Something new…

I am going to try something new…

I am going to post excerpts from my current works in progress and ask you, my readers, for some feedback. Let’s start with a story that started out to be a very short story and has just kept growing of its own accord. Here it is:

Night Lights in the Forest

By: Steve Mathisen

Chapter One

They’re back! And right on schedule, too! Emmy put a check in the upper right hand corner of the date on her calendar, picked up her journal, opened it to the page for today and began to write.

If I’m right, it’s the last night of the five night cycle for this month and I need to find out what they are. My mind is made up, I’m going tonight! Emmy closed her journal, laid it on her bed and waited for her sister to fall asleep.

She remembered her father’s words after she asked if she could go out and see them up close, “No! There are things out there at night Emmy, wild and dangerous things!” That only made her more curious.

Emmy hadn’t seen any wild and dangerous things from her window. So, she determined to sneak out to see what the lights and tinkling bells were all about.

She had noticed they only showed up for the five nights around the full moon cycle each month. This was the third month running. This was the final night of the cycle. If she didn’t go tonight, she’d have to wait another month to see if they came back.

Emmy sat in the window seat watching the lights and listening for her little sister’s breathing to become slow and steady. Nine year old Gigi normally followed her everywhere. She didn’t want her tagging along tonight.

When Gigi finally seemed to be asleep, Emmy slipped quietly out of bed, dressed, grabbed a flashlight and crept slowly down the back stairs being careful to tightly grip the rail so she could step over the two steps that creaked.

In the kitchen, Emmy headed for the back door. Booger’s head came up immediately and she shushed their old hound dog. As she attempted to open the door and step over him, Booger chose that precise moment to stand so that she was awkwardly straddling him and trying to hold on to the door knob so she wouldn’t fall. She stifled a giggle and swung her left leg over him and step onto the stoop. Booger turned to follow her. She bent down, took his head between her hands and looked into the eyes of her old friend. She could see his determination to follow wherever she was going. Her constant companion for many years was now mostly old and tired. Sleeping in the kitchen seemed to be all he had energy for, until now.

Rather than argue, Emmy decided taking Booger along wasn’t such a bad idea. He might not be able to fight off any night creatures, but he could still howl with the best of ‘em. So she held the door open for him to come out and then let it go. She suddenly remembered and caught the screen door just before it slammed, grabbed her chest and held her breath for just a moment in an effort to force her heart to slow down. Then she headed off into the darkness toward the night lights in the forest with Booger following close behind.

Crossing the field, Emmy thought about all the nights she spent watching what she thought were fireflies. Somewhere in the back of her mind she remembered something odd that Daddy had said when she talked about watching the fireflies. She couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Mostly she remembered the faraway look he got in his eyes and the fear that flashed across his face. Emmy momentarily shivered at the thought of Daddy being afraid of anything.

Emmy looked up into the millions of stars twinkling in the clear night sky. A full moon peeked out from behind a solitary cloud. She inhaled the late summer sweet air and noticed just a hint of the smell of the creek that ran through their farm.

Her jeans kept the tall grass from thrashing her legs as she walked through it. The air was warm and moist but cooler than in the house. Crickets chirped and fireflies swarmed so, for the first time, she noticed that fireflies were much smaller than the lights she had seen from her window. That realization strengthened her resolve.

 

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Zacchaeus and Me – Part 3

This time was very different. Uncle Zach was so excited about having Jesus come to dinner at our house that he invited almost the whole town. He even invited the people that were calling him a sinner and scum. Some of them turned out to be the men that were in charge of the synagogue. I think that they were called Rabbis or Pharisees or Scribes or something. Well, he invited just about everybody in town.

When Jesus arrived with his friends, I went up to a place on the roof so that I could sit and watch everything going on in the courtyard and stay out of the way. I could see Uncle Zach talking to Jesus when I heard him say the strangest thing. Jesus was sitting down and Uncle Zach looked Him in the eye and said, “I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much.”

It got real quiet in the courtyard that day. People could not believe what they had heard my uncle say. Then Jesus spoke loudly so that everyone could hear, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.”

Now, I didn’t understand all of that but later I went downstairs. I wanted a closer look at this Jesus for myself. Uncle Zach found me and excitedly took me to Jesus and introduced me directly to Him. I couldn’t believe that I was standing there with Him. I just stood there, staring. I didn’t know what to say. But, Jesus bent down and took my hand and looked me right in the eye. He told me that He was very, very glad to meet me. I still couldn’t speak. It was like He was reaching right inside of me and touching my heart. I stood there and stared at Him for another long minute and then I rushed over to Him and just hugged Him for all I was worth. He hugged me back real strong and I felt warm and tingly all over my outsides and my insides. Somehow, I just knew that He loved me more than anyone else ever had or could. He loved me more than my Uncle Zach and even more than my mom and dad. I just knew that knowing Jesus and loving Him was the most important thing in my whole life.

I realized later that Jesus came to Jericho just to meet my Uncle Zach and me. Our lives would never, ever be the same. For instance, Uncle Zach went all over town to find people that he collected too much tax money from and gave the extra money back…just like he told Jesus that he would. And then he would give them four times as much as he took wrongly…. just like he told Jesus he would. Uncle Zach really changed after he met Jesus. He became the nicest man I ever knew. People in town didn’t run and hide from him anymore. He made lots of friends and our house became a place that people liked to come and visit.

My life changed too. I worked a lot harder at making new friends and being a good friend. I also told all of my new friends about the time that Jesus came to town to meet my Uncle Zach…and me.

Do you know Jesus? Do you know that He loves you more than anyone else in the whole world ever could? Would you like to meet Him too? If you don’t know Jesus and want to meet Him, talk to your Sunday school teacher or one of your church leaders or your parents and ask them to help you to know Him. Do it today!

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If you like these stories, consider buying my book on Amazon. It has this and many other stories.

http://tinyurl.com/nxwps7f

Zacchaeus and Me – Part 2

I ran inside to tell my Uncle Zach that Jesus was coming and he got a real curious look on his face. A look like he could see something far, far away that I couldn’t see. Then, he jumped up and ran out of the house. I followed him as long as I could, but I couldn’t keep up with him for very long. Even though he was pretty short, he could really run fast.

When I finally caught up with him, he was trying to see Jesus in the crowd, but he had a problem. You see Uncle Zach is really short. I mean that he is really, really short. When I was about 10, he was just a little taller than me. You should have seen him trying to see Jesus. He tried to push through the people to get to the front of the crowd, but no one would let him through. He tried running around to the edge of the crowd, but people kept blocking his way. Finally, he shinnied up a Sycamore tree and was watching the crowd of people with Jesus walk by. There were a lot of people there that day. I had never seem so many people before and I could hear them talking about Jesus, so I figured that Jesus had to be in the middle of that crowd.

I went over to the tree that Uncle Zach had climbed and tried to climb up after him, but I couldn’t do it. That’s when I heard him speak for the first time. Jesus, I mean. He was telling my Uncle Zach to come down from the tree because he was going to have dinner with us. He said, “Zacchaeus! Quick, come down for I must be a guest in your home today.”

The crowd got really quiet for a minute and then people started complaining that Jesus was going to have dinner in the house of a sinner. They were calling my Uncle Zach a sinner! They called him scum! That made me real mad! Those people were saying that Uncle Zach was a sinner just because he collected taxes for the Romans!

Anyway, Uncle Zach jumped down from that tree and ran home faster than I’d ever seen! You should have seen him leaving a cloud of dust, holding his robe up so that it didn’t get in the way of his legs as they ran. It was a little funny to watch.

By the time I got home, all the servants were running around like crazy getting the house ready for a big dinner. I had never seen such a commotion. Except for the Roman soldiers that stopped by once a month to pick up the tax money, we didn’t get many visitors.

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If you like these stories, consider buying my book on Amazon. It has this and many other stories.

http://tinyurl.com/nxwps7f

 

A final story from the book…

Zacchaeus and Me

Luke 19: 1-10

My name is Jonah. You don’t know me but maybe you know about my uncle Zaccheaus? I’ve always just called him my Uncle Zach. That’s a lot easier to say than Zacchaeus. He’s been taking care of me ever since I was very little. My parents both died when they were attacked by robbers on the highway to Jerusalem from our home in Jericho. He was the only family left to me and he took me into his home and raised me ever since, just like I was his own son.

Most people in our town thought that Uncle Zach was just a rich thief before he met Jesus, but they don’t know him the way that I knew him back then. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t what you would call a really nice man. But, he worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed.

It was shortly after he took me in that I realized how rich he was. The Romans had conquered our country and appointed all of our government rulers. Uncle Zach was a tax collector for the Romans in our town. He was not only a tax collector for our town, he was also the head tax collector, so all of the surrounding town tax collectors brought the taxes that they collected to him. He kept part of what he collected and he took part of the money that the other tax collectors brought to him and then he paid the Romans what they were supposed to get. That made him very, very rich.

There were a few problems with that though. People in our town didn’t talk to us much. Most of the other kids wouldn’t play with me at school, especially once their parents learned who my uncle was. It was really lonely. Nobody liked Uncle Zach very much and because I was his nephew, they didn’t like me either. They didn’t like anyone that worked for the Romans. They especially didn’t like anyone that collected taxes for the Romans. People hated the Romans. They hated paying taxes to Rome and to the temple in Jerusalem. They especially didn’t like the fact that Uncle Zach could collect as much tax as he wanted. He just had to pay the Romans their share. He always collected extra. He told me that he just collected enough for an honest wage, but we sure lived well.

We lived in a really nice house. It was a really big house. It was the only one in town with a really big open courtyard in the middle of the house. It had lots of trees and a garden and a fountain and stuff. We also had places on the roof that we could go up and sit or sleep on hot nights. We had servants and horses and a chariot and sheep and goats and big fields to grow our food and plenty of everything that we could possibly want or need. Uncle Zach said that if we couldn’t have friends, we should at least be comfortable. But, all of that was before he met Jesus. That’s what I really want to tell you about. That was a really great day!

It began pretty much like any other day. It was warm and dry and a little windy. I was outside playing in the courtyard with my toy soldiers when I heard the people running by shouting that Jesus was coming to our town. There were rumors that there was a prophet who healed people and talked the way that no one else ever had about God. His name was Jesus and he was different from anybody else that I had ever heard of. People said that he could do anything.

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If you like these stories, consider buying my book on Amazon. It has this and many other stories.

http://tinyurl.com/nxwps7f

Jairus Daughter – Part 3 – Final Part

Papa walked directly over to the crowd of people and pushed his way toward the man at the center of all the attention. I was right behind him when he suddenly stopped in his tracks, coming face to face with the most unusual man I had ever seen. I then saw something that I had never seen before in my life. Papa got fully down on the ground. He was laying face down right in the dirt and was almost shouting so that the man could hear him really well. Papa was pleading with the man to heal his little daughter. “She is about to die,” he said in desperation. “Please come and place your hands on her; heal her so she can live.” I had never heard Papa talk that way before. I was amazed.

Well, by now I had figured out that this man was Jesus. He bent down and took Papa by his hand, pulling him up to his feet. Jesus looked him right in the eye and said to him, “Take me to her.” Papa stared into Jesus’ eyes for what seemed like a really long time and then he did something else that surprised me. He said in a very reverent tone, “Yes, rabbi.” and then began to quickly lead Jesus back up the street toward our house. I took off running as fast as I could back to the house so that I could tell Mama that Papa was coming home and bringing Jesus with him. Just before I reached the door of our house I heard people wailing and moaning. I had heard those sounds before, when someone had died. I got a real sick feeling in my stomach that something really bad had happened. I ran inside to find Mama and the other women wailing over Naomi. They were lamenting that she was dead. “Oh, NO!” I thought to myself, not after what Papa had just done, risking everything by defying his friends from the synagogue. Jesus is getting here too late.

I just stood there for a minute looking at my sister. She didn’t look dead to me. She couldn’t be dead. She was too young. This couldn’t happen to my sister. I was suddenly overcome with a deep sadness. And then I felt angry that God would allow this to happen. I was very angry. Then I heard a lot of voices outside. Papa must be arriving with Jesus. Mama was going out the door to stop them from coming in. I ran out right behind her to see what was going on. One of the women had sent a message to Papa telling him not to bother bringing Jesus, that it was too late. When I got outside, I could see them talking. Mama and Papa were both standing there with Jesus in the street outside of our home. One of the women kept repeating that Naomi was dead and that they should not come into the house. She said that they needed to begin the preparation of the body for burial and that Jesus would be in the way.

Mama and Papa looked at each other and then they both looked at Jesus as if he was going to tell them what to do. He did. He looked at each of them and then said, “Don’t listen to them and don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” He then moved past them toward the house. People were laughing at him, but he just ignored them. On the way in he told everyone to move away from the house. He called to Mama and Papa and to three of his disciples to follow him. They all went in the house with him. I ran over to the window so that I could see in. When I got there, Jesus was telling the other people that were in the house to leave. No one argued. They just left. Somehow people just obeyed him. Once everyone was outside except Mama, Papa, Jesus and his three disciples, he went to where Naomi laid, leaned over, took her by the hand and said to her, “Get up little girl.” I tell you it was like she had just been lying there waiting for him to show up and say that. She just popped right up as though nothing had ever been wrong with her. She looked at Jesus for a minute, put her hand on top of his hand and smiled at him.

Then she got up and walked right over to Mama and Papa and hugged them. It was amazing! I ran inside and got a hug of my own. I then looked at Jesus. He also looked at me. I felt something warm inside of me when he did that. I knew at that moment, deep in my heart that he had been sent from God. I understood later that He was the Son of God. But, anyway, life was never the same after that for my family.

Before Jesus left, he made sure that Mama got something for Naomi to eat. He wouldn’t stay to eat himself, but we made it a point to take food to him and his disciples every time they passed through our town. We all became followers of Jesus. I still didn’t understand a lot of things but I did understand that God loves us and cares for us more than we can ever imagine. And I will never forget the day that God sent Jesus to our house to prove how much He loves us.

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If you like these stories, consider buying my book on Amazon. It has this and many other stories.

http://tinyurl.com/nxwps7f