By Stephanie Prichard –
Our front yard gleamed with the gold of dandelions. Gold, as in wealth, great riches, money in our pockets! Or so thought my little brother and I, with all the enthusiasm and optimism of a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old.
“I’ll pay you a penny for each dandelion you pick,” Dad said. “But for each dandelion you don’t pick, you pay me a penny.”
What a deal! What an easy deal! I could hardly believe my father would let go of so much money for such little work. All five of us children had household tasks assigned to us, and each nickel and dime was earned by the sweat of our brows. I had to sweep the stairs, wrestle with my parents’ bed each weekend to put on clean sheets, and either set the table every evening or clear it of dirty dishes.
So, goodness, all I had to do now was pick a hundred dandelions and I’d have far more than the eighty cents I earned with my weekly allowance. The yard was full of dandelions—hundreds and hundreds of them. Even with my brother cashing in on the deal, I’d still get three or four hundred picked.
We dashed into the yard and plucked dandelions right and left with both hands. “One, two, three …” I counted fast to keep up with my plucking. At twenty-five, I ran my handful over to my dad. So did my brother. We giggled as we dropped the flowers at his feet. The counting went slower with the next twenty-five. Even slower with the next two handfuls. My fingernails were green underneath, and my palms were yellow.
“I’m done,” I declared with handful number four.
“Me too.” My brother’s piles looked suspiciously smaller than mine, but what did I care? I was a hundred pennies rich!
“Okay, how many dandelions did you pick?” Dad asked.
I should have been suspicious since the answer was obvious—four piles of twenty-five dandelions per child—but I crowed the answer with glee: “A hundred for each of us! You owe us a hundred pennies apiece. A dollar each!”
“All right,” he said. “Now, how much do you owe me?”
“Turn around and count how many dandelions you didn’t pick. That’s what you owe me. A penny for each dandelion still out there.”
My brother and I burst into tears. We didn’t have to turn around to know that more than two hundred dandelions remained unplucked on the lawn. And we knew our dad—a deal was a deal.
He’d make us follow through with it, and not only would we not get paid for all those dandelions we’d picked, but we’d have to pay him for the ones we hadn’t picked.
And so I learned my first lesson in Contracts 101—one of many memorable life lessons my wise father taught me over the years.
The lesson holds true for spiritual dandelions too. No matter how many weeds we pluck from our lives, there still will be hundreds we haven’t plucked. The Bible calls this “falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That means we are sinners, while God is sinless. It means no matter how hard we try to be good, or how often we succeed, we’re still full of sin. We simply can’t get rid of all those weeds choking our lives. We need help.
That’s what Jesus did—He covered our debt with His allowance. He paid for all those weeds. Now, before our heavenly Father, there simply are no more dandelions to count against us.
By Stephanie Prichard -
My husband barely dared to breathe. He sat immobile at the picnic table on our Aussie host’s deck, surrounded by thirteen wild Sulphur-crested Cockatoos perched at one-foot intervals along the railing. The size of barnyard chickens, snowy white except for their black beaks and their yellow feathers crowning their heads, they didn’t move either. Aloof, regal, their agenda clear, they stared at him and waited.
Finally, my husband oh-so-slowly extended his right arm across the tabletop and deposited one sunflower seed after another toward him. The Hansel-and-Gretel trail ended with his hand as the gingerbread house. He opened it wide to reveal a tantalizing, come-hither pile of seeds.
Within seconds, a volunteer hopped from the railing to the table. Step by step, the cockatoo followed the trail, gobbling up the seeds until he was within a neck’s stretch of the gingerbread-house cache. He halted. Looked up at my husband. Looked down at the cache. Ever so slowly, he stretched his neck toward the pile of seeds. My husband’s lips quirked into a smile of victory. Then, with lightning speed, the cockatoo nipped my husband’s index finger and scurried backwards.
My husband’s smile disappeared, but he didn’t move. He pressed his hand all the firmer onto the tabletop and tightened his mouth into a straight line.
The cockatoo crept cautiously forward. He stretched his neck again and latched onto the same finger. This time he bit so hard an electric current of pain shot through my husband’s body. Suddenly it wasn’t so cute that he was surrounded by thirteen combat-ready, sharp-beaked aggressors who coveted his sunflower seeds. He dumped the pile onto the table and left. Chagrined, he stood beside me at the sliding glass door and watched the other twelve cockatoos swoop to the table to join in the feast.
