In the Coils of the Creator (Encouragement for Creators)


President George W. Bush declared it the national toy of the United States; and in his 2002 State of the Union address he stated, “I can not think of a recreational device that better exemplifies the inventiveness of the American spirit.”

Over the last 70 years it’s sold well over 300 million units.

It owes it’s unique ability to descend a staircase to “simple harmonic motion,” the mechanics of which are governed by Hooke’s Law and gravity. (Huh?!? Don’t worry about this particular point; we promise there won’t be a quiz.)

In 1995, it got a plum role in Pixar’s Toy Story. What on earth are we discussing? According to the popular jingle sung on numerous TV commercials, “a spring, a spring — a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s Slinky.” And it was created by accident!

In 1943, at a shipyard in Philadelphia, a naval mechanical engineer named Richard James was designing support springs that would be able to cushion and stabilize sensitive shipboard instruments during rough seas. He accidentally knocked one of his springs from a shelf, and was amazed to see it “step” down a stack of books, then walk across his worktable, before finally doing a summersault onto the floor. James the inventor instantly recognized a good thing, and he was ready to run with it. When he got home that evening, he told his wife, Betty, that he wanted to experiment further with the spring. He was convinced that — using the right properties of steel, and finding the perfect tension — he could create a toy that walked all by itself. James’ wife was skeptical, until — after a year of fiddling with various springs — HE DID IT!

James unveiled his creation to a group of neighborhood kids who all cheered the “sleek and graceful” new toy. Wife Betty decided to call it a Slinky, which means … um … “sleek and graceful.”  Trivia time: the original Slinky was two and a half inches tall and was made of 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel. A local machine shop produced the first batch of 400 units; and initially, Richard and Betty James had trouble convincing toy stores to carry the product. The Gimbels department store in Philadelphia finally allowed the couple to set up an inclined plank in the toy section, where they demonstrated the Slinky to wide-eyed kids and their parents. Those first 400 units — each hand-wrapped in bright yellow paper and priced at $1 — sold out in 90 minutes.

But that’s nothing. During its first 2 years, the newly-formed James Industries sold 100 million Slinkys at a dollar apiece. Adjusting for inflation, that’s equivalent to $1 Billion!

In 1960, Richard James left the company, and Betty took sole ownership; and she continued to preside over the ever-growing business until 1998. During those 38 years, she insisted on keeping the price of the original Slinky affordable. Betty once told The New York Times, “So many children can’t have expensive toys, and I feel a real obligation to them.”

And what of Richard? After creating one of the most unique and unusual, most popular and profitable, toys ever known, what does a millionaire inventor do for an encore? Well, after leaving his company in 1960, Richard James became an evangelical missionary in Bolivia with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Strange? That’s not for us to decide.

But what’s the lesson in the Story of Slinky? That’s not for us to decide, either. There are several things we can take from this tale. For us to single out any one of them would minimize the others. What did you take from it?

“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you wonderful and marvelous things that you know nothing about.” (Jeremiah 33:3 GNT)


Faithfully Fueled Flames of Sparky! (Angel in the Kitchen)


Over the past year we’ve introduced our readers to all the “angels” in our kitchen: those appliances, gadgets and food items which continue to teach us lessons about life, love and relationships. We wrote, among other things, about how our toaster can “talk”; the call oangelic-pop-up-toaster-smiling-with-wings-and-halo-emoji-102714f the Keurig; and how Fridgey (our refrigerater) enjoys the nightlife. These articles have been collected in two softcover books.

Now we’d like to share a little more about Sparky, our gas range! (Yes, we can be silly at times! What’s your excuse?) Sparky is faithful; even in the midst of a prolonged power outage, our trustworthy kitchen friend didn’t let us down! Please read on.

One fateful Christmas Eve, over a decade ago, Virginia and several surrounding states endured a massive ice storm. The day before, we had prepared a variety of tempting treats to enjoy throughout the holidays, including stuffed mushrooms. All our goodies were crammed into Fridgey, awaiting a bit of rewarming on Christmas day. But on the morning of the 24th, we awoke to the gunshot-loud crackings of tree limbs breaking under the weight of a thick coating of ice. And because we live in the woods of New Kent, barely 30 feet from dense stands of trees in every direction, we weren’t in the least suprised to learn the power was out — a frequent pitfall of having powerlines near trees.

Turned out that power outage affected thousands of homes spread across several states — and in more isolated areas (that would be us) the outage lasted weeks!! But we managed. We transferred our gourmet goodies to a big cooler, and on Christmas night, huddled about the fireplace, sitting in a room illuminated by hurricane lamps, we enjoyed a hot meal that included stuffed mushrooms! How did we heat them?

Well, Sparky is fueled by a huge propane tank behind our house. The local propane company keeps the tank topped off, so we’ve never run out of fuel. And the beauty of propane is that the pressure of the gas forces the fuel through the line and into our home, where it feeds our water-heater and Sparky.

All we had to do was turn on the gas knob, light the flame with a match, and Sparky came to life. We gently warmed the stuffed mushrooms and other foods in a covered skillet, and enjoyed a gourmet meal in the midst of a semi-disaster! So, in a pinch, our faithful Sparky came through, because he’s powered by a dependable source of fuel — and the flow never stops!

In life, those who believe in and follow Christ are also powered by a dependable, neverending source of fuel. It’s called God’s Holy Spirit. When He walked the earth, Jesus said, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever … the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive….” (John 14:16-17 ESV) The word helper comes from a Greek term that conveys the ideas of “advising, encouraging, comforting and strengthening”: the basic survival gear needed to get through tough times.

With the power of the Holy Spirit we can make it through all of life’s little disasters, whether they’re icestorms or job layoffs or broken relationships. But we need to be careful to maintain the flow of the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. There are certain things that can block the natural flow of this “fuel”; thoughts and actions that can crimp the gas-line, so to speak.

“For you have been called to live in freedom…. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. …But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. …Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.” (Galatians 5:13-17 NLT)

Keep the supply lines open: read and think on God’s Word; talk to your Heavenly Father (praying about your fears, weaknesses and concerns, asking for His guidance, and always thanking Him for all He’s done for you); and stay connected to other believers. When you do, you’ll always have fresh supply of God’s power and influence flowing into your life. You’ll be able to weather any storm … and even dine on gourmet stuffed mushrooms while you’re waiting for it to pass!