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Dikkon Eberhart



I am seventy years old.


In the Bible, the Psalmist is usually King David. However, Psalm 90 is attributed differently than usual. It is identified as “A Prayer of Moses – the man of God.


Moses tells us in Psalm 90:10 that seventy years is our human allotment. The King James Version of the Bible elegantly renders seventy years into English as--three score years and ten.


Moses goes on to suggest that, by reason of strength, we humans might reach eighty years. But, he reminds us, that extra decade should be understood realistically for what it is, for, as he states, human life is “a span of toil and trouble: they [the years] are soon gone, and we fly away.”




The baby in the picture is Devar Collins Stanley. He’s eleven days old. He’s still got a long way to go.


Devar is Channa’s and my new grandson. He’s the fourth child of one of our daughters and her husband.


Devar was a big baby at birth, and he’s already regained his birth weight and added two ounces.


Good lookin’, ain’t he?




‘Nuff of the proud grandpa stuff.




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Here’s what else I want to say.


I was born seventy years ago, in the year 1946. Because of my behavior with each of our grandchildren—including Devar—I suspect that many grandparents muse as I do upon the births of their grandchildren, wondering what the world will be like when this brand new, yelling baby reaches the age that the grandparents themselves have attained.


My maternal grandparents were Charles and Magdalena Butcher, and I know they mused this way about me because my mother told me that they did. My paternal grandparents would have mused this way, too, I suspect, except they both died before I was born. (Sadly, my sole relationship with them is through my dad’s poetry.)


So today I’m focused on the year 2087, for Devar.




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What will the year 2087 have become for seventy-year-old Devar Collins Stanley, if he is blessed to attain his allocated three score years and ten?


I haven’t the faintest notion. (No, I do. But I’ll get to that below.)



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When I was young and sitting on my grandmother’s lap, she used to enchant me with recitations of the technological increases she had lived through during her time. Can you believe this? When she was a girl, there weren’t any airplanes or radios, and even cars were just toys for rich people.


Also, though, she bemoaned the decreases she observed during her years.


Particularly she noted the decrease of fundamental knowledge of American and western culture, that was evident to her as her years ran on.


Can you believe this? When she was in school, she and everyone else memorized entire sections of books and whole poems and famous speeches and founding documents and knew by heart the big events of western history…and also, she would admire to me, using the basis of their thorough knowledge, they knew how to discuss these things, too.



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When my grandparents mused about me, their new grandson, in 1946 and looked forward to 2017, what did they imagine the year 2017 would have become for me?


I haven’t the faintest notion.


Of course, I have my own notion of what the year 2017 has become for me, now that I am here.



There have been great advances during my seventy years—for example, technical, medical, explorational—some of which my grandparents might not even have understood in concept. Just the same, there have been further decreases in knowledge of—and even respect for the idea of—western culture, which has led to inability, because of lack of knowledge, to discuss it even rationally.



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Here my point. For Devar, during his possible three score years and ten, there will be great events, some of which will be determined by commentators to be advancements, some others of which will be determined by commentators to be disasters. That’s just how it is. The total of the up compared with the total of the down?


I haven’t the faintest notion.



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I do have one notion about Devar, however, of which I am certain on the basis not only of belief but of evidence.


During his three score years and ten, if he devotes himself to his life on the basis that the God of the universe, its creator and redeemer, is in active and personal search for him in order to bring him into a loving relationship, then he will be blessed, irrespective of the what ups and downs his time in history experiences.


Along with Moses, Devar might become a seventy-year-old man who says, as Moses does, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 10:14, ESV.


…and that’s the very same Moses who already acknowledged, just four verses earlier, that life is tough.




Now, here’s one more notion I have about Devar, and about all our other grandchildren, extant and as they may appear. When you’re a child, three score years and ten looks endless! When you’re there, not so much.


Moses suggests you may get four score years, if you have strength not only of body but of character. Devar, you have good genes, and that may help you as well.


That grandmother of mine from whom you descend? She mused about things in the world until two weeks short of her one hundred second birthday. That father of mine, the poet, from whom you descend? He mused about things in the world until three months after his one hundred first birthday.


Charge on!


And may you be blessed.






Dikkon Eberhart


I said to her, “But if he asks you how, you can tell him that I told you, it’s the Lord.”


“He thinks it’s coincidence.”


“What we call coincidence is just another way for God to remain anonymous.”


We two sat on a bench beside the church parking lot. People were coming and going. It was midweek, but there were church programs going on.


The woman’s husband had just been hired for the job he needed—really needed and really wanted—against stiff competition and at the last moment.


I knew he was tolerant of his wife’s Christian commitment, this woman with whom I sat, but my pastor and I were concerned that they were unevenly yoked, the two of them, and that fact was troublesome for her.