That wasn’t the end of it. A few days later, at a small zoo of native Australian animals, we stopped at a cage labeled Cockatoos. My husband clutched the wire fence and peered inside. Immediately, a Sulfur-crested Cockatoo flew straight over to him. “Well,” my husband said, “at least there’s one friendly cockatoo in Australia.” He grinned as the bird replied with what sounded like a mighty affable “Aaaark.”
And with that, the cockatoo promptly reached over and bit the same sore finger the other bird had chomped. “Aaaark,” he squawked, and with a distinct Aussie accent said, “Good boy, good boy.”
Aren’t we just like those cockatoos? Territorial: “Hands off, God. This is my space. My life. Just dump what’s good on the tabletop and leave me alone.”
. . . Until something bad happens. And then guess Who gets questioned for His lack of goodness?
By Stephanie Prichard –
On the last day of our honeymoon, Don and I went to the beach within walking distance of our hotel. Neither of us was big on swimming, but, c’mon, we were in Hawaii! Besides, we’d be making footprints on the very sand where they’d filmed the movie “From Here to Eternity.”
Wouldn’t you know it—I’d barely entered the water when I stepped on coral. It cut right into the tender flesh of my sole and hurt like crazy. I tried to staunch the steady dribble of blood with my towel, but my Marine Corps husband declared we had to return to the hotel and get medical attention. So, hanging onto my man, I hobbled what seemed like from here to eternity down the long, long sidewalk to our hotel. My progress was marked by a trail of faint but bloody footprints.
The air in the hotel lobby was cool against my skin after the long march in the sun. Yet perspiration beaded my body and trickled down my forehead. And the lobby seemed awful dim. I thought about removing my sunglasses, but the elevator doors opened and Don all but hauled me inside. Suddenly, my knees went rubbery; the walls spun.
The last thing I remember was Don punching the button for our floor. The elevator lurched upward, but I lurched downward. Don grabbed me with both arms and glanced at my face. My sunglasses, he told me later, were pushed to the side and hung from one ear. My eyes were open in a blank stare. My arms and legs were limp noodles. He struggled to hold me upright.
Ding. The elevator doors slid open. Five people stepped forward, but stopped halfway. Their eyes widened and their mouths went slack. No one said anything. They literally froze.
My husband stared back, equally frozen, seeing himself with their eyes—a man standing in a pool of blood, a young woman limp in his arms, her head thrown back, eyes open but not seeing, mouth drooling, sunglasses swaying from one ear.
Ding. The doors shut out his audience.
Belatedly, he realized the gawkers were standing in the hotel lobby. The elevator must have gone to our floor while he was distracted with me, then returned to the lobby for its new load of passengers. Quickly, he punched the button for our floor again. This time when the doors opened, he picked me up and carried me to our room.
Within an hour, we were at a hospital to have the gash cleaned. The doctor didn’t anesthetize my foot, evidently confusing me as the Marine instead of my husband. Big mistake. Not only were the bottoms of my feet ticklish, but inserting a probe into my wound and poking it around was asking too much of me. Without thinking—honestly, it was purely a reflex action—I kicked him in the face.
Fortunately, I only grazed his nose, but my husband was ordered to hold down my legs for the rest of the procedure. My wound was being cleansed for my benefit, but my body interpreted it as an attack and wanted to respond with its own aggression.
Isaiah 53 tells us about Jesus’ wound.
His wound was fatal—He died “for our transgressions” (v. 5). Why? To cleanse us—“by His stripes we are healed” (v. 5) And because His wound was voluntary, indeed purposed, He bore it meekly—“as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7b, NKJV).
Jesus took our wounds for His.
Did you know we’re on a honeymoon now? Yep, from here to eternity.
By Stephanie Prichard -
My first incident of total humiliation happened when I was age eight. My older brother hadn’t descended into the pit of adolescence yet, so we were friends. He not only acknowledged me as his sister, but he looked out for me. The window of our camaraderie occurred in the two-year time frame of the early fifties when our family lived in Japan.
Dad was stationed at the army base in Yokohama, where we lived on post. Our favorite play spot was a giant hill not far from our backyard. A pleasant walk through a lightly wooded area added to the fun of getting to “Little Mount Fuji,” as we fondly called our hill.
After an afternoon of playing there, my brother and I headed home for dinner. I trudged behind him through the woods, leaving him to guide our footsteps while I let my mind wander. We had explored the woods many times and discovered several small huts inhabited by Japanese families. I wondered if their children spied on our house like we did on theirs.
