Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My current project

Well friends, we've had some down time. Ellen got a flu bug that's goin' round last Thursday, and had a couple of miserable days, but she's pretty much back to normal in strength now. Then I felt sort of poorly Monday and Tuesday of this week, but am out and about today. Neither of us are going out to slay dragons but we're gaining.

In and around all of this I've been working on an editing project (leading to the publication of a book) that has been in progress now for a long, long time: a "complete" edition of my late wife Shirley's children's stories (and mine as well). I have been collecting them from audio tapes for well over a year now, and also combing the files for written drafts that Shirley left. I think I have actually got on my hard drive 99% of what's extant at this point, and there about 350 stories, depending on how you count them. But a few days ago I decided to completely reorganize the way I'm going to publish them. Originally I was going to do it chronologically, but now I've decided to organize them thematically, and more or less according to the liturgical year, starting with Advent and Christmas. This requires a lot of additional work, mostly of the cutting and pasting variety. Very tedious. But I think it will make for a much more attractive and useful book. When it's all done, I think it will be an almost unique collection: I at least know of no collection of original stories gleaned from a church ministry spanning 20 years or so. The collection will include photographs and drawings made by children in response to some of the stories.

Just to give you a taste of this, here is one of my favorites: Stop Frying Eggs. It was inspired by a mechanical toy that Shirley had - a little pig in a chef's hat holding a frying pan with two eggs in it in her right hand, and a salt shaker in the left. When you wound it up, the pig flipped the eggs up into the air and caught them in the pan again and again, while her other hand shook in the salt. It is an amazing toy to watch -- the eggs actually land in the pan about 95% of the time!

Stop Frying Eggs! (First told on June 23, 1991)

I just love to take naps! Do you love to take naps? (Child: No!) I love being able to go to bed early -- do you like going to bed early? (Several children: No! No!). Well, that shows the difference between adults and children. Children don't like to take naps and adults love to. But we are created by God to both be busy and to rest. So today I'm going to tell you a story about Patty Pig who was not able to rest.

Patty loved to work in her mother's diner. She loved especially to fry eggs. (At this point, Shirley takes out the mechanical toy and winds it up). See -- there are two eggs in Patty's frying pan. She got so much into the rhythm of frying eggs that she just couldn't stop. She found herself frying eggs all day and all night. Pretty soon the diner was filled all the way to the top with fried eggs -- no one could even get into the diner! (The toy is continually flipping eggs up into the air and catching them, which evokes cries of surprise and delight from the children and the congregation).

All day, all night, Patty was frying eggs and her mother said, "Stop! Patty, stop! Stop! Stop frying eggs!" But Patty said, "I can't stop! I can't stop frying eggs!"

But then Patty remembered something from Sunday School -- she remembered the phrase, "And God will give you rest." And she cried out, "Oh God! Help me! Help me to stop frying eggs!" And gradually, she found through her prayer that she was able to stop constantly frying eggs. (At this point, the spring in the mechanical toy was winding down and eventually it stopped altogether). And Patty said, "Thank you God for rest!" Patty prayed and she was able to stop. She didn't fry any more eggs until Monday morning!

Sometimes we all need to ask God to help us stop for a while. We get so busy frying eggs (or whatever it is that we are so busy doing), that we just need to stop and rest our bodies and our spirits.

Here is a photo showing "Patty Pig" in the front row along with several other puppets and toys Shirley used in her stories:

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