FORGIVEN

The sun beat down on Laura’s head relentlessly as she licked her parched lips. As far as she could see it was desert. Sand, beaten into a fury by the wind, reached up and choked her.

         Adjusting the heavy chain around her throat, Laura’s swollen fingers fumbled with the cutting metal. Her neck bled.

         Scanning her eyes ahead, Laura could just make out a black and shiny shape about two hundred yards away. Curiosity moved her trudging steps forward and her heart leapt at the idea of something that glimmered.

         Anything but the dull sand.

         Laura looked down. Strange it looked different from the distance. Lying at her feet, a black boulder sat on the desert floor with a note attached.

         Laura lifted the paper and read:

         PICK UP THIS STONE AND CARRY IT WITH YOU IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

         Laura’s shoulders sagged and her eyes filled with liquid. How could she ever manage this huge boulder on top of the heavy chain on her neck?

         With a sigh, Laura bent her legs and wrapped her arms around the stone. Using all her strength, she hoisted the stone and began to walk.

         She breathed in ragged gasps and her back felt on fire. Soon Laura put down the boulder and stretched. A sharp pain in her neck caused her to wince and tug once again at the links of the heavy chain.

         Collapsing to the sand, Laura wept. She stayed on the sand for a long time before she took a deep breath and started to lift the boulder again.

         Was that someone calling her name? She looked around but her eyes couldn’t see anything. She felt his touch before she could see his merry, brown eyes.

         Slowly with calloused hands, he took the boulder from her arms as though it weighed nothing and hurled it to the east. The boulder disappeared from sight.

         Ever so gently, the calloused hands grasped the chain and broke it in half. The chain fell with a clank. Amazed, Laura looked around and watched the desert turn itself from sand to lush green pastures. Nearby she heard the sound of running water.

         Turning her head she saw a clear, fresh stream and the man returning with a cup in his hand. She drank deeply and when she was finished, he filled it again.

         Soon there was a table heaped with steaming soups, plump fruits and savory bread. They sat down together and ate.

         Much later Laura turned around toward the direction from where she had traveled. She held the hand of the man who had come to her aid and together they started back into the desert.

***

         Nowadays Laura lives tired but happy in the desert with occasional green pastures and cool drinks of water. She has helped a few folks with their chains and persuaded some more to put down their heavy rocks. It’s a good life.

 

     Forgiven and forgiving.

     Receiving mercy and bestowing mercy to others.

          It’s a better journey with Jesus.

HOLY

He looked at the peeling gray paint and the uneven parking lot full of potholes. Stopping for a full moment beside a car with a rusty bumper, he carefully traced the letters on the sticker. 

     ‘Love never fails’

     He smiled and lifted his head absorbing the sound of worship music coming from inside. Finally he walked forward and entered the slightly worn out church.

     On the welcome board at the entrance, a sign up sheet for Girl Scout cookies lingered. A calloused hand gently removed the paper. He looked toward the sanctuary and noted the singing had ceased, followed by quiet words of prayer.

     He had visited here many times. Every time the doors were open and often when they were closed, he sat by the people and walked through the halls.

     He knew the order of worship. The offering basket would be passed. The communion message and sharing broken crackers and grape juice would follow. A tired pastor would begin his sermon.

    That’s what would normally happen. But today was going to be different.

    Darkness hovered.

     Mrs. Jenkins, a lonely widow with eighty years of life behind her and two days on earth left, prayed fervently. She was the first to notice the light begin to filter into the sanctuary and a single tear wove its way down her soft wrinkled face.

     Suddenly chairs flipped their complacent guests, offering money blazed into orange and red fire which soon gave way to smoke, communion plates vanished and then … the sanctuary grew still.

     Darkness cringed.

     With tears streaming down his face, the pastor knelt and put his face to the floor as the man approached the stage.  

     At first the congregation stood silently but the moment the man reached the podium, some began to edge toward the doors.

    In the blink of an eye the congregation changed.

     The Sunday school classes emptied into the sanctuary. People who were sick and hopeless and dying came pouring through the church’s open doors.

     Sadly, many who had attended regularly chose to leave in the coming weeks.

     What caused that remarkable shakeup to an ordinary church that day? The man had only spoken six words to the church.

     The words?

     “The Lord your God is Holy.”

 

Epilogue:

Since the people believed his message, he joined that church ... no longer as a visitor but as a member.

Mrs. Jenkins went to his house just two days later and was stunned at the size of her room.

As she stood singing with the angels, one of them came towards her holding a huge golden bowl. Mrs. Jenkins looked over at him and he winked.

Yep … you guessed it … her prayers safely stored for the little church she left behind.

A house of prayer for a Holy God-

IN WHATEVER CHURCH YOU ATTEND ...Start the wave …

 

 

 

FREE SPEECH

Calvin stretched his good leg and moved slightly in the tight airline seat. It wouldn’t be much longer now. The seat belt lights were on and he could feel the descent of the plane. He smiled slightly at the thought of his wife and two year old daughter who would be meeting him.

 

         Calvin glanced down where his right leg used to be and was still perplexed about feeling pain where there was no longer a body part. He knew he had a long road ahead but after what he had been through … Calvin shrugged slightly.

 

         He saw them as soon as he walked through the door. Leaning heavily on his crutch, Calvin’s jaw tightened. The flight attendant next to him put his hand on Calvin’s arm.

 

         “Sorry man. You know how unpopular this war is … and the protests are everywhere. After all free speech is what we are about in America.”

 

         At Calvin’s silence, the flight attendant moved forward and escorted him down the ramp. He looked for his wife but a huge poster with the words, “BABY KILLER”, written in large block letters, blocked his sight line.

 

         “Calvin.”

 

         It was barely a whisper. His wife stood there holding Jasmine with tears running down her cheeks. Dressed in pink with smooth, chocolate skin; Jasmine’s chubby hands reached for Calvin.

 

         “Welcome home sweetheart. We missed you so much.”

 

         The military flight had spilled forth soldiers released at last from the horrors of Vietnam and returned to the land of freedom. Loved ones greeted them mixed in with protesters and signs and hatred. Calvin was just one among many.

 

        The shouts were loud as Calvin and his little family made their way through the airport. Sarah helped her husband into the car and strapped Jasmine in her car seat.

 

         That night as his wife slept, Calvin went in to his daughter’s bedroom and for hours watched her peaceful sleep. He hobbled through the slightly worn out home with deep gratitude. At last he slept.

 

         On the other side of the city in the dark of the night, a shattering sound split the quiet. The lights and sirens responding woke neighbors for blocks around as emergency vehicles pulled up.

