Joseph’s Story Part 1

Joseph’s Story 

Part 1

 

“Yow! Boy, does my head hurt. Where am I?”

I tried to open my eyes.

“Oh man, even my eyes hurt and it’s too dark to see anything. Okay, what can I feel?”

I sat up and began feeling around with my hands and feet and could feel nothing but dry, dusty, hard, round surfaces and walls.

“Nothing but rocks here, it’s terribly hot, it’s exceptionally dry and dusty and—oh, my head still hurts, my eyes hurt and so does just about every other part of me … and I’m talking to myself. How crazy is that? Okay, what can I hear or smell?”

I leaned back, listened, and sniffed.

“So, I can hear some sheep and it smells like someone has used this cistern as a latrine. Wait a minute,  where is my coat? Oh no, Father is going to kill me if I lost that coat. But I’ll have to wait to worry about that. For now, how did I get here and … for that matter where is here?”

I rubbed my sore head and then my eyes before trying to open them again. 

“Alright, I can finally see a sliver of light up there. Okay, I think I get it now. My brothers took some unreasonable offense to something I said, beat me up, stole the special coat that father made for me and stuck me down a dry cistern. Wow! I knew I wasn’t popular with them, but what did I ever do that made them mad enough to do this? Hmm … it may have started soon after we moved here from Paddan-Aram. Come to think of it, it may have gotten worse when I had those dreams. Oh man, my head still really hurts. I think I’ll sleep for a bit using these rocks for a pillow like Father did on his way to Paddan-Aram before he met Mother. Yes, a little nap is what I need to get it all straight in my brain.”

 

# # #

 

I remember sitting at the desk in my father’s tent tallying up columns of numbers to help Father manage our flocks and herds. Then father entered the tent and I called him over to show him what I had found, “Father, did you know that since we arrived here in Canaan, our flocks have grown by 25%? The pastureland here must be much better than it was at Paddan-Aram. Also, you might want to think about selling some of them off. The size of our flock is getting too large and difficult for my brothers to manage. They are having to move the flocks much more often to find new pastures.”

Father sat on a chair near me stroking his beard and said, “You know, I think you might be right. Why don’t you go to where your brothers are keeping the flocks and report back to me what you see.”

I am pretty sure I made a face and said, “Are you sure about that Father? I have not been warmly received by them since you gave me this wonderful new coat.”

Father just smiled and said, “Why don’t you let me worry about them. You just go first thing tomorrow morning and then bring me a report on how your brothers and our flocks are doing.”

“As you wish, Father.”

That night, I had a large meal and then retired to my tent where I had a strange dream. My brothers and I were out harvesting grain and stacking the tied up sheaves in neat bundles. It was really hard work. I remember getting really sweaty and then the beginnings of blisters on my hands. The blisters hurt a lot, but then the strangest thing happened. One of my sheaves stood up on end and then the sheaves of my eleven brothers all bowed down to it. It was so weird that I woke up and had to get a drink of water. After that, I slept for the rest of the night without any more dreams. That dream stuck in my head so I couldn’t forget it. 

When I found them, they avoided talking to me but Reuben gave me some tasks to do. I did them quickly so I could do the inventory that Father asked for. 

At lunch, I decided to tell my brothers about my strange dream. That might have been a mistake. I spoke up loud enough for everyone to hear and said “Listen to this dream. We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!” 

At first, it didn’t seem like they wanted to listen. Some of them turned away from me at the beginning but when I got to the part about their sheaves bowing down to mine, they got angry, rushed at me and started yelling at me, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” Then they all stomped off to care for the sheep. Talk about getting in my face! Needless to say, I shut up and silently continued with the inventory Father had asked for.

When we got home, I reported to Father that my inventory did not match up with the numbers that my brothers had given him. I told him that I thought they were selling some of the sheep without telling him so they could have spending money. I thought I saw some women hiding in their tents while I was there. Father said nothing about my report, but he questioned them thoroughly when they got home a week or so later. They seemed to pretend from then on that I did not exist. None of them, except for Reuben would even talk to me. 

Several weeks later, I had another dream and one night at dinner I stood up and shared the dream with my father and my brothers. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!” Father scolded me. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” This surprising reaction from my father seemed to match my brothers. I think they were jealous of me. My brothers wolfed down the rest of their food and took off. They rushed rudely past me nearly knocking me over with their arms and elbows.

After his initial outburst, Father sat quietly while he finished eating. He said nothing to me when I left to go to my tent. 

# # #

A few weeks passed by and then Father asked me to go and check on my brothers again and bring back another report. I can tell you, I was not in any big hurry to see them again, but headed to Shechem as I had been asked to do.

The next morning I packed a bag, put on my special coat, and rode my favorite donkey to where my brothers were supposed to be tending to the flocks. But, they weren’t there. So I had to look around for them. After an hour or so, I ran into a man that told me that they had gone to Dothan. Typical. They are so unreliable.

When I first saw them, I could tell that they could see me too. I waved at them and could see a lot of hurried activity. They seemed to be huddling together about something. I hoped that it was because they had forgiven me for telling them about my dreams. I hoped for a warm welcome.

But, when I got there, they grabbed me by the arms and tied me up. They were arguing among themselves trying to decide what to do with me. I have to say I was actually frightened when I heard them say, “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!” 

But then, Reuben came to my rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” 

I was hoping that Reuben was secretly planning to rescue me and take me back to father. But my brothers ripped off the beautiful robe I was wearing and threw me into an empty cistern. 

 

# # #

 

I woke up from my nap to the sound of my brothers arguing again. It seems like that’s all they ever did. But then I heard the sound of camels, They removed the lid from the cistern and threw down a rope so I could pull myself out. I have to say that I got my hopes up that they had changed their mind. It was a wonderful feeling that lasted only until I got up to the top of the cistern and climbed out. Then they grabbed me and took me over to some rough-looking men with a caravan of camels and shoved me to the ground in front of them. I looked around to see if Reuben was there to stick up for me, but he was nowhere to be found. The traders gave Levi what looked like twenty pieces of silver and then grabbed me, tied my hands together, and then tethered me to one of their camels.

As we traveled away, I could hear one of my brothers say, goodbye dreamer! It felt like my life was over. I needed to connect with my father’s God. No one else was going to help me. So I prayed as I walked. 

“God of my father Jacob, his father Isaac and my great-grandfather Abraham. I have taken you for granted all of my life, but I need you now. I was born into privilege and luxury. I was the favorite son of my father and did not appreciate any of it. When I had dreams of being worshipped and bowed down to, I took pride in my lofty position and lorded it over my brothers. I am sorry, Lord. I am sorry for my pride and my arrogance. I know that from now on I will need to walk closely with you and learn humility from you in order to survive. A slave’s life is very hard. Please accept my repentant heart and walk with me on a daily basis. Teach me to walk in your ways, O Lord. Keep me close to your heart and protect me with your powerful right arm. Amen.”

A few weeks later, after walking all day every day behind a camel and trying to make sure that I avoided stepping in his droppings, we arrived in Egypt. I was taken to a slave market and sold to an important looking Egyptian man named Potiphar. I was then taken to his house, cleaned up and put to work cleaning everything in sight.

 

 

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. 

 

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 10

God’s Plan for Christmas

Christmas foretold to the Patriarchs

Jacob

Sue handed Jon a cookie, “You can only have one now because you had two already before dinner.”

“Sue, you know that your mom’s cookies are my favorites. Just one more? Please?”

“Not until after the story.”

