Tag Archives: Bible Verse

A New Free Read: Which Shall I Take?

8 Jan

This month’s Free Read is a short story from 1893 that illustrates the Bible verse:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Everyone who knows Miss Carrie Benham thinks she is a bright and sweet-natured, but in her heart, Carrie’s spirit may not be as giving as people think.

So her older brother Ford devises a plan that forces Carrie to choose between bringing pleasure to herself or pleasure to others. Which will Carrie choose?

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IT was New Year’s morning, and there was company coming to dinner, and Carrie Benham had a dozen or more little duties waiting for her. Nevertheless she paused, duster in hand, and considered for the hundredth time the question which must be settled this morning. She was a pretty girl, with great brown thoughtful eyes, and a fair sweet face framed in soft brown hair, which could take a glint of gold when the sun shone on it. Even in her loose morning blouse, with an old silk handkerchief knotted about her neck, ready to protect the brown hair from dust when she should begin to sweep, almost anyone would have called her pretty.

“There is so much character in Carrie’s face,” her friends said. And strangers looking at her were apt to remark that it was an unusual face for one so young. People who knew her real well knew that it was the sweetness of the soul within which shone out and attracted, rather than the brownness of her eyes, or the clearness of her skin.

Still, I really do not want you to think her remarkable in any way. I am glad to believe that there are hundreds, even thousands, of just such girls as Carrie in this great wide world. Bright, energetic, whole-hearted, sweet-natured girls, who as a rule, are unselfish and thoughtful of the comfort of others.

It was just this matter of unselfishness which was troubling Carrie this holiday morning. She had a curious question to decide, a question to which she had given some puzzled thought several times during the year. Just a year ago this morning she and her brother Ford had had a talk about the Bible verse which Carrie had recited at family worship, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

“I suppose that must be true,” Carrie had said, “because it is in the Bible; but I never could realize it. I do so like to receive gifts, and I cannot imagine myself feeling perfectly happy if I had received nothing from my friends this morning, even though I had been able to give to ever so many. I think people must have to wait until they get old and wise before they appreciate that verse.”

Quite an argument had followed, Ford trying to produce an illustration of the verse’s meaning which would satisfy her, and Carrie declaring laughingly, yet with an undertone of earnestness, that she must be more selfish than other people, because she knew if she had it to decide whether to go without herself, or let others go without, she would be sure to choose for herself.

“Suppose it were a choice between mother and yourself?” Ford asked.

“Oh! Mothers?” said Carrie, with a bright look over at the fair-faced woman who sat by the window. “Of course mothers and fathers are to have the best of everything, and any girl of common sense would be glad to give up for their sakes. But I mean among girls, for instance, equals and friends. It seems to me that the rule does not apply there, unless, of course, it is something one ought to do for the sake of a person in need; but just a mere present! I’m sure I should choose myself every time.”

Out of this talk had grown the scheme which was puzzling Carrie. Two hours afterward Ford brought her two sealed notes.

“Here are two letters,” he said, “which I would like you to keep until a year from today unopened. Next New Year’s morning you may consider which you will open first. The one you choose to accept and give first attention annuls the other; it will be of no use whatever to anybody. You will note that one is addressed to Miss Caroline Benham, and on the other is written, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ I do not mind telling you that both are New Year’s presents, from myself. I do not want you to come to any decision now, of course; but next year I would like you to choose between them. Not from a conscientious standpoint, because you do not know, and cannot know until after your decision is made, who may or may not be blessed by it. What I want you to do in a year from now is to decide on the whole, for the one which you believe will give you the greater pleasure, and see what will come of it. It is not a fair test, of course, of the verse about which we were talking, because the Lord does not generally ask us to work in the dark; but I choose to watch the outcome of this little plan of mine and see what will result.”

Carrie had exclaimed and demurred and coaxed to have just a hint of possibilities, and declared that she could never keep a letter from Ford a whole year without opening it, and declared that she knew perfectly well which she should choose; she did not mean to go without his present for the sake of anybody, unless, indeed — “Ford, it isn’t anything about father or mother, is it? Because if it is, I can decide now.”