 

         The first officer through the apartment door saw him sitting on a shabby chair with his right hand over the side. A handgun had dropped to the floor. A gaping wound on the right side of his head told the story of his last moment. His military uniform and a poster on the floor splattered with blood told the rest.

 

                   BABY KILLER

 

         We can say whatever we choose. That’s free speech.

         But our speech never comes without a cost …

                 

 

         Let’s speak gently.

LAST WORDS

        The hospital room was still, interrupted only by the blinking lights of the monitors and an occasional beeping sound. On the bed Samuel’s eyes were closed, his skin so pale it seemed translucent. In his right hand he clutched a Spiderman action figure.

         Sarah allowed streams of tears to make their way down her cheeks and drip onto the white cotton blanket. Gently she caressed Samuel’s forehead.

         The door opened and Dr. Jacobs quietly approached the bed then looked at the nearby monitors.

 

         “Not much longer now. I don’t think Samuel will regain consciousness but we never know.”

 

         Sarah’s shoulders shuddered and she bowed her head. Dr. Jacobs walked over and knelt down to face the distraught mother. He reached and took her free hand in his.

 

         “You’ve done a really wonderful job of being Jacob’s mom. I’m sorry we couldn’t help him stay with you longer … I .. I’m sorry.”

         Dr. Jacobs stood up, looked back at Samuel, and slowly left the room.

 

         The quiet sobbing gradually subsided and once again the room was silent. Sarah took a deep breath.

 

         “Jacob I don’t know if you can hear me.”

          Her voice broke and she fell silent. Sarah breathed deeply and began again.

         “I know your life hasn’t been like most kids - but I wouldn’t have changed places with any other mom for even a moment. You have been a joy and taught me so many things. From you I learned to hope, to have joy in each moment and …”

 

         But Sarah could go no farther. Overcome with sadness that this day had come, Sarah laid her head on the pillow next to Samuel. A gentle pressure on her hand made Sarah lift her head and clear, blue eyes met hers.

 

        “I love you too mom. Take care of dad and Jimmy. Don’t forget to give Puff his crickets.”

 

       And those were the last words of Jacob, treasured by his mom for the rest of her life.

 

Last words … powerful … revealing … never forgotten.

 

Some “last words” from Christ as He died:

 

         “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”

As He shouldered the weight of the sins of the world, He was separated for a moment from His beloved, holy Father … and it hurt.

 

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Ending His life on earth with forgiveness … for people who really didn’t “deserve” it.

 

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

Allowing faith to finish its course …

 

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

To the criminal at His side who at the final hour of his life believed and asked Jesus to remember him … Jesus grants salvation. Doing the work God the Father gave … even to the end.

 

                  “Dear woman, here is your son.”

                  “Here is your mother.”

Jesus sees His mom’s pain … enter the true friend at death … take care of those who are left behind.

 

                  “I am thirsty.”

Physical life has needs. Beaten, bloody, spit on, in excruciating pain not to mention … ridiculed as He was giving His life for us… Jesus didn’t avoid suffering. He didn’t have to be thirsty at the end … after all He is God. But He submitted to real life. So when we hit those moments of life when we are tired, thirsty, mistreated and things aren’t going well … we have a Savior who understands.

 

                  “It is finished.”

Because one day it is … finished … for this life.

 

Last words … I promise to remember.

 

THE BEGINNING

They stood together and looked out over the void. It was the last moment … before the first moment of the earth. The Father smiled in anticipation – He had always known this day would come.

 

The Son spoke and the light shined forth. The Spirit christened the light with a gentle breeze as the Father cast darkness to the side. They continued together as One, bringing forth the great expanse of the heavens, separating the waters they had formed and welcoming a brilliant blue sky.

 

As they moved from one day to the next in perfect harmony, the world was born … from the simplest forms to the most intricately designed life. They watched as earth took shape with mountains and oceans; flowing rivers and vast oceans; the tiniest flower and the vast cedars … all in perfection.

 

“It’s magnificent Father.”

 

The Spirit kissed the earth and smiled.

 

The Father sat down upon His throne with a joyful heart.

 

They rested.

 

***

 

God walked among the trees in the exquisite garden. But even though beauty laid in the brilliant shades of color and water caressed the land, He could see the difference.

 

“Where are you?”

 

The man came from behind a large bush with his head down, not meeting the eyes of his creator.

 

“I heard You coming and I was afraid because I’m naked.”

 

A single tear spilled down the face of God.

 

“I always knew this day would come.”

 

Separation from God began that day … not by His choice but by man’s decision to listen to a voice that said God lied … that said we can have the knowledge reserved for God … that said we can make it on our own.

 

***

 

“It’s time.”

 

“I know Father. I’m ready.”

 

A single tear gently dropped. The Spirit turned His head.

 

“I always knew this day would come.” And the Father turned His back.

 

The Son cried out in pain and anguish.

 

Darkness came upon the earth, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, a soldier cried, a mother mourned her son.

 

***

 

A man sat down on a flat rock and gazed out at the sparkling lake. His eyes were shiny with unshed tears as he turned his head from side to side. He was completely alone.

 

“I don’t know if You really exist. But I hope so. My neighbor has been talking about You … says even a guy like me is welcome. I’ve done a lot of really bad stuff … but I guess You know all that.”

 

The man shifted uncomfortably on the rock and then began to sob. Through tears and gulps he looked up at the brilliant blue sky and kept talking.

 

“I know this isn’t probably the way I’m supposed to talk to You … but … look I’m really sorry for all the wrong I’ve done. I want to believe in You … in this Jesus my neighbor talked about … but I don’t know what to do next … I mean … please can You help me?”

 

The Son looked at the Father as the Spirit went to earth for the single sinner who looked to God.

 

A single tear crossed the smile on God’s face.

 

“I always knew this day would come.”

 

 

 

 

WOVEN

PSALM 139: 15 and 16

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

***

She sat alone in the overcrowded living room. Why did they have so many chairs? A slow smile spread as the echoes of Christmases past came to her … the family gathered … laughing … making fun of the seating for “thousands”.

 

Her smile turned down at the corners of her mouth and a tear dripped on to the leather bound book in her lap. If only she could live in the happiness place all the time.

 

Her thoughts went by themselves to a dark place and memories tumbled like rocks sliding down a hill. She felt suffocated by their weight. Why couldn’t she heal from the darkness?

 

The room brightened and a calloused hand reached for her wrinkled one. She smiled up into merry brown eyes and rose still clutching the book in her other hand.

 

“You can set that down. We are just going for a walk. I have some things to show you.”

 

She looked at Yashmea and reluctantly put the worn leather book on the coffee table. She felt almost unclothed without it.

