Dinner with the Queen – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yup!”

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

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

“An Americano with chocolate and cinnamon, right?”

“Uh, yeah…predictable, huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue watched her friend walk away.

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

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

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

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

“Sure, see ya soon.”

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Dinner with the Queen – Part 2

Seattle – Present Day

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

Choosing to continue …

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

The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen

Chapter One

Babylon – 480 BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one had ever defied the King before.

 

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

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

“Where is the queen?”

“Um, may the king live forever…”

“Come on, out with it, Harbona!”

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

Xerxes leaned forward.

“Were those her exact words?”

Harbona flushed and looked at the marble floor.

“No, your majesty. They were not.”

“Then tell me exactly what she said!”

Harbona repeated her words exactly.

Xerxes lept up, his face turning bright red.

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

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

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

The room fell silent.

No one had ever defied the King before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passing the Faith Along – Conclusion

I have been very irregular in my posting of late. I am going post this conclusion and then take time off until the end of the year. I plan to reevaluate the time spent posting stories on this blog.


 

They all put their luggage inside the old two-story farmhouse which was painted a brilliant white and was nestled in a small grove of shade trees. It sagged just a little bit on one side. Grampa Johnny said it was mostly because it was over a hundred years old, but it had been that way for at least the last fifty years because it was that way when he first met Gram Susie and that was “a long time ago” he said with a smile aimed at Gram Susie. She blushed slightly and smiled back.

It wasn’t really a big farm. It had just a few fields for pasture for the horses and cows. There was a creek that ran through the property with a swimming hole and a couple of places that were good for pretending you were fishing while you were really just taking a nap. They had a large vegetable garden, a medium sized barn, a hen house inside a fenced in area for the chickens, a pig pen and all the usual farm machinery sitting on the side of the barn under a shelter. Stanley made it his business to run all over the farmyard to look at everything pulling his father behind him and asking a hundred questions about everything. Grampa Johnny tried to keep up with them but usually arrived in time to answer one question and then off Stanley went to his next destination. They kept this up for at least an hour.

After everyone got unpacked and cleaned up. They sat down in the big country kitchen and had a big supper of fried chicken, baked ham, mashed potatoes, freshly picked peas and a garden salad. For dessert, there was a cherry pie with homemade ice cream. The men helped to clear away the dishes and then went outside to sit under a tree. The ladies washed up the dishes and then joined them just as the sun was beginning to set. They sat, looking at the setting sun, talking and laughing until it was too dark to see. Stanley had just begun chasing fireflies when Mrs. Johnson informed him that it was time for him to take a bath and get ready for bed. After some complaint, Mrs. Johnson took him by the hand and escorted him into the house. Grampa Johnny told Pastor Johnson about some new books he had gotten and wanted to show him.

As most of them were headed into the house, Gram Susie touched Susie on the shoulder, sat down next to her and said, “Susie is there something you wanted to talk about?” Susie looked up at her Grammie and said. “Yes, there is. You see while we were on the train, I met this girl named Michelle. She actually goes to my school and well, we got talking and I was able to introduce her to Jesus and she accepted Him as her Saviour.” Gram Susie took both of Susie’s hands, “I am very proud of you little girl! Leading someone to know Jesus as their Saviour is just about the most important thing that anyone can do. What are you concerned about?” Susie looked up at the stars that were beginning to fill the night sky, “Grammie, I’m not sure how to pray for Michelle. I don’t want her to lose her new faith while she is visiting with her grandparents. I want Jesus to stay very close to her and guard her.”

Gram Susie, smiled and put her arm around her granddaughter, “Let’s pray together. Ok?” Susie nodded her head and then closed her eyes. Gram Susie prayed, “Dear God, please watch over Michelle with some special angels, keep her safe from the devil and surround her with people that love you like Susie here & I do. We love you Lord Jesus and we thank you for coming down to earth and dying for our sins. Help us to keep telling other people about you until you come back. Amen” Susie echoed the Amen and gave her Grammie a hug, “Thanks, Grammie. I knew you would know what to pray and I feel a lot better about it now.”

The two walked back to the farmhouse in the dark, hand in hand.

___________________________________________________________________

The next morning Johnny got up to see the sun streaming into his bedroom window. “Wonderful, a sunny day for a change” he thought to himself. “Dad said that he had something special that he wanted to do with me today. I wonder what it is?”

Johnny quickly got himself ready and went down to breakfast. His father was already at the table finishing his breakfast. “Hurry up son, we’ve got to get a move on and go see that something special I told you about.” Johnny poured himself some breakfast cereal and ate quickly and talked to his dad about a variety of things trying to get a hint about what the something special was and it did no good.