“Oh, alright. What’s tonight’s story about?”

“I don’t know. Let’s ask.” Sue said loudly. “Grampa, what is tonight’s story about?”

A voice came from the front room, “How about Jacob’s Ladder?”

“Jacob’s Ladder?” asked Jon. “What does he have to do with Christmas?”

“Come find out.”

“Ok, here we come.”

Everyone settled into their seats, and Grampa Johnny began:

* * *

Jacob was on a journey to the land of Haran where he was to pick out a bride. He stopped to set up camp for the night after the first day of traveling and settled down to sleep for the night with a rock for his pillow.

As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and He said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions–to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz. Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if He will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything He gives me.”

(Genesis 28:12-22) NLT

* * *

Stanley jumped in first, “Wow! If I had to sleep with a rock for a pillow, I’d have weird dreams too.”

Grampa Johnny leaned back and said, “Stanley my little man, I don’t think it was the fault of the rock that he had such an odd dream. Didn’t it seem like he was seeing a bit of heaven and having his first real meeting with God in that dream?”

Stanley scratched his head and said, “Well, maybe … but it still seems odd to me.”

Sue leaned over her brother’s shoulder and said, “To me, it seemed more like a vision, and it might have been really hard to take if he was awake for it. We’re more used to seeing fantastic things in our dreams, so it was the perfect place and time for God to introduce himself.”

Jon cleared his throat and said, “I agree. I remember having a dream or two about some Bible stories, and I think that God used them to help me to understand him better.”

Grampa Johnny interjected, “Exactly, Jon. God set up the circumstances to not only introduce himself personally to Jacob and to make sure that the promise that God had made to Abram that had been passed on to Isaac was now also being passed onto Jacob. Did you notice that the same words for part of the promise that God gave to Abram were also used in giving the promise to Jacob.? Does anyone remember what they are?”

Sue raised her hand and said, “all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.”

Grampa Johnny smiled and said, “Exactly. ‘all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants,’ That promise was a foretelling about the coming of Jesus. He is telling us that he had Christmas all planned, wrapped up and ready to give to us at just the right time.”

Stanley blurted out, “Like a Christmas present, right Grampa?”

“Bingo, Stanley. You got it just right. Just like a Christmas present. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the next link in the chain.”

“Who has that piece Grampa?” asked Sue.

“Come back tomorrow and find out,” Grampa said smiling.

 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.

Stories for Advent – Day 9

I’ve realized that my early drafts of the stories for this series have required rewriting so the numbers of the stories will not match their initial intended sequence. Just remember that these are draft stories for later publication.

God’s Plan for Christmas

Christmas foretold to the Patriarchs

Abram

“Ok Grampa, this is a new week. You finished telling your great story about Enoch and Noah. What stories are you going to tell us this week?” asked Sue as she sat down with her hot chocolate.

“Thash wut ah wanna know too.” Added Jon.

“Jon, you would probably be easier to understand if you didn’t talk with cookies in your mouth,” Sue said as she poked him with her elbow.

Grampa Johnny began, “Well, we are going to fast forward many years to when God called Abram to leave his homeland with only a promise in return.”

* * *

Abram was sitting and praying on a little knoll while tending his sheep one day. It was a bit warmer than usual, but a good, stiff breeze kept it cool enough to be a comfortable day. He was thinking about places he would like to see and what he wanted for his children he would have in the future when he heard a voice like no other voice he had ever heard before. It seemed to ride on the wind and come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He was sure it was the Lord and fell to his knees.

It said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’ family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Abram wasn’t exactly sure what all of this meant, but he focused on two things. The first was that he was to pack up his family and everything he owned and travel to the land the Lord would tell him about. The second was that he would have so many descendants that they would be a great nation.

After thinking about the Lord’s words for a bit, he hurried home to Sarai. They would begin packing up his whole household, including his nephew Lot. They would take all of it to this place that the Lord would show him. There was a great sense of urgency in Abram’s obedience. He believed what he had been told wholeheartedly and eagerly looked forward to the promise of becoming a great nation through which all the families on earth would be blessed.

* * *

Grampa Johnny scooted forward and said, “What was the important part here?”

“Ooh, ooh! I know!” shouted Stanley as he bounced up and down on his seat.

“Ok, what was it,” asked Sue.

“The part about becoming famous,” smiled Stanley.

Grampa smiled, “I’m sure that was important to Abram, but not the most important part to us at Christmas. Jon, do you know?”

“Sure, it’s the part where all the families on earth would be blessed.”

“That’s right! That is the first thing that we are going to learn about Jesus from the patriarchs this week. We have six more days so we will learn six more things.”

“That is very cool!” said Sue. I can’t wait until tomorrow.

 Parents Corner

As we go through this week, we will see that God dropped little bits of information about what He was planning in the stories of the patriarchs. Like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs. God provided insights into what He was planning for us to find, to treasure and to ponder. As we consider them, one by one, we can only be amazed at how awesome our God is and how incredibly much He has loved us to plan all of this for us. That is something to talk to our children about.

Genesis 12

 

Stories for Advent – Day 8

God’s Plan for Christmas

The Tale of Noah and the Ark – Part 5

Jon burst into the kitchen, “All right, tonight’s the night the Grampa Johnnie’s going to finish the story about Noah and Ark. It sure has been exciting, hasn’t it?”

Sue nodded in agreement, “I especially like the way that God is working with young Enoch and teaching him that he is trustworthy.”

“And the elephant,” said Stanley as he piled a plate high with cookies.

Sue looked at the plate, and her eyes grew two sizes, “Stanley did you leave any cookies in the cookie jar? Do you expect that we are going to eat all of those cookies?”

Stanley’s face turned a brighter shade of pink than normal, “Uh … um, I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t notice. It’s just that mom has been baking so many that we have to eat ’em all, right?”

Jon laughed out loud and said, “Oh, they’ll get eaten all right, I can guarantee that. But we don’t have to eat them all tonight. Here let me help you put most of those back.”

Sue chuckled and said, “Okay, you two do that while I take the tray of hot chocolate out. I’ll meet you in the living room.”

Not too much later they were all settled, and Grampa Johnny began the story.

# # #

It took a while for my leg to heal and I had to stay in bed for several weeks before I could get back to caring for my birds.

When my leg did get better, I was still very curious and still looked around at the many strange, beautiful and sometimes terrifying animals; but now, I always went with someone else.

And I always came back to my birds. I decided to learn as much about them as possible.

There were lots of strange and beautiful birds to see and to get to know. There were white ones and black ones; red ones and green ones; yellow ones and blue ones. Every color you could ever imagine was painted on those birds. There were even some that had lots of different colors on them. It was like the all the colors had exploded everywhere. It was marvelous!

There were very big ones and very tiny ones. Some were noisy, and some were quiet. Some just squawked loudly while others sang sweetly and quietly.

But, no matter how excited they seemed to get at times, when I took out my flute and played for them, they settled down and got almost quiet.

One day as I was sitting and playing for them, I realized Grampa was sitting next to me. He had sat down while I was playing, and I didn’t even notice. “You’re getting pretty good with that little flute of yours,” he said. “I like the way you play, and it seems the birds do too. In fact, all the animals nearby seem to settle down and quietly listen to you.” I hadn’t noticed the part about the other animals. I had just noticed the birds.

Grampa seemed to favor the birds above all the animals like I did. We liked sitting together and talking or just listening to the birds sing. After a while, I noticed there was one mostly white bird that would move over closer to me when I was playing, and it would sing with me while I was playing. I liked that, and so I began to play even more often than before.

