Category Archives: Story

Mark, Matthew, and Luke walk into this coffee shop…

Now that we’ve used it twice, I doubt we’ll be returning to this script any time in the near future, so I thought I’d share the Easter Sunday worship script I wrote with the youth of Trinity Heights U.M.C. We first wrote and presented this in 2015, and again this year…

Enjoy!

A Script For Easter

Sitting With Sparrows (1998)

(This is an old one – a story reflection on communion. But I don’t have it posted anywhere here, so thought I’d share!)


He believes the sparrows know him by name, he has spent every morning with them for so long. He sits at the corner table, just far enough under the canopy to be clear of rain but open enough to be in the warming rays of the morning sun. Each day he arrives five minutes before the coffee shop opens its doors, and sits quietly with a book du jour, while the sparrows flock around him as soon as he sits. The shop’s serving staff has become so accustomed to him that they bring a hot cafe mocha and muffin to him just as the doors are unlocked. Silently drinking his coffee he splits the muffin in half, then patiently breaks off pieces to feed the swarming, fighting birds.

It was a spring morning, free of the chill that often settled in the desert air. The sun was shining brightly and warmly through a cloudless sky as the man walked up and took his seat. Closing his eyes for a moment, smiling at the constancy of the old man, William turned from the counter and began mixing the man’s regular cup of coffee. William selected a fresh muffin from the day’s assortment and placed it on a small plate he carried with the coffee to the door. Jenna smiled at him, unlocking and opening the door that he might step into the sun himself.

The old man was reading as William walked up, but looked up from his book smiling. Upon seeing William the man tilted his head, his smile fading, and he lowered the book to the table as William placed the muffin and coffee before him.

“Good morning, sir,” William said with his customary lopsided grin, beginning to turn to return to the counter.

“Just a moment please, son,” the man responded. William looked back at him. “Do you have a few minutes, son?”

William’s mouth and eyebrows undoubtably showed his surprise for a moment, for in the year and a half the man had been sitting at the table every morning he had rarely spoken much to any of the staff. His first visit he had come into the shop, waited in line, and demurely asked for the cafe mocha “and a nice muffin, please.” Midway through his third week of visiting the shop the staff members had begun to take a secret joy in preparing his coffee and selecting a muffin for him just as he arrived. The man always smiled and thanked whoever served him, paying an even six dollars each time, leaving his server a seventy-five cent tip and a feeling of joyful consistency. “Just a few words with an older man?”

“Certainly,” William said, pulling a chair from the table and settling into it. The sparrows chirped as they hung from the wall or sat atop the roof looking down. Beginning to unrwap his muffin, the man looked at William.
“My name is William, sir.”

The man stopped and offered William his hand. “Charles O’Rourke. Nice to meet you, William.” William shok the offered hand, smiling.

“I don’t think any of us have ever known your name,” William commented, then felt a pang in his stomach that this was a stupid thing to say.

“Perhaps none of the current staff, but Joseph and I spoke a few times,” the man said as he returned to unwrapping and splitting his muffin. Joseph had worked at the shop for two months the past winter; he had been very quiet around the staff and customers, and William knew little about him save that he had an affinity for reading poetry during his breaks. “Your eyes seem troubled today, William.”

“Pardon me?”

“Forgive an old man’s candor, but I find politeness has limits. Did the two of you fight, or is it something else? I am, of course, referring to the pretty blonde who often kisses you as she sometimes gets her morning coffee.”

“Her name is Kristin,” William told Charles. “We…” His mind was spinning at the man’s perceptiveness, and his recent discussion with Kris; he couldn’t put anything into words. She had told him the night before she was in love with someone else. She had tried to allay his breaking heart with words of comfort, to no avail. He could not remember much of what she had said after telling him she loved another, except that she could not see him for awhile. She had met him at a nearby restaraunt and he had left her there, teary eyed over a peach iced tea. “We broke up last night,” he told the man, wondering as he did so why he did so, hearing a finality in his voice he hadn’t known would be there.

“Ah,” was all Charles said in response. William watched as he broke a piece of muffin and held it out to a waiting sparrow. The bird paused, cocking its head to eye William and then, deciding he must be safe, hopped up to the offered morsel. Taking it from Charles’s fingers he winged off to the roof while the man used his free hand to sip his coffee.

Jenna pocked her head out the door. “Excuse me,” she said politely, though there was surprise lurking behind her cordiality, “William, we’ll need your help in a few moments.”

“Certainly, young miss. I won’t detain him much longer,” Charles said, looking up and smiling at Jenna. She smiled back and ducked inside. Charles took a bit from his half muffin, breaking a piece off the other. William thought of the questions that would lay in wait inside the shop.

