Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Building The Christian Life: Faith

Do you know how to build a Christian life? II Peter 1:5-7 tells us how. Peter is not trying to be overwhelming, but pictures our growth in a series of qualities added one at a time, as pearls on a string, rather than growing them all at once. There is a reason behind the sequence and we would like to briefly look at each of these.

Today we’re going to start with FAITH. It is dependence. It is total. It is a belief in God, not just in what God said or did, but in God Himself. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) You can have the same relationship that Abraham had and have it on the same basis.

There are two kinds of faith, both of which are mentioned in Romans 1:17. From Faith is objective faith, the body of faith in which we believe. To Faith is the subjective status of living out the faith in our own lives and not just looking at it in a book.

The Christian life is really simple: believe in Jesus Christ and live what you believe.

Make sure you do believe in Him. Then you’re ready to move on. That’s why it says that we supply ourselves from this starting point.

Some scriptures to look at: Jude 3 and Habakkuk 2:4

Saturday, December 26, 2009


In Case anyone is interested, the story you've read over the last 25 days has been adapted into a musical play by the author. If you are interested in possibly doing this at your church or group next year please correspond with me and I'll give you more particulars.

Friday, December 25, 2009


PART 25 , December 25

"Merry Christmas," said Hickory Hog to all his friends. They were all seated around his table. Spread before them were hot cups of cocoa, platters piled high with popcorn, pancakes made from potato batter, corn syrup for the top of them, turnip sauce, hash browned potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts. There was Whizzer Worm on one side of the table. Next to him was the frightened little bird. Then there was the little old man. Next to him was the Christmas Rascal.

"Well, we got a white Christmas after all, thanks to you. Hickory Hog,” began Whizzer Worm.

“Oh, no, it wasn't all me. It was partly the Christmas Rascal, too."

"But how could it be him," asked the bird, "when he was the one who was the cause of the whole trouble.”

"Well, he was a cause of trouble until I talked to him and straightened him. After I talked to him, everything was different."

"What did you tell him?" asked the little old man.

"I told him that he didn't understand the whole reason for Christmas in the first place. He thought it just had to do with things, but that's all wrong. Christmas is the birthday of baby Jesus. He was no ordinary baby. He was God's baby, the Son of God. What the Christmas Rascal never realized was that he came just for the Christmas Rascal, He didn't come for good people, but for rascals, so that they could be saved.

"Not only that, but he came so that the rest of the world could be right again. All of creation was looking and waiting for him. Nothing has ever been right since a certain, definitely evil and wicked, rascal messed things up in a garden long ago. Since that time all animals, trees, plants and creatures have looked forward to his coming."

"You mean his coming even affects a worm such as I?" asked Whizzer.

"That's right. The coming of Jesus and his later dying on the cross completed God's plan for man. Now the Christmas rascal doesn't have to be a rascal anymore.”

"That's right," confessed the Former Christmas Rascal. "From now on I'm going to be a changed rascal, I mean man."

"But what about the snow?" asked Whizzer Worm. "Why was that so important?"

"Oh, it wasn't so important, at least not as important as we thought," answered Hickory. "I saw that as soon as I talked with the Christmas Rascal and told him the reason for the coming of Jesus. It still would have been Christmas without the snow, but not without everyone knowing about Jesus, even the Christmas Rascal.”

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

I hope this has been a blessing to you and your family. Have a great day, and keep on serving Jesus every day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


PART 24, December 24

It was Christmas eve. Not a speck of snow was anywhere to be seen. The friends waited outside the lair while the Christmas Rascal was being reasoned with by Hickory Hog.

Finally the door opened and out came the Christmas Rascal, unshackled, followed by Hickory. The rascal was saying, "It's really quite simple. All you have to do is take out the body of the rocket and fire it backwards up there. That should reverse the process."

"Are you sure?" asked Hickory.

"Well, I think so. I hope so."

All the friends followed this unlikely pair back out to the rocket launching site. There everything was as they had left it a short time before. No one hindered the Christmas Rascal and he went right to work. He looked up at the sky and the moon. He saw the clouds. It was getting close to midnight. Soon it would not be Christmas eve any more. It would be Christmas day. Still the snow had not come. At last everything was done.

I sent up four rockets," explained the Christmas Rascal, "There are six left. The first four should be able to counteract the four already up there. The two left over should start the snow."

"But it's only ten minutes to midnight," said the little old man consulting his watch.

"They're all ready to go," said the rascal. "Stand back, now."

He fired off the first four rockets. WHOOOSH! WHOOOSH! WHOOOSH! WHOOOSH! Then he paused a few moments. Nothing seemed to change. There was no snow yet, but somehow you could feel that it might be in the air.

Then he sent up the next one WHOOOSH! Nothing happened. Then same the final WHOOOSH! There were five minutes left. The minutes began to come along. Four, three, two, one. There was fifteen seconds left to go when the first snowflake came down out of the sky. Then came another and then a whole horde of them.

In town the church bells began to ring. Christmas had come. The five friends walked back to Hickory Hog's shack in a curtain of snow.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


PART 23, December 23

"You Did What?!" every voice in the lair exclaimed.

"I unseeded the clouds. Now it won't snow at all."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you know how sometimes when it doesn't rain people will go up in the air and seed the clouds to get them to release the water in them. I put exactly the opposite in the air to unseed them. I only got to send. up four of my ten rockets, but that should be enough. There will be no snow in Potatotown this Christmas."

That statement left everyone in a quandary. What could they do? They had the Christmas Rascal at last, but what could they do to him. Anything mean would just make them mean and thus take away more of their joy.

"You mean there's no way it will snow at all?"

"That's right. I fixed that but good. Once the clouds are unseeded that's that."

"Well, there's got to be something we can do."

"Oh, I expect there is, but you couldn't do it in time."

"What's that?"

"You could reseed the clouds."

"But how?"

"Wouldn't you like to know. Ha, ha, ha!"

Hickory Hog called his friends aside. "This calls for action," he said. "I want you all to go outside and wait for me, I'm going to persuade the Christmas Rascal to fix things."

"How are you going to do that?" asked Whizzer Worm. "Sit on him?"

"No, I'm going to tell him something that will make him fix everything up. Now go on outside. I'll call you when I'm ready."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


PART 22, December 22

Everyone ran outside as fast as they could. There they saw going up into the sky a rocket. There was another explosion and then another rocket soared aloft. They were like fourth of July fireworks rockets, only no fireworks came out of them once they were up. They just disappeared into the clouds.

"Over there," shouted Hickory Hog, pointing off in the woods. At that moment another rocket fired up into the atmosphere. "We've got to stop him!"

All the friends went as fast as they could. They were just in time to see the Christmas Rascal fire up another rocket. There on the ground beside him were six more ready to go.

Faster and faster they ran, jumped and flew. Then they were on top of him. He fought long and hard until Hickory sat on him and then that was the end of the matter. The Christmas Rascal was caught.

"Tie him up," directed Hickory at last. The little old man reached into his pocket and pulled out some cord he had there. Ever since they'd heard about the Christmas Rascal he'd taken to carrying something on him to tie him up should such an opportunity arise. The little old man had been in the navy, and so he knew all sorts of knots that could not be untied except by an expert hand. Soon they had the Christmas Rascal all trussed up and packaged to go.

"Now, let's take him to the lair," said Hickory. "We'll come back for these other things later."

It took a while to drag the rascal back to his lair, but at last they had him there. Then the interrogation began.

"Just where did you put all the other things you stole?"

"Oh, that's easy. I was getting ready to make a map to mail to you of my other lair, I thought it would give you something to do on Christmas day when there was no snow to make snowballs or snowmen with. After all, you're not going to be able to go sledding or skiing."

"And how do you know that?"

"Because I unseeded the clouds."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Monday, December 21, 2009


PART 21, December 21

"Now, here's my plan," began Hickory Hog. "I'm going to come at the lair from the front. I want you to fly around back to make sure he doesn't get out that way, little bird. Little old man, you take one side and Whizzer you take the other. We should be able to surprise him and get him that way. If you see him, shout out and we'll all converge on him. That way we should be able to capture him. I just hope we won't be too late to stop him from doing whatever it is he's going to do to keep it from snowing."

Hickory had kept the map that the rascal had supplied for him, so he had excellent directions to the lair. When they got close they separated and went off in different directions! so they would be ready to surprise him. They were all to wait for a prearranged signal and then attack the lair all at once.

Hickory figured that the Christmas Rascal always went out to do his rascal business in the evening. So, if they went in just before dark they should be able to capture him. No one had ever seen him in the day, so it would probably be safe to get him then.

Everyone was in place when he gave the signal. They all rushed at the lair as fast as they could. Hickory grabbed the door and flung it open. The lair was empty.

There were no more things in it. It was almost as if the rascal had stopped collecting things after Hickory had returned them. Of course the newspaper said that wasn't true. Things had still gone on, even while Hickory had been returning the first batch. They must be somewhere else.

There were a few boxes in a corner, and some plans of some sort lay on a table. There were a lot of mathematical equations all over the papers which nobody could figure out. Also there were some abbreviations like ft, alt, along with strings of numbers. Back in another corner Whizzer Worm found a book on meteorology.

"What's that?" asked the little old man.

"Meteorology is not the study of meteors, as you might think. On the contrary, it is the study of weather," answered Whizzer.

"You mean like rain and snow?" asked the bird.