 

Yashmea, still smiling, laid his hand on the leather.

“It’s time you moved the book to a different place.”

 

“But what difference does it make where I put the book?”

 

“We need to move it from here to here.” She felt his hand gently touch her head and then her heart.

 

In the next moment the room fell away and she stood hand in hand with Yashmea in the depths of the earth. Frightened, she clutched his hand as her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. Shadows shifted, small specks of light flickered, and a rhythmic sound gently sorted through the darkness.

 

“What is that?”

 

Yashmea held up his hand and before them stood a giant spinning wheel. Spools and spools of black thread lay stacked all around but before she could get a better look, they were gone.

 

Now they stood on a body of water but somehow didn’t sink. She kept her hand firmly in Yashmea’s. It was lighter here but still dim and difficult to make out their surroundings. As she squinted slightly, another spinning wheel appeared. She watched in fascination as sparkling threads were produced then stacked in meticulous rows.

 

“I never knew that threads could be made from water.”

 

In a heartbeat, Yashmea squeezed her hand and they stood together on the top of a mountain. Suspended in the air above them stood another enormous spinning wheel. Nearby threads spun from blue sky and fragrant flowers were proudly towering in orderly rows.

 

And so they traveled on and on through many strange and wonderful places … all spinning the threads of life. At last Yashmea brought her to the place she knew must exist. If ever there was holy ground … this was it. The loom stood and Yashmea himself sat down before it, lovingly he gathered differing threads and began to weave.

 

As quickly as it began, the experience ended. She sat once again in the crowded living room.

 

         “Woven … I am woven together by Him. He chose the threads for me … to be me.  From the darkness of my sorrows to the mountaintops of blue skies … chosen to make me.”

 

So let’s not pick at our threads.

We are perfectly woven.  

 

 

THE ENTRANCE

Her clothes seemed big now

As she moved to the light

Changed in an instant

She now wore pure white

 

Earth moved away

As a throne came in view

Large white books opened

A judgment was due

 

In the blink of an eye

There stood He in white

A gold flowing sash

A countenance so bright

 

And just as He said

In His Word she knew well

He stood waiting for her

And to His Father did tell

 

An introduction of family

Based on His deed

She was welcomed in heaven

His sacrifice - all she would need

 

 

Smiling He led her

To see all the sights

Countless people

Dressed in white

 

Golden streets, healing trees

Family … friends … all things new

She met Moses and Daniel

Isaiah and Ruth

 

Finally He led to

Her very own place

Lovingly prepared …

She looked in His face

 

Tribulation was over

And all things were new

Peace and salvation

Only one thing to do

 

As a child in wonder

She knelt before Him alone

Thanking the King

For her entrance to home

  

RECONCILIATION – A Short Story of What May Be

The white round table drew together the small family of three: Mary, Sam and their daughter Lila. At seven and an only child, Lila longed for companionship. But Lila lived in a quiet house.

 

Mary turned from the stove with the steaming pot of stew and placed it on the frayed potholder in the middle of the table. She looked over at Sam. His jaw tense and his eyes trained on the cell phone, he didn’t look up. Mary sighed and sat down.

 

Sam bowed his head with Mary and Lila mirroring the same.

 

“Bless this meal and this family. Amen.”

 

Two quiet amens followed. Nothing was heard but the sound of silverware and the rustle of napkins.

 

“How was your day today Lila?”

 

Lila looked up and Mary could see tears welled in her daughter’s eyes.

 

“Lila – what’s wrong honey?”

 

Sam looked over at his daughter.

 

“Are you crying?”

 

“Sam – really? What does it look like? Lila honey, what happened?”

 

“Susie is mad at me.”

 

“Who is Susie?”

 

Mary snapped at Sam, “That’s Lila’s best friend, which you would know if you spent any time with us.”

 

Turning her attention to her daughter, Mary put her hand on the small pudgy hand and smiled.

 

“Honey, what happened?”

 

Lila took a deep sigh and then in a tumble of words explained how they were playing with Lila’s new ball, had gotten into an argument over what game to play and Susie said she didn’t like Lila anymore and went home. Lila was sniffing mightily by the end of the story.

 

Sam felt sorry for his little daughter but was at a loss what to say. He got up from his chair and gently hugged Lila.

 

“It’s not fair. She has a brother and sister so she has someone to play with – I have nobody.”

 

A spoon clattered to the table. Mary shoved her chair back and fled the kitchen.

 

“What’s wrong with mommy? I just wish I had a brother and a sister too.”

 

“Lila …” Sam cleared his throat and tried to find a spot to begin.

 

***

 

It was graduation day and Lila had never looked happier. She was talking a mile a minute as Sam pulled the car into the high school lot. Mary dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as they got out of the car. Walking into the school, they were encased in a sea of families with everyone talking and snapping pictures.

 

As they settled into their seats, Sam reached over and took Mary’s hand. Both of their eyes followed a path to their daughter.

 

Sam squinted and said, “Isn’t that Susie?”

 

“Off course. You know the girls are inseparable.”

 

“I still remember their first fight.”

 

Mary smiled. “I remember how you came and held me after talking to Lila.”

 

Sam squeezed Mary’s hand and kissed her softly on the cheek.

 

“You guys aren’t going to do that the whole time are you?”

 

“Yeah it’s like gross.”

 

Sam and Mary turned to the two girls with shiny black hair and ready smiles sitting next to them. Two pairs of dark almond eyes looked back.

 

“You’re going to embarrass our sister.”

 

“Well we can’t have that.” Sam chuckled but continued to hold Mary’s hand.

 

***

Much later at a popular restaurant, a family of five held hands and bowed their heads together. A waitress in a mustard-colored uniform with tired eyes paused as the man began to speak.

 

“Dear God – thank You for our family and for all You have given us. Please bless this food and the one who waits this table. We humbly ask Your blessing on our daughters. We love You very much. In Jesus’ name. Amen”

 

From the little table, the waitress and the surrounding tables - a virtual chorus of amens resounded.

 

Reconcile to God, to each other, to circumstances.

Amen.

 

LUKEWARM

Lucas looked over at the kids by the lockers. Two girls, both pretty with long straight hair stood comparing cell phones and laughing. Next to them in their own conversation, two guys with letter jackets were directly in front of Lucas’ locker. Popular kids. Kids with everything. Just look at their shoes … or their iPhones …

 

Lucas looked down at his tennis shoes and then glanced up and down the hallway. He had exactly two friends to his name in the new high school and he didn’t see either one of them.

 

Drawing in a deep breath and adjusting his backpack, Lucas walked slowly toward his locker. At 5’5” he was shorter than most of the guys at school, but a minion in comparison to the boys in front of the locker.

