The Winter Water Hazard

The Winter Water Hazard

By: S.C. Mathisen

“Come on Johnny, let’s go! I want to skate on the old pond today. We’re only here in Millville visiting my grandparents for a week.” Susie said trying to encourage her friend Johnny to hurry into his coat, hat and mittens.  

“I am hurrying, Susie” Johnny said sounding like he was already out of breath.

He had already put on two extra sweaters, long johns and an extra set of wool socks and was bent over trying to reach the laces of his hi-top insulated winter boots and just barely reaching them. Between the extra layers of clothing and the extra layers of Johnny’s round stomach, the laces were almost out of his reach. But he finally did get them and was now finishing up the final knot on his right boot.

“There, I’ve got the boots laced up. All I need to do now is to put on my hat and scarf and coat and get my mittens on. You can never be too careful out in winter weather. Especially here in upper Minnesota! It’s really cold up here!”

“Great, now let’s go. We want to get out there and get back before it gets dark.” Susie said in eager anticipation.

When Johnny was finally ready, they headed for the back door. Johnny detoured slightly to pick up a handful of oatmeal raisin cookies, wrap them carefully in a napkin and put them in one of his over large coat pockets.

After going out the door and walking across the wide driveway, they passed the barn and followed a path that took them across the cornfields plowed under after the harvest. The sky was a dull, steely gray and the ground was covered with white frost and. They could see each breath they took. They talked excitedly about how much fun it was going to be to skate on a real frozen pond instead of the ice rink they practiced on back home in Crescent City.

After walking across fields for a time, the path led into what looked like a small bunch of trees.

“I think the pond is just on the other side of these trees,” said Susie.

“Wow, it sure is farther than I thought it would be,” said Johnny as he slowed down to look up and around at all the tall trees.

“Come on Johnny, keep up!  It’s starting to snow.”

“I’m coming. I was just noticing how weird it is in here with all these trees covered in snow.”

“Yup, but we should be out of the woods in a couple of minutes if we walk fast.”

“Walk fast, that’s a really good idea. It’s kinda creepy in here. The snow is starting to come down real hard, the sky is getting to be a real dark gray and it’s getting hard to see.” 

Johnny picked up the pace and started walking really fast. He began walking so fast Susie had trouble keeping up with him. The only sound was their feet rapidly crunching in the new fallen snow.

After several minutes of walking, taking different turns to follow what Susie thought was the path, she said with a little quiver in her voice, “Johnny, does it seem like it’s getting darker instead of lighter?” 

“Y-y-yes. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice and get scared. Why do you think I’m walking so fast?”

“Maybe we should turn around and go back,” said the quivering voice.

Johnny stopped suddenly and pointed toward his left, “look there’s a clearing over there. Maybe we should go that way.”

“Well, Ok.”

Johnny turned to his friend and said, “I thought you knew your way around on this farm. You should be the one giving directions. Are you lost?”

Susie looked around with a puzzled look on her face, “I thought I knew the way. I just don’t remember the woods taking this long to get through. I might be a little confused.”

“Oh great, you’re lost. And if you’re lost I’m lost too. Can you find your way back out of here?”

Trying to sound braver and more confident than she really felt Susie said “Sure, we just go back the way we came.”

“Right, we took so many twists and turns on the way here, I lost track of where we came from. I bet you did too!” 

“I think I know what we need to do.”

“So do I, we need to pray. God know where we are and He can keep us safe.”

Susie smiled broadly, “That’s right Johnnie. He can and He will!”

Johnny began, “Lord, you know where we are and how to get us out of here. Please show us the way out.”

Susie joined in, “Yes Jesus, please help us to find our way out.”

They both said together “Amen!” 

Johnny then turned and looked all the way around him said with a more determined tone, “Let’s head toward gap in the trees over there. If we can get out of these woods, I’m sure we can get back to the farm house.”

Susie, immediately perked up and said, “Ok Johnny, lead on.”

