Faith stories

The Blizzard


Jim Oates

The hope and dream of every young fellow back in the forties was to get his driver’s license and then his hunting permit. At the age of seventeen, and with great pride, I had acquired both, and had saved up enough money to buy a used sixteen gauge single-shot, shotgun.

It was one of those cold frosty mornings with the sun sparkling on the crisp, newly fallen snow. The snow crunched as I headed across the field. I felt a bite on my cheeks as Jack Frost dabbed them with his brush, leaving a red glow that caused a burning sensation on the exposed skin. There was a sharp searing sensation inside my nose as I inhaled the frigid air. I soon got used to it as I walked into the sun with a light breeze at my back. It was mid January in 1948, and as any adolescent boy with a newly acquired shotgun, I was very glad to be out trudging along through snow midway to my knees in places.

I was on a hunt for any elusive cottontail that may still be hunkered down under a snow covered brush pile. I usually went hunting with my friend Norm; one of us would kick or jump on each brush pile as we came upon them, hoping a cottontail or two would run out. However, this morning Norm had to help his father with something and I was alone. I made my way across Smith’s pasture field, through Old Nick’s bush and across the tracks to a neighbouring bush lot. That is where I was able to drop my first rabbit of the day. I then made my way across the field behind the bush where I saw a jackrabbit lazily loping along, I decided against firing as he was a little out of range and it would have been a wasted shot.

I followed his tracks in the snow for a ways, hoping he would circle around, and just maybe, would come within range. This tactic had worked other times but not this day. I continued across the road, zigzagged my way through the stubble and weeds, and was able to bag another cottontail. By this time, I had made my way all the way to the Elmstead road, some two and a half miles from home.

It was beginning to cloud over and the temperature was beginning to drop. I decided to head for home, besides; the two rabbits in my game pouch were beginning to get heavy. There was still the chance that I might be able to bag another rabbit on the way back, for Mom’s stew pot.

All the while I was walking that morning, the wind had been at my back and the sun was shinning; it had been a crisp, but comfortable walk and I didn’t really notice the cold. Now, as it clouded over, I was heading in the opposite direction and into the wind, I began to feel the cold begin to penetrate my heavy hunting jacket. It began with a few flurries, and then heavier snow driven by the wind felt like tiny needles against my already cold face. I walked with my head tilted at an angle to protect my face and eyes from the elements. As my eyes were now narrow slits above my burning cheeks, it was difficult to see.

Two miles seemed to go on forever as I plodded on into driving snow. I knew I was heading in the right direction, as I was able to follow the railway tracks. I had no thought of danger, as walking along the railroad was a common thing in those days. The tracks became a handy shortcut to visit our friends over on the next concession. I trudged along using the rails as my guide.

I lost all sense of time and distance, the howling wind was blowing the snow in a horizontal direction now. I looked up from time to time but I could see no further than an arms length ahead of me. The howling of the wind blocked any sound that normally would have been heard.

I could not make out any landmarks, but I had to be getting close to my road. For some reason unknown to me, it had to have been providence; I got off the track and began walking over by the fence that ran all the way along. I had not been there but a few minutes, when I felt a trembling beneath my feet as a freight train rumbled by. In those days, I had good hearing, but that monster steamer snuck up on me. What started as a light tremor gained momentum and now I felt the ground shake as it went by. I only heard it after it was passing and blew its whistle. The wind blew the sound back to me. That whistle-blast certainly added to the chill that was already creeping into my bones.

It is only by the grace of God that I am able to tell this story today. Even though I never knew the Lord in my youth, as I look back now, I can see how His hand of protection has been over me, preserving my life on this and several other occasions over the years.

I thank God, because of His mercy, I have been able to live for and serve in His kingdom for over fifty years.

* * *

  New Sound


Jim Oates

 When I first met Wilma, I noticed her speech was a little different and she mispronounced some of her words. She had a wire that ran from the inside of her blouse and up through her shoulder length hair to her ear. Her first hearing aid was a large cumbersome device that she wore pinned to her under garment. It was a little larger than the size of the modern cell phone with an earpiece attached to the end of a length of wire.