 

“Excuse me please.” Lucas heard his voice as a squeak.

 

The conversation stopped abruptly and all four eyes settled on Lucas.

 

“I just have to get in my locker. Sorry.”

 

“Yeah, well we’re busy here.” The tallest boy with a square jaw fixed a glare on Lucas as he spoke.

 

“Guess you’ll have to wait,” said the blond girl as she swung her hair over her shoulders.

 

All four snickered, planting themselves more firmly into blocking the way.

 

Lucas looked around and saw that a handful of students stood watching. Among them he spotted his two friends, Michael and Kevin. As Lucas made eye contact, they both looked away and started backing up through the other kids. Disappointed but not surprised, Lucas shrugged his shoulders and decided to just head to class without his books.

 

As he turned, Lucas felt a sharp kick to his stomach and doubled over, dropping his book bag in the process. The book bag was kicked from person to person until it disappeared in the ever-growing throng of curious onlookers. Voices started to rise; confusion coupled with fear enveloped Lucas. Would no one come to help him?

 

Then silence.

 

The world around him melted.

 

The high school hallway, the popular kids, the crowd that had gathered … Lucas couldn’t see any of it.

 

A calloused hand reached for Lucas and helped him stand. As Lucas straightened up, he faced a man he vaguely remembered from childhood. Warm brown eyes met his and Lucas noted that the man’s muscles were taut beneath a shimmering white tunic.

 

“I know.”

 

A slight frown crinkled Lucas’ forehead and then he said, “You know what?”

 

“I know about suffering and lukewarm friends.”

 

“You got picked on?”

 

“You might say that looking from the outside.”

 

“I just want to fit in.” Lucas hung his head and rubbed his aching stomach.

 

Yashmea smiled.

“You want to fit in with what?”

 

Lucas looked up into the shining warm brown eyes. He took in the shimmering white tunic, the calloused hands, and the peace of the moment in which he stood.

 

“Lots of people have learned the way to fit in Lucas. How about learning how to stand out?”

 

***

So how about it?

Lukewarm …  or a stand out for Jesus?

 

 

 

THE FACE OF FAITH

Sophia looked up at her dad. At the age of five, her father was her hero. She reached down and fastened her pink and gray backpack then carefully lifted it up onto the kitchen table.

 

“Daddy are we going to stay all night in the forest?”

 

Sam picked up the sleeping bags and turned to his daughter.

 

“Yep that’s right honey. All night. You still want to go right?”

 

Sophia jumped up and down then spun around landing on her dad’s foot. Both father and daughter laughed.

 

“Sorry dad, I’m just so excited. I’ve never been to the forest before.” Sophie’s eyes glistened.

 

***

 

The fire crackled and plumes of smoke climbed into the inky night. Sophia’s eyes were drooping closed at times but she sat upright next to her dad. Sam poked at the wood now and then causing the embers to crackle and glow. Sophia loved it.

 

“Did you have fun Soph?”

 

“It was the best dad. Except for the bee. I didn’t like him at all.” Sophia looked down at the angry red bump on her arm.

 

Sam gently touched the spot and Sophia looked up at him.

 

“I liked it though when you picked me up and ran me to our tent. And that stuff you put on it made it feel better.”

 

“I’m glad Soph. I think the bee might not have stung you if you hadn’t poked at it. Sorry though that you got hurt.”

 

“You told me not to.” Sophia’s face was solemn as she looked into her dad’s eyes. A tear trickled down her face.

 

Sam reached over and brought his small daughter into his lap. Sophia laid her head against her dad’s heart and listened to the steady rhythm.

 

“Well now you know that bees can sting.”

 

A few moments passed and Sophia squirmed off her dad’s lap and raced to the tent. When she came back she was holding a bag of marshmallows.

 

“Dad how about I roast you a marshmallow?”

 

Sam looked at the enthusiasm on her face and nodded his assent with a smile. As the fire flamed under the marshmallow, Sophia’s face formed a look of complete concentration. She bit her lip slightly and kept her eye on the slowly toasting treat. When she deemed it perfect, she held it out to her dad.

 

“Wow this is awesome. Thank you Sophia.” Sam slipped the marshmallow into his mouth.

 

With shining eyes focused on her dad, Sophia’s mouth curved into a grin and she breathed a sigh of satisfaction.

 

The Day I Died

I’m not really sure anyone will get to read this or even want to- but I need to write it out. My name is Mike and there isn’t anything very interesting about me except … I’m dead now.

         I had what most people would call a pretty good life…you know – job, marriage, kids, house – I even lived long enough to retire and loved to fish at a little pond down the road.

         Then I got sick. Nothing too remarkable there, after all I was 86 the day I died. Yeah that’s right – a long life. But what’s really important was somebody I met when I was 32. His name was Josh and he was my neighbor for about ten years. And right as I lay in the hospital room after the doc told me I only had a couple days left, I started thinking about Josh.

         You see Josh was a guy who believed in Jesus. He often shared with me over the years about how God had sent His own Son into the world so we could have salvation. Well you’ve probably heard the spiel before.

         Well Josh wasn’t pushy and we did regular things together so I didn’t hold it against him that sometimes he talked about stuff I didn’t want to hear. Eventually when he moved away I actually kind of missed him.

         But I never “came to the Lord” like he was wanting … until the last day in the hospital. My wife had just left and she was kind of teary so honestly I was glad just to rest a minute. It was so weird cause one minute I was laying there struggling a little to breathe, and then all of a sudden, I started thinking about Josh.

         I could remember clear as a bell his talk about Jesus. I got to thinking … what if he was right?

I pushed my little button and a nurse came to check on me and I told her I wanted to see my pastor. Haha – I didn’t have a pastor but the hospital – they want something so we gave them our grandson’s church. It was on my little wristband and within a half hour they had called the pastor of the church and the guy came.

He was a bigger build guy with gray hair and a big smile. Name was Tim. He looked exhausted but was pretty chipper and asked me what he could do for me.

Told him I was dying. That didn’t seem to rattle him … so then I told him about Josh – asked him what he thought about the whole Jesus thing. Well you would have thought I gave this guy the moon. He told me about this Jesus as though it was his best friend … turns out they are best friends but that’s for later.

He asked me then if I was willing to accept this Jesus as my Lord and Savior … this tired, happy guy who ran to the bedside of an old man he never met. Nice guy.

Well I don’t know how to explain the rest … I just knew this Jesus was the real thing … mostly I guess cause I got a glimpse of Him through Josh and this Pastor Tim. Anyhow the rest is sort of funny if it wasn’t so serious. But I guess life can be serious and funny at the same time.