The mostly white bird, which Grampa told me was called a dove, moved closer and closer to me on a low hanging branch. When I fed the birds, I started making sure the dove got extra food. He would even eat out of my hand sometimes. I named him Jubal. I think it was a he, I’m not really sure. Jubal was the name of one of my ancestors who played the pipes, so I thought the name fit him.

Jubal and I would spend part of every day together. I would play, and he would sing. After a while, his mate would join us too. I named her Adah. They were a lot of fun to be with.

Then one day Grampa told me, “Enoch, the Lord has been speaking to me and told me there was going to be a special job soon for a few of the birds. He wants me to take one up to a window on the upper deck and let it go to see if it comes back. This is part of God’s plan for us, Enoch. This is how the Lord is going to let us know He is preparing for us to leave the ark.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. We had been on this trip for several months now. We had all been looking forward to the day it would come to an end but, now, I was worried for Jubal. Would Grampa send him? What would happen to him? Would he be able to find his way back? Would he get lost and die?

I made a plan to take Jubal and Adah and hide them. I know my Grampa means well, but these two birds were my very best friends.

The next night after supper, I went to the bird pen like I did every evening and began to play my flute. Jubal and Adah came to sit and sing with me like they always do. I coaxed them into a special cage I had made for them. Then I grabbed a small bag of feed and took them down into one of the lower holds near where the elephant was that took care of me when I had broken my leg.

I hung the cage from a hook on a beam that I could reach from the ladder. I sat and played for them a little while to help them feel at home but, this time they didn’t sing along. That bothered me, but I shrugged it off and went back to my families’ cabin to go to sleep for the night. Or, at least, I tried to sleep. I kept having a dream that we never got off of the ark because Grampa couldn’t send off the doves the way the Lord had told him to.

I kept tossing and turning, having the same dream over and over again. Then I heard it. “Enoch.” It was almost too quiet to hear at first, and then I thought it was Pop calling me. But the next time I heard it, I knew it was not Pop or Grampa.

“Enoch,” it said for the third time.

“Yes?”

“Enoch, do you trust your Grampa?”

I was almost afraid to answer. Then I heard my voice saying, “Yes, yes I do.”

“Enoch, do you trust your Grampa?”

“Yes, sir I do.”

“Do you trust the Lord your Grampa’s God?”

That scared me, but still, I answered, “Yes sir, I do.”

“Enoch, do you trust the Lord as your God?”

That scared me even more, but still, I answered, “Yes sir, I do.”

“Then trust and obey.”

At that I felt ashamed, I did trust Grampa and I needed to trust the Lord too. I knew then my fear for Jubal and Adah was really a lack of trust in Grampa and the Lord. I got up right away and ran quickly down to where I had hung the cage. I returned to the bird pen and released them.

I went back to bed, prayed to the Lord and told Him I was sorry for not trusting Him. Then I slept very well the rest of the night.

In the morning Grampa came to get me and said, “It is time.” Grampa had released a raven the day before, and after several hours, it came back. Today it was Jubal’s turn.

We went to the bird pen and got the cage I had used for the birds the night before. As soon as I opened it, Jubal flew right in just like he knew he had a job to do.

Grampa and I went to the upper window, opened the cage and Jubal flew right out. We stood there and waited. My mom brought us some food for lunch after we had waited several hours. Just as we were sitting down to eat, Jubal came back. I was so excited I forgot to eat my lunch. I fed most of it to Jubal who was very tired and hungry.

A week later, we did it again. This time Grampa wanted to send Adah. I wasn’t afraid this time. We did the same thing. We released Adah in the morning and then waited. She did not come back by lunchtime. All afternoon we waited. Grampa sat and prayed, and I played my flute. Suddenly there was a flutter of wings in the window. Adah had returned, and she had a leaf in her beak. Grampa reached up with an open hand, and Adah dropped the leaf into his hand.

Grampa smiled and showed it to me. It was an olive leaf. The flood had gone down enough for things to be growing again.

A week later, we did it again. This time Grampa wanted to send Jubal again. I thought it would be like the last two times. We released Jubal in the morning and then waited. He did not come back by lunchtime. We waited all afternoon and nothing. He never came back.

Over the next few weeks, Grampa and I spent a lot of time looking out the window. We could see more and more land every day. Then one day, the ark lurched again, hard. I ran up to the top deck, looked all around and saw that most of the water was gone. We had run aground. The ark settled at an angle with the bow pointing up slightly. We all gathered with Grampa at the door. It was like when we first started. We stood there silently while Grampa prayed. Then he quietly said, “Yes, Lord.” And then he said, “Shem, Ham, Japheth….open the door.” Pop and my uncles did just that.

It opened with a large creak, and then it fell open to the ground with a huge “THUD!” Then the sunlight began streaming in so brightly it nearly blinded us for a while. When I could finally see, I was amazed by the rich, lush green of the earth and the sparkling blue of the sky. Then, I saw a huge rainbow growing across the whole sky that just took my breath away.

I looked up in the sky and prayed to the Lord, “Lord, I see now that you have been taking care of us all along. Please forgive me for not trusting you. Thank you for all you have done and, please, help me to obey you completely from now on.”

Grampa built an altar for a sacrifice while Pop and my uncles began to open the pens so the animals could leave.

They all walked out peacefully just like they went in. Adah flew to me when I opened the bird pen. I walked outside with her on my shoulder. We stood there together for several minutes and then I heard what sounded like a dove singing. It was the same tune I had played on my flute so many times. It was Jubal! He had come back for his mate. Adah took off and flew up to meet him. They circled around several times and then flew off together. I never saw them again.

Then I heard a sound I hadn’t heard for a while. The elephants were coming off the ark, and they walked right toward me. One of them stopped, looked right at me, touched my shoulder gently with his trunk and then walked away quickly while making his horn sound. I smiled and waved and off they went to wherever God was sending them.

I felt a hand on each shoulder. I looked up and saw Papa on my left and Grampa on my right. They were both looking out at the animals as they trailed into the distance and the rainbow in the sky.

Papa leaned down and said, “Well, Enoch, you have grown up a lot on this trip. I am very proud of you.”

Grampa then said, “And so am I. I have seen you grow in your faith in the Lord. What can you tell us about what you have learned?”

I looked at each one of them and then out on the valley again, “I learned that God keeps His promises. He kept us safe on the ark, and I learned, to simply trust Him and obey because like Grampa always says: God is faithful, just you wait and see.”

We all laughed together.

That was the end of our journey on the ark, but it was the beginning of our brand-new life.

# # #

“I always love that the story ends up with God’s promise posted in the sky as a rainbow,” said Sue.

Grampa responded, “That’s one of my favorites too, and we get to see rainbows all the time whenever the conditions in the sky are just right. No matter the time or the season, God continues to remind us that his promises can be relied on. He always keeps his promises. We can look back in the Bible and see that God promised a savior at the Fall and then we can see him continuing to remind his people that he will send the Messiah at just the right time. We just have to have faith and trust in God, just like little Enoch learned in this story.”

Parents Corner

Learning to trust God and have complete faith in his loving care for us is often the hardest thing we ever have to learn. But as we go through these stories, you will learn that God has been with us all along the way. He has been guiding our steps, guarding us when necessary and letting us fail when that is the best way to learn a lesson. Building up our faith is sometimes a slow process, but as we get better at it the reward of living closer to the center of God’s will for us is also greater. Put your trust in Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Stories for Advent – Day 7

God’s Plan for Christmas

The Tale of Noah and the Ark – Part 4

“Are you guys coming? Grampa says that he can’t eat his cookies without milk to wash them down with.”

