Stuff of Earth

I’m traveling to a writers conference today, She Speaks, to meet with publishers and attend sessions. Excited to introduce you to a talented writer friend for today’s guest post. I know you will enjoy his heart. Karen

By Paul Phillips


The stuff of earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things.  *

stuffI have known the little boy’s father since he was the same age his son is today. The boy is not so different from his father.

The lad’s father and grandfather have come to haggle over a guitar. I will ask a price and they will offer much less. Sooner or later, we’ll meet somewhere in the middle. Or not. Most times, we get there.

Dickering takes time, so as we haggle, the lad, perhaps three years old, sits down to play at the little table we keep for just such occasions. He selects a set of toys, a variant of Legos called Duplos, to work with.

The centerpiece is a train track, along with the components for an engine and freight car. Most of the children especially like the little human figure which can fit on top of the engine—looking, to their young eyes, like a real engineer.

With a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his big eyes, the child begins to build his railroading empire.

He is content. At least, that is what I believe.

Perhaps fifteen minutes later, haggling brought to a satisfactory conclusion for all involved, the boy’s father calls for him to put the toys away. The youngster looks up, a shocked expression in his suddenly sad eyes. There is no more smile, and certainly no sign of a twinkle.

“No. I want to stay here Dad.” He tries the direct approach first.

No luck. Dad firmly tells him to take the project apart. The little tyke complies, not yet crying, but with a pout on his lips. He is in no hurry to complete the task and, since his father and I are still talking, he is in no danger of being scolded.

The job done, the boy picks up the train engine, engineer and all, and heads for the door. His father stops him, explaining that the toys must stay.

Now, the boy is just plain perturbed. Jerking the tiny engineer from its position on top, he tosses the engine angrily into the box. Turning once more for the door, and gripping the miniature person tightly—really tightly—in his little fingers, he stalks haughtily toward the exit.

“No, son; the man stays too.” His father is patient, but firm.

It is the last straw. The boy’s reaction is quick and uncontrolled this time. He yells the words out at first, sobbing as he shouts.

“Mine! Mine! I played with him and he’s mine!”

His father simply holds out his hand and waits for the boy to turn loose of his prize. Finally, tears over, but still moaning the word mine, the boy drops the figure into the waiting hand.

Turning on his heel once more, he stalks angrily out the door, stopping only to shoot daggers at this old shopkeeper when I have the audacity to promise him that the toys will still be here the next time he visits. He doesn’t want anything the next time, he wants it now.

I remember hearing an old-timer describe it long ago: Pie in the sky, by and by.

I’m with the boy.

I don’t really want pie in the sky, either.

That’s odd. I described the boy as content. He didn’t seem content when he left. stuff

Surprising, isn’t it, how quickly we form attachments to things?

The stuff of earth. The poet quoted above hit the nail dead center.

The thought occurs to me that the stuff of earth is very much like a noose around the neck, strangling and choking out happiness, while the good gifts given by our Father are exactly what we need.

Exactly—neither more nor less—neither deficient nor excessive—exactly what we need.

Why then do we scream out mine and grasp the toys (which were never ours anyway) so tightly?

When will we learn to be content, whether He showers us extravagantly or helps us to understand that doing without is also a good gift?

The Apostle truly demonstrated the contentment I thought I saw in the child at the toy table earlier. Perhaps you’ll pardon my paraphrase of his words here.

I have learned—not that I’ve always known, but I have learned—in whatever circumstance, whether with an overabundance of the stuff of earth, or in times of austerity, to be content with what I have. (Philippians 4:11)

I am encouraged as I note the learning process of which the Apostle speaks. I also have held too tightly to too many toys in my lifetime.

Like the boy, I have screamed mine at the top of my voice.

It is past time to open my fingers and let go.

I’m hoping for the day when I can say I have learned.

I’m hoping for the day when I only desire the Giver and not the gift.

Dum Spiro Spero.
While I breathe, I hope.

Where’s there life, there’s hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add.”
(from The Two Towers ~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English novelist/educator ~ 1892-1973)

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.
(1 Timothy 6:6 ~ NLT)

* (from If I Stand by Rich Mullins ~ American singer/songwriter ~ 1955-1997)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

stuff, Paul PhillipsPaul Phillips is a writer, a fifty-something grandfather, and follower of Christ. He’s also rumored to be a legend in his hometown, having been owner, janitor, and go-fer of Whitmore’s Music in Siloam Springs, AR since 1985. Follow Paul’s blog, He’s Taken Leave (www.hestakenleave.com), where he weaves nostalgic stories of life and faith.


July 21, 2016 at 9:00 am | Uncategorized

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