Pastor Tim was determined I should be baptized and showed me in the Bible where it told about that … but I couldn’t leave the hospital.  Here is the funny part…

That guy rounded up a big old sink nearby, convinced them nurses to wheel me down there and you guessed it – I got baptized … right there in the hospital!

Good thing too … because twenty minutes later … I died.

 

And there He stood with a grin as big as Pastor Tim and His arms open wide. Light was everywhere and the singing … well you have to be here to believe it.

Turns out … it’s all true. Jesus, Heaven, angels … all of it.

I’m just so grateful … to Josh for telling me, to Pastor Tim for walking me through the end and to God for makin’ a way for a sinner like me to get here.

 

         I hope this reaches you.

         I hope you have a Josh.

         I hope you find a Pastor Tim.

 

                  But most of all … I hope you meet Jesus face to face.  Look me up when you get here …name is Mike.

 

**Note this fictional work is inspired by real life … and a real life Pastor Tim.

 

THE LOST LEADER

The surrounding hills lay silent in the night. A few stars sprinkled light in the camp. Sgt. Mark Hammond took a long draw from his cigarette and exhaled the hazy smoke into the night air. His hands tightened on the rifle at his side as he squinted into the dark surroundings.

 

“Sir.”

 

Sgt. Hammond turned and stood to face the young soldier in front of him, returning his salute as he did. The sergeant knew the question before the soldier formed the words.

 

“Sir. Awaiting your orders for tomorrow. Sir.”

 

His orders for tomorrow … Sgt. Hammond looked past his subordinate’s silhouette into the night. Indeed, what would be his orders? How would he get out of this mess?

 

“Have the unit ready at 0700. Good night.”

 

Only a flicker of a change showed in the soldier’s countenance as he sharply saluted and turned back into the camp.

 

He probably suspects, but is too well trained to question.

 

The sergeant pushed his cigarette into the soil and grabbed a tin cup of lukewarm coffee from the rock nearby. Grabbing his gun and glancing quickly around, the military leader headed toward the silent hills.

 

After putting some distance between him and the camp, Sgt. Hammond sat down on a level grassy spot at the foot of one of the taller hills.  His shoulders slumped as he carefully laid his weapon on the ground next to him.

 

Panic began to rise and he could feel the onset … shallow breathing, tightened chest, and sweaty palms. The sergeant took a deep breath and said a single word.

 

“Yashmea.”

 

Immediately the inky night split with radiant light as Yashmea walked over to the man who had called his name. Yashmea placed his strong and calloused hand on Mark’s shoulder and the scenery around them seemed to melt.

 

Mark Hammond was no longer dressed in military fatigues, his weapon vanished, and his face was wet with tears. The hills became level and a warm breeze rolled across the ground swelling into the fresh fragrance of a lush forest.

 

Mark looked up and he was standing in the forest he knew so well. Next to him, his best friend waited for him to speak.

 

“Yashmea. I am lost. I made sure we had the proper equipment and uniforms. I’ve disciplined the troops with a firm hand … but fair. But now we are in the midst of battle and I’ve gotten us lost in the hills. What should I do?”

 

Yashmea bent down and drew on the ground with his finger.

 

“What are you trying to accomplish? That is what determines what you should do.”

 

“Well I’m trying to lead my family. You know … like you said.”

 

Yashmea smiled slightly.

 

“And you thought that was a military operation?”

 

Mark breathed deeply and slowly exhaled. He looked directly at Yashmea and gave a sheepish grin.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ve made such a mess. What should I do?”

 

“You are forgiven. As for what you should do?” Yashmea continued in a soft but sure voice,  “To lead well, you need to follow well.”

 

Yashmea beckoned Mark to follow him and as they drew near a crystal clear stream, Yashmea motioned for Mark to sit down. When he did, Yashmea removed Mark’s dirty boots and socks, then placed Mark’s feet in the cool water.

 

Mark looked at the calloused hands that bathed his feet … and wept. He hadn’t even noticed the well-worn backpack that Yashmea carried, but Yashmea opened it and brought out a towel to dry Mark’s feet as well as fresh socks and new shoes.

 

With that done, the two men sat down in a nearby clearing and talked far into the night.

 

The sun shown brightly as Mark opened his eyes the next morning.

 

“Lucas. Time to get up buddy. I’ve got somewhere to take you today.”

 

Mark’s son rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked up at his dad. Starting to pull on his camouflage and reach for his rifle, his father’s hand stopped him.

 

“You won’t be needing those anymore.”

 

As Mark and Lucas left the house that day, they headed toward the hills. Warm rays of sunshine touched the father’s hand as he draped it across his son’s shoulders. A few moments later … Lucas finally met his dad’s best friend.

 

RENEWAL

I am standing here in the garden with beautiful plants all around me. But I’m small… although I have shiny new leaves. My name is Priscilla and I live by my grandmother. Our roots reach into the soil and nourish us. Hers are so much deeper than mine.

 

         Grandma tells me not to fret, that soon my roots will go deep and I will be beautiful and strong in Yashmea’s care. Yashmea is in charge of the garden here and has lots of other gardens too. I love him – he is so awesome and can do anything … but I worry. I am not strong and pretty like the other flowers. Grandma says to stop looking at them and live my seasons. She says I will be fine. Yashmea says I am perfect.

 

         ***

 

         The autumn chill is making me droopy and I am dreading the coming winter. I look even worse now.

 

         I can’t survive. I am frozen and ugly. Yashmea has been here every day tenderly caressing what is left of my stem and whispering to me. It is the only thing that keeps me going. A strong winter wind seemed to overcome my grandma and I am all alone. Well except for Yashmea. I am a terrible flower.

 

         I have found something to do during the dark winter months. I’ve been stretching my roots deep into the soil, below the place where the freezing numbs my body. I miss my grandma.

 

***

 

         Wow … the first warm rays of sun. I saw Yashmea this morning and he said I am doing well with my new deeper roots. I was embarrassed because I saw the other flowers beginning to stand up in all their glory. But I was glad he came.

 

         I am feeling so much better … the long winter rest … the stretching beneath the earth to rich soil and hidden water … I just looked down and saw a green leaf on my leg. It’s a really pretty leaf … not showy but nice.

 

***

 

         Why ... there is my grandma. She looks gorgeous!!! I thought she was gone forever but she said she was only resting and working on her roots. I lost sight of her in the winter but I guess Yashmea knew all along she was fine.

 

         Hey grandma … my roots are deeper too!!

 

         Here comes Yashmea now. Hi Yashmea … oh THIS is spring? I’ve heard of it, but -  What is that thing in your hand? A mirror … for me to look at myself … oh I don’t think I want to … well okay … if you think its best.

