Two Shepherds

Two Shepherds  

Original story told by: God

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

“Jacob, how long are you going to lie there and stare at the night sky?”

“As long as I need to Zebedee, I’ve been watching this star every night for the last several months, and it seems to be getting closer and closer every night. I can’t figure it out.”

“We need to get back to the flock; I’m worried that those Roman soldiers will decide to help themselves to a couple of our sheep while we are away from them.”

“All right, all right, I’m ready to go back now. I made a few notes on the position tonight. It looks like it is straight above that little village of Bethlehem. Maybe we’ll go in there in the morning and look around.”

“Help me gather up our things here, Jacob. You know, after this season is over, I’m going to head back up to Galilee and take my uncle up on his offer to teach me fishing and to set me up with a fishing boat. I am getting really tired of sleeping outside on the hard ground every night, watching a bunch of smelly sheep.”

“That sounds pretty good, Zebedee, but I like being out here. I especially like it at night when I can watch the stars. Ok, I’ve got the food; let’s get back to the sheep.”

The two shepherds head back over several small hills to the small field where they had left their herd. Jacob looks back over his shoulder at the star that has captured his imagination, and Zebedee scans the horizon for any signs of Roman patrols.

“Jacob, why does that star fascinate you so much? After all, the night sky is full of stars. What is so special about that one?”

“I don’t really know Zebedee, for some reason it reminds me of the Lord’s promise to send the Messiah. You know, I heard from a passing caravan yesterday that there was a strange caravan of royal astrologers in the area from some country far away to the east. I heard they were here because they had been following a star all the way from their country. I wonder if it’s the same star. I’d like to run into them and ask them a few questions.”

“Sounds kind of crazy to me. No one believes any of that Messiah stuff anymore.”

“But don’t you remember all the prophecies from synagogue school? One of them talked about a star!”

“Jacob, come on! All of that stuff is just old, tired stories to tell the kiddies at bedtime. If God was going to send a messiah, he wouldn’t have let us get conquered by the Romans. If He exists, He’s off doing other things and has cut us loose to take care of ourselves. Come on, we need to get back to the sheep.”

“I don’t care what most people think, Zebedee. I believe the stories, and I think that star has something to do with them. I just have a feeling about it.”

“Great! Wonderful for you. Me, I just want to get back to the sheep and get some sleep. All this stargazing is depriving me of some well-deserved sleep.”

The two shepherds arrived back where they had left the sheep and begin laying out their sleeping gear and soon settle down for some sleep.

“Here we are, Zebedee. The sheep are right down there in that field all nestled in for the night, and we are here with them. Let’s call it a night. I sure wish that caravan from the east would come by here. I’d like to talk to those men.”

A couple of hours later:

Zebedee awakes. He hears something that sounds like singing. Then, his eyes are almost blinded by a bright light.

“Jacob, what’s that in the sky? It can’t be morning already.”

“What? What do you want?” He cups his hand over his eyes. “Wow! That is really bright!”

“I’m scared,” said Zebedee.

“ I am too,” replied Jacob.

A third voice speaks. The voice seems to come from everywhere.

“Don’t be afraid!”

“Who said that?” asked Zebedee.

“Is that you, Simon?” asked Jacob, in a shaky voice.

“Don’t be afraid!” the voice repeated. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds just looked at each other.

“Jacob,” said Zebedee, “remember all that stuff about not believing all those old stories?”

Jacob looked at his friend, smiled, and said, “Yes?”

“I’ve changed my mind. I do believe them now. ALL of them. Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and arrived just as the sun was coming up. After asking all around, they found Mary and Joseph in a stable with their baby boy, lying in the manger.

When they saw Him, they both went weak in the knees, knelt, and worshiped Him. They told Mary and Joseph what had happened to them, and they both were amazed.

Afterwards, they told everyone they met what had happened and what the angel had said about this child and where to find Him.

All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished. Many came to worship Him as well.

The Winter Water Hazard – Part 2

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.

The Winter Water Hazard – Part 1

Here’s a little story I wrote based on a writing prompt. I had fun writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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.

 

Exercise your gift…

Below is a re post of an article I wrote for the Fellowship of Christian Writers newsletter, The Ready Writer. I thought it appropriate on a day we are all trying to figure out how to use our new Christmas gifts.

You Shall Write… “it is the gift of God…”

With Christmas approaching, a lot of people are thinking about gifts. The hustle and the bustle of the blessed season sometimes cause us to lose focus on either the ultimate gift giver, the ultimate gift or His gifts we have already received.

God has uniquely gifted each one of us as writers. I believe that we are gifted in order to bring glory to God. I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents where three men were given different amounts of His money for safekeeping while He was away. Several observations can be made in application to Christian writers.

Mat 25:14  “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.

