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  • The Reading Room

    Articles, devotionals, short stories, and other written expressions by ChristianWriters.com members

    Jefrin Hannah

    Ticket

    By Jefrin Hannah, in The Reading Room,

    devotionals

    I had to take a 20 minutes bus drive. i never thought it would be a wild one. i bought my ticket as I get into the bus. But i lost it as I look for the change. I realized in the mid way that I don't have my ticket. Quick and careful check through my hang bag confirmed it. Panic mode sets in. Though I appeared to be calm my inside was in great turmoil. What will happen if the ticket checker comes? What a great shame it will be! Lord I bought the ticket but I missed it. I know it was my carelessness but help me. It was my prayer. 
    You have lost just a bus ticket and you are in such agony. But many of my children lost their ticket to eternal life. How much great my agony will be! I heard His gentle voice filled with burden for the lost souls. My heart was rekindles with His burden and as i get down the bus i sent my thanks and decide to help as much as many I can to keep their ticket to eternal life.
    There are many who lost their ticket in mid way like me. They would have got the ticket as they started their journey with Jesus Christ but would have lost it mid way to the world. And there are many who haven't yet got their tickets. What are we going to do about them?  
     

    Josie

    Orphan Annie

    By Josie, in The Reading Room,

    shortstory

     
    Orphan Annie
     
    Chainsaw Jimmy arrived early Saturday morning with his 4-wheeler pickup, ready to do battle on the two Italian cypresses Mom said would likely rip out the house foundations by the end of summer.
     
    Mom shook me almost awake. “Jimmy’s on the porch! See if he wants coffee or anything.”
     
    She stared at me for a minute. I was obviously not ready to meet the public.
     
    “All right, I'll go,” she said.
     
     
    “No, Ma’am, thank ye very much. Y’all stay inside out of the way until I get 'em down,” Jimmy shouted.
     
    He always shouted when he spoke, which was seldom, in his line of work.
     
      After about an hour of shrieking and screeching, I heard loud crashing. Then silence. More screeching, crashing, and what sounded like blankety-blank swearing followed by silence again. This went on for a while until finally, everything stopped and the doorbell rang.
     
     “Answer it, Keesha!” Mom said.
     
    This time, I did. I was ready for company by now and you never know who it might be.
     
    “I’m sorry, Ma’am”, Jimmy said, almost in a normal voice, being out of breath.
     
    Sawdust covered his patched overalls and clung to his bare arms so you could hardly make out the tattoos. He pulled the black bandanna from around his head and wiped at the sweat streaming down his big red face, which was frowning, something unusual for Jimmy’s face.
     
      “I’m really sorry, Miss, there’s no way in—there’s just no way my winch gonna take them stumps,” he said. “Took care of the rest of ‘em, though!”
     
    He pointed to the truck bed. It overflowed with chopped-up trunk and branches. “Tell your mom I’ll be back after I dump these.”
     
    Without waiting for an answer, he climbed in his truck and squeezed around the trunk of the other cypress, which lay across the street.
     
    When he was gone, I went out to look at the monstrous thing. It was scary, huge and full of stuff— Tootsie Roll wrappers, Dairy Queen cups, wads of paper. And hair. Yuck.
     
    While I wondered about the top of those dark green branches that had tried to grow into the clouds, suddenly a horde of birds swarmed over my head and disappeared into our neighbor’s yard. I could not believe it, that they had hung on to their skyscraper apartments through all the commotion.
     
    The fragrant sticky sap was already beginning to harden up where the sawed-off pointy peak used to be, before Jimmy chopped it. I had heard it was poisonous but I rolled some in my hands anyway.
     
    Then I saw bits of shell. And the four babies, that looked like pieces of dry skin. They did not move, even when I touched them gently with my pinky, lightly brushing the soft stuff that mostly covered them inside the nest.
     
    As carefully as I could, I took the nest out of the branches. There was no use leaving it behind for Jimmy to chop up. Even so, I felt like a kidnapper.
     
    “Oh, Honey, they won’t live, they’re so small!”  Mom said, putting the nest in her apron pocket.
     
    “Mom, I’ll take care of them,” I begged. “I can put them in the box my Nikes came in.” 
     
    Mom raised her eyebrows the way she does whenever she has her doubts. She untied her apron with the nest of babies in the pocket and handed it to me.
     
    “Okay, any ideas how are you going to feed them?”
     
    “Yes!” I said over my shoulder.
     
    I guess Mom was not listening as hard as I was. Because just as I cupped the bundled-up nest on the way to my room, I heard a cheep.
     
     My chest jumped. The babies were still alive!
     
     I reached in the apron pocket and lifted out the nest. Four beaks attached to bits of skin were all wide-open wanting food.
     
