Category Archives: SHORT STORIES

CHIPPY: Early Faith Lessons

Plymouth Rock Chicken

When I was seven years old, my parents were struggling financially so we moved to a house just outside of town in order to grow a garden. The property also had a brooder house and a hen house. One evening Mom announced, “I’ve decided to raise chickens and sell them to Riggen’s Poultry House.”

My four-year-old sister and I could hardly control our excitement. We had begged for a bright pink, or blue, or green baby chick each Easter, but Dad had always vetoed that with a, “No one should dye a chicken,” comment. Now, we not only would have one baby chick, but many baby chicks.

The chicks arrived, all one hundred of them, on a cold, blustery, spring day. My sister and I giggled and squealed as we poked our fingers through the air holes in the shallow, brown, cardboard boxes, and tried to touch the fuzzy chicks. We had to yell at each other to be heard above the high-pitched, frantic cheeping.

After we helped take the chicks out of the boxes, my sister and I squatted around the brooder light and kept an eye on our babies. To our dismay, four died that first night, due to travel and the chilly weather.

For a few days, the chicks supplied the main source of entertainment for us. We laughed hysterically every time one drank and raised its head to let water run down its throat. My fascination, however, soon began to wane. I had to pump water and carry it to the chickens. A month later, “feeding the chickens” was added to my list of chores.

When it came time to clean the hen house and move the chickens, I no longer considered the chickens cute. It seemed to me that the chickens lived with their heads in the air, letting water run down their throats. I could hardly wait for them to grow up and leave for the poultry house. The summer day that Mr. Riggen captured and caged half the flock to be sold as fryers, was a happy day for me.

My younger sister, however, felt differently about the chickens. Since she didn’t have to carry food and water to them, the chickens never lost their charm. She considered the chickens her pets. One Plymouth Rock hen returned that affection. The black and white chicken, which she named Chippy, trailed my sister every place she went.

One evening, late that summer, my mother said, “I talked to Mr. Riggen at the poultry house today. He’s coming out to get the rest of the chickens next week.”

“Great,” I yelled. “Now I don’t have to feed those stupid chickens.”

My sister began wailing. “Does Chippy have to go?” she sobbed.

“I’m only keeping a few laying hens. Chippy hasn’t laid any eggs and she’ll have to go. I bought those chickens to try to make a little money. I can’t afford to feed chickens that don’t lay. You can have one of the laying hens for a pet.”

“I don’t want another chicken. I want Chippy. She’s my friend.”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t keep a chicken that doesn’t lay eggs,” Mom said. “Keep an eye on her nest and maybe she’ll start laying.”

That night, my sister included Chippy in her prayers. “Please God,” she asked, “help Chippy start laying eggs.”

As an older sister, I stifled a snicker. I knew that God cared about big things like making us well when we couldn’t afford a doctor, or providing groceries when we had no money, but praying for a certain chicken to lay an egg was expecting too much out of God.

Each day, that week, my sister made several trips to the hen house. If Chippy was on her nest, my sister would slip her hand under her warm, soft body and feel for an egg, but Chippy never produced an egg.

On Saturday morning, after lugging feed and water to the chickens, I asked, “When is Mr. Riggen coming for those chickens?”

“Thursday,” my mother replied. My sister ran wailing toward the chicken house.

During the next days, she and Chippy were nearly inseparable. One mid-morning, early the next week, my sister ran screaming from the hen house.

“Chippy laid and egg! Chippy laid an egg!” she cried. “Now I can keep Chippy. Chippy really did lay an egg!”

Beaming through tears, she placed an egg in Mom’s hand.

“Let’s check this egg,” Mom said, as she cracked it into a bowl.

“Would you look at that!” Mom exclaimed as she put the bowl down at our eye level. “Chippy laid a double-yolked egg.”

From that day on Chippy laid eggs – double-yolked eggs – and no one ever mentioned taking her to Mr. Riggen’s poultry house again.

Martha Hawn VanCise©2013 Signposts On High Trails






Pacemakers and Peacemakers


Peacemaker in heart


I met Marie at the local laundry. I sensed she had a spiritual need so I took time to get acquainted with her. At Christmas time I took her a small gift. While in her home, I felt impressed to pray with her and as I prayed she began to weep.

“I used to walk with God,” she said, “but I’ve gotten away from Him.” She wanted to get back to God, but not just yet.

 After I moved 1400 miles away, we exchanged letters.  When I received her letters, I had to hold them at arm’s length and study them like an optical illusion print that revealed a hidden picture. After she passed the 80-year mark, her writing became squigglier and the litany of ailments increased. With difficulty, I read letters that became repetitive. Then one day she wrote, “I’m home now, but I nearly died.  The doctor had to operate and put a peacemaker in my heart.”

According to the American Heart Association  600,000 pacemakers are implanted each year. For many the technology provides a new lease on life. Although no earthly cardiologist can implant a peacemaker, we can have a peacemaker implanted that will guard our hearts and minds from collapse, when life seems out of control (Philippians 4:7).

 Many people fear getting God’s peacemaker more than they fear getting a pacemaker.

They fear abandoning themselves to the hands of God.

They do not trust Him to have their best interests in mind.

 Yes, it is a little scary to think of

being stripped of our good deeds which we thought would please God

being made vulnerable to His probing of our innermost thoughts and motives

admitting our sinfulness to a holy God.

Saying, “Yes, go ahead. I place my life in Your hands,” is not easy, but it is the only means of gaining a lease on eternal life.

If you need a pacemaker or a peacemaker, don’t put off.

It’s foolish and dangerous to wait until we are near death to get either a pacemaker or a peacemaker.

Martha Hawn VanCise ©2013 Signposts on High Trails

I Can Rock Babies.

Rocking chair

Aunt Muriel was one of those missionaries who refused to leave Haiti when she reached retirement age.  We North Americans often saw her on Delmas, the main street that ran from Petionville in the mountains down to the Bay of Port-au-Prince.  Wearing sneakers, the stooped, diminutive widow, with thick white hair, moved with a purpose down Delmas.  If we spotted her near her destination – and we all knew her destination – we passed without stopping.  If we saw her still several blocks away, we would offer her a ride.

On the rides down the mountain, she would say, “I’m going to see my babies.” On the trips up the mountain, she would say, “I’ve been to see my babies.”

We would nod as if it were news to us.  We never said much on those drives because she chattered nonstop about her babies until we reached her destination.

“They wait for me,” she would say.   “They know my voice.  They wait for me to come.”  And she would recite the stories we knew by heart.

We would interrupt long enough to ask, “Is this your street?”

“My street?  Yes,” she would reply, then without pausing say, “you’ve been to the hospital haven’t you?  You know where it is, don’t you?  I go there….” And she would again give us her weekly schedule.

We knew about the hospital.  Everyone in Port-au-Prince knew about Grace Children’s Hospital. And everyone who visited Grace Children’s Hospital knew about Aunt Muriel.

The hospital specialized in prevention and treatment of children with tuberculosis.  When we passed the facility, we would see mothers sitting under the shady Royal Poinciana trees waiting to get treatment in the out-clinic section of the hospital.   The mothers and children had walked or taken one of the brightly decorated camionetts that provided transportation in Port-au-Prince.

One part of the hospital, however, housed children who had been abandoned or whose homes were far from Port-au-Prince.  These children had been left alone at the hospital.   In one white stucco-walled room, at least a dozen of these forlorn children lay in cribs. Skeletal, some sat staring vacant-eyed. Others lay statue-like, too weak to move.  None had the sparkle of children curious about their surroundings.   An empty rocking chair, the only decoration in the room, sat near an open window.

One day, Aunt Muriel had entered that desolate room.  Though not physically strong, she had managed to pick up one of the underweight children. She carried the child to the window and eased herself into the rocking chair.  Smoothing the child’s brow, she began to rock, then to sing in a quavery voice.   Gradually some of the other children turned in their cribs to better see the pale, white-headed woman who sat rocking and singing by the window.  When she stood to put the child back in the crib, another child held up her arms.  That day, Aunt Muriel began to rock the babies at Grace Children’s Hospital.

Day after day, Aunt Muriel sat by the open, sunny window, cuddled the children in her arms, and sang to them in her tremulous voice.  She couldn’t rock all the children on the same day, but she rocked as many as she could.  Each day, she promised the others that she would return and that they would have their turn.  Soon the children began to wait for her.  Their vacant eyes grew bright when she entered the room. Some even bounced or rocked in their cribs and called to her, as they anticipated their moments of loving, personal attention.

With Aunt Muriel, the time with the children developed into an inviolate appointment. Although unpaid and unappointed, Aunt Muriel considered rocking the babies her mission.  The appointments with the children even took precedence over her meager social life.  When we in the North American community invited her to a daytime gathering, she would sometimes turn down the invitation. “I would love to go,” she would say,  “but I rock the babies from 10:00-2:00 on Thursdays.  They’ll be waiting for me.  I couldn’t disappoint them.”

As she grew older, we felt responsible to watch over Aunt Muriel since she had no family in Haiti. Anytime we inquired about her welfare though, her answer was the same.  Her eyes would grow soft and film with tears.

“I can’t do much anymore,” she would say, “but I can rock babies.”

[Jesus] also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:2-4 NIV)