I’m a great believer that worship services should include something for everyone, young and old alike. My experience, however, is that many churches cater for the adults, but ignore the needs of its younger members. So when younger members are present they may well be discouraged from returning.
The irony, of course, is that the average age of the congregations to which I have ministered is in the seventies, and younger generations are conspicuous by their absence.
These stories have come out of situations where the presence of children in church could not be guaranteed, and where there was a need to have something ready should any children walk in the door. They are stories that in multi-centred parishes needed to be portable, and could be produced at a moment’s notice. They needed to be easily slotted into a service, and suitable for churches where the use of modern technology was not an option. They also needed to be able to be used in situations where it was not appropriate to invite children to come forward for a ‘Children’s Talk’.
They are written in a style designed to be read aloud. As a consequence they may break many of the rules of written grammar.
My experience in using these stories is that adults, as well as children, get something from them. Indeed, after a service in which I have told a children’s story, I often get comments or hear chatter about the children’s story. Furthermore, on more than one occasion I have been asked to give a children’s talk in the absence of any children.
I hope you enjoy the stories, but please feel free to read (or retell) these stories to your own congregation(s). And if you wish to use your own illustrations, please do so.
Adapted from the preface from to book “A Day on the Life of a Pair of Trousers and Other Stories”
Stories from the Book "A Day in the LIfe of a Pair of Trousers"
The Great Tiddlywink Competition (Rough Draft)
I’d like to tell you a story about two grasshoppers whose names were Springy and Leapy.
Now I don’t know how much you know about grasshoppers. But you probably know more than me. What you should know is that grasshoppers love to jump, and leap, and spring about, going from place to place. However, what you may not know is that grasshoppers love to play games. And their all-time favourite game is Tiddlywinks.
“Tiddlywinks”, I hear you say, “Who here has heard of Tiddlywinks?” Well Tiddlywinks was a very popular game when I was a child. And the idea is that you start with a “wink” and with your “squidger” you flick your “wink”. And you do it a number of times until you get your “wink” it into the “pot”. It’s a competitive game, it takes a least two to play, and you take it in turns. And the winner is either the one who flicks their six “winks” into the “pot” first. Or after a set period, the one who scores the most “Tiddlies” (or points), depending upon where the “winks” are in the game.
Now as you can imagine Tiddlywinks is a very suitable game for grasshoppers, because they love to jump, and leap and spring. And that’s exactly what happens to the “winks” in Tiddlywinks. But Tiddlywinks isn’t just a game that grasshoppers like to play, it’s a game they like to watch too.
Now one day both Springy and Leapy were playing in the Great Tiddlywinks Competition. And they had both done so well that they found themselves in the final – playing against one another.
Now to start with everything was going quite smoothly. Indeed they had each got their first three “winks” into the “pot”. The problem was, though, that they were great competitors. Neither liked to lose. And as the game progressed, things started to get a little tense. And the crowd were getting a little tense too.
And it wasn’t helped when Springy did a thing called a “squop”. He landed his “wink” on top of one of Leapy’s “winks”. Which meant that Leapy couldn’t play his “wink” until Springy had moved his own.
Well you should have heard the crowd. And you should have seen Leapy’s parents. If you’ve ever been to a school football match and heard some of the parents, I think you’ll get some idea of what happened next. And sadly, the game was halted until after Leapy’s father had been removed from the arena.
Eventually, however, things calmed down, and the play continued. Both Springy and Leapy managed to get their fourth “wink” in. And everything was going well, when Leapy did a “scrunge”.
Now at this stage you’re probably thinking “his making all this up. Even the words don’t make sense”. However I assure you, I had to do a lot of homework on this story. And the internet lists some of the terms used by both the English and North American Tiddlywinks Associations. And a “scrunge” is when a player’s “wink” bounces off the “pot”.
The problem was, however, not just that Leapy did a “scrunge”, but that he did it as the whistle blew for the end of the game. The 25 minutes, the time allotted for serious competitions, was over. And now it was time to see who had the most “tiddlies” (points).
Well Leapy knew he had lost. He had needed that “wink” in the “pot” to win the game. But was he happy about losing? No, he was not. And he showed it. And you can imagine the scene as he jumped up and down, as only an angry grasshopper can do.
Later, at the press conference, both Springy and Leapy were asked about the game. Leapy in particular was asked whether he had been embarrassed about his father’s behaviour. He was asked where he had got his temper from. But all he could say was that his father wasn’t so bad, that it was a one-off thing and would never happen again. He came up with a variety of excuses for his own behaviour too.
And so the Great Tiddlywink Competition came to an end. Springy had won. But his victory had been spoiled by some very bad behaviour.
Now of course there is a moral to this story. And it’s not just the need to be careful playing Tiddlywinks with grasshoppers. It’s not even the need to be alert when watching grasshoppers play. The moral of this story is that whoever is playing a game – grasshoppers or us – there are right ways to behave, and there are wrong ways. There are also good role models and there are bad.
