The Lost Coin

fireworks-235813_640Happy New year to all my readers! I haven’t been feeling so inspired to write fiction lately, so I’ll post a story I wrote long ago but have never shared publicly. This is my version of one of the miraculous incidents recorded in the Bible.

THE LOST COIN

Who dropped it?

Was it a Roman soldier, striding along the dock, digging out the boat fare from his little leather bag? Maybe he had spent a few days at the spa in Tiberius for refreshment and was on his way back to his post.

Perhaps, hurrying to the boat, he slipped on a greasy spot and one of his coins went flying. He heard it splunk as it hit the water. He shrugged and hurried on. What was one coin, anyway?

Was it a servant girl, sent to the dock to buy fish for the family’s supper? Perhaps it was her first time handling money and her hands shook as she was paying for the fish? To her horror, one silver coin slipped between her fingers. It hit the dock and before she could grab it again it rolled along a plank and over the edge. She heard it splunk as it hit the water.

Oh, what would mistress say if she came back with not enough fish?! Would the master even accuse her of stealing it? But with a smile and a nod the kind fisherman handed her all the fish she needed and waved her on her way. She would have been so grateful!

Or was it a young boy, waiting while his merchant father inspected some cargo. Perhaps his father had given him this silver coin to amuse himself through the long business talk.
Maybe he was flipping it in the air because he liked the way it sparkled in the sunshine? Then he missed catching it! With a small thump the coin landed on the dock and rolled over the edge. He heard it splunk as it fell into the water. Quickly he ran to the edge of the dock and watched it sink down, down, down.

 

The Bible does not say who dropped it. But God had a plan for this little silver coin.

A fish was swimming around under the dock, looking up, waiting for some juicy bug to light on the surface. Suddenly something sparkly flashed through the water, coming down, down, toward him. A huge silver beetle! Yum!

The fish opened its mouth as wide as it could, anticipating the delicious crunch, and into its mouth went the coin. But it was not juicy and squishy. It was a cold, hard lump!

The fish tried to swallow but the coin was too big. He tried to spit it out but it wouldn’t budge. He wiggled this way and that, he swam in big circles, he leaped from the water and back down. But nothing would shake this awful hard thing loose from his mouth. It was stuck!

 

“Hey, Simon, wait a minute!”

Simon Peter, who was following Jesus into the house, stopped and turned to see who was calling him. Several men were coming toward him through the crowd, those men who came around once in awhile to collect the tribute money to help pay for the upkeep of the temple.

“Your Master is staying with you right now, isn’t He?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” Peter replied, then looked around at the crowd of people. Why did they ask? The whole town of Capernaum knew that Jesus was staying at his house!

“Your Master pays tribute, doesn’t He?” another man continued. “We’re collecting. Everyone needs to pay the tax to keep up the temple.”

Peter frowned. Did He? Did Jesus pay tax for the upkeep of the temple? Well, Jesus seemed to want to live just like everyone else and obey all the laws, so He probably did.

“Yes,” answered Peter. “I believe so. I’ll go and ask Him.” But he walked into the house wondering.

Why should Jesus have to pay for the upkeep of the temple? Jesus was the Son of God–and God was the owner of the temple. Why, that would be like making Herod’s sons pay for the upkeep on their palace!

Jesus looked up at Peter as he entered the house. “Peter,” He asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth demand tribute money? From their own people, or from the foreign lands they have conquered?”

“From the foreigners,” Peter answered, puzzled.

“Then the children are free?” Jesus asked.

“Well, yes,” Peter replied, more puzzled yet.

Jesus knew what the men had asked for. He knew the question going through Peter’s mind. And he wanted to teach an important lesson to the people listening. So He explained that it was true; as God’s Son, He should not have to pay for the temple upkeep, for the temple was His Father’s earthly house.

“But we must obey the laws of the land as much as possible while we are in this life. We don’t want to offend them and cause needless trouble.”

“Take a hook and line,” He instructed, “and go down to the lake. Throw your hook into the water. The first fish you catch, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin to the tribute collector and pay the tribute for you and me.”

Peter, still puzzled, hunted through the fishing gear that he had set aside when Jesus first called him to be a disciple. A fish with a coins in its mouth?

Well, we’ll see, he thought. He found a line and a hook and headed toward the lake of Galilee.

 

By now the fish may have carried that awful coin in its mouth for several days. Perhaps he had swum from one end of the lake to the other searching for food, but not able to chew anything. Pressing hard on the same spots all day and all night, the coin was like a bad toothache.

