A Well-known Storyteller, Author and Inspirational Speaker

The Land of Play-Like

Heart to heart with Mackie

             The storyteller’s mind has a flying horse at its command.  Just get on it and tell it to take you into the land of make believe.  I took my first ride when I was about three years of age, and my bigger brothers and sisters took me to play with them, for Irene was appointed my guardian angel, and she took the role seriously.

            This story is in my memoirs, told at length, but I will shorten it here to one episode.

            The older children were into what they called, play like, and that meant to pretend.  When they pronounced the two words it sounded like plike.  Therefore, they were saying to Johnny or me, “plike you  (whatever)”  I remember that brother John was willing to play any part they wanted, he understood it was a game, but it was a different matter with me, for everything was unreal.

            This is the scene that I recall vividly.  They were playing that I was the Davenport child, (brother George’s child) and Irene took me over to her “house” to play with her child.  When we arrived she said to her imaginary child, “Look who came to play with you! Sylvia Davenport!” I asked, “Where is your little girl?”  She laughed and called to Clementine, “Mrs. Murphy, can you come over and bring Tommy?”  Then Clem came over with my brother Johnny and said, “Oh, you have Sylvia with you! Hello, Sylvia!  You can play with my little boy, Tommy.” Of course there was no more mention of any other child, but I said, “I am not Sylvia, and he is not Tommy. His name is Johnny and mine is Maxine” 

            At that, Irene stooped down and explained it, saying, “We are playing a game of grown-ups and that means we play like we are grown-up.  Look at me, Mac, I am not grown-up, and I am Irene.  Now I am playing that I am Mrs. Bryant and that means it is not real. This is my play time, and that is what I am playing.  If you want to stay with me and play this game, you can’t be Maxine for that would be real.  We are playing something that is not real.  Now, do you want to stay with me, because if you do not want to play this game, I will take you back to Mother, for she allowed me to bring you with me to play.”

            Of course, I wanted to stay with Irene and I readily said, “I want to stay with you.  I want to play the game.”  So then when I was Irene’s little girl I was one name, and when I was Clementine’s I was Mary Katherine, Mary Kay for short, and sometimes I was some other imaginary child in the scenario they were acting out.  I was talking to my mother and I said “You can call me Mary Kay if you want to.”

            She laughed and said, “So that is what the girls are calling you when they play.”  I said, “Yes, and I am Virginia and Sylvia too.”  She laughed and sat down to talk and said, “That’s all right when you are playing with the girls, but when you come back to the house you are my real little girl.  I am your REAL mommy.  You are Maxine. That is your REAL name.  I call you “Mac” sometimes but that still means Maxine and you remember that.  You are MAXINE.  Don’t ever forget that.”

            Well I never did forget it.  I have always known the difference since that talk with my real mother.

            The minute I took Irene’s hand we mounted the magic horse and I grabbed her around the waist and held on for dear life! What a ride this has been!

            This means that I have never had any problem whatsoever with my real identity.  I am still Maxine, and you may call meMackie, for that is what my nieces and nephews called me when I was single and wanted them to be able to say something easy instead of Aunt Maxine. For a baby, that’s a mouth full.  Then when I met Frank he picked it up from them, and it got spread around to all my friends, so here I am, the real me.

            Yet, at an early age, I learned to mount the flying horse.  We ride off to the mountain where the dragon is hiding, and we have no fear that the sword in my scabbard will rid the world of that monster.  I have been riding this flying horse for ninety years, and he has grown quite accustomed to our strange adventures.

            I never was led to give up my National Storytellers League, even though I dropped all other organizations when I surrendered my will to Jesus Christ.  The reason was that our organization stands for the good and beautiful in life and literature, and I knew that our beautiful Savior is author of all that is good and perfect, so I remained a faithful member of my local league. The Lord has made good use of my skills in telling stories, in sharing what I have learned through the printed word, and my travels for teaching.  I have found that the gift of imagination is one that God has placed in His created people for His use! 

            Mother taught me that I have “special eyes,” and “special ears” and that God gave them to me so that I could get to know Him better.  She reminded me of the boy Samuel, to illustrate the “ears,” and of Joseph’s story for the “eyes.”  At first I believed they were literally there, but as I grew older she helped me to understand that the terms are figurative.