Wilma’s hearing problem was a result of having had scarlet fever as a child. She learned to lip read and got along reasonably well in school. Not being able to hear certain sounds, some words seemed to have missing syllables. She pronounced them as she heard them. This was embarrassing and frustrating to her, as other children would often make fun of her speech.

The first behind the ear hearing aid we were able to get a few years after we were married, was quite liberating for her. She always wore her hair over her ears hiding the fact that she wore an aid. I remember thinking, this little device hanging on her ear cost the same as an expensive stereo. I didn’t mind the expense because her quality of life was greatly improved.

It is amazing, the technology that is packed into such a small device. Over the years the hearing aids have improved greatly and she was able to enjoy some music; where as before, music was just so much noise to her. Wilma was not one to sing aloud, occasionally I would hear, “Do, do, do – woo, woo” when she thought she was alone, happily going about her house work. But in church, since she was not able to follow the melody, she would only mouth the words under her breath, as she read them in the hymn book.

On one rare occasion, as we were worshiping in church, I heard a sound I had never heard before; it was not pleasant. Wilma was singing aloud. I was startled, embarrassed and pleased all at the same time; Wilma had been so moved by the Spirit, that she just couldn’t contain it, and just had to let it out. No one else seemed to notice. I was so pleased that she had the freedom to express her feelings.

It was perhaps, only in the last twenty years of her life that she seemed to be taking notice of different sounds, especially nature sounds. She would ask me what a particular sound was. It may have been a song sparrow, a robin or some other bird or insect. Since the doves were so plentiful, the first bird sound that she learned to identify was the dove’s call, and attempted to imitate their cooing mating call.

One pleasant evening I took her out to the pond in our back yard, as the wild life was in full orchestration. The spring peepers, those tiny frogs about the size of a thumbnail, were singing their high-pitched mating songs. I was able to single out the odd one with the beam from my flashlight. It puffed itself up and emitted its shrill love call that was soon to receive a reply from somewhere across the water. Wilma was thrilled to relate the sound to a particular frog. One frog would call and soon the answer would come from the other side of the pond as each species sang its own peculiar song. Soon the whole area was filled with song as the insects singing in the background tried not to be out-done by the spring peepers singing soprano, the leopard frogs and green frogs began singing, joining their alto and baritone voices with the deep bass of the bullfrogs.

It seemed that God called on all of nature to put on a special show with sound effects just for us that magical night.

We sat enchanted in our lawn chairs as we enjoyed the panorama of endless galaxies that make up the heavens. The moon and stars shining down and reflecting off the water of the pond was our only light. As well as this spectacle stretched out above us, the air was filled with the sound of this marvelous symphony of nature, this back and forth calling filled the air with the sound of music. All of nature was singing out the praises of God that glorious night.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).

I was delighted to watch her child-like glee, as Wilma began to differentiate between the various sounds. Sounds, that I had taken for granted all of my life; Wilma was now hearing and identifying for the first time in her’s.

* * *


Widowed – Fair or Unfair?


Jim Oates

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1: 21). “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2: 10).

Forty-five years with a person is a lot of togetherness; it is a time of getting to know one another intimately. A time of growing together, so as, we became, as it were, one person in body and mind. This is love, and as such, we were able to anticipate what one another was thinking or feeling.

It was not always this way; there were times when things did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. I lay the blame for most of any unpleasantness that occurred squarely at my feet.

God has a way of working things out, not always in ways of our choosing but in ways that always drew us closer together. Sometimes it was through an illness or the injury of a child, or ourselves. One thing that we committed ourselves to was never to go to bed with any hard feelings between us.

Forty-five years seemed like forever when we were young and looking ahead, but as we grew older together, it seemed as if it was just yesterday that we met and fell in love.

Working together side by side, raising our children and doing what all married couples do, life was good. It was hard at times, but we were together. God was in his Heaven and it was very good. We had made plans for what we would do in our retirement years and on into our eighties. I had a serious illness and she lovingly cared for me. Then as fate would have it, our roles were reversed, and that dreaded cancer came on the scene. We both believed confidently that God would heal her, but He had other plans.

The oneness we shared was severed; I was now left by myself. It was as if I had been sawn in half, I was now only a half of a person. I lived in a fog for at least a year. It all seems so senseless. It is not fair; it is just not fair; what about all the plans we have made, the trips that we were to take? She had many good years ahead of her; she was too young, she was only sixty-nine. It just isn’t fair.

