We’ve finished the rough draft on our latest story, N’Athens. We’re in the editing process now. I’m excited to share my first Nashville based story with you. It spans the globe to tell the fictional story of a family who works to help with a very real world problem. Keep checking back with us for the release date of N’Athens!
The following is an allegory, a lesson in believing, a lesson in witnessing, and a lesson in friendship. I hope it warms your hearts this Christmas season.
Friendship is a cloth, woven into our lives at very crucial times. Some are made up of new threads, and some of old. Much like a child clings to a worn out blanket, we hold on to friendships others would say we’ve outgrown.
Children are often wiser than we, for they know to be very cautious in discarding old things. After all, wasn’t the pirate’s treasure merely old pieces of yellow rock someone once prized? Such is the case in our story.
Greg Harper and Arthur Lang were now polar opposites. One a Pastor of a small Church, the other a Professor at the university. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, until you take into consideration this fact. Arthur was an atheist, a tolerant one, but an atheist nonetheless.
He had been this way since he was a child, after his Parent’s bitter divorce had convinced him that God must not exist. “For,” he reasoned, “if He did exist, the two people he loved so dearly would not have hurt each other so deeply.”
As boys, this was not a factor. As teens, they ignored their differences. As young men, the two fought harshly. Somewhere in their thirties, they found that each other’s friendship meant more than their argument.
That was until a very special December. Arthur attended a party at the college, all of his intellectual friends were there. After finding out that he was hanging around this “Preacher”, they pounced. “You are so intellectually superior to this man, and yet you hang around this, this Preacher?”
The Dean had said the word so contemptuously, you’d thought he was choking. Arthur struggled with the conversation all night long. By the next morning, he had determined his course of action. He was an educator, wasn’t he? An instructor to those who desire higher learning, so he would educate his friend.
The next morning, Arthur visited the Church office where Greg was working. Arthur knew that if he attacked the issue head on, there would be trouble. He remembered that Greg loved games, especially dares. So he put forth a challenge.
“You’ve been trying to get me to attend Church since we were 18. What if this year, I agreed, but with conditions?” Greg thought a moment, “What’s the catch?” “You and I exchange one Christmas gift a piece, on Christmas day. We then we’ll each use the other’s gift to address the congregation. You can use mine to attempt to prove that God exists, and I’ll use yours to prove otherwise. What do you say?”
Greg was not about to expose his Church to a catastrophe, so he turned it down. He hated to miss an opportunity, but he felt that he had made the right decision. That is, until he mentioned it to an older minister he was having lunch with.
“Why can’t you accept his challenge?” Tom asked. “Because, who knows what he will say. It could be very damaging to the Church, members who are not well versed in the Scriptures.” “You’re a good Pastor, they know fact from fiction. He won’t shake them, but lay some ground rules first. Plus, advertise it as a debate between two world views. That way they’ll be prepared for what they hear.”
Greg slept on it that night, or at least tried too. By morning, he was convinced that this was not just something to do, but that had to be done. He called Arthur before daybreak. “First, the ground rules. The gift cannot be any evil symbol, and you can present an intelligent, intellectual argument, minus animosity, or hateful words.”
Arthur agreed, with a caveat of his own. “If I can’t use anything you call evil, you can’t use anything I call religious. You also, must use some facts to back up your claims.” Each agreed, and the meeting was set.
News spread all over town, the Preacher and the Professor were going to have a battle of wits. Arthur selected his ‘gift’ quickly. It took Greg much longer, in fact, he didn’t select it until two days before the meeting.
Sunday was Christmas Eve. It was a cold, but beautiful day. The service was scheduled for 11:00 that morning. The Professor joined the Preacher on stage and presented his gift. It was a cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and pebbles. The Preacher knelt his head, said a silent praer, and smiled a cautious smile.
Arthur had made it easy for him, and that was what concerned him. It should have, for the Professor knew how eloquent his friend could be. Greg would have used the word anointed, and rightfully so, for he was definitely anointed that morning.
“Folks, my friend has given me a simple cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and a pebbles. It is my responsibility to share the Gospel with you using these items. I am reminded of another box many years ago. It was called a manger, whose primary use, was to feed animals. Can’t you imagine them loading the dry grass we call hay into it?”
“You know how one special night, instead of animals, people surrounded it. In place of food, it was filled with a baby. That small child, The Rock of our Salvation, grew to enlighten the world. Until His light brightened us, our lives were like these ashes. All of our dreams had died. There were no embers left, only the smoke of the ashes of longing for what we thought could never be.”
