read books as much anymore. But I’m thankful for the ease in which I can do a surface research on something like this song and even hear it sung by different artists on YouTube with a touch of my finger.)

Frederick M. Lehman is credited with writing two of the three verses of “The Love of God.” He was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four years old. At the age of eleven he was “saved by grace.” He tells his story in some of his many writings, how one morning walking a country lane he became so aware of Heaven it was like a “cornucopia of glory” descending on him. “The weight of conviction was gone and the paeans of joy and praise” fell from his lips.

Frederick was to become a prolific writer of sacred songs, a pastor, a businessman, and a founder of the Nazarene Publishing House. His pastorates were in Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri. His business venture in Pasadena, California suffered a drastic decline and he lost everything. He resorted to manual labor packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. A Sunday evening sermon on the love of God moved him deeply and, sitting on a lemon crate the next morning, he wrote on a scrap of paper the first lines to the song “The Love of God.” That night he sat at his piano and began composing music to fit those lyrics. In the end, he’d written two stanzas but by the standards of that day’s hymn writing he needed three. He could not think of words for a third stanza.

Later, he discovered words on a bookmark someone had given him that finished the hymn. At the bottom of the bookmark an anonymous writer told how these words had been found on the wall of a prison cell. No one knows much about that prisoner, why he was incarcerated, whether the words were his originally. After his death painters found his words on the wall and were so impressed they copied them before they applied paint.

That’s not the end of the story. Years after Lehman published the song, a man named Alfred B. Smith found more information on the development of that third stanza. According to his research, around the year 1000 those lines “Could we with ink the oceans fill and were the skies of parchment made…” were written in Hebrew by Meir Ben Isaac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God preserved his words so that hundreds of years later they were found scribbled in English on that prison cell wall. The painters preserved the words which later were printed on a bookmark that landed in the hands of Lehman who, through God’s guidance, added them to the song he’d already written so we have today all three stanzas.

I’d love for you to read these timeless words from a pastor/songwriter, a Rabbi, a prisoner, and, most importantly, preserved for you on this Valentine’s Day.

The love of God is greater far

than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.


Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure–

The saints’ and angels’ song.

When ancient time shall pass away,

And human thrones and kingdoms fall;

When those who here refuse to pray

On rocks and hills and mountains call;

God’s love so sure, shall still endure,

All measureless and strong;

Grace will resound the whole earth round–

The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the oceans fill,

And were the skies of parchment made;

Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,

And ev’ryone a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

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Cherry Shadow

While news of blizzards in the north filled the weather channel last week our temperature highs were in the sixties with the lows a pleasant thirty-five to forty. The groundhog saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. But not in South Georgia. Here, spring has already arrived, at least temporarily.

The Indonesian cherry tree and the Japanese magnolia, mingling branches beside our driveway, were so beautiful it was like heaven come down. By the way, the Indonesian cherry may also be called a black cherry and the Japanese magnolia may be a saucer magnolia. But we were introduced to them by these geographical names. I like to think of them as a link to neighbors in Asia. Whatever they are called, they are wonderful trees, pretty and graceful the whole year, whether bare branches in winter, bursting shades of pink in spring, or lacy and green in summertime.

Walking by the trees one day I was struck by their beauty, not only blossoms on the branches, but blossoms strewn thick on driveway and ground around the trees. It seemed thy had very generously laid out a red carpet for me. Observing the graceful shadow of the cherry tree on its own pink and red ground cover, I snapped a picture.

Only a few days later, the scene is very different. The blossoms have faded and leaves are budding, another stage of beauty. Though Japanese magnolias down at our corner and along the street are just at their peak, the one I walk by every day has only sparse blooms left. Some petals are still drifting down when a cool breeze picks up. The glorious carpet is mostly brown and dirty looking red, damaged by time and weather and foot traffic. Around on the other side of the circle driveway, snowdrops are blooming, tiny delicate white bells amongst a tangle of winter brown lantana branches. Camellias are ready for Valentine’s Day in pink and red and white. On the pine tree by the mailbox a jasmine vine that could not be coaxed to bloom at all last year has now come alive with a wealth of gold flowers, new ones every morning.

How amazing is it that every season, night and day, sunshine and shadow, shows forth such beauty! I look at that picture I took a few short days ago and enjoy again that cherry tree shadow across the blanketed ground. That show has faded now but new wonders are opening up, like the white iris (Mamma liked to call them flags) and azaleas and soon tiny violets in the grass. A flock of robins arrived yesterday and had a wonderful party on the lawn, circling the rim of the bird bath, and chirping from high branches. Today no sign of robins. Instead, finches and cardinals flash bright colors from feeder to shrubbery. Almost every day there is something new opening up, flying in, adding different colors. Our yard reminds me of the constantly changing patterns in a kaleidoscope.

March may be blustery, cold, and wet. But today, February 8, the sun is bright and our cats are lounging on warm pavement.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Psalms 33:5


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Wish I Was a Buzzard

We joined the line of cars waiting for dismissal bell at our great granddaughter’s school. We idly watched as some school personnel with satchels or bundles left the building after a hard day’s teaching. Then our eyes were riveted on the sky above. Buzzards were circling, almost as if they were playing tag celebrating with children and teachers that the school day was done. As if on cue, two buzzards lit in the very tops of two dead pine trees. Each of them spread their wings until they appeared as a cross on the top of the trees, their wingspread about four feet. We watched, mesmerized, waiting for them to fold their wings down, to fluff their feathers, or take flight. They sat just that way, still as statues, for a good five minutes.

Charli came across the parking lot lugging her saxophone and book bag. She climbed in the back seat bubbling as usual with news of her day. We drove away just as I noticed the buzzards lifting to the skies.

Since then I have thought several times about those buzzards, some of the humblest of God’s creatures, how they put on an unusual drama for us that day. Buzzards aren’t usually romanticized. Garbage disposals, they lead a pretty mundane life. What did it mean, two buzzards in the shape of crosses on the tip top of two dead trees?

I was reminded of a children’s picture book that was a favorite of Dixie Franklin’s when she was our children’s kindergarten teacher. One year I taught nursery school in our church’s daycare program. My room was next to “Miss Dixie’s” so we often shared how the day had gone. One day after the last child had left, she wiped her brow as she laughed and said, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a buzzard!” Then she told me about the book she’d read to the children that day, how they had caught on to the charming repetition and repeated lines with her.

On a whim, remembering those buzzards, I ordered the little book, happy to learn it is still in print.

Oh, Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard is a simple sweet story by Polly Greenberg, whimsically illustrated by Aliki. A father and two children are picking cotton all day every day. The father tells his children if they work hard he might give them a sucker at the end of the week. All day every day they pick, and pick, and pick and the sun is so hot. The little girl looks up and sees a buzzard circling, circling, and says, “Oh, Lord, I wish I was a buzzard.” She sees a snake coiled up cool as could be under a bush and says, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a snake.” She sees a dog, a partridge and a butterfly and, in the hot, hot sun, picking, picking, she says “Oh, Lord, wish I was—–” At the end of the week the father gives each child a sucker and they all head home, happy.

It’s a slice-of-life little story with no astounding point. Of course the reader can infer whatever point they see, such as hard work brings rewards, or it’s best to be who you are instead of longing for something different. But couldn’t the story be intended simply to help children enjoy reading? And what about the buzzards we saw? Maybe the buzzards we saw on the trees were just for entertainment, not there to offer any big lesson. Maybe they were cooling their wings or showing off to the other buzzards.

Sometimes, I think, God gives us a laugh just because we need it.


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