The Nightingale’s Song

The little pine coffin, simple in design, elegant in austerity, gaped with the tiny prisoner held in eternal abeyance within its wooden jaws. She was just a common song sparrow. No noticeable markings. No medallions lapped about her fragile neck. Her fame did not lie in public accomplishments celebrated by the press. There was no mass acclaim. She was not a celebrity.Nightingale.jpg3.png

She was just a common song sparrow who once brightened the neighborhood where she lived. She called to her many friends every morning with encouraging melodies that lifted the spirits of all who rose for the day’s toil ahead. While others cooked daybreak grits and fired up coffeepots, she sang. There was no coercion. She sang with spontaneous delight.

The effect of her lifeless body upon the gathered mourners was immense. The sparrow’s Spartan lifestyle reminded all that the essence of the gospel life is elegant simplicity, austere joy. She summoned spiritual strength from servanthood. She lived for others, not herself. Her life was her song. She sang tirelessly spinning out melodies directed at the homeliest of hearts, at the despondent souls that inhabited the byways and sultry nights of her working class neighborhood.

Now she lay in state, her little limbs stiff and cold, the melodies hushed. The mourners, hundreds of friends from the streets about her home, sat numbly wondering who would sing for them now. Who would coax them from their beds on dreary midweek days when the sun was clouded over? Who? Who would flutter from window box to window box smiling at them as they sipped morning coffee? Who? Already they missed her. Yes. Already they missed her.

As the funeral progressed, the minister read his favorite texts promising a bright tomorrow. He reminded the sorrowful of the bliss of heaven and did his best to revive the song. He tried. But everyone knew she would warble no more. The songster was gone. The silence was too heavy for the sermon.

Nightingale2.jpg.pngThe minister heaved a cold sigh, closed the Bible and sat down on his stiff-backed pulpit chair covered in golden fabric. He sat down and dabbed at his misty eyes. He too wondered who would replace the song. Who?

The whole congregation was entombed in grief. No one moved. The Minister checked his watch and realized it was nearly time to depart. He had failed his people. Inspiration eluded him. Dismissal was all that remained. He dreaded to rise and dismiss. All was not properly settled.

Then, suddenly interrupting his limping reverie was a quiet melody so pure, so sincere, striding buoyantly with hope. It rose from the back of the sanctuary like angel’s breath from the recessed choir loft high and removed. Sweeter than taps, the heaven scented Aria fell over the congregation like mist on a cracked desert.

The effect was immediate. The desert began to bloom. Eyes red with grief brightened. Brows tight with death furrows softened.

The crowd immediately turned to stare up at the mysterious voice in the loft. What they saw was not an angel. They saw no apparitions or ghosts from paradise. No. What they saw was a humble nightingale whose own heart was broken over the loss of her friend in the casket.

Nightingale.jpg.pngShe was not on the program. No one had officially recognized her. She did not mean to sing. But as she listened to the Scripture and reflected on the sparrow’s life, singing seemed her natural contribution. She sang with her eyes closed spilling her heart upon the listeners and offering an inspired carol to God, who always appreciates genuine prayer.

The nightingale’s solo continued for a spellbinding period. The notes cascaded down upon parched attendants until without any warning or notice she stopped. She just stopped, wiped her eyes, blew her little nose with a delicate yellow hanky and then quietly flew off.

The minister, stunned over the unexpected performance, rose with renewed joy. He motioned for all to stand. “Go in peace,” he said, his face beaming. “Go in peace and remember the nightingale’s song,” he told them.

And they did.
“I was like one who comforts mourners” (Job 29:25).
Parakeets in the Choir
David R. Denny

 

Traffic

TRAFFIC

I thought I had escaped the traffic.

Oh, I remember those morning walks down city roads thickly layered with dirty dew. Every morning I paced to the beat of angry horns and whirring tires, drivers slapping the hindquarters of their Chevy’s, rushing against a dark deadline.

But then I moved into a bucolic cottage by the sea.