“We’re on our way, we couldn’t find the tray right away,” said Jon.

Sue turned and looked at Stanley and took a step toward him.

“Little brother, I want you to know how proud I am of you. You’ve really shown that you can sit through a long story and pay attention.”

“You’re not gonna hug me, are you?”

Sue backed up a step.

“Nope, not a chance. Go tell Grampa we’ll be there in a minute.”

“Ok!”

Jon laughed, “You almost did know.”

“Yeah, I wanted to but—”

“But what?”

“Well, he’d get all embarrassed and act up, and we’d never hear the end of the story.’

“Good call!”

They took the tray into the living room, and once everyone was all settled in, Grampa began …

# # #

“Enoch … Enoch … come on son, it’s time to get up.”

“Okay Mom, just five more minutes …”

“I had one more stone to roll before I would beat those town boys at their own game. I lined up my shot and just as I was about to make it—”

“Enoch, you need to get up and do your chores. Come on, son.”

“Okay, okay …” Realizing the game was just a dream; I stretched my arms and legs, and then opened my eyes and tried to focus.

The room was pretty dark, “Where was my window, my furniture…my stuff?”

Then suddenly I felt my bed lift up from behind me and tilt to my left. I quickly looked around, “What is going on? My whole room moved!”

“Huh? Wha … where am I?” I said out loud.

“It’s alright, this is your first time waking up on the ark,” my Mom’s voice again filtered through the morning fog in my head.

Then things began to look familiar, “Oh, yeah, that’s right…”

Memories of the last days, weeks and months began to flood back into my mind, the work on the ark, the fire, the townspeople attacking Grampa, the animals arriving, the rains and flooding and finally the door of the ark closing on the outside world the Lord had decided to destroy.

“Ok Mom, I’m going.”

I got up, dressed, washed, grabbed a chunk of bread from the table and headed up toward the large pen with the netting containing all the birds that came with us on the ark. I have to feed them and clean out their pen.

There was singing and wild calls coming from the top of the ladder I had to climb to get to the upper level. I really like all the birds, feeding them isn’t too bad. It’s the cleaning up after them that’s yucky.

I grabbed a couple of buckets and filled them with the different kinds of food the birds liked and went into the pen. When they saw me with the food, the sound of all the birds got so loud I nearly had to cover my ears.

Looking up into the branches of the trees my Pop and uncles had brought in and mounted to the walls of the pen, I saw many of the birds moving to the lower branches. They seemed eager to eat.

It’s a good thing I looked up because one of the birds was dropping something yucky. I just barely got out of the way in time.

After cleaning out the pen and putting out the food, I sat on the bench inside the enclosure and thought for a while. “This is going to get real boring fast if this is all I have to do every day,” I said to myself.

I had asked Grampa how long we were going to be on this trip. But, the only answer I could get from him was “The Lord will let us know when He is done out there. Just be patient, Enoch.”

So, I decided to explore the ark.

The first thing I did was to walk all the way from end to end on the deck my birds were on. I had already done that topside (that’s what we call the top deck of the ark where you could go outside) but, I didn’t want to stay out there because it was still raining.

But I wanted to see everything.

So, I walked and walked and walked, each day I went to a new and lower level.

I looked and looked and looked. I had never seen so many different kinds of animals in all my life. A lot of the animals were new to all of us, and we didn’t know what to call them. Many had come from very far away, and many were very strange.

I wanted to see them all, even all the creepy, creeping things, no matter how long it took.

One night at supper, we talked about what I was doing.

“What did you see today, Enoch,” Mama asked.

“I saw the monkeys and the antelope and the … um … striped horses,” I said.

Papa laughed and said, “Those are called zebras son.”

Then he spoke up in his stern voice, “I don’t want you going down to the lowest levels son. The big cats and other very large, dangerous animals are down there. They may be safe enough but, I don’t want you to take any chances. Do you understand me?”

“Yes Papa,” I said.

There were still lots of other parts to explore that I hadn’t seen yet. And, there were lots of animals yet to see.

Every day for several weeks I went out and looked and explored. I was having a great time until one day when I was going down to one of the lower levels where we kept, the larger animals…

“Hmm, here’s another ladder going down, I don’t remember seeing this one before.” I thought to myself. Down at this level, the cages were much larger than the ones higher up.

“Wow! I bet the really big animals are down here. One more level won’t hurt…”

I was frightened by the big cats at first, but they turned out to be pretty friendly as long as I didn’t get too close.

Then I saw another ladder leading even farther down.

“Hmm, I’m pretty sure that this is where Papa told me not to go. But I wonder what it looks like down there”.

Just then I heard some strange rustling around noises and noticed that the lamps that lit up each of the lower levels seemed to be out. I began to get very curious. I looked around to see if anyone was around.

“Papa will never know if I look just once.”

So, I began climbing down the ladder, and I was turning and twisting around trying to see what was there when suddenly the ark lurched, and my foot slipped. I lost my grip on the ladder and began flailing around trying to grab onto something when my left leg got caught in one of the steps of the ladder.

There was excruciating pain, a horrible snapping sound and then I landed hard on my back, flat on the deck. The next thing to hit must have been my head because I blacked out for a while.

When I awoke, I was in more pain than I had ever imagined in my whole life. I realized I had broken my leg badly. I couldn’t keep from yelling and crying it hurt so badly, but no one came. I was down there all alone.

I realized that my father and uncles were cleaning out stalls at least two decks above me and couldn’t hear me.

“Where is Grampa’s God when I need Him?”

I immediately felt completely alone and in the dark. Then I began to feel afraid. I didn’t know how often they came down to this level to care for the animals.

My eyes began to gradually get used to the dim light.

I began to yell again.

“Help,” I yelled as loud as I could.

“Help!”

“Help!”

After the second or third yell, there was this really weird echo. It sounded a lot like a horn of some sort.

Every time I hollered help, that strange horn echoed back to me.

After about five or six times, I tried to sit up and look around.

Through the tears in my eyes and into the dim light, coming toward me was the biggest animal I had ever seen.

It was sort of a brownish gray with big floppy ears and a huge, long nose, an absolutely monstrous, gray, wrinkly body, and legs twice as big around as my Uncle Ham. Just as I started to get a good look at it, it raised up to its nose and made that horn sound I had been hearing.

It walked slowly over to me with its nose pointed at me sniffing me and then touching me. I was scared at first, but its touch was so gentle I stopped being afraid. It pushed at me a little bit like it was trying to help me stand up. I reached up to feel its long nose, and it began to pick me up and cradle me with it. I felt the pressure on my leg get less, and the pain got easier to handle.

I wasn’t sure what was going on or why this animal was doing this. I looked up, and I could tell the big thing was also looking down at me. I began to feel very relaxed and very tired. My eyes had trouble staying open, and I must have fallen asleep for a while.

When I woke up, the animal was still holding me up. I began to call out for my father. “Papa,” I would call out. I was not very loud at first. I did not want to frighten my protector.

“Papa!”

I would repeat a little louder each time.

“Papa!”

“Papa!”

After a while, I stopped because I wasn’t getting any answers. The pain was still pretty strong, and I was getting tired again. I was also very thirsty and starting to get more afraid that no one was answering me.

I was getting scared, and I didn’t know what to do.

