Archives for February 2007

Tale #2 “The Snake That Got Dad”

It was a hot spring day, that afternoon in 1946. Dad, my brother, Bill, and I had spent the earlier part of the afternoon picking berries.

Dad was always careful to remind us not to mix raspberries with blackberries as we picked, something about blackberries being of stronger flavor ruined that of the raspberries that have a milder and sweeter flavor. For me, I was just interested in filling my bucket so we could get out of that scratchy berry patch as soon as possible.

Bill, at age nine and I at age eleven were a couple of portly young guys. We loved and admired Dad. So did most people who knew him. Everybody around Newark and Chatham called him “Kenny.” Chatham was the little town about five miles north of Newark, Ohio, where I grew up. Grandma and Grandpa Pierpont had lived there many years. I never knew them to live anywhere else.

Dad, a very sociable man, knew everybody around Chatham, it seemed. His days on a farm where he grew up had gotten him acquainted with all the folk around those parts. When we wanted to go hunting or berry picking on someone’s land, Dad always asked unless he had already received “blanket” permission to be there. That blanket permission led us to recognize several certain places almost as our own, we went there so often.

Places like “Harry Hoar’s Orchard” and “Downey’s, Swamp, The Old Home Place, Ely Wince’s Lane” and “The Down Timber” were household names and places in our home all the years I was growing up. We were in all of them many times in a given year, as I recall.

The present story centers around the place “The Down Timber.” It was there that adjacent undisturbed pieces of land produced patches of grass and berry bushes. Lush berries were always there in abundance. Of course, it took some “scratchy” work to get to them through the tall grass, young saplings and briar patches.

On the afternoon the events of this story took place, Dad, Bill and I had picked our share of berries. Dad always cautioned us to carry the full buckets “softly” so the berries would not crush. If either my brother or I had telltale signs of berry stains around our lips Dad let us know we were not very disciplined in our picking. “Don’t pick and eat ‘um,” he would say.

We had just made our way out of a patch of berries, that afternoon, and were tramping along through “The Down Timber.” Dad called it that, I realized later, because the owner never harvested trees for lumber from any of the woods, so the trees were left lying, for years, where they fell. This made for some pretty imposing brush piles as the tops of trees decomposed over the years they lay there.

As we walked through an unusually open area, one with many tall standing trees, we came upon a large brush pile. Someone, it seemed, had thrown many small limbs, sticks and twigs together forming a brush pile a couple of feet tall and probably ten feet around. We neared it as we walked, laughing and talking together.

Suddenly, near the edge of the brush pile we were approaching, we spotted a large dark-colored snake. As I recall, Dad was to my left with Bill a couple of steps behind and back a little to my left. Bill and I froze in place. Suddenly Dad called, “Lookout!” He advanced toward the big snake cautiously. To say Bill and I were scared would be putting it mildly.

As Dad advanced, Mr. Snake turned and slithered quickly under the brush pile, threshing for a second, and then he was gone.

This paragraph is for you snake lovers who may happen to read this story. My dad was a kind man, law-abiding and especially so when it came to protecting songbirds, game that was out of season, fish that were too small to keep, et cetera. On this particular day, however my dad seemed intent on teaching us a lesson about snakes. Without the facts of what happened next, I could not be relating this story for our enjoyment some sixty years later. Please bear this in mind as you finish reading the story.

As the snake disappeared under the brush, Dad whirled around to us and yelled, “Quick, get sticks and beat on the brush!” In a mix of fear and excitement, Bill and I ran to get the nearest sticks and hurried back with them. As I ran, it occurred to me that maybe we would all be better off leaving the thing where it was. But, Dad’s excited shouts echoed in my head and I ran back and forth only once or twice hitting the brush pile myself, but mostly handing the sticks to my dad. Bill, as I remember, did the same.

After what seemed a long time but was probably less than a minute our big, black serpent, moving at surprising speed, appeared from under the brush and, whipping back and forth, headed away from us. I leaped back and so did my brother. What happened next terrified me.

