When Elephants Fall


What is the greatest thing that a person has ever done?


Around 163 BC, during those four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments, Judas Maccabeus had a stand off with Antiochus Eupator. Judas had been fighting to free the Jews from Greek/Roman rule, but some of the Jews turned against him and stirred up Antiochus, the Greek king, to squelch Judas’s rebellion. A traitor high priest even sided with Antiochus. And Antiochus said he wanted to do more damage to the Jews than his father had done.

History speaks of Antiochus as a brash and heartless man. He came against Judas with:

  • 110,000 foot soldiers
  • 5,300 men on horses
  • 300 scythed chariots
  • 22 elephants

Judas told his men that victories are from God. He took his most valiant men and attacked Antiochus’s army by night. They killed four thousand men and the best of the elephants. All who tried to stand against Judas that night were killed.

In the morning, Antiochus’s army was filled with dread and horror. Antiochus set his men in order and commanded the elephants to be given grape and mulberry juice to drink. The elephants were divided up so that each one had one thousand foot soldiers and five hundred cavalry. Each elephant had an Indian driver and carried a wooden room on its back that contained thirty-two more soldiers.

Judas engaged the army and killed six hundred men.

Eleazar, Judas’s brother, saw an elephant in royal harness that was taller than all the others. He decided that likely Antiochus rode that beast. Eleazar went for it, slaughtering men on every side. When he reached the elephant he crept underneath and killed it.

But the elephant fell on Eleazar and he died also.

I imagine everyone saw the elephant fall. I imagine very few saw Eleazar fall. But what he did was truly great, perhaps the greatest thing anyone did on that battlefield. He saw work to be done and he did it. A battle to be fought and he fought it. He didn’t worry about the cost. He didn’t care about being noticed. Because all that mattered was victory for the people of God.


Often the greatest things we can do will be noticed the least. Or even if the result is noticed, the doer is not. Find the quiet things to do. Kind words to a friend. Dishes washed for your mom. A prayer for your preacher.

Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.

Mother Teresa

*this story can be found in James Ussher’s The Annals of the World paragraphs 3467 to 3473


Low Door

This Christmas bulletin board was built by fastening up cedar fencing slats. The can be fastened with screws or nails, but if you put on a paper baking and staple it especially tight, the boards can be hot glued to the paper. The poem is by Margaret Penner Toews. I had no large paper, so I painstakingly printed and glued and burnt around that piece.

Girl Power

Teachers are always on the lookout for the opportunity to drive a point home, and we love it even more if someone else does the driving. Then we sit back and cheer. As I cheered this week.

One of the Dads comes in to lead school devotions every Monday morning. This past Monday it was a Dad who stands close to seven feet tall. Grayish whiskers, large open coat. 

He’s a memorable sort of guy, speaking seriously yet mixing sly jokes in here and there, as a great teacher would.

He laid out his objective right before closing prayer.

“After we pray, I’d like the boys to go stand at the courtyard gate. Just stand there and watch.” He paused as we tried to sort out what he was saying. “And I’d like the girls to give my van a push to get it started.”

In following hush, he hurried on, “It doesn’t take much at all, just a gentle push. And you boys watch quietly and see that the girls are strong too.”

I guess it really unnerved two of the boys because they whispered straight through the prayer, and so received a little of my own teaching later.

At the “Amen” we rushed out to watch.

Another car had parked too closely, so the van had to be pushed back a little.
First the gentle push, then the satisfying purr of the motor.

The Dad thanked the girls heartily. We all cheered.

And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street

I love Monday mornings. Right before first class, my students and I swap stories from the weekend.

I ask, “Did anything exciting happen to you last weekend?” And they tell me all about their adventures. Or they yawn and give me a blank stare.

How is it that we all love stories? There must be something deep in the nature of humans that drives us to recount our adventures. We’ve told them ever since that first campfire. Our children hear them at bedtime. And I tell them to my students every Monday morning.

Last night, something very unusual indeed happened to me.

Our bedroom floor is made of two-by-six’s laid edge to edge. And I suspect they were laid wet, because now there are gaps between them. I would mention that the gaps are sizeable, but sizeable is relative. The gaps I speak of are the size of a smallish mouse.

As it relates to most things, my dear wife Claudia is definitely above the average. But when it comes to chocolate, I believe she is pretty typical. You could find chocolate on our nightstand more times than not.

And a week ago, a smallish mouse was delighted to discover the same. I awoke to the sound of nibbling. I swung my hand out of bed. He scurried back though the crack. The next morning the chocolate bore the marks of mouse teeth.