One The gift of writing we have been entrusted with belongs to the Lord. In the parable, the man entrusts his own money to his servants. The same is true of our gift of writing. It is His. But, He has entrusted it to us. It is of great value. Trust the Lord that He has given you something extraordinary and special. Because He did this, He also has a plan for us to use it.  What we have is not something that someone can just go out and get. It is not something that we could make for ourselves. It is a gift. It is a talent. It can be a means of exercising other gifts like teaching or encouraging or evangelism. Because of that we need to work on it and hone it so that it shines, so that it can be used properly and effectively. But first, we must choose to recognize, acknowledge and use the gift.

Mat 25:15  He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

Two The gift He has given to each of us is unique and different from what He has given to others. In the Parable, the man gave different amounts of money to each man in proportion to their abilities. Some of us write small things like articles and short stories, some of us edit and proof read, others write novel after novel. Some people think that novelists are the only real writers. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write in the novel format and failed each time. I lose interest in the story or can’t drag it out that long. I have another friend who says that she couldn’t write anything but novels. While I was trying to write novels, the well of ideas dried up and the words just would not come. It was like trying to ride uphill on a bicycle with a flat tire against the wind. I kept telling myself, if I was just a better writer, I could do this. Eventually, I just stopped writing at all. Then, this thought came to me. What was I writing when I enjoyed it and did it everyday? I thought about that for a bit and said, “ok, if I go back to what I was doing before, what would I write?” An idea popped into my head and I got excited about writing all over again. When I sat down to write, I popped out 1,000 words my first session. Since then, my enthusiasm has returned and research for the story is not a drag. If I am going with the gift what

Mat 25:19  “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.

Three The Lord expects us to put the gift to work. He will ask us for an accounting of how we put his gift to work. I believe that God wants us to use our gifts to bring glory and honor to Him. That will mean different things to each one of us. For some of you, it could mean writing notes of encouragement. To others, it could mean writing devotional stories, Bible studies or poems. To still others, it could mean writing novels, short stories or Sunday school lessons/curriculum. Don’t put it off. Don’t listen to the lie that you’re not as good as so and so. Write more. Get better. Put the gift to work. Bathe your writing in prayer. Keep Him in mind as you write.

And, no matter what you write. Write it to glorify God. He is the giver of the gift. Let’s give Him a good report of how we used our gift so we can hear this from Him.

Mat 25:23  “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

We are underway!

I am glad to report that the writing group at my church has embraced the concept of this project and we are moving forward with it.

Yay God!!

I will be working with someone to do weeks 1 and 4 and writing other material to tie all of the other pieces together into a cohesive whole.

Our first writing is due in two weeks! I am so excited to be working on this project with these talented people.

Please pray with me that God will guide all of the writing, editing and artwork for this project!

Outlines! Why are they so hard?

I have been trying to outline the 28+ stories necessary for this Christmas Children’s devotional and am getting bogged down in how to trace the Christmas story through the Old Testament. There are so many great stories in the OT. How many do I include? How do I show their relationship to our need for a saviour and God’s promise to send Jesus?
This may be the hardest part of the whole thing. Pray for me to get this right.

The Best Christmas Present Ever

I want to share with you a little story that I did some years ago…

 

Narrator: One weekend, Susie and Stanley were spending the weekend with their Grandparents. Grammie was busy elsewhere in the house. Grandpa was in the kitchen whipping up a batch of his world famous oatmeal raisin cookies. The two kids have been trying to decide what would be the best Christmas present to get.

Stanley: But Susie, I still think that a complete collection of Tonka trucks would be the best ever. Just think of all the dirt you could move!!

Susie: Oh yeah, and you know how mom feels about all that dirt. Now what I think is that new Barbie doll with all of her stuff like the big house that looks like a castle & cars & boats & clothes…wow, that would be great!!

Stanley: But that’s girl stuff!!

Susie: Yes and trucks are boy stuff. We gotta think of something that anybody would like.

Stanley: Well, then…how about computer games? Remember that game where you had to find things and it took us nearly a week of looking together to find everything?? That was fun and we both like it.

Susie: Yes, that’s true and we both played with the Legos and Lincoln Logs. I made a doll house out them and you built a fort.

Stanley: But maybe older kids & grownups wouldn’t like that stuff as much as we would.

Susie: You’re right, Stanley. Hmm, what would ANYBODY like to get…???

Stanley: Hey! Maybe we could ask Grampa. He could help us figure it out.

Together: Yeah!!!

Both kids jump up and rush into the kitchen….

Together: Grampa!!!

Looking up from his cookie mix…

Grampa: Hey there kiddos! How are my two favorite grandchildren?

Together: Grampa! We’re you’re only grandchildren.