So off they went. Johnny led and Susie followed closely behind him. After a bit they were walking shoulder to shoulder. Each time one stepped on and snapped a fallen twig or branch they both jumped slightly and moved closer together. 

Twenty minutes later at the edge of the forest, the sky had cleared and they found themselves in very bright sunlight standing on an overhang that looked down over the valley that contained Susie’s grandparents farm. They could see the farmhouse and barn in the distance.

“Wow! That sun is bright!” said Johnny, shielding his eyes. “How did we end up all the way over here?”

“I don’t know but I guess we walked farther than we thought. Look! There’s the old pond down there,” said Susie pointing off to her right and her familiar smile returning to her face.

“Wow! Somehow we managed to walk completely around it and end up all the way up here.”

“How do we get down there? I sure don’t want to go back the way we came.”

Johnny then pointed to the right but lower than Susie had, “It looks like there’s a trail over there that might take us down there. All we have to do is to follow this overhang till we get to it.”

Beaming at Johnny, Susie said, “Well? What are we waiting for?”

“I think we need to thank God for getting us out of the forest.” 

“That’s right, Johnnie, we do. Let’s do it now.”

Once again they joined in prayer. “Thank you, Lord for bringing us out of the forest.  Now help us to get back to the farm safely.” They looked at each other and both said, “Amen!”

So off they went walking along the edge of the overhang and sometimes hanging onto tree branches to keep their balance. 

Just as they approached the trail, they realized that they would have to cross a shallow, but wide and mostly frozen over creek to get to it.

After looking at the creek Johnny turned to Susie and said, “Whoa! That looks too wide to jump.”

Susie began craning her neck looking up and downstream to see if there was another spot they could cross. “The underbrush is too thick to try anywhere else. It looks like we have to cross here or go back through the woods.”

Just then Johnny spotted a low branch hanging over the creek. “You know, we might be able to grab that branch and swing across.” 

Before Susie could respond, Johnny had jumped up to grab the branch. He got a hold of it and began to swing but couldn’t hold on all the way across. He dropped onto the icy creek bed and his feet immediately began to slide downstream. 

Susie watched in horror as Johnny began to fall and reached out to catch him but only succeeded in grabbing his coat pocket. That grip on Johnny pulled her off balance toward the creek bed and she fell toward him. 

Soon the two of them were sliding down the iced over creek bed like it was a bobsled course. Johnny was feet first with Susie still gripping his pocket going down headfirst. 

They careened downhill at getting faster by the minute, all the time bouncing off of the creek sides until they eventually shot out of the creek bed and across the old pond. At that point, they began spinning around like cartwheels. 

They eventually came to a stop near the far side of the creek where they sat up and tried to get their bearings. Johnny was just about to speak up when they heard a familiar voice, “If you two are done with your ice dancing, maybe you’d like a ride back to the house.”

They looked up to see Susie’s Grampa Johnny with his horse drawn wagon at the edge of pond chuckling. Susie and Johnny looked at each other and then they began to laugh too. 

 

Two Shepherds 

Two Shepherds  

Original story told by: God 

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

“Jacob, how long are you going to lie there and stare at the night sky?”

“As long as I need to Zebedee, I’ve been watching this star every night for the last several months, and it seems to be getting closer and closer every night. I can’t figure it out.”

“We need to get back to the flock; I’m worried that those Roman soldiers will decide to help themselves to a couple of our sheep while we are away from them.”

“All right, all right, I’m ready to go back now. I made a few notes on the position tonight. It looks like it is straight above that little village of Bethlehem. Maybe we’ll go in there in the morning and look around.”

“Help me gather up our things here, Jacob. You know, after this season is over, I’m going to head back up to Galilee and take my uncle up on his offer to teach me fishing and to set me up with a fishing boat. I am getting really tired of sleeping outside on the hard ground every night, watching a bunch of smelly sheep.”

“That sounds pretty good, Zebedee, but I like being out here. I especially like it at night when I can watch the stars. Ok, I’ve got the food; let’s get back to the sheep.”