At that moment they heard an explosion outside and then a loud WHOOSH!

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Sunday, December 20, 2009



The Rest
Has come
Upon the
And after
The globe
Will start
To the south
And though
We must wait
For the sun
To work
The fields again
His absence
Lets us
Draw near
To things
We might
In His Light
For no time
In the year
Does home light
Shine as bright

- 20 December 2000


PART 20, December 20

Without even pausing to pack up a tooth brush Hickory Hog went into action.
He put on a coat, for he knew it would get cold, and then dashed off in the direction of the woods.

Immediately his friends went into action, also. Knowing Hickory to be a rather indolent hog they knew something was up and then wanted to get in on it. The long days of enforced inactivity had made even the frightened little bird eager to face whatever was ahead. So, they ran, slithered and flew on after Hickory Hog.

It didn't take them long to catch up with him. He spun around as they accosted him. "What are you doing?" he snorted.

"We were going to ask you that," panted the little old man.

"I'm off to catch the Christmas Rascal."

"We want to come," chirped the little bird.

"Well... I don't know."

"You might need us," added Whizzer Worm.

"Yes, Yes!" all the rest agreed.

"Well, I don't know," said Hickory again. "This is awfully important. We can't just barge in. It all has to be done the right way. But you know, with the four of us we just might be able to do it. Will you follow my plan?"

They all said they would.

"All right. Here it is. The Christmas Rascal has decided to keep it from snowing. That's obviously a bigger project than just stealing potatoes or chrome. It's going to take him some time and some quiet. He's gotten the quiet in the past few days by not bothering anybody. The question is, where did he get it?

"That had me puzzled for a long time. Then it dawned on me. What's the only place we wouldn't look for him anymore?"

"Where?" they all asked.

"Where he's already been. His lair."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Saturday, December 19, 2009


PART 19, December 19

That night they had a huge dinner in honor of Hickory Hog's at least partial success. Somehow the whole thing fell flat. It was a hollow victory, almost more in the nature of a defeat. Hadn't the Christmas Rascal really guided him to his lair after all? What could he do about him on his own? Absolutely nothing.

The friends sat around and discussed the matter some more. They looked at the latest edition of the Potatotown Press, but there were no clued in there as to the wherabouts of the Christmas Rascal. All they knew was that he was up to his usual activities. Two more days passed, drawing ever closer to Christmas. It was on the third day that something unusual happened, or maybe we should say it DIDN'T happen.

Hickory had just about made up his mind to forget the whole business and do the best that he could to make a nice Christmas for himself and his friends and go on from there. Morning brought the Potatotown Press to his doorstep. There on the front page was the headline: "JOY RETURNS?" Below was the article:

"Watchers of the infamous Christmas Rascal
have noted a pattern of inactivity in the past
48 hours. Absolutely nothing has been stolen
or disturbed? in the entire metropolitan area
of Potatotown, None of the other surrounding
burgs have reported any activity either.

"All of this leads this reporter to wonder
if it could not be that the Christmas Rascal
has left the area. Since he began his reign
of joy thievery not a day has gone by without
at least five people's joy being taken away.
Now in the last forty-eight hours there has
been absolutely no activity from him at all,

"Plans for special Christmas activities
are again under way. It seems that nothing
will hold the people back. The only
question lingering in the air is this:
Will it snow by Christmas eve?"

Immediately Hickory was galvanized into action. This was what he had been waiting for. The Christmas Rascal was retreating to his final stand. He was going to keep his word and stop it from snowing, and Hickory knew that he would have to catch him then. He had to start out right away to capture him, for he knew where he would be.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Friday, December 18, 2009


PART 18, December 18

It took several days to deliver all the stolen things to their rightful owners. All the time Christmas was drawing closer on. All the time there was no snow in the air or on the' ground. Could it be that the Christmas Rascal would really prevent it from snowing? Would the children be deprived of a white Christmas?

It was with a great sense of defeat that Hickory Hog finally drug himself through the door of his shack. He was carrying the Baby Jesus for the manger scene and Whizzer Worm's potatoes. He couldn't bring back his own corn, for that had already been eaten, and he couldn't do much for the frightened little bird or the little old man, for the things that had been taken from them had not been physical anyway.

All his friends were glad to see him. Somehow, though, just bringing back all the things gave no one any more joy than any other people had had :at receiving back their possessions.

Hickory was so tired that he crept over to his bed and went to sleep. He slept for two whole days and nights he was so exhausted. While he slept his friends took his manger scene and set it up in the yard. Nothing was disturbed from its place. This, at least, brought some measure of joy back into their lives, but it could never be complete as long as there was the threat of the Christmas Rascal coming in and spoiling everything. Maybe now that threat alone was enough to spoil their joy so that no further thefts were necessary.

After the second night the friends began to worry about Hickory, so they sent Whizzer Worm in to wake him up, Whizzer at first tried yelling at him, but having just a small wormly voice he didn't get very far that way. He tried to tickle him, but almost got smashed by one of Hickory's hooves, so he stopped that. Finally, he whispered in Hickory's ear, "Your corn is all gone."

Like a flash of lightening in reverse Hickory came up off his bed and shouted, "Where! Where?"

"Nowhere at all. I just said that to get you up. We were worried about you."

"Oh, I was just tired, but I feel a lot better now."

"Well, what are you going to do about the Christmas Rascal now?"

"That's a good question, I wish I knew.”

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Thursday, December 17, 2009


PART 17, December 17

Hickory Hog could hardly believe it. He was there in the Christmas Rascal’s lair. Here were all the things he had stolen over the last few weeks. It was then that he noticed the little cassette player. It was lying on the floor right next to the figure of the baby. Nobody had reported a missing cassette player, at least not to his knowledge. It must have been left there on purpose. He reached over and turned it on.

"Well, well," came a voice from the machine, "So you found all these things. But you haven’t found me, and you won't, either. You wouldn't have found these things if I hadn't led you to them. If you look under the cassette player you’ll find a map leading back to your shack. It also shows where you can return all these things. By the time you get done with that you won't have time to look for me. Besides, you'll find it doesn't make any difference anyway."

That was all. He listened for a few more moments, but there was nothing there. So, he looked for the map. There it was. He could get home now, but first he had to deliver all these things. It looked like it would take him up until New Year's just to do that. Then what would happen to his Christmas?

The closest delivery was to Stevie Thinklebine's with the chrome. Hickory loaded it on a wagon belonging to the little girl next door to Stevie and set off with it. He knocked on Stevie's door. Stevie opened the door and stared in amazement, "Hey, man," he said, "what's all this, anyway? Are you that Christmas Rascal?”

"No," Hickory Hog replied humbly. " I just happened to stumble onto his hoard and have apparently been appointed to return all these things."

"Oh, well, that doesn't matter. I don't need that old chrome anymore, anyway. I traded that old junk heap in on a new car."

"But what am I supposed to do with the chrome?"

"Do what you want, man, I don't need it.”

"I'll have to ask you to quit calling me man. You can clearly see I'm a hog."

"Oh," said Stevie, as he slammed the door shut in Hickory's face.

The story was the same wherever he went. Instead of being greeted with joy at returning people's possessions he was met with indifference or outright hatred. Now he understood why it made no difference to the Christmas Rascal. He had already stolen people's joy, and you couldn't give it back with things. There's no joy in things, for after all, they're still just things.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


PART 16, December 16

The sun started to go down. The wind whipped up and began to blow through the trees. The temperature dropped down to an alarmingly cold level. Hickory Hog was lost.

He had come out on the trail of the Christmas Rascal, but hadn't been able to catch him. He thought he'd been on to him, but as the trail led further and further into the woods a conviction began to grow in him that he was deliberately being led on a wild goose chase. It all seemed perfectly hopeless.

The wind really was getting colder. He'd have to find some shelter pretty soon. It was just too cold to spend the whole night out of doors. What if it began to snow, or would it?

There was nothing to do but to keep on following the track he was on. Since the Christmas Rascal had laid it out for him, he was bound to be at the end of it somehow. He couldn't just disappear. That, though, is what he seemed to have done. The track just disappeared. Beaten or unbeaten, there was absolutely no more track to follow. Now what?

It was then that off in the distance off to his right he saw a light burning. He decided he'd better make for that. Wherever there was a light there would be someone. They could, help him out with a place to stay for the night or else some directions to safety.

Closer and closer he came. It was a porch light that he saw. He came up to it and saw a note attached to the door of the small cottage. It said, "Come in. You'll find everything you want."

Hickory opened the door. There before him was a whole array of different objects. In one corner there was a heap of old raggedy clothes. There was a pile of chrome off an old car. There was a silver setting all neatly wrapped up in a cloth so as not to scratch it. There was a pile of potatoes. In the center of the room was an object covered over with a burlap bag. He removed the bag. There before him was his missing baby Jesus from the manger scene.

He had found the Christmas Rascal's lair.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


PART 15, December 15

The days were drawing close to Christmas. Hickory Hog had to act fast, and for a hog of his size that was going to be a little difficult. He asked all his friends to kindly stay in his shack while he was gone and keep an eye on it. There was plenty of food for them. They could eat their fill every day for a month and not begin to consume what he did in one day. If he had had to pay for his food (he didn't as he grew everything himself), the amount would have kept at least three banana republics solvent for a year, just on a week's grocery budget.