Grampa: Well, that doesn’t change the fact that you are my two favorite grandchildren in the whole wide world. Now, what is it that you two want? The world famous oatmeal raisin cookies have not even gone in the oven yet. I was just tasting the dough to make sure I haven’t left anything out.

Susie: Grampa! They are not cooked yet! Ewww!! Yuck!!

Licking his lips & fingers…

Stanley: I don’t know, Susie, this tastes kind of good. This would go great with ice cream Grampa!

Grampa: What was it you guys wanted anyway??

Stanley: Oh, yeah…we wanted you to help us figure something out.

Susie: That’s right. We have been trying to figure out what the best ever Christmas present would be. Stanley thinks that it would be Tonka trucks & stuff. I think that it would be all the new Barbie dolls & stuff. Then we thought about computer games that we could both play or Lego’s or Lincoln Logs or…

Grampa: Whoa there little one, I got the idea. Why don’t the two of you sit down at the table there while I put this first tray of my world famous oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven? We’ll talk while they are baking & maybe we can sample them fresh out of the oven.

Both kids: All Right!!!

Grampa: Now let me get this oven door open and put this tray in…make sure that the temperature is just right and set the timer. Good! All done! Now, let’s talk about this present thing. I don’t think that you kids are thinking big enough. Let’s think about the best present ever given. Not just the Christmas type. I seem to remember a story that starts like this.

A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when God had just created the earth. He had just finished making all of the animals and fish and plants & trees. He said that all of this is good, but… He then took some mud and created Adam. (I think that is why boys like dirt so much.) When Adam was awake and had looked around a little bit, God asked him to name all the animals. Well, that took awhile, but, after Adam was done, he was a little lonely. All of the animals had males and females. They had someone to spend time with and talk with and stuff, but…Adam didn’t. God knew that this was making Adam sad. So, He put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs and made Eve. She was a present from God to Adam. God then gave the whole world to Adam and Eve to rule over and be masters of. That was a pretty big present if you ask me.

Well, pretty soon Adam and Eve messed up and sinned against God. This pretty much messed up everything all around. They got kicked out of the garden that God had planted for them to live in and they had to work hard every day just to survive. Sin had been brought into the world by their disobedience and the world has been a mess ever since.

But, even as God was kicking them out of the garden, He made a promise that one day He would send someone to do something about the mess that they made.

Well, a lot of time passed and God gave lots of presents to His people. Sometimes the presents were people to help them out when they were in trouble like Noah and Moses. Sometimes He gave them food and water where there wasn’t any like when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert for 40 years. God fed them twice a day.

When they got to the Chosen Land, He helped them take control of it and get settled. He sent people called Judges to help them when they forgot about God and got themselves in trouble. He gave them a king when they wanted one. When they were taken into captivity after forgetting about God again for a long time, He sent them Daniel and kept him from getting eaten in the lions den. He sent them Queen Esther to keep them from getting killed by the evil Haman. He brought them back to Israel when He said that He would and even after they were conquered by the Romans, the finally time came for the best preset of all.

There was a young girl named Mary we talked about her before, do you remember? Do you remember how when the angel told her that she was going to become pregnant and she said that couldn’t be because she was not married and the angel told her that all things are possible with God? She told the angel that it was ok with her because it was going to be from God. Do you also remember that she did get married and she and her husband Joseph had to travel all the way to Bethlehem because the Roman Caesar wanted to count everyone? And then there was no room at the inn and they had to sleep in the stable? And then angels appeared to some shepards to tell them that a wonderful thing was about to happen? Do you remember what the angel said?

“But the angel said to them, do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The angels were talking about Jesus. He was the one that God promised to Adam and Eve that would clean up the mess that they had made. Jesus came to clean us and take away all of our sins by dying on the cross for us.

Jesus is the Best Christmas Present Ever.

Stanley: Wow Grampa! That’s really cool. I never thought of it that way before.

Susie: That’s right Stanley and now because we have asked Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour, we can go to heaven when we die and live for Him while we are alive.

Stanley: And we can pray to Him when we feel lonely or scared or for just any old reason.

Grampa: That’s right kids. I think that you understand really well. Oops, the timer just went off. Who wants some of my fresh hot world famous oatmeal raisin cookies???

Stanley: Grampa, do you think that it would be a good idea to tell our friends about Jesus being the best Christmas present ever? I was thinking about telling my friend Whitney and maybe Johnnie.

Grampa: I think that would be the best idea that anyone could ever have.

Susie: That’s right! If we tell other people about it, it would be like giving them the best Christmas present ever and we could give it to everyone we know!! Like I could tell my friend Cherry!

Grampa: That’s right Susie and you too Stanley. Stanley, could you get the milk from the refrigerator? Susie, could you get some small plates. I think that you two will need some milk and cookies before you go & tell all of you friends about Jesus and ask them to accept God’s Best Christmas Present ever.