“My wife used to bake half a dozen large muffins every Sunday and Wednesday,” Charles said as he slipped a morsel to another expectant sparrow. “We would split one while they were still warm, sitting in our kitchen by the picture window. Each with a cup of coffee. We would split another each morning. On Saturday she would crumble the five remaining muffins, and place them in the feeder outside the window. For many happy years we spent our mornings together this way; sharing a muffin and coffee, talking and sitting with one another, watching the birds come to feed off the same bread.”

A plane passed by on approach in the sky, and the man looked up as it flew overhead. William noticed a dampness in Charles’s eyes; the mist that often accompanies memories. He could hear the gentle hum of life beginning in the coffee house; knew the need they had for him inside, but he remained sitting, listening.

“These were always moments of great happiness between us,” the man said, “despite what might have happened the day before or what might be ahead.

“She took sick two years ago. We tried to share a muffin every morning in the hospital, but it was not the same.” The man paused, sipping his coffee and feeding a chirping bird. “There was still happiness and peace in that time together, but there was also an air of unease in the unfamiliar surrounding that we never overcame. When she finally passed away, it was late one morning, and our muffin lay untouched by her bed.

“I’ve felt her presence since then, young man; every morning.” Charles took a bite from his muffin, looking at William. “I feel her with me every morning I sit here, and the joy and peace we had remains. They help me through the day.” He smiled, looking William squarely in the eye. “Bad times are real, but joy and peace, they are more real.”

The door opened and Jenna was there. “Looks like they need you inside, William,” Charles told him. “You have a good day, young man, and find joy where you can.”

William stood, smiling at the old man. “Thank you, Mr. O’Rourke. You have a pleasant day, too.” Charles tilted his head to look up at him. “I will. Thank you.”

William turned, going inside the busy coffee shop. Later, after Charles had left the table behind, William watched the remaining plate carefully. When the crowd of sparrows had finished the last crumbs of muffin, William retrieved the plate and cup; then went on smiling and serving the various souls that came to him that day.

-1998, rvb

Her Majesty’s Constable (pt. 1 [of 4?])

H.M. Constable

’Tis a dang’rous act, this tale I propose.
Much that would amaze, magick and wondrous
hast been forgotten, ‘ere these days we live
for the fear such wonders wouldst also give.

-William Shakespeare, “Love’s Labors Won”

1. The Forest

It was almost dusk, the sun setting low, when the first villagers saw the man with the long blue coat journeying the road toward their town. He travelled by foot, but slowly, a child walking wearily alongside him. The child carried little but a stick and a small bag slung around his shoulder, while the man with the coat had a larger bag over his shoulder and a second down by one side. They walked the King’s Road, its once great path was now aged and worn as it had seen the passing of time but few travelers in the decades since an almost forgotten king had extended his reign to this northern land, far from the kingdom’s center. The villagers were still loyal, of course, and once or twice a year someone would travel by their way to give them news from elsewhere in the kingdom; and rarer, still, the visit of a tax collector to receive some meager payment from the village’s mayor on behalf of its humble townsfolk. All visitors to the village would return home, southward, remembering little of note of their visit and remarking of it even less.

Yet the site of any visitor was a novelty, so as the man and child walked the road past the first few outlying homes, children peered through windows and adults stood at doors watching their progress. The man in the long blue coat, its large lapels standing up just over his ears, would occasionally turn his head to nod and smile at the villagers as he and the boy walked past. His brown eyes were wide, with wonder or laughter one couldn’t tell, but his countenance was that of a man of mirth and peace. The boy tended to keep his head down, his eyes on the road, or his feet, or the stick that he would occasionally swing around before him. Though none could see them, his green eyes appeared as though they burned with light from within, and a small shock of bright red hair hung beneath the simple cap he wore.

As they walked past the two market stalls that butted the road and marked the beginning of the village proper, a large raptor, perhaps a hawk, dived inward to the village from the forest beyond, swooping low over their heads before disappearing in an arc behind one of the larger houses toward the center of town. The man and boy walked on, toward the fountain at town center, which by long custom was where visitors would gather to seek hospitality for a night or more.

In those days, showing hospitality to others was a critical way of life. Man, woman, or child never knew when circumstances in their life might lead them to have to take a trek to some distant village or town within the kingdom, and at such times one would depend on the hospitality shown by others. So it was customary, when a visitor gathered at a town’s center, which was usually marked by a well or fountain, that some members of the village would offer a night’s lodging and meal.

