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It pays to read the instructions

Dec 26, 2013 - By Betty Starks Case

In this case, the proof was in a cedar chest.

You wouldn't think one would have time for reading and watching movies just before Christmas, would you? I did both, and they seem to have helped heal that dry tooth socket I wrote of last time. I'm ready for holiday goodies!

Each Christmas when we watch "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, I declare it the best movie ever made. Although it's an old movie, photographed in black and white, its message still glows -- even through the tears in my eyes. Maybe because of the tears in my eyes?

I wonder how many of us find our faith in life renewed annually by that one special movie.

A couple of evenings later our movie viewing continued with "The Wizard of Oz." I was reminded of the year my mate ordered a cedar chest for me for Christmas, shipped all the way from the Ozarks. All it needed was a couple of willing men (who must remain anonymous, and you'll soon see why) to assemble the "Oz Cedar Chest #115," accompanied by the greeting, "Welcome to the Land of Oz. Even a scarecrow can follow our simple directions."

Sketches accompanied each consecutively numbered instruction, couched in words any scarecrow could understand, even before the wizard endowed him with a brain.

Soon the bottom, sides and ends were installed in the grooves. Everything fit. Now we were down to Instruction No. 6: Installing lock and lid.

Why did I need a lock on this piece of furniture? Do moths invade unlocked cedar chests?

The workmen installed the lock, cautiously making sure the key was outside the chest. The lid was lowered. Click.

Did it open? No. The key was inserted in the lock, rattling and quivering in a nervous hand. The lock did not release.

"Here. Let me try it."

"Okay. Maybe I didn't do it right."

From another room where it had seemed best to seclude myself, I heard someone clearing his throat. A nervous cough. A few guttural expletives. Finally, I decided to go check on my little cedar chest.

As I entered the room, the workmen rocked back on their heels in laughter. "It's locked. The key won't open it."

"This is a humorous situation?" I asked. "Or simply a state of advanced hysteria?"

The men turned suddenly sober.

"Don't worry. We'll just remove the hinges from the back of the lid."

Done. The lock maintained its stubborn grasp.

A big hand holding a screwdriver reached in from the back, scraping skin as it strained to undo the screws from the lock part in the front of the chest.

I held my breath as I checked the owner's manual. "You may notice some surface cracks in the wood," it read. "This is natural to sturdy native Ozark cedar."

But how sturdy is the cedar? The creaking sounds I heard hinted we may soon notice more than surface cracks.

At last the lid was off, with lock still firmly attached.

One of the craftsmen now decided to check the easy-to-follow directions. His eyes grew bright as if the wizard had suddenly granted him knowledge.

"Does something on the front of this instruction sheet sort of jump out at you?" he asked, handing it to his fellow workman.

There, in large red print that clearly did jump out from the black were the words, "PUSH BUTTON LOCK."

One of the men pushed the lock. It popped open.

"I think I feel a story coming on," I announced. "People should learn how following simple directions can avoid getting lost on a yellow brick road."

In order to save my own neck, however, I may have to make one slight confession.

I didn't see the large red print either.

My Christmas 2013 moves from humor to a serious reading of "The Greatest Story Ever Told," the timeless and compelling story of the life of Jesus, written by noted author and editor Fulton Oursler in 1949, a best-seller, reprinted many times since.

After 25 years of "contented agnosticism" according to Oursler, he visited and researched in detail the countries of Jesus's life and time, telling with powerful simplicity and a necessary degree of poetic license, an ageless story set in accurate historical background.

Oursler became a believer.

I'd known of the book for years. Reading it now seemed to make the lights shine more brightly, bells ring more clearly, the smile of a stranger warmer.

And I ask, "Are all life's wonders reborn with Jesus Himself ?"

On Christmas?

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