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Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  Psalms 37:1

     The mid-term elections are finally over and it will be at least two years until we can repair the breech. Changes in the House of Representatives have opened opportunities for great mischief against our traditional American and Christian values. How we grieve as God’s Children, sometimes wringing our hands in despair over the wickedness taking place before us.  God has admonished us, though, to “fret not . . . because of evildoers.”
I was reminded recently of the truth and comfort of Psalms 37. As I watch the few remaining leaves falling in the woods across the street, I realize just how short and bleak the days are, and that Our Lord may return again before we know it.
I encourage you to read Psalm 37 all the way through in the King James Bible and understand that if you know Christ and are relying on Him for Eternal Life, you are indeed on the winning side! If you don’t know Him, I ask you to click on the Sugar Maple on the lower right of my blog site and see how to make that happen in your life.
I leave you with the last verse of the great comforting hymn CHRIST RETURNETH—MLJ

                                   Oh, joy! Oh, delight! Should we go without dying,
                                   No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
                                   Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
                                   When Jesus receives His own.

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   ‘This is going on my favorite time of the year!’ I heard my father say one late Autumn afternoon. The air was translucent with smoky haze as the children next door made a game of jumping into the neighbor’s freshly raked piles of leaves. The sun gave evermore sparingly of its light and the yellow jackets drowsed on the sticky sweet bushels of grapes and pears. There would surely be ice on the mud puddles in the morning to seal the bleakness of death as the leaves were fallen to the ground to be settled by cold November’s rain and buried under December’s snow.
Death! Everything has its own given season of demise and must die. Oh but what great beauty there can be in death! A fire is at its most lovely just before the bright orange embers fade with plumes of blue flame among the white ashes. David lamented the death of Saul and Jonathan and somehow found great beauty there:
   “The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places: how are the mighty fallen!”
   II Samuel 1:19
   There is something so wonderful, beautiful and unique about a child of God who has served and loved His Savior all his days, and then is called Home. We weep and lament at the impending death of a loved one, but as the Lord draws near to the bed of sorrows and counts the labored breaths and the withering beats of the heart, He smiles and in some mysterious way, is pleased at that precious moment of death!
   “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
   Psalms 116:15
   Perhaps He is happy that our suffering can finally be over. Maybe the Lord just loves to see the expressions on our faces when the instant transformation from death to eternal life takes away our pain and we see Him and Heaven for the first time. Possibly the Father is anxious to show us all He has for us because we chose to love and trust His dear Son:
   “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:7
   Great beauty in death! Let’s thank Him that even at this somber time, we are under His watchful eye and interest if we indeed know and trust Him as Our Savior. –M. Jewell

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A NATION IN SORROW

 

The one-roomed schoolhouse was like a small beehive that windy, chilly Friday in late November. Teacher had already begun calling the students up front by their particular grades to take their places around the long low table by the slate chalkboard. Teacher then taught them their lessons for each particular subject. This was how it was done in those days at First School.
The morning recess had come and gone with no one venturing outside. At noon hour, most of the students leisurely ate their lunches at their desks, cheerfully chatting about the coming Thanksgiving holiday. Dale First and Johnny Schilling who lived just across Black Lake Road went home for their dinners. When Johnny returned, he had a package he received in the mail that was a kit to sell Christmas cards door to door. He was trying to decide whether to keep it or send it back when Teacher asked Mike to pull the bell rope at one o’clock. Everyone soon settled down to a quiet, uneventful afternoon of classes and study.
Sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon, as the room stood in its lazy silence, the front door burst open and slammed hard. Perhaps the wind had caught it away, but it was Mrs. Jarvis, Richard’s mother, who came puffing into the room to speak with Teacher.
“The President has been shot!” she blurted out frantically.
The class looked up from their books with mouths wide open. The teacher, Mrs. Rosenberg, caught off guard and not knowing how to respond, frowned and said, “I don’t think that is funny!” Mrs. Jarvis assured her that it was true and not some bad joke.
Teacher hurried over to the old black radio on her desk and turned it on. It buzzed and growled with static as its tubes glowed and heated up. She turned the dial around, but on every channel the news was the same—the president had indeed been shot!
The boys sat stunned and some of the older girls began to weep.
“How could this happen in this day and age?” Mary Wolf said angrily!
Then the news finally came. The man on the radio had confirmed it—John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, was dead!
Everyone sat quietly for a while, attempting to make sense of it all. Mrs. Rosenberg spoke with them and tried to comfort them but she was in need of comforting herself.
School was dismissed early and that night, Mike’s dad said that they should all pray for Mrs. Kennedy and her children. Mike kneeled to pray and asked the Lord to comfort her and be with her during this terrible time. He thought that the whole nation needed God’s comfort and wondered what this would all mean. The television said that the vice-president, Mr. Johnson, had been sworn in as the new President and Mike prayed for him too.
Mike remembered how another president, Abraham Lincoln, had also been slain almost one hundred years before. He wondered what would become of a nation where evil men thought it was a fine thing to kill their leaders.
(from a pending work © 2018 by Michael Leonard Jewell)

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I often speak of my dad’s sixty-acre spread on Meadowbrook Road with a certain amount of pride and wonder. This is where I lived when I attended First School. It was a place where my young-boy dreams began and my imagination took hold. Dad grew field corn, pickles, potatoes, and had a pear orchard with a mix of Bartletts and Kieffers. Our pears sometimes had scars on them from being “nipped” by the frost, but that didn’t seem to keep anyone from buying or eating them.