    “Hang on, babies, I promise to feed you! Just as soon as I figure out how to do it!"

    I pulled all the junk off the closet shelf and finally found the shoebox, dumped out the photos and bottles of old fingernail polish, and lined it with a clean tank top. Then I put the nest in the bird nursery. In case they had already bonded to the apron, I crumpled it around the nest and hung the ties outside the box, so they wouldn’t tangle up.
     
    Already they had stopped cheeping. Panic set in. They needed to eat soon or starve! Then I remembered the liquid fish food.
     
    I put the eyedropper up to the largest of the beaks and wiggled it. Suddenly, it opened wide and so did the other three beaks, all cheeping for their lifesaving dinner.
     
    Candy Cane, the long-necked biggest of the four, grabbed on every time I held the dropper over the nest. He must have been some other kind of bird, maybe a cuckoo, a stowaway. He did seem different from the others.  It was all right. He could not hurt the other three by starving them.  I was the mother now.
     
    Every time they cheeped, I fed them. Finally, they all crashed. And so did I. I dreamed about baby birds all night long.
     
    In the morning, only three cheeping beaks opened for the fish food.
     
    When Mom asked me, "Well? How are they?"
     
    I couldn't think of what to say, and went outside to take care of the one who did not make it. Even though I was not surprised, it was hard. She didn't say anything when I came back in the house. She's good that way, usually.
     
    By Monday morning Orphan Annie, the tiniest bit of skin with the loudest mouth, was sole survivor. Already he seemed bigger, hungrier, louder, and getting cute with a rough miniature Mohawk atop his naked head.
     
    He had earned the right to go to school with me. I caught the school bus with Orphan Annie's nursery box wrapped in my jacket. However, it was way too hot for my jacket and Miss Murphy's nickname was not Eagle Eyes for nothing. Sure enough, she tapped me on the shoulder as we filed into class.
     
    “What do you have in that box, Keesha? I am always suspicious of any box with holes in the lid.”
     
    “It’s my Science Project,” I said, wondering where the inspiration had come from. “I’m entering it in the Science Fair.”
     
    She bought that. She let me keep Orphan Annie in the supplies closet where she stored all the paper, pencils, crayons, and motivators for our Friday Rewards Day Exchange. So far, the wall chart never had enough stars next to my name to offset the black marks. I made up my mind to button my lip and keep my comments to myself according to the aide’s warnings when she walked by with the bingo markers she used to keep track of our progress.
     
     Miss Murphy explained that I needed to raise my hand for an escort to the Supply Closet whenever Orphan Annie cheeped. Instead of the new geek who probably thinks she is something else, suddenly I became somebody in our class. I don’t know why that made such a difference to the other kids. I was still the same person I was Friday, when no one wanted to sit next to me in the cafeteria.
     
    At recess and lunch break, I stayed inside to take care of business. It is actually against school policy to keep anyone inside except for detention. Miss Murphy said it she would speak to anyone who said anything about it. She even offered to take Orphan Annie home with her in case I needed a bird sitter.
     
     Mom picked me up after school and before she could yell, I told her everything was cool with Miss Murphy and about the Science Project.
     
    Notes in Science Project Diary
     
    --He is getting feathers everywhere, twitches his stumpy wing bones, eats bird food, flops out of the box and hops around. I have to keep him in a grocery carton now, with tall sides.
     
    --He has been cheeping so loud it scares me. Is he sick?
    --I put his box on a barstool next to the window in the dining room, so he can have more sunlight and see outside. He is all right, I guess, he eats and even drinks water. He is learning how to fly!  He actually flipped out and fell on the floor. I was so scared, but he was all right. He’s cute, he flops all over the floor hopping because his wings won’t take him far.
     
    --Orphan Annie has a friend!  I guess the birds can hear him and one came over to the window and fluttered around the glass. Andy hopped up to the windowsill and pecked at it! 
     
    -- I took him outside today. To be on the safe side, I tied a piece of string around his ankle. He was scared at first, too much space. Then he hopped and all of sudden, he flew up in the air. I could not believe it. He came down and hopped over to the apple tree. One of the birds came down beside him. I am pretty sure it’s Andy’s friend. I took him back in the house before he got too excited. He was carrying on something terrible. Cheeping like crazy.
     
     
    --Dear Diary, sorry about the delay. Yesterday, something really terrible almost happened. Andy thought the ceiling fan was a tree. He flew right at it!  I screamed and ran for the switch and got there just in time. Thank goodness, it was on low and the blades were barely moving. Still!
     
