Excerpt from
The Jensen Family

Probably he got caught in a steel trap like this one over here," their dad said, pointing to an exhibit in the next case.
"But how could he get free from that?" Julie asked.

Continue Reading...

– posted 12.04.2009

#4: Boiled Down

A Character story about discernment.

"Boy, is this exciting!" Jason yelled to his friend Jonathan as they bounced up and down on the noisy school bus. "We haven't gone on a field trip for ages."
"You can say that again. We never went on one since I moved here anyway. I sure hope they give us some maple syrup to keep as a souvenir."
"Fat chance of that," Jason responded. "That stuff is expensive! I brought some money in case they sell any."
"Yah?" Jonathan answered though not sure what Jason had said. The boys gave up trying to talk when some of the others began loud singing. The bus rolled past the city limits into the country, winding down muddy, rough, back roads until it finally pulled into a large farm yard. A sign in front read, "Martin's Maple Syrup."
"Please stay together," the teacher announced, "and be very quiet when the man is talking. Remember, you will have a test on what he says tomorrow in class." Everyone groaned as expected and then shuffled out of the bus to the driveway. Soon a jolly, round-faced man in bib overhauls came from the house and, after talking with the teacher, he greeted the class and told them to follow him. They headed toward a grove of trees behind the barn from which billowed a large funnel of black smoke.
"This is where we boil down the sap," Mr. Martin began when everyone had arrived at a small shack. "But first, we have to gather the sap. It comes from this grove of maple trees here, about 35 acres of them. Some of the sap we collect in over 1000 buckets and carry by wagon. The rest comes through these 700 feet of tubing here on the trees." He pointed to some white line connecting many of the trees. "For these trees, we bore a small hole in each tree, more than one in the bigger trees. Then we insert a spile like this one and hang a bucket on it. In a month or so we can collect over 20,000 gallons of sap in the buckets or through the tap line."
"Wow!" the kids responded.
"Any questions so far?"
"Does drilling a hole in the tree hurt it?" one boy asked.
"Not a bit. During the growing season, the tree heals over and it's none the worse for ware. But we don't put the hole in the same place each year. Any other questions?"
Jason raised his hand. "How come the sap only flows in the spring?"
"Good question, my boy. The sap is actually travelling up and down the tree all year. But in the spring it travels up the tree to nourish the new buds. The best sap output comes when the temperature is about 25 degrees F. in the night, and above freezing during the day. When the temperature remains warmer, then the sap stays up in the tree and the season is over. And when buds form on the tree, the sap will no longer make good syrup. So, that means we usually only have a month or so to get the job done. Now, let's go to the boiling house."
The class tramped down the still snow-covered path, back to the shack with the black smoke. "Making maple syrup is a simple task," Mr. Martin continued. "We simply boil the sap in this large tank here until the temperature in it rises 9 degrees above boiling. Sounds easy, uh? But actually it takes a long time, more than 5 hours. The white smoke is really steam coming off of the boiler."
"How come this other smoke is so black?" Jonathan asked.
"We sometimes burn old tires in here. They give off a lot of heat and they don't cost anything. But the smoke from them is pretty dirty. We need to get heat from every source we can. That's because it takes a lot of sap to make a gallon of syrup. How much do you think?" He waited for an answer but no one was bold enough to venture a guess. "Well, how many would say it takes 10 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup? How many would say 15 gallons? Twenty? O.K. Most of you guess twenty. Well, hang on to your hat. It takes 35 to 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup! That means for a gallon of sap you would get less than a half cup of syrup. And if you boil it too long, you can burn it and ruin the whole batch. That can be mighty expensive! All we're really doing is taking most of the water out and leaving the pure natural sugar that the tree made the year before and stored in the roots. It's a simple job of getting rid of what we don't want - most of the water - to keep what is really valuable - the sugar syrup. If we boil more of the water out, we can make maple candies. We'll give you each one before you leave."
"So then we went to the house and they gave us each a candy," Jason reported to the family that night as he concluded the final details of his trip report. "And I got two small bottles of maple syrup only I gave one to Jonathan because he didn't have any money with him."
"That was kind of you," Mrs. Jensen said with a smile as she bit into a cookie.
"Sounds like you learned a lot," responded Mr. Jensen. "Did you learn any spiritual lessons while there?"
"Spiritual lessons? Nobody said anything about the Bible I don't think."
"No, but one thing you shared made me think of the second coming of Christ. You said they boiled out what they didn't want in order to get what was valuable to them. Do you remember what it says in II Corinthians 5:10?"
"I know that one," Julie announced. "I had it in my AWANA two weeks ago. Oh, now I forgot the first word."
"For we must.."
"Oh yah, 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.'"
"Good," Mr. Jensen praised. "And in I Corinthians 3 we are told that our works will be 'tried by fire.' The things not done for the glory of the Lord will be burned up. What is left will be rewarded. I wonder if our works will 'boil down' 40 to 1 or less before we have the 'valuable' part that will be rewarded. It says some will 'suffer loss' and others will 'be rewarded.' I'd like to be in the rewarded group, wouldn't you?" Everyone agreed.


That our English word 'syrup' comes from the Arabic word, meaning 'to drink'? If maple syrup is too expensive for you, try making your own. Pour a cup of boiling water over two cups of packed brown sugar and stir. Then add 1/4 tsp. of maple favoring.