By the time they had reached the town’s fountain, several villagers were there to greet them. The mayor of the town, who enthusiastically and bombastically welcomed them to the Village of Farhaven, graciously invited them to join he and his wife for dinner that evening. A villager inquired if the two would give he and his wife the honor of staying at their home, pointing to a small house near one of the market stalls. He shared that they currently had the luxury of an empty room in which the man and his squire could be very comfortable in.

The man in the blue coat bristled at the term. “While I am grateful for your hospitality and will gladly accept,” he said, his speech a bit more refined than that of the villagers,” “this is my son, not a squire. He is a freeman just as I. Perhaps free-er, in some ways,” he mused, rustling the cap on the boy’s head. The boy, who had until then kept his eyes on his feet, looked up then, smiling at his father. The villagers around saw the intensity of his green eyes, and many of the women marveled at how incredibly handsome he was, even at such a young age.

“I’m terribly sorry, sir,” the villager replied, “no disrespect was meant, I assure you. We will be glad to have you, after you’ve supped with the mayor.”

“Nonsense, Demetrius, you shall join us, too,” the mayor, a man named Baum, declared, “and your wife, of course. I would show you the same hospitality you show these visitors to our fine village. Please, come by in an hour, and we shall be ready to receive all of you! For now, perhaps good Demetrius would show you to where you can safely store your belongings.”

“I’m Demetrius, and my wife Glinda is over there by the doorway,” he said, pointing toward the home where a young woman stood watching them. “Please, you are welcome to join us for the night.”

“Thank you,” the man in the blue coat said, hoisting his packs once again. “We are deeply grateful to you for your hospitality. The trip has been long, and if it is not an imposition we hope to stay and rest in your village for a few days before resuming our journey.”

As they continued walking toward the house, Demetrius inquired, “It is rare for people to come this far north, lest they bring us news or come to collect taxes. Are you here for such a purpose?”

The man in the blue coat laughed, a deep chortle that sounded like mirth wrapped in a blanket of baritone. “No, no, dear sir,” he replied, “nothing of the sort. No, my son and I are…” He paused for a few moments, long enough that Demetrius stopped to look at the man, worried what the answer might be. But the man continued, as though he had just sought he correct word, “…collectors on behalf of the Queen, but we bring no news nor do we seek taxes. But we travel, seeking out the stories and curiosities of our kingdom to share with her majesty.” As he took another step, his coat lapels shifted enough that Demetrius spied an ornamental pin tucked on his inner jacket. it was a shield, with an arrow with some letters.

“I pardon, sir, but I spy your badge; if you are not a tax collector, what sort of official do you be?” Demetrius asked.

The man stopped, just short of a small vegetable garden afront Demetrius’ cabin, Glinda smiling and looking on, unaware of the conversation. The man turned to face Demetrius, and the boy stepped back, a quick glance to his father and then to the doorway where Glinda stood puzzled.

“My good host, Demetrius, I suppose I should properly introduced myself.” His left hand, free from carrying a bag, gripped the side lapel of his long blue coat and pulled it open, to reveal the badge pin he wore on his inner jacket. The badge was indeed a shield, with an arrow, it’s shaft running at an angle from bottom left to top right; the point just poking out over the edge of the shield. To the left of the arrow were the initials H.M. and to the right and below, C. “I am Her Majesty’s Constable,” the man in the blue coat continued, “and for reasons of security, I often travel under many names. You may me Smith,” he finished.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Constable Smith,” Demetrius replied, and then to the boy, “and young Master Smith. You are welcome, too.” The boy looked up at Demetrius, who marveled at the boy’s green eyes and smile. Smith and his son walked into the house, greeting Glinda and marveling at some ancient clockwork on the fireplace mantle that she had inherited from her father. Made of copper, there was a clock face standing on top of the shape of a great tree stump, with doors where its roots spread down to the base. Glinda shared how when the clock struck the hour, the doors opened and a beautiful eagle slid forward and flapped its wings once per hour as the clock chimed. Indeed, the clockwork began to turn and chime just as she shared this, and an eagle of gold emerged from the bronze doors, flapping its wings six times as the hours struck.

“We’ve been invited to dinner at the mayor’s,” Demetrius shared with Glinda, “in about an hour’s time. Would you show our guests, Her Majesty’s Constable and Master Smith, to their room for the night. I will go draw a bucket of water for us so we can all freshen up.”

About half an hour after being shown to their room and leaving their bags upon the four post bed that lay against one wall, the man was sitting on a small chair a the front of the house, watching his boy wander the garden, wondering at the stalks of asparagus and the blooms on chives. As the boy played happily, a middle-aged man came walking up the dark path to the house. Constable Smith saw that he, too, wore an ornamental pin on his lapel, and as he came closer saw that he bore the insignia of local officers of law within the realm.