Looking back, I realize that it would not be fair to her, to go on as she was. Could God have healed her? Yes, of course, He could have. However, I now realize that God is sovereign and He has the right to do what He knows is best for all concerned. I do not know what His plans for her were; it must have been something special, for He took her to Himself. Although I desperately wanted to keep her here with me, I would not wish her back to the life she was living.

Looking ahead, I cannot see what God has planned for me. He has been with me through it all; He has given me peace and comfort. Yes, even through tears, and there have been many.

What lies ahead? I do not know; but one thing I do know, God’s word is true and He said, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Heb. 13: 5-6). And in Jn. 14: 27, He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I do not know what lies ahead, but God will not leave me abandoned and alone. Am I lonely? Sure I am at times. However, He has brought new people and interests into my life to keep me busy. I can smile and laugh again with friends. In addition, I know I am in, and am doing His will.

Is being a widower unfair? I do not think so; it is not something I would have chosen for myself, but I recognize that God is sovereign, and I accept my lot as a widower.

Is being a widower normal? Yes. It is a new normal. God has given me the ability to fit into my new normal. The joy of the Lord is my peace and comfort, and I will continue to serve Him in whatever role He has for me. I know that one day, I will see my Lord face to face and my beloved wife again. This is reason enough for living on and trusting in the blessed hope that He has promised to all who believe in Him.

* * *


A Man Called Harry


Jim Oates


The first time I met Harry was in the early nineties. He was a tall gangly man who looked to be in his mid fifties; It is hard to tell the age of a person in Harry’s condition. He could not walk without the aid of a wheeled walker and his legs wobbled as he made his way to the activity room where we held our weekly Bible study.

I, along with my friend Don, had been conducting Bible studies at a local nursing home facility for several years. On rounding up residents for our meeting this particular Sunday morning I went to the sitting room at the other end of the building, where I found a few of our regulars watching TV. I asked Mrs. O’Keefe, a fine looking lady who always dressed to the nines sitting in her wheelchair, if she would like to come this morning, she agreed and I said that I would be glad to bring her. Then I noticed this poorly dressed man with spittle dribbling from his chin onto the front of his shirt sitting near her waving his hand uncontrollably in the air. He was new to the home and I had never seen him before. He was not what I would call a handsome man but he might have been if he had a little more flesh on his bones.

Harry couldn’t speak other than a few unpronounceable utterances like, “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah.” But this didn’t deter him from trying to communicate. On hearing me ask the folk if they would like to come to our service, he grasped his walker and stood to his unsteady legs. With his boney finger waggling at me and that , “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah.” I instinctively knew he wanted to come.

Inside I cringed, I told him we were holding a service down the hall in the activity room, all the while hoping he wouldn’t come. I didn’t want him to come. He’ll make funny noises and distract the service. I’ve seen people like him before I thought, they always make funny noises and do funny things, he would be an embarrassment.

As I was pushing Mrs. O’Keefe along, Harry passed us weaving his way down the long corridor.

This Godly man that I thought I was, bringing the word of God to these shut-ins was thoroughly embarrassed.

Yes, Harry did come and he did make funny noises, he always sat over against the wall in the front row, he seemed to enjoy the songs that were sung and listened intently to every word that was said. I was still embarrassed, but noticed every time the name of Jesus or God was said, Harry’s hand shot up with that boney finger waggling heavenward while saying, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah.” Of course all eyes turned to Harry on these occasions and a chorus of, “Shhush shh’s,” were said all around the room, which were probably more distracting than Harry.

This went on for several weeks, then one morning under the leading of the Holy Spirit, I took a side trip from my prepared study. On this occasion, the Spirit caused me to talk about God’s love for each one of us, no matter what our status in life, what our family background or education was, none of this matters to God. He loves each and every one of us the same. I went on to say, “Maybe as a child, other kids made fun of you. Maybe someone said that you would never amount to anything.

God never says things like that. God loves you too much to say anything like that because He really values you. It doesn’t matter what other people say about you, God cares and has made a way for us to draw near to Him and feel His comforting arms around us and He did this by bringing His Son Jesus to this earth to die for each one of us.”