No, Ford said, they were counted out.

It had ended by Carrie’s locking the letters up in her treasure box and forgetting them for weeks together, until some sudden overturning of the box in search of treasures would bring them to the surface; then she would study over the problem with a half-amused wonder as to which she would choose. It did not trouble her much while it was months in the future; but behold, here was the very holiday morning on which the decision must be made.

“Who would have thought it could have come so soon?” said Carrie, pausing, broom in hand, to ask herself which she should take. She had been very impressively reminded of her contract in the early morning, when family gifts were exchanged. There had been none for her from Ford; he had simply looked over at her and smiled significantly.

“Oh, dear!” she said, half-vexed over the situation, “I think it is almost too bad in Ford to give me such a problem. I want to give other people pleasure, I am sure I do. I can think of a dozen nice things that he may have given me a chance to do for the girls, and if I was sure it was one of them I believe I would go without my present; only it seems so queer not to have a present from Ford, and me going away so soon.”

You see, it had been settled at last that Carrie should enter at Hampton Institute for the spring term, in order to get well started in the routine of school before the actual hard work of the next fall. For two years Carrie had been looking forward to Hampton Institute as the place of all others where she wanted to go; but now that it was settled, and the time of going was near, she began to have a lonesome, half-home-sick feeling about it, and to wonder what it would be like to be suddenly set down among several hundred people whom she had never seen before.

“If I only knew what my present was,” she said wistfully. “It may be a lovely tinted picture of Ford, such as I have been wanting for so long; and then I almost could not give it up for anybody. Ford is so queer! Why can’t he do things like other people? I believe if I should decide for the other I would almost rather not know what was in mine; but he said I was to look at both as soon as I had decided, and make up my mind honestly about the blessedness; only I cannot change my decision after that. Oh, dear! It is certain to be something nice for one of his girls; something that I would have pleasure in giving them; but then it is a good deal to give up, I am sure.”

That phrase “one of his girls” perhaps needs explanation. You must know that Carrie’s brother Ford was the pastor of the church to which Carrie belonged, and of course all the girls in the large congregation were “his” in the sense that she meant, though there was a choice little company of her very special friends whom she felt sure he would choose from.

“It is almost certain to be Clara,” she said. “Ford knows it would be more blessed for me to give to Clara than any of the others; and she doesn’t have many gifts, and she is heart-broken now at the thought of my going away. If I were only sure it was Clara I believe I could decide. But then, it might be Helen Peck; Ford thinks a great deal of her. Well, so do I, but then—Oh, dear! Was ever a girl in such perplexity?”

Broom and dust-brush did good service for a few minutes, while Carrie knitted her brows and thought. “If there were only an ‘ought’ in it,” she said aloud presently, “it would be so easy.” And from that sentence you catch a hint of the manner of girl she was; for there are some to whom things are not easy, even when there is an “ought” in them. However, Ford had assured her that she was honestly to decide for that which she felt would give her the most pleasure.

“It isn’t really fair, as Ford said,” she told herself at last, “because I am so utterly in the dark, and because I do like gifts from Ford to keep as love tokens. But then I have ever so many, and I do like to give presents, and Ford may have planned a lovely pleasure for me. And besides, there is the verse, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ It doesn’t say ‘sometimes,’ or qualify it in any way. I just believe I will choose it.”

The duster was dropped presently, and Carrie’s brown head went down for a moment on the window-seat near which she stood. When she raised it there was a softened light in the brown eyes, and a glad ring in her voice, as she said:

“I have decided! I have so many lovely things of my own, I just long to give somebody else a pleasure. Now I am going to look; or no, wait until this room is in perfect order.”

The decision once made, it was hard to wait; but Carrie was trying to learn self-control, and held herself steadily to the task of dusting every little nook and corner, and placing every chair and book where they belonged. Then, at last, she drew from her pocket the two letters which had waited so long, laid the one addressed to herself on the window-seat with a loving little good-by pat, and broke the seal of the other.