“Good evening, sheriff,” Constable said as the man walked up toward him. Again lifting his left lapel, he showed his pin to the sheriff and said, “I am Her Majesty’s Constable, Smith. I am not here on any official business, we are just traveling through, collecting the stories of our queen’s great kingdom to share with her.”

The sheriff smiled, and leaned against the house, facing Smith. “Good, good. Well met, friend,” he said. “I’ve heard of Her Majesty’s Constables, of course, but have never met one. Do you not usually guard her majesty’s person?”

“Yes, generally that is our duty,” Constable Smith replied. “But due to our loss, my son and I have been granted leave by her queen to travel. She asked only that we return, as I have said, with stories from her realm, that she might better know the far lands she has risen to reign.”

“Then we are well met,” the sheriff said. “I am Sheriff Slater, and I have been our lawman here for almost twenty years.”

“That is a good and lengthy time to be an officer of law!” Constable Smith declared.

“Yes, well, the people of our little provence have all generally lived well and in peace. Until recently, unfortunately.”

“Oh,” Smith replied, true concern in his voice. “What has happened?”

The sheriff glanced at Smith’s son, playing in the garden as the last light of day brought a purplish hue to the eastern horizon. He glanced at the horizon, his eyes tracing over the trees of the nearby forest, before he replied. His voice grew quiet, almost a whisper, as he spoke to Constable Smith, “I would just warn you,” he said, “to be careful if out at night. We had a mysterious death in the woods last week, and some of the village are still a bit uneasy. A young man, brash by nature in town, was found dead among the trees. We think he might have been hunting, as he had his bow and quiver. we found several arrows had been loosed, but they were a distance away, embedded in tree branches or the ground at an odd angle. There was no sign of deer or any other game, but the poor man had been cruelly eviscerated by something, Or someone.”

“That sounds dreadful,” Constable Smith replied.

“Yes, it was,” the sheriff replied, “and his father has been agitated since, vowing he would find and punish those responsible.”

“Well met, Sheriff Slater,” a familiar voice ringed out, “though I wonder if perhaps you should be here, when there clearly is a dangerous foe somewhere in our community you should be seeking.” It was the mayor, walking through the garden toward the house. Demetrius and Glinda appeared in the doorway, then, and called “Young Master Smith, Constable Smith, it is just about time.”

“Yes,” the major continued, “and I thought I would come and walk you to our humble home. We are glad to have you four for dinner, but I am afraid, my dear Sherrif, we did not set an extra place for you.”

“That’s quite alright, sir,” Sheriff Slater continued, “as I should go patrol the village’s entryways before retiring for the night. Good night, all,” he called as he walked off.

“A good man, no doubt,” the mayor declared as he turned and invited his four dinner guests to follow him, “if perhaps a bit unsuited to the task of investigation. Alas, we’ve no one else at the moment, so I must rest my hopes on him to discern what happened to my poor son…”

The Porcupine Who Howled At The Moon

The Porcupine Who Howled At The Moon (1)

Once upon a time there was a porcupine named Joggi. While Joggi was aware of the great mystery of life that beat within his small chest, he did not think his name – or he, himself – really mattered. He had once had a friend, but their friendship had ended sadly, and that’s a story for another time. (2)

Ever since he had lost his friend, Joggi had grown afraid.

Joggi came out at night, for porcupines are nocturnal, as I’m sure you know. On most nights, after the sun set Joggi would come out of his hole under a tree and root around in the small brush and bushes, snorting and snuffling and looking for something good to eat.

But some nights, as Joggi made his way out, there would be a great big full moon, that hurt his eyes and made him worry that owls would see him. On nights like these, he would back his way back into his hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes, and wait for the moon to set. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of the moon.

On other nights, Joggi would be out snuffling and snorting and looking for food when a breeze would begin to rustle the leaves. If the breeze began to grow, Joggi would back himself into his little hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes and wait. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of the wind.

Other nights, Joggi would look up from his snuffling and snorting and watch the clouds nervously. If flashes of light and thunderous booms filled the sky, Joggi would back himself into his little hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes, and wait. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of lightning and thunder.

Joggi had not always been quite so afraid, and most nights he still made his way around the brush of the forest floor. But even Joggi notices that more and more, he was hiding in his hole, waiting.

And one night, as Joggi buried his head in his front paws, closing his eyes to wait out the garish light of the full moon, he heard something he hadn’t heard before: a long howl. He opened his eyes, and lifted his head, and peeking through the entrance of his hole he saw a great silver wolf off in the distance, staring at the moon.