I liked the field corn because it grew so tall and attracted deer and pheasants, and was like a jungle for an eight or nine year-old kid to explore. Unknown to some, field corn tastes very good on the table. Somewhat starchy but I prefer it to sweet corn. In addition, Dad also grew several rows of popcorn for us to enjoy during the winter.

I remember my dad telling me that when he was plowing or cultivating, a flock of bobwhite quail would often follow his tractor to get at the worms and insects that had been disturbed.

I hated picking pickles because they were “prickly” like a cactus on tender young hands, and it always seemed to be hot and humid when it was time to harvest them.

The potatoes are where the organic farming part came in. Dad would give each of us kids a clear glass fruit jar with a little gasoline in it and send us to walk up and down the rows of potatoes to pick off the potato bugs (called Colorado Potato Beetles). They had round, shiny, creamy white striped backs and were found crawling along side their red worm-like larva. Their tiny yellow-orange eggs were found on the underside of the potato leaves and also had to be destroyed in the gasoline. This was Dad’s version of organic farming.

Today, someone might have called the authorities on him for making his kids learn some character by working on the farm this way. Great times, though, and great memories.  –MLJ

 

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It might be too early for a Christmas story. Unless, that is, you part of my family.
One particular Christmas morning when we lived on Empire back in the sixties (I was not yet in high school); it had not snowed for several days and actually was kind of warm. Dawn had just broken and I was taking armfuls of wrapping paper, freshly shredded from that morning’s harvest of gifts out to the burn barrel.

The sky was gray and overcast, and I was privately bemoaning the “un-Christmas like” weather, wondering if there would be any snow that December. Suddenly and unexpectedly, it began to rain. Rain? On Christmas day in Michigan?

I started the paper burning and as it began to smoke due to the moisture, I ran into the house to get the last load. It was raining pretty hard by then and as the intensity increased, a loud, bright volley of thunder and lightning rang out. Several more times it crackled and flashed as the rain increased its intensity.

Then all at once, a swirl of snowflakes began to blow in among the raindrops and within a few minutes, the rain stopped and the snow came down hard.

The turkey and dressing my mother made for dinner that day was delicious with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, brussel sprouts, candied sweet potatoes, and hot buttery rolls. There was pie and cake for later.

Mid-afternoon found us all in “tryptophanic” shock! My dad was napping in his big chair as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by the Hollyridge Strings played softly on the radio. Gazing out the dining room window, I noticed there was almost seven or eight inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. The only thing I can surmise is that a whole lot of kids had cried out to God that morning for a white Christmas and He obviously heard them all!  A VERY EARLY MERRY CHRISTMAS!  –MLJ

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One Christmas Eve many years ago (1965 or 66 I think), us kids were getting ready for the annual service at Calvary Bible Church in Benton Harbor. Pastor Roger F. Campbell, a very talented author, always wrote the plays that the older kids performed and the memory verses to the programs in which the younger children participated.

I remember looking into the brightly lit kitchen of our home where we lived at 1642 East Empire and my dad was very busy baking bread; he had worked as a baker before going into the army and displayed his talents. Large coffee cakes, some filled with poppy seed, others with brown sugar, butter, and nuts to make butterscotch, sought out places to rest themselves and cool in the large kitchen.

He made éclairs filled with custard, and cinnamon rolls drenched with white icing. My favorites were his white bread and oatmeal bread. The large loaves, hot out of the oven, were brushed with melted fat to keep the crust soft. The first slice burst forth with steam and was quickly slathered with butter. The house smelled so good.

My mother who was a registered nurse was working at Mercy Hospital and would be home in a few hours.

Uncle Jim Amundson came by in his black 1959 Ford sedan with Lois. It was snowing hard, of course! Sharon was at home with Aunt Maxine because she was just a toddler at that time.

So, off to the Christmas Eve program we went: John, Nancy, Lois, and myself. At the close of the evening service, the kids would be given gifts of oranges, candy, and boxes of animal crackers.

Later at home there would be a table full of treats and delights, my mother would be home, and the Christmas tree in the living room stuffed with presents to bring us joy the next morning. –MLJ

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One of the most important things when writing fiction is your setting. When you show your characters interacting and speaking with one another, you must describe to the reader what they are doing, and where they are doing it. Failure to do this leaves you with a certain boring blandness, sometimes referred to as “white space”.
When I write, the weather is like an extra man on the football field during the game. Technically, he is not supposed to be there but can affect the outcome of the game. I treat the weather as another character in my story. You can do so much with the weather to add color and depth. Do you want your character to appear warm and cozy in his log cabin? How about a snowstorm or a cold north wind, howling in the background?      Autumn weather brings the shortening of days, cricket chirps, cold drizzle, frosty nights, and warm afternoons. You can make a short walk to the mailbox seem like a journey to the arctic if your character must walk through drifts of blowing snow that cut at his face like sand from a sandblaster. Think of yourself as a painter, filling in the background and places where your characters must live, move around, and exist.
The following is a short excerpt from one of my new books yet to be published. I endeavored to use the weather as another character, a protagonist and antagonist to the person called Cadan:

  The sun was particularly bright that morning, and Cadan was thankful that it would be at his back for the duration of his ride. A stiff breeze raced down the hills in the distance his way, causing him to press his hat down snugly on his head. Baring something unforeseen, Cadan figured that with Jim’s gentle lope, he should have the hamlet of Refuge in sight within an hour or so.
  However, the late summer morning ride with blue skies, serenaded by the melodic twitters of meadowlarks perched on branches and bush, and kestrels hovering above, ready to stoop upon their prey hiding in emerald patches of meadow soon changed. Low dark clouds moved in from the northwest, and soon, gusts of cold wind began to blow, and large heavy drops of rain like silver pellets struck his hat and horse. —MLJ

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