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I was nine years old. Four or five of us boys from the neighborhood were out riding our bikes on a summer day. We didn’t have anything special to do; we were just out. One of the nice things about growing up in a small town when I did was if your parents didn’t have any particular chores for you to do, you were given the freedom to just go be a child and explore, so that’s what we were doing. Beyond making sure we got home by dinner, all we had to do was try to stay out of any trouble we’d have to explain to adults later. Little did we know as we set out that soon we’d all be caught up in a sting operation.

At the end of the street where I lived was a field with some scrub trees and berry bushes fronting a little hill. The area looked interesting enough, so we all dropped our bikes at the fence in front of the field and made our way to the other side. After we’d walked around a bit, one of my buddies tossed a can he’d found at one of the berry bushes. That’s when our lazy summer day got a little more lively because the bees that we’d apparently disturbed saw my friend’s can as their very own personal Pearl Harbor. At this age, all I knew about bee attacks was what I’d learned from cartoons. That is, if you made bees angry, they formed a central squadron that you could see coming toward you. Then, all you had to do was run faster than the bees could fly. I’m pretty sure Yogi Bear did it a couple times. However, in our case we had no warning. One moment we were laughing and talking. The next, we were screaming and frantically running toward our bikes. Looking back, they must have been honey bees because their barbs were getting pulled out after harpooning us. I got most of my stings on one arm, and the bees were falling out of my sleeve as I pedaled home. One friend was actually stung by a bumble bee. I don’t know if it was a mercenary or just doing the right thing by supporting its local bee friends. Thankfully, none of us were allergic, and we all recovered from our bee experience fairly quickly in the days that followed, but we discovered that sometimes even if you’re not looking for trouble, trouble will find you anyway.

Right now, we’re all in the middle of one sort of trouble or another, many of them related to a central cause. There’s even argument over whether we saw it coming. But whether we did or not, it’s here. Our physical and financial health is under pressure worldwide, either directly related to covid 19 or the governmental response to it. Once again, political disputes over how to react appropriately threaten to cause irreparable damage to relationships that are already under pressure, all the way from personal to international. How do we react? How do we conduct ourselves during great times of stress? God has taught us we are to confront trouble in our lives not with our strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way we will stand firm, and not lose heart but rather exercise the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 ESV

Lord, give me courage
when it seems that I’m all out
give me answers
when I try to make my own
When I’m at my wit’s end
calm my mind
hold me safe
a branch of your vine

You are light
where there is darkness
where there’s confusion
where there is doubt
help me abide
a branch of your vine

© Joel Tipple 4/19/2020

I’m Not Superman


I’m not Superman, I’m not Batman,
no I’m surely not John or Bruce Wayne.
But what God would make of me
if only I trust him is greater than all that fame.
Show me a man better, stronger than Jesus.
You can’t show me a man better, stronger, than Jesus.

I may not be a light, but I can be a lighthouse,
reflecting the light of Jesus Christ
all day, and through the darkness.
not by my power, but by the power of the one
who went to the dark for me.

No, I’m not made of iron
and anger doesn’t make me stronger.
But since I’ve been born again death here reigns no longer.
Now I can fly and you could say I’m X-man-now-man-of-God.
No, I’m not Superman. No, I’m not Superman.
But life is better, man. Now I’m getting better, man.
My heart is healed by the blood of Jesus and I’m a better man than before.

©Joel Tipple

Home For Christmas

I’m not sure when I first came across the old newspaper. It was in a chest of drawers in a hall closet where our family kept mementos: old photographs, report cards, etc. Most families have a place like that. Somewhere to store memories. For photographs anyway, I suppose that place now is the hard drive on your computer. Back then, for us, it was still a chest of drawers. Today, either someone else in the family has ended up with the newspaper or it’s gone missing, but I was able to find the newspaper article with an internet search. Computers aren’t very romantic, but they are very good at saving information like that. For this I’m grateful.

The newspaper is The Humboldt Standard, December 20, 1955, four years before I was born. Dominating local news at the time was the largest flood the Eel River valley had ever experienced. Thousands were made homeless and there were many many acts of heroism as the area was largely cut off from the rest of the world except by air. Christmas would be spoiled again by an even larger flood nine years later. A pole near Miranda shows the 1964 flood crest at an amazing 46 feet above the highway surface. In ‘55 it got to just shy of 43. The story I refer to begins on page one and continues on page five. One of several large pictures on that page shows the tops of two cars as they are about to disappear under water. Two white arrows point to the roofs as they are difficult to see in the night shot. A good part of the left side of the page is taken up by a picture of two men standing next to a rowboat. The taller man on the left with a concerned look on his face is identified as Chester Goble. The man on the right, his head turned toward Chester, is holding a flashlight in one hand and one of the boat oars in the other. He and Chester have just saved the lives of eight people, two adults and four children from the first car, and two 18-year-olds from the second. A 70 year old man, who was also in the first car, didn’t make it out that night. His body was recovered from the car the next day. The man standing next to Chester is my dad. In 1955 he was 28.

I don’t remember asking my dad about the photograph. When I was growing up he could be intimidating, hard to talk to. I wish I had tried, because I might have more details. But it’s clear that the little my mom volunteered when I asked about the newspaper at the time was true. She said, “He and that other man saved those people. They were heroes.”