    --Dear Diary, bad news. I don’t know what to do. Andy will not stay in my room any more.  I had to bring him home from school. Miss Murphy said he made too much noise and no one got any Good Kid Stars this week.  I stayed home from school. Mom doesn’t know yet. I don’t know what will happen when the school checks up on me.
     
    --Andy wants out.  He banged his head on the dining room window. He almost brained himself. I can’t keep him in the house any longer. Mom found out what was going on today, too. She was furious and said she was going to see to it I got to school if she had to start taking me herself and miss work.
     
    --I did it. I gave Orphan Annie a few drops of his favorite baby snack for old time’s sake and took him out in the yard without the string. He sat in my hands and I fluffed up his Mohawk, wondering if the girl birds will admire it. He cheeped and tried to hop out of my hands. It was time.
     
     “Look,” I told him, “you have to take care of yourself. Watch out for hawks and cats. You are a fighter! You can do it.”
     
    Andy’s sparrow friends knew something was up. They clustered in our little apple tree and tried to rouse his curiosity with unusual calls I had not heard before. It was effective, too.
     
    At first, he had trouble. He took off, flew over to the apple tree, and settled on the ground. He tried to hop up the trunk. All at once, the sparrows scattered and flew into the orchard next door. Probably scared by the gray cat that visits every morning.
     
    The cat!  Maybe Andy needed more time, I was thinking, when a sparrow flew over to the porch and perched on a flowerpot not a foot away from me. The sparrow cheeped and that did it. They both flew away. 
     
    Orphan Annie came back, alone. He sat on my head.
     
      “Farewell, thank you, Mother!”  I swear that is what he said.
     
    Then off he went to his big adventure, flapping his tiny brave wings strong and sure like his will to survive, veering with the thermal drafts that tossed him from side to side.
     
    Morning arrived all at once over the mountains. I put my hand over my eyes to shelter them from the glare and strained my eyes to watch the speck circling into the clouds. A shaft of sunlight caught the rough feathers, Orphan Annie’s Mohawk, his special mark that will identify him if he ever comes to visit.
     
    I rubbed my eyes hard, and tried to see him again, but this time he was really out of sight.   I decided to be happy for him, being all grown up and not an orphan any more. It was time for him to be with his own kind. Tears ran down my face, tears from the wind, for I will not cry.
     
    Later that day I baked him a cake with frosting that said “Way to Go, Andy.”
     
    The worst part was telling Miss Murphy. She was really into that project. I figured I would get an F for the assignment, since it wasn’t finished. They let me enter a paper and my drawings in the Science Fair anyway.
     
    I was the only Special Ed kid that did a project. I can’t do math higher than 2 + 2 and I still got an A on my report card. Go figure. (That’s a joke.)  According to Miss Murphy, math does not matter if you can work around it.
     
    Mom gave me some binoculars and a bird book. So far, all the sparrows have smooth heads. None with a rough-feathered crown. 
     
     
    O

    Jorge Acevedo
    devotionals

    I went for a walk among the tombstones yesterday. Your may think, Morbid? Weird? But it wasn't my first time doing that sort of thing. I quietly strolled around the small, real old cemetery near where I am writing this. I saw tombstones dating back to the early 1800's! Some burial places have been reclaimed by nature with dates and names no longer recognizable. A handful of other crypts are recent.
     
    One of the burial places looked kind of eerie... there was a headless statue of an angel with severed wings and at the bottom of the statue the words, 'Plant Kindness!' Obviously whoever decapitated the thing didn't know how to read.
     
    So, as I walked around reading the stones, "Rest In Peace," "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus," and "Devoted Husband, Father, and Brother," a few thoughts came to mind that gave me peace.
    Something Jesus said kept echoing in my mind that gives us serious perspective about life. He said,
     
    “Don’t save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy them. And thieves can break into your house and steal them. Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them." Matthew 6:19-20 ERV
     
    Of course Jesus wasn't downing protecting keepsakes and meaningful things. And He wasn't trashing the idea of having a nice bank account, savings, and being financially responsible. But the Lord was giving us perspective, reminding us that being focused on what's down here is not where it's all at.
     
    Some people are all about the mighty dollar. Like the guy who always told his wife that what they had was his money, his fortune, and that he didn't want her touching it. At his funeral, she leaned over the casket and quietly slipped a check into his suit jacket, a check for a million dollars made to him. And she said, "Here you go honey, you can have it."
     
    You and I know we can't take anything with us when we die. Someone else is going to enjoy the fruit of our labors. The point is to keep our eyes on eternity and to make sure that when our time comes we're going to go up that eternal elevator and not down. This life is not all there is... Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins so that if we believe in Him by faith, we will make it to heaven one day! And there, in heaven, Jesus said He has built mansions, places for us to live that are beyond our wildest dreams. And gold is something that will be so abundant in heaven that we will walk on it. Ironic, isn't it? The very things the Lord tells us not to hold tightly to down here will be part of our reward up there!
     