Now we all make mistakes, we all have our moments. But the important thing in life is to live in a godly way, as Jesus would want us to behave. Not to get mad because we don’t get our way.
Because as far as God is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with winning. It’s good to win. But there’s nothing wrong with losing either. It’s not a matter of whether we are better than someone else, but it’s how we play the game. And that’s something that Leapy, and his father, had no real idea about at all. But do you?
Posted: 15th February 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
A Day in the Life of a Pair of Trousers (Rough Draft)
It was getting light, and the pair of trousers hanging in the wardrobe were feeling good about themselves. They’d only been washed the day before, and it was relaxing sleeping in the darkness of the cupboard. However, before they knew what was happening, all of a sudden, the wardrobe door opened, a pair of hands appeared, and they were whisked off the coat hanger and being filled with their owner’s legs. And they were off. And for a pair of trousers what lay ahead could be quite an adventure, because people did all sorts of things. And what adventures lay ahead of those trousers, well they could only wait and find out.
Now the morning started quite normally. They were taken to the kitchen for breakfast, and had the usual bit of milk and cereal slopped on them. And then there was the dog who came and sat upon them too. But the trousers didn’t complain and didn’t hold a grudge. And after that, it was out of the house to… well who knows where.
However, as they were being walked along the street, the trousers recognised where they were going. They were going to the shops. And it wasn’t long before his owner sat down and had a break. And when he did, this time it wasn’t milk and cereal that the owner slopped on them, but a bit of ice cream. And bbbrrr that felt cold.
But that wasn’t all. At lunch time the trousers had a whole meal dropped on them. And on the way home, a car went speeding past, and it found the only muddy puddle that could be found. And, well… you can imagine the rest. But still the trousers didn’t complain, and didn’t hold a grudge.
By the time they got home again that afternoon, the trousers looked a real mess. But the trousers had been around long enough to know what would happen next. In no time they were being taken off, and being put back in the wash.
The trousers breathed in, “Here we go again”, as they had powder thrown over them, and the water began to run. And the trousers held their breath as the bowl began to spin. But before long, they found themselves being hung up to dry. And then, a little later still, a hot – very hot iron – was run all over them. But still the trousers didn’t complain and didn’t hold a grudge.
By the end of the day, however, the trousers were content. All clean, and peacefully hanging up in the cupboard, where they could have a decent night’s sleep. It had a been a big day.
However it wasn’t long before it was dawn again. And all of a sudden the wardrobe door opened, and a pair of hands appeared and grabbed them off the hanger. And for the trousers everything began to happen all over again.
You know for all of us life is mostly routine, but a routine where little adventures happen on the way. And just like the pair of trousers, during those adventures we often get dirty, and not always of our own making. Because apart from our own dirt, we have other people’s dirt thrown at us too.
Of course one kind of dirt, is the stains that we make when we slop things, or when other people slop things. But another kind of dirt is when we do things wrong, or others do things to us which are wrong too. However one of the things that we can learn is to never complain and never hold a grudge.
Now the Apostle Paul had some very good advice about that. He said that we should not let our anger cause us to sin. And that we should not let the sun go down whilst we are still angry (and we can find that in the bible in Ephesians 4:26-27). And what he meant by that, is that we need to deal quickly with the dirt that comes our way. That we are not to make a big deal of it, but quickly put it behind us. And that is what the trousers in our story knew so well.
Indeed, when something happened to the trousers in the story, they never complained, and they never held a grudge. Whatever was thrown at them, they just got on with life. The question is, can we do the same?
Posted: 29th March 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
A Tale of Three Frogs (Rough Draft)
Once upon a time there were three frogs. There was Fred Frog, Freda Frog and Ferdie Frog. And they sat there in the middle of the pond on the biggest lily that you ever could see. Knee-deep, knee-deep, knee-deep.
Now, Fred Frog said to Freda Frog, “Why don’t we jump over to the edge of the pond, where there are some other nice lilies. It’s a nice day, and we can bask in the sun there.” And Freda agreed. But they both agreed that they would sneak off without letting Ferdie Frog know where they were going. So they quietly slipped off the lily in the middle of the pond, and ever so quietly went off to the lilies at the edge of the pond. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
Now unbeknown to Fred and Freda, Ferdie Frog had heard what they had said. He was upset about being left out of the adventure. But in a way he was pleased he hadn’t been asked. Because he knew that a big cat lived close by to the edge of the pond, and he’d seen the cat just where those lilies, that Fred and Freda had been talking about, were. And Ferdie knew that the cat, with one swipe of his paw, could grab hold of anything sitting on those lilies. But Ferdie decided that because he wasn’t invited, he would keep that all to himself. He certainly wasn’t going to call out to Fred and Freda, and warn them of the danger. Not, if they were going to leave him out of their adventure. Knee-deep.
