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Authors: Michael Phillips

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Heathersleigh Homecoming

BOOK: Heathersleigh Homecoming
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© 1999 by Michael R. Phillips

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan


Ebook edition created 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-2955-7

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Unless otherwise identified, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Cover illustration © Erin Dertner / Exclusively represented by Applejack Licensing

To the sisters of
The Mother of Good Counsel Home
St. Louis, Missouri
and to the sisters of
Christusträger Schwestern
Hergershof, Germany



Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication Page




Part I: On the Run

1. Whisperings

2. Out of Vienna

3. Chalet of Hope

4. Trieste

5. Liaison to the Admiralty

6. Close Encounter

7. Across the Border

8. Dreariness

9. Clandestine Beacon

10. Milan Station

Part II: Refuge

11. Messrs. Crumholtz, Sutclyff, Stonehaugh, & Crumholtz

12. Alpine Waking

13. The Sisters of the Chalet

14. Reflections on Their Guest

15. Jilted Farmer's Daughter

16. Churning Butter

17. Vienna Storm Clouds

18. A Walk to Grindelwald

19. Raw Trainees

20. The Will of God

21. Reading Night

22. Telegram

23. New Story and Discussion

24. Heart of a Giant

25. Orphaned Kid

26. Unexpected Origins

27. At Sea

28. Milan Again

29. Dream Turned Nightmare

30. Whence Originates Goodness . . . and Why?

31. Kapellbrücke

32. A Walk in the Village

33. Heathersleigh

34. Unpopular Conviction

35. Deep Intelligence

36. Christmas Plans

37. Persuaded by the Heart

38. Back to Milan

39. Living Miracle

40. Chalet Christmas Party

41. Dark Night

42. Frau Grizzel

43. Miraculous Birth

44. Christmas Morning

45. Heathersleigh Christmas

46. Christmas Dinner With Meat for Discussion

47. New Year and Changes

48. A Bad Father

49. Sister Regina's Story

50. Narrowing Circle

51. Significant New Book

52. Ramsay Sinks

53. Becoming a Daughter

54. Against Entreaties and Persuasions

55. Unpleasant Reflections

56. Bold Confrontation

57. Departure

58. Lauterbrunnen

59. Strangers in Wengen

60. Stormy Night

Part III: England

61. Attack

62. Intelligence in the Alliance

63. War Closes In

64. A Letter and a Nightmare

65. Revised Plans

66. Sharing a Corner of God's Heart

67. Paris

68. High-Ranking Defection

69. Rising Determination

70. Number 42

71. Mademoiselle Très Chic

72. Questions

73. Overheard Schemes

74. Surprise Intruder

75. North From Paris

76. Ramsay's Fury

77. Spy vs. Spy

78. A Visitor to Heathersleigh

79. Jocelyn and Stirling Blakeley

80. Missing Clue

81. Beneath Channel Waters

82. Channel Reflections

83. What Next?

84. Surprise Caller

85. The Admiralty

86. Change of Plans Aboard the
Admiral Uelzen

87. Deciphering the Clues

88. North Hawsker Head

89. Unexpected Visitors to English Shores

90. Moving In

91. Break-In

92. Frantic New Message

93. Hostage

94. Lights Out

95. Face-Off

96. The Fog Lifts

97. Father and Son

Part IV: Shock and Grief

98. A Bomb at Heathersleigh

99. A Friend's Devastation

100. The Streets of London

101. Autumn Rains and Memories

102. Sunday Morning

103. The Call of Intimacy

104. Respectable Prodigality

105. A Meeting of Friends

106. An Honest Talk

Part V: Heathersleigh Homecoming

107. Heartache at Heathersleigh

108. Unless a Seed Fall to the Ground . . .

109. Heathersleigh Homecoming

110. Glimmers

111. Grandma Maggie's Embrace

112. Mother and Daughter

113. Going Home to the Father

114. Plymouth Memorial

115. Healing and Looking Forward

116. Milverscombe Remembers

117. A Mystery Revealed

118. Mysteries Solved and Puzzles Remaining

119. Heathersleigh's Women

120. What Do You Want Me to Do?

121. Overdue Letter

About the Author

Fiction by Michael Phillips

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. . . . When he came to his senses, he said . . . “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” So he got up and went to his father.


The Universal Parable

The remarkable thing about the Bible is that its stories are timeless and universal, and also very, very intimate. From Genesis onward, the insightful reader sees both the great, sweeping, majestic human condition, and his
, mirrored in the men and women of the scriptural account.

In compiling the Holy Book, though using fallible men to do so, the Holy Spirit has woven a miraculously
tapestry of human life. Only the most unseeing individual can progress far in the Bible without eventually standing back to gaze with wonder at that tapestry, realizing that the emerging portrait being woven into the fabric . . . alongside the face of the Lord . . . is his or her own countenance and spiritual character. Nowhere do we find this personal tapestry more clearly than in the Gospels.

The Gospels paint a picture of
beside that of the Man whose life story they tell.

