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07 August 2016

Sunday Psalms: The Circus (Part 1)

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Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical  Works

On a hot night, the hill at the edge of town was the perfect spot for a boy to lie on his back and gaze up at the stars. A million miniature lights holding infinite potential for three months of summer freedom.

It was June of ’68, and the school year had officially come to an end. Eleven-year-old Jasper Cobb was lying on the grassy hill with his hands pillowed behind his head. After a supper of peanut butter and jelly, he had climbed to the top of the hill to watch the moon make its appearance. Now it was dark, and he was earnestly trying to count all the stars twinkling down on him. One, two, twelve, twenty-seven, thirty-three. Around star number forty-two he drifted off to sleep.

Sometime after midnight the sound of the passing train rustled Jasper awake. He charged down the hill and raced all the way to his house, the one with the withering grass and the crooked mailbox. Fully dressed, he dove into bed and yanked up the bed covers, just as his mother was pulling her car into the drive.

That night with the tips of his sneakers poking out under the sheets, Jasper dreamed he was swimming in a pool full of stars. One of them catapulted him up into the Milky Way where he bounced from planet to planet. When his eyes opened the next morning, Jasper was convinced this was going to be his best summer ever.

“Did you sleep in your clothes?” his mother asked as he sat down to the breakfast table.

“Guess so,” Jasper said as she set a bowl of oatmeal down in front of him. He didn’t like oatmeal, but she was being decent about him sleeping in his clothes. He supposed he could eat it and not grimace too badly.

“Three months. What are you going to do with all that free time?” His mother worked at the cannery during the day, and waitressed at night. She wondered what it would be like to have the luxury of three months.

Do? What was he not going to do?

“Go fishing with Michael,” Jasper answered and shoved a spoonful of the hot cereal into his mouth. He finished it as quickly as possible, and without changing his clothes, rode off to meet Michael Chen.

The kids in school didn’t like Michael because his parents didn’t speak English. They disliked Jasper because his father was a deserter. Kids never did need much of a reason to dislike someone. Due to their mutual rejection, Jasper and Michael had become friends. Best friends with big plans.

That morning, and every morning in the month of June, the boys rendezvoused at the telephone pole on the corner of 6th and Maple. Jasper was always late, Michael was always early. From there they would cruise through town, down main street, and all the way to the fishing hole on the other side of the railroad tracks. They spent the day swimming and fishing and hunting frogs. For the first few weeks of summer, the fishing hole was everything they had dreamed it would be.

By the end of June, however, the hot winds of boredom set in, and it was safe to say that the boys had drained the fishing hole of all its glory.

“We could go throw rocks at the old Buford house,” Michael suggested

“Nah. How about we go to movies?”

“No. We’ve already seen it twice.”

That’s right. They’d already done everything their town had to offer.

Back and forth, no idea held any amount of intrigue. The summer that had started out with so much excitement was gradually losing its charm.

On an evening in the middle of July, Jasper made another trek back up the hill. Once again he laid down and looked up at the stars. Using his index finger, he ticked off each one as he numbered them. When he arrived at twenty-nine stars, one of them shot across the sky, like an arrow leaving Robin Hood’s bow.

“Look! Look! A shooting star!” he shouted into the silence. This had to mean something. He closed his eyes and made a wish. Maybe the summer could still be redeemed.

The next morning when he arrived at the telephone pole, Jasper could tell something had changed. It was ten minutes past nine and Michael Chen was late. Michael was never late.

“Can’t you be on time like Michael?” his mother had often asked Jasper. “It’s polite, you know.”

Polite? Apparently his mother had been misinformed about the destiny of a young man. He highly doubted that Robin Hood or any of his merry men were overly concerned with being polite.

It was humid and close to 9:30 when Jasper finally heard the whooshing of Michael’s rubber tires coming up the street. His friend was out of breath and panting like a thirsty dog when he pulled up and screeched his brakes.

“You’re late.” Jasper felt his chest swell. He’d never been able to say those words to Michael.

“Friday – Friday—It’s coming.” Intermittent bursts from Michael as he tried to catch his breath.

“What’s on Friday?” Jasper casually asked as he straddled his bicycle. He readjusted his legs and pushed his bangs aside with the back of his hand. Mingled with the sweat on his forehead, his bangs stuck to the side like a wing.

Unlike Michael, Jasper was reluctant to get worked up. This was because Michael was always excited about everything. Honestly, when it came to levels of importance, the kid had no discretion. He could find just as much delight in a stick of chewing gum as he did a new Bonanza or Gunsmoke episode. Whether they caught a big old trout or an old shoe on the end of the fishing line, Michael was always eager.

“It’s coming,” Michael said again, breathing a little easier. He leaned forward on his handlebars, and Jasper could see the light of the stars in his friend’s eyes. This had to be more than a stick of gum.

“What is it, Michael? What’s coming?”

That’s when Michael said the words Jasper had waited his whole life to hear, the very wish he had made on Robin Hood’s star last night.

“The circus, Jasper. The circus is coming.” Michael fervently dug into his jeans pockets and handed him a crumpled flyer. The circus was coming, and they were going.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. Psalm 147:2-5 (NASB)

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. Psalm 8:3-8 (NASB)

To be continued…

-Question to Ponder: What fills you with wonder?

-Song Recommendation: The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell

-Read Previous Sunday Psalms: Season One Episodes, Season Two: Episode 1Episode 2, Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13

Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Psalm 8 & 147. Copyright © 2016 by Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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