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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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.”

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 1

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

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

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

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

Look at him take those moguls.

His arms look like he’s running a jackhammer.

He looks like he was born on that bike.

Here he comes to the finish line!”

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

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

Crash! Crunch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library – Part 1

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library

By: Steve Mathisen

 

“Elwood!”

The tall boy rolled over and tried to use his pillow to block the sound of his name being called.

“Elwood Phineas Dunkle! Get yourself out of bed and down here for breakfast this very minute,” his mother shouted

He knew the tone and that she would no longer tolerate being ignored.

He groaned, rolled over, slid out of bed, pulled on jeans and T-shirt and headed for the kitchen with a slight detour to the bathroom to wash up.

When he got to the table there was a book instead of his cereal bowl. Elwood looked at his mom.

“That book is due today. You need to make a trip to the library.”

“But Mom, I was going to−”

She set his bowl in place.

“You can do that after your trip to the library.”

“Okay, Mom.”

After breakfast, Elwood put the book in his backpack and rode his bike toward the library.

He was taking a shortcut through the park when his shoelace came untied and got tangled up in the chain of his bicycle. He glanced down at his foot and hit a hidden tree root. The bike stopped suddenly. Elwood did a complete flip over the handlebars and landed staring up at the sky through the branches of a huge oak tree.

“Well, that was a dumb move,” Elwood said to himself. As he began tying his loose shoelace, he looked around for his bike only to see its rear wheel disappear around the trunk of the tree.

Forgetting his laces he jumped up and yelled, “Hey, that’s my bike!” and then ran to where he had last seen his bike and … nothing. There was no bike to be seen anywhere. He ran back around the other way and again … nothing.

“What is going on here?” He said.

Clunk!

“What was that?” Elwood ran around the tree again looking for the source of the sound and once again … nothing.

Clang!

He looked up and saw his bike, hanging twenty feet up, bouncing against the tree and going higher, with a rope around the handlebars!

Elwood quickly found the lowest branch and scrambled up the tree after his bike. He just barely got his hand on the rear wheel of the bike before it disappeared into the darkness of the upper branches of the tree. He climbed higher. He wanted to know what was going on.

He felt cold … and blind. It was so dark toward the top of the tree that he couldn’t see anything but, he heard voices.

His eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see three guys on a platform that was built right into the top of the tree. They had at least a half-dozen bikes. The guys were taking them apart, putting the little parts in boxes and hanging the bigger parts on racks hung on branches.

“Bike thieves”, he whispered, “right here in the middle of the park, hidden up in a tree!”

No one seemed to notice him, so he climbed back down to a lower branch and started thinking about what he had to do to get his bike back.

His brain was working rapid fire coming up with ideas and tossing them out as impractical. Finally, he thought of three possible ideas.

First, he could climb back up and steal his bike back. That wouldn’t work though because the guys up in the tree were all bigger than he was.

Second, he could round up all his friends but, even with all of his friends they probably couldn’t overpower those guys and force them to give him his bike back.

“I’ll go to Uncle Jim; he’s a police officer.”

“But wait, he’s going to want proof!”

He reached into his pocket for his “Emergency Only” phone.

“It has a camera and this is an emergency.”

A Bump on the Head – Part 1

Josh was late for school…again. He was running faster than usual, taking his usual shortcut through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head, felt a very sore lump the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and sat up.

“Ok that’s enough, boy.”

“Alright, I’m just makin’ sure you’re ok,” he heard someone say.

Josh looked around and saw no one.

“Ok, who said that?”

His hand went back to the sore spot on the top of his head.

“Ouch! That must have been some conk on the head! Now, I’m hearing things.”

Just then a small voice came from up in the tree. “I don’t think he heard you, Howie.”

The dog looked up and saw a robin up in the tree. “I know, Hawthorne. They always act like they don’t understand.”

Josh looked first at the dog and then up at the robin and then back to the dog. “Are you guys talking?”

Howie and Hawthorne looked at each other and then at Josh and both said, “Yes! Are you…?”

They both stopped at the same time and then Howie continued, “You could understand us?”

Just then Mrs. Abernathy’s orange cat Norman came into view, “Hey guys, what’s up. This kid conk his noggin’ on that low branch?”

Josh looked at Norman and his mouth fell open and he started scooting himself back quickly with his hands. “Whoa! I must be dreaming! This can’t be real!”

Josh started to shake his head, as if to shake off this strange new reality, but quickly grabbed his head with both hands. “Oh! That hurt and made me dizzy at the same time!”

Howie moved closer to the boy, “Maybe you should just rest for a few minutes, Josh.”

Josh’s eyes widened as he looked at the dog, “Y…y…you know my name? H…h…how come I never heard you talk before?”

Howie sat down, looked at the boy and cocked his head to one side. “Well…”

Hawthorne flew to the ground and said, “Maybe you just never listened before.”

Norman came up and sat next to Josh opposite Howie, wrapped his tail around his paws and said, “I think he’s got an attention span problem.”

“Joshie, why you layin’ down in the grass?”

Josh turned toward the house to see little Lizzie Brinkley, rag doll hanging from her chubby little hand. “Hi Lizzie, I was cutting through your yard and hit my head on the low branch and was just…”

“Why?”

“I was on my way to school, Lizzie.”

“Oh. Who’re ya’ talkin’ to, Joshie?”

“I was talkin’ . . . talking to . . .”

Howie emitted a soft “leave us out of this” that sounded like a low growl.

“I was talking to myself. I do it sometimes when I’m alone.”

“Oh, okay.”

Josh jumped up, careful to avoid the tree branch.

“I’m going to be late for school if I don’t hurry. You should go back inside, Lizzie.” he said as he rushed off.

He looked back and saw Lizzie waving goodbye, he waved back at her.

All the way to school he wondered about what had happened.

“Maybe I was delirious. Animals don’t talk, that’s just crazy.” he said to himself.

Josh heard other voices as he rushed to school. His head rotated like a bobble head doll each time he heard a new one.

“It’s mine!”

“No it’s not, I found it first!” He saw two birds arguing over a worm.

There was a dog sniffing all around a grassy yard and mumbling.

“Where did I leave that juicy, tasty bone?”

Then he heard laughter. “It looks like the old, hound dog lost his bone again.”

Two cats were sitting on a fence, laughing at the dog.

All morning long in school, Josh wondered about what had happened and just when he thought he was feeling normal again . . . he heard a small, strange voice.

“So, I hear you can understand us when we talk.”

Josh looked around to see who was speaking.

“Hey! Look down here, it’s Louie…you know…the hamster!”

“Oh no, not you too! How did you find out about me?”

“Easy, the windows are open. I heard it from a little birdie! Ha ha ha, I heard it from a little birdie. I am sooo funny!”

Josh looked down into the hamster cage and saw Louie rolling around laughing and holding his sides.

“Shhh! Somebody will hear you!”

(Still laughing) “Who cares? Nobody can understand me but you. Hahaha, this is too good! I heard it from a little birdie!”

Josh rolled his head back and looked up. “Oh man! This is NOT happening to me!”

“Hey, Josh, who are you talking to?” said Scott in the next row.

“Oh…um…nobody…just talking to myself.”

“That’s right, pretend you can’t hear me.” said the Louie.

Josh put his hand over his ear in attempt to not hear Louie.

“Just thinking out loud Scott.”

“You’re seriously in denial, that’s what you are,” said Louie.

Josh turned toward the hamster cage and tried to whisper, “I am not! I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to hear or understand animals when they talk. Now, leave me alone!”