    One more thing caught my attention as I walked among the tombs... a pair of work gloves someone had left behind. Maybe they belong to the person who dug the last hole for the last casket. I don't know or want to know... disturbing! But the empty gloves reminded me of how empty life on earth can be.
     
    You may still not be seeing the picture I am trying to portray, though. So here it is in plain type setting: Knowing God through having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, fully satisfies now and gives us hope and peace beyond the grave. Yes, cemeteries usually go hand in hand with tears, grief, and heartache. That's normal and therapeutic. But the life God promises us is not just for the here and now but also for the hereafter.
     
    The heavenly life the Bible points us to is about companionship, about knowing and being with our loved ones forever, about stunning beauty, about fun times and laughter and wonder, about eating and drinking and doing those things we love, and about being with the Lord. We will be riding on a spiritual high forever! I want that... don't you?
     
    So, next time life is draining you, maybe go for a walk among the tombstones. You'll gain perspective and be reminded that this life on earth is not all there is but that there's a better one ahead after the grave.
     
    Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment if you'd like.
     
    Ps. If you want to think more about heaven, check out chapter 9 of my recent book, Hecklers In Your Crowd: Silencing The Voices That Hold You Back.

    Jefrin Hannah

    Hobby

    By Jefrin Hannah, in The Reading Room,

    shortstory

    "Granny!" Cathy rushed into her house calling her grandmother.
    "Kiddo! am in the garden", came her granny's voice.
    Cathy removed her school bag and run to the garden.
    "What is the matter Cathy?"
    "Granny, I have a question. What is a hobby? My upper class-men were talking about it in the bus."
    Grandma smiled ans said,"Hobby is something that one do in their leisure time for enjoyment. Gardening is my hobby. I love to plant and tend the trees. See it's something one likes to do."
    "Oh! What can be a hobby?" Cathy asked in a sing song thinking voice.
    "It can be anything. Some collect objects, some engage in drawing, writing, stitching, some prefer reading while it's sports for others."
    "Hmm! Then what hobby can I have?" wondered Cathy.
    "It's up to you kiddo. Pickup a hobby that you will enjoy. Now, go change your uniform and have some snacks".
    It's dinner time. Everyone was seated.
    "Mom, what is your hobby?"
    "Why! It's stitching."
    "Dad! What's yours".
    "Well! It's books for me. I love to read."
    "Oh!"
    "What's the matter Cath?" her father asked upon seeing her playing with the food absentmindedly.
    "It's about hobby. I am thinking of a hobby for me."
    "Well! Just choose an activity you are interested in" advised her mother.
    Two days went by. Yet she couldn't find one that interested her. The third day Cathy came squealing from the school, "Granny! I found mine."
    Astonished her grandma asked, "What do you find?"
    "I have find a hobby. I am going to collect stars", said Cathy with a big smile.
    "Stars?"
    "Yeah! Today my teacher gave me a star for finishing my work. And I thought of collecting stars".
    "OK?" told the grandma and waited for Cathy to continue.
    "So, from now on whenever I get answer for my prayer I am going to give a star for me", finished Cathy hoping up and down.
    Smile broke the confusion on the grandma's face. "Wow! It's a nice one Cathy. Let us see how much stars you collect in a year."
    "I am going to collect a lot. So i will pray daily to Jesus to answer my prayers. I will pray for my friends, teachers and classmates also. I am going to tell mom."
    "Thank you Jesus for giving her a desire to pray." Grandma prayed silently and smiled at Cathy as she went running to the kitchen.. 
     

    Njoku Vivian Chidinma
    devotionals

    In those days I worked for a private firm as a social media journalist, we were very enthusiastic about being the first to break a news on the media platform. 

    However the rotational editor was more interested in updates to that Breaking News.  He/She will say; can you get the cause of the incident?.  Likewise the Holy Book is filled with updates, a song writer said; 'it is new every morning'. Every time you read a particular verse, the Spirit of God reveals something new.
     
    When Jesus was tempted in Luke 4, Satan quoted Psalm 91 when he said; "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" but Jesus gave him the updated version, He quoted Deut. 6:16; "Do not put the LORD your God to the test" .
     
    The reason we have .arguments among those in the Body of Christ, is because no one wants to hear the updated version, they pick one verse and close their minds to the revelation meaning 
    in other verses and belittle other teachings. When you think you know God totally, He will show you another side. Who can discover the end knowledge of God? Who can graduate from the University of the Holy Spirit?
     
    Thank you Holy Spirit, my life partner.