Perhaps it was troublesome for him, too, as I thought of it. I wondered whether he realized the uneven yoke was galling to him, too. I knew they were eight years into their marriage. I suspected that the glow was wearing off. They had the two daughters, and not much money. Yesterday, when she had called and asked for a time to speak with me, she had a clutch in her voice. She confessed that she might be pregnant. This new job was a god-send.


But did he understand that the uneven yoke was the reason for their trouble, as I suspected that it was? Or did he attribute the trouble between them to the glow wearing off?


Her former prettiness had a scrim across it nowadays of doubt.


“What am I going to tell him about the job as a miracle?” she asked. “I can’t tell him I believe it's that.”


“Why?”


“It won’t make any sense to him.”


I was early in my deaconate. I wished it were the pastor who was sitting next to her, and not me. But it was me—she was one of our congregants who had been assigned to my spiritual care.


“He’s a good worker,” I said, as an offering, not knowing what to say but desiring to probe her feelings.

She nodded. “He’s a good man. Good with our girls, I never worry about him fooling around.”


“Yet you sound sad.”


She smiled a little. “Not about that. He is a good man.”


“But—“


She looked away. It was warm in the parking lot, this early spring. She had fair hair which at the moment was in pleasant disarray. “I feel lonely.” She glanced at me shyly. She looked away. “Oh, maybe I should just grow up.”


A line from a hymn came into my head. When sorrows like sea billows roll….


“I think you should tell him that the job is miraculous, for your heart's peace. Tell him that the job—coming as it did, right now, just when you need it most, with maybe the new baby—that the job actually is a miracle, from the Lord.”


“He’ll laugh at me.”


“Tell him I think it’s from the Lord.”


She looked straightly at me. “He’s not going to want to hear that coming from you.” I watched her eyes, hearing what she said and why she said it, realizing too that I thought her still pretty.


“He knows you’re talking to me?”


She shook her head. Looked away.


“That’s not a good idea.”


She shrugged. I was glad that people were going in and out of the church. I identified a few of them who might see us, out in the open, just to remember.


“Look, he needs to know what you think about this. You need to press on past his laughing at you.”


“I have.”


“Draw him in.”


“He doesn’t want to come in.”


"Does he want to keep a barrier between you?”


Again, she shrugged. “He’s a guy.”


“Meaning?”


“He’s in charge. He’ll work it out. It’s okay. We’ll be fine.”


“But you’re not fine.”


“Maybe I should just grow up.”


She sat back with her hands crossed in her lap, looking elsewhere. I sat back also and looked elsewhere, too. Then I looked back at her. “You know, the Holy Spirit knows your situation. The Holy Spirit intercedes with Jesus. Anything might happen, and whatever does happen is for the purposes of the Lord.”


“I know."


“I recognize that it’s a hard concept for those who don’t know the Lord.”


“What you said about coincidence?”


“Yes?”


“He’ll say, why should your God desire to remain anonymous? How do I answer that?”


“God’s purpose is to save us, to have us with Him. His purpose is for us to be able to glorify Him. But He didn’t create us as slaves. It only counts when we come to Him by our free will. That’s why He desires to be anonymous. Miracles are His intervention, but we need to figure that out—that they are His, and that they are for us -- by ourselves.”


She thought a minute and then touched my arm lightly. “That might intrigue him. He likes figuring things out, how things work.” Then she smiled, brightly this time. “He is, after all, a guy.”


I smiled back at her. “Keep pressing.”


Then she startled me. “No,” she said, “enticing.”


“That’s the spirit.”


Then we prayed together, beside the church parking lot in the early spring. I was unsure of myself. But I liked that she had said enticing.


Really, enticement is the way of the Holy Spirit.


Enticement rules.


[Some circumstances changed to protect the then non-believing.]





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Dikkon Eberhart



“I left the light on for you. Thank you for coming. There’s new coffee, still hot. Welcome to our home.”


I brought him in and closed the door behind him, against the night. I poked up the fire. I poured him coffee. I sat him down.


“So,” I said, “I got your message. Thank you for asking about it. Thank you for coming to get my answer. You must be a pilgrim, too. Given the question you asked. Let me tell you how it was.”


It was hard to focus on his face. Maybe the light was too low. Somehow, though, there seemed to be a light coming from him. He seemed to smile.


“Once upon a time….”


That's how I began.


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Once upon a time when I was young and the world was green, I dreamed that I—and my family if I ever had one—I dreamed that we would live by the ocean on the coast of Maine. That would be our home.


But I didn’t stay young, and the world didn’t stay green.


I did get a family though. I loved my wife, and she and I loved our four children, and when we were grown-ups, we bought that nineteenth century salt water farmhouse and barn, with its eighteen acres on the coast of Maine—and with its meadow, and with its apple trees, and with its forest, and with its bold rocks instead of a beach, and with its muddy slough where I moored my boat.


In winter, when blizzards stopped the world, and the snow piled itself halfway up the windows, and we slept under twice the blankets, and the air was finally still, we could hear fog horns on the sea. The fog horns were calling us safely home.


