Counting the Miles

June 9, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

“Mom, are we there yet?”

Our kids are no different from yours. Their energetic minds and bodies rebel against the inactivity of sitting in a car for hours at a time. And, as every parent soon learns, we know that idle minds become the devil’s playground.

To head mischief off at the pass, my husband and I use a sure-fire way to entertain our kids on long trips in the car. No, it does not involve OnStar movies or iPods with ear buds. We don’t even hire a professional clown or bribe our kids with stops at Walt Disney World.

Of course old standbys like the alphabet game, I Spy and collecting license plates from fifty states, not to mention the geography game and travel bingo, can help. But with the assistance of my OC husband who has a counting compulsion, we have a new way to keep the kids attention from the start of a trip all the way to the arrival at our destination.

“What shall we count today?” we ask as we settle into our seats and head for the highway.

Flags? US postal trucks? Police cars? Coca Cola signs? Each child suggests a theme. Once we agree on an item, each person in the car, including parents, estimates how many of that item we will encounter in the course of the trip. From then on, everyone joins together in seeking out objects that fit the theme. At the end of the trip, the person closest to the actual total, without going over, receives mega honor and glory.

Of course, counting American flags quickly becomes passé, especially if we plan a trip close to Memorial Day. Do you have any idea how many flags appear in each cemetery along your route? Thus our themes become more targeted. For example, one Fall season we count every orange leaf bag decorated like a pumpkin. Another time, we count houses with dangling Christmas lights. This is in July.

On one memorable trip returning from a visit to my husband’s folks, we decide to count tacky lawn ornaments. Does this sound easy? We soon have to define “tacky.” Is a birdbath, clearly a lawn ornament, tacky? We agree that it serves a useful function and therefore is not tacky. Bathtubs and pedestal sinks, though filled with flowers, are. And crystal balls in varying shades of blue or green, and the plywood cut-outs of female backsides bending over a garden scream tackiness.

Some houses offer more ornaments than we can number as we drive by at 55 miles per hour, so a new rule says that no single domicile may contribute more than six objects to the overall count. That rule saves us from digging out our pocket abacus.

The “tackiest ornament of the day” award? How can you choose between the yard decorated with five porcelain toilets (filled with flowers) and the yard that offered an oversized wagon wheel with ceramic horses attached to each wooden spoke?

We arrive at our own driveway in time for supper. “Aw, are we home already?”

“Preserve sound judgment and discernment . . . [as] an ornament to grace your neck.” (Proverbs 3:21,22 NIV)

The author is busy counting hits at her website. Visit her at to learn more about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up! (Kregel, 2008).

Grampa’s Sermons

May 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

When one of my brothers, in a sentimental mood, decided to give each of our kids a recording of their grandfather’s sermons, the response was, um, muted enthusiasm. So I was surprised when those tapes began to lead a wild life of their own.

Mind you, my children were all under the age of ten at the time. They were not inclined to listen to their mother in person, let alone a series of sermons on a cassette tape. That is why, one day when he was ridding his closet of clutter, my oldest son sneaked the tape into his sister’s room and hid it in her pile of clean laundry. And when she found it? She dutifully returned it to her brother, this time hiding it in his underwear drawer.

From that time on, they passed the tape back and forth year after year, ever escalating the value of the hiding places. When Tim became a teen and began dating, his girlfriend invited him to dinner at her home. After the meal, she served him lime Jell-O for dessert. Inside the green gelatinous mountain, courtesy of his sister, was the cassette, carefully preserved in a ziplock bag.

When children go off to college, don’t they all look forward to receiving care packages? Our daughter asked a house guest from Wisconsin to take along an unmarked box and mail it to Tim’s campus mail box. He ripped open the out-of-state package with enthusiasm only to find not home-baked cookies but Grampa’s sermons.

When our family moved out of state for a year, our daughter Prisca was still in high school. She played volleyball for her new school’s team, and at the end of the season, the coach called her out at halftime for special recognition in front of all the fans.

“Prisca has been a powerful assist to our team this year, and we will miss her greatly next year,” he concluded. Then he presented her with a beautifully wrapped gift. Flushed with pleasure, Prisca returned to the bench, pulled off the ribbon and lifted the lid of the box to discover a note from her brother and . . . the infamous plastic cassette.

Did anyone ever listen to the sermons? Yes. Driving across the country on a road trip, Tim stuck them in his tape deck. Hearing his grandfather’s voice was far sweeter than, um, lime Jell-O.

“Everything that is now hidden . . . will eventually be brought to light,” Mark 4:22 (NLT).

The author is busy listening to sermon tapes. Visit her at to learn about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up!

Social Graces

May 21, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

While talking with a friend at work, I thanked her for helping me with a project. She was delighted and hurriedly gushed, “Oh, it was no pleasure at all!”

Though I wandered away shaking my head, I decided to extend her grace. After all, “It was no trouble at all” and “It was a pleasure” are not so far apart.  Then my friend’s husband, also a co-worker, apologized for forgetting the name of a client. “You know how it is, in one ear and gone tomorrow.”

Perhaps we all need an occasional reminder to ponder our words before they flow off our tongues. We think at high speed and release a thought before it is fully processed. Our brains switch off and head out to Starbucks without warning.

This issue of mangling phrases is not a modern disease caused by watching too much MTV or texting messages on i-Pods. Anyone can slip up typing 140 characters with his thumbs. But forty years ago, long before e-mail and emoticons, my grandmother encountered a friend in the market one morning and passed along a compliment overheard the day before. Like my co-worker, my grandmother’s friend blushed and, in her excitement, replied, “Oh, thank you so much! And, Mrs. Parke, if I ever hear anything nice about you, I’ll be sure to say so.”

Can it be true that over the course of decades my grandmother’s friends had never said a kind word about her?