Therefore, I use my “special eyes” and my “special ears” when I go to Him in prayer or when he says, “I am here, knocking; if you will open the door, I will come in”   I open the door!  I see Him with my special eyes, and I hear Him with my special ears. He says that He will sup with me and I with Him.  I believe that means we partake of the kind of food he was speaking of when he said to his disciples, “I have meat to eat that you know not of.”[1] This is the divine imagination that he uses to communicate.  This is possible through study of His written word, then using the special eyes and ears.  When the old hymn says, “He walks with me, and He talks with me!” that is meant to be literal through the special instruments that He created for that purpose and His own Holy Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being[2].  When we commit ourselves to Him without any reservations, we become a “new creation.”  We are “converted” and now the special eyes and special ears become operative. He is then able to act in us.

             If we want Him to act in us, and through us, we must first be “converted” from our worldly, cynical viewpoint, ready and willing to “listen” with the ears of the Spirit.  Read the Gospel of John with a good commentary.  You will find Barclay’s on most church library shelves.  In John’s book, it shows plainly that the Father and the Son are residing in every believer through a special, invisible Presence.  We call Him the Holy Spirit, for He is the person and power of God that we possess in Christ. 

              John shows plainly how the “invisible” Christ is “visible” and that brings a new dimension to the Christian’s behavior, “in honor preferring one another.[3]” We should remember that admonition in the way we treat other Christians, for we have this Treasure in earthen vessels.  We should be watching for that special spark to reveal the Living Savior to us. That is how he makes himself visible through the work of the Holy Spirit. 

            Think of your “special eyes” as the new night vision glasses that allow our soldiers to see in the dark.  When you see with your special eyes you are peering into the invisible world, as Dr. Brand did with his microscope[4].  By using your special eyes of the spirit, the Lord illumines the dark places and you can see your way.  Peering into the darkness of sin’s tunnel we see a great light!  Now you can look up, laugh, love and lift.

             Jesus wants us be cheerful and help others to be light hearted.  He said, “Be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.”[5] Well, now!   Since that is the case, we need not fear venturing with Him anywhere, any time!  Oh, the stories I could write on that theme, but like that fellow with the golden egg that you read about in the first blog, we have to be satisfied with little nuggets.  

            SO (yes! I said so.  I prefer it to “therefore” in this case and it’s my blog)) Now I go back to SO, you will notice as you read these tales, that the one who practices all the Christian graces will be the one who wins out in the end.  He gets the lovely princess.  She gets the handsome prince, even if one of them did have to kiss a frog—there’s a lesson in that too, but I’m not telling) I was grown before I knew why I absolutely loved the story Toads and Diamonds as a child but when I began telling it as an adult, it was as plain as the nose on my face.  (That is plenty plain!)  

              As Christians we all know that our God is greater than that one ruling the secular world with all of his minions.   AND a great verse to keep in mind as you study and prepare stories is this one: And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus[6]  Well, as long as we know he keeps those, then we wade right in and tackle that giant. 

            That’s why I can teach storytelling with abandon!   I have a sword that has a mysterious power.  I pulled it out of the Stone which the builders rejected, and it is hidden in my scabbard unless I need it .  Then it becomes Excalibur.  I also have a shield that is huge!  I can hide behind it!  And it is impenetrable!  I have special shoes that I put on and immediately gain the stature of any giant out there, and scare the wits out of him.  By the time I get all my armor on and I mount the flying horse, I am ready to fight that old dragon.

            Here is a quote from J.R.R.Tolkien, and I believe you will find that he concurs in all that I have said in the above. It would be good to memorize these words or print them out and put them where you read them often.  Be sure to tuck them in your pocket before you go  flying off into the land of make-believe.

 The realm of the fairy story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost. — J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) from On Fairy Stories

            I will give just one more quote.  I have dozens but these two are at the tip top of the list. This one is from Albert Einstein.  He says:  If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

             I conclude with these few words of explanation.  I notice on rereading this that I have alluded to several scripture references that I did not look up and give the reference, and I’m leaving that for you to do if you want to know where they can be found.  I am begging age as an excuse.  When you reach ninety-three it will not matter a whole lot where the verse is located, but the important thing is whether you have that “sword in your scabbard” or “hidden in your heart” and that’s another one you can look up.  As my mother always said, “I’m at the end of my tether.”


[1] John 4:32

[2] Act 17:28

[3] Romans 12:10

[4] Oops! A weakness I have of assuming things! I was thinking here of Dr. Brand, co-author of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.Zondervan. C?—go to Google!

[5] John 16:33

[6] Philippians 4:7

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