After finishing breakfast the two of them walked toward the section of their neighborhood where people had their stores. They walked past Mr. Anderson’s hardware store and it was closed. That was odd because it was normally open this hour of the morning. Johnny was surprised when his father wanted to go to Uncle Klaus & Aunt Harriet’s grocery store where Johnny worked. Uncle Klaus was finishing up with a customer at the cash register and motioned for them to come to him. “Thank you very much, Mrs. Olsen, I’ll have that roast for you tomorrow,” he told the customer as she gathered up her bags and left the store.

“Robert, I am so glad that you are here now. We have a few minutes and Harriet can watch the store.” He called to his wife, “Sweetheart, Robert and Johnny are here. Can you watch the front of the store for a few minutes?” “Yes I can, I am just finishing up with the Avocados, you boys go on out back for Johnny’s special surprise” came Aunt Harriet’s voice from the produce section.

“Johnny, you and your father come with me. We have something to show you out back.” Uncle Klaus walked quickly to the back of the store and opened the big swinging double doors that lead to the back room. Johnny and his father followed closely behind.

Once in the back room, Uncle Klaus headed for the back door that leads out into the alley where the delivery trucks come. He opened the back door and held it open for Johnny and his father to walk out into the alley. When Johnny stepped out into the alley, he saw Mr. Anderson standing with a bicycle. It was just like the one that he had saved up his money for. Mr. Anderson’s face broke out into a big wide grin. Johnny’s father touched him on the shoulder, “son Mr. Anderson, your Uncle Klaus and I have arranged a little surprise for you. Do you remember that bike that you saved up for and then Mr. Anderson had to sell?” Johnny looked at the bike and then up at his dad, “Yes…I sure do.” Then he looked at the bike again and at Mr. Anderson again and then at Uncle Klaus and then at the bike again.

Mr. Peterson leaned down and spoke directly to Johnny, “Son, we sort of got together and wanted to get you another one just like it. Mr. Anderson was able to special order one from the manufacturer exactly like the other one, Uncle Klaus and Mr. Anderson and I decided that we wanted you to have this as a gift from us. You don’t have to pay anyone for it and there is nothing that you did to earn it. It is just a free gift to you from us.”

Johnny tried for several seconds to say thank you but nothing would come out. Then suddenly he let out a “Yippee!” That seemed to break open the flow and Johnny rushed over to where Mr. Anderson was standing and he just repeated, “Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you, Uncle Klaus, Thank you, Dad. Wow! Wow! Wow! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Finally, he turned to his father and said, “Would you mind if I rode it home, Dad?” Mr. Peterson was laughing and said, “I think that would be fine son. I would, I think that we all would be surprised if you didn’t”

Johnny repeated several more thank yous, put on the helmet hanging from the handlebars, jumped on the bike and headed for home.

___________________________________________________________________

One month later, when the Johnson family had finished their visit at the farm in Millville, they headed home on the train. Susie wanted to see the countryside again and wanted to see if that same seat in the observation car was free. As Susie headed up the stairs to the observation level, she heard a familiar voice. “Look here in Romans 5:8 it says that, ‘God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!’ Does that make sense?”

Susie couldn’t believe her ears. She could see Michelle sitting with two other girls in that same seat sharing the gospel with them. Michelle looked up and saw Susie. She smiled a huge grin and invited Susie to sit with them.

When Susie and Michelle talked later, Susie found out that Michelle’s grandparents were also Christians and had been praying for her for a long time. They had encouraged her and taught her much about being a Christian. And that’s not all. Michelle’s mother had gotten a really good new job and found a house for them to live in within a few blocks of Susie, Johnny, and Andrea. They could all get together and become the best of friends and grow as Christians together.

Michelle did ask Susie where she had learned all of those verses that she had shared with her. Susie replied, “Oh…I learned all of these verses in our AWANA program.”

Passing the Faith Along – Part 4

Smiling broadly, Susie jumped up and said, “Come with me, I want you to meet my family.” Michelle pulled out a Kleenex from her purse, “Sure, I’d like that.”

When they got down to the sleeping compartment where her family was, she was all excited about introducing her new friend and was eager to tell her mom and dad about Michelle. As soon as she walked into the room Mrs. Johnson said, “Oh Susie, you are back just in time. We need to gather our things and put them back into our bags; the train will be arriving at our station in about 10 minutes. Please hurry and get packed.”

“Mom,” said Susie as she stepped aside to allow Michelle into the crowded compartment. “This is Michelle, I met her a little while ago up in the observation car and we got to talking and Michelle has just asked Jesus to be her Saviour and I want you all to meet her and get to know her in the little time that we have before we arrive.”