As the snake gained speed, in his quest for freedom, Dad, half in a crouch chased after him! After several quick strides across the open space, Dad bent down and reached out his right hand. In a flash the snake ascended into the air, twisting and whipping around. My heart stopped beating! I screamed out to my dad, “Oh Dad, has he got you?” I didn’t look at my brother, but I am sure he was as scared as I.

What happened next amazed me. The snake’s tail was firmly in my dad’s hand and Dad began whipping the snake round and round above his head. As he did, the curled body of the snake began to stretch out. This was all in just seconds. Dad yelled out in answer to my scream of terror: “Oh Dad, has he got you” and replied as he continued twirling the snake above his head: “No, but I sure got him!” At that instant Dad violently jerked back on the big snake’s tail and brought his muscled arm to a standstill.

Please remember that these stories though tall tales are TRUE tales! Now, more than sixty years later, in my mind’s eye, I can still see the snake’s head flying through the air, probably eight or ten feet off the ground. Dad tossed aside the snake’s body and we turned to gather our berry buckets.

Yes, an innocent snake died there in “The Down Timber” that day, but two boys’ admiration for their dad soared to a new high. Mr. Snake didn’t get dad there in that woods after all, that spring afternoon, but, I assure you, “Bill” and “Little Kenny” walked a little more proudly when they thought of their dad. I love you, Dad, I’ll never forget you!


Tale #1 – “The Black Paper”

The east entryway of our church is often used for storing things not in immediate use. When our children lived here they fell heir to a van that went bad and had to be junked. However, the back two sets of seats were in fine condition. The kids had set them out temporarily in the east entryway.

With no continuing need again for the seats, and no van in which to use them, I offered to advertise them in the local “shopper” to give to some needy soul who might want them. Shortly after the ad went into the paper the phone began to ring. I could have given away several sets of seats.

When the day came for the new owner to come and take delivery on the seats there was an abundance of snow in our lower parking lot which would normally be used to pick them up. I decided to attempt to bring them to the upper side for transport from the parking lot there which posed no slipping and spinning problem for the man coming to get them.

As I brought the first set of seats in from the entryway to the main fellowship hall I set them down with a “plunk.” When I did, I saw an odd-shaped piece of black paper fall from the back of the one of the seats. It was about seven inches long and perhaps four inches wide. I bent to pick it up and, as I did, I thought “what a strange-shaped piece of paper.”

By one of the corners I picked up the soft-feeling little paper and tossed it into a nearby small wastepaper basket. Its black color looked odd in contrast to the yellowish bottom of the wastepaper basket. I turned away to get the other set of seats with no more thought to the little paper.

It took about forty-five minutes for me to drag the other, larger, set of seats into the fellowship hall and then to get both sets upstairs and into the west entryway. I finished my work and prided myself on getting them into the easier place from which to load. I then went back downstairs to “button up” my work– close the entryway doors, lock them and tidy up the area in general.

As I turned to walk away from the area, I chanced to glance into the little wastebasket. I was startled by what I saw. The flat, black paper was now crumpled up but lying where I had tossed it. “That’s strange,” I thought, “how could the paper be curled, I left it flat?” As I reached down to pick it up and look at it, a thought came to my mind: “that paper had scalloped edges, I wonder why?” Then it came to me!

I thought, “I don’t think this black paper is a paper at all. I think it is something else.” I carefully picked up the wastebasket and carried it toward the furnace room. I entered the furnace room with the basket thinking, “I’ll set it down here and turn it over and we’ll just see what it is.” In a moment it hit me as to what the “paper” probably was. I gingerly carried the basket out the furnace room door and set it down on the concrete just outside. “What is this thing, anyway?”

As a precaution, I stepped back into the furnace room and pulled the hammer from the wall from among the repair tools there. Then turning back to the out-of-doors, I stepped outside and closed the outer door. Taking the wastebasket by a corner, I flipped it upside down and pulled it back out of the way. In that moment “the little black paper” became a sick but hissing bat! Without a thought I delivered three hammer blows to dispatch it.

The moral of the story: watch yourself the next time you pick up a “little black soft piece of paper”!

Why is This Happening?