Could she believe her eyes? It contained a check for a larger amount of money than she had supposed her brother could afford, and on the paper in which it was folded was written, in Ford’s clear hand, that it was to cover the expenses of Miss Clara Foster at the Hampton Institute for one year and one term, in order that she might have the pleasure of entering this spring with her dear friend, Carrie Benham, who delighted in giving her this New Year offering.

Carrie Benham, as she read, felt a curious sensation in her throat. She wanted to scream, to laugh, to cry. She did not know what she wanted. What, oh, what if she had chosen the other letter? Now Clara, her darling Clara, the dearest, best friend a girl ever had, could be with her every minute; and could have what she never had hoped to have—a chance for an education.

The pastor, in his study getting ready to make a five-minutes’ speech at the festival in the evening, was presently almost smothered with kisses.

“Have you opened the other letter?” he asked, when he could get breath to speak.

“No, Ford, I haven’t; I forgot all about it; there isn’t the least need for opening it. I know it is something perfectly lovely, of course, but it doesn’t matter in the least. Nothing in all the world could be so blessed as this. I was never so happy in my life.”

“Still it was in the bargain that the other should be opened and the two compared,” he said, with a fond smile for the happy-faced girl. “I must hold you to the terms. Where is the letter?”

Together they went in search of it; and Carrie opened with trembling fingers, to find another check, much smaller than the first, but yet of generous size, to be used in buying her the best bicycle that could be found in the market.

What shouts of laughter there were over this gift. A bicycle had been among Carrie’s supposed unattainable wants for two years; and behold, but two months before, on her birthday, a rich uncle who rarely thought of her had been moved—no one knew how or why—to send her by express a magnificent Victor bicycle, with all the modern improvements.

“Did you know he was going to give me one?” Carrie asked, almost breathlessly, as the thought struck her that Ford had planned with foreknowledge. But he shook his head promptly.

“Not a word about it until it came. No, this was all in good faith, and you would be without your bicycle still, according to your choice, if Uncle Ford had not mixed himself up in the matter. But I suspect, Carrie dear, that your Father in Heaven knew all about it.”

“Oh,” said Carrie, “doesn’t it seem wonderful? And oh, Ford! What if I had chosen for myself? Wouldn’t it have been dreadful?”

What do you think of Ford’s method for testing Carrie?

Which envelope do you think you would have chosen? 

 

A Dozen of Them – Chapter 3

12 Jan

Here’s the next installment of A Dozen of Them by Isabella Alden. If you missed chapters 1 and 2, you can read them here.


A Dozen of Them

Chapter 3

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IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH.
BY ONE MAN SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD, AND DEATH BY SIN.
AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?
NOAH DID ACCORDING UNTO ALL THAT THE LORD COMMANDED HIM.
I WILL BLESS THEE; AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT; AND THOU SHALT BE A BLESSING.

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There was a broad smile on Joseph’s face; he was fully satisfied with his verse for the month.

In the first place, it was very short—only five words; in the second place, he had no brother, so it was not possible for it to get him into what he called “scrapes,” by living up to it.

Now you know which verse it is? Yes; that is the very one: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Yet the New Year’s Eve frolic was not over before he found the verse fitted in. They were having a tableau party, and Joseph was dressed in an extraordinary manner—like a youthful musician of the olden time. Mrs. Calland had managed—nobody but she knew how—to arrange for him a most remarkable wig of soft curling hair; the mustache part was easy; a little burnt cork settled that. Then there was little Fannie Stuart and her brother Rex dressed surprisingly!

It was just as all the toilets were completed and Mrs. Calland was ready to arrange her living picture behind the curtain, that Joseph’s verse came into prominence.

I am not sure that he would have thought of it in just the way he did, had it not been for Mrs. Calland’s remark as she finished arranging Rob Walker’s cloak. Rob Walker was a day scholar who had been invited to the evening’s fun because they were sorry for him; as he was at his uncle’s, more than a thousand miles away from home, during this holiday time. He was another musician, representing a different style of dress, and Mrs. Calland, as she fastened the wide collar about his neck, had said:

“Why, how this dress changes one’s appearance! You and Joseph would pass for brothers, now.”