I thought about what Grampa might do and, just as clear as day, I could hear his voice talking to me. “Enoch,” he said “you just tell the Lord what you need when you need His help. He will help you. God is faithful, just you wait and see.”

I was not sure about this whole prayer thing at all. But, I was alone (sort of), in a lot of pain and very scared. Trying to pray has always been kind of scary too. What if I said the wrong thing and made God mad at me? What if He didn’t really exist?

Grampa’s voice came back into my head again.

“You just tell the Lord what you need when you need His help. He will help you. God is faithful, just you wait and see.”

I knew then what I needed to do. I took a deep breath and looked up (cause I figure God is up in His heavens) and said “Lord, God, creator of the whole world and everything in it, this is Enoch. I am in trouble down here and sure could use your help. You see, I’m pretty sure I have broken my leg because it hurts really badly and I need someone to find me and help me.”

I remembered that Grampa always thanked the Lord for something whenever he prayed, so I did the same thing.

“By the way Lord, thank you for this big boat Grampa calls an ark. Thank you for saving our lives. Please send someone to find me real soon. Amen.”

I just lay there suspended in air by the creature’s long nose, and I think I fell asleep again for a while.

I was jarred back awake when I began to hear voices.

“Enoch, are you down there?” I heard my Papa’s voice.

I yelled back, “I’m down here, Papa! I broke my leg”.

The large animal didn’t move – he (or she) just stood there holding me up. When my Pop got to the top of the ladder, he stepped back for a second and looked. I think his eyes needed to adjust.

“Enoch is that you?” he asked.

“Yes, Papa, I’m ok. This big animal is very gentle and has been watching over me until you could get here.”

He came slowly down the ladder and walked over to where we were and just looked at the two of us for a minute and then smiled his huge, broad smile.

“It looks like you made a friend here Enoch. This one is called an elephant, and it seems to have taken an interest in you; but, I will take over now.”

Just then Uncle Ham and Grampa got to the top of the ladder and called down to us.

“Is everything all right down there?”

They had never seen a sight like this before and were just as amazed as Pop was at first. Pop took me gently from the elephant and waited a moment while I stroked the animal’s huge nose.

“Thank you, my big friend. I will come back as soon as I can and see you again.”

The elephant touched me again very gently and began to back away from us.

Pop turned and began taking me up the ladder. I turned and waved goodbye as soon as we got to the top. The elephant blew its horn again gently as if to say goodbye, then turned and walked back into the shadows. Pop took me to my room in our cabin.

Gram Naamah and Mama set and bandaged my leg while Grampa, Pop, and my uncles sat in the other room laughing about the elephant that cared for me.

Mama scolded me for exploring where Pop had told me not to go. But, for some reason, she kept hugging me.

After Pop got over being glad to have rescued me, he gave me a stern lecture about my irresponsibility showing up again.

“Enoch, you have been doing so well about being responsible…and now this. How could you just go wandering around down there alone? Especially when I had specifically told you not to do that! There are so many animals aboard the ark that could very easily kill you. What were you thinking?”

I wasn’t even sure what to say. I just stared at the splint on my broken leg and said quietly, “I’m sorry Papa, I was just curious. There are so many animals to see that I have never seen before.”

“Enoch, my son, I remember having a lot of talks with you about getting lost in your daydreams, I thought you were over that. Do not ever go wandering around like that again. Not all of these animals are going to be as gentle with you as that elephant was. You were very lucky.”

I looked at him right in the eyes, “But Papa, doesn’t God watch over us all the time like Grampa says? When I was laying down there with a broken leg not knowing when anyone would come looking for me, I prayed to the Lord just the way Grampa has taught me to do, and He answered my prayer. You came and found me. I know now I should not have been exploring like that, but when I got in trouble, God was faithful just like you and Grampa always say.”

Pop just sat there silently for a second, looked at Mama then got up and walked out.

Mama said, “Don’t worry us like that anymore Enoch. Your father and I were worried sick. I am glad you prayed, and the Lord answered you. But please be more careful in the future.”

# # #

“I don’t remember hearing this part of the story before Grampa,” said Sue.

“Well, I might have made parts of it up to make the story more interesting. Sometimes when you do stuff that you are not proud of, well … it’s good to know that we can grow and learn from our mistakes. Besides, I wanted to talk to you about the fact that sometimes we all make mistakes. We get into a hole and we can’t get ourselves out. That’s why God sent Jesus. Because all of us are deep in hole of sin and we can’t get ourselves out. That’s why God planned Christmas.”

“So, what’s next Grampa?” asked Jon.

“Well, we’ll finish this story tomorrow and then next week, we’re going to see how God planned Christmas through the prophets. I think it will be a fun week.”

Parents Corner

What would happen if people decided not to obey rules like Enoch? What if there were no rules at school or on the playground? It may sound like fun, but the rules are there to keep us safe and happy. Once there was a man named Moses. God gave him many rules and then asked him to teach the people to follow them. God knew the rules would be hard to follow, but He wanted them to try. Some people said no to the rules. They said no to God. God promised there would be another man like Moses who would bring new rules. That man is Jesus. If we need help to follow His rules, Jesus promises to help. Jesus always keeps His promises.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Acts 3:22-23

Stories for Advent – Day 6

God’s Plan for Christmas

The Tale of Noah and the Ark – Part 3

Stanley stands next to Grampa in his big chair, “Grampa?”

“Yes, Stanley.”

“You know I really want to thank you for telling this story. I never knew that Noah was part of how God prepared the world for Christmas.”

Grampa chuckles. “It’s my pleasure Stanley. Did you know that you are my favorite grandson?”

“Really? Thanks, Grampa. Hey! Wait, I’m your only grandson.”

Grampa chuckles again. “See what I mean? You’re really smart.”

Grampa wraps Stanley up in his arms and gives him a big hug. “Go get Sue and Jon. It’s time for our story.”

Stanley runs off, “Sue, Jon it’s time for the story.”

When they have all settled in their places, Grampa begins …

# # #

We suddenly pitched to the left. Things were sliding across the floor and falling. Then we pitched back the other way. Something hit me and knocked me down. Pop was right there with his strong arm, and he picked me up. And then…the ark steadied upright again, and we could tell that we were still moving. It was really weird!

After we put a few of the things that had slid around back where they belonged, we raced up the big stairway to the windows on the top deck of the ark. All we could see was water for miles and miles. There were just a few mountaintops off in the distance.

We were alone in the middle of all of this water that wasn’t even there just a few days ago. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream. I didn’t even want to believe it. I thought that I would wake up in just a minute. But…. I didn’t.

The sky was blacker than anything I had ever seen; the wind was blowing so hard it was hard to stand still. It made me feel so cold with the rain coming down harder and harder. I kept thinking about all the people and things that were under that water. I just stood there hanging on the edge of the window looking out.

I couldn’t understand why they all had to…be destroyed. That made me angry, so I went to a small place on the ark that I had discovered to hide when I didn’t want to be found. I wanted to think about things for a while.

I thought about the people and the places that I knew. Grampa was right. There were people that did really mean things. I didn’t understand a lot of what went on, but I thought that those people wanted to live that way. Maybe it was ok if they weren’t hurting anyone but themselves.

But then I got to thinking about something Pop had told me. If I make something and it doesn’t turn out right or work the way I wanted it to, I could tear it apart and start over if I wanted. He told me that was what God was doing. He was going to start over. He was going to keep parts of what He made that He liked and was going to do the rest over again. It was His choice. I repeated that to myself, “It was His choice, and He always chooses to do the right thing.”