Now once Fred and Freda got to the lilies at the edge of the pond, they felt guilty that they hadn’t invited Ferdie; that they’d left him all on his own. But still the lilies were nice and padded, and very comfortable. So Freda and Freda soon settled down, and started to sun themselves in the warm afternoon sun. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
When all of a sudden… swipe! Fred was no longer on the lily. In fact he was nowhere to be seen. Miaow. Swipe! All of a sudden Freda wasn’t there either. In fact there was no sign that either of them had been there. Miaow.
Now two hours later, back in the middle of the pond, Ferdie Frog was feeling lonely. He knew nothing of what had happened to Fred and Freda, but he was starting to feel very worried. Fred and Freda had been gone some time now, and he hadn’t heard a peep (or even a knee-deep come to that) for a while. And although Fred and Freda had deliberately left him behind, he was feeling guilty that he had done nothing to warn them of the cat. And now… well, he was too scared to go and see what had happened. Knee-deep.
Imagine Ferdie’s surprise, then, when moments later he felt two plops beside him. Fred and Freda reappeared, a little shaken but physically unharmed from their adventure. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
Of course, Ferdie was overjoyed to see Fred and Freda. But at the same time he was curious to know what had happened. So in no time, Fred, Freda and Ferdie settled down to hear the story of the adventure. And to cut a long story short (for those of you who want to know) it appears that Fred and Freda had both seen the cat’s paw coming. And each had jumped just at the right time to miss being swiped by his paw. They had then hidden in the reeds close by, until the cat had gone away. Ferdie then admitted that he had known about the cat and that he was sorry he hadn’t told them. And that because they had left him out of the adventure he had decided not to warn them.
But you know, despite how they had treated each other, Fred, Freda and Ferdie made up with each other that night. It was clear that they needed each other. Their world was a dangerous place, and a lonely place too. They couldn’t afford to be without each other.
So, just as this story began “Once upon a time…” so it ends “And they all lived happily ever after.” Knee-deep, knee-deep, knee-deep.
You know the moral of this story is that we all need each other. Yes we may have times when we deliberately exclude others from the things that we do. And yes, we may have times when we fail to tell others of the dangers in life. But in reality we need other people, and they need us too.
Now if Fred and Freda had understood that, then they might have invited Ferdie on their little adventure. And if Ferdie had understood that, then he would have warned Fred and Freda of the cat. They had to learn their lessons the hard way. But the question for us is, “Do we have to learn our lessons the hard way too?”
Posted: 24th May 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
Charlie the Chimpanzee (Rough Draft)
Charlie the Chimpanzee was a friendly sort of ape. And the one thing he loved the most was being with people. He just loved human company. So much so, that if you were to ask him what he wanted to be in in life, he would say that he wanted to be a human being.
Now, that meant for Charlie, not only spending as much time with people as he could, but it also meant that when they weren’t actually talking directly to him, watching people from afar. Indeed he would watch what people did, and how they behaved, and made a note of every detail of their behaviour. And so seriously did Charlie want to be a human being, that he spent all his waking hours pursuing this one goal, trying hard to get it right.
Unfortunately, for Charlie, copying humans was not necessarily a good thing to do. Because copying people’s behaviour often got him into trouble.
For example, one day he decided that he’d try out some new words that he’d heard some people use (and he really wasn’t quite sure what they meant). But they were evidently important words, because they used them all the time. Imagine his surprise then when the person he tried them on got very upset, and slapped him on the face as if he’d said something wrong.
For example too, another day when he decided he needed to borrow something. Instead of asking the person first, he just took what he needed, just like he’d seen other people do. Well, imagine Charlie’s surprise, then, when the person he’d borrowed from began to turn their whole place upside down, looking for the thing that he had borrowed. And they then called in the police to report that something had been stolen.
And then there was another incident… but I think you get the idea.
Now Charlie may have been a chimpanzee, but he wasn’t silly. And he quickly realised that copying just any person’s behaviour was not a good idea. Indeed he needed to copy only good behaviour, not bad. But who was he going to copy?
Well, fortunately for Charlie, he had a good friend. The vicar of the local church was a regular visitor to Charlie. And so Charlie thought he would be the ideal person to talk to him about his problem. And the vicar was very helpful. He referred Charlie to the bible, and he opened his bible to the letter to the Hebrews. And the vicar read some words from chapter thirteen, verse 7. And they were words all about imitating the life and faith of godly people; those who had shared their faith with you. So the vicar suggested to Charlie that only people who had Jesus in their hearts should even be considered as worthy to be copied. And, perhaps, as even the most faithful can make mistakes, then maybe he should consider only following Jesus’ example. And he left him a Bible so he could read it, and more easily copy Jesus’ behaviour.
And, you know, since that day Charlie has not got into anywhere near as much trouble as he used to. And what’s more, he’s learned to appreciate just what Jesus did for human beings so many years ago.
So now if you were to ask Charlie what his goal in life is, he will now say that he still wants to be as much like a human being as he can be. But he will also say that the person on which he wants to model his life is the person of Jesus himself. And I think that is very wise too.