  • The Reading Room

    Articles, devotionals, short stories, and other written expressions by ChristianWriters.com members

    Jefrin Hannah

    Ticket

    By Jefrin Hannah, in The Reading Room,

    devotionals

    I had to take a 20 minutes bus drive. i never thought it would be a wild one. i bought my ticket as I get into the bus. But i lost it as I look for the change. I realized in the mid way that I don't have my ticket. Quick and careful check through my hang bag confirmed it. Panic mode sets in. Though I appeared to be calm my inside was in great turmoil. What will happen if the ticket checker comes? What a great shame it will be! Lord I bought the ticket but I missed it. I know it was my carelessness but help me. It was my prayer. 
    You have lost just a bus ticket and you are in such agony. But many of my children lost their ticket to eternal life. How much great my agony will be! I heard His gentle voice filled with burden for the lost souls. My heart was rekindles with His burden and as i get down the bus i sent my thanks and decide to help as much as many I can to keep their ticket to eternal life.
    There are many who lost their ticket in mid way like me. They would have got the ticket as they started their journey with Jesus Christ but would have lost it mid way to the world. And there are many who haven't yet got their tickets. What are we going to do about them?  
     

    Josie

    Orphan Annie

    By Josie, in The Reading Room,

    shortstory

     
    Orphan Annie
     
    Chainsaw Jimmy arrived early Saturday morning with his 4-wheeler pickup, ready to do battle on the two Italian cypresses Mom said would likely rip out the house foundations by the end of summer.
     
    Mom shook me almost awake. “Jimmy’s on the porch! See if he wants coffee or anything.”
     
    She stared at me for a minute. I was obviously not ready to meet the public.
     
    “All right, I'll go,” she said.
     
     
    “No, Ma’am, thank ye very much. Y’all stay inside out of the way until I get 'em down,” Jimmy shouted.
     
    He always shouted when he spoke, which was seldom, in his line of work.
     
      After about an hour of shrieking and screeching, I heard loud crashing. Then silence. More screeching, crashing, and what sounded like blankety-blank swearing followed by silence again. This went on for a while until finally, everything stopped and the doorbell rang.
     
     “Answer it, Keesha!” Mom said.
     
    This time, I did. I was ready for company by now and you never know who it might be.
     
    “I’m sorry, Ma’am”, Jimmy said, almost in a normal voice, being out of breath.
     
    Sawdust covered his patched overalls and clung to his bare arms so you could hardly make out the tattoos. He pulled the black bandanna from around his head and wiped at the sweat streaming down his big red face, which was frowning, something unusual for Jimmy’s face.
     
      “I’m really sorry, Miss, there’s no way in—there’s just no way my winch gonna take them stumps,” he said. “Took care of the rest of ‘em, though!”
     
    He pointed to the truck bed. It overflowed with chopped-up trunk and branches. “Tell your mom I’ll be back after I dump these.”
     
    Without waiting for an answer, he climbed in his truck and squeezed around the trunk of the other cypress, which lay across the street.
     
    When he was gone, I went out to look at the monstrous thing. It was scary, huge and full of stuff— Tootsie Roll wrappers, Dairy Queen cups, wads of paper. And hair. Yuck.
     
    While I wondered about the top of those dark green branches that had tried to grow into the clouds, suddenly a horde of birds swarmed over my head and disappeared into our neighbor’s yard. I could not believe it, that they had hung on to their skyscraper apartments through all the commotion.
     
    The fragrant sticky sap was already beginning to harden up where the sawed-off pointy peak used to be, before Jimmy chopped it. I had heard it was poisonous but I rolled some in my hands anyway.
     
    Then I saw bits of shell. And the four babies, that looked like pieces of dry skin. They did not move, even when I touched them gently with my pinky, lightly brushing the soft stuff that mostly covered them inside the nest.
     
    As carefully as I could, I took the nest out of the branches. There was no use leaving it behind for Jimmy to chop up. Even so, I felt like a kidnapper.
     
    “Oh, Honey, they won’t live, they’re so small!”  Mom said, putting the nest in her apron pocket.
     
    “Mom, I’ll take care of them,” I begged. “I can put them in the box my Nikes came in.” 
     
    Mom raised her eyebrows the way she does whenever she has her doubts. She untied her apron with the nest of babies in the pocket and handed it to me.
     
    “Okay, any ideas how are you going to feed them?”
     
    “Yes!” I said over my shoulder.
     
    I guess Mom was not listening as hard as I was. Because just as I cupped the bundled-up nest on the way to my room, I heard a cheep.
     
     My chest jumped. The babies were still alive!
     
     I reached in the apron pocket and lifted out the nest. Four beaks attached to bits of skin were all wide-open wanting food.
     