 

         Is that me??? But I have my very own pretty flower now!! It is a little hard to see but … wow you did that with me?

 

         So there you have it. Me … Priscilla … the ugliest plant in the garden. But under the gardener’s care, stretching my roots, taking a time of rest and growing in season – I’m blooming!!!!

THE PARABLE OF THE UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR

She stood waiting quietly. Sarah was nine years old with crooked teeth, a shy smile, and not many friends. Today she was dressed in a red and white striped sweater and a plaid skirt. Earlier she had heard a couple of the girls snickering as she walked to her desk and one had pointed at her.

 

         Yashmea walked up to Sarah and smiled. Taking her by the hand he led her into a huge room of bustling activity. Sarah looked around. She walked directly to a quiet desk in the corner, picked up a pen, and began writing. Yashmea smiled.

 

         The first assignment at school when she returned was to write a poem. Sarah’s was read aloud by the teacher and praised for creativity.

 

         The whispers began.

 

         “She copied that from the book.”

         “She didn’t write that.”

         “Oh … teacher’s pet.”

 

         And on the whispers went. When a particularly bold group came and confronted her with the book, Sarah read the poem. It was nothing like her writing of “Mrs. Vinegar”. Sarah was confused.

 

         Years passed and Sarah gave more attempts at writing. A common occurrence would be her seeking out her friend, Yashmea and asking for his blessing on her writing. She asked earnestly if she could write for him and make a difference in the world.

           Each time Sarah cried out, Yashmea would come and lay his hand on her pen and later her computer. Sometimes she went to him in tears that life was just too busy to write. Yashmea looked at Sarah with deep sadness.

 

         And so it went …

                  No time to write … so many things to do.

                  Sometimes a contest entry would catch her eye – but she heard the whispers … what were the odds that she could win?

                  Once a publisher showed interest in her book proposal, but wanted changes. Elation was followed by fear as the whispers came … would she be writing the “right” thing?

                  Another time an article was published and a moment of joy flitted in … but then darkness followed when people disagreed with Sarah’s convictions. She must be wrong.

                  Sarah sent off a couple of “proposals” and received rejections … she put away her writing for a few more years.       

As time went by, Sarah wrote some odd things here and there – a drama for church – a script for a puppet show – a journal entry – a blog – a short story … the voices quietly corrected her – those were not “real” writing.

                  Finally after a long session with Yashmea, Sarah wrote a book. She was thrilled. She had finished a book! The story was sweet and the cover was beautiful. Some people read it and liked it.

                           But then came the voices from the “real” writing community … they said the way she had published wasn’t for “real” writers.

                  Sarah finally let her writing go silent as she studied what “real” writers did. She read blogs, surfed the Internet, read books on writing, searched out “real” agents, became familiar with “traditional” publishing …

                  Sarah worked on structuring her time, making a writing goal, getting the “right” desk, putting said desk in the “right” place … Sarah could have given seminars on writing …

 

                  Sarah did everything but write.

 

         One day an aging Sarah sat at her desk. Her hair was now streaked with silver and in the quiet solace of her perfectly placed writing desk, a tear dropped onto her keyboard. She heard a sound and looked up. There stood Yashmea with his hand stretched out to her.

 

         Taking the calloused hand and searching Yashmea’s deep warm eyes … the next vision Sarah had was of a huge open space in a beautiful forest of colorful trees. In the midst of the forest was a deep, dark chasm that seemed to be overflowing with whispers. Sarah instinctively drew back.

Nearby and completely out of place was a desk – very much like the perfectly placed desk in Sarah’s writing room – with a small stack of papers. She felt a slight tug from Yashmea and followed his gaze toward the chasm.

She hadn’t noticed before but a wooden footbridge led across the chasm and on the far side she could see a brightly colored desk with quite a messy looking workspace. On that desk sat another pile of papers that reached to the very tops of the trees.

“What is that Yashmea?”

“Those, my friend, are the words you would have written for me if not for listening to whispers.”

“Are they good? I mean do you like them?”

“They were an offering purely for me from your special gift – of course I love them.”

“Can I still get over there? I mean, is it too late now?”

Yashmea looked with kindness into the wrinkled, hopeful face and smiled.

“Never too late.”

 

Sarah went back to her desk that day and began to write. She wrote until the day of her death when Yashmea came to get her.

 

So what happened with her writing?

I don’t know … and neither do you.

 

Let’s cross the whispers and the darkness …

         Let’s remember the things we did at first …

 

                  In this big world there exists a thing we do well and love. Dreams and well-lit forests of happiness …

Oh … and don’t forget the Friend!

Death followed by GRACE Adapted from the book “Breathe”

He had hidden in the forest waiting; the knife caressed and the strikes calculated … attacking savagely until Annabel’s blood drenched the silent earth beneath her favorite oak tree.

 

         He had known she would escape … felt her slipping out of his control even as he stabbed more savagely.

 

         The oak tree shuddered at the brutality. The birds and squirrels quietly came forward. All breathed a sigh of relief that the presence was gone. The animals and birds gathered to look at their sweet friend then turned their heads in an agony of sorrow. The huge oak tree raised its branches in homage of the tender life now lying silent before him.

 

         A figure in glistening white came and leaned over the body of Annabel and a single teardrop fell from bright brown eyes …

 

         Lifting Annabel to her feet, the figure gently touched her face and supported her until she looked into His eyes. Ever so gently – their mouths touched - as Yashmea breathed life steadily into His friend.

 

         She slowly straightened and with a graceful movement took Yashmea’s hand. The broken bloody body lay on the forest floor as Annabel, in her new body, walked next to the white-cloaked figure and out of the forest.

 

         Sharp intakes of breath could be heard all around …

 

         And so … death is swallowed by grace.

DAWN

And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day…

 

Adam looked around slowly … everything was drenched in darkness and still.

“God? Did you leave?”

“No - I’m here. Rest now.”

Adam closed his eyes. The next thing he knew was the feel of warm soft air as his eyes fluttered open. Not so dark now. A rosy hue of light began to the east.

***

Mary trudged home slowly from the cross. Tears dropped on the dirt as she walked, drawing her cloak tightly around her. Her eyes could not focus and her breathing was shallow. Mary looked to the dark sky above her.

“God? Did you leave?”

“No - I’m here. Rest now.”

Mary closed her eyes and her body stilled. Evening and morning continued but Mary hardly noticed the world around her …  until … her Son rose. A new kind of dawn came into the world.

***

Earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, famine and great distress … the love of most has grown cold … families are divided … creation groans.