Surely things will be different here I mused as I laced up my walking shoes on a bright, spring morning. The sun winked over the edge of the marsh, and the distant spindrift sparkled over ocean crests.

But then it happened. Traffic! I live on a dirt road that hits a farm field. How can it be?

I braced myself, holding tightly to the porch rail high above the terrain. I saw them coming, but I noticed at once that the frenzy was missing. It almost seemed as if they weren’t going anywhere in particular. They didn’t stick to the road at all. In fact, they avoided the road. How odd, I thought.

There were six, no, wait, make that eight. The does were the most playful darting in between pine trees and over little puddles from the night’s rain. There was no destination. Just going. Playing. Loving.

And then just as I was getting to know the deer, along came waves of small swallows from on high. They seemed to enjoy darting toward me and then with a last minute feather dip, bouncing off a wave and shooting high into the sky with the others that called the space beneath my porch home.

Wait. What’s this? Bobbing along in the slow lane, a little cadre of plump guinea hens is tiptoeing past my front porch in their speckled nightgowns clucking their hellos, laughing at me.

I thought I had escaped the traffic.
I’m glad I didn’t.

David R. Denny  Visions501@gmail.com
www.Blaktiepress.com

Traffic

Haircut

Haircut

The ladies stood impatiently. So many things to do; so little time.

They cast furtive glances here and there, up and down the long line as if body language would move the line faster.

It didn’t.

I didn’t see what the fuss was all about. I liked long hair and didn’t see any reason why each client was in such a rush for trimming this or slashing that. What’s wrong with a few long curls anyway?

But they didn’t see it that way. The big spring dance was just a few days away, and there was a particular social protocol that demanded swift and daring action.

I was merely a disinterested passerby, but curiosity got the better of me, and so I approached one of the ladies with an honest question. “Why?”

“Why?” she retorted rolling her eyes at the other women in line as if I was some social outcast. Her face contorted into utter disdain for the question as if the obvious needed no further small talk.

I couldn’t resist having a little fun. I kept up my questioning pretending to be some expert. “Women should never cut their hair short,” I said. “It’s the length that creates a certain mystery.” (I was picturing Goldilocks with her head stuck out of some castle window high above a flowered valley praying for a dashing prince to come along).

Suddenly the line shifted, and the stylist summoned her. She left me standing there like I was mere chaff in the wind.

My eyes wandered to the lady just leaving. She had a small pocket mirror out and was preening her cleanly shaven scalp. Her smile of deep satisfaction said it all.

I didn’t see it. Such a shame I muttered.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Haircut2

Ghost on Blue Heron Street

Ghost on Blue Heron Street

He wasn’t a real ghost, for he had substance and form.

He waited for me each morning at the intersection of Sea Breeze and Blue Heron. He waited, but he never spoke.

He was a tragedy in silence. Whenever I neared the intersection on a morning walk, I always slowed and nodded. He stared through me unable to share a deep, stifling grief I did not understand.

Tree

The only thing left of the house was a broken cinderblock outline worn to a nub by time and ravenous winds and rising tides. Each morning as I walked past him with my head at half-mast sharing his grief, I often peered at the home’s skeleton and wondered.

Was there laughter here once? Did he hold a sweetheart tightly each night long ago beneath a marsh moon in this house beside the sea? Did they share dreams? Did she kiss him longingly beneath golden sunsets?

He never spoke of these matters, but I read the sadness in his expressions. Nothing would cheer him. He had lost the will to continue, and all that was left was this lonely loyalty at the intersection of Blue Heron and Sea Breeze where he stood each day staring at the ruins of his house.

Version 2One night, driving home in a battering rain with the tides rising and panic in the wind, my headlights hit him full face. He never budged or acknowledged the interruption. Dripping beneath heaven’s deluge, he stood alone, moss dripping off his limbs.

“Please! Come home with me for one night. Rest and dry your clothes,” I implored, but he resisted. Perhaps, he thought, she might return on this very night. He could not leave. He would not leave.

He wasn’t a real ghost, for he had substance and form.

Still, I still greet him to this day on my morning walks. But I fear that loneliness has forever calcified his heart.

And so it does to us all.
And so it does to us all.

David R. Denny
visions501@gmail.com

 

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

I befriended a lady this week.

I am fully aware of the complications that can arise from such an act of kindness. You know how people talk. But still, she had stumbled into my Sea Breeze driveway, and I felt an uncontrollable urgency to act.

I knew at once that she was high born for she wore a sophisticated tea rose orange gown cut with impeccable taste, custom fitted to her petite form. Perhaps, I wondered, the black smudges that freckled the dress were the result of some unknown trauma encountered on the highway. It must have been those bad kids down the road throwing mud at her I thought, anger rising within me.

I knelt down and checked for signs of life. Not hearing any breathing, I was about to engage in CPR when she moved. It was just a faint fluttering of her gown, but I took it as a positive sign. I bent low and whispered words of comfort and inquiry.

She seemed startled and made an attempt to rise and flee.

I stopped her. “You’re not ready,” I said softly.

She paused realizing flight was an impossibility at the moment.

“Let me help you,” I said.

She would have none of it, searching frantically for an escape.

I lifted her from the ground. She made no resistance. A slight morning breeze drifted in across the ocean marsh ruffling her begonia gown, summoning.

I knew she would leave, and I would never see her again. I knew.

Still, I tossed her gently into the wind, and she was gone.

(But as we all know, real friends never really leave us).

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

ladybug

Whistling in the Dark

Version 2

Whistling in the Dark

It was close to midnight on the front porch, and the darkness clung to the unseen horizon muffling the ocean murmurs. The only sounds I heard were a few distant geese and some of the nuthatches that flitter in the cedars behind my house. The silence was haunting, almost frightening as I contemplated the mysteries lurking in the darkness beyond the Cedar Island shoreline.

I’m not sure what prompted me to whistle. Perhaps it was nothing more than an instinctive summons from nature; I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I just whistled and waited. The few lone chirps and distant squawks hushed, and all that remained was my solitary porch note gliding along the black corridors of the Point. I noticed at once that my brief melody lingered a while echoing off some distant pine tree before it slipped under night’s cover and was gone forever.

That simple whistle brought me such sudden joy I couldn’t wait to launch another. This time I added a little trill to the melody wondering if perhaps I might a get a response. But there was no answer; just a ponderous silence that tried to interpret my meaning. I knew I had an audience now for the night sounds had grown still, and I just knew that a thousand little-unseen eyes were looking this way.

Smiling, I whistled for a few more minutes sampling a variety of orchestral tempos from adagissimo to affrettando (very slow to hurrying). Each spontaneous stanza meandered over the dark marsh beyond and then sank slowly into the ocean.

It was something akin to praying, I thought. Little pieces of the soul flung out toward the heavens, waiting, hoping, expecting. Yes. It was little like praying.
David R.Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Two Golden Words

DBC  January 21, 2018–Sunday sermon
David R. Denny PhD

FB_IMG_1515418049578.jpgIntroduction:

I Googled “Two Golden Words” the other day and I was pleased with the result. The words that the computer presented to me are often overlooked and much neglected in today’s often vulgar and stressed society. My parents taught me these two words and I learned early on that they had a special power locked away in them. All of you know these words and know their charm. What are they? THANK YOU!

I love to hear these words so much I thought it would nice to say them as a group. So let’s all turn to someone beside you and say them together on three–Ready?

But these are NOT the two Golden Words that I want to talk about today because I know two words more powerful than these. These words were also taught me by my parents and these two words forever changed my life.   I also know from being around you for over a year now that all of you value these two words very highly. What are they? (You won’t be disappointed) SUNDAY SCHOOL! Now let’s all say these two golden words. Ready?—The Dream Team spent yesterday in session talking about this very thing. So this morning I will pause in my study of 1 Thess. and talk about what makes SS so unique.

  1. Sunday school is old fashioned. (Good. We need that) I was thinking of some old fashioned things that are long gone from our society:
    *It used to be that if one was on a crowded bus or subway-one would stand for elderly..
    *Yes, ma’am and no’ ma’am. Walmart–“Would you like the milk in a bag?” the lady asked me. “Yes, ma’am” I replied. She stopped and smiled at me.
    *Writing letters or cards. Almost gone from our society. It’s all texts and emails. (I was so happy to see an old-fashioned card circulating in our Sunday School class for Edgar and Mary…)   Sunday School is old fashioned. It’s an endangered species. But we don’t want to lose it. Sitting around a table with a group of friends talking and sharing and praying and reading the Bible is as old-fashioned as it gets. But it doesn’t get any better than this. There is something so fulfilling and meaningful in this old-fashioned custom.
  2. Sunday School is slow. (Good. We need that). Life is so fast paced. You can get crushed in malls today and the parking lots are crazy. And when I see fans charging into football stadiums I wonder how they sustain such frenzy for 3-4 hours.
    • Sunday School is slow down time. No hopping about and screaming, or cheerleaders whipping up the crowd, or hotdog breaks. Just time to say hello to a friend and ask how their week went and share burdens and prayer requests. Sunday School is slow time.
    • A lot can happen in slow time. It took God a whole day to hang a light bulb, to create light where only darkness was. He took His time. He created light after careful thought. He divided the light from the darkness and made a day and night, a morning and an evening. He positioned the stars just where He wanted them and then stepped back and moved that one over a bit and that one up a bit and then looked and said–“That is good.” It took time. He wasn’t in a hurry. Sunday School is slow time but its valuable time.
    • 3.  Sunday School is–well, its SCHOOL. (Good. We need that). Sunday school began in 1780 in Gloucester England. Robert Raikes worked with criminals and thought that a day of religious training would make a difference. SS began as schools for the poor who worked six days a week and then hung out in alleys and docks getting into trouble and swearing etc. SS also taught proper behavior, cleanliness, provided clothing for the poor and sought lift the moral standard of the kids.

SS is “school” even today. All ages can learn in SS. You can learn about the world of the Bible, about ancient cultures, about how Jesus grew up and how He changed the world. SS will teach you to care about the world and how to love one another and how to be selfless and how to pray effectively and a million other valuable skills.

4.  Sunday School is friendly. (Good. We need that). There’s a movement catching on all across the nation called “We Dine Together.” It started in Boca Raton Florida at the local high school. One student noticed how painful lunch time was for some kids. They sat alone. No one to talk to. No one to share the day with.

            *In my first year of teaching I felt the same way. About 15 teachers would meet for lunch in a teacher’s room and talk and laugh. I would go but no one knew me and so I was excluded. I got so miserable I decided to stay in my room by myself and watch Judge Judy on the television.

So now at the Boca Raton high school, a club called We Dine Together fans out searching for the lonely. Then they sit beside the student and begin a conversation.

And Sunday School is like this. Sunday School is a friendly place. Everyone is always welcome. But not everyone knows this. So we have to invite people and show them how friendly Sunday School can be.

5. Sunday School is memories. I don’t remember everything that happened to me as I grew up. A few things here and thee. I remember hitting my older sister once with a broom. I remember camping trips with my family. But I remember most vividly my SS times.

SS makes eternal memories. I was only in elementary school when I attend the Tokyo Baptist Church. But it is all so clear–the teachers–the rooms–the fun I had.–

*I remember SS at the Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville Ark when I was in the 6th grade. Sitting in little circle in a boys SS class. All of fidgeting and wanted to go out an play but the teacher holding firm spoon feeding wonderful spiritual morsels that I still chew on today.

* I remember my high school youth group at the Riverview Baptist Church in Woodbridge VA. I was chosen to deliver the sermon on Youth Day. I was 15. My first sermon. My parents took me out for lunch after the service to celebrate.

Conclusion: So–let’s rebuild out SS. It’s up to all of us to do this. I can’t do it by myself. But I now I probably wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t grown up in SS. What can you do in our new SS? Be a teacher? Helper? Student? Assistant?