After which, Rob, much amused, had called his companion “Brother Joseph.”

It was while she was bending over Rex that there fell from Mrs. Calland’s own collar a gleaming pin which Joseph did not know was a diamond; but he knew it was beautiful, and very much beloved by Mrs. Calland. He knew, too, in less than five seconds after its fall, what became of it.

Rob, the almost stranger among them, also saw it fall, gave a swift glance about the room to see if others were looking, then stooped and put the gleaming thing in his pocket, and said not a word!

How utterly astonished and dismayed was Joseph! He could not go on with his part, and took such stupid positions instead of the right one, as to make the others laugh, and to call from Mrs. Calland the question:

“Why, Joseph, what has happened to you? Are you taking a nap?”

“Brother Joseph, you must do better than that, or I’ll disown you,” said Rob good-naturedly.

“Brother Joseph!” The words chimed in with the boy’s thoughts. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Something seemed asking Joseph that question.

Unless you are the sort of boy who can understand it without explanation, I don’t know that I can help you to feel how dreadfully Joseph hated to meddle with this matter. It was so uncomfortable to think of going to Mrs. Calland with tales about another boy! He knew just how grave she looked when any of the scholars pointed out the faults of others. And such a fault! Did Rob really mean to steal?

If so, the owner ought certainly to be told; yet perhaps Rob meant only a little mischief, and would give the pin back in a little while; in which case, how very mean he, Joseph, should feel to have been tale-bearer. But then, on the other hand, what if Rob shouldn’t give it back?

“I don’t care,” said Joseph to himself; “what business is it of mine, anyhow? I didn’t take it, and I am not supposed to know anything about it. What is Rob Walker to me?”

Am I my brother’s keeper?

It startled Joseph to think the verse seemed to fit what he was planning. If the truth must be told, one grave fault of this boy, Joseph, was to shirk responsibility. Besides, he had the fault common to many good-hearted boys; he hated to be called a “tell-tale;” hated it to such a degree that it was hard work for him to tell, even when he felt sure that telling was duty.

There was much thinking, and there were also many blunders, over which the young people had great merriment, before Joseph finally reached the point:

“I don’t care, I’m going to tell her. If she thinks it’s mean I can’t help it; if she thinks I don’t do it with the right feeling, I can’t help that either: I believe I ought to tell. That little old verse of mine will go and choke me if I don’t; and Rob, maybe, will choke me if I do; but I can stand his choking better than the other. Who would have thought there would be a place for that verse to fit in?”

With Joseph, to decide, was to perform. Very grave indeed Mrs. Calland looked when she bent her head and received the hurriedly whispered story.

Still, her words encouraged him: “You did just right, Joseph, to speak to me quietly. Don’t mention it to any person; we will both be quiet and I will decide what to do.”

But Joseph remained sober all the rest of the evening.

You may imagine he was on the alert when, nearly two hours afterwards, as they were making ready for the closing tableau, Addie Fowler suddenly said, “Sister Kate, you have lost your pin!”

Everybody but Joseph looked at Mrs. Calland; he looked down on the floor, and felt his face grow red.

“I know it,” said Mrs. Calland quietly. “It has been gone for some time. I must have dropped it early in the evening.”

There was an instant bustle of looking for the pin, but it was Rob Walker’s voice stopped them:

“I know where it is; I guess you will find it in the Italian musician’s pocket; those fellows are always thieves.”

Then you should have seen the red in Joseph’s face. He looked over at Mrs. Calland, now, in a helpless, pitiful sort of way, which made some of the scholars say in whispers:

“Why, would you think it possible! I would never believe it if he didn’t show it in his face at this minute!”

At the same time, the poor fellow dived both hands into his pockets and drew out, sure enough, the gleaming thing; whereat Rob laughed loud and long. But no one else did.