Mrs. Johnson got excited and welcomed Michelle as though she were a long-lost relative. (Well, that’s kind of true because now they are related as Christians.) They all talked excitedly and packed at the same time. Mrs. Johnson was delighted to know that Michelle was also from Crescent City and went to the same school as Susie, Johnny & Andrea. Pastor Johnson also became excited when he and Stanley returned to the little compartment. He sat down with Michelle and personally invited Michelle to bring her mother with her to church and Mrs. Johnson added that included an invitation for a Sunday afternoon meal with their family. Susie made sure that Michelle had their address and phone number so that they could see each other when they all got back to Crescent City. The train arrived at their stop and sad but happy goodbyes were said to Michelle. Susie took just a minute to say, “Michelle, I will be praying for you every day. I will ask God to help your mother find a good job and a place to live close to us. I am so glad that you asked Jesus into your heart. Here, I have a present for you. It’s a pocket Bible with all of those verses we looked up underlined in it. Call me when you get back to Crescent City, please!” She gave her a big hug and then got off the train, turned and waved goodbye to her new friend. Her eyes began to leak just a little with happy tears.

Michelle ran back up to her seat in the observation car and tried knocking on the window to get Susie’s attention, but the train depot was too noisy and she could not get their attention. As the train started up again to go on its way Michelle slumped down in her seat and said a little prayer. “Lord Jesus, this is Michelle. I’m not too good at praying yet, but thank you for Susie. Bless her a lot!” She began to cry softly into her folded arms.

On the platform, Susie was excited about leading Michelle to ask Jesus to be her Saviour. She began to pray that someone would pick up with Michelle where she left off. Then she saw her grandparents and began running toward them pulling her suitcase behind her. She got to Gram Susie first, let go of her suitcase and hugged her Gram really tightly. After a very long hug, Gram Susie pulled back and took a long look at her granddaughter and whispered to her, “Something tells me that you have something that you want to talk about. We’ll do that later, I promise.” Then Gram Susie saw Stanley hugging Grampa Johnny and said in her normal, strong voice, “Where is that grandson of mine? I want to hug him.” Grampa Johnny had a special hug for his son, Pastor Johnson. “What a fine family you have, son.” Pastor Johnson looked at his father and said with a smile on his face, “Thanks, Dad, I’m awful happy with them too.”

After both Gram Susie and Grampa Johnny had given Mrs. Johnson and hugs and greetings were given all around, everyone climbed into the van that Grampa Johnny had borrowed from their church and for the next several hours they traveled through the northern Minnesota countryside with big doses of talking, laughing and storytelling until they reached the farm.

Passing the Faith Along – Part 2

In Crescent City, Susie’s best friend Johnny was at Uncle Klaus’s store taking apart those big boxes that fruit and vegetables come in so that the boxes could be put into the recycle bin behind the store. He stopped for a minute to think about his friend Susie sitting on the train having fun watching the countryside rolling by. He heaved a big sigh and went back to work on the boxes. It was still two hours before he would be done for the day.

___________________________________________________________________

On the train, Stanley was sitting in the sleeper car with Mrs. Johnson listening to stories about Gram Susie & Grampa Johnny. Mrs. Johnson was telling him about the time that Gram and Grampa rescued a boy named Whitney from a forest fire. You see Whitney and his pals had gone out into the woods to spoil an overnight camp out that the Sunday school was having at a cabin in the woods. “Oh, that must have been something like the cabin that Susie stayed in at the wildlife park when Mr. Christopherson saved her whole class from that bear and Jimmy Barski almost got killed and then asked Jesus to become his Saviour,” said Stanley excitedly. “Go on and tell more of the story mom, it’s really exciting!” Mrs. Johnson picked up at the part where they were having a really hard time finding their way out and couldn’t move fast because Whitney had broken his ankle. They were trapped in a circle of fire, and Gram Susie prayed (like she always did in situations like that), and God changed the wind so that they could get out of the fire safely. Stanley jumped up and down with excitement. “Wow! Tell me another one mom, please!” Mrs. Johnson smiled, “I’m sure that Grampa Johnny will tell you more stories during your visit. I think that now you should go for another tour of the train with your father and work off some of that energy.

“Let’s go sport, I think that it’s time for another tour of the train,” Pastor Johnson smiled at his wife, took Stanley by the hand and off they went. They had already walked from one end of the train to the other four times today, and it was only three o’clock in the afternoon. This time, after their tour, they ended up in the snack bar telling each other riddles, knock-knock jokes and laughing a lot.