As we got closer to home, we heard our mother call us. My brother took off at a run, and I picked up my pace to keep up with him. Without so much as a hey-watch-out-sis, he swerved suddenly to the left. Did I say he looked out for me? Not this time.
There was a reason for his zigzag, and I didn’t zig in time. I plunged straight into a four-foot-deep honey-bucket well. A tidal wave of fermented urine and feces splashed high over my head and plopped (notice I didn’t say rained) straight down on top of me.
The shock of my fall ratcheted up as the stench engulfed me. Weeks—months—years of fomenting organisms had churned the waste products of our Japanese neighbors into a powerful, homegrown fertilizer for their gardens, and I was standing up to my armpits in it.
Adding insult to injury was my brother, bent double with laughter at the sight of his poor, little sister drenched in you-know-what. My scream out-powered his mirth, and he hastened to pull me out and lead me—at a safe distance—home. “Whew, you stink!” he said over and over. As I entered our neighborhood, men, women and children backed away, hands over their mouths and noses. Like Pepe Le Pu, a distinct aura trailed me down the street.
At home, the humiliation continued. No sympathetic hug from my mother, no. Instead she made me strip naked outside, at the back of our house, and hosed—yes, hosed!—me off. I was sure all the little Japanese neighbor boys were hiding at the edge of the woods, watching and giggling. Finally I was whisked into the house and submerged in soap and shampoo in a long, hot shower. I didn’t stop crying until I fell exhausted into bed.
As Christians, we carry an aroma too. Second Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” When the world rejects you for being a Christian, it’s not because you are Pepe Le Pu. It’s because they smell their own death. They smell the “fragrance of Christ”—His amazing humiliation in becoming human and dying for our sins that we might have “life leading to life.” That’s my prayer for my loved ones—life—because it’s no stinking good any other way.
By Stephanie Prichard -
Yep, I did it. Walked smack dab into a Men’s Restroom. I was in such a hurry I raced straight to a stall and was in and out before I stopped short at what was supposed to be the sink but instead turned out to be a row of urinals. Oh my heart! I honestly believe I died in that one microsecond of horrid comprehension.
My next brain-conscious moment was the realization that at least I was alone. Follow that with a mad dash for the door to get out before anyone saw me.
Only, the door was locked.
There wasn’t even a handle to pull. The door was supposed to stand open, and I must have jarred it shut.
I sucked in a lungful of oxygen. Slow down, Steph. Breathe. Take stock of the situation. Think.
It was Election Day, and I was the precinct chairman overseeing the voting procedure for my sector. The poll was located at one of our local high schools, and I’d been there guzzling coffee all day to keep me on my toes against rogue voters and invading high schoolers. When I went out for lunch I’d taken a restroom break, and my bladder had been signaling for the past half hour that I was due for another. Thus my brisk pace into the, ulp, facilities for the other gender.
School was over for the day, which explained the absence of needy users other than (blush) me. Now, instead of dreading discovery, I faced the stomach-acid-blazing fear that I wouldn’t be. I could end up here, locked overnight, with a hard tile floor for my bed and my stiff leather purse for a pillow. What would my poll workers think when I didn’t return to tally the day’s votes with them? Would my husband send for the police when I didn’t show up at home and he found my car all by itself in the school parking lot? Would they think to enter the school and look in … men’s restrooms?
Did I mention I didn’t have a cell phone on me? Uh-huh, live and learn.
I began pounding the door. Yelling. Screaming. Please, somebody had to hear me!
But wait! Had the janitors cleaned the restroom yet? Desperate, I dared a hefty sniff. The odor of industrialized cleansers eradicated any lingering bacteria in my nostrils. My hope for rescue faded. I would have to find my own way out.
The only other escape route was the windows. They were a slight four-foot stretch above my head. All I needed was a little boost and I could climb up and crawl out. I scanned the room for something not bolted to the floor. Something like a bucket I could turn over and stand on. Something that, hey, might be in that closet over there.
Of course, chances were it was locked. I held my breath, gripped the door’s handle, and pulled.
Into the school hallway.
I stood, stunned. The truth trickled painfully over my numb gray cells. You know, Steph, where there’s an In door, there’s usually an Out door.
I remember that incident now whenever I face a trial designed by God for my good. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape.” Don’t trap yourself in the emotion of your trials. Look for God’s way out. It’s handier than you think.