The two shepherds head back over several small hills to the small field where they had left their herd. Jacob looks back over his shoulder at the star that has captured his imagination, and Zebedee scans the horizon for any signs of Roman patrols.

“Jacob, why does that star fascinate you so much? After all, the night sky is full of stars. What is so special about that one?”

“I don’t really know Zebedee, for some reason it reminds me of the Lord’s promise to send the Messiah. You know, I heard from a passing caravan yesterday that there was a strange caravan of royal astrologers in the area from some country far away to the east. I heard they were here because they had been following a star all the way from their country. I wonder if it’s the same star. I’d like to run into them and ask them a few questions.”

“Sounds kind of crazy to me. No one believes any of that Messiah stuff anymore.”

“But don’t you remember all the prophecies from synagogue school? One of them talked about a star!”

“Jacob, come on! All of that stuff is just old, tired stories to tell the kiddies at bedtime. If God was going to send a messiah, he wouldn’t have let us get conquered by the Romans. If He exists, He’s off doing other things and has cut us loose to take care of ourselves. Come on, we need to get back to the sheep.”

“I don’t care what most people think, Zebedee. I believe the stories, and I think that star has something to do with them. I just have a feeling about it.”

“Great! Wonderful for you. Me, I just want to get back to the sheep and get some sleep. All this stargazing is depriving me of some well-deserved sleep.” 

The two shepherds arrived back where they had left the sheep and begin laying out their sleeping gear and soon settle down for some sleep.

“Here we are, Zebedee. The sheep are right down there in that field all nestled in for the night, and we are here with them. Let’s call it a night. I sure wish that caravan from the east would come by here. I’d like to talk to those men.”

A couple of hours later:

 Zebedee awakes. He hears something that sounds like singing. Then, his eyes are almost blinded by a bright light.

“Jacob, what’s that in the sky? It can’t be morning already.”

“What? What do you want?” He cups his hand over his eyes. “Wow! That is really bright!”

“I’m scared,” said Zebedee.

“ I am too,” replied Jacob.

A third voice speaks. The voice seems to come from everywhere.

“Don’t be afraid!”

“Who said that?” asked Zebedee.

“Is that you, Simon?” asked Jacob, in a shaky voice.

“Don’t be afraid!” the voice repeated. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds just looked at each other. 

“Jacob,” said Zebedee, “remember all that stuff about not believing all those old stories?”

Jacob looked at his friend, smiled, and said, “Yes?”

“I’ve changed my mind. I do believe them now. ALL of them. Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

They hurried to the village and arrived just as the sun was coming up. After asking all around, they found Mary and Joseph in a stable with their baby boy, lying in the manger. 

When they saw Him, they both went weak in the knees, knelt, and worshiped Him. They told Mary and Joseph what had happened to them, and they both were amazed.  

Afterward, they told everyone they met what had happened and what the angel had said about this child and where to find Him. 

All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished. Many came to worship Him as well.

 

On the road with the Magi

On the road with the Magi

 

“Come on Melchior, you’ve read and reread that scroll a thousand times. Why do you need to read it again now? We need to get going, the star is moving!” shouted an exasperated Balthazar as he climbed onto his camel.

“Patience, my young friend. You are right I have read this a thousand times and probably more. It never ceases to thrill me. I worry though, that we might have misunderstood it in some way. So, I read it again to reassure me. I am ready now, let me just pack this away for safekeeping. Then I will be ready to go.”

“Alright, I am going to double-check the water bags. I’ll be right back.”

Melchior carefully rolled up the scroll, put it into a leather case, and then put that case into one of his bags attached to his camel.

A voice came from behind him, “Alright my brothers, we have many days of travel yet ahead of us and the star does not tarry. We must keep pace.”

“Thank you, Caspar, I have been trying to urge this aged one on but he insisted on reading the scroll again.” sighed Balthazar.

