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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Two Brothers – Part 2

The day had finally arrived for their Harvest Offering. At the end of the season, the family brought together offerings to the Lord to thank Him for the bounty that He had provided for them. Each member of the family brought the best of what their labors had produced. Adam and Eve both brought their offerings first. Then it was the boy’s turn.

Cain hurriedly brought a basket overflowing with items that he had grown this season. Each one had been selected with care. Adam noticed that, even though the basket was overflowing, the produce was among the ripest, very ripe. Some were almost beyond use. He also noticed that the basket was one size smaller than last year. He was not pleased with what his son had done and decided that he would talk to him about it after the ceremony. His oldest son was quickly done with his portion of their ceremony and backed away from the altar.

Abel’s gift was from the best of his youngest lambs. They were without blemish of any sort. Some of them had already been sacrificially killed to prepare for this offering. He slowly and carefully placed them on the altar, along with the choicest fat. He took his time, making sure that everything was just so. He seemed to be talking to himself as he was working at the altar. When he was done, he bowed his head down low and backed away slowly.

Adam approached the altar slowly. He carried with him a torch and lit the wood that had been carefully arranged on the altar and the offerings were consumed. Almost. After the flames had leaped high into the sky and the smoke curled up toward the heavens, there was one item left on the altar that was left mostly untouched by the flames. It was Cain’s basket.

The rest of the family looked first at the basket and then at Cain in disbelief. Cain stared at the basket. His eyes then dropped to the ground. He then turned and ran toward his fields as fast as he could go. Eve started to go after him, but Adam held her back. “He needs to sort this out for himself, Eve. This is between him and the Lord.” Adam said.

Eve turned to her husband, looked into his eyes, and said, “Adam, what happened? Why was his basket not burned with the rest?” Adam responded, “Sweetheart, did you look at that basket? It’s smaller than last year and the produce was all past the peak of ripeness. He didn’t offer the Lord his best and the Lord rejected his offering. He needs to look into his own heart and be honest with the Lord about his motivations and his heart.”

“But, Adam, did you see his face. I have never seen him look so hurt and rejected before. His pride was severely damaged here. I’m really worried about him.” Eve countered. Adam responded, “I think that maybe his pride may have been the issue. It needs to be taken down some. This will be good for him. It’s a lesson he needs to learn. He’s just doing it the hard way.”

Eve looked at her husband and said, “Adam, I don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in who you are or what you do. I’m going to talk to him. I can bring him around. I always have.” Adam took her gently into his arms and said, “At least wait until he comes home for dinner tonight. He’ll have calmed down by then.” “All right, I’ll wait,” she said and nestled into his embrace. Adam looked around for Abel and saw him walking off in the same direction that his brother had run and thought that maybe a brother-to-brother talk was long overdue. Maybe Abel could reach his brother in a way that he had not been able to lately. He turned toward the house with Eve by his side and, together, they walked home.

Abel knew just where to look. Cain always went to the same place when things were tough and confusing. The two boys had spent a lot of time there together when they were little. It was a rock overlooking the river and shaded by a number of trees. Abel headed out across the fields toward the river in search of his brother.

The Winter Water Hazard – Conclusion

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 grandparent’s 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

The Winter Water Hazard

By: S.C. Mathisen

“Come on Johnny, let’s go! I want to skate on the old pond today. We’re only here in Millville visiting my grandparents for a week.” Susie said trying to encourage her friend Johnny to hurry into his coat, hat, and mittens.

“I am hurrying, Susie,” Johnny said sounding like he was already out of breath.

He had already put on two extra sweaters, long johns and an extra set of wool socks and was bent over trying to reach the laces of his hi-top insulated winter boots and just barely reaching them. Between the extra layers of clothing and the extra layers of Johnny’s round stomach, the laces were almost out of his reach. But he finally did get them and was now finishing up the final knot on his right boot.

“There, I’ve got the boots laced up. All I need to do now is to put on my hat and scarf and coat and get my mittens on. You can never be too careful out in winter weather. Especially here in upper Minnesota! It’s really cold up here!”

“Great, now let’s go. We want to get out there and get back before it gets dark.” Susie said in eager anticipation.

When Johnny was finally ready, they headed for the back door. Johnny detoured slightly to pick up a handful of oatmeal raisin cookies, wrap them carefully in a napkin and put them in one of his over-large coat pockets.

After going out the door and walking across the wide driveway, they passed the barn and followed a path that took them across the cornfields plowed under after the harvest. The sky was a dull, steely gray and the ground was covered with white frost and. They could see each breath they took. They talked excitedly about how much fun it was going to be to skate on a real frozen pond instead of the ice rink they practiced on back home in Crescent City.

After walking across fields for a time, the path led into what looked like a small bunch of trees.

“I think the pond is just on the other side of these trees,” said Susie.

“Wow, it sure is farther than I thought it would be,” said Johnny as he slowed down to look up and around at all the tall trees.

“Come on Johnny, keep up!  It’s starting to snow.”

“I’m coming. I was just noticing how weird it is in here with all these trees covered in snow.”

“Yup, but we should be out of the woods in a couple of minutes if we walk fast.”

“Walk fast, that’s a really good idea. It’s kinda creepy in here. The snow is starting to come down real hard, the sky is getting to be a real dark gray, and it’s getting hard to see.”

Johnny picked up the pace and started walking really fast. He began walking so fast Susie had trouble keeping up with him. The only sound was their feet rapidly crunching in the new fallen snow.

After several minutes of walking, taking different turns to follow what Susie thought was the path, she said with a little quiver in her voice, “Johnny, does it seem like it’s getting darker instead of lighter?”

“Y-y-yes. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice and get scared. Why do you think I’m walking so fast?”

“Maybe we should turn around and go back,” said the quivering voice.

Johnny stopped suddenly and pointed toward his left, “look there’s a clearing over there. Maybe we should go that way.”

“Well, Ok.”

Johnny turned to his friend and said, “I thought you knew your way around on this farm. You should be the one giving directions. Are you lost?”

Susie looked around with a puzzled look on her face, “I thought I knew the way. I just don’t remember the woods taking this long to get through. I might be a little confused.”

“Oh great, you’re lost. And if you’re lost I’m lost too. Can you find your way back out of here?”

Trying to sound braver and more confident than she really felt Susie said: “Sure, we just go back the way we came.”

“Right, we took so many twists and turns on the way here, I lost track of where we came from. I bet you did too!”

“I think I know what we need to do.”

“So do I, we need to pray. God know where we are and He can keep us safe.”

Susie smiled broadly, “That’s right Johnnie. He can and He will!”

Johnny began, “Lord, you know where we are and how to get us out of here. Please show us the way out.”

Susie joined in, “Yes Jesus, please help us to find our way out.”

They both said together “Amen!”