Not just us, the everyday us—the fog horns were calling our souls safely home as well.


So, we had our home. I was a salesman, and the sort of salesman who is a dreamer—not about sales but about freedom. We had our home; I thought we had found Innisfree. You know, as in the Yeats poem--



I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean rows will I have there, and a hive for the honey bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.



You know the rest.


Decades passed. Not just years, but decades.


We made a life, sometimes in quiet desperation, sometimes with a warrior’s mighty shout. Our children grew and went their ways, except for the one of them who stays at home.


The world’s convention was that the one who stays at home was less able—this son who was a stayer at home. Yet his soul was able, at providing unquestioning love.





We were in command of our life! We.


Where was our home?


Was home our old, salt water farmhouse and barn?


Or was our home within that church across the road? Was home somehow or other to be found in that churchly atmosphere, breathed upon by God, whom we did not command?


I met the living Christ in that church, while standing as a stranger stands beside the rear-most pew, being loved upon by congregants who didn’t need to notice me, but who noticed me anyhow. That meeting shook the foundations of my actual home across the road.


It changed the atmosphere inside that home across the road. Christian faith was a fruitful Innisfree, not a dreamy one.


Our children—most of them—were going away. Our farmhouse was emptier. The last two cats and the dog were dead. Even our pastor was leaving our church-home to minister in a new way and from a new location.


Where was our home?



My formerly urgent daily work—once a “home” for my time—was done; I retired. My wife’s formerly urgent daily work was not yet done, but she was scaling back to a slower pace, her “home” becoming easier to maintain.


Where was our home?


Unbidden, I found I had a new variety of work to do. I had pilgrimage work to do. It was work of a different kind from selling. It was a work of being with. It satisfied my soul. I discovered I was reaching out to everyone—to everyone, Christian or not—to everyone who sought a deep home.


I wrote a book about my life and about how I got this way.


Other pilgrims read my book. Perhaps you did, too. Some read my book just for its light-hearted account of my life. But many of the pilgrims, that first type of reader, they wrote me to say, “Hi, pilgrim” back to me.


This idea came into my head. We pilgrims being together, we can seek our deep homes together.


But first, I realized, I needed to live in my own home, first of all.



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“Re-heat this coffee? I see you’ve not drunk any.”


It was hard to focus on him. And he said so little. Nothing really. Just his eyes, which were hard to see but which seemed to watch.


"You know, I lived in this book for ten years before it was done. It was my home. It’s world was my home, my deep home, where I sought to be at peace.” I held the book up.


I reached and poked the fire. “I’m thinking of home,” I mused aloud. “Say, you want to know how that book began?” I chuckled, making a joke. “How that home began?”


He watched.


“Well,” I laughed, “not began began. But began after I finished writing it through for the first time, which caused me to discover what the book had been about all along, while I wrote it through during that first time.”


He watched.


“The book is about how neither my wife nor I was in command of our lives, although we thought we were. That’s what the book is about. We were pilgrims, led toward home by…well, by Someone who demanded allegiance from us in exchange for salvation. You know how that is?”


He seemed to nod.


I lifted a paper from the table beside my chair. “Here’s how the book began. Before my editor and I scrapped this beginning and built the beginning that’s in the book right now. That scrapping and building was like hammering up a house and then stepping back and saying, ‘Nope. Wrong. Guess I wanted a ranch, not a colonial.’


“Here’s how it began. I’ll read it to you. Ready?"



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Chapter One


Homesick Souls



Before our conversion, my wife’s and my souls survived well enough. But they survived as makeshift rafts, cast adrift on a troublesome sea.


We experienced relief from our plight—and we came at last into harbor—when we opened our souls to Christian faith. We were rescued…and we were home.


Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Robert Frost said that, Dad's pal. Heaven is where, when they invite you to come there, only your faith will get you in. Jesus Christ said that…or words to that effect.


How is your soul, reader?


Is your soul homesick? Do you long after relief?


If so, then please read on.




I put the paper back down on the table. I smiled.


“That’s the whole of the first chapter. No Prologue—as there is now—no nothing. I just plunged right on in. I addressed it directly to the reader, in that quaint, slightly twee way, as they used to have in the 19th century: establishing a distance between the now and the then, making me the story-teller, letting you know that I am playing with language, letting you know that I hope you will enjoy the ride.


“Get it?”


He seemed to get it.


“Our home is in the hands of the Lord. Neither my wife nor I is in command of our lives, though we used to think we were. Our home is where the Lord sits us down. He puts us there for his purpose, not for ours.”


I smiled, and he seemed to smile, too.


“Even here, of all places the least expected. Here, in Virginia not Maine—and not even the ocean end, the mountains.”


He stood.


He was still hard to focus on. Maybe it was a trick of the angles—he seemed taller than I remembered from when I let him in. He seemed to glow a pleasant light. He raised his hand for a moment in a gesture almost, it seemed, of blessing.


Then he was gone. He didn’t use the door.






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