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.”

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Two Brothers – Part 3

Cain had already arrived and sat staring into the whirling pools of the shallow water near the rock. His face was contorted with anger as he stared into the water. His heart was so heavy that he thought that it was going to fall out of his chest into the river. He had never felt so depressed or oppressed before in his life. Just as he was considering what to do next, he heard a voice. A voice he had never heard before, but he had no doubt about whose it was.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.”

Cain stood staring at the sky for what seemed forever and then collapsed on the rock in a heap. He knew the Lord was right. But, there was something in him that would not accept it, that the wrong way against it. Pride had entered into his heart and would not relinquish it. Even for the Lord.

“Cain! Cain?” Abel shouted as he reached the spot where the two boys had spent so much time in their younger years.

When Cain heard that, he jumped up and turned quickly in the direction of his brother’s voice. “What? Haven’t you had enough of being the perfect one? Did you have to track me down to gloat?”

“That’s not why I came. I was worried about you. I had never seen you run from anything before in your life. I just came to see if you were all right, that’s all.” Abel stood next to his brother and tried to put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” Cain shouted as he shoved Abel away. “I don’t want your sympathy or your sniveling superior attitude.” He began stepping toward his brother and pushing him violently away back toward the edge of the rock away from the river. Then he suddenly stopped and sat down on the rock.

Once he had regained his balance, Abel stood and stared at his brother for a few long moments and then said, “What is it Cain? We used to tell each other everything. We used to be best friends. But, the last couple of years…it…it seems like I don’t even know you anymore! What happened? Is it something that I have done? If it is, tell me. Let’s work it out. You’re my brother and I love you!”

Cain looked up at his brother with a thoughtful look on his face. He started to speak, “I…I…”, but nothing would come out. Then a thought occurred to him and Abel could see that something flashed across Cain’s face. Something that contorted it for just a moment into something horrible and disfigured. Then Cain’s face softened and looked like his brother again. The brother that he loved.

Then Cain said, “You’re right Abel, let’s talk about it and work it out. You know that section of the lower field that you brought your sheep across? Let’s walk over there and see if we can’t figure out a path for you to use regularly.” He stood up walked toward his brother, stretched out his arm and put it around Abel’s shoulder. They began walking toward the lower field together talking and laughing like the old days.

Once they reached their destination, something seemed to change in Cain. He got quiet suddenly. He stepped away from and behind his brother. He stooped as if to pick up a clod of soil to examine it, but picked up a rock instead. He then swung that rock in the direction of Abel’s head. The rock collided with Abel’s head and Abel slumped to the ground in a heap. Blood began to seep into the ground.

Cain stood over his brother’s body. Then he quickly dug a shallow grave with his hand out of the soft earth. He quickly buried his brother and then began to wander back in the direction of the river. He didn’t know where else to go. He walked slowly at first and then he began to run. Finally, he ran as fast as he could until he reached the rock again.

His chest was heaving and his heart racing. His mind also was racing, thinking trying to figure a way out of, out of…what he had done. He was a tangled knot of emotions. Angry, sad, fearful, defiant, happy, confused and dazed. Into that fog came the voice he had heard just an hour or so ago.

Creation: The First Day

Creation: The First Day

By God

Adapted by S. C. Mathisen

Sometimes teaching the Bible to small children can be as humorous as it is rewarding. Picture, if you will, one veteran Sunday School teacher teaching the story of creation with a group of early elementary students. In this group, there is one particularly precocious student who is the youngest son of the pastor.

“Hey guys, remember we were going to start going through all the stories in the Bible? Well, today is the day we are going to start. We’ll be talking about how God created everything. The Bible tells us that it took God seven days to create the whole world. Today, we are just going to talk about the first day….”

Stanley interrupts, “Whoa! Mr. Mathisen, do you mean God created everything? Are you sure you mean absolutely, completely, positively, everything in the universe, EVERYTHING? They told us in school that it might have been something called a big boom or bang or something.”

“Yes, Stanley, I mean everything. If we look in the Bible in Genesis Chapter One, we can read all about it.

“It says here that: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”

“Whoa!! What does that formless mass stuff mean? It sounds like what I get when I play with Play-Doh.”

“Well, Stanley, you’re not too far off. Let’s imagine for a minute with our eyes closed that we are floating in the air except that it is totally dark and there is nothing there at all. Then God creates something, but He hasn’t given it any shape yet. It’s just a blob like your Play-Doh. Only you can’t see it because there is no light. God hasn’t created that part yet. So there you are, floating in empty space with nothing but a blob of Play-Doh. Oh yes, it also says that the Spirit of God is there with you. So you’re not all alone. Just like today when we are never alone because when we have Jesus in our hearts, He is always with us. Isn’t that fantastic, Stanley…Stanley…(louder) Stanley!”

Stanley, coming back to earth, “Oops sorry, I was having fun floating with God’s Spirit.”

“OK, Stanley. Let’s go on. So the next part says, “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.””

“Ooh, ooh,” injected Stanley, “we had a lamp like that once. All you had to do was clap your hands or make a loud noise, and the light came on. It was so cool!”

“I’m sure it was Stanley, but God didn’t have a lamp or electricity to plug it into or anything. The only thing that God used was His Word. The only other thing there was the blob and His Spirit.”

“And me, remember I’m floating there.”

“That’s right, and now you can see because God created light.”

“Right!! WOW! How cool!”

“Now let’s see, what comes next? Oh yes. “And God saw that it was good.” This is important because we need to remember that everything that God creates is good. We can use the good things that God created for sinful purposes.”

“Do you mean like a rock or my baseball. I can use it to play catch with but not to throw it at my sister?”

“Exactly Stanley. When you play catch with it, it is being used for good. When you do something bad with it, you are using it for evil. That is one of the choices that we get to make every day. Anyway, let’s get back to the story.”

“That would be good, right?”

“Right, now, where did we leave the story? Oh yes, God created the light and called it good. Next, we have: “Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Together these made up one day.” Let’s just imagine watching God take all of the light and moving it to one side so that the light and darkness are not mixed up.”

“That’s not what I do with my Play-Doh. It gets all mixed up and looks ugly after awhile. I can’t separate it anymore. I just throw it away.”

“That’s part of what makes God so wonderful Stanley. He can do things that you and I cannot do. But we can also see here that created the first day separated it from the night, and that was His work for the first day.”

“What happens next? This is a pretty interesting story.”

“That’s all for this week. Make sure that you read the story at home and come back next week for the second day.”

The Garden Gate – Conclusion

By this time, Horace had had enough and decided to put his own two cents in. He cleared his throat and said in his most official voice, “Young lady, please remove yourself from the entrance to my home or I shall be forced to take steps to have you removed!”

“Who ARE you?” Amanda asked. Horace then flew down to a lower branch so that she could more easily see him. “Oh, yes, please forgive my poor manners. My name is Horace Alexander Bumpworth III. This tree is my home, the plumbing has gone out of whack, and the plumbers have just arrived only to find you sitting directly in front of the entrance to my elevator and since beavers cannot climb a tree that is their only way in. So…can you please move yourself so that they can get in?”

Now it took Amanda just a moment to realize what she was being told and then jumped up to clear the way saying, “Oh yes, I am very sorry, I didn’t know.”

Horace replied, “That’s quite alright, no harm done. Maury, would you please go and get the beavers back here so that they can go on with their work?” Maury said, “Sure Horace, right away.

Amanda watched Maury fly off to retrieve the beavers and then looked at Horace who asked, “And who might you be, young lady?”

With a slight hesitation, because she had never spoken to an owl before, Amanda replied, “My name is Amanda Applewhite. I live with my father on a farm in, in…” Amanda looked all around trying to get her bearings and realized that she was not quite sure which way was home. “It’s in that direction,” she said pointing west.

Horace ruffled his feathers, gave a little hoot, and said, “Well, it seems that you have gotten yourself lost. Perhaps you should turn right around and head home right away. You wouldn’t want to anyone to worry about you, so off you go! Goodbye! On your way!” Then he flew back up to his front porch.

Amanda just stood there staring at Horace as he perched about halfway up the tree. She realized that unless she looked really hard she couldn’t see that there was a little structure sticking out of the tree. Horace opened what looked like a little door and went inside. She then thought that she could hear a door close. She shook her head, looked around the clearing for the beavers and didn’t see a thing. She looked up again and tried to see Horace’s front porch again and it wasn’t there! Amanda closed her eyes, shook her head again, looked all around, and could see no trace of the owl or the beavers.

She closed her eyes and began to rub them. She was just starting to think that she had imagined it all when she opened her eyes again and found that herself yawning and stretching her arms. She realized that she was sitting down and leaning up against the tree again. She could hear the buzz as a dragonfly went close by her ear towards the stream and then up into a shaft of sunlight before disappearing.

Amanda wondered if she had just dreamed the whole thing, shook her head again and then headed home. She had a real story to tell her dad, but she was not sure exactly what to tell him. When she got to the place where the garden gate was, she opened it, walked through and closed it. She walked a little ways toward where she had entered into the forest and turned around. The path was gone. She took a couple of steps back toward the gate and now it was gone too. She stood and stared for just a minute, reached back and felt a lump on the back of her head. “Ouch!” she said out loud and was surprised by the sound of her own voice. Her head hurt and she decided that she had better go home.

When she reached the edge of the forest, she could see that the sun was getting low in the sky. It was then that she realized that she had a bunch of wildflowers in her hand. She turned toward home and ran.

The Garden Gate – Part Three

Maury buzzed over toward the lead beaver and said “Melvin, you hang on to those big teeth of yours. Horace will be right down and figure this out.” Melvin looked at his watch, started tapping his right foot, and then said, “Well, we’re on the clock. Time started when we left the shop. It makes no difference to me whether we spend the time working or not.” Melvin then turned around and spoke to the rest of the beavers, “Okay boys, break time. I saw a small stand of birches on the way in. Let’s go back that-a-way and get a little snack!” Then they all turned around and walked back the way that they came.

Now Horace saw the beavers headed away from his tree and began to squawk loudly. “Hey there, you beavers, come back here! Come back here this instant! I have been waiting for you to get here for three days and I won’t have you leaving before you even get started!! Come back!!”

Maury flew up to Horace and shouted at him, “Settle down Horace, they are just going to lunch while we…YOU figure out what to do with that little girl down there.” “How am I supposed to know what to do with her?” replied Horace. She’s just another lost human. We get them every so often. I don’t know what to do with her.”

“Well, we’ll have to think of something and soon or those beavers will leave and you will have to schedule them again for another day”, said Maury.

“I can’t do that,” moaned Horace, “it’ll be another week before they can get out here again. I can’t stand being without running water. I already have dishes piled up all over in the kitchen, dirty laundry and I haven’t been able to make iced tea for almost a week! I can’t stand it, I tell you!” Horace was nearly shouting by this time and the noise caused Amanda to begin to stir. Horace and Maury both flew down to see if they could get her to wake up and leave.

Amanda felt very groggy and had a terrific headache from banging her head up against the tree, her vision was a bit blurred as she opened her eyes but it began to clear as she tried to sit up and get her bearings. She put her hands flat on the ground and began pushing herself up and to try to stand, but she got very dizzy and plopped right back down again and said “Whew! What happened? I think that I took a little nap and when I woke up I must have still been dreaming because I thought I saw the ugliest dragonfly I have ever seen and it was sitting right on my nose. Wow! What a dream that must have been!”

Now Maury is a very proud dragonfly and thinks that he is quite handsome. He took great offense to what Amanda said and said so loudly. “Just what do you mean by that? I am not ugly! In fact, I am said to be quite attractive to the damselflies in the area. Humph, ugly indeed!”

Amanda looked in the direction of Maury’s voice to see the little dragonfly sitting on a leaf of a low hanging branch. He was looking quite stern for a dragonfly and she could not believe her eyes or her ears.

“Did you just talk to me?” Amanda said in a very surprised voice.

“Yes, I did!” Maury exclaimed, “You insulted me. I was just trying to wake you up so that the plumbers could get into Horace’s tree. His water pipes are not working and you were blocking the entrance to the elevator.”

Now, Amanda could not believe her eyes or her ears. “You’re a talking dragonfly?” She said to herself and she blinked real hard and then shook her head to try to clear her thoughts. “This is NOT happening to me!” But, when she looked again, Maury was still there and he was still talking. “You just have to move! Horace really needs the plumbers to fix his water pipes and …”

The Garden Gate – Part Two

Now Horace looked down at the reclining figure at the base of the tree in which he made his home and moaned to himself. “Not only do I have a case of insomnia, but now there’s a young girl blocking the door to my tree! How are the beavers going to get in to fix the plumbing? Oh, drat and bother … Maury! Maury, where are you?”

“I’m over here on the other side of the house looking out for the beavers like you asked me to do. What is it now?” Maury flew back to where Horace was sitting and looking down toward the ground.

“Look down there,” he said pointing down with one wing. “There’s a girl down on the ground blocking the entrance to my tree on the ground. If that’s blocked the beavers can’t get in to fix the plumbing, can you go down and tickle her nose and make her go away so the beavers can get in….please?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Horace? She might swat me and kill me. I don’t think that I like the idea very much. It sounds too dangerous to me”, he said with a slight smirk on his face.

“Oh come on Maury, I know for a fact that you’ve done that nose tickle thing a hundred times for fun. And that was on a napping bear! I’ve seen you move quicker than anyone thought you could. Come on, you know you can do it! Please?”

“That’s right I did annoy a few bears for fun, didn’t I? I am pretty fast aren’t I? Oh alright, I’ll do it. You just watch me and see how fast I am! Wait! I’ve got a new technique I’ve wanted to try. Watch this!”

When Amanda awoke from her nap, she had just opened her eyes and was starting to stretch only to discover a dragonfly sitting on her nose, staring right at her. Her eyes opened up very wide, and she stared back. She tried to back up, away from the dragonfly, but because she was already leaning against the tree, could not.  Amazingly, the dragonfly didn’t fly away. It just stayed right there on the end of her nose staring at her. Amanda was so surprised she just sat there, staring back.

“Maury, what are you doing down there? You’re supposed to be getting her to move so the plumbers can get to the door.” came Horace’s voice from up in the tree.

Amanda suddenly realized that these creatures were talking. She looked up at Horace and then back at Maury again and then tried to sort of stand up and jump backward at the same time, but only succeeded in hitting her head against the tree, knocking herself out. She then slumped down against the tree, back into her original position. Then the Maury lifted off from her nose and hovered above her.

“Oh hold on to your pin feathers, Horace. I was trying not to scare her to death, but, you seem to have accomplished that with your impatient shouting.” Maury shot back. “Now get down here and check to see if she’s dead or if you can wake her up again.”

Just then, a small group of beavers waddled into the clearing. Each of them was wearing a small tool belt, a hard hat and a small bag of tools that clanged and clanked with each step they took. They walked up close to the tree where Amanda lay unconscious and stopped. Each one of them stared at the girl. “Hey! What is this?” said the one in front. “How are we supposed to get up to Horace’s with that…that…human in the way?”

The Garden Gate – Part One

It was one of those days. You know the kind I mean. One of those days in late summer that you can actually smell summer in the air. That heavy, sweet smell that hangs thickly over the ground as you walk. Amanda found herself thinking that a small breeze would be as welcome as an ice cream cone. She was out taking a long afternoon walk and had decided to look for some wildflowers to put on the dinner table. Her mom always liked to do that when she was alive and when Amanda did it, it made her dad smile. She loved making her dad smile. He did far too little of that these days.

Thinking about her mom made her sad. Thinking about seeing her dad not smiling because he missed her mom so much, made her even more sad. She tried to pray when she felt this way. Somehow, talking to God, even without words, helped to ease her sadness. She began to sing an old hymn that she had heard and sung in their little church.

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.

This is what she found herself doing today, walking, singing and talking with God in the summer sun.

She wasn’t actually paying attention to the time as she walked this afternoon. School wasn’t going to start up again for another few weeks and she was relishing the freedom to waste an entire afternoon. She had left the house shortly after lunch to find the flowers, so she was just wandering in the fields east of the house along the edge of the woods the bordered their property, picking flowers as she went.

Something drew her in the direction of the tall trees, perhaps it was the thought of some shade and cool breezes. Perhaps, it was something else. She never really thought about it. She just found herself headed toward the woods and when she entered the shadows of the forest, the coolness of the air nearly caused her to shiver. It was like entering a different world. One that was fresh and green. Those were welcome feelings on such a hot sticky afternoon. It was also lush with sounds that she had not heard just a minute before.

As she walked through the thick woods, she saw the most unusual thing. There was a garden gate. It was just a little, simple white wooden garden gate, slightly open with no fence on either side. Curious, she thought to herself as she walked over to it and looked for just a minute. Though not freshly painted, it did not look neglected. Then she touched it, just to make sure it was real. She swung it all the way open, then back and forth. There was just a slight squeak. Finally, she walked through it and, instinctively closed it. The woods seemed different on this side of the gate and there was a path that she hadn’t seen just a minute before. She decided to follow it. She was curious now.

She distinctly heard the call of an owl and then the sound of the breeze moving the branches of the trees that surrounded her on the path. Now there was the sound of the creek that bordered her farm and provided them with water and many fish suppers. She could not recall ever having seen this part of it before. That struck her as a little odd, but it was surprisingly restful and Amanda began to feel just the slightest bit tired. As she came near the creek, she decided to sit at the base of a gigantic tree and rest. No sooner had she sat down and leaned up against the tree that her eyelids became very heavy and she drifted off to sleep, a very deep sleep. She could hear the hooting of that owl again as she passed into unconsciousness thinking that it was odd to hear an owl in the daytime.