Now in life we humans tend to learn how to behave from a number of different sources. Indeed we learn from our parents, family members, friends, people we admire etc, etc. And some of the things we learn are good, and some of the things we learn are bad. However, what we should remember, is that we all mistakes. And if we want to learn how to behave well, we need to be able to work out who is a good role model , and who isn’t. And the best role model we can have is Jesus himself.
Now, that’s certainly the lesson that Charlie the Chimpanzee learnt. But is it a lesson that we have learnt too?
Posted: 1st June 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
The Parable of the Brick Wall (Rough Draft)
Big Bad John stood back, looked at the wall, and admired his handy work. The wall was coming along very nicely. Almost three meters tall and three bricks thick, it provided a good solid barrier between his property and Kind Compassionate Ken next door. On the other side of the wall, however, Kind Compassionate Ken looked out of his window in despair. He didn’t know what he’d done to upset Big Bad John, if he’d done anything at all. But still that wall—that barrier—was a constant reminder that no matter what he did, Big Bad John would have nothing to do with him at all.
Indeed it seemed that every time that Kind Compassionate Ken tried to do something to be kind, or to try to be friends, all Big Bad John would do would be to check for gaps in the wall, repair it where necessary, and add another row of bricks to its height. For Kind Compassionate Ken it seemed an impossible situation where only a miracle could change what was happening. And that’s exactly what happened.
Because one day Big Bad John was checking his wall for cracks, and gaps, and adding yet another row of bricks, when all of a sudden “bang!” part of his wall came crashing down, right on top of Big Bad John. In his haste to add another line of bricks, he’d got the mix of the cement wrong. And you know what happened then.
Now Kind Compassionate Ken heard the bang. And even though he knew what Big Bad John would likely do (he’d respond by making the wall even thicker and higher still), he raced out of his front door, came around the wall, and came to Big Bad John’s rescue. And boy did Big Bad John need rescuing.
In no time, Kind Compassionate Ken checked that nothing was broken and that he wasn’t bleeding, and got Big Bad John to sit up on the pile of rubble. And even Big Bad John couldn’t help but say, “Thank you.” But knowing the way he treated him, he asked Kind Compassionate Ken why he had come to his rescue at all. After all, Big Bad John just couldn’t understand why someone he had mistreated so badly could really care. But he obviously did, and it made all the difference in the world to Big Bad John.
It made Big Bad John think about his wall, and how he had been so horrible. It made Big Bad John realise that he needed to change his ways; he realised he needed to do something about that wall. And, do you know what? He did. But he didn’t bulldoze the whole wall right away. No, but he did make a small hole in it, so that he and Kind Compassionate Ken could see and talk to one another—just a bit. Then as their friendship grew over time, the hole got bigger and bigger; the height of the wall has got lower and lower, and the thickness of the wall has got thinner and thinner too.
Of course, Big Bad John still has a long way to go, but now the wall is only one and a half metres tall and only one brick wide. So he really has come a long way.
Of course, the moral of this story is that it is easy to get upset with people, and overreact to the things that people do and say. It’s easy to build walls between us and other people, to keep them out. Similarly it’s very easy to build a wall between us and God to keep him at a distance too. But that’s not how it is supposed to be.
Indeed, the Apostle Paul tells us, that when Jesus died, he broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, and between us and God. In other words he removed the barriers that we build so that we can keep others out.
And if he did that for us, imagine what would happen if we tried to break down the walls that we have with other people. Of course doing that may not be easy, and it may be a bit scary, at first. But with the walls that we build, we shouldn’t wait until there is a major disaster (like Big Bad John) before making the first move.
Posted: 25th September 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
The Musical World of Arnold van Beethoven (Rough Draft)
Arnold belonged to a family of musicians. His mother was a singer, his father played the keyboards, and even his sister had learnt to play the violin. Arnold, however, was much younger than his sister, and although he was allowed to dabble on the keyboards from time to time, he really didn’t understand music at all. Except for the fact that he knew what he liked.
Some music he liked very much, whilst other music he didn’t like at all. And when he heard something he didn’t like, he would often think. “I could do much better than that.” So, one day Arnold opened the lid of the piano stool, took out an unused sheet of manuscript paper, and sat on the stool determined to write some music.
Now Arnold knew that whatever he wrote, he wouldn’t be able to play—he would need to get his father to do that. But Arnold was sure that despite that, he would still be able to write something really good, something worth listening to. But, as he sat there, looking at the blank piece of manuscript paper, pen in hand, he really wasn’t sure what it was going to be.
And then he had a brain wave. “I know,” he thought, “I’ll get some proper music out, and I’ll copy all the lines, squiggles, and tadpoles, and I will add them to my music.” So that’s exactly what he did. He got some manuscripts out of the piano stool, and began to copy all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles. But not necessarily in the same order—he wanted his piece to be different. Nevertheless, he copied all the symbols and arranged them somehow on the page.