When the Eel River floods, it spreads out through the valley. That night in ‘55, a low spot on Waddington road on the outskirts of Ferndale began to cover with water. A normal wet year might mean driving through a few inches of water, but as the rain continued to intensify this swath of road through dairy pasture became what it really always was, a branch of the Eel River. Since my dad’s business was automotive repair and towing, I suspect what brought him to the scene was a call to rescue a car, but as the water quickly rose and surrounded two cars along with their occupants, the situation changed dramatically.

Fast forward to about ten years ago.. One evening when Lori and I were having dinner with my parents the subject of the rescue came up. Dad related that the day to him was a series of miracles. At the scene, it became clear to get to the cars a boat would be needed fast, so Dad took off in search of one. He eventually found a suitable row boat in someone’s yard, but no one was home and he didn’t have a way of getting it back to the scene. So he took off again in search of something to transport the boat. In another yard he found an old flatbed truck that looked like it hadn’t moved in ages. Again, no one home. Growing more desperate, he opened the driver’s side door of the truck, and to his wonder there was a key in the ignition. But would it start? He got in, turned the key, hit the floor starter, the engine turned over… and caught! He was in business. My dad, now a truck thief, soon to be a boat thief, continued back and managed to load the boat onto the truck. Back at the road/river, somehow, the two managed to get almost everyone out of the two vehicles before they were completely submerged.

Dad’s story ended at this point and no one pressed him for details. Later, talking to Lori, he expressed how he had never gotten over not being able to get the last person out. He said he tried to go back, but Chester stopped him and said, “Jack you can’t. You’ve got a family, and it’s too late. You can’t save him.” Apparently for the rest of his life he carried the burden of the one life out of nine they were unable to save. While I’m sure he could appreciate what he and Chester were able to accomplish, he never really stopped grieving over that one life lost. Many rescuers would take to the skies and water before the ‘55 flood was over, then, once again in ‘64. As illustrated in the parable of the lost lamb in Luke 15, I believe God has implanted in our hearts the desire to always bring back the one who is lost.

Lost lamb at Christmas,
What kind of lost are you?
Have your feet taken you far from home,
or has your hardened heart left too?

The door to home is never closed
the fireplace always warm
for those who would repent and turn,
and come in from the storm.

Rejoice for the rescued.
For those no longer astray.
We have all at one time
been unable to find our way.

May God give us a burden at Christmas
to reach out to the lost,
to the young and old with ravaged minds,
and bodies torn and tossed.

Jesus was born into our world
to shepherd us back to the fold.
God, don’t let us rest until we’ve reached
every wayward and wandering soul.

©Joel Tipple



sometimes when i take the time to be quiet
i feel as though i could float all day
stopping by each of the world’s beaches
to steal a few moments of play
at some point for far too many
growing up and old means we stop
enjoying those breaks
in between oceans of work
and perfecting our frown all day
people notice
in case you hadn’t
whether you don’t smile
or if you do
so pay attention
find a way
to make life fun
even if
fun is new to you

© Joel Tipple

A Yard of Adventure


In my yard
for I am six
is great adventure
sailing ships
full of ants
oh so brave
who cling to life rafts
made of eggs
flower borders
with bits of glass
from castles broken
many years past
this bit belonged
to a maiden fair
perhaps she held
this bit there
a cup for tea
passed round and shared
next put on cloak
you’re Robin Hood
chased by the Sheriff
but you’re too good
hidden in
your grove of trees
with your men
a family
adventures many
like books you’ve read
then Mom calls
and it’s time
for dinner
more books

To Read


As a child
it amazed me
that people
could write things
almost as incredible
as the stuff in my mind.


Do you mean
you can write those things down,
and people will read them,
adding their own sounds?


It’s hard to find words
to describe
how much words
mean to me.
It’s like living in a city
that grows
new streets every day.


I hope growing up
doesn’t mean
I stop loving
the words in the books…
the stories in the books…
the adventures in those books…
that I read today.


© Joel Tipple

This Race, this War.


Do you not know that those who run in a race all run,
but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way
that you may win.
1 Corinthians 9:24

I’ve run too far with you Lord,
to risk looking back now.
I’ve trusted you more than my feelings.
These hands hold tightly to your word
for within is the essence of healing.

Each day I expect a battle Lord;
some days I’m a victor, others, bloody and sore.
I’m confident of this always,
as I step out my door,
fights will come and go always,
You Lord, and Your’s have already won the war.

Jesus in a New Light

Blow the dust off of your Bible
Unclose your mind
turn back the night
If you’re weary of this dreary world
see Jesus in a new light.

He cast out demons
healed the lame
turned water into wine
He healed the centurion’s son
and even healed the blind.

He fed 5,000
without reservations.
Yeah, he raised Jairius’ daughter to life.
But look out dude cause He withered the fig tree
and said, “all things you ask in prayer, believing,
you will receive.”

See Jesus in a new light
Watch out for lightning
Jesus in a new light
Don’t you be frightened
Jesus in a new light
He’s bad!
Jesus in a new light
Oh c’mon, I didn’t mean it that way.
Jesus in a new light
Jesus in a new light
We’re out.