Not thinking of any one particular person I went on to say, “Maybe your parents even may have said, ‘You are stupid, you’re no good, you will never amount to anything.’” At that moment, Harry got to his feet and weaved his way across the floor and stood directly in front of me about a foot away staring intently into my eyes, and with that boney finger thumping against his chest, said, “Ahhhh ahhhh ah ah.”

Taken aback, I said, “You Harry? They said that to you?”

Harry replied with that same thumping of his chest all the while saying, “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah.”

To say the least, my superior status crumbled right then and there. The Holy Spirit spoke directly to me. I didn’t hear His voice, Harry did the speaking for Him.

I repented and asked God’s forgiveness for looking at one of His loved ones as a lesser being. As well as asking God to forgive me, I asked that HE would prevent me from ever judging another person by their outward appearance again. I saw Harry in a totally new light after that and grew to love him and always looked forward to seeing him every Sunday morning. I took delight in watching him praising God with that boney finger reaching Heavenward and hearing that familiar, “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah.”

Harry continued coming to our Bible study for several months, then one morning we heard the sad news, “Harry died last night.”

I have no doubt that Harry is now in Glory with his beloved Jesus. My friend and partner Don, and I often spoke of Harry and rejoiced that Harry was finally free. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he wanted to do and now he is released from that disease racked body that held him captive all these years. We often wondered what Harry might be doing in Heaven. We could picture him running through fields of flowers shouting and singing at the top of his voice. No more, “Ahhhh ahhhh, ah ah,”

I thank God for speaking to me through this man racked by that horrible disease. I learned a valuable lesson that day and believe I am a better person today because of a man called Harry.

                                                        * * *



Fleeting Moments


Jim Oates

 A life is made up of moments. Moments are those brief periods of time filled with the events that filled my mind so that I often lost track of time. Beginning with seconds and minutes then hours that turn into days and months, the years that followed turned into the seasons of my life.

 If I were to chose the time of life I would like to remain, it would be summer and autumn. What a wonderfully, delightful time of the year to be living. I believe on entering manhood I was at my strongest in summer. It was also the time the most beautiful girl in the world came into my life, we married and raised four wonderful children. It was also the time I found God, or rather He found me, or was it that I became aware of His love for me.

 Oh,yes! The glorious days of summer, a time of work and play and love. Love of family and the delight of watching our children grow. Grow into their teen years then to see them mature into responsible young adults. With adulthood the cycle begins again.

 Autumn seemed to sneak up on me when I least expected it. Our children turned into parents and Oh My! The delight of becoming grandparents. That was kind of fun, life was a little easier and now the responsibility of raising the next generation belonged to someone else. I found autumn to be a great time of year, the heat of summer has been turned down allowing me to enjoy my retirement years. The leaves on the trees have changed colour and so has my hair. The nest has only two occupants now, and with that comes less responsibility and more time to devote to each other. Time to travel and enjoy this great land of ours as well as devoting more time to our Creator.

 The clouds darkened and the cold winds blew and before I realized what was happening, winter has wrapped its icy arms around me. The nest has only one occupant now, the loss of my spouse has caused much grief but God is still here and He has a way of soothing and comforting even when the cold winds blow.

Winter too, is only for a season, then that great resurrection and the promised eternal spring will be here. All things will be made new, loved ones will be reunited as well as meeting Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour face to face.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patty and Doug Hickman
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 23:49:18

    Hi Dad! Your short story “Fleeting Moments” has probably been on your website for some time, but I just read it now. (Apr. 19/13) You write so beautifully. What a great way of expressing yourself. As I was reading I was travelling through the seasons with you. Thanks for sharing!
    Love, Patty


  2. Stewart Hunter
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 13:38:28

    Hi Jim: I was touched again today when I read some of the articles you have written. How well I remember Wilma; her ever ready smile and warm, engaging personality I will never forget. I wonder how much time she and Zelda Mae have spent together in heaven.

    You are using your writing gift so well. Keep it up my friend!

    Stewart Hunter


    • faithwriterjim
      Apr 03, 2014 @ 15:32:30

      Hi Stewart I was surprised and pleased to hear from you. I hope you are keeping well and busy. I have a book in the works about myself as well as my musings.
      Blessings, Jim


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