Caspar slid down from his camel and walked over to where Melchior was beginning to climb onto his. “Let me help you, my friend.”

“Thank you, Caspar. These old bones don’t travel like they once did. I am thankful that I am able to make this one last trip. I yearn to see the Holy One.”

“As do I, my friend. What scroll were you reading? I’ll wager that I know.”

“You are probably correct. I was again reading one of the scrolls left to us by Belteshazzar. What was his Hebrew name again?”

“It was Daniel. Was it the scroll of Isaiah?”

“Yes, how does it go again? Ah yes! `The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.’ We are following one light so that we can see the dawn of another. The star leads us to the birth of the Hebrew Messiah. What a great event that will be.”

Balthazar returned with bulging water bags and urged, “Now both of you are wasting time! Come my brothers we must move to keep up.”

The two older men laughed. Caspar helped Melchior up into his seat and then mounted his own camel.

“Let us move on my brothers. If we are to view this miraculous child, we must press on.”

With that, the three men on their camels headed west once again with these words ringing through their hearts, “For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Inspector Elliott McGinty

Inspector Elliott McGinty awoke with a sinking feeling. The last time this happened was when his waterbed had broken and flooded his bedroom. This time, however, he was not in bed. In fact, when he opened his eyes and looked up, he could see white, fluffy clouds in the blue sky above him. Then he realized that he felt wet. His arms felt wet and so did his legs.
Lifting up his head to look around, Elliott could see nothing but water all around him. He tried to prop himself up on his elbow to get a better look and discovered that he was on a small, wooden raft in the middle of what looked like the ocean. He licked his lips to discover a salty taste and the air also smelled like the sea.
“How did I get here?” He wondered.
Pulling up his legs, he got himself into a sitting position and realized that the raft, if that was indeed what it was called, was quite small and was barely large enough to hold his body. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a pair of ripped, faded blue jeans. If he had had any shoes on before, they were gone now and only white athletic socks covered his cold, wet feet.
He began wracking his brain for some memory of how he came to be where he was. It was then that he realized that he also had a tremendous headache. He reached up to touch his head and discovered a sizable and painful lump on the backside of his skull. He brought his fingers around so he could see them and a small amount of blood clung to his fingers. That caused him to look at the water surrounding him, just in case his blood had attracted any sharks.
It was then that he decided to check his pockets and found that they were all empty except for a small pocket knife and a waterlogged cell phone. Not particularly helpful. Then the water around him shifted texture and began changing shape. The slight ripples in the water began smoothing out. The raft also began changing shape into some sort of chair and the surrounding sea began reforming into a forest, tall and green.
As Elliott began to take in all the changes, his mind became confused and fuzzy. He began to see things he had never seen, or were these memories that had been long forgotten?

Interruptions …

I knew when I started on this project that it might be interrupted. That continues to happen as the countdown to Christmas goes on. I will get back to this project soon, I remembered that this is for future publication and is just now in a draft status. Pressure off, my apologies to my faithful readers. Life and editing work continue to claim my time.

Stories for Advent – Day 12

God’s Plan for Christmas

Christmas foretold by the Patriarchs

Moses

 

“Grampa said that he was going to talk to us about Moses tonight,” said Jon as he set out the mugs for their hot chocolate. “I was trying to remember everything I knew about Moses and couldn’t quite figure out how he was like Jesus.”

Sue pulled a bag of marshmallows out of the cupboard, cocked her head to one side, and responded, “I think it might be how he led the Children of Israel out of their slavery and took them to the promised land.”

“Yeah, that’s probably it, but Moses lived for, like a really long time. Didn’t he? And Jesus was only around for about thirty years.”

“I’m not sure how that fits into the story. I guess we’ll have to wait for Grampa to tell it.”

“Yeah, let’s finish getting the treats ready and hear what he has to say. He always seems to surprise me with his stories.”

“Yeah, me too.”