The president of a nation, an ally of the United States, is under terrible accusation of sexual impropriety with numerous women.

The mayor of an influential American city is seen many times in the company of women, none his wife. It is noted that often in public he is “tipsy.”

The president of a large American evangelical church organization is caught in a homosexual relationship with a male prostitute.

Now, most recently, an American astronaut is placed under indictment for attempted murder as part of a “love triangle.”

Yesterday, a news media report contained the comment regarding the last of the above-mentioned incidents. The woman commenting said, “It’s too bad this had to happen to someone of her stature.” This gave me pause to spend some time thinking about this whole situation.

The Bible writer, Peter, quoting from the Old Testament, gives a pungent and appropriate poetic expression that bears upon our subject:

Humans wither like grass,
and their glory fades
like the wild flowers.
Grass dries up,
and flowers fall
to the ground.
But what the Lord has said
will stand forever” ( I Peter 1:24-25,CEV).

That no one is immune to the ravages of uncontrollable sin in the human heart is clear from the following quotation from the writer James: “Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead” (James 1:15,CEV).

The problem in our modern world of sophistication is that, for the most part, we have rejected all the above that God’s Word, the Bible has conveyed to us. When we wake up and renew our acceptance of His Word we will know why all this is happening to our society and what we can do about it.

As for my two quotations, the first in Peter’s writings speaks of the process of ongoing human failure before God while the terse words of James tear away any attempt we might make to “sugar-coat” human failure.

Whether president, mayor, minister or astronaut, we are all helpless to change our sin-prone ways. Helpless, that is, except for this one provision God made for our escape from the penalty and power of sin: the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Stature? Indeed, all we of human kind stand on the same ground as regards a holy God– we are depraved, Hell-bound, lost sinners, slaves to sin.

So, the solution is simply this: yield our lives to Christ, first to take away the penalty of sin. Then, yield our lives to Christ, daily, hourly, minute-by-minute to take away the power of sin. Here then, is the result as expressed by the Apostle, Paul:

“Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God’s slaves. This will make you holy and will lead to eternal life. Sin pays off with death. But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23, CEV).

It is imperative that we get down off our proud high-horse and, complete with our sin-bound hearts, flee to Christ!

Tip #6- Highway Safety at Intersections

Many highway accidents occur at rural crossroads. I, personally, exercise great caution at these very closely at all times. I consider this incumbent upon me as a responsible driver for the sake of my passengers, those I am approaching and myself. Let me tell you some of the precautions I exercise and then give you an illustration of how this saved me from a major accident on one occasion.

To begin with, I always drive with my left foot just above the brake pedal. The only exception I allow myself is if I am on a rural freeway where traffic is light.

Some young people have told me that driver education teachers advise against this practice, saying that, in an emergency, one is likely to slam down the feet on both the brake and the accelerator if both feet are available. Certainly that is a possibility but I can only relate that I have had to make many emergency stops, always using my left foot for braking and it has never happened to me.

I will, however, relate in this article how driving with the left foot over the brake pedal did, indeed, help save me from a terrible accident. Before I do so, I want to make a few additional safety observations regarding approaching a rural intersection.

Some drivers seem to drive with their observation limited, as it were, to a couple of feet in front of the radiator cap. In other words, they do not pan the view very far out in front of them. I believe this is a critical error that, sooner or later, will probably result in an accident.

As I approach a crossroad I watch the traffic approaching the highway I am driving. I quickly note who is obligated to stop. If it is the cross-traffic I watch the action of the other driver or drivers to observe whether they are slowing to a stop. I usually glance at them several times to verify that they are intending to stop.

If I am uncertain that they are stopping, I begin to feather the accelerator of my vehicle to gradually reduce speed, including dropping out of speed control. To be perfectly blunt about it, I make sure that if the approaching driver “blows” the stop sign or signal that it is his vehicle that is going to be hit, rather than mine. Over the years, there have been a few cases in which I have come to a crawl to be sure I have avoided an accident.

Great care needs to be taken that someone following you, if you slow down in the manner I have just described, does not create a rear-end collision. But, if it comes to it, you must avoid a frontal crash and let the driver behind you do his best to comply with the law of driving within the “assured clear distance ahead.”