He was swimming slowly in the water near Capernaum when a tiny silvery thing splashed into the water not far away. Other fish darted away, frightened by this odd-looking bug, but the big fish was so hungry!

He opened his mouth as best he could and caught the tiny thing. But it was not a bug at all. It was a sharp barbed thing that jabbed into the roof of his mouth and there it stuck.

Now something was tugging on this sharp hook. It dug deep into the roof of his mouth. He wiggled and tried to break free, but he was so weak he could hardly resist. He was being pulled closer to the shore, the hook jabbing him every time he jerked back. Finally exhausted, he gave up the fight.

Peter, standing knee-deep in the shallows, reached down and lifted the limp fish out of the water. Holding its jaws open with one hand, he carefully removed the hook. Then he poked a finger into its mouth and felt the coin.

Peter was amazed. How could it be that, in this whole huge lake, the one fish with a coin stuck in its mouth would get caught on his hook? How could it be that Jesus would know that? Grasping the coin with his finger and thumb, he gave a little tug and out it came.
Now he looked at the fish. “Someone will be happy to catch you someday, “ he said, “but you’d better fatten up a bit first.” And he tossed it back into the lake.

Then he examined the coin, marvelling. “Truly Jesus is the Lord and ruler of all Creation!” he declared as he waded back to shore.

 

For awhile the exhausted fish floated in the shallow water near the shore. Then he opened and closed his mouth a few times–just to be sure.

The hook was gone! That horrible big lump was gone! What a relief! He flipped his tail back and forth, pushing himself into the deeper water.

His mouth was very sore, but not too sore to nibble from the weeds growing on the lake bottom. Small water beetles swam among the weeds; he would eat lots of those. Never again was he going to be tempted by sparkling things that fell from the blue above!

He swirled his fins and away he swam, so glad to be free. Being a fish, he had no idea that he was part of one of Jesus’ miracles.

Avalanche — Part 3

I clench my fists and scold that whimpering coward inside. Come on, man! You can’t just sit here and die!

I never have been one to just lie down and let circumstances run all over me. I’ve never looked to others — or to God — for help. When life gave me a kick I tried to kick it right back. I’ve always depended on my own wits and I’m going to do that now.

I’ve got to make a hole in the snowbank outside so I can get some fresh air. So I grab my pick, but know right away that’s a silly idea. There’s no room to swing it. I toss it aside and dig with my mitts until my hands are almost frozen. I shove at the snow, demanding it to move, until the futility of it all hits me in the face again. I may as well try digging through the mountain.

I flop on the cave floor and accept the truth: there’s no way I can dig myself out of this grave. I’m going to die here — maybe in a couple of hours.

What’s so fearful about dying anyway? You just lie down and close your eyes, and it’s over. Or is it?

Some folks say you wake up to a whole new world: some say it’s heaven or hell. I’ve had some preachers tell me God’s keeping records in a big book and when you die you stand before Him and are judged by what’s written in that book. What will He say to me? Have I been good enough to get a pass for Heaven?

Some tell you your whole life passes before your eyes just before you die and you get to review all the things you’ve done in this world. All your failings and mistakes. I lean my head back against the cold stone and contemplate what that procession might look like. Scenes of the past pop into my mind, decisions I made, things I’ve said, people I’ve loved, some fights I’ve been in.

I think about my lust for gold. Yep, I see it now for it what it is: lust. For me it’s been like an insatiable thirst. I wanted lots of it, I wanted to get it before the other guy, and keep it for myself. I wanted all the nice stuff money could buy, the security of a fat bank account that would keep me through my old age.

I think of a Bible verse I heard one time: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” I sadly shake my head. No, I probably haven’t been good enough to join them saints when they go marching in.

For an instant I contemplate bargaining with God. I tell Him, “Lord, if you’ll just get me out of this situation, I’ll serve you forever. I’ll become the best Christian there ever was; I’ll be in church every Sunday, give my gold to the poor, become a preacher. Hey, Lord, I’ll even sing in the choir if that’s what You want.”

I remember other men who’ve made those same promises when they were in dire straits, and kept them, too. But I can name a few others who’ve have gone back on all their vows as soon as the circumstances changed.

Yeah, I could promise God all that, but what if there’s no miracle for me anyway? What if this is simply going to be my last day? A kind of acceptance settles into me. I need to make peace with my Maker now, if I can, because I’m going to be looking Him in the eye right shortly.