Before leaving the area he stopped off at the office of the Potatotown Press and interviewed David Potter on the likely wherabouts of the Christmas Rascal.

"Oh, he's still in the area," said the reporter, "We just got a report last night that he had taken the clothes off old widow Fillburry's scarecrow. Why, it was a scandal to the whole neighborhood to wake up and find a naked scarecrow in their midst."

"Well, then, where's that?"

"It's out east of town, actually almost to Redserville, You might go investigate and see if he left any tracks. In fact, we may be able to sort of deputize you or something and make you an assistant reporter if you come up with any valuable leads in the story."

"That doesn't matter. I just want to find him."

It took most of the day for Hickory Hog to get out to Widow Fillburry's cornpatch. And a fine cornpatch it was, all except for the scarecrow. Somebody had thrown an old blanket over it to cover its nakedness, and now it looked more like a Halloween ghost than a scarecrow. Hickory didn't want to bother the widow, so he just looked around for more tracks.

Sure enough there were some, but they were just a little confusing. They seemed to wander around here and there as though the person who had made them was deliberately trying to put a possible pursuer off the scent. That, of course, had been the Christmas Rascal's intention, but it didn't work out. Hickory had a keen eye, if he had nothing else, and he finally untangled the trail of the tracks and set off west back in the direction of Potatotown.

Once he got away from the cornpatch it was easy to follow the prints. They led into the forest, far away from any beaten track. Pretty soon it became apparent that Hickory Hog was lost.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Monday, December 14, 2009


PART 14, December 14

Where, indeed, was the baby Jesus?

"Why, I put him right there in the manger," said Hickory Hog, "and he's gone now. But how could it have happened? My trap was foolproof."

"That's right," agreed the little old man, "Only a fool would have been caught in it."

"What do you mean?" spluttered Hickory.

"Now, now," said Whizzer Worm, entering in to part the fray. "This won't solve anything. Somehow he got in and stole the baby Jesus.”

"But how can you have Christmas without the Baby Jesus?" asked the frightened little bird.

"You can't," said Hickory sadly. "You can't have Christmas at all. Oh, I know a lot of people are only concerned about Santa Claus or snowmen or reindeer, but if you don't have the baby Jesus, you don't have Christmas at all."

"Can I quote you on that!" asked the reporter.

"You certainly can,” answered Hickory. "You see, that's what people like the Christmas Rascal do the most damage on. They get our eyes off the one whose birthday it is, and then we become really confused. It's no wonder it's so easy for us to have our joy stolen if it's only in things, I know I’m no better than anybody else, but after all I'm only a hog."

"But even a hog can change," said Whizzer Worm.

"That's right," said Hickory. I CAN change myself, but I also need to do something about that Christmas Rascal. I guess I need to do more than catch him. I need to change him. After all, a Christmas Rascal, no matter how bad he is, can change, too. We just have to get a hold of him and persuade him."

"And how are yow going to do that?" questioned the reporter.

"I'm going to have to find him and talk to him."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"I may just have to sit on him."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Sunday, December 13, 2009



Several times
It has
To bring the Winter
Into the Fall
But up to
This day
More snow
Has lived
In the sky
Than on the earth
One day
It filled
The window's view
But on the
It simply
Watered the grass
Then icy crystals
More than once
But they simply
With the wind
Today it
Has Dusted the
Walk and lawn
But if it remains
Is Yet
To be known

- 13 December 2000


PART 13, December 13

That night not a soul in the shack slept soundly. Every ear was turned to the barn, just hoping to catch some sound of the trap being tripped. No such sound ever came. All they heard was the December wind whistling up under the eaves. It was a long night.

The next morning Hickory Hog went out to the barn. The locks on the doors were still in place. Everything seemed as it ought to be. The trap was still concealed and in place. There was nothing to do but wait for the next night to see if this would smoke out that old Christmas Rascal.

It was getting closer to Christmas now. There was still no snow on the ground and no sign in the sky of it to come yet. They may not get their snow very early, but some always fell no later than Christmas eve. Of course, no snow yet had nothing to do with the Christmas Rascal at all, or did it?

A knock came on the door. Hickory Hog went to open it. There before him stood an earnest young man with a camera in his hand. "David Potter," he said, introducing himself. "Potatotown Press! I understand you folks have been having a little bit of trouble with the infamous Christmas Rascal."

"You said it!" agreed Whizzer Worm. "We've been having a simply terrible time of it. He frightened the little bird over there, stole Hickory Hog's corn, stole my potatoes and caused us to jump all over that man there."

"Oh, is that all?" replied Mr. Potter.

"Well, all up to now," said Hickory Hog, "We have set a trap for him, but..."

“A trap?"

Yes, but it didn't do any good. He didn't fall for it."

"What was it?"

"I put together a manger scene out in the barn, I knew he couldn't resist it. Then I put wires all around so that the minute he tried to do anything at all he'd be snared and thrown up in a sack in the hayloft. But, like I said, it didn't do any good.”

"Could we see this?"

"I guess so."

"Good! I'd like to take a picture of it, for when you do capture him, that is."

Hickory led the way to the barn. He opened the door. Everything was as it had been before. All of a sudden the little bird (they had all come along to see) piped up, "Where's the baby Jesus?"

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Saturday, December 12, 2009


PART 12, December 12

"How are you going to do that!" everyone cried.

"I don't know yet, but I'll think of a way to unrascal that Rascal," replied Hickory Hog. With that he roared off into his barn and set to work.

All day long strange sounds came from the barn, but there was such a frenzy and singlemindedness about them that no one dared to look in and see what was going on. It just didn't seem like the thing to do.

Finally evening began to come on and the light went out in the barn and the door was locked. Hickory Hog came back to his friends for the evening.

"What did you do out there?" asked Whizzer Worm. "We sat here all day wondering about it."

Very quietly Hickory looked all over the room. He looked out the window. Nothing was there. He stoked up the fire in the fireplace. Nothing could possibly be there. He checked the walls and the floors and the ceiling. Nothing seemed to be there. You never could tell, though. The Christmas Rascal had been known to plant rascalbugs in people's homes just to hear their plots against him. He proudly boasted that nothing could be done about him. He claimed that whatever people were thinking he knew before they even thought of it. However, being only a rascal he couldn't be everywhere or know everything at any one time, but he liked people to think that he could. In that respect he was like certain other rascals of a definitely more malignant nature.

This time there were no listening devices, but still Hickory spoke in a very quiet voice. It actually seemed strange to hear such a small sound coming out of such a large Hog, "I have done something to catch that rascal," he said in a whisper.

"What?" whispered back the little old man.

"There's nothing the Christmas Rascal finds more irresistible than destroying people's Christmas joy, so I built something in the barn that he'll be bound to want to destroy."

There was a pause as Hickory checked windows again. "I built a manger scene for my front yard. I»m going to set it out tomorrow night, but some of the paint and glue has to dry, so I've left it in the barn overnight."

Hickory Hog was strangely quiet after that. "But what good will that do?" asked the little bird.

"I also left a trap to catch him when he comes to try and destroy my beautiful work."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Friday, December 11, 2009


PART 11, December 11

Hickory Hog was so startled that he hardly knew what to do. He sat up in his bed and gasped. All the walls of the shack shuddered with his gasp.

As he peered through the darkness the shadow began to take form. He still couldn't really see the expression of the face, but he could definitely tell that it was a face. Something about the way it was cocked to one side let him know that the owner of it was none too pleased with him. Then a voice came through the glass.

It was not loud or strident. It fact it almost had a hint of laughter in it. Some might even call it mischievous, "Hickory Hog, I've been watching you and your friends. If I'm not mistaken you're going to have the worst Christmas ever and there's nothing you can do about it."

That was all there was. With that the voice ceased. Hickory was paralyzed for just a moment, then he was galvanized into action. He didn't even stop to put on a coat or open the door. He was outside of that shack before you could say, "Hickory Hog Is The Biggest Hog There Is.” Well, almost that fast.

In his wake he left a whirlwind behind him. The little bird tumbled out of his teacup. He then fell into the little old man's coat pocket. Whizzer Worm began whizzing around the room in the middle of the air and ended up wrapped all around the little old man. They were all a mess as they were rudely awakened by the cold to see the door lying some twenty yards away outside the shack.

Hickory, in the meantime, had run his fastest, but it wasn't fast enough. There was no sign of the Christmas Rascal at all.

He returned to his friends. When he saw the damage he had done he picked up the door and angrily wedged it in place, at least good enough to keep out most of the wind until morning when he could fix it.

"What happened?" they all chorused.

"The Christmas Rascal was HERE!"


"That's right. What's more, he told me that would have the worst Christmas ever. But I'm not going to let that stop me."

“What are you going to do?" asked the little bird, crawling out of the man's pocket.

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do! I'm going to catch that Christmas Rascal and unrascal him."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Thursday, December 10, 2009


PART 10, December 10

"Now, how could the Christmas Rascal keep it from snowing?" The question was on everybody's lips.

"Does it say?" asked the little bird.

"Apparently he hasn't disclosed his plan," said Hickory Hog. "I can't seem to find any more information about it in here."

"That would be just terrible," said the little old man, "Just think of all the little children wanting a white Christmas. We've never been known to be without one here in Potatotown. Why, I think even the potatoes look forward to it."

"Oh, I don't know that it's such a great loss," interjected Whizzer Worm. "Lots of people have never had a white Christmas, In fact, a lot of worms I know would actually prefer it if there wasn't one. You think it's bad being cooped up in the house in a blizzard. Well, imagine what it's like for all us worms. Once that blanket of snow sets in most of us are trapped for the duration."

"Well," intoned the little old man, "I still wonder how he thinks he can get away with no snow"

"I don't know," added Hickory. "Maybe we should all go back to my shack and plan our strategy as to what to do next."

Everyone thought that was a good idea, Whizzer Worm already had a berth picked out from the night before, and it wouldn't bee too hard to find a place for the little bird. Hickory Hog would just take some straw and line one of his Hog-sized teacups for the bird to sleep in, and that would be all right. The little old man took some more planning. Finally they thought to get out a sleeping bag and just let him sleep on the hearthrug before the fire.

It was another cold night outside. They popped some popcorn which Hickory had fetched in from the barn and had some cocoa to go with it. Despite the problem which had brought them together they all seemed to have a pretty good time.

The fire slowly died down, as no one added any more logs to it. Eventually sleep overtook everyone except Hickory Hog. He was just about to drowse off when he looked out the window. The stars shone brightly in the crisp December sky. Then, all of a sudden, there was a shadow across the face of the window.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


PART 9, December 9

"THE WHO?" exclaimed the hog, worm and bird.

"You know," said the-little old man. "The Christmas Rascal, See it says all about him in the paper here."

He held up a copy of the POTATOTOWN PRESS which he had just pulled out of his inside coat pocket, There in the headlines were these words: CHRISTMAS RASCAL LOOSE IN THE AREA. There was a blank area under the headline filled up by a big question mark. Apparently nobody knew what he looked like, even though it was plainly evident that he had been around.

Hickory Hog took the paper in his hooves and began to read, "It says here, 'Once again the Christmas Rascal has been heard from. Residents all over the area have been sending in complaints of the things he has done. It is a common mode of operation of his to take things which people prize and thus rob them of their Christmas joy» He feels that since people are so attached to their things and since he wants to upset them, the perfect way to do it is through their possessions.

"'Mrs. Prister Pontsworthy places a great deal of pride in her silver service for 73. Every year she entertains her friends of the Potatotown Potato Peelers Club for a special Christmas Party, There are only always 73 members in the club, no more, no less. Last night the Christmas Rascal came in and took away service for one. There is not enough time to get another setting of silver for tomorrow night’s gala affair and Mrs. Pontsworthy is seriously considering, for the first time, canceling her Christmas party. She told this reporter, "I just don't know what to do, I can't take anyone off the list, because every one of our members always comes to all our meetings, and I can’t serve with anything else, and I can't give someone a set that doesn't match, I guess I'll just have to close down for the first time in the 54 years we've been meeting at our house."'"

"That's terrible," said Whizzer Worm.

"But there's more here," said Hickory. "'He took all the chrome off 17 year old Stevie Thinklebine's 1957 Chevie. It took his preacher a long time to persuade him that life was still worth living. He took a baby's pacifier right in the middle of a department store, and there was nothing the parents could do to quiet it down. Everything he does seems devoted to destroying people's joy.”

"That's still not all. It says here that he sent a note to the paper saying that he was going to do everything that he could to keep it from snowing at Christmas, so that nobody would have fun!"

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


PART 8, December 8

"MMph, MMph, MMph," came a noise from under the pile.

"It's Him! It's Him!" cried the frightened little bird from a perch high up in a tree, "Tie him up. Hold on to him, Just don't let him get away."

There was more grunting and groaning and wriggling around in the pile beneath the little bird. Finally a panting voice wheezed out, "How can I get away with you big pile of galoots on top of me?"

"It's the little old man," exclaimed Hickory Hog.

"You mean the mean little man?" questioned the bird.

"Positively not. That was a long time ago when both the man and myself were much too selfish for our own good," assured Hickory, "He's certainly not mean anymore. Though, what he's doing here in the path of our track I don't know."

"I'll tell you," gasped the little old man, "if only you'll get up off me, especially that snake!"

"HUMPH!! Snake, indeed," muttered Whizzer Worm indignantly, "I'll have you know that I am no such thing as a snake. They are disgusting creatures, chasing after rats and mice and arrogantly sunning themselves on warm rocks, while I am on of nature's nobles, an earthworm. Do you know that if it wasn't for me and my kind the plants would not be able to breath and they would all die, I aereate the soil and keep it healthy. That's a lot more than any SNAKE ever did, I can tell you that."

Listening to this speech from his friend sent Hickory into a gale of laughter. Somehow the spectacle of a worm, even one as mighty as Whizzer, sternly lecturing an old man was too much to take. If you don't think so, just imagine the scene for yourself. Remember that a worm has absolutely no bones in his body at all. Then picture his delivering a harsh speech. Somehow his presence just doesn't give a big wallop.

"I don't know what you're laughing at. Hickory Hog," sputtered the irate worm. "Doubtless you've thought the same in your lifetime, but take it from me, we worms have absolutely nothing in common with snakes."

"All right, all right," laughed the hog, "Now what are we going to do? We've lost his trail for sure, whoever he was."

"Who are you talking about?" asked the man.

"Someone who took up residence in my barn and stole some of my corn," said Hickory.

"Someone who stole my potatoes," said the worm.

"Someone who frightened me," said the bird.

"Oh," said the man, "You must be talking about the Christmas Rascal."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Monday, December 7, 2009


PART 7, December 7

The tracks headed off towards town. The problem was, they weren't very deep and they petered out real soon in the grass off the side of the field. If only they had had a snow they could have seen very clearly where the quarry had gotten to. Finally they decided to go back to get the little bird to help them out. It took them a little while to find him and get him out of the shack.

"Let's just go into town and see if maybe we can find out something about this," said Hickory Hog.

"I don't know," said the frightened little bird, "What if we meet with whatever it is... I mean, he was big, huge, giant..."

"We know, we know," said Whizzer Worm hastily, "That, however, is exactly what we want to do, meet up with him. And, then we want to take care of him."

"What's that?" asked Hickory. "I heard a rustling over there."

"Maybe we'd better go over there and find out," said the worm, as he wormed his way over for a better look at the whole situation.

There were some trees off beyond the grass at the edge of the field. They screened off Potatotown from Hickory Hog's shack. Hickory took off at a trot. He directed Whizzer Worm to one side. He went to the other while the frightened bird flew up high over the trees. For once, the higher he flew, the better he liked it. Maybe the person or thing was big enough to reach out from the trees and grab him, so he wanted to make sure he was far away from any of that.

They heard a scruffling again. This time both the hog and worm heard it.

"That way," they shouted as they set off in hot pursuit. Whatever was there heard them coming and started off at a brisk pace. It had been coming towards them, but then turned to run away from whatever it was that was coming at him. Whizzer Worm was a little closer at first, but he couldn't worm as fast as Hickory ran. For once the hog really trotted his quickest. The little bird peered down through the stratosphere, spying their prey, but quickly flew back the other way. Faster and faster the two earthbound partners sped on. Then they could see him before them in the woods. He appeared a shabbily dressed little man from the back, not at all the giant monster of little bird's acquaintance, but then you never could tell. They'd better nab him first to find out what was really up.

Hickory Hog was now close enough that he could almost reach out and touch him. With a spurt of energy he hurled himself on top of him and Whizzer Worm piled on top. They had him at last.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Sunday, December 6, 2009


PART 6, December 6

"Wake up! Wake up! Wake up, Little Bird," cried Hickory Hog. "Please wake up.”

Nothing happened. Finally Hickory Hog picked up the faint little frightened bird and began to shake him, "You'd better watch out," warned Whizzer Worm. "You're beginning to shake off all his feathers."

"Oh, so I am," Hickory gently set the bird down on his bed. He was immediately lost among the covers. "Where did he go, now," asked the distraught hog.

"Let's see," said Whizzer, He began to worm his way around the covers. All of a sudden a little head popped up and a quavering little voice came out, "When did the earthquake finally get over?" Whizzer hopped over to pull the covers away from where the bird was. Immediately the little bird fell over on his side.

"It's all right now," said Hickory Hog. "You're here with us. We'll make sure you're safe, Let me get you some turnip seeds. Those will perk you up in no time."

So saying, he went off to the cupboard to find the seeds. He brought them back with a little bowl of water to wash them down. Everyone waited while the little bird gained back his strength and self-confidence.

"Now, what exactly was it that you saw?" began Hickory, "There have been some awfully strange things going on around here lately."

"He was huge, I mean gigantic, I mean colossal, "sputtered the bird, "He was big," The bird paused for a second and then went on. "Well, I don't mean as big as you. Hickory, a…a…, well, I mean, He, a..., He was bigger than me," he finished.

"Who was?" questioned Whizzer Worm.

"I don't know. But, there he was where all the potatoes had been, sort of just checking around to see if there might be any more. He saw me and started over toward me. He looked at me with the awfullest face you ever saw. He just stared at me, and he frightened me so much that I flew right to your door."

"I wonder if that isn't the same one who was in my corn crib," said Hickory Hog.

"And he stole my potatoes," added Whizzer Worm.

"I say we ought to go out right now and see if we can nab him," roared the hog. "What do you think, little bird?"

"Oh, I don't think we should be doing anything like that, I don't think, I'd be too scared."

"Well, I'm not," said Hickory Hog. "Come along with me, Whizzer.”