Now for my illustration: Years ago I was driving, with my wife in the front passenger seat beside me one late afternoon. We were in southern Michigan on a four-lane unlimited access highway. The traffic flow was moderate in both directions with a grassy median between the lanes, two in each direction.

I was panning the crossroads during this drive and there were numerous ones. Suddenly, in my vision to my left I caught sight of a Ford pick-up truck approaching a stop. In the instant I had at my disposal I realized the driver might have his vision of me obscured to some degree by the traffic passing toward me on the opposite side. I was being especially cautious.

The posted speed on this stretch of road is 55 MPH. I estimate that my speed was about 50 at the time in question. I remember placing my left foot on the brake pedal with no pressure but with conscious recognition that I might have to stop.

Suddenly, the pick-up disappeared from the spot I knew he had to be to observe a stop. In a heartbeat I glanced in the mirror to be sure no traffic was close behind or passing me. At that moment I knew the truck had to be a second or so away from blocking up my path. I instinctively hit the brakes. I was driving a full-size Plymouth sedan, a car of nearly two tons.

The pick-up flashed out in front of me. A young man was at the wheel and his female passenger was there in front of me, just a few feet from the front of my car with only her door for protection. My car was now in a full slide but remaining in a straight run. To the credit of the offending driver, he “poured on the coal.” As we continued our slide I was gratified to realize we would probably hit the truck in the front part of the bed just aft of the passenger compartment. But, no, as Providence would have it, his speed and my sliding to a stop combined for the nearest miss I have ever seen or experienced.

The lesson: maintain eternal vigilance on the highway. The life of somebody’s sweetheart may be in the balance. It might be yours.

Drive safely!


Allowing Christ’s love to be
used in your life as a means
to Christian Witness

The “FAITH” program of loving witness is an idea the Lord gave me as I studied our Saviour’s great emphasis upon love and how He expressed it. Among His children there is a dire need for believers to express love to others who are not, as yet, fortunate enough to know Him as their own personal Saviour.

This idea is not entirely a new one. In the past few years I have seen the idea variously expressed in kindnesses shown to others by various groups of believers. Sometimes it has been referred to as “Random Acts of Kindness.”

Youth groups will show up at the home of a widow, for example. The group will simply begin doing some outside job that is obvious for its need, raking leaves and gathering them, or asking permission and then washing windows for such a person.

Some youth groups have conducted car washes with the words “Free Car Wash” on a big sign held up at the curbside. These are usually done to include politely declining payment or tips for such service.

As a believer you can pray and ask God to help you “love somebody to Christ” through some act or set of acts He leads you to do for some person who does not profess faith in Him.

There are believers too, in difficult circumstances to whom you might give help. As you pray and ask God to show you whom to help and how to help, I am sure He will reveal to you what you can do.

Don’t try to focus upon something too big for your circumstances to handle. Be sure you don’t convey the idea that you are condescending to help someone either. Jesus never made Himself look “big” at some less fortunate person’s expense. Just quietly do something for somebody else.

Don’t think about a reward, even a pat on the back, in return. Loving Christians do not help others to look charitable or holy or opportunistic. The only honorable motive for helping others is to meet, in love, a need for Jesus’ sake.

Don’t do something or help someone for the express purpose of “evangelizing” that person. Make no mistake, there will come opportunities to witness of your faith, and that is wonderful. But, if your primary motive for doing something good is to confront a soul about his sin and lost condition, I believe the person will sense that and you will lose his or her respect.

Solid actions motivated by the love of Christ for a person will go a long way to preparing that heart for salvation. Remember, we are to be ready to help others “in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2).

Finally, do not forget that no honorable and properly motivated deed is too small to do for Jesus’ sake. Remember that a cup of cold water so given is worthy of Christ (Matthew 10:42).

Love that FORMS AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRIST will send you and me on many an adventure of faith for our precious Saviour. Let’s get started today. And, don’t forget, bathe all your actions in prayer!

Rev. Kenneth F. Pierpont