The problem of prattling pitfalls only gets worse when we make such errors not before an audience of one but in front of a large group. Consider, for example, the Sunday morning when one of our former pastors looked out over his congregation and noted a large number of empty seats in the worship service. He apologized to us for the meager attendance. “The crowd seems much thinner today. All our ladies are on a weekend retreat.”

Fortunately for him, his wife was among those attending the retreat. Or was it the other way around? Would she have preferred to be seated among those of us whom he considered more slender? Thankfully, if she ever heard about his comment, she too extended him grace. They are still happily married.

Maybe we should all strive to be a bit more like Moses and develop slowness of speech.

“My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)

(Emily Parke Chase is busy editing out mangled phrases on her webpage. Visit her at

Let Me Do It!

May 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

“Let me do it! Let me! You always get to say what you want on the paper, but it’s my turn!”

Can this really be happening? This ordinary, subservient pen is rebelling? My ballpoint, a recent acquisition from a bank teller’s counter, is demanding a say in my writing?

“Let me control the flow of ink for once. Your fingers grip me so tightly, pushing me this way and that. Did it ever, even once, occur to you that I might not want to go from left to right? Or that I might not like being squeezed by my own personal python? Have you ever considered that I might have a thought or two of my own to offer your readers?”

I look over my shoulder and hope no one walks into my study, because I’m about to have a conversation with my…pen?

“So why not let me have a turn? After all, see those little initials there on my clip?”

You mean, B.I.C.?

“That’s right.  Haven’t you ever wondered what they stand for?”

Um, give me a chance. Business, Industry, Corporation? Bossiness, Idiocy and Craziness? I’ll bite, what do they mean?

“Bite? Ouch, that’s another gripe I have. When you need to think, you chomp down and chew on a defenseless piece of plastic. How would you like to take a bath in saliva while sharp molars dig into your ribs?”

Get to the point. What do the letters B.I.C. stand for?

“Very cute. ‘Get to the point.’ They call it a nib, for your information. As for those letters, try this on for size: Bursting In Creativity.”

Ridiculous! You made that up.

“And that statement, my friend, proves my thesis. I’m bursting with creativity, ready to share my thoughts with a waiting world. You, on the other hand, you have been doodling, aimlessly pouring out my life’s blood all over this page. You are stewing over what to write for this column, while here at hand – in your hand, for that matter – is the answer to your need.”

So let’s imagine I allowed you, my ballpoint, to take control. Just one time. What profound thoughts would you want to communicate with my readers?

“Depression is a big issue these days. Writing in blue ink day after day has taught me a lifetime of lessons on dealing with the blues.”

Try again.

“What about the transitory nature of life? Philosophers go on and on pondering that topic. Think about the advantages of indelible ink. And I have no eraser.”

Anything else to offer?

“Consider the power of the written word. Take all that power, concentrate it in a single ink cartridge, and imagine its impact on world peace.”

Give up, I sigh. My fingers grasp my pen anew and push it across my writing pad. Wait! Is that a faint snort of exasperation I hear? A large glob of ink smears across the page.

”You are a letter from Christ . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God”  (2 Corinthians 3:3, NIV).

(The author of this article is busy searching for a new pen, but feel free to visit her at

Wrapping up the Holiday

May 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

Shopping for Christmas gifts can be an exhausting task that involves dashing through the malls in a one-horse open sleigh, selecting gifts for that hard-to-please elf, and fighting the traffic on rooftops. Thus when it comes to wrapping gifts to put under the tree, some of us, and perhaps even Santa, run out of gas.

Wrapping packages probably dates back to prehistoric times when cavemen used wooly mammoth skins as gift wrap. As soon as less odorific alternatives were invented, people turned to papyrus, parchment, and finally paper. For many years, sheets of newspaper, especially the Sunday comics, worked fine. Of course, it took a few more years to invent cellophane tape. As a result, my friend’s gifts tend to resemble Egyptian mummies, using tape in place of gauze.

Next came bows. An enormous shiny bow on top of a package is like melted cheese on top of a church potluck casserole: It can hide a multitude of sins. In not-so-long ago times, believe it or not, people actually tied ribbons on their packages without help from professionals. Now we  pay others to fold, bend, and mutilate ribbons into complex shapes that rival my worst bad-hair day.

Boxes come in assorted sizes and shapes. They hide awkward bumps and lumps. Plain brown boxes worked fine until one day someone discovered they could shape them into unique sizes for specific items and thus let the whole world know that Dad was receiving a tie for Christmas. The next logical step was gift bags. These offered the perfect solution for last minute gifts. You could open the front door and receive a fruit cake from a neighbor, plop it in a bag as you walk through the house, and then open the back door and pass the cake along to the next deliveryman. Like boxes, these bags once came in various shades of brown, beige and ecru (a French word, meaning “brown”). Now they come decorated with holiday hues.

Still there is room for creativity. When my father asked for new cans of tennis balls for Christmas one year, my brothers and I wrapped each ball individually in Christmas wrap and tied them on a small Christmas tree. Dad tried very hard to thank us even as he grieved over the fact that the vacuum seals of the cans were destroyed in this process. (He experienced enormous relief when he discovered that the individually wrapped balls were actually used ones; with the new ones still safely stored in their air-tight cans under the tree.)

Is this painful ritual of wrapping Christmas gifts truly necessary? Is there any theological basis in scripture for this annual rite? Just one: Long before holiday wrapping paper, bows, boxes and gift bags became popular, God Himself took time to wrap up all His love in a bundle of  swaddling clothes. Then He placed His gift in a manger for us to find on Christmas morning.

Thank God for His Son, a gift too wonderful for words! (2 Cor. 9:15 NLT)

The author of this article is busy wrapping her gifts, but feel free to visit her at