With that Hickory Hog grabbed his huge hog jacket and put it on. He flung open the door and marched out into the early morning. Whizzer Worm went along behind. The frightened bird flew with all his weight against the opened door to shut it, and then he triple locked it. After that he burrowed down in some of the covers on Hickory Hog's bed, hoping not to be heard from for some time.

The two friends were outside in the cold morning. The sun was rising in a distant hazy sort of way. Right away they could see that the potatoes were gone. This time, though, there were some definite tracks to follow. Determining to catch whoever had made them, they set off.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Saturday, December 5, 2009


PART 5, December 5

"Who's there!" called out Hickory Hog and Whizzer Worn in rather frightened voices.

Tap, Tap, Tap… It came again.

This time Hickory Hog started to get a little angry. It was much too early for hogs to be up and about, especially with harvesting all over for the winter and planting and cultivating months away. "WHO IS THERE!" he bellowed.

"Let me in. Please let me in," came a small voice from outside. It was a high reedy sort of voice, almost inaudible. Then there was a little sob. It wasn't a frightening sound at all, but rather a frightened one, as if whoever was outside the door almost didn't want anyone to really answer his call.


"It's me," came the little reply, "You know…."

"I certainly do not," said the hog, getting up out of bed, "And when I do finally get ahold of you you'll certainly wish I didn't know you."

After having flung off the covers he spent rather a lengthy time trying to find his hoghoof slippers before he crossed the cold floor and flung open the door. There before him in the pale dawn stood the most pitiful, sorrowful little creature there ever was. It was the frightened little bird. Everything he knew of frightened him. Hickory had once helped him to stop being afraid to fly, but there were still many other things that made him afraid.

"Why, it's the frightened little bird," said Hickory Hog, "Come in, come in." He held the door open so that the bird could come in and then quickly shut it to keep out the cold. The little bird came into the house and just stood on the rug in front of the fireplace shivering and shivering.

"What brings you here so early in the morning?" asked Whizzer Worm, who was still arousing himself from his wormy sleep.

"Wwwwwelllll," shivered the little bird. "It's a long story. It began last night, I decided to stay in Potatotown this winter, you see, instead of migrating South with all the other birds. Up until now it had been all right to stay outdoors, but it was beginning to get too cold, I thought I might come over and stay in your barn, Hickory, but when I got here late last night it was all locked up for a change.

"I knew I needed somewhere to get out of the wind. Then I remembered Whizzer Worm's private little potato patch, I knew some of those made little mounds that would protect me from the winds, so I decided to spend the night between two of them. The only thing was, when I got there they were all gone,"

"GONE!" shouted Whizzer Worn. "GONE!"

"And that's not all. Right after I got there I got the worst scare of my life. There was somebody there….and…."

That was all the frightened bird had to say. He had gotten so frightened retelling what had happened that he had fainted dead away.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Friday, December 4, 2009


PART 4, December 4

"Someone has been living under there?" cried Hickory Hog. "What do you mean?"

"I mean just what I said,” Whizzer Worm replied. "Someone has been living under here. They've left behind them a tidy pile of corn cobs."

"Corn cobs? Oh, No! How many did they leave? If they ate too much of my corn I won't have any more. What will I do?"

"Oh, they only had about a dozen or two ears," answered the worm. "I don't imagine whoever it was had more than one or two at a sitting, that is one or two SINGLE ears," he went on, rather pointedly. "You won't be out much."

"That's good. At least I'll have enough for my Christmas dinner, I'd hate
not to have enough for that, I'm planning on having you over along with the little old man and the frightened little bird," (Notice how Hickory Hog called everyone he knew "little". Next to him even some elephants might seem "little".)

"Oh, you'll have plenty. Don’t worry about that. I just wonder where he’s
gone to?"

"That is a good question," said Hickory, "Maybe we ought to clean up those cobs and get back into the house where it's nice and warm. You could spend the night if you want to."

"Well, normally I like my nice snug burrow in the earth, but maybe tonight
it would be better to stay indoors. You never know. Someone who eats corn like that could have a use for worms, too,"

So saying, the friends locked up the barn. That was the first time Hickory Hog had ever locked up his barn. Never before had there been any need, so the doors were always left open or shut, depending totally on whether they happened to get closed or not. This time they were closed for sure. The windows were barred, too. There was no way to get back into the barn unless someone burrowed in from the earth below, and Whizzer Worm said that the evidence didn't seem to indicate such an entry on the prior occasion of occupancy.

It was a bitterly cold night and the two friends were glad to be in Hickory's
snug warm house. He had added a whole pile of hog logs to his fireplace, and those kept them warm all the night through. In fact, it was so arm that the last little bit of popcorn Hickory Hog had in the house exploded by itself, even though it was two whole rooms away. That did happen to seem a good treat to them so Hickory melted seventeen cubes of butter to go with it, and they had a nice snack. Bedtime came, and everyone drifted off into a warm, cozy wintery sleep.

All around them the night was quiet and still. All of a sudden just before daybreak their sleep was disturbed. There came a loud tapping at the door,

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Thursday, December 3, 2009


PART 3, December 3

Hickory Hog turned his attention to the barn. It was a big barn, the color of a red russet potato, with corn yellow and green doors. In the yard before it was a turnip colored tractor. Nothing seemed to be unusual. Hickory lived some ways out of town, and once the harvest season was over he didn’t get a lot of visitors. In fact, he hadn't had a visitor of any sort in over a week before Whizzer Worm had popped up his wormy head.

"What could be in my barn?" he asked.

"I don’t know," replied Whizzer Worm, "but if I was you I'd check it out to
see what could be the matter."

"I guess you're right, but I was just in there getting out my corn."

"Maybe whoever it was was quiet when you were around," offered Whizzer. "Everybody can hear you coming for at least three miles away, and if I didn't know who you were I’d sure lie low myself."

"Let's go, then," said Hickory.

Whizzer Worm got the rest of himself up out of the ground and wormed his way over to the barn door. Hickory Hog stamped over and flung open the door. Everything was silent and still inside. The December sun slanted in through the open door and you could see all sorts of flecks of dust stirred up in the light by the huge hog's entrance, but that was all. No living thing scurried around inside the barn. Hickory went to the back of the barn, while his friend began to explore the pile of corn. There were somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand ears left. It would make a lot of places for someone to hide under, especially if he piled the corn around himself just right.

While the corn pile was being investigated Hickory turned his attention to all his tools in the back. All the hoes, rakes, shovels and other implements were there where they belonged, undisturbed. Also there were all the catalogues he ordered from. True, he did save seeds from his own produce, but he liked to try out new kinds and varieties, so he needed these. There were 79 catalogues dealing with corn seeds alone, along with for potatoes, 36 for turnips and 13 devoted solely to Brussels sprouts. It was a library unique unto itself. Nothing was amiss there at all. Then he heard a cry from under the corn, "Come here, quick!"

Hickory ran over as fast as his hooves could carry him, Whizzer Worm stuck his head out of the pile of corn. "I've discovered something," he said.


"Someone has been living under here!"

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


PART 2, December 2

There was a rustling and a bustling deep under the pile of corn in Hickory Hog's barn. Something or someone was down there up to mischief, but what it was no one knew. For the time being they kept their work and existence a secret.

A cold north wind began to beat against the little shack. Hickory Hog went outside and got a few more hog logs to go on his fire. He used only hog logs which were big and fat and burned for a long time. As he was outside he happened to see a little movement of earth. It formed a little mound that grew taller and taller, until finally out at the head of it popped the head of Whizzer Worm.

"Well, hi there, Whizzer Worm" came the call from the huge hog, "What are you doing here? I thought you'd be snug and safe down in the earth in your little worm home. What brings you out on a cold day like today?"

"I don’t really know. There's just something happening."

"I know. All the crops are in and there's nothing more for you to eat in the ground. Pretty soon it will be too hard to go through, even for you, and then you'll have to wait until spring."

"No, it’s not that, either. It's just something that's making me uneasy. I keep hearing noises."

"You mean me?"

"No, not you," insisted the worm, "I'd know your heavy tread anywhere. These footsteps or whatever they are are lighter than yours. And I keep hearing them in the same place."

"Oh! Where's that?"

"Over in your barn."

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


PART 1, December 1

Hickory Hog, as everyone knows, lives in a shack by the side of a brook. He has a garden, and in his garden he has corn and turnips and potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Close by is the city known as Potatotown in which reside his many friends and admirers. It is not with them, however, that we are concerned at the moment, but with another party who happened into the area.

It was a cold, nippy sort of morning. Of course all the harvesting was long over. All the people thereabouts had filled their barns and cupboards with all the good things God had given them that year, In fact, there were some squirrels who had made a barn out of one of the potatoes that Hickory Hog had grown, in order to store their nuts. His potatoes were large indeed. One had been made into an apartment building for homeless birds. Another had made a long river journey as a boat. Yet another had become the first airplane (or perhaps we should say potatoplane) to land at the Potatotown airport. One time he had ridden one to victory in a race. Of course the potato hadn't run itself, but had been powered by Hickory Hog's friend, Whizzer Worm, Whenever folks thought of potatoes they thought of Hickory Hog, and vice verse, too,

Anyway, back to the morning. It hadn’t snowed yet, but people were expecting it to do so any day. That was one way that they knew Christmas was just around the comer, Potatotown was one of those places that always had a white Christmas. If it didn't snow they would just open a couple of packages of Hickory Hog's dried potato flakes and create a blizzard of their own. Once the flakes were pressed down they made real nice sledding, and of all the sledders in town none enjoyed it as much as Hickory Hog. This year, though, it seemed pretty certain there'd be no need of that. Any day now the white flakes would come tumbling down and cover the land with a pure white blanket of snow.

Hickory Hog went out to check his barn. He wanted to make sure that his supply of corn was snuggly settled in for the winter ahead. He only ate a hundred ears a day, not to mention a few odd bushels of turnips and Brussels sprouts along with one or two thirty pound potatoes for dessert. His harvest had been plentiful and he had shared with his neighbors, but still he liked to check his stock to make sure that everything was safe. You could never be too careful.

He looked over the pile of corn. There seemed to be still about the same amount as the day before. There'd be enough to last him until the harvest next year, especially if he was careful. There might even be some extra to make corn syrup out of to go with his potato pancakes. So, he went back into the house to bundle up for the cold days ahead. He wasn't there to see something strangely move around deep under the pile of corn.

© 1989 Kevin Don Levellie

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1970: My First Christmas Poem

To all my friends at Christmas
Whether close or far away
I send my warmest greetings
To help brighten up your day
The world is one
In need of joy
For sadness holds it
And seeks to destroy
This is the season
For laughter and cheer
The time for happiness
And for love unbounded
Let us make it mean something
Throughout the year
So as to affect our lives
And make our paths clear
For if Christmas means nothing
But food and some gifts
Then we're all sadly mistaken
And not really rich
For the gifts we should give
Should last all our lives
We should give one another
Our peace and our smiles
Our love and our blessings
Thoughtfully and truly
As God did
In short - we should give ourselves

- 13 December 1970

Friday, November 27, 2009


In 1970 I began a new custom. Instead of sending out Christmas Cards I wrote a poem and sent copies (all individually typewritten as I didn't have access to a copier)out to my friends and family. This year marks the 40th such greeting. Each year's has been original and unique for that year. Tomorrow I'll post the first one I ever sent out, but below you will see the one for this year.

To Himself
He could have
Avoided pain

Where He was
He could have
Missed trouble

From the world
He could have
Seen no sin

He could have
Watched all decay

His own height
He could have
Left us in our depths

His creatures
He had to
Choose loss for gain

- Kevin

Thursday, November 26, 2009



That we
Should have
Until now
A thought
To be held
This Day
Does not
Our Thanks
It does
Not begin
For how
Can a ring
Find its
This Day
Is but
The acceleration
Of what
Has seemed
To move
More slowly
Than it should
And the reminder
That we should
Maintain our
And stay
The course

- 23 November 2000

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hickory Hog And The Christmas Rascal

I'd like to give you a little up front notice about a feature which will begin next month. It is a serial story to be published for Christmas.

When our daughter, Esther, was only two or three she asked me one night to tell her a story about Hickory Hog. I don't know where she came up with that name, but I started telling her stories about him and many of his friends. Then in 1983 I put them all into a 25 part Christmas story. Instead of using a calendar which you flipped open a little window on we read one part each day. Esther used to call it a hanging story since every day it left you hanging. That, of course, was by design. I had grown up listening to the Cinnamon Bear on the radio as a part of our Christmas celebration, so I knew all about carrying over from one day to the next until you arrive at the grand conclusion of the story.

Since then there have been many more Christmas adventures of Hickory Hog with an ever increasing circle of friends. I've recorded some of these on CD and our grandchildren have listened to them over and over, even out of season. Starting on 1 December I am planning on posting all twenty-five parts of that original story for your family to read and enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

KUDOS to Indiana State University, Terre Haute

Steve Reich seems happy to be with me.

I went to the last night of the Contemporary Music Festival. I cannot say how much I appreciated this. The college and all the sponsors have my sincerest thanks for putting on something of such wonderful grace and joy. Contemporary music is not only incisive and edgy, but it is uplifting as well.

I had read of Mr. Steve Reich's music, but never heard any of it until this festival. I know what I'll be buying in the future. The other three pieces on the program were also a blessing. I'm ordering Mr. Allen's work "In Heavenly Love" online today. Mr. McLoskey's Requiem v2.001x was wonderful. All four of the pieces ended before I was ready for them to end. If that doesn't mean it's good music I don't know what does.

Some Classical Music Christmas Recommendations

I would like to recommend the following two works, both of which are currently in print on Naxos and possibly other labels:

William Henry Fry: Santa Claus Symphony
This, believe it or not, was written while the American Civil War was raging. It's not just about fun. The major musical motif through it all is "O Come All Ye Faithful".

Victor Hely-Hutchinson: A Carol Symphony
This is a reworking of what is familiar, but still it has a beauty which calls for a listen.

What are some works you've enjoyed?

I'm posting this early so that we'll have a chance to order some of this music and hear it before the Christmas season is over.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Last night I went to the contemporary classical music festival at Indiana State University, Terre Haute. After the program I shook hands with the composer, Steve Reich. (I don’t imagine he went home and wrote in his diary that he shook hands with me.) I had heard of his work, but never heard any of it before. He’s taken the string quartet way beyond Haydn. I won’t give up Haydn, but I’ve made some room for another voice. Hearing this music has prompted me to some thoughts on modern classical music.

Modern music is engaging. You can’t listen to it in the background, you have to hear it with your entire attention. To listen is to observe its passing. To hear it is to acquire it. Listening to something is a matter of orientation for a time. Hearing it is acquiring a thing for all time.

It’s the same with Jesus. We can’t just listen to Him. We have to hear Him. (Even God said that!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

ILLINOIS AUTUMN: The Continuance


The Harvest
That none may be
Left unused
Some stalks
Still standing
More than
A month
Than their brothers
Are now
To join
As the
Is Liberated
From its
To our

- 16 November 2000

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This past Saturday I attended the special exhibit called “Sacred Spain” at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This exhibit is free to the public through corporate sponsorship, and if you live near enough to go see it I encourage it.

The one picture that stood out to me above all the rest was “Agnus Dei” painted between 1636 and 1640 by Francisco de Zurbaran. It was a picture of a lamb.

He was on a dark slab. His legs were bound by a swath of cloth. He was just lying there. There was no struggle communicated through any muscle of his body. There was no look of anguish or bewilderment on his face. He had accepted his place.

Of all the pictures I saw of Jesus in that exhibition this is the one which really captured His heart.

The next day I spoke of seeing this painting in my morning message. It came to me that while we can be pressured by circumstances and feelings into doing things we don’t really want to do, nothing could pressure Jesus.

Think of that! There was no sin or abuse anyone could have done which would have made Jesus pack up and go home without accomplishing His mission.

I had to go through the exhibit a second time and stand before this painting again.

The Lamb of God HAS taken away the sins of the world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another Observation



Saturday, October 31, 2009



So late
A Butterfly
It flew
Before me
From the
This day
Upon the door
Four Hundred
Eighty Three
Years Ago
And just
As freedom
Was thought
Dead then
So such life
Surprises us
At an hour
When we
It's light
Put out

-31 October 2000

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The naïveté of advocacy consists of thinking that if people just “see” something they’ll change.

There are two problems with that view.

1. The majority NEVER “see” it.

2. The majority of those who do “SEE” it think that seeing is enough.

Advocacy must persuade. In the world this is done through manipulation. In the spiritual realm this is accomplished, not by our rhetoric, but by the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart.


I did not grow up in a coffee drinking home, but as an adult I learned to appreciate this wonderful adult beverage when I went to work at an office where they served gourmet coffee every day. It is a gift from God through the hands of the growers and roasters. I’d like to share with you briefly about my five favorite coffees of all time.

1. Andersen’s: this is the best restaurant coffee I have ever tasted, and may be my favorite of all time, although I haven’t tasted any in over ten years. I once drank so much of it that I could not sleep at all. I’d do it again, but the Buellton, California restaurant is some 2000 miles from where I live now.

2. Volcano: a rich coffee available from Trader Joe’s. This coffee just kind of fills up all your senses with alertness and joy.

3. Texas Pinon: a New Mexico Coffee Company product. I loved the unique taste of the original Pinon, but this is even more vibrant.

4. Manzano Italiano: another New Mexico Coffee Company product. This coffee is filled with well-being.

5. Human Being: a Coffee People product. You have to go to the Portland, Oregon airport to get this one, but it’s worth it.

By the way, Kona coffee is undoubtedly the best coffee in the world, but it’s beyond my normal budgetary reach.

Maybe you have your own favorites.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



She thought
The rains
Had come
It was
The Rustle
Of the leaves
Across the roof
I've heard them
Across the pavement
By the wind
And they
That even
The Dead
Can testify
When moved
By the Breath
Of God

-28 October 2000

Friday, October 23, 2009


The "BOOK OF OPINIONS" is an actual book which exists. It contains, as of today's date, 5,745 of my opinions.

Here is opinion number 2 from chapter 1.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


JESUS always laid the responsibility for having faith on the disciples.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Since 1966 I have read through the entire Bible 120 times. I’ve read it in 27 different translations so far. Right now I’m reading my 28th translation. Over the years I’ve learned much. I’d like to recommend two different ways of reading the Bible which each produce different results.