    “Hang on, babies, I promise to feed you! Just as soon as I figure out how to do it!"

    I pulled all the junk off the closet shelf and finally found the shoebox, dumped out the photos and bottles of old fingernail polish, and lined it with a clean tank top. Then I put the nest in the bird nursery. In case they had already bonded to the apron, I crumpled it around the nest and hung the ties outside the box, so they wouldn’t tangle up.
     
    Already they had stopped cheeping. Panic set in. They needed to eat soon or starve! Then I remembered the liquid fish food.
     
    I put the eyedropper up to the largest of the beaks and wiggled it. Suddenly, it opened wide and so did the other three beaks, all cheeping for their lifesaving dinner.
     
    Candy Cane, the long-necked biggest of the four, grabbed on every time I held the dropper over the nest. He must have been some other kind of bird, maybe a cuckoo, a stowaway. He did seem different from the others.  It was all right. He could not hurt the other three by starving them.  I was the mother now.
     
    Every time they cheeped, I fed them. Finally, they all crashed. And so did I. I dreamed about baby birds all night long.
     
    In the morning, only three cheeping beaks opened for the fish food.
     
    When Mom asked me, "Well? How are they?"
     
    I couldn't think of what to say, and went outside to take care of the one who did not make it. Even though I was not surprised, it was hard. She didn't say anything when I came back in the house. She's good that way, usually.
     
    By Monday morning Orphan Annie, the tiniest bit of skin with the loudest mouth, was sole survivor. Already he seemed bigger, hungrier, louder, and getting cute with a rough miniature Mohawk atop his naked head.
     
    He had earned the right to go to school with me. I caught the school bus with Orphan Annie's nursery box wrapped in my jacket. However, it was way too hot for my jacket and Miss Murphy's nickname was not Eagle Eyes for nothing. Sure enough, she tapped me on the shoulder as we filed into class.
     
    “What do you have in that box, Keesha? I am always suspicious of any box with holes in the lid.”
     
    “It’s my Science Project,” I said, wondering where the inspiration had come from. “I’m entering it in the Science Fair.”
     
    She bought that. She let me keep Orphan Annie in the supplies closet where she stored all the paper, pencils, crayons, and motivators for our Friday Rewards Day Exchange. So far, the wall chart never had enough stars next to my name to offset the black marks. I made up my mind to button my lip and keep my comments to myself according to the aide’s warnings when she walked by with the bingo markers she used to keep track of our progress.
     
     Miss Murphy explained that I needed to raise my hand for an escort to the Supply Closet whenever Orphan Annie cheeped. Instead of the new geek who probably thinks she is something else, suddenly I became somebody in our class. I don’t know why that made such a difference to the other kids. I was still the same person I was Friday, when no one wanted to sit next to me in the cafeteria.
     
    At recess and lunch break, I stayed inside to take care of business. It is actually against school policy to keep anyone inside except for detention. Miss Murphy said it she would speak to anyone who said anything about it. She even offered to take Orphan Annie home with her in case I needed a bird sitter.
     
     Mom picked me up after school and before she could yell, I told her everything was cool with Miss Murphy and about the Science Project.
     
    Notes in Science Project Diary
     
    --He is getting feathers everywhere, twitches his stumpy wing bones, eats bird food, flops out of the box and hops around. I have to keep him in a grocery carton now, with tall sides.
     
    --He has been cheeping so loud it scares me. Is he sick?
    --I put his box on a barstool next to the window in the dining room, so he can have more sunlight and see outside. He is all right, I guess, he eats and even drinks water. He is learning how to fly!  He actually flipped out and fell on the floor. I was so scared, but he was all right. He’s cute, he flops all over the floor hopping because his wings won’t take him far.
     
    --Orphan Annie has a friend!  I guess the birds can hear him and one came over to the window and fluttered around the glass. Andy hopped up to the windowsill and pecked at it! 
     
    -- I took him outside today. To be on the safe side, I tied a piece of string around his ankle. He was scared at first, too much space. Then he hopped and all of sudden, he flew up in the air. I could not believe it. He came down and hopped over to the apple tree. One of the birds came down beside him. I am pretty sure it’s Andy’s friend. I took him back in the house before he got too excited. He was carrying on something terrible. Cheeping like crazy.
     
     
    --Dear Diary, sorry about the delay. Yesterday, something really terrible almost happened. Andy thought the ceiling fan was a tree. He flew right at it!  I screamed and ran for the switch and got there just in time. Thank goodness, it was on low and the blades were barely moving. Still!
     
