Party Liner

Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "I Love To Tell The Story"1 (Lyrics)

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 – Don't eavesdrop on the conversation of others. What if the gossip's about you and you'd rather not hear it? You've done that a few times, haven't you — said things behind someone's back you wouldn't say to his face? (MSG)

Years ago, I was on a summer placement in the backwoods of Nova Scotia, Canada. Believe it or not, the phones were the old crank style and, more amazing, connected everyone in the community so that any and all could listen. No conversation could be considered private. While there, I received a call informing me of my uncle's death. For the next week, I was offered condolences from almost every member of my small community, even though I had not shared that information with anyone!

Party line! Listening in was quite a pastime for many. People tend to speak more guardedly when they know that their conversation is being overheard. This event actually saved me many embarrassing moments for the rest of the summer, as I was aware that every word spoken would be heard throughout the community.

Now, fast forward twenty years to the decade that I spent being a "party liner" as a reporter for the CBC Radio show Information Morning in Nova Scotia. I shared news and information about our community to any and all who were listening, knowing that my words would be repeated over and over by early morning listeners to those who had missed it. I was often "the talk of the town", and that was exactly what I wanted.

People listened in on Jesus as He shared the message of God's love. Sometimes, He was simply talking to His disciples privately — or maybe not so privately — and He would make things plain to them.

Mark 4:33-34 – With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots. (MSG)

Jesus used stories as the vehicle to spread His message.

Mark 5:19b-20 – "Go home to your own people. Tell them your story — what the Master did, how he had mercy on you." The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town. (MSG)

There are times when gossip can be embarrassing, as when I received that call many years ago. There are other times, as when I was a "party liner", that the story is meant to be shared far and wide.

We have a story to tell, and we hope that others will be listening in! "I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love." (Katherine Hankey)

Prayer: God, help us to be sensitive to the need for privacy, but also help us to realize that the gospel is always personal, but never private. Help us to share the good news wherever we go. Amen.

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About the author:

Kenn Stright <>
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    The best sermons begin with a personal story.

    I remember the party lines when I was a young boy. Thanks for sharing, Kenn.

    Facebook is now the old party line but lacking the neighbourly, caring interest.

    Neat putting the party line is similar to Jesus’ stories.

    Thanks Kenn for your devotional today. Yes, it is important for us to have no fear in sharing the words of the gospel. Blessings for your special writings.

    Thank you for sharing a story about your life. I appreciate you connecting it to scripture for our better understanding. You have had a party line witnessing God’s goodness.

    Thanks Kenn, very good devotional. Interesting, I didn’t know you had been a reporter for Information Morning. Very good prayer, “the Gospel is always personal, but never private, it is to be shared”. Never thought of it that way. Blessings.

    Thank you, Kenn!
    Your message was very helpful today. A great reminder to everyone to be mindful of what we say and the effects of our words when repeated back in conversations. Thanks again.

    Good morning,
    The new party line is “reply all” for emails, often used in error and an embarrassment to the sender if they have gossiped online.
    It’s a very good reminder to think carefully before we hit send.

    Great message Kenn. We had party lines up at our cottage on Lake Simcoe back in the late 50s and early 60s. We quickly learned about the caution you practised. You certainly are more careful when others may be listening!
    Hope your weather has been okay and enjoy the summer.

    Hello, Kenn,
    This was another good one!
    I remember the early days with the party lines being active! It surely taught us to measure our words!
    But it is also so true that we are often too reticent today in sharing the Good News, in whatever way seems appropriate. We must strike a workable balance!
    Thank you for your interesting and fitting meditations, always a joy to read.

    Good morning Kenn!
    Thanks for your devotional today! Firstly, I had a few chuckles thinking back to those days when my late mother-in-law and her sister used to talk in riddles on their party lines as there was one farm neighbour in particular who spent her days ‘listening in’.
    I also found it very encouraging thinking of our stories of faith that ARE meant to be shared. The following paragraph really spoke to me, especially including one of my favourite hymns:
    We have a story to tell, and we hope that others will be listening in! “I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.” (Katherine Hankey)
    Thanks so much! Challenge accepted!

    I need to think about this. I’m thinking of times on a bus or in a line somewhere, where talking about Jesus can easily be overheard. What gives me so much trouble is being at a gathering where the people don’t talk about the Bible, or faith, or Jesus – and it’s all so uncomfortable.
    I’m guessing it’s cowardly of me to tippy toe around people who don’t want to talk about the Lord. I hide behind the thought that my life, my demeanour, are as close as I can come to spreading the Good News of Jesus, and the forgiveness and the love we need in order to really be alive in this world. You’re so right – faith in Christ is very individual and personal, but also somehow not at all a private affair.
    It’s a love affair that needs to be advertised and demonstrated to those around us. Bless you for inspiring new thoughts and invigorating ‘old’ truths that need to be reviewed and developed.

    Dear Kenn;
    I read your devotion today. Was quite interested in the party line. When we were married in 1963 the party line was a new concept to me. Our number was 3 longs and a short. He was a telephone lineman at the time and found quite a few batteries disconnected so the person could listen without being heard.
    Do keep writing. God bless you as you live for Him in Nova Scotia.

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