“Maybe, much like my friend here, the person who built the manger, had given up believing in a God that could touch our lives. Still, He came, and scientists will tell you, it is a fact that Jesus existed. Even that is something, people used to dispute. My question is this. If they were wrong about Him not existing physically, couldn’t they be equally as wrong about His spiritual significance?”
With that, the Preacher sat down, but not before handing the Professor his gift. It was an envelope. Arthur hated to do it, but he felt very strongly that this Christmas, he would ‘enlighten’ his friend. The trouble was, in so doing, he knew he would also destroy him. Still, his mind was made up, truly, only a miracle could stop him now.
Before he began, he stopped to read the contents of the envelope. After the first two words, the smile was gone, by the second paragraph, it had been replaced by sobs. Tears smeared the last few lines. Arthur looked kindly at his friend, placed the letter in his coat, and began to speak.
“Much like the apostle of old, I came here today on a mission, contrary to the founder of this Church. Like Paul, I believe that instead, I’ll find myself today, at the founder’s feet.” With that, he left the pulpit for the altar. That day, two friends were woven together into a stronger friendship, and a new soul was crafted into God’s Kingdom.
The letter? It was from Arthur’s estranged father, the man that he had so vehemently declared he never wanted to see again. Arthur had spent so many years convincing everyone that he hated him. He knew that even his best friend Greg had been fooled by the deception.
Oh he had spent years despising his father for hurting his mother. Arthur had also spent a number of years longing to be reunited with him. In those weak moments during the night, he had often told God that if He reunited the two of them, he would believe. Arthur felt this was impossible, considering his last conversation with his father resulted in a fight. There last words had been mutual hatred for one another.
Around the time that Greg had accepted the challenge, God caught up with the older Lang. Years of regret and selfishness had become to much to bear, and He had unloaded his burdens on the One his son hadn’t believed in. After finding Him very real, and very much alive, Arthur Lang Sr. had found the words to apologize to his ex wife and son for years of mistreatment.
Afraid to send it directly to them, he remembered Greg Harper. He had decided to send it to him, in hopes he could persuade Arthur and his mother to read them. Now remarried to a loving man, with God’s help, Angela Wilkes had long ago forgiven Arthur’s father. It would take time for the wounds between father and son to completely heal, but they had accepted the journey. They were confident that The One who had brought them back into each other’s lives, could heal the past.
This Christmas, give the gift of friendship, give the gift of love. The Lord Jesus gave this gift freely to all He met. His kingdom is filled with ardent believers that were once former skeptics, Merry Christmas.
I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving gift, from me to you. It’s called The Tie Pin. It’s a short story about a Father helping his son. We are blessed to have a Heavenly Father who plots our course each day. He doesn’t control us, instead, He enables us to make the right decisions. I hope you enjoy this story, as you journey through your day.
The Tie Pin
A tie pin an uncommon thing now. You don’t see many tie pins these days, or at least I hadn’t, until one special November. That was the day that everything changed for me. No, the tie pin didn’t change it, but it will always be connected to it.
I was sitting with Mom, trying to decide what to buy my Dad for his birthday. Dad’s birthday was the day before Thanksgiving. I was pitching ideas. “What about a baseball shirt?” “Eddie, you know that he doesn’t watch baseball any more. He lost interest after the famous strike.” “Ok, how about a fishing rod?”
Mom sighed, she knew as well as I did where this was going. My Dad wasn’t an outdoorsman. Oh, he took us fishing all the time as kids, but he hated it. He watched baseball with us, even though he was a basketball guy, because we loved it.
Don’t get me wrong, if I picked any of these things, he’d act ecstatic over them. Mom was different, she wanted to make sure that whatever we got Dad, it would be something that he liked. The trouble was, my Dad was hard to buy for. He wasn’t in to trinkets, he wasn’t in to sports.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have any interests, but I was taking the easy way out. Mom always said, “Do something for him, don’t just kill time around him. You boys do things with your Father, but you don’t really spend time with your Dad.” Mom expected us to talk, and that was hard!
We love our Dad, he’s great, but I never knew what to say to him, or to anyone else really. Johnny, on the other hand, always connected with everybody. They’re exactly alike, so it’s easy for him. Everybody used to laugh when I said that, but nobody ever tells me why until I was older. She laughed that morning.
Just then, Johnny walked into the room. He smiled at me, hugged Mom, and grabbed an orange. “Gotta run, meeting Ann to talk about the Wedding.” Johnny was 19, Ann was 20, they were crazy about each other. They were getting married the next month.
You’re probably thinking they’re pretty young, but between them they had the intelligence of 8 people. Both are geniuses who started a computer company in junior high school, and made it. Today, I work for them.