I didn’t even hear Grampa come up behind me. The first thing I knew was that his hand was on my shoulder. I turned and looked up at him. He told me to follow him. He led me to where the birds were kept. The light was dim, and it was pretty warm in there. They seemed to be comfortable with that. They were strangely peaceful and quiet. We found a little bench to sit on, and Grampa and I sat there watching the birds for quite a while. We used to do that sometimes at home on his favorite bench, under his favorite tree, watching the sun go down. It was almost like old times. I began to feel a lot better and was able to relax a little. Then he scooted away from me just a bit, bent down, and looked me in the eyes and said, “Enoch, I am sure that all of this is frightening. It would frighten me too, and it might even make me angry…if I did not know the Lord the way that I do. That helps me to trust Him. Enoch, I want you to know the Lord the same way that I do. I want you to trust Him the same way that I do.”

I looked into Grampa’s eyes. They were deep and soft and loving. I knew I could believe him and trust him. Trusting God was a little bit harder for me. Then I remembered what Pop had said. He told me to trust Grampa and to trust in the Lord.

“God is faithful,” he always said, “you just obey and wait and see.”

Grampa had said the same thing many times. Suddenly, I felt like I wanted to trust him, God I mean.

“Grampa,” I said.

“Don’t say anything now,” Grampa said. “Would you pray with me?”

I looked down for a moment, and then back into his big eyes.

“Yes,” I said, “I would like that.”

“Hold my hands,” he said. I put my hands into his. My hands were so small compared to his. They were big and worn from many years of hard work, but at the same time, they were soft and tender.

He began to speak quietly, with confidence and familiarity.

“Lord God, God of the heavens and the earth, God of our fathers Adam and Enoch, Lord God, hear us now as we speak. I am here with my grandson Enoch. He is having a hard time trusting you; he might even be a little bit angry with you. He doesn’t know it is ok, to be honest about all of our feelings. Mostly because he does not know you as I do. I know you are faithful and true. I also know that you love us each more than we could ever realize. Please help my grandson Enoch to know you as I do. Help him seek you and to know you as his great, great, great … great-grandfather Enoch knew you. Help him to trust you and to know you are faithful. Thank you, Lord, for I know you will hear and answer this prayer.”

With that, he squeezed my hands, and I knew it was my turn to talk to the Lord.

I was scared.

It’s not every day you talk to the God that created the universe, but Grampa knew Him so well and trusted Him so much I wanted to try.

I started the same way Grampa did.

“Lord God, God of the heavens and the earth, this is Enoch, and I’ve never spoken to you before because … I … well, I just didn’t know I could. Now I know I can. I have learned that from my Grampa, and I just want you to know I want to trust you in the same way my Grampa does. Please help me because I’m pretty young…and, well, I’m really new at this. Please help me to trust that you’ll take care of all of us in this ark and one day soon we can live on land again.”

Grampa laughed a little, but I kept going.

“Thank you, Lord, for loving us. Thank you for loving my family and me. Help us to take good care of all the animals. Especially help me to take care of all of the birds. There are more birds here than I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”

“Anyway, thank you, Lord. Please forgive me for being angry with you. Please help me to do my part of trusting you to take care of everything else on the outside of the ark. I know it’s my job to just trust and obey you.”

Then Grampa put his big arms around me and gave me a really good hug. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “God is faithful, just you wait and see.”

I gave him a big smile and said, “Ok, Grampa, I’ll do my best. The Lord has to help me, but I will try very hard and trust Him.”

“God is faithful,” he said, “just you wait and see.”

Then he walked away. I sat there with the birds for a long time thinking about all that had happened. I felt more peaceful than before. I, somehow, just knew that things would be all right. But, our voyage had just begun.

# # #

“Wait a minute! Who’s hurt?” said Sue looking at Stanley.

“Yeah, don’t stop now,” chimed in Jon.

Stanley smiled. “Sorry guys, Grampa and I worked all this out, and that’s it for today.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll finish it up tomorrow guys. In the meantime, why don’t you all read the story of Noah in the Bible again? It’s in Genesis chapters six through nine. Think about what it means to you and to the rest of the world. How does it relate to Christmas?”

Parents Corner

What would happen if the kids took time like Grandpa to meditate on stories from the bible? Do you think it would change the choices they make? Grandpa understands that what you know and hear stay in your head and the things you believe go into your heart. What you believe affects what you say and do. Grandpa wants God’s words in his heart; he wants to say and do things that make God happy. One of the stories Grandpa was putting into his heart was about a man named Jacob. Jacob was running away from his brother because he was afraid. Jacob was so tired from his journey that went to sleep with his head on a rock. God spoke words to Jacob while he was sleeping. When Jacob woke up, he thought about Gods words. Jacob put those words into his heart, and it changed his choices. Jacob decided to name the rock Bethel (that means House of God). Jesus was born in Bethlehem on Christmas morning. Bethlehem is another word for Bethel. Jesus believed everything God the Father spoke. When we ask Jesus into our heart, we believe he is God’s son. Jesus helps us say and do things that make God happy.

Gen 28:19 Num 24:17

 

Stories for Advent – Day 5

God’s Plan for Christmas

The Tale of Noah and the Ark – Part 2

Sue poked her head into the front room, “Stanley, do you know where Grampa is? He has to tell more about Enoch and Noah tonight.”

“He said he had to get some stuff to help him tell the story. He said he’d be right back.”

“Ok, Jon and I are almost finished making the hot chocolate. We got a huge package of those little marshmallows at the store today. You can’t squirt those into your mouth. They should be safer.”

“Ha! I’m not so sure about that. He’ll figure out some other use for them.” Jon said as he carried the tray of hot chocolate filled mugs into the living room.

Suddenly there was a loud thump, thump, thump, thump that came from the back door! Grampa burst into the living room with two buckets half full of water, a shovel and a pair of heavy gloves and then plopped down next to Grampa Johnny and said loudly, “Ok, I’m ready. Can I start now?”

Stanley looked at Grampa Johnny burst out laughing, “What are you doing with all of those things? We’re not going to the beach, are we?”

Stanley looked up and smiled, “No, we’re not, but I just wanted to remember the story about the fire more clearly. So I brought some the same stuff they probably used then to put the fire out. You see it picks up right about where it was out …”

# # #

It was a long time before the fire was out. We all gathered around the ark to see if there was much damage, and fortunately, there wasn’t much. It was mostly the scaffolding and supplies that were destroyed. The side of the ark looked worse than it actually was.

We gathered around and prayed for a while, but I couldn’t help wondering why the Lord would allow this kind of thing to happen if this was really His project.

Now I knew that the people around us not only thought we were crazy, but they were also frightened enough of us to try to keep us from building the ark. But we just kept on building anyway. “God is faithful,” Grampa said, “just you wait and see.”

Grampa has always been like a special friend to me. We’ve done a lot of stuff together, and he also likes to tell me about the Lord.

He and the Lord seem to be pretty good friends. Grampa says that he talks to God a lot. He says that God talks to him too. He said the Lord told him that the whole world was going to be destroyed because it was so bad.

He doesn’t tell me a lot about all of that badness. He says I’m better off not knowing about it. He says we can talk more about it when I get older.

Some of the boys I know have told me some stuff though, and it is pretty disgusting. Yuck! I don’t even like thinking about it!

Then came the day Grampa told us that the Lord had told him we would be loading up the ark soon for our trip in it. Wow! He and Pop and my uncles have been working on this thing for over a hundred years, and it’s really weird to think about it being finished.