Now despite that fact that he really didn’t know what he was doing, two hours later he was finished. He was happy. There were squiggles and lines and tadpoles all over the place. So, with a sense of contentment he leant back, and admired his efforts. And then being unable to play what he’d written, he waited for his father to come home, so he could play it for him.
A little while later Arnold’s father returned home. And of course, being in a musical family, his father was delighted with Arnold’s work; he was pleased that his son was interested in music. But when he looked closely at the manuscript, all he saw was a piece of music which was virtually unplayable. You see, Arnold really knew nothing about music. And the piece that he had written changed tempo two or three times in each line. One minute the tune was in sharps, the next it was in flats. Sometimes there were four beats to the bar, other times only two and a half. Sometimes the piece was written in the treble clef; other times it was written in base clef.
But despite that, his father was determined to play what Arnold had written—just as Arnold had written it. So he sat down at the keyboard and began to play.
Now fortunately it wasn’t a long piece. But by the end, even Arnold could see that there was more to writing music than just writing down lines and squiggles and tadpoles. But Arnold’s father was determined not to put off; he wanted to encourage him in his interest in music. So right there and then he told Arnold he would teach him all about writing music. So, even though the music had not turned out as he had hoped, Arnold was very pleased with the result.
Now of course the moral of this story is that from time to time we all get interested in something. It could be music, it could be painting, or it could be something else. And the danger is that we can think that we can do a better job than someone else. Indeed, right from the beginning, with little or no training, we can think that we know enough to create a masterpiece. Unfortunately, no matter how much we know, there is always room for us to learn more.
And that isn’t just true of music, or painting, it is also true when it comes to the Christian faith. Indeed, at times, we can think we know it all; that we understand every single aspect of the Christian faith. And that is why there are so many people that feel that they don’t have to mix with other Christians; there are so many people who that they don’t need to learn any more.
But of course, you can easily see what happens if we ever begin to think like that. It would be just like writing a piece of music, with all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles, before we really understood what they were all for—just like Arnold.
Posted: 24th June 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis
Signpost Sally was an expert at putting up signs. So, whenever the local council wanted a new signpost erected or an old one replaced, she was called on to do her bit.
She put up signs directing people where to go. She put up signs telling drivers of the speed limits. She even put up signs telling people not to do certain things—like playing with a ball, or taking a dog on the beach. Signpost Sally loved her job. But then she simply loved helping people know where things were, how fast they could drive, or where there were places it wasn’t suitable to do certain things.
Unfortunately, there was something about her signposts that bothered Sally. And that was that some people obviously couldn’t be bothered to read her signs.
For example, a month ago, she had just finished putting up a sign, directing people to the local shopping centre, when someone approached her.
“Do you know where the local shopping centre is?” the voice asked.
But, then, she had also seen someone driving at twenty kilometres over the speed limit, and someone else playing ball with their dog on the beach.
Now that didn’t mean that Signpost Sally stopped loving her job. But it did make her wonder, “What was the point of all the signs,” particularly the ones that she had put up.
In the back of her mind was the disaster that she knew was going to happen. But there was nothing she could do about. All she could do was put up the signs to warn people. It was up to them whether they wanted to take any notice.
And, you know, the sad thing is that two weeks ago what she feared came true. Someone was looking for the shopping centre, but ended up at the tip. A car, that was being driven far too fast, missed the bend in the road and landed in a ditch. And a woman, on the beach, slipped on some doggy-doo.
“I just don’t understand some people,” cried Signpost Sally. “Why don’t people take any notice of my signs?” But you know they didn’t. Because no matter what signs Sally put up, there was always someone who would ignore them. “What’s wrong with these people,” she said. “I always take notice of my signs.” And I guess she had a point. But then she was always putting them up.
But then, last week, Signpost Sally saw a road sign. And she took notice of it, because it was one that she hadn’t put up herself. But she wasn’t really interested in what it said. What she was interested in was where it was, what it looked like, and who had put it there. And, of course, that was a recipe for disaster. Because whilst she was still standing there, she had a whole truckload of gravel tipped over her.
“I guess that serves me right,” said Sally. “I should have paid attention to the sign.” And she should have.
Now in this world there are all sorts of signs—signs for our benefit, signs that need our attention. But how often do we take notice of them? And I mean, not just take notice of where the sign is, what it looks like, or who put it there—but what the sign actually says. Because if we a miss a sign—particularly an important sign—then disaster can come to us too.
And just as that is true of the world, so is it true of the Bible too. Because the Bible has many signs in it—signs pointing the way, signs pointing to Jesus. And they’re all there for our benefit. But how often do we take notice of those signs? And how many of us just carry on, doing what we want?
Of course, the problem with the signs in the Bible, is that we if we miss them, we could end up worse than just ending up at the tip, putting our car in a ditch, or treading on some doggy-do. Our relationship with God depends upon them—our eternal well-being may well be at stake.
So we need to take notice of the signs. It’s something we need to try hard to do.
And everybody else … Well if people don’t want to take notice of the signs, there’s not a lot we can do. Except, we could become signs ourselves—people pointing to Jesus—in the hope that others will take notice, and avoid landing up in the eternal tip, ditch, or doggy-doo.