Now I know it was a waste of great food, but we broke off the very edge of the bar and Claudia threw it in the garbage. I would have dropped it though the crack. There is a soft spot in me for smallish things. Yet every soft spot has its edges. I was personally responsible for moving the chocolate from the bottom shelf, to the top of the nightstand.

Last night we finished that sweet dark substance. I’m sure you are familiar with the possess: crumpling the empty wrapper, looking at each other and sighing. I turned it over thoughtfully. Precious fragments lingered still. The soft spot wakened, and I dropped the package over the edge of the bed.

“For the mouse,” I told Claudia.

I slept and dreamed someone was typing on a rattly laptop. I woke. The sound came from the floor beside our bed.

For the next half hour, I teased the smallish mouse. I’d make a sudden motion and listen to him scurry off. Soft spots have edges. Many ideas came to me. I could drop my iPad on him and convert him to dog food. I could pounce my hand on him. I could continue building his trust with empty threats. But most of all, I wanted to see him.

How well can mice see in the dark? I know little about the eyeball of the mus musculus except for the way it peers from under the trap spring. But it is reasonable to expect they have great night vision. They spend most of their lives careening through dark passages. I began an experiment, mixing in my own twist of psychology.

Question 1: Do mice see in the dark?

Question 2: If so, do human eyes bother them?

Experiment 1: I put my face over the edge of the bed and turned my closed eyes toward the chocolate wrapper.

Experiment 2: If my mouse began rustling, I would open my eyes and hopefully scare him badly enough to give him daymares.

Solution 1: Yes

Solution 2: I don’t know.

After lying senseless with my face exposed for nearly fifteen minutes, I gave up. There was not a squeak. I turned over, put my arms beneath my pillow, and would soon have gone back to sleep. Except for the rustling.

I closed my eyes against it.

Suddenly the rustling had stopped, and something was tickling my arm where it disappeared beneath my pillow. I jerked. It was gone.

I lay still. My brain whirled. Could it have been a largish Romanian spider? Or was it a smallish mouse? I remembered playing with a mouse in my sister’s house in British Columbia. Sleeping in her living room that night, I had listened to it crawl over the back of the couch, and had waited to make my move until it was between my bare ankles. It escaped unscathed.

Last night, I didn’t.

As I lay still, the tickling began again; and just as I began to move quickly and intelligently to catch the belligerent beast, he sank his not-so-smallish teeth into my arm.

I jerked and roared. Claudia sat up in bed. Something like a giggle dropped though the crack in our floor.

The Boring Devotions


What if my devotions this morning is very boring? What will you do? Goof off? Distract yourself?

Do you think that anyone ever intentionally gives a boring speech/sermon/Sunday school?


What can you do?

  • focus
  • watch the speaker
  • attempt to relate his points to yourself
  • think of questions to ask

What are you revealing about yourself if you goof off? 

  • I don’t care
  • your message is unimportant
  • you are not worth my time
  • disrespect – recently a judge fined himself because his own cellphone rang during court


We like life to be interesting. But really it’s up to you. If you choose to take an interest in a speech you think is boring, you may just find it interesting.


When I went to school we kept containers in the back of the room filled with salamanders or caterpillars. So when I went to teach in southern British Columbia, I decided my class needed a real pet.

My mother, one time bought two emus at a livestock auction. A weakness for the bizarre runs in my blood. I bought a hedgehog.

Here a few things Prickles taught us.

  • hedgehogs sleep during the day
  • hedgehogs use the bathroom while they exercise
  • the prickles are not too sharp
  • hedgehogs eat worms
  • but they can eat cat food
  • hedgehogs are very persistent
  • hedgehogs can escape the cage and hide under the cabinet in the bathroom for several days
  • hedgehogs are not allowed across the US/Canada border without an inspection
  • US border officials can remember your hedgehog for a very long time

Prickles wanted to hide under her food bowl all day. It was dark under there.

When we took the bowl from the cage I learned hedgehogs could climb.
They can also fall.

All in all, we enjoyed Prickles a lot. And none of that class will ever need to try to imagine a hedgehog.

RIP dear friend.


I often take my class outside for story time. And while I read they pluck at the grass, or arrange sticks and pebbles. This gave me the idea to have them build shelters. It made an excellent art project. Give them a brushy area to explore. And equip them with lots of hot glue and a base of some kind. We used a cedar slat.