The first time I read through the Bible it took almost two full years. It was hard, even as a teenager, to learn the discipline of reading something every day. So many times we are daunted by such a large book as the Bible. One way of reading is just to do as much as you can each day and not worry about meeting any kind of deadline. There is no virtue in either the speed or amount of reading.

On the other hand, there is a time and place for a fast read, if you’re able to do it. Almost by accident in 1995 I did my first “Bible Dash”. In 16 days I read through the entire Bible. I set aside other reading, and television viewing, etc. to do it. This was amazing because for the first time I saw the entire flow of the scriptures in a way I’d never seen it before. Since then I’ve done at least one Bible Dash every year.

The slower method is like sipping. The faster one is like a big gulp. The slower gives depth and hand holds for living. The faster gives the Big Picture and the context of the scripture. However you choose to read, I’d encourage you to make a start and not quit until you’ve done it all. And then, of course, it’s a good idea to start it again because fast or slow you don’t get it all on one time or even 121 times.

Monday, October 19, 2009



They've started
Their flight
What was
Cut its
By maybe
I thought
We'd surely
Have them
Weeks to come
The Flight
It seems
Has begun
The canopy
Is weaving
A carpet

- 19 October 2000

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


When a people doesn’t have a history they are not a people. We cannot be what we are without knowing what we have been.

On 4 October 2009 out of 15 Restoration Movement churches in our county only 4 participated in an evening commemorating the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell’s composition of a seminal document, “The Declaration and Address”. Since Edgar County is one of the few counties in the entire United States in which Restoration Movement forms the majority religious group in the county, it was sad that most congregations were indifferent to this part of our history. I found the same attitude present in our churches in Oregon when I was talking with my brothers-in-law about any observances they might know of. It would be the same as if no one knew what the Declaration of Independence was or had showed up for any of the observances on 4 July 1976. Still, I would like to speak briefly about this as I did that night.

“The Declaration And Address” is not a document which has ever been authoritative in our brotherhood. It was not the entire course, but it was the starting point. It was a call to arms, not a battle plan.

We never intended it to be another human creed. In fact we were coming out against all humanly devised standards of doctrine. Only scripture covers all things necessary to the Christian life.

There were 13 propositions in “The Declaration And Address”. I would like to condense these down further to remind us of what we should not forget as we go to church and live the Christian life.

UNITY: We start at the goal
*The church of Christ is "essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one."
*Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is a sufficient profession.
*Division is a horrid evil.
*Human innovations have caused much evil in the church.

AUTHORITY: This is the only means to the goal
* The Bible alone as opposed to creeds or human schematics of doctrine.
* We need to stick to what the Bible says and not any inferences or deductions from it.
* Opinion is not to be made a condition of fellowship.

Let us remember to look both ways in life: back to where we came from and ahead to where we are going.

The entire text of this lengthy 19th century document is available at http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/restmov.html under Thomas Campbell on the Restoration Movement Texts page of that website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some Thoughts on again seeing "OTHELLO"

This evening I finished watching the Lawrence Olivier filmed version of Othello. I had seen it during it’s theatrical run back in 1965, but the decades have not diminished either the power of the performance or of the words themselves penned even centuries earlier. The story is so full of close calls, of times when tragedy could have been averted, and yet it was not. How many times have we been on the brink ourselves and could have avoided even lesser calamities if we had learned shake off the power of wrong things in our lives.

Othello depicts the power of a lie in the mouth of a particularly persuasive villain. Even though he is evil we cannot, like the master of the unjust steward in Jesus’ parable, shake our heads in a small measure of admiration. Still, his lies cost the lives and reputations of almost every major character in the play.

Romeo and Juliet is not, at heart, a love story, but a story of hatred dominating a city to the point of throwing a priest into a conniving lie and others into constant duels and deaths and suicides. Each bore their own responsibility in the story, but still the hatred did its work in paving the way for all the evil to follow.

Hamlet focuses on revenge rather than justice. It is a false way of balancing the scales. Though there be some ground for it in the prior murder of his father, the revenge itself set no one free. The ghost, whether hallucinatory or real, destroyed a family and a kingdom. There are things in heaven and earth which should be left alone.

Julius Caesar deals with the devastation of peer pressure. The conspirators talked one another into doing what none would have done on his own. Caesar may have been ambitious, but they paved the way for Augustus and the empire which crushed and persecuted the Western World for centuries.

Richard III exposes the fallacy of trusting in self. The real king of history may not have been as evil as the one painted on stage, but the character set forth in the play trusted in himself until he ended up wanting to trust in a horse.

King Lear trusted in human beings. He thought others carry out his responsibility better than he could. Again, a family and kingdom are plunged into ruin.

Then there is Macbeth, listening to occult voices, fulfilling prophecies which did not need to be fulfilled, following the wishes of a stronger wife and laughing at true prophecies before his destruction.

We may not play upon such large stages, but every one of these wrong things confronts us in our own lives. In many of Shakespeare’s plays the only thing which turns a tragedy into a comedy is the abandonment of the wrong and the holding to the right. Let us turn whatever is set before us into a true comedy in which, rather than being crushed, the protagonist triumphs.



Now that the sun
Is getting up later
Even though
I get up the same
I can witness
His capture of the sky
For in the dawn
He paints
With colors
Seldom seen
And if the clouds
Will let him
He fills the whole horizon
With his hues
And in these days
When He comes unveiled
He is but a respite
And not a reprieve
But though
The winter seeks
To send Him
He still holds
Constant Court
For His Power
Can only be dimmed
And none can hold his rays
At their source

- 13 October 2000

Monday, October 12, 2009



The frost
Long absent
Came back
In the night
And though
The Sun
Sent him
On his way
Having once come
He said
You'll see me
For though
The sun
Sent me
On this day
My strength
Shall grow
As his wanes
And you
Shall see me
More days than this
For I am
Advance Man
And when
He comes
I shall stay
'Till Spring
Is stronger than me

- 9 October 2000

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Illinois Autumn: The Corn


We saw it
When its green
Could barely
Be perceived
And while
We watched it not
It possessed the land
And where
They had not been before
Corners now appeared
That must be looked
Around with care
For the corn
Grew to hide
Other lanes
And through
No hand touched it
It spread forth
Its leafy palms
To capture the Sun
And translate
It into
Something that could
Keep us the winter through
Its green has changed
And gone away
But after we
Have had our fill
What wisdom saved
Shall bring it forth

-7 October 2000

Friday, October 9, 2009

Illinois Autumn: The Rains


After they had
Slept a few days
The Rains came back
It was not enough
That they should
Bring forth fruit
But that they should
Turn the leaves of our
Pages to other days
And mark the earth
With life
And air their blessings
And when they seemed
Most inopportune
We remembered
That they gave us
A gift
The sun could not
For he would
Shine light
Upon our joys
But they
Would cry beside us
In the night
And in the dawn
They took our weeping
And left us a fresh face

- 4 October 2000

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Illinois Autumn

2000 was our first full year in the state of Illinois. That year I wrote a series of poems under the general title of "Illinois Autumn". Neither the cycle nor any of the indiviual poems have ever been published anywhere. I will post the first one today and some of the others later on as the season progresses.


It came
Almost the Hour
The Sun
Turned It's head south
The storm was
A cry
That summer
Had fled the land
She attempted a return
After the rains
But weakened
Was unable to stand
And seeing this
The northern breath
Thought to take possession
Of all her work
But harvesters
Forestalled His strength
And left but a straw
To blow where he willed
The pledge of Spring
Was called to count
And Autumn
Took its seat

-3 October 2000

Friday, September 4, 2009


Is Jesus real in the center of your world? Are you open to some friendly persuading? Film number 7 on my favorite list speaks about these issues.

This is a film I cannot praise highly enough. It starts with a goose and ends with the goose almost being cooked, but in between there is a rich world of faith and humor and family strength.

The “friendly” in the title refers to the Quakers. What happens to people who don’t believe in fighting when they are thrust into an age of war? One fellow swears up and down in Quaker meeting that nothing would get him to take up a weapon should the south invade Indiana. Later on he sings a different tune, but the majority of the picture is about a family who holds true to their convictions even as they are being shaken and tested and formed. This is not an outsider’s view, but was based on a book written by a Quaker herself who maintained a fairly large level of influence over what went into the film version of her book.

Though the story takes place in the time of the American Civil War, it is not really about the war. It is about people being out of step with the world they live in, but in step with God. It’s about finding out that some things in the final analysis don’t matter. It’s about the revelations of young love and the irksomeness of being too young to seemingly count for anything. It’s about a husband and wife who don’t always see eye to eye, but who have built a real marriage on a common ground. It’s about a young man learning to find convictions of his own, even if they differ from those of his parents and about the parents coming to terms with that, even to the point of going out to rescue the son who did not do what his mother wanted him to do. It’s about a Sunday morning horse race to church with one of the Methodists and about a young man keeping himself pure in the face of family of male-starved young women. It’s about bringing an organ into a home where they don’t believe in organs. It’s about facing the church board when they come to call and rising to the occasion.

For the most part all of these things are told with humor, but also with realism. We have to live in a real world with real neighbors and real crises, but we can meet them if we have a firm center to our lives. The Birdwells (and even their Methodist neighbors) have that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ADULT CHILDREN (and others)

After our journaling session last Saturday I was talking with some of the fellows about dealing with adult children. It came to me in the discussion that if we only control them and do our best to direct their growth the most they can ever be is what we are. We don’t want that. We want them to be what Jesus is. That was a powerful revelation. I think it can be freeing in more areas than that one. It can also apply to parents, in-laws and, of all things, church members who don't see things like we do. We need to lead and guide when we should, but not beyond what we should.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Last Night While I Was Preaching

Many times while I am preaching the Spirit will give me insights into the word which did not come out of my study. I spend a lot of time working on the background and history and meaning of a passage. Sometimes I think I know it all. Then something like last night happened.