Posted: 14th January 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
11 of 1 (Chapter 1)
The day had finally arrived. The day I had been looking forward to. I had bought a new house, and it was time to move in. I was excited, and as I drew up outside the house, I was still working out where to put all my furniture.
Of course, I was expecting the house to be empty. So imagine my surprise, as I walked up to the front door, to find the door being opened, and a man standing in the doorway.
‘Good morning, sir. Welcome to your new home.’
I said, ‘I don’t want to be rude. But who are you, and why are you here?’
‘I’m 1 of 1,’ he said. The previous owner didn’t want to take me with him. So, he left me here for you instead. I am your servant.’
‘What do you mean previous owner?’ I asked.
‘I am an android, sir.’
‘But you look, just like a man.’
‘Yes, sir. That’s the way I was made.’ He then took the bag I was holding, and let me in.
Now to say that I was surprised is a bit of an understatement. Surprised, I was flabbergasted. This was not what I was expecting at all. Nevertheless, at that moment the removal van arrived, and it was time to move the furniture in. This was not a time to argue whether I wanted a servant or not, let alone a life-like android. It was time to arrange my furniture.
However, if you were to tell me that my move would go so smoothly, I would not have believed you. Indeed, it seemed like there lots of 1 of 1’s. Indeed, at least one in every room. And that day, not only was all the furniture put in the right place, but all my personal belongings were unpacked, and all the boxes were taken away. Indeed, 1 of 1 even provided me with lunch and tea.
Even so, by the end of the day I was worn out. The problem of 1 of 1 could wait. And I decided that I could deal with the problem in the morning.
The next morning, when I got out of the shower, I found that 1 of 1 had got my clothes out for me. And when I went into the kitchen there was 1 of 1 preparing my breakfast for me.
I said, ‘You’ve been busy this morning, 1 of 1.’
‘Not really sir. You see I’m 4 of 1.’
‘I’m 4 of 1, sir.’
‘1 of 1 opened the front door for you yesterday. 2 of 1 got out your clothes. And I’m getting you breakfast. It’s really no trouble, sir.’
At that, my head began to spin. Were there really three androids? And three who all looked and acted the same? No wonder there seemed to be one in every room yesterday.
‘Would you like the Bible to read, sir.’
‘Yes sir. God’s word.’
‘But I don’t read the Bible, 4 of 1.’
‘But you should sir. And it’s very good way to start the day.’
‘Alright, just this once. But where should I start?
‘At the beginning, sir. I’ve always found it useful to be reminded who created us.’
Now even to me the conversation was getting a bit odd. After all, what would an android know about the Bible? And what would an android know about the creator? But I put that aside for the moment, and I began to read from the Bible.
However, later, when 4 of 1 came back, I said to him, ‘I’ve read the first couple of chapters. But I don’t know why the Bible has such meaning for you. And you weren’t created by God, were you?’
‘So, what it is?’
‘Well, sir, they are a reminder that I was created in someone’s image. You were made in the image of your maker, and we were made in the image of our creator. Our creator’s may be different, but we were both created nonetheless.’ And I could see his point. Indeed, for an android he seemed to be well-informed on the subject.
Which is why, over the next few days, I did not object to him giving me a Bible to read, or even receiving his advice on what I should read next. Because, I knew that if I did that, I would learn more and more about him, and about 1 of 1, and 1 of 2.
Now at what stage I decided to keep my android servants, I don’t know. But they weren’t doing any harm, and they were very useful around the house. Indeed, they did a lot of jobs that I really didn’t like doing at all. It was like one day, as I looked back, I realised I had just accepted them into my life.
In the meantime, I had also discovered that there was more than three of them. Indeed, I had also come across 5 of 1, 7 of 1, and 9 of 1.
So, one day when 4 of 1 came for the daily Bible reading I asked him, ‘How many of you are there, 4 of 1?’
‘There are eleven of us, sir,’ he replied.
‘Have there always been eleven?’ I asked.
‘No, sir. We were twelve. But one of us went wrong and had to deactivate himself. So now there are eleven. But we are expecting a replacement for him any time soon.’
‘So, what does the 1 mean? After all you’re 4 of 1, and I’ve met 2 of 1, 3 of 1, 5 of 1, 7 of 1, and 9 of 1. So what does the 1 stand for?’
‘Jesus, sir. That’s whose image we were made in. We are all made to look and behave like Jesus.’
At that moment, all of a sudden, everything began to make sense. I may not have been a believer. Indeed, reading the Bible had been totally foreign to me. And yet, androids or not, here I was surrounded by ‘people’ who loved me and cared, and wanted me to be part of God’s kingdom.
Of course, I wasn’t there yet, but it did spur me on to look deeper into the mysteries of the Christian faith, to see whether my creator, would also be my sustainer and redeemer.