What a “scrape” for a boy to get into! What in the world was he to do? What would Mrs. Calland do or think? Would she possibly think he stole it, and then tried to palm the theft off on Rob? Hark! What was that she was saying in her quiet voice:

“Never mind laughing any more, Robert; we will not keep the company waiting for the closing tableau; but by and by you shall tell me why you picked up my pin, carried it in your pocket for nearly an hour, then slipped it slyly into Joseph’s pocket. You must have had some reason for it all; remember, I saw you do it,” continued Mrs. Calland; then added, “but we will not keep our guests waiting longer, now. Get your places, girls.”

“I don’t believe I could have thought you would steal it, my dear boy,” said Mrs. Calland to Joseph, late that night, when at last she was alone with him for a moment in the kitchen. “I don’t think I could look into your honest eyes and imagine such a thing; but of course what you told me, put me on my guard and prepared me to watch poor Rob. So, you see, your verse saved yourself, and will be helpful to him in the end. I think the boy means only mischief; but it is mischief of a very malicious kind, which might have brought trouble upon you. I think you ought to thank sister Jean in your next letter, for suggesting such a shield for her brother.”

From which you will understand that Joseph had also confided to Mrs. Calland the story of the verse.


Chapter 4 will post on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. See you then!

A Dozen of Them – Chapter 2

10 Jan

Here’s the next installment of A Dozen of Them by Isabella Alden. If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.


A Dozen of Them

Chapter 2

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BLESSING, AND HONOR, AND GLORY, AND POWER, BE UNTO HIM THAT SITTETH UPON THE THRONE, AND UNTO THE LAMB, FOR EVER AND EVER.
THEREFORE ARE THEY BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD, AND SERVE HIM DAY AND NIGHT IN HIS TEMPLE.
THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL. AMEN.

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It gave Joseph a curious sensation to hear his verse sung over and over again by the choir, the great organ rolling out the melody and seeming to him to speak the words almost as distinctly as the voices did. He had chosen that first verse as his motto for the month, with a dim idea that it somehow fitted Christmas, though he couldn’t have told why he thought so. It was sufficiently unpractical not to disturb his conscience, at least; and of this he thought with satisfaction. It would not do to have to live by so many verses. That last month’s selection, “Feed my lambs,” had perfectly amazed him with its power to keep him busy. It was not only little Rettie, always on hand to be amused, or petted, or helped, in some way, but it was the little neighbor boy who followed his brother when he came for milk; and the little Irish girl who cried over her spelling lesson; and the little Dutch boy whom some of them made fun of, in Sunday-school. Many a time during the month, Joseph had sighed a little, and smiled a little, over the bondage in which that verse held him and had got to hold him for a whole year, and he wondered if Jean had known what she was about. At least he must know what he was about; another verse of that kind would not do to follow soon. This one was grand and majestic, ever so far above him; it was not to be supposed that he could in any way join that wonderful army who were praising. Joseph listened to it with a curious mixture of awe over the grandeur, and satisfaction that it was his, and did not trouble him.

church

He was seated in the great church, and it was Christmas Eve. The children’s anthem was being sung first by the choir, then by a troop of children who appeared to catch the strain and re-echo it as far as their shrill young voices could reach. This was the closing anthem of the evening.

It had been a very nice evening to Joseph. He had taken part in the recitation, and his teacher had whispered, “Well done, Joseph,” when he took his seat.

He had mounted little Rettie on his knee, the better to view the great Christmas-tree, thereby winning a smile and a “Thank you, Joseph!” from Mrs. Calland.

He had answered to his name when called, and received a handsome Bible from his teacher; altogether he had never spent a happier Christmas Eve. He saw himself writing a letter to his sister to tell all about it; and just then that anthem burst forth. Then the minister arose to pronounce the benediction. But instead of doing it, he made a little speech.

bible

“Children,” he said, “I heard one of you call the anthem a grown-up anthem. I asked what that meant, and the little fellow who said so, told me it wasn’t for boys and girls, but for angels, and such things. That is a mistake. It is for you and me; you at four, and I at forty, and all the rest of you who are all the way between. ‘Blessing and honor;’ suppose we go no farther than that. Can’t we bless Him? Can’t we say thank you to the Lord for all his mercies? And can’t we honor Him? Don’t you remember that every little thing we do, or keep from doing, because we think it would please Him, is an honor to Him?”