Mom and Dad weren’t poor, but our house, and two just like it, were worth less than Johnny made that year. Johnny tried to get Dad to let him buy us a new house, but Dad said no. “We’re doing ok, save it for a rainy day.”
I was 14, and couldn’t run a lemonade stand. I know, I tried two summers earlier, it went bankrupt. I spilled all the inventory. Anyway, Mom took me to the store to find something. That’s when I saw the tie clip. Mom thought I was crazy, “Trust me Mom, it’ll sing!” I used Dad’s signature phrase to sell it.
Anytime he wanted to sell Mom on something, he’d say, “Trust me June, it’ll sing!” Of course, then he would sing off key loudly, no matter where we were. Mom would agree, but she said it was mostly to shut him up, then she’d smile.
When I got home, I headed for my room. The front of the tie pin was a compass. I took the compass and attached it to a card. I started writing, what I couldn’t say out loud, seemed to come easy on paper. I added a twenty dollar bill that I had been saving for his birthday, and put it in my nightstand drawer.
The next morning was the big day. We all had Dad’s favorite breakfast, blackberry pancakes, hash browns, scrambled cheesy eggs, and bacon. After about three cups of coffee, we were ready for presents.
Johnny went first, he gave Dad a new tablet computer, which made me look like a cheap skate. I love my brother, and no, I’m not jealous of his money, it’s just that a rich brother makes your gifts look, well cheap! My sister, Kate gave him a sweater, that she made. Then, it was my turn, I gave him a card!
He made over it just the same. Dad’s eyes began to water about the same time he read the card. He didn’t read it out aloud, but he gave me the biggest hug I ever got from him.
“Come on Eddie, let’s go pick up the cake from the store.” Mom shook her head, “Eric, you don’t have to pick up your own cake.” “I need the exercise Gwen.” Before we hopped in the car and headed out, Dad went to change. He came out with a suit, a tie, and my tie pin. I thought we were just going to the store, I was wrong.
Dad didn’t say much until we pulled in the parking lot. I started to get out when he turned off the key, and he touched my arm for me to stop. “Eddie, I want to talk to you a minute.” “Sure Dad, what’s up.” It turns out, a lot was, I just didn’t know it.
“Son, that card and this compass tie pin you gave me today, are two of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten. My eyes weren’t watering, you made me cry. What you wrote was beautiful, it was some of the greatest words I’ve ever read. It did sing, like nothing else. What concerned me was the twenty dollars you added.”
I was puzzled, “Why Dad? I just wanted to make sure you knew how much I loved you.” He smiled, “Son, if I didn’t know before you wrote it, I did after. You see son, you are just like me. I’m not book smart like your brother, but I’ve got a pretty level head, so do you. Growing up, it was hard for me to talk about how I felt. It was also hard for me to trust that people cared about me for me.”
“As a result, I tried to hard. I loved your mother more than anything, but I had my doubts that she loved me. I wasn’t able to express myself through writing like you can. Because of my insecurity, I almost lost her, thankfully for all of us, your mother is stubborn!” I laughed when he said this, it’s still true!
“She helped me realize that people cared for me, not what I could do for them. She also helped me find my voice. My joke about something singing comes from her. She said once, ‘Eric, you have a lot of good to say. Take that bird over there, it doesn’t care how it sounds, it sings out anyway. Sing out until the rafters ring.’ She turned out to be right, and I overcame my fears. Ever since then, I’ve used that phrase.”
“Do you know why you picked the compass on that tie clip?” I shook my head, “You gave me a toy compass when I was five years old. I still have it.”
“Do you know why I gave that to you?” “No.” “It was meant to be a lesson, an early lesson, but a lesson. If you follow the right direction, you won’t have to second guess your course. Your mother and I have raised you three to love God, and to love people.”
“Don’t forget in the process, that God has put people around you, who love you for you. You don’t have to push them to love you. You also don’t have to force the words to come.”
“You couldn’t say what you wrote in that card, and that’s fine, but trust that your message came through. This twenty dollars doesn’t say I love you. It says I’m not sure my gift is good enough. Eddie, if you give with the right motive, from your heart, like you did. Then your gift is more than you could even realize. ”
“So what say, you take this twenty, and put it towards something fun.” He handed it back to me, and I did just that. Funny thing, I can’t remember what I bought that day. But 14 years later, I’ll never forget that tie pin.
Dad still wears it every time he wears a suit. My kids have all heard the story fifty times. They may get tired of hearing it, but I never will. That conversation shaped my future, it helped me stop second guessing a lot of things. Including, when the time was right, asking my now Wife, on our first date. It may have technically been the day before Thanksgiving, but I’ll always be thankful, for the lesson Dad taught me that day.
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