(This is the ongoing Friday sharing of my book about a little boy named Phillip. Enjoy. If you like it, share this post and let me know.)
Jesus somehow picked me up and pulled both me and Skye both onto his lap. Skye loved Jesus right away, not a growl from his throat just a wag of his tail. Sitting on Jesus’ lap I felt super safe. I felt I could trust Jesus and that He knew everything about me all at once.
“Now, Phillip James, what’s the right thing to do next?”
I didn’t know that answer. I didn’t know what to do. The storm raged on. I didn’t want to go back out into it, didn’t want to go home, didn’t want to move actually. And I liked the way the tree felt and the way I felt sitting on the lap of this person filled with light.
“Clearly,” Jesus continued, “you cannot go back out into the storm right now. And clearly, your mom and dad will be worried about you.” I cringed at the words “Mom and dad,” they didn’t feel like that to me, and I had been hurt so much in their care. I never had been able to even think of them that way.
“I know, there are hurts connected to them, but still, they are your parents, and I gave them to you for this time in your life. I’ll bring light from darkness and hope even from places of despair.”
When He said this, I felt the deepest sense of rightness. What he said was true in the largest way that it could be. I nodded to Him.
“So, child, I have a purpose in this storm that will change things in your life soon. No, not right away, but soon. For now, I am sending two of my servants to come find you and take you to their house. When they come, you can trust them, okay? So, go with them. They will care for you tonight through the storm. You will be safe.”
Then, as quickly as He had come, He was gone. But the sense of His presence, the peacefulness in my heart, the warmth in my tree…all that stayed. I cuddled more with Skye who didn’t like the storm but was willing to stay with me. Then I heard the sound of footsteps. One solid, the other sounded like it dragged a bit. And a voice, mumbling, “Of coursse. You’d imaaagine that Jesusss were sennnding you out in a ssstorm like thisss. I mmmight think you had really lossst it thisss time! In such a torrrrent! But let’sss continue.”
“Now, Henry,” said a woman’s smaller voice, with a bit of a lilt in her accent and a chuckle in her tone, “I know it seems unlikely, but it is better to obey the prompt than ignore it and find it had been the Lord. Thank you for your willingness to come out with me.”
“Liiike I would be wwwilling to let you come out here all alooone, Maggie. Ssseriously! It’sss a beastly niiight. Now whaaat did you sssee again?”
“I saw that big tree, the one up ahead and within the hollow there was a small boy with his dog, tucked beside him, coatless and alone.”
“Alright, alright, we will knooow sssoon enough, won’t we,” said Henry in response and his heavy footsteps continued, step, drag, step, drag.
I sat still as stone, afraid, yet believing Jesus who had said he was sending someone. Soon, I saw the beam of a flashlight and then it shone into my eyes. The man spoke,
“Well, I’llll be! Would you loook at that little tyke aaand his dog? Maggie, I’m convinced of thisss God of yours now more thaaan ever and thisss ability you have. You really sssee things.”
The woman came around and upon seeing me, knelt down and said in the kindest tone, “Well, laddie. Your shirt is so wet. You must have fallen! How cold you must be!” She reached down, Skye wagged his tail, and she stroked his head. “Jesus sent us to bring you to our house, and then we will find where you are supposed to go. Are you doing okay?”
“Can you talk?”
I shook my head.
“Okay, sweet lad. Here, I brought you this coat. It will be huge but if wrapped all the way around you, it will warm you up and then Henry will carry you.”
She held out her arms and I stood and rushed into them. She put the coat around me. It dragged on the ground, but once I was wrapped in it, it smelled woodsy, clean, fresh and it immediately warmed me up.
“Heerre you go,” the man said, picking me up. “Thisss boy weighs nnnothing at all, Maggie! Nnothing at all!”
“Hmm…” was all she said. “Come on, fellow,” she said to Skye, who immediately stood up and followed us. I was in the man’s arms rocking along as he dragged one foot and Maggie behind us.
Up the path through the wind and rain we went, walking, step-drag, step-drag until we reached another exit of the park, different than the one I had come through. It was a small metal gate, which the woman opened, following the path on the other side. The man shut it behind us. It was pitch dark. The meager light from the flashlight couldn’t penetrate the black. But even in the dark, it didn’t feel black to me. My heart was warm, and I felt peaceful—it was like the feeling of blue water, or the feeling of the presence of Jesus.
We followed this path through the trees until it came to a small footbridge that crossed the creek. In the distance, across the bridge, I could see lights from a window. The path branched and we went through a garden gate, the one at the back of what seemed to be their property, and then across a small garden on a path made of large stones to the wooden, door. The woman opened it and said, “Here we are, sweetheart. Here we are.”
As we entered, I smelled the most wonderful smell ever. I didn’t even know what it was. Once on the porch where the washer and dryer sat, Henry put me down, and saying “How about you get out of thooose wet shoes, ssson,”and took his off as well. “Here,” he said, handing me a pair of furry slippers. “These are our grandson’s. He’s about your size. Yooou’ll sssoon dry off with the wwwarmth of the ffffire.” They each donned their own pair exchanged for shoes and we went through a second door into a large living room. Lights were blazing in the room and there was a roaring fire on the hearth. The whole house filled with light and that smell of home cooking—soup or something.
Then, Maggie said, “I made bread this afternoon, when Jesus said you’d be coming, and chocolate chip cookies. Do you like those? They’ve been cooling here this afternoon. And there’s a beef stew in the oven. Does that sound good to you?”
I nodded, wide-eyed. That sounded like the most incredible food I’d ever heard of. All I knew of was bread that came from the store in plastic bags.Bread can be made at home? Maggie was short, just a bit above my height, with bright blue-green eyes, a mop of salt and pepper hair, and horned-rimmed glasses. She wore a denim skirt, a heavy, plaid wool shirt, and a bandana tied about her neck. In her slippers topped with her multi-colored wool socks, she was a joyous sight to behold.
Henry, on the other hand, was huge. He was at least twice my size in height and three times in width. With a big barrel chest, a full grey beard that hung down over his Pendleton wool shirt, and jeans, he reminded me of pictures I had seen of Paul Bunyan. Perhaps he had a blue ox too! Certainly, Henry could bring in all the wood needed for a week of fires in one armload.
He looked at me and signaled with his hand, leading me to the couch facing the fire. There he wrapped me up in a quilt made of fabric filled with fish, and water and waves and every kind of blue imaginable. I was wrapped in the sea! He said, “Now therrre little man, you get wwwarmed up. Wee’ll figure out whaaat to do next. Firssst let’sss have some food together. Ssso, no fears on that ssscore. You won’t go hungry. Yyyou either,” he said playfully to Skye. Skye seems pleased at this. He jumped up next to me and cuddled. Is this a dream? It was the best moment I could have imagined.
Henry walked into the kitchen and said to Maggie, “Now, whaaat are we to dooo next?”
“I think it’s best to call the non-emergency police number and let them know we have a young boy who was lost in the park with his dog at our place. Tell them that these guests are welcome to spend the night, but we know his parents will be worried for him.”
The man went and dialed the number and I heard him telling all she had just said to whomever answered.
“There’s been nnno report maaade,” he said. “But they toook our nummmber and will call as sssoon as they hear anything. The woman thanked usss for making a difference.”
“Well, as I live and breathe. Who wouldn’t?” Maggie said. Then, she added, “Every child deserves a safe home, that’s what I think. It’s just wrong when children are threatened in any way. Whatever happened tonight that left this little guy hiding in that root cave tree in the middle of this storm—well, it wasn’t right. I have a feeling we might be seeing more of this little guy. Thank you, Jesus, for sending us out to find this boy and his dog!”
Curled up on the couch, with Skye nearby, and the water quilt around me, I felt covered. It felt bright in their house. The sense of protection and hope hadn’t departed, but it had been a scary and full night. I started just looking around. They had two bookshelves full of books, both big and small books. Large print titles and tiny ones sat there. One said, “The Holy Bible.” That one I recognized. Some looked like kid books. Curious George. The Doll People. Little House on the Prairie. These I recognized, because when the parents of the lady and the man I live with come, they sometimes read those to me. I like hearing stories.
The lady’s mom, Grandma Faith, is especially great at reading. Her voice is kind of like water, it goes up and down a bit as she talks. But I like how her voice puts me into a story. Her characters have life and depth to them. I can see and feel them as she reads. And Nana, the man with the car’s mom, would read stories too. But she was sturdier than Grandma Faith, and she bubbled—she overflowed all the time with stories. She was kind. And Grandma Nana was crunchy— you can settle into her lap and sink right down. I liked it when either of them came, because then, the house was quieter. The man and lady stopped yelling.
The couch I sat on had a floral print pattern with light background. It sat on a large throw rug on the wooden floor. The lamps in the room were hooked onto the walls and looked old fashioned, like they could have been gas lanterns. I knew about those.
I first saw gas lanterns while visiting Grandma Faith’s and Grandpa Harlie’s house with my mom for Christmas a long time ago. The man didn’t come that year. It was the year I got MC Bear for Christmas. When the lady and I arrived at their house, MC Bear was sitting, unwrapped, big and beautiful in front of the Christmas tree. She looked as big as me. I loved her, held her. Going to sleep in the crib was easier for me holding MC Bear. The lady said to Grandma Faith, “I never imagined such a simple gift might help Phillip. Thank you, mom.”
On that Christmas Eve night we went to Grandma Faith and Grandpa Harlie’s old church for worship. Grandma Faith was carrying me and MC Bear in her arms as we walked in. The lights along the wall attracted my attention. Grandma Faith whispered “Those are called gas lanterns. They are run with electricity now, but the bulbs make it look like flame. When the church was built, they ran on gas.” I couldn’t stop looking at them, holding MC Bear in my arms. They sparkled. Yellow light flowed from them. There was this good feeling in the church. Afterward, whenever I held MC Bear, I remembered the night, the yellow lights, the feeling.
In front of me on the couch at Henry and Maggie’s house, there was a coffee table and the roaring fire, then, in the corner of the room, a small table and two, wooden, straight-backed chairs.
As I sat there, suddenly, the feeling I had in the tree when Jesus was holding me, came over me, as if he was holding me again. It was like love pulsed through my entire body. Like waves of the ocean washed over me, from my head to my feet, time and time and time again. I felt washed in a kind of joy, unlike anything I had felt in my life. All I wanted to do was not move. I didn’t want the feeling to go away.
Tears came to my eyes, but not scary ones, happy ones. Henry went to the corner of the room, reached into a box sitting on the floor. He took something out, saying, “I am going to put thisss record on of sssome of our favorite music.” I’d never seen something like that before, but he pulled a round, black, flat thing out of a cardboard cover with a design on it, and placed it flat down on a surface that began to spin, and then brought something like an arm over it, and placed it down. As soon as it touched the spinning record, music filled the room. I didn’t know what it was, but it was blue, like the best, and beautiful. A male voice sang, “Comfort Ye, Comfort ye, my people…”
I smiled. The lady and man never played music at home. I had heard some at church, but often missed that because of being at Sunday school during the adult service. But this music! The warmth, the sound, the people, the light, the blue-waterfall kind of place, it all felt right. It felt like what I’d always imagined home would feel.
The music continued song after blue song until the room simply soared. I felt so alive and joyful, I hardly knew what to do with the waves of joy throughout me. And within me I heard the Voice say, “This is all because I love you, child.” And I suddenly knew something I had not known yet like I knew now, these people were sent because I am loved. They were evidence, examples to me that there are people who are in this world that are kind, that know how to love, and follow the Voice. This caused me to have hope like I had never known in my life. Here I was, only five years old and discovering that there really are good grown-ups in this world, even the ones I live don’t seem to be.
Just then, I heard a great group of people singing Hallelujah! Exactly!
“Well, sweetheart,” I heard Maggie say. Suddenly, I realized she was standing over me. I had been lost in the music and my thoughts and had not noticed. “Everything is ready. I poured you some chocolate milk. You like that, don’t you?” I nodded, amazed. How could she know that? “I hope you like the stew and fresh bread. We have butter and honey that our bees made last year to spread on it. I didn’t think I had ever eaten anything like that before. I had never had homemade bread or fresh honey. These people! They were simply the best.
Henry came in carrying another chair, and then pulled the table away from the corner. He put placemats on the table, lit three candles, and then invited me to come to the table. Maggie came in carrying my glass of chocolate milk. We set out bowls and plates and silverware on the table. Then, I sat in the chair by the window, with Henry closest to the fire and Maggie closest to the door into the kitchen facing the light from the three candles. Along with the candles, on the table was the cast iron pot of stew on a braided hot plate beneath it, a cutting board with a steaming loaf of brown bread, a tub of butter and container of honey. The music played on in the background: “He shall feed his flock like a Shepherd…”
Maggie said, “Now, then, Henry will you offer thanks for us? What an evening we have had.” I was surprised as she reached out and took one of my hands and Henry grasped the other in his firm, rough, huge hand. It must have been the size of my head. I stared at it not really aware of the size of this man when he carried me. Then I looked up and noticed they had their eyes closed and were bowing. Then Henry began to pray. It was not like the prayer the lady always said in the white house. No, this was different. Henry just started talking as if, as if…well, as if to a friend he knew well and had known all his life.
“Lord, we are blessssed, Maggie and mmme. Blessssed with this life. We have had these 60 yearsss together as a married couple. I thaaank you for every one of those days. Aaand we are blessssed with You, Lord. That you hear usss, that you know usss, that you call usss, and I ammm blessed by how you ssspeak to Maggie. You show her thisss here boy aaand his dog in that root tree cave and sent usss out into the stormmm. Lord, I admit, I doubted thisss one. It ssseemed far-fetched thaaat there could have bbbeen outside what she had seeeen in her vision – thisss boy and his pup hiiiding in that tree cave. But thennn, there they were. Lord, I apologize for doubtin’ her. And I thank You for how you sssent us to help this whelp. So, here we arrre in this warm house you have provided for usss and we are grateful, Lord. Graaateful for all of it and for the gifts we have because of You. Thaaank you for this good food before usss, the fellowship of sharing together around thisss table, and the love that fills our home. We give you great thanksss. In the name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.”
“Amen,” Maggie said.
“Well, laddie, it is time to eat your fill. I don’t know if you like stew, but hope you will,” Maggie said. “But I am certain I can find something for you if this doesn’t quite suit you.”
With that she ladled the richest, thickest most delicious-looking stew into my blue bowl with flowers all over the outside of it. There were chunks of meat, carrot, potato, onion, and little green peas. I looked at it in my bowl before me and realized, I had never had anything like it, not ever. I picked up my spoon, dug it into the steaming, beautiful food in front of me. I was a little uncertain, to be honest. But when I put that spoonful in my mouth it tasted glorious! Then I remembered, lunch was forever ago, and I was starving, and I wanted a second bite and a third and another and another! It was so good. When I looked up Maggie and Henry had stopped eating, were watching me eat and smiling at me. I looked up at them and smiled.
“Well, sweetie, I think you have a fan in thaaat boy!” Henry remarked, chuckling. “Did you ever see anyone eeeat that fast?”
“Would you like some more?” she asked. I nodded.
I ate that second bowl. She handed me a thick piece of bread, slathered with butter and honey. When I took a bite of that bread, I decided there was no turning back. There was something in this world that was better than Dave’s Killer Bread. That meal with the chocolate milk to top it off was as good as—no—even better than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And that is saying something.
After we ate the stew and bread, Maggie brought out a plate of her chocolate chip cookies. They were so good. There are no other words! And I felt so satisfied, safe and joyful. This food. These people. This house. The sense of peace and “home.” I could live here forever. Thank you, Jesus. And a wave of His love enveloped me.
After we finished, the music had stopped playing, Maggie cleared the plates and spoke to Skye. “Come in here, boy. Let me find you some food.” And Skye followed her into the kitchen. I heard her filling a bowl with water and then another bowl was placed on the floor and heard Skye lapping and chewing.
Henry looked at me and said, “Little mannn, I know you are the sssilent type, but I wondered, would you like to hear a ssstory? Maggie will be doing the washing up quickly, and she would like to do the dishes on her own thisss time. When you come again, I’m certain she would let you hellp for the other grandchildren get to do thaaat. But this firsst visit, you are a guest not family, so you don’t nnneed to do any chores. So, while we wait for her, I have some books here and thought you might liike to hear from one.”
“Have you everrr heard the ssstory called “The Lion, the Wwwwitch and the Wwwwardrobe?” I shook my head.
“It was written by a guy named C.S. Lewisss. He went by his initials; his firssst and middle names were Ccclive Staples. I guessss if we knew your nnname, we could see what your namme would sound like with just your initials.” I thought about that for a moment. My first name is Phillip, that starts with P and my second is James, a J, so my initials would be PJ. That much I could figure out.
Henry was still talking, “… is the firssst of seven books in a ssseries called The Chronicles of Narnia. This fffirst one tells the story of four childrennn who end up going on an advennnture in a forest that turns out to be in another land. And seeings as you have been on an adventure, in a wood, perhaps it might be a ssstory to begin tonight. And I know we won’t finish it, bbbut when you do get to go home, I waaant you to know little man, we want you ttto come visit here often. And then, wwwe can rrread again. It ssseems Jesus thinks you are very important!”
I didn’t know what to think, except that it sounded true. I had traveled into another world by coming through a wood today. For this house, definitely these people, were from another place. I didn’t know what to say, certainly, since I wasn’t even trying to talk. Jesus thinks I’m important? The same One who was the Voice who came and reached out to me in the closet and in the tree, this One, who came and healed my leg through Becky, who told Miss Jeanne to bring me cupcakes for my only birthday celebration just last Sunday, this One who sent His servants to rescue me. Yes, He must think I am important. I felt stunned. Good tears stung my eyes. Important to that One, that was pretty big.
Henry went to the bookshelf and there was a set of books in a box. He picked up the whole box, and shook it a bit, to get his big fingers around one of the volumes and then wedged that first one out. And he came and sat on the couch. Skye, who had eaten and been let out and come back in, came and sat next to me on the couch so I could stroke his hair. And Henry opened the book and began to read.
As he read, I was transported into the scene slowly described, into this big house in the country, these children sent away from parents that they wanted to be with to live with an old Professor who perhaps didn’t want them there that much.
Now that would be an idea, I thought! Be sent away to live with someone safer.
But then the wardrobe was discovered by Lucy – a closet! — as a door into a wood in another world whose time operated differently from our time. This amazed me. Henry had just read of Lucy’s meeting up with the faun when when something happened which would forever change my life.