The sun goes dark, the moon refuses to bathe a path, the stars fall … the universe trembles. Darkness and silence are princes.

But lightening flashes from east to west and the Mount of Olives is split in two.

         “Lord Jesus?”

         “On my way.”

Let there be light.

TEMPTATION

Mary woke perspiring as the night pressed down on her. Fear and anxiety bound her chest tightly and gathering her blanket to her chin, she pushed herself upright. Her eyes accustomed to the night and she inhaled sharply.

 

They were everywhere. Small and soft; loud and aggressive; sweetly singing; crisp and concise … the voices were back.

 

The leather bound book was within easy reach and Mary grabbed it swiftly. Alone and tired she looked at the people standing before her.

 

The voices settled.

A muscular figure in an azure cape with sparkling flecks of diamonds stepped to the forefront.

 

“There are things you need in life and I can get them for you.”

 

Mary looked down at the book. A warm mist seemed to come up and she heard a gentle word bubble up from inside of her.

 

“Have no fear. I will teach you.”

 

The figure in front of her frowned and straightened his shoulders.

 

“You can’t deny that you have needs in life. Practical needs. And to be a good person there are things you need to do. We are here to guide you.”

 

And slowly one by one they stepped forward.

 

The first one wore a suit of shimmering gray embellished with rubies and sapphires. His name was Riches …

 

“Everyone needs the right amount of resources and stewardship to be successful in life. There are some principles to follow here.”

 

A chorus spoke up.  

 

The right wealth.

                  Invest in …

                  If you take this job you can afford …

                  Pay yourself first

                  Only use 25% of your check toward housing

                  10% to savings, 10% to offering, then …

 

Mary felt the warm mist and opened the book.

 

                           She gave all that she had … it was a small amount of money …  the truth is that poverty can produce a gift of the heart …  and Jesus was touched. (Luke 21:1-4)

 

 

Mary felt relieved. But another figure stepped forward cloaked in black with an air of solemn wisdom. When he spoke his voice was powerful and his words seemed wise.

 

Soon he was joined by another chorus of voices urging Mary to consider …

 

         The right government.

                  It is election year and you want to vote properly

                  This is the Christian candidate.

                  NO this guy has a much stronger stance on …

 

                  Mary scrambled through the pages … there were so many … how could she find …

        

Be careful when they say here is the Christ or there is the Christ (Matthew 24: 23 and 24)

                           And the government shall rest on His shoulders … the only perfect government. (Isaiah 9:6 and 7)

 

Mary drew a deep breath and let it out slowly.

 

The next ones who stepped forward just looked like ordinary people. There were two of them in front, a man and a woman, followed by a group of three identically dressed figures in gray sweatshirts and blue jeans.

 

Their voices were soft and alluring as they spoke about …

 

         The right relationship.

                  A man who provides …

                  A woman who is submissive …

                  Be assertive

                  Be forgiving

                  Choose your friends wisely

                  Family is forever

 

Mary felt a tear trickle down her cheek. Even though she had a family – Mary’s heart was lonely.

 

And then the mist arose and encircled her with warmth as she read …

 

                           Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

                           Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

 

 

Mary smiled in the warmth of the love of her Father. She bent her head and let go of the hurts in her heart, forgiving everyone of everything … the room brightened with a golden light.

 

                 

A woman stepped forward dressed in a business suit with a look of confidence on her face and an assured posture as she waited for Mary’s full attention.

 

“Stewardship of your time is really important. You need to have a schedule and make sure to put in the appropriate activities.”

 

Now dozens of voices clamored so that Mary could only discern a few of the many phrases hurled at her …

 

         The right activities

                  The kids need to be in sports

                  The kids need to have free time

         You need a date night with your husband to keep        marriage strong.

                  Church on Sundays.

                  Extended family dinner once per month.

 

Mary’s head was swimming as she found the gospels and breathed deeply.

 

                  The will of your Father is this … to believe in the One He sent. (John 6:29)

                  The real “doing” list … Matthew chapters 5 -7 – perfect!

                  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

 

 

Mary could feel weight lifting as she read of what was really to be done. It was simple and easy and not overwhelming at all.

 

Interrupted in her thoughts, Mary faced what was now a lone figure. Still in an azure cape - but the sparkle seemed to have dulled and certainly the muscles has disappeared …

 

“Last but certainly not least … if you are truly going to follow this Jesus … you have to get into …”

 

         The right church

                  A strong youth group

                  A pastor who has zeal for God’s Word

                  A women’s ministry

                  Not too big

                  Not too small

 

Mary rolled her eyes.  This one she knew …

 

         And they all came together and worshipped. They ate together and shared their possessions. The Lord blessed the church.  (Acts 2:42-47)

                 

 

         And as Mary drew the book to her heart and closed her eyes, the voices were silenced. In the warm night she heard angels’ wings.

 

SCORE!

Michael’s skates made the familiar whooshing noise followed by a spray of ice as he got ready to tackle his best friend, Josh. Josh’s face broke into a grin and both boys fell down on the hard, cold surface. They loved hockey. Unfortunately neither had that elite skill level to stand out and with that territory came not being very popular with the team. But at least they had each other.

 

A short burst of a whistle routed them up onto their skates and gliding toward the benches. The rest of the team was already on one knee waiting for instructions from the coaches.

 

As the team lined up in the corners of the rink to start the drill, Michael’s mind wandered to a recent conversation with his mom. His mind wandering was one of the things that affected his hockey playing.

 

“So Ms. Johnson said we could talk to God anytime. And about anything. Is that true mom?”

 

“Yes, of course honey it’s true. That’s what prayer is. Talking to God about what’s on your heart. “

 

“So I can talk to Him about like … homework?”

 

“Yep, homework.”

 

“What about hockey?”

 

“Yes hockey too. Anything … anytime.”

 

“Are there like … rules about praying?”

 

“What do you mean Mike? What kind of rules?”

 

“I don’t know … maybe … do we have to close our eyes and bow our head and be on our knees?”

 

“Oh I see what you mean. Can we only pray in a certain posture? No Mike.  The only posture that God cares about is that your heart is bowed to Him.”

 

“Well how do I bow my heart?”

 

“A heart that is bowed before God is humble; thinking of how great God is, not just what we want. That heart is willing to accept whatever answer God thinks is best.”

 

“You mean if I talk to Him … He’s going to answer me?”

 

“Yes Mike. Prayer is conversation with God … like what we are doing now.”

 

“How will I hear Him?”

 

His mom’s eyes had gotten misty and she had stilled her hands from washing the dishes.

 

“It is like a voice in your heart … that speaks to your life … what is important … what is just regular.”

