Seeing Things

Everyday Encounters with God 
By Joe Crisp

A clearly written, humorous, faith centered, and insight filled collection of 52 encounters in life with God…from Fire Ants to Yellow Watermelons and more…

from Seeing Things: Everyday Encounters With God© 1995 by Joe Crisp


I sent my girls out on a fire ant patrol after the recent heavy rains. They roamed around the yard spotting the mounds while I came along behind, pouring on the poison.

In one flowerbed, the girls discovered an enormous mound. One end was built up so that it towered like a skyscraper over a sprawling metropolis of dirt. Teeming with its insect population, it looked like the New York City of the ant world.

As I sprinkled out the poisonous granules, I felt like a bomber pilot raining death and destruction on the masses below. I hated to do it, but it was either them or us.

It always strikes me as strange that the instructions on the bag of poison say "do not disturb the ants." After all, I am trying to kill them. How can I keep from disturbing them?

Preaching is a lot like killing fire ants. The gospel is poison to our pretensions, death to our self-inflated egos. It challenges our complacency and attacks our idolatries. It calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. As Bonhoeffer put it, when Christ calls someone, he bids him come and die.

Pretty hard to preach that message without disturbing the ants. 

 page 86
from Seeing Things: Everyday Encounters With God© 1995 by Joe Crisp


"Do you think there is a Santa Claus?" asked Melanie the other night at bedtime.

It's the question parents dread most. We don't want to lie to the little folks, but then we don't want to inflict psychological damage by destroying their world of fantasy with one reckless stroke, either. How to answer?

First, let's get the facts straight. The truth is, there was a Santa Claus. He was born in 342 A. D. in Turkey. Nicholas was a wealthy young man who heard of a widower so poor that he was contemplating selling his children to survive. Moved by compassion, Nicholas stuffed some gold coins into a bag and secretly tossed them through the window. He became known as the patron saint of children, and after his death, people began to give gifts to children, designating them simply as from "Saint Nicholas."

That much is history. Now whether this same Nicholas, who apparently has been dead for 1500 years, really dresses up in a red suit and flies around in a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer, I don't know. I've never actually seen it, but then I've never seen an atom, either.

I realize, of course, that Santa Claus has been shamelessly exploited by those heartless toymakers whose chief intention is to turn our children into mindless, greedy consumers. But that's not Santa's fault. I have a feeling that his image has been stolen, and the old gentleman is just too kind to sue.

The one thing I have noticed about Mr. Claus is that he never brings a child something his parents don't think he should have. So, if you want to set some limits on Christmas, Santa's on your side.

Better yet, go and do as Nicholas did. Make helping a needy child a part of your Christmas celebration. And then who's to say there's no Santa Claus?

–December 1992

 page 101
from Seeing Things: Everyday Encounters With God© 1995 by Joe Crisp


Sylvester died last Friday.

Sylvester was our cat. She was a good cat. She never asked for much, just a bowl of milk in the morning, and a dish of food at night. She wasn't given to lavish displays of affection, but she was loyal and she took care of herself. Even when we were gone to California for nine weeks, she stayed around the house and waited patiently for our return.

Sylvester's death was not really a surprise. She had been ill since at least last summer. We had known that, sooner or later, we would have to "put her to sleep." She had not been eating for the last week or so. But in spite of the warning signs, death, as always, came unexpectedly.

Linda was out of town. The girls were in school. I was at home eating lunch. I had things to do. I had my afternoon neatly planned. But then after lunch I found Sylvester lying in the driveway, gasping for breath, too weak to stand.

It was not the way I wanted it. I wanted the girls to be there to say good-bye. But death has its own timetable. I could not let her suffer. I called the animal shelter. Yes, the vet was there. Yes, he could do the job if I could bring her right away.

Right away. I was not ready, but I had to take her.

Melanie was angry when I told her after school. "You didn't let us say good-bye," she said accusingly. Then she fell into my arms and cried the pure, innocent tears of childhood. "It was those other people's fault," she sobbed, meaning those indefinite folks out there who failed to vaccinate their cats who gave the disease to Sylvester.

A first hard lesson in the blatant unfairness of life. It must be somebody's fault. Maybe it was mine. Linda had rigged up a heating pad for Sylvester's box. Thursday night—her last night—was cold. I forgot to turn on the heating pad.

Melanie grew resigned to the loss of the cat. "Could we use her fur to make a coat for our Barbies?" she wanted to know. When her sister said no, Melanie asked, "Well, why not? She's dead."

Later in the day, Melanie came to me and asked if Sylvester had caught a bird or a mouse. At first, I did not know what she meant. Then I realized that she meant that since Sylvester was now happily roaming the mouse-infested fields of Cat Heaven, did I think she had caught her first mouse yet.

I assured Melanie that she probably had. God loves the animals, I told her, and I'm sure he has a place for them.

"It must be the same place he has for us," she said, "or else we wouldn't get to see her again."

A ray of hope breaking through the storms of anger and guilt. Hope to ease the dreary finality of death. Hope, and a few warm memories of Sylvester. A good cat. Our cat.

–February 1992



Opening Day 12 
Texas Tremor 14 
Rain 16
Job Must Have Been a Camper 18 
Mutiny in the Doghouse 20 
Help Unwanted 22 
The Mustard Bush 24 
The Alligator 26 
Bluebonnets 28 
San Francisco 29 
Yellow Watermelons 31 
See Who Next Year? 33 
Boredom 35


Frozen Pickles 38 
Smith Spring 40 
Shiftless 42 
Where Are the Eclipse? 44 
A Matter of Degrees 46 
Old Faithful 48 
There's No Place Like the Apartment 50 
Stubby's Video Club 52 
Weather, You Like It or Not 53 
That Was A Great Sermon, Preacher I Didn't Enjoy It a Bit 56 
Behold, I Stand at the Phone, Ringing 58 
Mansions and Slums 60 
Spots 62


It Ain't Over Till It's Over, But It's Over 65 
Jones Lake 67 
Sunday Countdown 69 
Dr. Duchess 71 
Wide Left 73 
Hot Stove League 75 
By the Shores of Lake Texana 77 
Fire Ants 79 
The Eagle 80 
In the Garden 82 
Pancakes 84 
The Question Parents Dread Most 86 
Note to the North Pole 88


Visitor 91 
Encouragement 93 
I Have Finished the Course (finally) 95 
I'm Dreaming of a White Anything 97 
Impatience 99 
A Good Cat 101 
The Sunday Dinosaur 103 
Pumpkin Peace 105 
Memphis Blues 107 
Fifteen Minutes of Fame 109 
Growing Pains 110 
Reclaiming Christmas 112 
Getting a Handle on the Messiah 114

All Rights Reserved Copyright ©1995 by Joe Crisp 

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