Though on the surface the Gospels appear to be a biographical account of Jesus Christ, at a more profound level they are intended to prompt a far deeper response than a typical biography. The Gospels tell two stories. They illuminate both the character of Jesus
that of his listener.

At every point this dual story is active. Response to Jesus is everything—whether it be the response of James and John, Peter and Andrew, the crowd, the rich young ruler, the Pharisees, children, blind men, prostitutes, tax collectors, kings, prophets, wise men, or shepherds.

Jesus continually looks into the eyes of his listener and says, “This story, this teaching, this principle, this parable, this truth is about
as much as it is about me. What will you do? You must in some way acknowledge what I say, who I am, and my Father's claim upon you. In short . . . you must follow me or turn your back and walk away. Neutrality is not possible. You

I intentionally use the word “listener” in the singular. Jesus always gazes into one set of eyes at a time. Jesus spoke to crowds, to groups of Pharisees, to the twelve, to the seventy. But he always addressed each
as if he or she were the only one present. That is why I say the scriptural account is a tapestry of the Lord's face and
 . . . as if we are the only persons in the universe. It is the story of
personal response—as I become that
—to the Lord's teachings, to his challenges, and to his claim upon me.

As I read of him walking beside the Sea of Galilee and approaching the sons of Zebedee, it is not primarily to them he speaks at that moment. The words “Follow me,” in that timeless and universally intimate eternal now, are intended for only
. James and John have already made their decision. Now it is my turn. Will I leave
nets and follow him? That is the eternally significant question.

No abstractions clutter the Gospels. The four books penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are, of course, important literary and historical documents—probably the most significant historical documents ever written. But they are not
historical. Their first purpose is not to record history but to elicit response. At the core they are

I repeat—response is everything. Jesus lived, Jesus taught, Jesus died . . . to be
to. If I read the words “Follow me” as spoken only to James and John or Peter and Andrew or the rich young ruler, as detached historical encounters having little immediate bearing upon me, the life of Jesus itself loses its power in my life altogether. It is either my story, my response . . . or it is nothing.

Where do I take
place in the gospel drama?

Am I one of the seventy? Do I stand watching and listening among the crowd? Am I a silent and unresponsive observer of the miracles who walks away thinking to myself, “Hmm . . . interesting,” but who never appropriates that miracle of new life for myself? Am I an angry Pharisee? Am I a Thomas full of questions, a Nicodemus who comes by night, a Martha who fusses, or perhaps the rich young ruler, who, when confronted eye to eye with the challenge of following, sadly turns and walks away?

Where do you find
in the gospel drama?

Within the Gospels this principle of personal response is no more vivid than in how we relate to the parables. Do we see our own faces in those seemingly simple stories? If not, we have missed their
life-changing import. We have not beheld the gospel tapestry in its full yet very subtle and weakness-exposing glory. Its colors and textures shift and change in the light, and must be turned just so for the images being fashioned by the divine hand to be seen for what they are. It is a tapestry-portrait of intricate colors and blends, whose figures and representations often do not reveal themselves at first glance. As Jesus tells each and every parable, he holds up a mirror in which I am intended to see my
face. That is the subtlety of the tapestry-in-progress.

We are all well familiar with the parable we call “the prodigal son,” found in Luke 15:11–31. I call it the universal parable. I am convinced that it represents a microscopic view of the entire human drama on earth. We have a good, prosperous, and benevolent Father, from whose loving presence we have strayed. It happened in the garden with Adam and Eve. It happens with every man and woman who has ever lived. We leave our Father's home. We leave the garden life he intended for us, wandering from his embrace, abandoning our trust in his goodness, disobeying his commands, squandering our inheritance as his sons and daughters. Call it
—which it is. Call it
—which it is. Call it
—which it is. Or say simply that we have turned away from the loving care of our Creator-Father. All these descriptions of our condition are appropriate and true. We are a prodigal humanity.

In actual human lives such as yours or mine, not every individual is a wicked and visibly rebellious person. There are axe murderers and prostitutes and good churchmen and -women. Yet whatever the individual characteristics of the far countries to which we each go, we are all prodigals together. Our universal straying, therefore, takes many forms—from outright rebellion and disobedience against God, to casual independence and unintentional drift. We want our inheritance, which is life, but we want it apart from him. We do not want to live out that life in our Father's house. We are just like the prodigal son. The underlying prodigal-mistake to which all succumb is a universal one: We think it is possible to create a satisfying life apart from the God who created us, or if we do include him in our calculations we do so on our own terms, keeping his expectations and demands at a minimum. In the end this lethal assumption is always revealed for the fallacy it is. All must eventually do what the prodigal did—arise and return to our Father.

We must go home.

And what do we find when we return? That our Father's goodness and love and grace and forgiveness are boundless in open-armed embrace. He has been waiting for us all along! Indeed, he has been watching for us—believing we would return. He is waiting to run out and greet us with rejoicing even before we are all the way back. That is the kind of Father we have. Nowhere do we see God himself so succinctly and wonderfully characterized as in the father of the prodigal in Luke fifteen.