 

“Hey Nesbaum! Are you going to move or what?”

 

Michael jerked himself back into the moment. Looking around he saw it was his turn to shoot with everyone staring. He hunched his shoulders and placed his stick carefully to the puck. Then Michael pushed off and headed toward the net. His shot was wide.

 

“Never going to score with a shot like that!”

 

Michael slumped back to the end of the line as Josh started forward for his turn, but partway toward the net Josh went down on the ice. Jeers from their teammates bounced off the hard cold ice and into their tender hearts. Regular stuff.

 

***

 

The scoreboard showed twenty two seconds left in the game. Michael’s team was tied. Bryson, their best player, had just scored the tying goal and been injured as he slammed into the post. The flu had hit their team badly and the bench was short.

 

Coach Bresky looked over the bench and before they knew what happened Joshua and Michael were on the ice together. They could hear the groans of their teammates.

 

But suddenly they were silent. Michael looked back and saw Coach Bresky with eyes like steel glaring at the team. Then the coach looked over at Michael. His brown eyes softened and he gestured upward, and then smiled. Michael stilled his body.

 

Should I pray? I mean mom said hockey …

 

The puck was about to drop and for a split second Michael looked over to Joshua. The glance that came back showed Michael just how nervous his friend was feeling. The red face, the strain in his eyes … Michael was sure his own face reflected the same fear.

 

And then … time stood still …

 

Hi God … this is Michael … I know you are way bigger than this hockey game … I love that about you … but right now I’m in a mess. Josh and me… we NEVER score … and that’s okay … but if it is okay with you could we please help our team today … if that isn’t okay … well please help us with the team after … and God … thanks for listening.

 

For a split second Michael thought that was probably the stupidest sounding prayer he had ever done. But somehow he felt better.

 

The puck dropped.

 

Michael and Joshua skated for all they were worth. Suddenly the puck was on Michael’s stick. He looked around and saw Sammy who was a really good player to his left.

 

Then the rest of the conversation took over …

 

         Pass it to Joshua.

 

Without hesitation Michael shot the puck right onto the stick of his friend. An immediate hush followed by whoops of cheering and the whole team was over the boards and tackling the boys as the final buzzer sounded.

***

 

Time moves on. Buzzers go silent. Friends lose touch.

Michael eventually hung up his skates but he never hung up his prayer life. Score!

 

INSOMNIA

“I have to get some sleep.”

 

         David rolled over and looked at his friend. In the moonlight he saw the slump of Jeb’s shoulders and knew there were also shadows beneath his eyes. Straightening up from his blanket, David rubbed his hands over his face.

 

         “Jeb we’ve talked about this. Stop worrying about sleeping … try counting the stars or something. Just relax.

 

         Both of the teenagers looked up at the sky. Inky darkness melted across the heavens with shimmering dots of white. David breathed in deeply.  Nearby a fat and wooly sheep gave a soft sigh into the night.

 

         David smiled. “See look at Netha. She doesn’t worry about when she sleeps.”

 

         At the sound of David’s voice the old sheep wandered over to him and nuzzled his hand. David reached out and rubbed Netha’s soft coat.

 

         “You and that dumb sheep.” Jeb shook his head and pulled his blanket up over his shoulders.

 

         “I’m just so tired. I need to get some sleep. It’s been four nights now and I’ve slept only a few hours here and there. You don’t understand how this feels.”

 

         David drew his breath in and set his jaw. Turning and facing Jeb he let his words out slowly.

 

         “Jeb there are worse things than not sleeping a few nights.”

 

         If it weren’t so dark on the hillside, David would have seen his friend’s face flush. As it was, even in the cover of darkness, David knew his friend was angry.

 

         “Really David. Well what could be worse than being exhausted every day? Let me guess you are going to tell me I could be sick or have no family or no flock to watch.”

 

         “No. I was going to say you could be missing life by looking at only your sleepless nights.”

 

         “What could I possibly be missing David? Look around us … nothing but sheep and darkness. I want to sleep.”

 

         Jeb got up abruptly and threw his blanket to the ground. David folded his hands together and let his head fall forward. He wished he could think of the right thing to say to Jeb. He wished for peace between him and his friend. He wished …

 

Movement from the sheep about twenty yards away caught David’s attention. At the same time Jeb turned back and fixed his attention on the same spot. Both of the boys looked puzzled. It was as though there was a stirring in the night. Slowly Jeb walked toward David.

 

It happened so quickly that neither one could take it in. The split of brilliant light into the night … the angel … the words of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

 

Well you know the rest. The boys never did sleep that night. And Jeb never complained again.

 

         Amazing moments can be wrapped in ugly circumstances. No matter what our situation is … let’s not miss the brilliant announcement of a Savior this Christmas!

WAKING UP IN HEAVEN

The coughing pounded through my lungs and throat leaving me gasping for air. I carefully lifted the covers and walked slowly from the bedroom.

 

The family room was bathed in moonlight, pictures of the grandchildren smiled out from the walls. Another spasm overcame my joy. Finally as the coughing subsided I sat down on the worn couch and breathed as best I could. I loved this room with its pictures and memories; the old furniture spoke of years of gatherings. The windows were covered in curtains I had made. I breathed in and out.

 

The morning sunlight spilled into the room in a cascade of gold with iridescent fingers melting the air. I breathed deeply … without coughing. Oh thank you Lord. Some small sound caught my attention and turning slowly to my surroundings; I didn’t recognize where I was.

 

I was not in my bedroom.

 

I remembered walking to the family room in the middle of the night … but one look around revealed I was not in my family room.

 

That sound again. What … is it possible … yes … it is singing. I stood up with ease and took another delicious deep breath, exhaling peacefully without the catch in my chest I had come to expect.  But I could tell … the racking cough was gone for good. 

 

I knew then. Reading and imagining hadn’t done justice to what lay before me now. Perfect lush trees, my favorite thing on earth, looked completely amazing here. There wasn’t a sun – just like it said – but the light was too wonderful … airy … alive … golden. As much as I wanted to see all the sights and follow the golden paths and see the angels and meet Jeremiah and find my mom and see my friend Karen for coffee …

 

I had to see Him.

 

The moment I thought it … there He was.

 

Smiling … I knew He would be smiling.

 

Offering out His nail scarred hands …

 

Then He spoke-

 

“Well done good and faithful servant, enter into My joy and the place I have prepared for you.”

 

REALLY??!!!!

 

After all my screw ups, angry days … I mean I tried but seriously … ME?

 

He smiled again.

 

So after all … it was all about Him.

He was able to carry me safely.

Because I went with Him …

                                                      I got to here.

 

Amazing Grace!