There was more to the talk; not much, though, for the minister knew better than to make a long talk on Christmas Eve. But, bless you, it was long enough for Joseph! It came over him with a dismayed sort of feeling, that with all his care he had chosen a verse which was going to hedge him about worse than the other had. “Every little thing we do, or keep from doing. Oh, dear!” he said, and was startled to discover that he almost said it aloud. “A fellow gets all mixed up with verses and things, and can’t stir. I wish Jean had been asleep when she made me promise.”

However, he got through Christmas day beautifully. It happened that every duty of his that day had to do with what he liked, and was no trouble at all. It was mere fun to sweep the light snow from the front walk in the clear sparkling morning. It was simply delight to hitch up the ponies and go to the depot for company who were coming to the farm to dinner. He liked nothing better than to turn pony himself, and give Bettie a ride on her box sled; and so through the day everything was merry and happy. I am not sure that he thought of his verse more than once; that was when they were seated at the beautiful dinner table and a sentence of thanksgiving in the blessing reminded him of it. Not unpleasantly; he found that he felt very thankful indeed, and would just as soon say, “I thank you,” as not. If that was what the verse meant by “blessing” he was more than willing.

In the evening the school-tree was to be enjoyed, and none looked forward to it more than Joseph. For the past two days the schoolroom door had been shut against them all, and speculation had run high as to what glories it would reveal when next it opened for them. The time was drawing near; Joseph came with a bound from across the hall at Farmer Fowler’s bidding, to see if the kitchen doors were closed against the wind which was rising. He had heard the call to open the schoolroom doors; in ten minutes more all the mysteries hidden therein would be revealed.

In the middle of the kitchen he stood still. I am not sure but it would be very near the truth to say that his heart stood still as well as his body. The door leading into the dining-room was open, and in the great dining-room fireplace there crackled, and blazed, and roared a freshly adjusted log, sending up flames which lighted the entire room as with sunlight glory. But the fire did more than glow and sparkle, it snapped—sent out spitefully across the room regular showers of brilliant sparks, lighting, some of them, on the cedar with which the mantel was trimmed. Joseph sprang to them before they did mischief, then stood again as if rooted to the spot. A fresh log, very large, one of the sputtering kind, and it would sputter in that way, sending out its showers of dangerous sparks for a half-hour at least—longer than that—until all the fun in the schoolroom was well over.

fireplace

What of it all? What concern was it of his? He didn’t put the log on. He had never been set to watch the dining-room fire. No; but what was that? “Blessing, and honor, and glory!” Well, what of it? What had blessing, and honor, and glory, to do with a few sparks which might not do a bit of harm if left to themselves? Sparks almost always died out if left alone.

What was that he said? “Every little thing we do or keep from doing, because we think it would please Him, is an honor to Him.”

Dear, dear! Why need the minister have said that? It wasn’t talk for Christmas Eve! And was it to be supposed that he, Joseph, who had never belonged to a family Christmas-tree before in his life, could stay out there and watch sparks while all the fun was going on? He really couldn’t.

Hark! Listen to that shouting! The fun had begun; he must go this minute. Wait! Look at that spark! It had lighted on the tissue-paper mat on the lamp-stand; it was going to burn! It will burn, it will blaze and set the house on fire! No, it won’t; the wicked and industrious little sprite has been firmly crushed in Joseph’s fingers, and has died, and left only a sooty fleck on the whiteness to tell of its intentions. But Joseph turned from it, and sat down in the big wooden rocker, near the snapping log, his face sorrowful and determined.

There was no help for it. The fun must go on, and the snapping must go on, and he must sit and watch it. “Every little thing we keep from doing.” He could keep from going into the schoolroom, and he knew it would please Him.