When Grampa was talking to everyone about it yesterday, he told me my job would still be taking care of the chickens and “a few more birds.” That’s when he told me about all the different kinds of animals that were going to be coming with us.

I almost laughed because there weren’t any of those animals up here in the high desert. He told me not to worry about that. The other animals would come, and it was my job … our job to take care of them. “God is faithful,” he said, “just you wait and see.”

Evidently, the animals won’t tell God no, either.

Then I got to thinking about all the extra birds and remembered the big area toward the top of the ark. It was like several really big rooms without walls. We had hauled in and mounted a bunch of different sized dead trees, so they would have someplace to roost if they wanted to. Then I remembered the stuff called fishnet Pop had hauled up there. He said it would come in handy for keeping the birds where they belong. That was a little confusing to me because the net stretched from the floor to the ceiling and everyone knew chickens can’t fly. But, I had lots of other things to do, so I had no time to think about that.

The next day, right about the time the sun came up, Grampa came and woke me himself.

He said, “Today is the day, Enoch.”

“Today is the day for what?” I said.

“Today is the day the animals will begin to arrive. We need to be ready.”

“How do you know that, Grampa?”

“The Lord told me, and He is faithful, just you wait and see.”

Grampa was right. Even before breakfast, the animals began to arrive. They came in pairs. Grampa had me counting them to keep track. There were lions, pheasants, elephants, tigers, cows, horses, sheep, oxen, cats, dogs, monkeys, bears, and even snakes and all sorts of animals I had never seen before. They showed up…all by themselves. Pop and my uncles pointed them into one of the many, many pens or stalls that had been built. There was no fighting. It was amazing!

As for me, I couldn’t believe the numbers and types of birds that began to show up. Pop had gotten the netting up only a day or two before, and all of the birds either flew in or walked right into the big room we had prepared for them. I couldn’t believe it. This went on for seven days. Grampa was right. The Lord was being faithful. He was bringing all of the animals to us!

While all of that was going on, Grammie Naamah, my mom, my two aunts, and all of my sisters and cousins were helping get our stuff onto the ark. I had to tell them what I wanted to bring and what could be left behind. This was starting to get a little scary. It was really happening! For a while, it was sort of like…a dream! But, now…it was way too real. How was this ark going to float with all of these animals and us inside? How were we going to take care of all of these animals?

Grampa must have noticed the way I was feeling. He came over and pulled me aside. He squatted down next to me and looked me right in the eyes.

He told me there was nothing to be afraid of. The Lord had promised to take care of us, and He always kept His promises. “God is faithful,” he said, “just you wait and see.” And then, he gave me a real big hug. I felt better.

Then I saw Pop watching us. He smiled, came over, and hugged me too. He told me to trust Grampa and to trust in the Lord. “God is faithful,” he said, “just you wait and see.”

Pop then told me I had been doing a much better job of being dependable. He was going to count on me to take care of all the birds, not just the chickens. He was sure I could do it. He put his hand on my shoulder and smiled at me. I was so happy, I felt like my heart was going to bust out of my chest.

There were a lot of animals on board. So I got really busy taking care of all the birds. I needed to care for them the same way I took care of the chickens at home. It was the same job, only it was a lot bigger than before. I went up to where they were kept to sort of look around, and I couldn’t believe all the different types of birds. I still had no names for them, but boy were some of them beautiful. They were different shades of every color in all sorts of combinations and, boy, were they noisy! Each one seemed to be talking or singing or chattering in some way. It was noisy but beautiful.

We had covered the floor with sawdust and wood chips left over from the construction of the ark. That helped a lot with the mess the animals left on the floor. We also had a lot of hay to use both for food and to cover the floor. That way the animals could lie down and sleep at night.

Then, after the seventh day, the animals stopped coming. It was weird after they had been coming for so many days.

Then it got really cloudy outside. These clouds were darker than I had ever seen before, and soon it was almost like nighttime. The wind blew harder and harder, and then…water started falling from the sky. I’d never seen water fall from the sky before. Then it came down harder and harder. It came down so hard we could barely see a stone’s throw away.

I ran to Grampa and asked what was happening. He told me the Lord had told him about the water from the sky. Grampa called it rain. He said it would continue for forty days and forty nights. All the water would destroy the whole world that we had known. He called it a flood.

Then something really weird happened. I looked out the door. I could see that the water was everywhere. It was beginning to cover our farm. People from the city and surrounding farms started arriving, and I could see that they wanted to come with us. Grampa, Pop, and my uncles came to the area near the door, and Grampa began to pray. He said, “Oh Lord of heaven and earth. You have blessed us all beyond measure, but we have rebelled against you. And because of this rebellion, you have chosen to destroy the earth by a flood. But you have also chosen your servant Noah and his family to care for the animals that you have sent to us. You have instructed me to build this ark. My family and I have done so. The animals that you have chosen have arrived. They are safe inside this ark, which we built according to your command. The rains have begun. The flooding has begun and we, your servant Noah and his family, are safe inside. The rest is up to you Lord. We place ourselves in your hands Almighty God. Do with us as you will.”

Just as Grampa finished that prayer, there was a loud creaking sound and movement by the door. It was the DOOR! It was closing all by itself! The people that had gathered on the outside began yelling and rushing toward the door, but…they were too late.

The door closed with a groan, a scraping, and finally a loud thud that echoed throughout the ark.

They were on the outside, and we were on the inside, and suddenly it got real quiet.

No one spoke.

The animals were silent.

Then the whole ark moved!

# # #

“I wish we had more time for these stories.” Jon moaned, “It always seems like we are just getting started and then bang, it’s over for the day.”

“Jon,” Grampa said. “The good things are worth waiting for.”

“And it is good, so far … I’ll be here for more tomorrow.”

Parents Corner

What would happen if we were afraid to do the right thing like Noah? Sometimes the right thing can be scary and hard. Obeying God is always the right thing. God promises to give us courage and strength to obey, and when we do, He blesses us. There were others in the Bible that also made difficult choices to obey. One was a man named Abram that had to do a scary and hard thing, God asked him to move to a new place and leave his home, friends, and family. Abram said yes to God, but once in the journey, he became so afraid that he made his own plans. God gave him strength and courage to do the right thing, and Abram obeyed. God blessed Abram and his wife with a baby boy. Just like Abram Jesus had to do a very hard thing. He had to leave his home in heaven and go to earth. Jesus knew it was the right thing to do. He loved us so much that he came to earth as a baby on Christmas morning, and just like Abram, God the Father blessed his son Jesus for his obedience.

Genesis: 12 Gen 17:19

 

Stories for Advent – Day 4

God’s Plan for Christmas

The Tale of Noah and the Ark – Part 1

“Come on you guys! I want to hear tonight’s story. Grampa Johnny said it’s something about a boat.” Jon yelled from the front room.

“We’ll be there in a minute Jon!” Sue yelled back, “Be patient. I’m helping Grampa Johnny with his hot chocolate. I’m still looking for the whipped cream.”

“Uh, you won’t find it, Sue,” Stanley’s voice came from the stairwell as he jumped down the last few steps.

“Why not? Did someone use it all up?”

There was a pause big enough to drive a truck through.

Sue walked out of the kitchen into the hallway where Stanley stood looking sheepishly. “Were you squirting it into your mouth again Stanley?”

“Um, well … sort of.”

Sue put her hands on her hips and stared at her brother “Stanley! Now Grampa Johnny doesn’t have any for his hot chocolate.”

“Ah, it’s Ok, Sue.” Grampa Johnny went and stood with his hand on Stanley’s shoulder. “He didn’t do it all by himself. I helped, and, in our defense, I thought that there was another can. I didn’t realize that we used it all up. It’s my fault. Let’s go into the front room and get to tonight’s story. Tonight we’re going to hear about how God continued His preparation for sending Jesus into the world—for Christmas.”

After they settled down in the front room, Grampa Johnny started with his story.

# # #

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Enoch …

“I wonder exactly what Grampa means when he says his God is always there and always faithful,” I thought as I lay in the hayloft of the barn practicing a new song on my flute.

“Enoch, where are you?” The angry voice startled me.

“Uh oh, what did I do now?” I stuffed my flute into a pocket, climbed down the ladder and ran toward the door of the barn.

“I’m coming, Pop!”

I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Where is Grampa’s God when I’m in trouble?”

When I got to the barn door, I saw Pop standing in the goat pen comforting a distressed goat. Then I knew what was wrong. I had forgotten to milk the nanny goats, but they didn’t forget and were making their displeasure known, loudly.

I ran toward the goat pen. “I’m sorry, Pop, I was in the barn and forgot to do the milking.” I gathered the stool, the bucket, and started milking.

“What were you doing in the barn that caused you to forget the goats…again?” he said. “Were you busy doing some work or just daydreaming?”

I kept milking the nanny goat and didn’t answer right away. Finally, I said, “I’m sorry Pop. I was thinking about something and just forgot. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

He leaned down toward me and spoke quietly into my ear, “That’s what you said last time and the time before that.” He straightened up and spoke a little louder, “When are you going to stop forgetting and be a responsible boy?” Then he walked around to the other side of the goat, hooked a finger under my chin, lifted my face and looked me right in the eyes. “Enoch… son, you are 10 years old, and I need to be able to count on you. Please do the chores I ask you to do.”

His words burned like fire in my heart, but I didn’t want Pop to know. So I looked down again and just kept on milking.

Pop straightened up and said, “I am going over to work on the project with your Grandfather today. Don’t forget any more of your chores. I’ll check on you at lunchtime. I’m counting on you son, don’t let me down.” He turned and walked away toward the west meadow where they were building the “project.”

My hands kept milking the goat, but my eyes followed him as he walked away. I felt my throat tighten up, my eyes began to water, and my eyesight to blur.

I thought to myself, “I hate disappointing him.”

I wanted to run after him and beg his forgiveness. But I knew that the best way to get it was to earn it by doing all of my chores and doing them well. I sniffled and wiped my eyes. I continued to watch Pop walk toward the project while my hands began to milk as fast as they could.

“How could I trust a God that isn’t there to help me when I need it?”

As soon as I was done with all my chores, I decided to go over to the west meadow and watch Pop, my uncles, and Grampa work on the project. I ran toward a little hill that overlooked the whole meadow, and I lay down in the grass at the top of the hill facing the meadow so I could see it. It was huge.

It had been there for as long as I could remember. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen. It filled up the whole sky to the west, and when the sun was setting, there was this huge, black outline I could see even from my bedroom window.

Pop told me God had appeared to Grampa and told him to build it. Grampa calls it an “ark.” He said it was a boat and would float on water. I’d never heard of a boat before.

At that moment, I wasn’t too sure about my Grampa’s thinking.

You see, all of my friends (and everyone else in town) said Grampa was crazy. They said that he was especially crazy to build the boat. There wasn’t any water to float it on here in the desert.

Grampa had spent his whole life here in the high desert, far away from any sort of town. Maybe he was a little out of touch with… things.

All I know for sure is that Pop, Grampa, and my two uncles all spend part of everyday working on it. It’s like our family thing, this boat or ark.

Every day I had to feed chickens and goats and milk the goats. I had to collect all the eggs. Sometimes I would talk to the animals when I was feeling lonely or when I thought that this whole ark thing was just plain crazy.

Grampa heard me talking to them one morning when I was not feeling very good about our family “project.” After I was done with my chores, he took me for a walk to his favorite tree. We sat down and talked for a long time. He told me about how the Lord had really talked to him and that, at first, even Grammie thought he was crazy too.

The people that lived in the city in the valley thought his warnings about God destroying the earth were the ravings of a crazy old man. One day I was in town with Pop getting some supplies, and I heard Grampa’s voice from down the street.

I walked down the street to see what was going on. Grampa was standing up in the back of his wagon speaking loudly. “Turn from your wicked ways, my friends, before it is too late!”

The crowd laughed, and one man shouted back to him, “Oh yeah, what’s going to happen to us. Is your God going to wag his finger at us?” Then the whole crowd laughed some more.

Grampa kept talking, “The Lord God has told me that if you all do not repent of your sins and change your ways, He is going to destroy you all!”

That same man shouted back at him, “I don’t like your tone, old man. You better stop your preaching or something bad will happen to you.”

Grampa looked straight at him and said, “I can’t stop preaching. God has appointed me to warn you.”

The man stooped down and picked up a rock, “Well, I’m appointing myself to warn you, old man. Knock off your preaching!” And he threw the rock at Grampa hitting him on the arm. Then the others started picking up things to throw at him too.

Grampa grabbed the reins of the animals pulling his wagon and had to drive away as fast as he could. People still ran after him and threw things at him. One of them hit him in the back of his head.

Grampa told me later that part of believing in the Lord was obeying what He asked you to do even when it was hard or crazy or maybe even dangerous.

One time when it was late at night, we were all asleep, and Grammie Naamah came to our house and pounded on our door yelling, “Fire! Fire! The ark is on fire!” We all jumped up out of our beds and ran toward the west meadow. We could see the glow in the sky and the flames as soon as we passed our gate. When we got there, we could see all of the lumber and supplies were on fire, and some flames were moving up the side of the ark.

Pop sent me down to the creek that ran through the meadow and told me to stay there, fill buckets with water, and keep filling them until the fire was out.

My cousins grabbed the empty buckets and brought them back to me to re-fill.

I filled them over and over and over again. I began to get so hot and tired I thought I was going to die. I wanted to quit so bad. But I knew I had to keep going. I couldn’t disappoint Pop or Grampa again.

We kept it up for what seemed like hours and hours. I must have filled more than a thousand buckets.

Each time I thought the fire was finally out, it would shoot up again somewhere else. I could see my Pop up at the top of the ark, pouring bucket after bucket of water down the side.

I knew I had to keep filling those buckets. Everyone depended on me to keep them filled.

# # #

“What? What happened with the fire? What kind of ending is that?” Jon moaned.

“Don’t worry, that’s not the end. I’m gonna tell more tomorrow.” Grampa said.

“Oh, Ok … but it better be good.”

Parents Corner

What would happen if we pretended to say yes to God then made our own plans? Obeying our parents and guardians is part of Gods plan to keep us safe. He wants us to say yes to His plans without pretending. Sometimes people think they are safe making their own plans or that they can fool God. Noah was someone that did not try to fool God or make his own plans. God told him how to make a giant ark that would keep him and his family safe from a terrible flood. Noah followed the plans carefully. All of his neighbors thought he was silly and laughed at him, but when it started to rain, they did not think he was silly anymore. God made another plan that was even bigger and better than the ark. That plan was to send Jesus as a gift to us on Christmas morning. Jesus will keep our hearts safe like the ark kept Noah safe. God wants us to say yes to Jesus without pretending.

Genesis 6, Titus 1:2