    --Dear Diary, bad news. I don’t know what to do. Andy will not stay in my room any more.  I had to bring him home from school. Miss Murphy said he made too much noise and no one got any Good Kid Stars this week.  I stayed home from school. Mom doesn’t know yet. I don’t know what will happen when the school checks up on me.
     
    --Andy wants out.  He banged his head on the dining room window. He almost brained himself. I can’t keep him in the house any longer. Mom found out what was going on today, too. She was furious and said she was going to see to it I got to school if she had to start taking me herself and miss work.
     
    --I did it. I gave Orphan Annie a few drops of his favorite baby snack for old time’s sake and took him out in the yard without the string. He sat in my hands and I fluffed up his Mohawk, wondering if the girl birds will admire it. He cheeped and tried to hop out of my hands. It was time.
     
     “Look,” I told him, “you have to take care of yourself. Watch out for hawks and cats. You are a fighter! You can do it.”
     
    Andy’s sparrow friends knew something was up. They clustered in our little apple tree and tried to rouse his curiosity with unusual calls I had not heard before. It was effective, too.
     
    At first, he had trouble. He took off, flew over to the apple tree, and settled on the ground. He tried to hop up the trunk. All at once, the sparrows scattered and flew into the orchard next door. Probably scared by the gray cat that visits every morning.
     
    The cat!  Maybe Andy needed more time, I was thinking, when a sparrow flew over to the porch and perched on a flowerpot not a foot away from me. The sparrow cheeped and that did it. They both flew away. 
     
    Orphan Annie came back, alone. He sat on my head.
     
      “Farewell, thank you, Mother!”  I swear that is what he said.
     
    Then off he went to his big adventure, flapping his tiny brave wings strong and sure like his will to survive, veering with the thermal drafts that tossed him from side to side.
     
    Morning arrived all at once over the mountains. I put my hand over my eyes to shelter them from the glare and strained my eyes to watch the speck circling into the clouds. A shaft of sunlight caught the rough feathers, Orphan Annie’s Mohawk, his special mark that will identify him if he ever comes to visit.
     
    I rubbed my eyes hard, and tried to see him again, but this time he was really out of sight.   I decided to be happy for him, being all grown up and not an orphan any more. It was time for him to be with his own kind. Tears ran down my face, tears from the wind, for I will not cry.
     
    Later that day I baked him a cake with frosting that said “Way to Go, Andy.”
     
    The worst part was telling Miss Murphy. She was really into that project. I figured I would get an F for the assignment, since it wasn’t finished. They let me enter a paper and my drawings in the Science Fair anyway.
     
    I was the only Special Ed kid that did a project. I can’t do math higher than 2 + 2 and I still got an A on my report card. Go figure. (That’s a joke.)  According to Miss Murphy, math does not matter if you can work around it.
     
    Mom gave me some binoculars and a bird book. So far, all the sparrows have smooth heads. None with a rough-feathered crown. 
     
     
    O

    Jorge Acevedo
    devotionals

    I went for a walk among the tombstones yesterday. Your may think, Morbid? Weird? But it wasn't my first time doing that sort of thing. I quietly strolled around the small, real old cemetery near where I am writing this. I saw tombstones dating back to the early 1800's! Some burial places have been reclaimed by nature with dates and names no longer recognizable. A handful of other crypts are recent.
     
    One of the burial places looked kind of eerie... there was a headless statue of an angel with severed wings and at the bottom of the statue the words, 'Plant Kindness!' Obviously whoever decapitated the thing didn't know how to read.
     
    So, as I walked around reading the stones, "Rest In Peace," "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus," and "Devoted Husband, Father, and Brother," a few thoughts came to mind that gave me peace.
    Something Jesus said kept echoing in my mind that gives us serious perspective about life. He said,
     
    “Don’t save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy them. And thieves can break into your house and steal them. Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them." Matthew 6:19-20 ERV
     
    Of course Jesus wasn't downing protecting keepsakes and meaningful things. And He wasn't trashing the idea of having a nice bank account, savings, and being financially responsible. But the Lord was giving us perspective, reminding us that being focused on what's down here is not where it's all at.
     
    Some people are all about the mighty dollar. Like the guy who always told his wife that what they had was his money, his fortune, and that he didn't want her touching it. At his funeral, she leaned over the casket and quietly slipped a check into his suit jacket, a check for a million dollars made to him. And she said, "Here you go honey, you can have it."
     
    You and I know we can't take anything with us when we die. Someone else is going to enjoy the fruit of our labors. The point is to keep our eyes on eternity and to make sure that when our time comes we're going to go up that eternal elevator and not down. This life is not all there is... Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins so that if we believe in Him by faith, we will make it to heaven one day! And there, in heaven, Jesus said He has built mansions, places for us to live that are beyond our wildest dreams. And gold is something that will be so abundant in heaven that we will walk on it. Ironic, isn't it? The very things the Lord tells us not to hold tightly to down here will be part of our reward up there!
     