* * *

If everyone is settled, let’s get started. Tonight, our story comes from the first part of the book of Exodus. I wanted to talk about Moses because he was the next in the line of what we call the Patriarchs. That means that he was one of the fathers or main leaders of the Jewish faith. Moses was born at a time when things were getting really bad for the descendants of Jacob in Egypt. They had grown so large in number that they Egyptians were afraid of them, so they forced them into slavery. They were making them build the great cities of the land and even forcing them to make their own bricks for the buildings. They had gone from honored guests to despised slaves in just 400 years. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, even tried to keep them from having any more boy children and ordered the women helping the Hebrew women give birth to kill the boy children and only let the girls live. But, the Bible tells us that the midwives feared God and disobeyed.

Moses was born at this time to a couple from the tribe of Levi, and you might remember the story of how he was put into a basket of reeds and floated down the Nile River where he was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised like a prince in the royal household until one day when he went out to visit his own people and killed an Egyptian that was beating one of the Hebrew slaves. He ended up having to run away to the land of Midian. He was about forty years old when he runs away, and during the next forty years, he marries and has some children and becomes a shepherd. All that works out well for Moses, but his people are still suffering. They cried out to God, and he heard their prayers. At the right time, he chose to act. He called Moses.

God’s call of Moses is interesting because he uses a burning bush that wasn’t being burned up. That must have really caught Moses attention and amazed him, but God really got his attention when he spoke to Moses out of the middle of the bush and called him by name. You can read all about the details of this in Exodus chapter three. But, in the end, Moses returns to Egypt and, together with his brother Aaron, deal with Pharaoh and demand that the Children of Israel be let go. After a great deal of haggling and God inflicting the Egyptians with ten different plagues, the people were allowed to leave.

Moses led them through the desert, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness to a place called Mount Sinai. It was there that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and most importantly to our point tonight, God allowed Moses to see him face to face. That is where Jesus is like Moses. In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 18, verses 15 it says this:

“Moses continued, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites.”

You see, the people were afraid of the voice of God thundering down from the mountain in the midst of lightning and thunder. They thought that God might just kill all of them. But, God, in his tender mercy and love says this in verse 18: “Then the LORD said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.’”

This is his promise directly to the Children of Israel that he would send Jesus. Jesus knew the Father face to face like Moses did and would speak all the words that the Father commanded him to say. In the Gospel of John 12:49, Jesus says very clearly that “I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it.” Jesus says here exactly the same thing that Moses predicted he would say and do.

* * *

Grampa took a big drink from his hot chocolate and said, “So, can you see how God revealed Jesus in the life of Moses and predicted or foretold the promise of Christmas?”

Jon, sat there with his mouth open and moving but no words were coming out.

Sue reached over and pushed his chin up to close his mouth and said, “I think what Jon is trying to say is wow! It is more than amazing how not only planned it all out but also brought it to pass.”

Stanley was sitting quietly and finally just said, “Can I have the last cookie?”

Parents Corner

Well, if we were detectives looking for clues to tell us how much God loves us. I think that we are beginning to build up a lot of evidence that he loves us all very much. Who else would go to so much trouble to organize all of history to bring us just the perfect Christmas present?

In Acts 3:22, Peter shows us that he understood it and tells us these words of wisdom: “Moses said, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything He tells you.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories for Advent – Day 11

God’s Plan for Christmas

Christmas foretold to the Patriarchs

Jacob – Part Two

It was nearly story time when Sue found Grampa Johnny sitting in the big chair in the living room with his Bible open. He was sitting quietly, but it seemed like his lips were moving,

“Grampa Johnny are you all right,” Sue asked.

A smile spread across his face, and he replied, “I sure am Sue. I was just praying about tonight’s story. I was asking God to help me make it clear for you children.”

“What are you going to tell us about tonight?”

“There are still some special things about Jacob that we haven’t talked about and I was going to share those.”

Grampa Johnny straightened himself up in his chair and laid his open Bible on the side table, “I’ll tell you what, let’s go help those two boys get the story time snack ready and then let’s get started okay?”