The wolf howled again, and his tail flopped from one side to another. He tossed his head, and this time, when he howled at the moon, Joggi had the distinct impression he was greeting the moon as an old friend. Then the wolf hopped up, and briskly dashed off into the forest, playing with the moon.

Joggi buried his head back in his paws, closed his eyes, and waited; for Joggi was anxious and afraid of the moon.

On another night, as the wind howled around the entrance to his hole, Joggi heard another curious sound, like a low growl. Opening his eyes and lifting his head from his paws, he peeked through the entrance of his hole and, once again, he saw a great silver wolf off in the distance.

The wolf squared his feet in the soft turf of the forest, lifted his face, and looked directly into the wind. A soft growl rumbled from his throat, but it wasn’t angry. The wolf’s tail twitched left then right then left, and the growl switched to a quick bark. Then he tossed his head, and briskly dashed off into the forest, playing with the wind.

Joggi buried his head back in his paws, closed his eyes, and waited; for Joggi was anxious and afraid of the wind.

As you can imagine, another night, Joggi saw the wolf again. It was a dark and stormy night, lightning flashed in the sky and thunder echoed through the tops of the trees. Joggi lay in his hole, his head buried in his paws, his eyes closed, when he heard a playful sound in the midst of th storm. Opening his eyes and lifting his head from his paws, Joggi peeked through the entrance of his hole and, once again, saw the great silver wolf.

As lightning flashed in the sky above, the wolf hopped about, his tail twitching. When the thunder rolled, he hopped and barked. He turned left and right, hopping and barking, and soon Joggi saw that he dashed off into the forest, playing with the lightning and thunder.

Joggi laid his head down on his paws, but this time, he kept his eyes open. He waited. This time, he watched as the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled. Joggi was anxious and afraid of the lightning and thunder, but this time he also thought about the playful wolf.

And so it was one night, as Joggi emerged from his hole to snuffle and snort after the sun had set, the he saw the great, garish moon rising over head. As he began to back into his hole, he remembered the great silver wolf, howling to greet the moon. He stopped, and sat himself down, and looked at the moon.

Joggi let out his best howl, but he was not a wolf, and it sounded more like a sqwak. So he thought a moment, and looking at the moon he took a deep breath and called out, “hello, Moon!” And Joggi waited, and the shadows stayed shadows and he saw no owls. And Joggi called out again, more bravely, “hello, Moon!” and the great frightening moon wasn’t so frightening. And standing and walking out under the moon’s light, Joggi found that there was joy in the moon.

And a few nights later, as he snuffled and snorted his way through a tasty blueberry bush, Joggi felt the branches shift and sway with a growing wind. As he walked toward his hole, he remembered the great silver wolf. So Joggi stopped, and he turned toward the wind, his face close to the mossy ground. He planted his feet firmly in the soft turf, and he raised his head to greet the wind. And the wind touched his nose, and it ruffled through his quills, and Joggi smiled. For Joggi found that there was joy in the wind.

Some time later, clouds filled the night sky over Joggi as he made his way through fallen leaves. And instead of returning to his hole to hide and wait, Joggi looked up at the growing storm. He waited, a little tense, until the first flash of lightning. He jumped a bit, and shook his quills, and they rattled and rumbled their own echo of the rumble in the sky above. And Joggi found that there was joy in the lightning and thunder.

And so it was that the porcupine who howled at the moon grew to be less afraid, as he remembered the way of the great silver wolf.

But that’s not the end of the story. For later, on a night when the wind blew strong under a full moon, Joggi emerged out of his hole. That night he planted his feet, his face in the wind, and looked up at the moon. As Joggi cried out his greeting, “hello, Moon!” he heard a faint echo, “hello, moon.”

Joggi looked around, and saw not too far away little Archie the Hedgehog. Archie was seldom seen; Joggi could not remember the last time he had seen the timid little animal. But there Archie was, a small mirror to Joggi, his paws planted firmly in the turf, his eyes to the moon and his nose touched by the wind, smiling.

And in the shadows of the forest, a great silver wolf, his eyes blazing with light, watched them both, and smiled.


(1) with gratitude to, and inspiration from, Martin Bell.
(2) “The Porcupine Whose Name DIdn’t Matter,” p. 113 of The Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell.


c.f.
1 Timothy 4:12, “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”
Titus 2:7 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”
Matthew 5:13-16

     “Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, important ways. People who teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the dailiness of life. We never tell them. I don’t know why, but we don’t.
“And, of course, we fill that role ourselves. There are those who depend in us, watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know.
“You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think.”

-Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten