Happy New Year to you all.  We wish everyone a most successful 2007!

This next story is one that is quite touching even though the language is older. 


I stood in the dusty pound at Lydenburg, South Africa, and watched the unwanted donkeys being put up for sale.  Most of the unfortunate animals were sold, and I didn’t like the way their new owners took possession, trashing their purchases before ever a task was set them and their willingness tested.  One by one, and in small groups, the little pilgrims were set on the dreary road that leads through labour and starvation to merciful death.  At last there was only one left, an old grey jenny with one eye blinded and one torn ear hanging loppily from its middle.  She was covered with ticks, her knees were bent and her head hung down.  A picture of dejection.  A young native bid sixpence for her and laughed raucously.  I was prospecting for gold at the time and almost down but not out, for I still had my tools and six shillings in cash. I had intended buying a bag of meal and supplementing my sugar and coffee supply.  But now I knew that I must buy the aged jenny and sacrifice a precious cartridge as well.  Between the eyes and a little above, and she’d never know what hit her. I raised the bidding to a shilling and watched my extra coffee go down the drain.  The other fellow bid one and three.  I sent my sugar ration after the coffee and upped it threepence more.  My opponent made a scornful remark and slouched off; the donkey was mine to release through the barrel of my old Smith and Wesson, as soon as we could get out of town.  For no reason at all I named her Petronella.  Getting her out of town wasn’t going to be easy, by the look of her, so I dug into my pack for some salt, which is ambrosia to asses the world over.  Her good ear pricked up as I held the dainty under her muzzle.  Her nose wrinkled ecstatically as she crunched it, and she emitted those curious, death-rattlelike sounds which in the asinine etiquette indicate pleasure.  With more salt on my palm, I led her away and up the road.  It is bad manners to carry a gun in town, so the old Smith and Wesson was in my pack.  When we came, to a sufficiently remote spot I transferred its holster to my belt.  The action reminded Petronella of goodies and she edged nearer ingratiatingly.  I gave her a little salt and then, for some inexplicable reason, I fastened my pack on her emaciated back.  She pricked her good ear forward and started off up the mountain trail in front of me as a well-trained pack animal should.  Gone was the air of dejection, and gone, too, the bent and trembling knee.  In place of the sorry moke in the pound was a frail but determined old lady, loved and ready to get back to the sort of task she understood.  She brought a curious kind of dignity to her labour. I thought:  “Well, if she gives me any trouble or looks like falling, I’ll bump her off, but it’s nice not having to carry the pack.”  Even then I knew I could no more shoot Petronella than fly.  She gave me trouble all right.  The very first night she chewed my pack about, trying to get at the salt inside.  The next night, after we had made camp, she disappeared.  I thought:  “Good riddance,” but then I started worrying in case she had broken a leg, or a snake had bitten her, and so I spent half the night searching.  When I finally gave up and returned, she was lying next to the ashes of my fire, chewing away at the pack once more.  After that I stopped worrying, and in the year during which she and I fossicked around she often went off on her own for a few hours, but always came back in time to carry her load.  She invented a little game after she felt she knew me well enough to take liberties.  Whenever we approached a spinney where the bush was thick, she would gallop ahead and hide in it.  Having found the sort of cover she needed to fool me, she would stand dead still while I fumed and fretted, usually within a couple of yards of her hide-out.  After half an hour of this kind of fun she would bray derisively, to show me where she had been all the time, and then trot up and nuzzle at my pockets, demanding a reward for being so darned clever.  Those were halcyon days, for our needs were small and the country supplied most of them.  Long, hot days and clear, cool nights, rain sometimes but always followed by the drying-out sun and wind.  We knew thirst, too, but never badly, for Petronella’s instinct was infallible and all I had to do was give her her head and follow her lean little rump to a water hole.  One day an old fellow turned up with a whole string of donkeys, and one of them was a jack.  Petronella should have known better, at her age.  But girls will be girls, and in due course the horrible truth became obvious – Petronella was about to become a mother.  When her time was near, I had to go into Lydenburg on urgent business and so I left her in charge of a boy I thought I could trust.  I returned inside a week, late at night and during a terrific storm.  I went to look for my boy to find out how Petronella fared.  He had disappeared, and so had most of my kit.  I stumbled about in the mud and rain, waiting for flashes of lightning to show me where the jenny was.  And then I heard the jackals yip-yapping and snarling on a plateau above the spring.  I got there just too late, for the brutes had torn at the little body of the foal as it was born, and it died as I lifted it up.  Petronella had fought them off for as long as she was able.  She was in a terrible state, her muzzle ripped and her flank savaged.  Carrying the dead foal I led her back to the shack and bedded her down where I had light to see to dress her wounds.  All next day she followed me about like a dog, and when I stopped she pressed her head against my thigh, her misery too much to bear alone.  She would not eat or drink and her one fear seemed to be that I would go away and leave her again.  She died on the evening of the second day after my return, with her maimed ear pressed against my side and her poor, thin flank heaving less and less, until it finally went quite flat and was still.  I dug a deep hole where no gold would ever be found and cheated the jackals by laying heavy rocks over her body and over the closed grave as well.  I buried the child of her dotage with her.  As I did so I remembered the black cross etched over her withers, the beam straight down her spine and the bar crucifix from side to side.  Coloured servants in the Cape used to tell us, long ago, that the mark was imprinted on the hides of grey donkeys because once The Man rode one in triumphant humility before mankind.             (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey is mentioned in all four gospels.) Also who knew about the cross markings on donkeys?  Check out pictures on the internet.                                                                     





           AND ALL THAT YOUR HEART MAY DESIRE                        CELTIC BLESSING


There is a space on everyone’s bookshelves for books one has outgrown but cannot give away.  They hold one’s youth between their leaves, like flowers pressed on a half-forgotten summer’s day.                               Marion C. Garretty   


I have been at the bedside of many people in their final moments, when they stand on the edge of eternity, and I have never heard anyone say, “Bring me my diplomas!  I want to look at them one more time.  Show me my awards, my medals, that gold watch I was given.”  When life on earth is ending, people don‘t surround themselves with objects.  What we want around us is people – people we love and have relationships with.  In our final moments we all realize that relationships are what life is all about.  Wisdom is learning the truth sooner rather than later.  Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that nothing matters more.  In heaven God won’t say, “Tell me about your career, your bank account, and your hobbies.”  Instead He will review how you treated other people, particularly those in need.          (The Purpose-Driven Life)


Sad but true:

A British company has developed a product called “Spray-On Mud” so city dwellers can give their expensive 4x4 vehicles the appearance of having been off-road for a day of hunting or fishing without ever leaving town.  The mud is even filtered to remove stones and debris that might scratch the paint.  According to the company, sales are going well.


If you knew for certain that you were going to lose your voice and that you would never be able to speak again, what would you want your final words to be?  A man with throat cancer faced an operation that would save his life but not his voice.  Just before surgery, he spent time with his wife telling her of his love.  He did the same with his daughter.  The he asked his doctor to let him know precisely when the anesthetic would make him unconscious.  As the man was slipping off to sleep, he said distinctly, “Jesus! Jesus!”  That was the last word he chose to utter in this life.

         “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”                       Philippians 2:10,11


Sister Deena had just returned home from Sunday evening service when she was startled by a burglar.  With great biblical authority she yelled, “Stop!   Acts2:38”, which implies “Turn from your sin.”  The thief stopped dead in his tracks.  Then the woman calmly called the police and explained what she had done.  As the officer cuffed the man, he asked the burglar, “Why did you stop your burgling?  All the old lady did was yell a bible verse at you.”  Bible verse? replied the crook.  “She said she had an ax and two .38s!”


That’s all for now.  Talk to you soon.                      Love and prayers,


   Bar River and Echo Bay United Churches