Sue said excitedly, “That sounds great Grampa!”

She took his hand and led him toward the kitchen where the smell of Mrs. Johnsons Christmas baking still filled the air.

Soon they all filed back into the living room with cookies and warm cider and settled into their places.

Grampa Johnny began, “Last night we talked about Jacob’s life of walking with God began, tonight we’re going to talk about some bits at the end of his life. It goes like this …”

* * *

Jacob had lived a long full life and had ten sons. Their names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Joseph, and Benjamin. You might remember the stories about Joseph and how his other brothers despised him and sold him into slavery and how he ended up in Egypt. The life of Joseph is a really fascinating one because he also developed a very strong relationship with God, but it was primarily born out of the adversity Joseph experienced as a slave and prisoner. Joseph spent many years in Pharaoh’s prison, but it was while he was in prison that God gave him the gift of interpreting dreams. It was that gift and Joseph’s incredible talent for administration that God used to move him from a prisoner to the second most powerful man in Egypt and responsible for guiding Egypt through one of the most devastating periods of drought in that period of time.

Now God used all of that to bring Jacob and the rest of his sons and their families down into Egypt where they would live for 400 hundred years until God would raise another mighty servant to lead his people.

But, before that happened, Joseph received permission from Pharaoh to bring his father and the rest of his family. Jacob took a bit of convincing because he was very old and he knew that God had promised the land of Canaan to his descendants. But, he also knew that if they stayed in Canaan with the drought, they would all likely die. Jacob gave in and allowed the move to Egypt but not before he offered sacrifices at a place called Beersheba to the Lord, the God of his father Isaac. The Bible records this:

“During the night God spoke to him in a vision. “Jacob! Jacob!” he called. “Here I am,” Jacob replied. “I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.” So Jacob left Beersheba, and his sons took him to Egypt. They carried him and their little ones and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh had provided for them. They also took all their livestock and all the personal belongings they had acquired in the land of Canaan. So Jacob and his entire family went to Egypt—”

Genesis 46:2-6 (NLT)

The Bible goes on to tell us that Jacob lived for several more years in what was called the land of Goshen. They were separated there from most of the Egyptians because they despised shepherds. At the end of Jacob’s life, he called all of this sons together to bless them—one by one. When he got to Judah, he said this in Genesis 49:10, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the One to whom it belongs, the One whom all nations will honor.”

This was a prophecy from God saying that Judah’s line would be a royal line and we know that King David was from the tribe of Judah and that the line would continue through the ages right down to Jesus. So, we can see that God was preparing for Christmas even in the midst of extreme upheaval for Jacob’s family. Tomorrow we’ll see how that progressed through the slavery of Jacob’s descendants and God’s call of Moses to help free them and bring them to the promised land.

* * *

Jon swallowed the big bite of cookie he was chewing and said, “That was really interesting, Grampa Johnny. God took the time to reassure Jacob that the move to Egypt was a good thing. Sometimes I get afraid of changes and want to know that I am doing the right thing. I guess staying close to God can really help my confidence in situations like that.”

Sue nodded, “I also think it was really cool that God also used him to predict something way off in the future like who Jesus the Messiah would be descended from. God took a lot of care with his Christmas preparations even though they took thousands of years to come about.”

Grampa Johnny smiled, “It kind of puts your mother’s and father’s Christmas preparations into perspective. When they do a lot of things to get everything in place so you can have a wonderful Christmas, it doesn’t seem like so much work when they ask you to help. Right, Stanley?”

Stanley kind of scowled, “Okay, I’ll be more cheerful about keeping my room clean, Grampa.”

Grampa Johnny chuckled and said, “That would certainly be a great place to start.”

Parents Corner

God planned out the details of Jesus life like where He was going to be born when He would be born, who His parents were going to be just like he plans out our lives. He plans these things for us because He loves us and cares for us more than we will ever know. Thank God tonight for His infinite love. For loving us so much that He pays attention to the smallest details of our lives before we are even born.