    One more thing caught my attention as I walked among the tombs... a pair of work gloves someone had left behind. Maybe they belong to the person who dug the last hole for the last casket. I don't know or want to know... disturbing! But the empty gloves reminded me of how empty life on earth can be.
     
    You may still not be seeing the picture I am trying to portray, though. So here it is in plain type setting: Knowing God through having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, fully satisfies now and gives us hope and peace beyond the grave. Yes, cemeteries usually go hand in hand with tears, grief, and heartache. That's normal and therapeutic. But the life God promises us is not just for the here and now but also for the hereafter.
     
    The heavenly life the Bible points us to is about companionship, about knowing and being with our loved ones forever, about stunning beauty, about fun times and laughter and wonder, about eating and drinking and doing those things we love, and about being with the Lord. We will be riding on a spiritual high forever! I want that... don't you?
     
    So, next time life is draining you, maybe go for a walk among the tombstones. You'll gain perspective and be reminded that this life on earth is not all there is but that there's a better one ahead after the grave.
     
    Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment if you'd like.
     
    Ps. If you want to think more about heaven, check out chapter 9 of my recent book, Hecklers In Your Crowd: Silencing The Voices That Hold You Back.

    Jefrin Hannah

    Hobby

    By Jefrin Hannah, in The Reading Room,

    shortstory

    "Granny!" Cathy rushed into her house calling her grandmother.
    "Kiddo! am in the garden", came her granny's voice.
    Cathy removed her school bag and run to the garden.
    "What is the matter Cathy?"
    "Granny, I have a question. What is a hobby? My upper class-men were talking about it in the bus."
    Grandma smiled ans said,"Hobby is something that one do in their leisure time for enjoyment. Gardening is my hobby. I love to plant and tend the trees. See it's something one likes to do."
    "Oh! What can be a hobby?" Cathy asked in a sing song thinking voice.
    "It can be anything. Some collect objects, some engage in drawing, writing, stitching, some prefer reading while it's sports for others."
    "Hmm! Then what hobby can I have?" wondered Cathy.
    "It's up to you kiddo. Pickup a hobby that you will enjoy. Now, go change your uniform and have some snacks".
    It's dinner time. Everyone was seated.
    "Mom, what is your hobby?"
    "Why! It's stitching."
    "Dad! What's yours".
    "Well! It's books for me. I love to read."
    "Oh!"
    "What's the matter Cath?" her father asked upon seeing her playing with the food absentmindedly.
    "It's about hobby. I am thinking of a hobby for me."
    "Well! Just choose an activity you are interested in" advised her mother.
    Two days went by. Yet she couldn't find one that interested her. The third day Cathy came squealing from the school, "Granny! I found mine."
    Astonished her grandma asked, "What do you find?"
    "I have find a hobby. I am going to collect stars", said Cathy with a big smile.
    "Stars?"
    "Yeah! Today my teacher gave me a star for finishing my work. And I thought of collecting stars".
    "OK?" told the grandma and waited for Cathy to continue.
    "So, from now on whenever I get answer for my prayer I am going to give a star for me", finished Cathy hoping up and down.
    Smile broke the confusion on the grandma's face. "Wow! It's a nice one Cathy. Let us see how much stars you collect in a year."
    "I am going to collect a lot. So i will pray daily to Jesus to answer my prayers. I will pray for my friends, teachers and classmates also. I am going to tell mom."
    "Thank you Jesus for giving her a desire to pray." Grandma prayed silently and smiled at Cathy as she went running to the kitchen.. 
     

    Njoku Vivian Chidinma
    devotionals

    In those days I worked for a private firm as a social media journalist, we were very enthusiastic about being the first to break a news on the media platform. 

    However the rotational editor was more interested in updates to that Breaking News.  He/She will say; can you get the cause of the incident?.  Likewise the Holy Book is filled with updates, a song writer said; 'it is new every morning'. Every time you read a particular verse, the Spirit of God reveals something new.
     
    When Jesus was tempted in Luke 4, Satan quoted Psalm 91 when he said; "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" but Jesus gave him the updated version, He quoted Deut. 6:16; "Do not put the LORD your God to the test" .
     
    The reason we have .arguments among those in the Body of Christ, is because no one wants to hear the updated version, they pick one verse and close their minds to the revelation meaning 
    in other verses and belittle other teachings. When you think you know God totally, He will show you another side. Who can discover the end knowledge of God? Who can graduate from the University of the Holy Spirit?
     
    Thank you Holy Spirit, my life partner.

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