The text for the evening was II Corinthians 7:8-16. The theme was that God regrets nothing, and we can regret nothing either if we move through repentance to rejoicing. It is in verse 11 that Paul describes godly sorrow. I had done word studies on all 7 of the things that he lists in this verse, but as I was preaching I began to see the true and real value of repentance in a way I had never seen it before. What I saw was that by moving through repentance we get these things, and we won't get them if we hold on to our sins.

It's not "religiously correct" in much of America today to talk much about repentance anymore, but this verse tells us what we get from it:

Earnestness - the ability to be able to be sincere in front of others without putting up a front.

Vindication - being able to defend ourselves against the charges of the accuser.

Indignation - we now feel the proper attitude toward sin.

Fear - we respect God as we should and have a proper assessment of who He is.

Longing - we have a real desire to be with God as a person, something we would not have if we were afraid to appear before the judgment seat.

Zeal - this is an enthusiasm for something outside yourself beyond the measure of your own feelings or abilities; it is our zeal for the things of God which is activated after we have moved through repentance.

Avenging of wrong - this doesn't mean that we become vigilantes with "Lone Ranger" masks (I'm telling my age on that one), but that we are properly able to dispose of things. In a sense the only real way to avenge a wrong is to deal with it like God does. That is to forgive it.

NONE OF THESE THINGS will we be capable of doing until we pass through godly sorrow over sin and deal with it and get it out of the way.

Maybe none of this is new to you, and I'm sure I'm not expressing it as forthrightly or completely as I did last night, but if you had been there you might have seen the dawn of realization in my face as I preached these things.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Just thought I should let you know that the picture with that caption on the right side of the blog is not a stock photo. It was taken here at Nevins.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I would like to make a few comments on what came out of my recording of the Psalms. As with C. S. Lewis in his book Reflections on the Psalms, this is not an attempt to deal with them totally, but simply to share some thoughts.

The recordings got easier as time went on. At first I made all kinds of mistakes in reading them and in inflections and had to go back and redo whole Psalms or large sections. This was the big factor slowing me down. Even though you’re reading the words you still have to get hold of the rhythm underlying them. Repetition takes a person deeper inside each time.

I mostly did the music tracks separately, but the music seemed to match whether I listened to the text while recording it or if I just got an idea and recorded to the time frame without listening to the text. These words are such that they transcend melodies and fit inside whatever framework is provided for them.

There is a real intensity of the text. This is not warm fuzzies for the timid but blood and anger and damage and trust. It’s not just in the vengeance Psalms, but throughout that such direct boldness occurs. The Psalms are not always pleasant, but they are always true. No one should ever discount the Psalms as an old people’s religious book to hide in when you get your feelings hurt.

The Psalms take us way beyond the regulations of the law and even the conditions of the gospel to a direct life with God. I don’t think we are intended to take these for the totality of our prayers or songs or even as the only models available, but in looking at them we see how much farther we have to go than we normally go.

The psalmists are as bold about themselves as they are confident in God. They speak with absolute confidence. It is not pride or bravado, but God’s character rubbing off on them. They have taken on the viewpoint of God; their hatred of evil is not just a projection, but a real identification with God.

We may speak of ourselves, but we cannot think of ourselves when we read these. We are not just drawn to God, but are directed and shot at Him.

There is a rising and falling of ideas. There is nothing flat about these. They move to intensity. The Psalms should never be old hat or familiar country; they are God’s country.

Sometimes I found that the music had to contrast the words to bring them out with greater force. It doesn’t seem like it would work but it does. The whole is greater than the parts here of all places in scripture.

The harmonization I experienced was not of my voice and fingers, but of God throughout.

The end result of even the most violent Psalms is peace with God. I noticed on the playback of Psalm 137 that my reading of the ending was very subdued. When we take our feelings of anger and vengeance to God, He always does what is right, but He also teaches us to look at others with His own heart which does not willingly judge anyone.

In the days these were written there was not an open covenant for all mankind. Now there is, and everyone can enter into the benefits of these.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recording The Psalms

On 24 November 2008 I set out to record the book of Psalms. The whole thing was originally designed as a Christmas present for Jeanette. I did not realize the amount of time it was going to take, and there were only 15 Psalms on the disk I gave her for that Christmas. After that I worked on them in spurts until completing the entire book on 12 August 2009.

I both read the text and played my own original improvisations in the background on a harp sound from a keyboard. I figured it would just take too long to set all of them to music and make a new 21st century Psalter of my own, but this method still fulfills the definition of a psalm as that which is accompanied by an instrument.

I chose to use the American Standard Version my recording. I updated many, but not all, of the archaisms. I used this version for two reasons. First, because it is in the Public Domain and I didn’t have to get any permission to record it, and second, because it actually uses the name of God in the text itself. No one knows which way it is to be pronounced, so Jehovah, which is used by the American Standard, is, in some ways, as valid as Yahweh which has come to more current usage.

Christians do not need to be bound by the non-scriptural scruples of the Jews who were afraid to pronounce the name of God lest they fall under judgment. If God didn’t want the name to be pronounced He wouldn’t have let the Psalmists inscribe it. For the Christian the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ has come, and we are able to approach God’s throne face to face through Jesus. This means we are completely at home in His presence. You call people by their name in such a context. Using the actual name of God rather than the substitution of “LORD” is important because these Psalms are personal directives to a person and not poetry dedicated to a faceless nameless idea.


Next time I will share some of the things I learned out of this nine month process.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Contemporary Christian culture has developed a vocabulary all its own, quite apart from both the scriptures and the world culture around it. Sometimes the choice of words obscures rather than to expresses the truth. One such case is in the overuse of the word “passionate”.

We are told to be passionate in our prayer life and in our walk with the Lord, but what does that that mean to the world at large or even to Christians who are not on the inside of the cultural group using that word? To me, a Christian of 48 years, it even means something different than what they are wanting it to mean. It produces a different picture in my head than that of someone truly devoted to God.

Passion has always seemed to be a word with tremendous sexual overtones and connotations. It’s usually used to express some kind of over the top emotion which takes control of a person. It can be a passion for a certain kind of food or other innocent experience, but it is, in most modern usage, an appetite word.

Oh, I know the use of it in the technical sense of the passion of Christ. Just lately, though, I’ve been hit with the word so much in a book I’m reading that I could stand it no longer and had to speak up.

According to the edition of Webster’s I possess the origin of the word is the meaning suffering. They even go so far as to specify that the suffering referred to in the origin of the word is that of Christ. Then the definitions move on down through a description of extreme compelling emotions. The emphasis is on the feelings over which we have no control being brought up by desires inside us. Another way the word is frequently used is in current culture is with regard to being passionate about some particular cause, usually either political or the salvation of something other than human beings.

Do we want the world to think that we have some kind of psychological compulsion to pray, that we have to position ourselves in the place where we get in the grip of emotion? Must we become mad men and women suffering under feelings which we cannot control in order to be sincere or can we just be sincere without putting our heart into 17th gear? When we say that we are passionate in our prayer life, do we mean that we are suffering and that we have to suffer in order for God to pay attention? Must we beat ourselves like some medieval flagellants parading their righteousness through the countryside? Do we have to pick up the flag of some advocacy and go into battle knowing we’ll probably be shot down? No, to all of these connotations.

We’re not called to feelings or advocacy. We’re called to relationship. We’re not told to get into a particular mood, but simply to ask. It’s even simpler than that for we are just to let our requests be made known. What moves God is His own heart and our relationship to Him. The importunity of Luke 18 is only stick-to-it-ive-ness recommended to us for our own good. The point of that parable is that God for His part doesn’t need such pleadings since He’s better than the unjust judge.

The words passion or passionate are not used in scripture to describe prayer in either the King James Version, New American Standard Version or New International Version. The word passion is used once correctly of the passion of Jesus in Acts 1:3 (KJV). In James 5:17 passions are actually contrasted with prayer. Prayer is not operated in that way.

I know that from the dictionary passion may be a legitimate word to describe what we want to describe about our commitment to God, but it’s not the best word to use in that regard. Let’s pick a better word, one which doesn’t imply agony or physical desire, but which describes the truth of what originates in our spirit. Even to put it into the context of the cross takes us in another direction. The passion of Jesus is something He experienced for us. Our prayers are not something we experience for God.

Prayer is where we can be the most personal for there’s no façade to keep up. God knows before we pray and sees behind any mask we might hide behind. Let us be genuine rather than operating with a put-on, peer-inspired “passion”.

Let’s talk about being zealous in our prayers, about being fervent in our devotion to God. Let us mention our aspirations and ambitions to be found pleasing in His sight. Let us not wallow in passion. In the context of my prayer life this word, passion, just brings too much baggage of the wrong kind with it. Let us use words which start from our convictions and gratitude, words which speak not of what we are aroused to do, but of what we have purposed to do, what we have been inspired to do.

(By the way, if I've been perhaps a bit too passionate about this please pardon me. It all just goes to prove my point.)