Mrs. Butterworth Teaches a Lesson

A maple syrup tapMrs. Butterworth Teaches a Lesson

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

This true story took place many years ago in a small town on the outskirts of Olean in western New York State. One spring day, on his way home from school, my 10-year-old son, Leo, noticed all the pails hanging on the sugar maple trees to collect fresh sap that was to be boiled down to make maple syrup.  He rushed into the house, saying, “Hey, Mom, let’s make some maple syrup, OK?” Now, the making of maple syrup was not exactly one of my priorities, mind you, but I didn’t want to squelch his enthusiasm. So, I thought, “Why not?  We could give it a try.  It might be fun.” And so, the ill-fated plan was hatched.

We waited until the following Saturday morning. Then, Leo borrowed his father’s drill and made holes in several nearby sugar maple trees.  Inserting the spouts and pounding in nails to hold the collecting pails, he was now ready for the sap to start running. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we had enough sap to start with. So we collected the sap from all of our pails into one larger container, strained the impurities out and poured the sap into my canning kettle.  Setting it on the stove, we fired up the burner and began to envision delicious, homemade maple syrup for our pancakes. What a special treat that was going to be! Or so we thought.

The sap simmered slowly for several hours, and I wondered, “Why do people go to all the trouble of making a fire outside in a well-ventilated sugar shack, getting cold and standing around all bundled up, when it was so easy to do it right in the comfort of your own kitchen?” Then I went about my housework while the boiling continued.  I checked the kettle periodically and noticed that the boiling sap was just beginning to change to a very light brown color, characteristic of a high-grade maple syrup.  “We’ll soon have some maple syrup,” said Leo excitedly, rubbing his hands together and licking his chops.

But a little later, when I walked into the living room, our eager anticipation turned into alarm. I noticed a large, wet spot on the ceiling; then another and another! Then I noticed that the same thing was happening in the adjoining dining room too! Suddenly, a light went on in my head. That must be the reason for using the sugar shack; it allows the water vapor from the sap to escape through the vents, instead of condensing on the ceiling. In a panic, we stopped the boiling immediately, to prevent further damage to our ceilings; so much for our homemade maple syrup!

That day both mother and son learned a valuable lesson by trial and error; a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  And we had plenty of time to let this little lesson sink in, as we waited anxiously for the wet spots on our ceilings to dry. I sure hope Mrs. Butterworth wasn’t watching!

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)

A Poignant Parable of Progressive Purification

English: Firewood Español: Leños Français : Bo...A Poignant Parable of Progressive Purification

  James R. Aist


A parable is usually understood to be made up of two parts: 1) a simple, down-to-earth story; and 2) a spiritual, moral or religious lesson derived from it. Undoubtedly, the most famous parables in the Christian world were those told by Jesus, who routinely and intentionally taught in parables. The personal revelations that I receive occasionally from God more often come in the form of a vision that conveys some kind of spiritual message or revelation, but many years ago one came to me by way of a real-life, real-time parable. It was about how God, through the working of the Holy Spirit within born-again Christians, goes about the process that we usually refer to as “sanctification”. I hope this story will bless you as much as I was blessed as God showed me this parable when I was smack dab in the middle of it.

The Setting

We were living in Ithaca, NY, at the time. Our home was located “in the country” on Snyder Hill Road, just three miles from the campus of Cornell University. I had the house built to my specifications so as to be inexpensive to heat during the much-too-long and hard upstate New York winters. Besides, we were going to heat the new house with wood, and I didn’t want to stack and fetch any more firewood than necessary during the frigid, blustery heating season. As it turns out, we only needed about one and one-half full cords of wood each winter, which is an amazingly small amount for that region. Nonetheless, every time I had a dump truck deliver a load of cut and split firewood and dump it in a huge pile about 30 feet from my garage, I had a big job ahead of me. The firewood had to be stacked in a neat row, roughly four feet high and as long as there was firewood left to stack.  It took me about three sessions of about one and a half to two hours each to finish the job, and it was hard, physical work, to which I was definitely not accustomed!

The Simple, Down-to-earth Part

Well, I had, for many, many years, stacked the pile of firewood into a neat and straight row and cleaned up the mess of firewood “trash” that remains on the lawn, and nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. True to form, I had developed a routine for the tedious, but necessary, task of cleaning up the “trash” after the firewood was stacked. I would begin with the largest pieces, those that were too small to stack with the normal firewood but very easy to spot and gather into a box to use as kindling whenever I needed to build a fire in my wood stove. With those larger pieces removed, I could then more easily spot fragments of a smaller size and gather them into the box. And so on and so forth, until there was nothing left but tiny bits and slivers that I was not even aware of until all of the larger pieces had been removed. I would then rake together as many of these minuscule remnants as possible and deposit them into the trash. Finally — applying the concept of “good enough” — I would declare the project finished, even though, if I looked closely enough, there were still left even tinier fragments that I had not noticed before. Oh well.

The Spiritual Lesson Part

So, one crisp, spring day I was busy cleaning up the trash after stacking the firewood for the next winter. First the larger pieces, those that were easiest to see, then the next-largest pieces that were now, themselves, the easiest to see, and then the still-smaller pieces which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere when all of the just-larger pieces had been removed. Then, I paused briefly to rest and catch my breath. I was standing there, looking out over the “debris field” and thinking about how I could see the next-smaller pieces only after the just-larger pieces had been removed, when it hit me.  This is exactly how God cleans the sins out of our lives after we are born again! He begins by showing us the most conspicuous sins. These are the ones we are probably already painfully aware of, but have not yet dealt with for some reason. When these sins have been taken care of, it’s easier for Him to show us the less conspicuous sins, and we set about, together, to deal with those. And with those sins now out of the way too, it’s possible for us to see sins that we didn’t even know were there, and so on. Wow! I thought I was just was cleaning up the trash in my lawn, but God was showing me how He was cleaning up the trash in my life!

The After Word

Who would have ever imagined that such a simple task as cleaning up the trash left by a pile of firewood could produce a spiritual lesson of such magnitude?! But isn’t it just like God to teach us through the routine things of life, if we will just pause and meditate now and then?

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)