Even in the blackness I shut my eyes when I start to pray. “Are you there, God? Do you hear me? Do you know me? What’s going to happen when I die? Will you let me into your heaven? Will you — can you — forgive all the sins of my life?”

Soft as sifting snow, a few Bible verses slide into my thoughts. “God sent his only Son… whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Songs I learned as a gaffer at school, rehearsing them over and over for the Christmas program. Never would have dreamed I’d remember them here and now. “Peace on earth, goodwill to men… Unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord…” I contemplate the Good News we sang about then and wonder if it could be for me, too.

Another verse came into my mind, one I heard in a fiery sermon one day: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

I sigh another prayer. “Lord, is this an offer you’re making me, such a selfish sinner as I have been? You know I have nothing to give You in exchange. Except maybe this gold — and I guess it’s really Yours anyway, seeing You put it into the rock in the first place. But if You are hearing me and giving me this verse, if You can wash me pure as this snow outside today, and if You’re willing to do it, then I accept. I’ll give You whatever life I have left in this world and all my days in the next, if You’ll only clean me up and make me fit for Your heaven.”

I can never completely explain the peace that pours through me in that instant. I feel so light I could float, and so free. Suddenly I needed to be in the light so I fished a candle out of my pocket, lit it, and set it up on a chunk of wood. Symbolic, I guess.

For maybe an hour — you lose all sense of time in a place like that — I talk with God about my past, the people I knew, all the places I’d been. And He lets me know He’s been there with me, has seen and felt it all. Then He washes my past, forgives it all. I feel so new — like the fresh buds that pop out in springtime, even on an old tree. I’ve scoffed at the term a lot, but today I understand what “born again” really means.

Then I start to feel cold and sleepy. I stretch out on the floor and tell Him, “Thank You, Lord. I’m ready to go now, whenever You want to come for me.”

A few minutes later I hear a sound, another rumbling above me. I feel vibrations and hear thuds like falling rocks. Another avalanche! The noise is so fierce now I start shaking. This time even the cave seemed to shudder; instinctively I roll onto my belly and curl up, using my parka hood to cover my head. Is this the end, I wonder? My last minutes?

Suddenly I’m aware that the cave was filled with light. I lift my head, realizing the snow has tumbled away from the opening. I listen as the avalanche makes its way to the valley below. Finally all is silent. I crawl to the entrance and look outside, shutting my eyes against the dazzling sun. The clouds have almost all drifted away now; it’s a beautiful day.

Yes, it’s a glorious day to be alive!

Mrs Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

PART III

As I said, I never dreamed that things have gotten so bad in our city that these guests lodging in our our own house would be in danger — and our own lives as well. But a few hours after supper we begin to hear sounds, voices and then shouting, outside.

Lot sends out a servant to find out what’s what the townsmen want. Before long he returns, looking seriously scared, and says to Lot, “There’s a crowd gathered in the street out there, sir, and they don’t look friendly.”

I peeked out a window. Now that was an understatement. The gang advancing toward out house almost looked vicious!

Lot goes to the door and some one shouts that he should send these two young men out. Next thing others are calling the same thing and Lot is outside now trying to calm them down. We’re all horrified when we realize what this crowd has in mind.

I told you Sodom isn’t very safe, but really! These young men have ought to be more careful about coming into a city and upsetting everyone. People should study the travel guides and find out about the inhabitants of a place before wandering willy-nilly about the country side expecting some kind soul to take them in.

And Lot might have known better than to bring them here. Maybe he could have spoken a kind word in their ear — a bit of warning — and sent them on their way before sundown.

Wait! What was that I heard? Lot, what are you saying? Not our precious daughters. What insanity would make you offer to send our beautiful girls out to that pack of wolves just to protect these two strangers?

As a precaution I order the girls to disappear, to go with the maidservants and hide on the roof top.

Well, thank goodness! These young men showed some good sense and dragged Lot back into the house. The mob was almost at the door; I was afraid they were going to tear Lot apart. Now everyone is stumbling around out there as if they can’t figure out where they are or where they should go. I’m so thankful they aren’t battering our door down to get in!

Seeing what they’ve done to the men outside, I’m beginning to wonder if these young men really are supernatural messengers. But why have they come? In any case, I pray God will have mercy on us this night!

Lot just came to me now and said the men are telling him we have to leave Sodom, that our daughters and their families need to get out, too. Fat chance our sons-in-law are going to pack up everything and go flying out of town on the say so of two strange foreigners. (I’m not sure they believe in angels and may think we’ve lost it.)

I’m not very willing myself, but I’d better do some packing, as Lot insists. The servants are helping, but they aren’t at all interesting in joining us on our wild flight into the night. Good thing we still have the two girls at home to help. Oh, dear, we are too old for all this upheaval!

I have a pretty good idea how this will go. We’ll head off into the desert and spend a miserable night, then by morning everyone will have come to their senses and we’ll come back home again. I hope and pray once these men have left us whatever their message is and are gone on their way we can settle down and resume our normal lives.

The towns folk may be annoyed with Lot for a few weeks but they will soon forget it. Then, as I said before, the next time he wants to bring strangers home I’m putting my foot down.

They’re urging us to hurry so I’d best get moving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve told Mrs. Lot’s story in a contemporary voice, not just for fun, but because this really is a story for our times. I don’t think she had a clue what was coming, and neither do we, but the Bible tells us there’ll be a day when this world as we know it will come to an abrupt end. All the things we love and claim as our own will someday be gone. This may not come in our generation — or it may — but Jesus tells us about His return to our world, comparing it to the destruction of Sodom.

Luke 17:28-30
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

II Peter 3:9-14
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

WOUNDED!

Just before the battle Captain James looked over his troops and smiled. A number of them were seasoned warriors, battle-scarred and victorious; they’d stand at the forefront. A half dozen other troops, new to the King & Cause, he would put in the middle. They’d all had basic training and now joined the ranks, but they needed to improve their skills in an actual battle. Some were young and might become weary with heavy hand-to-hand combat against the foe; he didn’t want to see them blown away in the first skirmish so he placed them at the rear.

He noticed Frankie making practice thrusts with his sword. Frankie was one of the new recruits, on fire for the Cause, though some would call his nature bold and brash. He had a tendency to swing his weapon and his words a little carelessly, knocking a few noses out of joint at times, but this zeal was slowly being tempered by concern for the outfit as a whole.

“Frankie’s learning to be a team player,” James told his Aide one day. “I can see great potential. I really like his enthusiasm–just hope he doesn’t lose it all.”

“I think you should place Penny in the line-up next to Frankie for this next battle,” his Aide said. “She has an important lesson to learn this time.”

“You’re right,” said the Captain. “On the surface Penny seems like a timid sort, but I suspect she still has a lot of self-centredness to overcome. Too wrapped up in her own feelings. I’m really hoping that experiencing the glories of the war and seeing victories won will encourage her to stop focusing so much on herself and put her heart into the Cause.”

“Maybe seeing Frankie’s enthusiasm will draw her out, too,” he added. “Otherwise I wonder how long she’ll stand up as a soldier for the Lord. There’s no way any soldier can avoid conflict and a battlefield isn’t a bed of roses.” Captain James had done his best to prepare his troops, but in the heat of battle soldiers either toughened up or were fried. How would Penny react under fire?

He gave a few last instructions, then shouted, “Forward, March!” They were on their way to face the foe.

The field was hazy that day. Frankie, sword upright, thought he saw an enemy approaching from the left, close to Penny, and took a hefty swing in that direction. The enemy soldier nimbly jumped back and the tip of Frankie’s sword gave Penny a jab. Blood started to trickle down her arm.

“I’ve been wounded,” she shrieked.

“I am so sorry,” Frankie gasped. “I was trying to protect you.”

“But you wounded me,” she wailed.

“Look, everybody,” she yelled. “Frankie wounded me. Look at all this blood!” A few of the rear soldiers stopped to look at her arm.

Several front line soldiers, already full of gashes and stabs, turned to assess her injury. One said sympathetically, “I’m sorry this happened, but it’s not that serious. Just hold up your sword and concentrate on fighting the enemy.”

“But I’ve been WOUNDED, “ she screamed. “Look, my blood is pouring out!”

Captain James hurried over. He frowned at the minor injury and wondered how best to deal with the whimpering Penny. “If you can’t keep on fighting, then you’d better hurry to the Great Physician’s tent. He can heal it.”

“But I can’t. I’m wounded – just look at all this blood! And the pain is unbearable. There’s no way I can walk back to His tent. Someone will have to carry me.”

“I’ll help,” Frankie volunteered.

“Don’t you touch me, you jerk! You’ve caused enough trouble already.”

“But there was an enemy soldier right ready to slice you in half,” Frankie protested. “At least I thought I saw one.”

“Oh, yeah, right. You thought. You are SO careless.”

With a sigh Captain James called two of his strongest men. “Can you take her back behind the lines and leave her in the hands of the Great Physician.”

“But Captain, we can’t hardly spare any men,” another soldier said. “We won’t be able to take the enemy bunker and rescue the prisoners they’ve captured.”

“We have to protect our own troops, too. We must get her off the battlefield; the enemy will cut her to ribbons if she just stands here. You and Mike go with her; if needs be, pick her up and carry her.”

“The crybaby. She’s got two good legs; she can walk,” Mike grumbled.

“But I’ve been wounded,” Penny wailed. “How can I be expected to walk? Don’t you guys have any compassion? When I get back to headquarters I’m requesting a transfer.”

“It’s all my fault,” Frankie moaned. “I should have been more careful. But I really thought I was helping her. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a soldier?” He tossed his sword down.

Captain James put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Frankie, the King called you and you enlisted, so of course you’re cut out to be a soldier. In every war there are wounded people–and some are a lot more easily wounded than others. But don’t let this discourage you or I’ll be out TWO soldiers. Pick up your sword and do the best you can. We have a war to fight.”

So Frankie grabbed his sword and hurried to join the battle again, resolving to be more careful in future.

Right then an enemy soldier sneaked up behind Captain James and whispered. “You are one lousy commander. You should never have put those two beside each other. Because of your poor decision one of your soldiers is down and another may feel so guilty he’ll give up the fight, too.”

The Captain ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah. Maybe it is my fault. I should have arranged them differently.” He fell to his knees and cried, “Lord forgive me!”

His Aide hurried over and put the enemy soldier to flight. He took the Captain by the arm, lifted him up and gave him a kind pat on the back. “Don’t listen to his lies. You did your best, Sir. And the Great Physician is well able to heal her.”

“If she wants it badly enough. I hate to say it, but some folks seem to take a strange delight in their pain. Their moment of glory, kind of.”

“Well, let’s hope she rallies. The Great Physician will do His utmost to work with her.”

Meanwhile, back on the medical bench by the Great Physician’s tent, Penny sat watching her blood drip on the ground and re-examining the pain of it all. She wished the Great Physician would show up once and heal her. By and by another soldier joined her on the bench. He had a gaping head wound and one arm was almost severed.

“Man, are you ever bleeding,” Penny said, sliding farther down the bench. She didn’t need his blood splattering on her yet, too.

“Caught in major enemy fire. I’m needing the Great Physician real bad,” he said weakly.

“I do, too. See this deep wound, all this blood. Got it from a fellow soldier, too. Supposed to be, anyway. I think he’s a real yoyo.”

“My only son was killed by a drunk driver. Never fought such a battle in my life. But I won!” The man’s eyes shone. “I was able to forgive that young man.

“You forgave him? The scum! He didn’t deserve it.”

“Maybe not, but I need healing for the pain I’m feeling every day – and I wouldn’t be here getting that help if I were still so bin the awful pit of bitterness. I’m so thankful to be delivered from that place!”

“Besides, everybody needs forgiveness once in awhile,” he added. “Really, none of us deserve it.”

Penny frowned. He sounded weird; must be that head wound was muddling his thinking. She returned her gaze to her wound; thankfully it was still dripping. The Great Physician needed to see just how bad it was.

Awhile later she looked up and saw the man who’d been beside her walking away, erect and pain-free even though his one arm was gone. Right then a horrible thought came to her: what if she ’d need to have her arm amputated, too? She sure hoped Frankie got a few good slashes himself. He needed to suffer, too.

But the Great Physician must have come by and she hadn’t noticed. Why hadn’t she seen Him. Why wasn’t His voice loud enough for her to hear? Or had He not called her? Didn’t He care about her? She could bleed to death sitting here.

Penny didn’t realize that the Great Physician HAD come by, at least a dozen times, and gently called her name. She was so focused on her injury she hadn’t even noticed. She’s still sitting there waiting to be healed.

Story by Christine Goodnough, Originally posted July 11, 2012

 

Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”


Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.

 

Reaching Functionally Illiterate Adults

LIFE ON THE REFRIGERATOR DOOR

©2007 by Alice Kuipers (text) and Kath Walker (illustrations)
First published in 2007 by Macmillan Publishers Ltd
My copy was published in 2008 by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I picked this second-hand book a few weeks ago and found it a quick read, being only a few sentences per page. However, it’s a very poignant story told by means of a string of notes written between a mother and her fifteen-year old daughter, Claire.

Mom — a doctor in a busy practice — is forever rushing out to tend others’ ills; Claire leads an active social life. So they converse at the refrigerator door. Mom’s notes are straightforward; Claire usually illustrates hers with teenage scribble-art.

The book starts with everyday communications: Claire should buy some of this and that; there’s a casserole in the fridge for supper; Mom’s forgotten to leave Claire’s allowance again; Claire laments that Mom is “never home anymore.” Then one day Mom indicates she has something serious to talk about.

They try to get together on it, but after a few futile attempts like clinic emergencies and school projects that must be done with at a friend’s place, Mom finally leaves a note: “I’ve found a lump in my right breast… I don’t think there’s anything to worry about…” Claire’s shock comes through clearly in her note, with another lament that “I never see you anymore.”

This book is well worth reading. In one way I found it a sad commentary on modern life for a single mother and our society’s “crazy busy” rush through life. But the writer makes her point in these brief spurts: we need to make time for each other before it’s too late.

Mulling over another problem, I suddenly saw a certain brilliance in the way Alice Kuipers has told this story. This writer with her fridge notes is onto something that we as Christians could get a handle on.

A survey done in Canada about twenty-five years ago revealed that one quarter of our population — folks born right here — are functionally illiterate. Back then it was just a statistic to me, but it’s become a reality as I help a relative to cope with life when she can barely read and write. Bank statements, bills — even phone books — are great trials for her Grade-four education. Most religious tracts are so far above her.

You could say she’s from the “olden days” when not all children had access to adequate education, but a lot of children growing up today aren’t learning the basics, either. Texting is partly to blame. A fellow writer told us one day that her niece, in Grade Four, can’t spell the word “are”; she just makes the letter R. So our writer friend has been helping her learn to read and write after school.

I helped at school one year; we had a six-year-old girl who’d been in & out of the social services’ system a couple of times already. I doubt she’d ever seen a book; she had no idea of color names, no concept of numbers or counting; she didn’t know left and right. It took months to teach her that her jacket was blue and white, that three items on a page were written 3, that if you add three balls: ooo and two balls: oo you get 5.

Someone told me I should give my elderly relative a children’s Bible story book; it would be easier for her to handle. But even these tend to have solid blocks of text, plus the illustrations are more suitable for a small child. Being handed a children’s book to read can be embarrassing for an older woman, so I’d like to find something that’s written for adults.

Last night as I was thinking about the many who have never learned to read well, and the need to present the Gospel to folks like that, my thoughts went back to Alice Kuipers’ book and suddenly it looked like a method we could use.

Life on the Refrigerator Door tells a poignant story in simple words. Could we use a Gospel on Scrolls or similar approach for the many who can’t follow complex sentences? Just a few notes per page with a lot of white space, simplifying the Good News Jesus came to share with us? (Note: not whiting out doctrines, but explaining them simply.)

Does such a book exist already? If so, where would I find it?

A Dip in the Pity-Puddle

Spring took a big step backward yesterday; the temperature dropped to -20 C last night and is supposed to go down to -24 tonight. (That’s -8 and -11 F) and stay cool all weekend.

A black bird crossed my path this afternoon – not a raven but a genuine blackbird. We took a trip to Outlook and saw Canada geese as well; a few of them were sitting on an ice floe in the river. It’s still pretty cold for the poor birds!

The Lord spoke to me about self-pity a few mornings ago. I was feeling really bad for the way a certain situation had turned out, something I’d gotten involved in on behalf of a friend. I’d had a talk with someone, hoping to explain my friend’s problem, but my listener had reacted negatively and later tongue-lashed my friend.

Of course I felt quite upset when I heard this from my friend. Instead of helping matters I seemingly had made them worse. The next morning I sat mulling this over, feeling blue, despairing of any improvement in the situation. Then the Lord asked me in a gentle way, “How much of your feeling here is actually self-pity?”

OUCH!

But I opened my mind to that question and could see that, yeah, some of my feelings really do stem from a well disguised self-pity. Then a strange thing happened: as I admitted it, that “blue cloud” lifted and the whole thing didn’t look half as bad.

When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” He was serious. It really does!

“Even our tears need washing in the blood of Christ before they can be acceptable.”

I was talking to my friend again this morning, encouraging her to pray about the issues that are troubling her. I feel that God is the only one who can really help her and she agreed with that, but she can’t bring herself to believe in, or talk to, Someone she can’t see. That’s a tough one! Or is it?

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

(Part of this was posted simultaneously on “Inspirational Thoughts.”)

Called By My Name

He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” John 10:3

To be called by a wrong name always brings a disturbing aura with it.

A Mr. & Mrs. Schmidt, due to become first-time parents in several months, moved from one large city to another some distance away. They were strangers there, and commented on it that their phone would seldom ring; their friends would all need to call them long distance.

No sooner were they moving into their house when the phone rang. “Hello, Mrs. Glover?” asked a strange voice.

“I am not Mrs. Glover,” said Mrs. Schmidt, and went back to her unpacking. Time and again the phone rang with the same ‘Mrs. Glover’ being targeted, a lady who had evidently been elderly and very genial.

Looking in the directory, the Schmidts became aware that there were numerous Glovers in the area. It became a family joke as the Schmidts daily tallied the calls. Their phone rang more often than it ever had before. However, the incidents did lessen toward the time when their baby was due.

One early morning the baby came, a big boy with a healthy squall. Mrs. Schmidt was exhausted. She and her husband exulted over him for a little while, and then she dropped off into a well-earned sleep. Hours later she awakened, longing to hold her little boy. She rang for someone to please bring her the baby.

The nurse appeared in the door, the baby in her arms. “Here’s your girl, Mrs. Glover,” she said brightly.

“I am NOT Mrs. Glover!” Mrs. Schmidt fairly shouted, “and I DON’T have a girl!”

When Jesus calls us there is never a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ He knows who we are and everything peculiar to us personally. To Him we are all unique and He calls us in ways suited to our particular needs. He is a Friend who knows us, and our characteristics through and through.

Have you ever found yourself in a crowd holding a hand, thinking it was your husband’s…only to discover, much to your chagrin, that it belonged to some other man? When we walk with Jesus, with our hand in His, we are promised again and again that we shall “not be ashamed.”

When the Lord speaks MY NAME, it is tailored for me, and for my need of the moment…even if there are million Margarets in the world!

He does the same for you. Listen for Him today.

Written by my friend, Margaret Penner Toews;
first published in Canaquest Friendship Newsletter for Women

Want to Change Your Life?

Someone involved in handing out Christian literature received permission from the owner to put a tract rack in a small store. A few moments later he looked back and saw one of the employees pull out one of the tracts and start reading it.

He spun around and blurted out, “Don’t read that! Unless you want to change your life.”

The employee, stunned for a moment, answered, “Doesn’t everyone want to change their life?”

Do you want to change your life?

Looking at the history of our world, the goal of change has always been improvement. It may not pan out, but that’s almost always our aim. What improvements do you wish you could see in your life?

When Jesus walked by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-9) he saw a man lying there and he basically asked this fellow the same question: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Do you want to change your life or are you happy just lying here watching the world go by and visiting with your cronies? Jesus’ concept of change involved this cripple getting up and walking away from this place, disposing of that grubby old bedroll and rejoining the human race. Getting a job; working every day; making payments on a home.

He could have made shekels rain down from Heaven on the poor unfortunate, but Jesus’ help didn’t involve a cash handout.

If Jesus Christ walked by your house today and you glimpsed him as he was passing, would you run out and talk to him, knowing he’s in the business of miracles? What miracle would you ask for? To win the Lottery? A happy home? A physical healing?

If he sat down with you and talked about changing your life, what would you say about the things you feel need to change? What would He say? Do you already know some things He’d point out? What if He held out to you a package that contained enough power to make this change? Would you take it?

What answer would you and I give today if Jesus asked us, “Wilt thou be made whole?” I’ve been pondering that question for myself. How would I define “change”? In what ways would I qualify or limit the word “whole”? How willing am I for change that would involve giving up certain things?

One day I was talking with a neighbor who was very grieved about her smoking habit. She had already lamented to me at an earlier time, “ This thing has got my life. I’m never free.”

Well, this day I suggested, “I believe God can work a miracle for you and take away your desire to smoke; I know He’s done this for others. Would you be happy if He did? Shall you and I kneel down right now and ask Him to do that for you?”

For whatever reason, she declined my offer.