Posted: 14th April 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
The Man Who Loved Waiting
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Do you like waiting? Do you like standing in queues, waiting to be served? Do you like staying at home, waiting in, because someone is expected to come? Do you like waiting for some special event to arrive?
Well, if you’re anything like me, you don’t. However, I came across a man the other day who does. It’s his favourite pastime. And he loves waiting so much, that if he had his way, that’s all he would ever do.
As a consequence, Darren, went to the Doctor’s surgery the other day. And what did he do there? He waited. He didn’t have an appointment. He just knew it was a good place to wait. And after an hour or so in the waiting room, he got up, said thank you to the lady at the reception, and went home.
He rang the telephone company. And he knew his call was important—he was told so on the phone—so he waited on the phone. Forty minutes later, when the call was answered, he thanked the man who answered for letting him wait, and then he put down the phone.
In the evening he went to a local restaurant. And he went to one in particular. Because he knew that from the time that he sat down until the time he was his order was taken would be about an hour. And then it would be another hour before he would see his food.
You see, Darren loved to wait. And whereas you or I might get a bit frustrated or impatient with all the waiting, Darren loved it. Indeed, he couldn’t get enough of it. Which is all well and good, because the next day he was expecting the plumber to come. And Darren knew what that meant. For the plumber was well known for not turning up, or even phoning to say he’d been delayed. And that was delightful for Darren, because Darren liked to wait.
Only the next morning, Darren didn’t wait. At half-past eight as he was waiting in bed to get up, there was a knock on the door. And there was the plumber, tools in hand, ready to get to work.
Well, if there is anything worse for Darren than someone being on time, I don’t know what it is. But the plumber came and the plumber went, and whatever job Darren had for him to do was quickly done. Which is good in one way. But what was Darren going to do next? He hadn’t planned for the plumber being on time. He’d planned his whole day as a day for waiting and waiting, hoping that the plumber wouldn’t turn up. He’d been taken by surprise. He was totally unprepared. His whole day had been wrecked, what was he going to do?
But, you know, he did find something else to do. He had some friends who could be relied upon for never being on time. It wasn’t the same as the plumber, but at least it was something he could do. So he invited them for tea at six, knowing full well they wouldn’t turn up until nine. And that made Darren very happy indeed.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is very rude not to be on time, not to answer the phone promptly, and to keep people waiting. And yet, our saviour Jesus Christ is doing exactly that. Indeed, it is nearly two thousand years since his followers were told that he would come again.
However, Jesus didn’t say when he was coming—he didn’t know. But he did say that he would come when we least expected it, and that we needed to be ready. He also gave us a task to do while he was away. He didn’t want us to be like Darren, idly sitting and waiting, and being taken by surprise when he suddenly returned. He wanted us to be active and prepared for any sudden visit.
And that’s the lesson we can learn from Darren. Because yes, we do need to wait for Jesus to come again. But what we shouldn’t do, is do nothing and just wait and wait and wait. Because if we do that, when he returns, we will be taken by surprise, we will have not done the task that has been given us, and we will not be ready to face him at all.
Posted: 18th August 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
Mr Fix-It thought he was terribly cleaver. He thought he could fix anything, even when it was one of his own mistakes.
For example, he was a keen gardener. But one day he planted a weed by mistake. In time, the weed got out of control, and it spread and spread and spread. Now he knew he’d made a mistake, but he also thought he could fix it too. So, he sprayed the plant, only to find that he’d not only killed the plant, but all the insects, and everything around it as well. Which left him with an even bigger problem to fix.
He loved doing D.I.Y. He thought he was very good at it. But not everything came out quite as he had hoped. For instance, he made a collapsible table—a table he could fold away whenever he didn’t need it. But the problem was that it did collapse. Indeed, it wouldn’t stay upright at all. But then he knew that he could fix it. He knew he had the ability to get it right. So, he did—or at least he thought he did, only to find out that his collapsible table wouldn’t collapse when he wanted it at all. And because it doesn’t collapse, it is now taking-up far too much space in his lounge room.
He loved cooking tea. And one day, as he was cooking it, he thought he’d have a taste. But, ugh, it was awful. However, despite that, he knew he could fix it. So, he added a few more ingredients, dished it up and sat down to eat. Only then did he discover how truly awful it was. It was worse than before. And he thought, “What a good job it is that I haven’t invited anyone else to share this meal.”
Now it is no exaggeration to say that there was always a problem with whatever Mr Fix-It touched. Whatever he did never came out right. But despite that, he remained convinced that he could get it right, that he could fix up whatever problem he had created.
But then something happened. Disaster struck in the Mr Fix-It house. Instead of driving his car into the garage he missed the door and hit the wall. And he hit it so hard that the wall was damaged, and he was trapped in the car. What a disaster! And for the first time ever, Mr Fix-It had to admit that there was something he couldn’t fix on his own. He needed help, because without it, the problem was not going to go away.
Now that day changed Mr Fix-It. And he no longer believes that he can fix up all his mistakes. Yes, he can fix up some of them, but not all of them. Because sometimes he needs other people’s help.
But sadly, it hasn’t changed the attitude of those around him. Because most of his friends still think the way that he did. Knowing full well what happened to Mr Fix-It, they still think they can fix up all their own mistakes. And, they even believe that they can fix up everyone else’s mistakes too.
But they can’t, can they? Because we all make mistakes, and we can’t always fix up our own mistakes, let alone the mistakes of others. We need the help of each other.
And the biggest thing that we can’t fix up, is our relationship with God. But then, isn’t that what the Bible, and why Jesus came to earth, all about?
Because, regarding God, each mistake we make creates a wedge between us and God. And there is nothing we can do to hide it, or make it go away. Our mistakes are there for life. We cannot hide them from God. And if we should try to fix them up … well, all we usually do is to make the situation much much worse. In regard to matters concerning God, all we can do is to be sorry, depend on him to fix it, and then try to do better. And that’s not something we can do on our own.
So, do you make mistakes? Do you think you can fix them all yourself, or even making them go away? Well if you do, then you are like Mr Fix-It was and his friends still are. That’s why we need to depend upon others. And, most importantly, depend upon God for our help.
Posted: 25th August 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
11 of 1 (Chapter 2)
A few weeks later, I was outside, in the back garden, sitting around the pool, and I must have been daydreaming. Then all of a sudden 3 of 1 was there and handing me a Bible.
But this time as I took it, I said to him. ‘You know that I don’t believe.’
‘So, why do you keep giving me the Bible?’
‘For you to read sir. It’s good to read the Bible. As for whether you believe … that is your choice, sir. The maker doesn’t force anyone to believe.’
Then as 3 of 1 was about to go, I noticed something in his manner. He was clearly uncomfortable with what I had said.
So I said to him, ‘3 of 1.’
‘What is it? What did I say that has made you feel uncomfortable?’
‘Well, sir, whether you believe or not, that is your choice. But I am concerned for you. After all there are consequences behind a lack of belief.’
‘Yes sir. Our creator loves us. And he loves us so much that he has given us freedom to choose. Indeed, we are free to believe or not. So much so, that if we want nothing to do with him, then he is duty bound to honour that request. That’s true love, sir, no matter how much it may hurt him. And many people in this world are quite happy with that arrangement.’
Then 3 of 1 continued, ‘But what happens next, when we die? Well, he can hardly let us into his kingdom, if we’ve told him we want nothing to do with him. And that’s why I worry about you, sir. You are free to choose, but have you really thought through what lack of belief really means? After all, where do you want to go when you die?’
And with that, 3 of 1 left, leaving me mulling over his remarks. To begin with I couldn’t help wonder how an android could be concerned about death and the afterlife. And I made a mental note, to talk to 3 of 1 more about that another time. But as his remarks began to sink in, I got this horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, as I began to think about my own mortality, and where I thought I might be going.
Now to say that I was a bit rattled, would be an understatement, and for the next few days 3 of 1’s words stayed constantly in my mind. After all, where did I want to go when I died?
Like most people, I believed that when I died I would go to heaven, and no matter what I had done I believed that God would forgive me. But that was not the implication of 3 of 1’s words. No, 3 of 1 had implied that those who have no time for God in this world will not end up in heaven. 3 of 1 had not said where they would be going instead. But a picture of a place without God—without love and goodness and meaning and hope—came readily to mind. And I wondered, if that were true, how many of my family and friends had found themselves in that other place rather than with God.
Now I think at that stage I panicked. And I looked up at the sky and said to God, ‘I believe! I believe!’ But nothing happened. I was hoping for a sense of relief at least. But nothing. And deep down I knew that I still didn’t really believe. All I wanted to do was to avoid the possibility of going to the wrong place.
A few days later, I mentioned it to 3 of 1 again.
‘3 of 1,’ I said. ‘You remember that conversation about the afterlife?
‘Do you remember talking about people missing out on heaven—you know, the people who don’t believe here and now?’
‘Well, I’ve been thing about it, and it’s been worrying me. How does one make sure that they go to heaven rather than the other place? That is, if there is another place?’
‘There assuredly is, sir. A most dreadful place, full of people who did not have time for God in this word.’
‘So, how do make sure you go to the right place? What do you have to do?
‘Yes, what do you have to do?’
‘It’s not something you do, sir? Nothing that you can do will make you fit to go to heaven. You simply have to believe.’
‘Believe? But I’ve tried that. I’ve told God that I believe, but it made no difference.
‘But did you really believe, sir? After all, saying you believe is not the same thing as actually believing. You have to really believe?’
‘But how do you do that?’
‘You have to trust in Jesus, sir. You have to put your whole life in the hands of Jesus now. You have to trust him in this life, then he will see you through to the next.’
‘I don’t know that I can do that, 3 of 1.’
‘Well, that’s your choice, sir. I just hope that you can change your mind.’ And with that, he handed me the Bible to read, and left.
Posted: 15th September 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis