Dinner with the Queen – Part 3

Sue and Jon walked into the high school meeting room together. This was their first year in the high school group, and they paused a moment to take it all in. The church had been able to remodel a couple of years before and added the youth wing which had a large room with theatrical lights, a huge sound system and room for a band to set up and play on the stage. There were also eighteen round tables with chairs around them on the main floor. Several dozen students and staff were either sitting at the tables or standing around in small groups.

Some of the latest Christian songs played from the sound system. A series of pictures displayed on the back wall changing periodically.

Jon pointed to the coffee bar. He and Sue walked over to it. Jon ordered their coffee. Andrea jammed in between them, bouncing with the music.

“Isn’t this great?” she said looking back and forth between them.

Sue turned to her. “Yeah, it is. Where are you sitting?”

Andrea pointed, “Over there to the left of the stage. I have my stuff on the chairs.”

“Jon and I will be over as soon as we get our coffees, ok?”

“Yup!”

Sue watched Andrea bounce as she walked back to the table.

“Here they are,” said Jon. Yours is the Peppermint Mocha, extra hot and mine is…”

“An Americano with chocolate and cinnamon, right?”

“Uh, yeah…predictable, huh?”

“Yeah, but I like that.” Sue smiled. “Let’s go sit down, Andrea’s holding seats for us.”

“Pastor Rene look’s like he’s ready to start, too.”

They hurried to their seats, and a young man with dark hair and a huge bright smile stepped up to the microphone.

“If you guys will all take your seats, I’d like to get started. I hope you’ve enjoyed the special mix of tunes this morning by Jimmy Barski. I especially liked how he matched up his own photography with the music. Let’s give Jimmy a hand.”

In his seat, behind the control console, Jimmy flushed a bright red color but smiled broadly.

“Ok, this morning we’re going to begin a series in the OT. That’s Old Testament for you new guys.”

A few groans and Oh, moans came from the crowd.

“I know, I think most people think the OT only shows an angry God bent on vengeance against His enemies and unruly children. Oh, and long lists of begats. Booorrriing! Right? There is so much more to it than that. The Old Testament is over 75 percent of our Bible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that God is going to waste over three-quarters of His message to us with stuff people won’t even read. This morning I want to introduce to you the only book in the Bible that doesn’t even mention God.”

“What?” they said, murmuring to themselves like a flock of restless birds.

Sue looked at Jon, and both of them began turning to the book of Esther in their Bibles.

“I thought that might get your attention. I hear a few pages turning. That’s good. This book does not mention God by name, but the work of His hand is obvious in His provision for His people. Our story happens about midway during the seventy-year period when many Jewish people are held captive by Babylon.

Before we get into the story, I want to tell you now that some people find it hard to apply any lessons from this book to their modern lives. As we go through the story over the next several weeks, I am going to challenge you to come up with ways to apply the lessons from this story in your lives. My weekly lessons will be brief but followed by discussion periods at your tables led by staff leaders.

Please open up your Bibles to the book of…Esther!”

 

“Ok, what did you guys think of what Pastor Rene had to say? Do you think God was at work in the life of Esther and the Hebrews in Babylon?”, asked Jenny Smith, the 32-year-old mom of three who was their group’s staff leader.

Silence.

“Oh, come on guys. How about if we go around the table? Andrea?”

“Um, I’m not so sure. I didn’t hear or see any reference to God in the book. I know Pastor Rene said it was clear to him, but — it’s just not that clear to me.” Andrea glanced at Sue. “What if we were talking about today? How would we know God was at work in a situation?”

Jenny smiled, “That is an excellent question and one we hope to answer by the end of our study of Esther. Jon?”

“Oopth, I jutht took a bite of cookie. Jutht a thec,” Jon said holding a finger in the air while he took a big swig of his coffee, swallowed and then grinned. “Ok, whew! Thanks! I think it’s hard to tell sometimes. We get caught up in only what we can see and hear and taste and feel. It’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture to see Him working.”

“Excellent thoughts, cookie boy,” Jenny winked and smiled at Jon who was known for his love of cookies. “Sue? You always have interesting insights.”

Sue smiled and set her coffee down next to her Bible. “I want to agree with both Andrea and Jon. Sometimes we just don’t know. Listening to Pastor Rene, I can see it in the story of Esther. We don’t live our daily lives in retrospect though. Things are happening every minute that can affect us and those around us and looking at the bigger picture can sure help, but it’s hard to do that in real life sometimes. For me, I just have to trust God and lean on him because He does have the bigger picture and our best interests and happiness at heart.”

Jimmy had excused himself from the table and was starting up the closing music.

Jenny spoke a bit louder to be heard over the music, “It seems that our discussion will be cut short because Pastor Rene went a bit long. I hope to see all of you back here next week for the conclusion of Esther. Take some time to read or re-read the book of Esther. Take a look at how God might be at work in your life. Let’s pray. Thank you, God, for loving us and coming to die for us. Help us to see you at work in the world around us. Help us to be your eyes and ears and hands in a world that knows you not. Amen”

The music revved up as Jimmy continued the musical/photographic collage he was running before the class. People began gathering their things, talking and laughing.

Andrea joined Sue and Jon, who were talking to Jenny. They opened up their grouping to include her. Sue turned to her and said, “Are you ready to head into service? We need to get moving if we want our usual seats.”

Andrea, up on her toes, looked anxiously around the room. Frowning, she lowered herself to her normal height and saw Sue looking at her. Smiling, she said, “Huh, oh yeah! I’m ready. Save me a spot. I need to stop at the ladies on the way.” With that, she spun on her heel and headed away.

Sue watched her friend walk away.

Jenny turned to leave and said, “I need to go get my kids from their classes. See you guys later?”

Jon and Sue both looked at her and smiled. Sue said, “You bet, Jenny. See ya. Say hi to Noah and Grace for me.”

Jon leaned into Sue so he could be heard without shouting. “What’s with Andrea? She seems to be bugged by something.”

Sue spoke to Jon’s ear, “I have an idea, but — I’m not sure. Could you go get our seats? I’m going to find her and check. We’ll join you before the music is over. Okay?”

“Sure, see ya soon.”

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Dinner with the Queen – Part 2

Seattle – Present Day

The doorbell rang at the cozy three-bedroom craftsman home of the Johnson family.
“Stan, would you get the door? Please? It’s probably Jon and Andrea and I’m not ready yet!” A young female voice called from the upstairs bathroom.
Stan put down his cereal spoon, stood up and yelled back up the stairs, “I know, I know, Susie, I already figured that out. They always show up to walk to church with us on Sundays.”
“Stan! Call me Sue. I’m fourteen now and Susie is a kid’s name.”
“Oh yeah, right and I’m ten. So, it’s my job to annoy you, Susie!”
“Oh, thanks Stanley!”
“Ok, ok! I’m going, I’m going! Sue!”
Stan opened the front door. “Hi Jon, hi Andrea, come on in. Sue is still upstairs. I’m just finishing my breakfast.”
Jon put his hand on Stan’s shoulder. “Let’s go see what kind of goodies your mom left out in the kitchen, Stan.”
Andrea shouted up the stairs, “Ok if I come up? Jon and Stan are headed to the kitchen.”
“You bet! I’m in my room.”
Andrea bounded up the stairs, went straight to the first bedroom on the right, bounced onto the bed, fell flat on her back blew out some air and said, “Oh man!”
“What’s up, Andrea? You sound frustrated.”
“Oh, nothing. Just everything all at the same time.”
“Huh? If you’re trying to confuse me, it’s working.”
“It’s Jack, you know…”
“I know, you’ve been talking about him non-stop for the last few weeks. What’s the problem? Is he moving to the moon?
”Almost Sue, he’s moving to Vermont!”
“What?”
“His dad got a teaching job at a college in Burlington, Vermont and they have to be there in five days!”
“Wow! That’s fast, but you two never actually had a thing, right?”
“Well, no, not really. It’s just that…I wanted to. And now he is moving away.”
Sue turned to look at her friend and saw a tear welling up in her eye.
“You know.” Sue sat down on the bed beside Andrea. “Maybe God has someone or something better in mind for you.”
“Yeah? Well, I sure wish he would tell me what it is.”
“Andrea, I don’t think it works that way.”
“I’m just saying that a little clarity would be good. I don’t really need a big billboard or anything. I just want some kind of clear sign that this is ok and he has some other plan for me. All I know is that I feel cruddy.”
Sue leaned over and looked her friend in the eye. “Do you want to pray about it?”
“Nah, thanks though. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest. Thanks for listening, Sue.”
Sue stood up and picked up her purse and her Bible, “Well, if you don’t mind I’m going to pray for you anyway.”
“Cool! Thanks!” Andrea popped up off of the bed. “Hey, how about if I run ahead and get us some seats in the high school room. I might be able to see Jack and, and…say goodbye or something.”
“That’d be great! Thanks!”
“Ok, see ya!”
Andrea flew down the stairs and out the door in a flash,
Following, Sue walked down the stairs praying for her friend. She prayed that Andrea might see God’s hand at work in her life without needing big signs.
Sue concluded her prayer with. “Lord, please help me to be as firm in my belief as I hope I sounded to Andrea. Sometimes, I have trouble seeing it and believing it myself. Amen.”

Choosing to continue …

I have decided to continue with this blog and to publish the writing I am currently doing on it in a serialized fashion. I am going to resume writing my story that is currently called The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen. I had gotten to a point with it where I was stuck. The actual story of Esther takes place over a period of years and wasn’t something I could throw the kids into and get them out of quickly with any sort of continuity. I figured a way out of that and will be working on that. In the meantime, I will repost the beginning of the story again. I am more hopeful of moving forward with it because I was able to add another 1100+ words to it today in about an hour.  So, here we go!

The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen

Chapter One

Babylon – 480 BC

“Is there enough food and wine for everyone?” The queen asked of no one in particular.

A tall, muscular young man behind her stepped forward and answered quickly, “Yes, your majesty. All is as you requested. Everyone is being given whatever they ask for. No request is denied.” He then bowed low and assumed his previous position.

The sun-splashed walls of the queen’s pavilion, decorated with the same white cotton curtains and blue wall hangings the queen had chosen for the king’s pavilion, echoed with conversation and laughter. Queen Vashti paused, golden goblet in hand and listened to the laughter and conversation and watched her many guests. Very proud of what she saw, Vashti smiled. Surely this will make King Xerxes proud of me. I am his equal in every way.

The entire kingdom of the Medes and Persians had been celebrating for one hundred and eighty days and were now in the final day of seven days of feasting. All men were welcome at the king’s feast and all women were welcome at the queen’s feast where the food and wine flowed abundantly and freely.

In the hallway, six men jostled each other and joked as they walked down the hall approaching the queen’s pavilion. They stopped at the doorway, formed a line and assumed a more serious demeanor. The two on the outer ends stepped forward and opened the massive double doors and standing erect, held them open while the other four stepped forward.

The room grew quiet as the six tall, lean and muscular men dressed in the style of the eunuchs of the royal household, entered. Several of the women whispered quietly, a few giggled.

Harbona, the tallest, stepped forward and announced loudly, “His Royal Majesty, King Xerxes of the mighty empire of the Medes and Persians, sends his greetings and requests the presence of  Queen Vashti at the king’s feast, wearing her royal crown.” He then bowed and stepped back into line with his companions.

Queen Vashti rose but kept her back to the eunuchs, “Why does the king request the queen’s presence wearing her royal crown?”

Harbona stepped forward again and replied, “The king wishes for the nobles and all of the other men to see your great beauty, your majesty.”

Queen Vashti turned to face Harbona, her cheeks flushed. “Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests. That is all, you may leave.”

Harbona bowed. “As you wish, your majesty.”

The six did an about face and left the room, closing the doors behind them.

The queen slowly returned to her seat and attempted to resume conversation; the room quickly filled with murmuring.

No one had ever defied the King before.

 

Harbona and the others entered the king’s banquet room discreetly and quietly. With a slight quaver in his voice he said, “Your Majesty?”

King Xerxes, turned slowly. Behind him, Harbona and the other five eunuchs stood stiff at attention, in a straight line.

“Where is the queen?”

“Um, may the king live forever…”

“Come on, out with it, Harbona!”

“Your majesty. The queen sends her regrets that she will be unable to join you this evening.”

Xerxes leaned forward.

“Were those her exact words?”

Harbona flushed and looked at the marble floor.

“No, your majesty. They were not.”

“Then tell me exactly what she said!”

Harbona repeated her words exactly.

Xerxes lept up, his face turning bright red.

“Say that again, louder, for all to hear!”

“Queen Vashti said, ‘Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests.’”

Xerxes eyes began to bulge out. He sputtered and then shouted, “How dare she defy her King?”

The room fell silent.

No one had ever defied the King before.

The King immediately departed the banquet hall and called a meeting of his seven most trusted advisors, men who knew the law better than anyone in the kingdom, the most powerful men in the empire.

“What can I do about this supreme embarrassment? No one has ever defied me — or any king — before. And to have the queen be the first? Something must be done. Tell me, what does the law say?”

Memucan, the leader of the seven solemnly stood and said, “Queen Vashti has committed an act that not only wronged the King, she has set a precedent for all women everywhere in the empire. If she is not dealt with severely, the wives of every noble and citizen will begin to defy and despise their husbands once they hear of the Queen’s defiance.”

“We would like to suggest that the king issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes which cannot be revoked. Order that Queen Vashti forever banished from your presence, King Xerxes. We also think it wise that the king should choose another to be his  queen, one more worthy than she. We will publish this decree throughout the empire.  Husbands everywhere, of every rank, will receive from their wives, their due and proper respect!”

The king sat and thought about this for several minutes. No one dared disturb him. Finally, he stood and said simply, “Do as you say.”

And so the decree was written, sealed with his royal ring by the king’s highest advisor  and sent to all corners of the empire. Queen Vashti was taken on a caravan to a place outside the empire which stretched across one hundred and twenty seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia and she was never heard from again.

After the King’s anger left him, he missed his queen. His personal advisors offered to search the empire far and wide for another queen. “Let us send envoys to each province to bring back only the most fair and beautiful young women to the royal harem. Then the king may choose, from among them, a new queen more worthy than Vashti.”

The king was very pleased by this idea and sent them forth to find a new queen.

The Unforgiving Servant – Conclusion

Johnny’s head was not sure now if he was coming or going. This was all too strange and an awful lot like that Bible story that he read before bed last night. He had to think.

But Jimmy interrupted his attempt at figuring this all out, “Come, brother” he said, “it is time that we go to our duties for the day.”

Johnny followed Jimmy down a long steep stairway, out of the building, along a walkway that seemed to be wedged in between a stable and a long series of workshops. They walked for quite awhile and Johnny could see that most of the men and boys were dressed much the same as he and Jimmy were. He saw no women or girls. Finally, Jimmy turned into a building that was very large on the inside. In fact, it seemed to be larger on the inside than it was on the outside. That was a very curious feature.

Inside this building were tall stacks of grain and other types of food. This was the King’s warehouse where he kept all of his supplies and trade goods. Jimmy took Johnny over to one wall where many tools were kept.

“Jonathan, take up your broom and begin your daily duties. Today we sweep the floors.” Jimmy said as he grabbed a broom and began walking toward the sacks of barley and oats.

Johnny heard two men arguing in the next aisle way. One was saying to the other, “You owe me and you had better pay me or I will have you thrown in prison and your goods sold. That will get me my money.”

The other man pleaded “Please do not do this, I beg of you. I have a wife and a daughter and a son. Who will care for them?”

“Hah, I will take them as my slaves that will complete the payment! I will call the kings guards right away.”

As Johnny walked past the aisle where the two men were arguing, he recognized the one that was threatening the other as the one that the King had pardoned just before his audience with the king. The other one (the one with the daughter and son) looked a lot Pastor Johnson, Susie’s dad. “Oh, this is getting really creepy now,” he thought to himself.

The man who had been pardoned by the King (and who was also the master of the storehouse), had the other man taken to prison and ordered the Kings guards to confiscate his property and to deliver the man’s family to his estate as slaves. He laughed as the man was being taken away still begging and pleading for mercy.

About midday, when they stopped to rest and have some water and bread, there was a commotion over where the master of the storehouse sat. It seems that the King had heard about what he had done and sent his guards to bring him back to see the king. Johnny decided to follow at a safe distance. He followed them along the walkway that led past all of the shops and the stable, up the stairway and down the long hallway with all of the tapestries that led into the great hall where the King and Queen sat.

The King was furious, he yelled at the master of the storehouse, “You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

The King then turned that wicked, unforgiving master of the storehouse over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay back his debt.

Johnny was stunned. He ran back to the storehouse as quickly as his legs could carry him. He looked for Jimmy to tell him what had happened and told the story in quick bursts as he was still out of breath from running and was gulping air in great big breaths.

When Johnny was done, Jimmy looked at him and said, “Jonathan, my brother, we both know that the King is a loving and kind king. He can also be very harsh when he needs to be. But, perhaps you have just learned that he is also fair and just. The master of the storehouse got what he deserved. Because we have been forgiven, we need also to forgive others.”

With that, Jimmy picked up his broom and returned to his work. Johnny did the same and spent the rest of the day sweeping up the storehouse. Johnny thought to himself, “Well, if I am stuck here in this place, at least I have a kind king that is just and fair. I will just have to learn to do the best that I can.”

At the end of the day, they returned their brooms to the wall where tools were kept. After an evening meal; he and Jimmy spent time talking. Johnny had a lot of questions about this new kingdom he was now living in. After the sun was well down, Jimmy put out the little lamp that they had in their room. They wished each other a good night. Johnny stretched and felt a lot of soreness in muscles that he didn’t know that he had before. He dropped back into his bed exhausted from the day’s work and began to pray as he did each night. Whatever else had changed in his life, he was sure that God was still there. Johnny thanked him for the events of the day and prayed for Jimmy, the King, and Queen. Then he prayed for his family back where he came from. As he was doing that, he fell into a deep sleep.

When Johnny woke up the next morning, he opened his eyes to find that he was back in his own old bed, in his own old house, in his own time. He jumped out of bed and rushed to tell the story to his mom & dad. They listened with interest but kept looking at each other with confused looks on their faces. When he was done, his father put his arm around his shoulders and told him that it was a wonderful story and that he should write it down sometime. He ate his breakfast quickly because he couldn’t wait to get to Sunday school that morning. Boy did he have a story to tell!

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 3

Now, Johnny was really getting a little concerned because he never spoke that way before, but he followed Jimmy and wondered where they were going and what was going to happen because he really did not know anything about any chariot.

As he followed Jimmy, he looked around him and saw that the same rough style of furniture was everywhere, the walls were rough stone and walls had large tapestries hanging from where the ceiling meets the walls. This was very confusing. He was really trying hard to figure out where he was, when this was and who he was.

When they got to the main hall where the throne room was, James leaned over to Johnny and whispered, “Jonathan, since you seem to be out of sorts, I will remind you that you need to approach the king with your head bowed and then when you get close to the throne, get on your knees and say, ‘By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.’”

While they waited for Johnny’s turn, there was an older man there who was pleading with the king for mercy. You see he owed a very great deal of money to the king and was unable to pay back the sum and had been dishonest in many of his dealings for the king. After some talking with his advisors, the king had decided that the man should be sent to prison, his land and belongings sold and his family sold into slavery.

The man burst into tears, dropped face down on the floor and pleaded with the king for mercy. He said that he repented of his dishonesty and promised to be completely fair and honest from then on.

“Please do not deal so harshly with me and my wife and small children Your Majesty! I will faithfully serve you for the rest of my days!”

The King looked at the Queen and she nodded her head. The king forgave his debts, admonished him to be honest and faithful and let him go.

“Oh, thank you, sire. You will not regret this generosity at all. I will serve you faithfully and honestly from this day forward.”  Then he bowed nearly to the floor, backed away from the throne and nearly ran from the main hall talking excitedly.

Now it was Johnny’s turn. He took a quick look at Jimmy, nodded his head and walked slowly toward the throne. Even with his head bowed, Johnny took quick looks around the room, it was HUGE! The ceilings in this room seemed to reach up to the sky. There were very tall windows on each side, making the room very light and much cooler than the rest of the castle. As he approached the throne there was a very large, thick carpet.

The king looked sort of familiar.

Finally, he reached the appointed spot and kneeled down as Jimmy had told him and said loudly, “By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.”

There was a long silence and then a kindly voice said to him, “Rise, young Jonathan and face your King.”

Johnny stood up, took one look at the king and nearly fainted. Uncle Klaus was the King! Aunt Harriet was the Queen! Johnny shook his head and looked again and they were still there.

“Whoa! What was going on?” He thought to himself.

The king spoke again, “Young Jonathan, you have been a faithful servant and as a result, I advanced you enough gold to purchase a chariot that had captured your imagination. But, according to the Royal Treasurer, you have not kept up with the payments that you promised to make. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Johnny’s thoughts were racing around in his head trying to think of something to say, for he did not want to end up in prison, even if it was a dream prison. Johnny found himself bowing toward the king again and saying “Please, your majesty, if it pleases the King and his Queen, only allow me some more time. I am sure that I will be able to catch up on my payments. Please forgive your humble servant.” And with that, Johnny found himself back on his knees, head bowed low toward the floor.

Johnny could hear the Queen talking quietly to the King. He thought to himself, “She sure sounds like Aunt Harriet.”

Then the King spoke up, “Young Jonathan, the Queen and I have decided to forgive your debt due to your faithful service to us. Please rise. Your debt is forgiven. You may depart from our presence in peace.”

Johnny could not believe what he had heard. But, he decided that the best thing to do would be to thank them for their generosity and leave quickly before they changed their minds.

He bowed again and said, “Your servant is most grateful to his King and Queen. May you live forever! I pledge myself to you and will be indebted to you as long as I live.”

He began to back away from the thrones and, at the same time wondering, “Where did I learn to talk like that? This is VERY confusing.”

When he got back to where Jimmy was standing, waiting for him. He turned around, grabbed Jimmy by the arm and hurried out of the main hall.

“What just happened?” whispered Johnny to Jimmy. Jimmy stopped in his tracks in the hallway that headed back to their room. “The King and Queen just forgave you a huge debt that you could never repay.”

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 2

When Johnny got home, the phone rang and it was Mr. Christopherson on the phone.

“Johnny, how are you doing?”

“I’m fine Mr. Christopherson, how are you? Is there something that I can do for you?” asked Johnny.

“There sure is, Johnny. I have a favor to ask of you.”

Johnny responded, “Sure Mr. Christopherson, what is it?”

The voice on the telephone continued, “Could you help me act out a Bible story tomorrow? We are going to do the story of the Unforgiving Servant and I need a couple of you kids to help me with it. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

Johnny replied enthusiastically, “Wow! You bet Mr. Christopherson. I’d love to help!”

“Great Johnny, thank you. Take some time to read the story tonight before you go to bed so you will know it for tomorrow. You can find it in Matthew chapter 18, verses 23 through 34. Can you do that for me?” asked Mr. Christopherson.

“Absolutely, I wrote the reference down and I will read the story through a couple of times tonight. Thanks for asking me to help, Mr. Christopherson!” he said.

“You bet, Johnny. I knew that I could count on you. I’ll see you in the morning.” Mr. Christopherson said.

“Yes sir, Mr. Christopherson. Goodnight.” Johnny hung the phone and then wondered what part he was going to play.

After dinner, Johnny went to his room so that he could read the story that Mr. Christopherson asked him to read. He picked up his Bible and read it through three times, wondering which part he was going to play. He hoped that it was not going to be that unforgiving servant.

That evening while Johnny was getting ready for bed, his thoughts bounced back and forth between the bicycle in the window at Anderson’s Hardware, Uncle Klaus saying that he wanted to help Johnny get the money to buy the bike and the Bible story that he had read.

By the time that he said his bedtime prayers and laid down to go to sleep, the bike and Uncle Klaus and the Bible story were running into each other in his head, each demanding his attention…the next thing he knew was someone was shaking him.

“Jonathon! Jonathon! Wake up; the king wants to see you. He wants to see you NOW!”

Johnny rolled over away from the voice and said, “I don’t care who it is, I just got to sleep and want to go back to sleep. Whoever it is can wait until morning.”

The shaking kept on and the voice was even more excitedly trying to get his attention,

“Jonathan it is the KING, you have to get up and go to see him immediately or he will throw you into prison.”

Johnny was finally starting to wake up and understand what was being said. He rolled over to the edge of the bed, sat up and slowly opened his eyes. What he saw shocked and confused him. Instead of his neat and spacious bedroom with modern furniture, he saw a rough stone floor, with rough wooden furniture.

The person trying to wake him up looked a lot like Jimmy Barski, but he had a really funny haircut and was wearing some kind of dress and sandals.

He was too shocked at first to say anything, but then Johnny tried to speak again and was able to say, “Who are you and where am I?”

“Oh Jonathan, you are always a jester, but now is not the time for His Majesty the King has called for all of his servants that he has loaned money to. He loaned you enough to buy that chariot that you are always racing around in. I am guessing that he wants to know when he is going to get paid back.”

Johnny was still trying to get his bearings and was wondering what Jimmy Barski was doing in his dream. He was sure that this was a dream. Maybe he shouldn’t have had that extra ice cream just before going to bed.

“Who are you,” Johnny asked. “Who am I? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Who am I? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Um, no,” Johnny said scratching his head.

“I am your brother James. Now, PLEASE, get up and go to the king. He is not a patient man.”

Johnny was beginning to realize that he was going to have to go along with Jimmy –or- James as he was calling himself. He reached down for his shoes and realized that all he had was a pair of leather sandals and he was wearing the same type of dress that Jimmy was. Not wanting to make any more of a fuss, he slipped his feet into the sandals and secured the straps.

Then he stood up and said, “I am feeling none too well, please lead me, brother.”

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 1

Johnny, breathing heavily, begins pumping his pedals furiously in an effort to put more distance between himself and that final, lone rider closest to him.

He leans and muscles the bike around several large trees, peddles frantically up a steep hill and then around a huge rock.

Surging to the top of the final hill, with the other rider hopelessly behind him, he surveys the final part of the course.

“And here he comes, Johnny Peterson over the last hill and is racing like a pro down the hill to the finish line. His closest competitor is almost a minute behind him. What a race Peterson has ridden today. He’s on track to set the all time course record for the junior division, folks!

Look at him take those moguls.

His arms look like he’s running a jackhammer.

He looks like he was born on that bike.

Here he comes to the finish line!”

Johnny grips the handlebars and pumps the pedals for the final push across the finish line and then, just as he crosses the line, straightens up and raises his hands in victory, punching the air.

“Look at him lifting his arms up in victory! Wow, what a day for…”

Crash! Crunch!

“Oops! I just knocked over that new breakfast cereal display with my broom handle. Wow, that made a lot of noise! I’d better get it picked up pronto…” said Johnny as starting picking of boxes of Wheatios with Razzleberries and setting up the display again.

By three o’clock that Saturday afternoon, Johnny was finishing sweeping the store for his Uncle Klaus. He picked up the dustpan full of dirt, carried it and the broom to the back room where the garbage can was. It was quitting time, so he took off his apron and hung it up on the hook that was marked with his name, grabbed his coat and hat from the hook next to it and walked through the wide swinging door that led back into the front of the store. His uncle was helping a customer at the meat counter so he looked for his Aunt Harriet so that he could ask if there was anything else that needed to be done before he left for the day.

“Aunt Harriet, I’ve finished the sweeping, and it’s three o’clock, is it alright if I go home now?”

Aunt Harriet was straightening up the canned soups and saw Johnny walking toward her with his coat and hat in hand. “You sure can Johnny, thanks ever so much for all the work that you did today on the produce displays. They look marvelous!” she said, smiling broadly at him.

“Wow, thanks. It was actually a lot of fun to see how neat I could get them especially the apples. I got them all turned just right and tried to get all the varieties evened up so that they all look the same.”

“Well, you did an excellent job; let’s go find your uncle so that he can pay you for this week’s work. I know that you are saving up for that bicycle in the window of Anderson’s Hardware store. Mr. Anderson tells me that you stop by to look at it nearly every day!” she laughed. Johnny felt a little embarrassed by her laugh and began focusing on his shoelaces and shuffled his feet around on the floor for a second and then followed her as she walked over toward the cash register.

Uncle Klaus was just finishing up with the customer that he had been helping with a meat order and smiled as he saw the two of them coming toward him.

He looked up at the clock on the back wall and said “Let’s see, its three o’clock on Saturday so that must mean that our best helper Johnny is ready to be paid and go home for the day. Am I right, Harriet?”

“That’s right, my dear, do you have his check in the cash drawer?” she asked cheerfully.

“Yah, yah, you bet I do, and I want to thank you, Johnny, for all of your hard work this week. You are a very good worker. We put a little bonus in your check this week. We want to help you get that bicycle you have been saving for.” he said with a little laugh in his voice smiling his great big smile.

Uncle Klaus almost always had a smile on his great big kind face.

“Wow, thanks a lot!” Johnny thanked his aunt and uncle and headed home…by way of Anderson’s Hardware store. He stopped for just a few minutes to look at the bicycle of his dreams and then headed on home.