Susie spoke up to the girl sitting across from her, “Hi, my name is Susie. What’s your name and where are you going?” The girl had been alternately staring out the window and absent-mindedly turning the pages of an old magazine that had been left on the seat. “Huh? Did you say something? I was thinking about someplace else.” Susie smiled and repeated her question. The girl responded with a small smile, “Oh, my name is Michelle. I’m going to see my grandparents for…awhile. What about you?” Susie perked up and said, “Wow Michelle, I’m going to visit with my grandparents too. They live in upper Minnesota in Millville. Where are you going to?” Michelle scooted around in her seat so she could curl her legs up underneath her and then said, “St. Paul, I think. At least that’s where my ticket is to. I haven’t been to visit with them since I was really little and don’t remember them very much, but…right now…my Mom is having some…trouble so, I am going to stay with them for a little while.” Susie could see that Michelle was having some trouble of her own when she talked about her mom, so she decided to change the subject. “I’m glad that you can go and visit with your grandparents, I’m sure that you will have a great time. Where do you and your mom live? I’m from Crescent City.”

Michelle’s face lit up when she heard that, “Wow, that’s where I live too. What school do you go to?” Susie scooted forward in her seat, “Cascadia.” Michelle bounced in her seat and leaned forward, “Me too! Who do have for social studies?” Susie responded, “Mrs. Alexander, she is a really fun teacher.” Michelle said, “Wow, She is! I had her last year. I must be a year ahead of you and we just never ran into each other. How cool is that?” “Totally cool,” said Susie brimming with excitement now. “Where do you live? Maybe we live close enough to visit with each other when we get back home” she replied.

Passing the Faith Along – Part 1

Passing the Faith Along

by: S.C. Mathisen

 

We get to go to spend a whole month this summer with Gram Susie & Grampa Johnny! In Millville? Wow! That’s great mom & dad!” Susie was so excited that her entire face lit up and she grinned her widest grin as the family finished their dinner one evening in late June. Her father, Pastor Tom Johnson, responded, “We thought that it would be a good time for a visit since we have that pastor’s conference in Chicago in July and then we’ll come back to the farm for a month while I work on my book.”

While Susie began to discuss with her mother what clothes she should bring on the trip, since it was only a week away, Stanley began to ask his father what Millville was like. He could not remember much about it. He had only been there once and that was when he very little. At the same time, he started trying to finish his dinner in big gulps. After trying to swallow a particularly big bite, he began to hiccup. “Whoa, there sport,” his father said, scooting his chair over closer to his young son. He put his hand on his back and offered him some water. “Here drink this water Stanley, it should help to get that big bite down and stop your hiccups.” Stanley took the glass and slowly began to drink it. After a couple of swallows, he handed it back to his dad, leaned back in his chair and took a couple of deep breaths. “Hiccup,” he went again. His father smiled at his son and said, “maybe we’ll just sit still here for a couple of minutes and wait for this to pass.”

Susie and Mrs. Johnson, still talking about what to pack for the trip, rose and began clearing away the dinner dishes and putting them into the dishwasher.

That evening Susie called her friend Andrea, “I’m so excited that we get to go to Millville. You’d love it there, I wish that you could come too. It’s where my grandparents both grew up in the Midwest, near the Canadian border. There are lots of lakes and trees there and my grandparents have a small farm. We’ll be able to help out with the farm animals and other chores around the farm. And, you’d just love my Gram Susie and Grampa Johnny. They are some of the neatest Christians you’ll ever get to meet. They were missionaries in Africa for the longest time and when they retired from Africa they moved back to my great-grandparents farm in Millville. We’re gonna have so much fun!” “I think you will too, Susie. I’ve never been to a real live farm” said Andrea. Susie said quickly, “Do you know what I want to learn? I want to learn how to milk a cow and collect eggs and…and…well, I don’t know, just everything!” Andrea laughed and said, “Yeah, it all sounds so exciting. I wish that I could go with you too, but my Mom & I are planning a trip to the ocean while you are gone. That will be fun too.”

The day of the trip to Millville arrived and found the Johnson family boarding the train at the Crescent City train station, getting settled into their compartment and watching the scenery pass by. Pastor Johnson kept Stanley busy with walking tours of the train. There was even a car with a playroom that Stanley could play in while his father enjoyed being able to sit for a minute. That evening they had a marvelous meal in the dining car and then settled snugly into their bunks to sleep while the train rolled on toward Millville.

The next morning, after breakfast, there was plenty of time for reading, sightseeing on the train and watching the scenery change.

After lunch, Susie went up to sit up in the observation car and look out the window at the hilly pastures dotted with cows and horses rolling by. She was wondering what it would be like to be on one of those farms when someone sat down in the seat opposite her. It was a girl that didn’t look much older than her and Andrea but, something was different about her. She seemed kind of lonely. Susie wondered what to say to her.