The prodigal parable is universal for another reason. Most men and women, especially in today's world, find themselves living out one or another aspect of this story within their own family relationships. When I say, as I did earlier, that we all find ourselves in the Gospels, I think we also all find ourselves within this one parable—as a father, a mother, an elder brother, as one of the servants, possibly as a neighbor or cousin or uncle or aunt, as one of the prodigal's friends in the far country to which he sojourned and where he gradually squandered his inheritance . . . or as the prodigal himself.

Do you know anyone at this moment who is estranged from mother or father? Then you are living out, right now, a role within this parable. And it may be that you will be called upon to take an active part in the unfolding drama before it reaches its conclusion.

Never has the story been so heartbreakingly applicable within Christian families as it seems to be during these times in which we live. The assault upon the institution of the family has rarely been so unrelenting and severe. That assault is coming precisely at the point where young people are the most vulnerable—in the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood. They are encouraged and goaded by every element of society to become antagonistic toward, lose their trust in, and often break off their relationship with their parents completely. Scarcely does a family exist without scars from the battle.

To understand the complexities of that battle, and to be encouraged and energized to give God thanks in the midst of it, I think we profit enormously by reading afresh the parable of the prodigal, with the gospel mirror held up to our own souls. In some cases this prompts the conviction of the son to arise and return. In others it allows the parental heartbreak to accomplish its divine purpose. To others it gives great hope.

Often the complexities and prayerful struggles within the parable are not apprehended at first glance. It takes time, and often personal experience, to delve beneath the surface to gain some of the deeper insights and ask some of the more difficult questions prompted by the story. What, for example, was the role of the prodigal's mother during the time her son was away? How did her mother-heart bear up under the season of waiting? And how long was the prodigal away—a year . . . ten years? Was there contact with him during that time? Did he write home and ask for more money once his inheritance ran out? Did his mother ever send him a care package? Was there communication between father and son prior to that tearful meeting on the road?

I find these questions not only fascinating, but also of huge practical consequence for those suffering through painful and fragmented relationships. In attempting to apply the truths of Luke fifteen, prodigalized families face a wide range of questions not specifically addressed in the biblical account. What ought to be a father's or mother's response if the homecoming is not accompanied by true repentance? What does a parent do if the visit is not for the purpose of reconciliation at all but is self motivated and ends with the question, “Dad, I need some money.” What if the angry prodigal comes home simply because there is no place else to go?

When does one kill the fatted calf and rejoice at the homecoming? What might be the adverse effect of celebrating prematurely? What is the nature of the inheritance? Is it always financial? Are there other “inheritances” which today's prodigals squander?

What about “prodigals” who never actually leave home, whose rebellion is lived out right under the parental roof? How do parents in such circumstances carry themselves? What about those whose rebellion against parental authority is obscured by an immature, self-righteous form of seeming spirituality which looks down on their parents rather than holding them in honor and esteem? Many prodigals go through life and never see their own face in the mirror when they read Luke fifteen, and thus never recognize themselves as prodigals at all.

What about interfering relatives, grandparents, siblings, and friends who justify the actions of the prodigal and subtly blame the parents for family division, preventing the “husks of the swine” to accomplish their chastening and redeeming work? What about those
who hide behind the curtain of neutrality, not wanting to “take sides” in a family dispute? These are they who never recognize that when Jesus told the parable there was a true right and a true wrong, and that while
was called for from the parental heart, it was the prodigal from whom
was required.

What about those “Job's counselors” who sow seeds of dissatisfaction, discontent, and brooding accusation, those who call themselves the prodigal's friends, but who are in fact purveyors of the modern psychology of guilt-free nonaccountability? They want to be accepting, noncritical. These are they who dismiss any need on the prodigal's part to face with tearful remorse what is genuine wrongdoing and sin. These so-called friends can be the most damaging of all, excusing rather than confronting, shifting blame, justifying, speaking subtle and character-damaging lies into the prodigal's receptive ear: “They don't understand . . . it was right for you to do what you did . . . you have to shed your youth and be who you are . . . it is right and normal to stand up for your individuality and independence . . . you have to be yourself, not what they expect you to be . . . they were controlling and you were right to break free. . . .” Such fleshly evasions prevent rather than exhort toward wholeness.

Homecoming is impossible as long as the Self rules, as it surely does in these blame-shifting and self-justifying excuses which are in the very societal air we breathe. And as long as homecoming is delayed, for just that long is mature character likewise prevented.

At root I find intriguing the simple question
? Why did the one son go and the one stay home? Why do young people raised in the same environment respond to their circumstances so differently? Why do young people raised in loving and caring environments find it necessary to rebel against them?

These and a host of other extremely difficult questions are faced every day by the families of prodigals—questions that test the limits of their faith and endurance. In this age when personal accountability is such an odious concept in the world's eyes, and when intolerance, anger, and blame toward parents are the
things young people are encouraged to face and repent of—even by Christian peers, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, and friends—it is becoming sadly more and more rare that full reconciliation occurs in most families. All too few
Christian teachers, pastors, and counselors are calling upon young people to
for their prodigal hearts.

BOOK: Heathersleigh Homecoming
10.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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