“Because,” said Joseph scornfully, to the log, “any idiot would know it was the right thing to do. You are not to be trusted, you snapping old thing, and you have got to be watched.” Why, then, he was bound to do it, because he had promised to be led by the verse of his choice. “It’s enough sight worse than the other one,” he told the log mournfully, meaning the other verse; and then he kept watch in silence. No more sparks made even an attempt to do any harm, which Joseph considered mean in them after having obliged him to stay and watch them. They might at least have given him the excitement of undoing their mischief. He even meditated deserting them as past the dangerous point, but just then a perfect shower blazed out into the room, and though they every one died out before they settled, Joseph told them that was no sign of what they might choose to do next time.

At last there came a prolonged shout from the distant schoolroom, mingled with the opening of doors, and the hurrying of eager feet and cries of:

“Where is he? Where’s Joseph?”

“Why, where in the world can Joseph be!” And the dining-room was peopled with eager searchers, among whom came Farmer Fowler.

“Why, my boy,” he said, as Joseph arose from the rocker, “what in the world does this mean? Haven’t you been in at the fun, after all? We didn’t notice until your name was called. Why weren’t you there?”

“I had to watch the sparks,” said Joseph, pointing to the snapping log. And then I am glad to state that those sparks did show a little sense of decency, and coming out in a perfect shower, lighted on the other tissue-paper mat, and Joseph had to suit the action to the word, and spring to its rescue.

“Well, I never!” said Fanner Fowler.

“I really think that is remarkable,” said Mrs. Calland. But whether they meant the sparks, or the log, or the tissue-paper mat, none of them explained.

And then all the children talked at once.

“Why, you had a hand-sled!” said one.

“A perfect beauty!” exclaimed another.

“One of the boss kind!” explained a third. “And it has your name on it in red letters.”

“Come on in and see it!” Whereupon the troop vanished with Joseph at their heels. He thought he could safely leave the sparks to Farmer Fowler’s care for awhile.

boy-and-sled-e

“Father,” said Mrs. Calland, “I think that is a very remarkable boy; I wish you would let me have him. I believe Harry would take him into the office.”

“We’ll wait and see whether you can do better by him than I,” said Farmer Fowler, his eyes twinkling. “I think your mother has plans for him. Well, mother, I don’t know but he saved the old farmhouse for us tonight. That log is uncommon snappy. He is an unusual boy, somehow, and no mistake.”

“I told you so from the first,” said Mother Fowler, looking as pleased as though he was her son.

But Joseph knew nothing about this, and, in fact, had forgotten all about his verse. He was examining his new sled, and thinking how he would describe it to Jean when he wrote.


Chapter 3 will be posted on Thursday, January 12, 2017. See you then!

A Woman’s Voice

3 Feb

Colored drawing of a country church displayed above the word Prayer In her memoirs, Isabella Alden wrote about the first time her father and mother visited her after she was married. It happened when Isabella’s minister husband was new to his church and was working hard to make the Wednesday prayer meetings a success. He wanted the prayer meeting attendees to participate, so on Sunday mornings he would announce from the pulpit the topic for the Wednesday meeting. He asked everyone to come on Wednesday with a Bible verse that supported or illustrated the topic.

One Tuesday, Isabella’s mother and father arrived unexpectedly for a visit. The next evening Isabella proudly escorted her parents to the church and sat beside her father as her husband, Reverend Alden, led the prayer meeting. But something happened that forced her to make a terrible choice.

Her father had always strongly opposed women speaking in public and that opposition extended to prayer meetings.

Yet Isabella had prepared a Bible verse to recite aloud if necessary to help and support her husband. None of the other attendees were responding to Reverend Alden’s call to participate and an uncomfortable silence stretched on for several minutes. Isabella wrote:

“I sat in distressed silence for several minutes; so did everybody else. Suddenly I looked at my husband. I had promised him, had even talked with him about some of the thoughts that I wanted to present. What must he think of me now?

“Oh, Christ!” I prayed in my heart. “Tell me what to do!”

And the answer came, she said, as plainly as spoken words. She broke the silence and recited aloud the verse she had prepared:

“Thus saith the Lord who created thee:
 “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

As soon as she finished, others followed in quick succession, and the prayer meeting continued on.

But Isabella was keenly aware that her father never said a word to her about the meeting or the verse.

“He was kind and tender toward me, but graver than usual; I had a feeling that I had hurt him by showing no respect for his opinions.”

Her mother and father left early the next morning and never visited the Alden home again.

A black and white illustration of a woman in Victorian era dress speaking before an audience of men and women.That was an experience that stayed with Isabella. In fact, it made such an impression on her that she described that scene—in different ways—in many of her books.

In Workers Together: An Endless Chain, Miss Joy Saunders knew that the church she belonged to “believed in woman’s sphere, and desired her to keep strictly within its limits” and “on no account to let her voice be heard” in its religious meetings.

But when Joy followed her conscience and spoke a simple verse in an otherwise very quiet prayer meeting, she “set in motion forces that are pulsing yet” because the verse she recited touched so many hearts.

Profile of a young woman standing in church. Behind her is a stained glass window; but instead of Christian icons, the window  features faces of people looking down upon her, some forwning, some laughing.

Scrutiny

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Rebecca Harlow, the heroine of Links in Rebecca’s Life, was well aware that people in her church thought women and girls should keep silent when they were at prayer meeting. But after one of those long “awful pauses” in which no one at the meeting said a word, Rebecca spoke up and asked the people to pray for a friend who was in temptation.

That was all she said and though she couldn’t see anything wrong in her words, she knew there were some in the room who “thought it was out of taste.”

And when Ester Ried attended her first prayer meeting in New York, she was astonished by the proceedings:

“Now,” said the leader briskly, “before we pray, let us have requests.” And almost before he had concluded the sentence a young man responded.

“Remember, especially, a boy in my class, who seems disposed to turn every serious word into ridicule.”

“What a queer subject for prayer,” Ester thought.

“Remember my little brother, who is thinking earnestly of those things,” another gentleman said, speaking quickly, as if he realized that he must hasten or lose his chance.

“Pray for everyone of my class. I want them all.” And at this Ester actually started, for the petition came from the lips of the blue-ribboned Fanny in the corner. A lady actually taking part in a prayer meeting when gentlemen were present! How very improper. She glanced around her nervously, but no one else seemed in the least surprised or disturbed; and, indeed, another young lady immediately followed her with a similar request.

Illustration of a young woman going to her seat in church, with the yes of several members of the congregation following her.

An American Girl in Church
by Howard Chandler Christy

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In Ruth Erskine’s Crosses, Isabella described the reaction when Ruth’s half-sister spoke up at the weeknight prayer meeting:

The words she uttered were these: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, if it is your fortune to be a regular attendant at a prayer-meeting where a woman’s voice is never heard, you can appreciate the fact that the mere recitation of a Bible verse, by a “sister” in the church, was a startling, almost a bewildering innovation. Only a few months before, I am not sure but some of the good people would have been utterly overwhelmed by such a proceeding. But they had received many shocks of late. The Spirit of God coming into their midst had swept away many of their former ideas, and therefore they bore this better.

A Happy Ending:

Not long after that Wednesday night prayer meeting when Isabella spoke out in front of her parents, her father became very ill and she traveled to his home to be with him in his final days. One evening she was alone with her father when he said, unexpectedly:

“Thus saith the Lord who created thee.”

He explained to Isabella that he well remembered that Wednesday night prayer meeting and the verse she recited.

“The first time I ever heard it, your beloved voice gave it to me,” he said. “I can’t begin to tell you what [those words] are to me now, lying here. ‘Fear not; for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.’”

That was the last private talk Isabella had with her father and she cherished the memory of it.

“I thank the dear Lord,” she later wrote, “that one night He gave me courage to repeat words which brought joy to Father’s heart.”


Click on the “Isabella’s Books” tab at the top of this page to read more about the books mentioned in this post.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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