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.

Advertisements

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 3

Now, Johnny was really getting a little concerned because he never spoke that way before, but he followed Jimmy and wondered where they were going and what was going to happen because he really did not know anything about any chariot.

As he followed Jimmy, he looked around him and saw that the same rough style of furniture was everywhere, the walls were rough stone and walls had large tapestries hanging from where the ceiling meets the walls. This was very confusing. He was really trying hard to figure out where he was, when this was and who he was.

When they got to the main hall where the throne room was, James leaned over to Johnny and whispered, “Jonathan, since you seem to be out of sorts, I will remind you that you need to approach the king with your head bowed and then when you get close to the throne, get on your knees and say, ‘By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.’”

While they waited for Johnny’s turn, there was an older man there who was pleading with the king for mercy. You see he owed a very great deal of money to the king and was unable to pay back the sum and had been dishonest in many of his dealings for the king. After some talking with his advisors, the king had decided that the man should be sent to prison, his land and belongings sold and his family sold into slavery.

The man burst into tears, dropped face down on the floor and pleaded with the king for mercy. He said that he repented of his dishonesty and promised to be completely fair and honest from then on.

“Please do not deal so harshly with me and my wife and small children Your Majesty! I will faithfully serve you for the rest of my days!”

The King looked at the Queen and she nodded her head. The king forgave his debts, admonished him to be honest and faithful and let him go.

“Oh, thank you, sire. You will not regret this generosity at all. I will serve you faithfully and honestly from this day forward.”  Then he bowed nearly to the floor, backed away from the throne and nearly ran from the main hall talking excitedly.

Now it was Johnny’s turn. He took a quick look at Jimmy, nodded his head and walked slowly toward the throne. Even with his head bowed, Johnny took quick looks around the room, it was HUGE! The ceilings in this room seemed to reach up to the sky. There were very tall windows on each side, making the room very light and much cooler than the rest of the castle. As he approached the throne there was a very large, thick carpet.

The king looked sort of familiar.

Finally, he reached the appointed spot and kneeled down as Jimmy had told him and said loudly, “By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.”

There was a long silence and then a kindly voice said to him, “Rise, young Jonathan and face your King.”

Johnny stood up, took one look at the king and nearly fainted. Uncle Klaus was the King! Aunt Harriet was the Queen! Johnny shook his head and looked again and they were still there.

“Whoa! What was going on?” He thought to himself.

The king spoke again, “Young Jonathan, you have been a faithful servant and as a result, I advanced you enough gold to purchase a chariot that had captured your imagination. But, according to the Royal Treasurer, you have not kept up with the payments that you promised to make. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Johnny’s thoughts were racing around in his head trying to think of something to say, for he did not want to end up in prison, even if it was a dream prison. Johnny found himself bowing toward the king again and saying “Please, your majesty, if it pleases the King and his Queen, only allow me some more time. I am sure that I will be able to catch up on my payments. Please forgive your humble servant.” And with that, Johnny found himself back on his knees, head bowed low toward the floor.

Johnny could hear the Queen talking quietly to the King. He thought to himself, “She sure sounds like Aunt Harriet.”

Then the King spoke up, “Young Jonathan, the Queen and I have decided to forgive your debt due to your faithful service to us. Please rise. Your debt is forgiven. You may depart from our presence in peace.”

Johnny could not believe what he had heard. But, he decided that the best thing to do would be to thank them for their generosity and leave quickly before they changed their minds.

He bowed again and said, “Your servant is most grateful to his King and Queen. May you live forever! I pledge myself to you and will be indebted to you as long as I live.”

He began to back away from the thrones and, at the same time wondering, “Where did I learn to talk like that? This is VERY confusing.”

When he got back to where Jimmy was standing, waiting for him. He turned around, grabbed Jimmy by the arm and hurried out of the main hall.

“What just happened?” whispered Johnny to Jimmy. Jimmy stopped in his tracks in the hallway that headed back to their room. “The King and Queen just forgave you a huge debt that you could never repay.”

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 1

Two Brothers

By: God

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when people were pretty new on this earth, there were two brothers. They were, in fact, the only two brothers that had ever lived up until that time…and they were adored by their parents.

Both Adam and Eve were overjoyed with the birth of each one, but the first one had been something special, especially to the mother. Eve was so pleased when Cain was born that she proclaimed that she had gotten a man from the Lord! He was hers! She was so…proud, of herself and of him. Always. Not much later, the second son was born. His name was Abel. Eve was very excited about Abel too, but…it just wasn’t the same as it was with Cain. Adam saw this and tried to focus more of his attention on Abel. They became very close as he grew to manhood.

The two boys seemed oblivious to what was going on with their parents. They were the best of friends. They did everything together. While Eve doted on Cain, Adam spent time with both of the boys. He worked with Cain in the fields and with Abel as he cared for the livestock, especially the sheep. Gradually, as they grew older, the boys took over the tasks on their own. Eve was full of pride for her little family.

Life was good.

Until…

“Abel! You and your sheep tramped through my fields! Again!! Can’t you control them? I have had to replant that whole lower field twice in the last two weeks.” Cain shouted and looked hard into his brother’s eyes.

“Cain, you know that you planted over the only path between my pastures and the river. How else am I supposed to get them to the water? We don’t really have much choice. Our sheep deserve water just as much as the crops. You planted that whole area and it would take most of a day to go around it. I chose a path for them that would affect the crops the least. You should be grateful for that.” Abel replied (as calmly as he could, looking straight back into his brother’s eyes).

Cain returned the stare. The veins on his forehead and neck began to swell, he slowly balled up both of his large hands into fists so tight that his knuckles were turning white and then turned quickly and walked away muttering oaths in his anger. Abel watched his brother walk away with great sadness in his heart.

The two brothers were much like twins in stature. They were both young, muscular and bronzed from the sun. Even though Cain was the older of the two, but you could not tell it from looking at them. In temperament, however, they could not have been more different. Abel was calm, measured and even tempered. Cain, on the other hand, was impatient, often unsatisfied with life in general and occasionally given to fits of violent temper. Working the ground to grow their food was not the easiest job. He often resented it. He resented his brother having only to tend the sheep & other livestock.

Their father had decided that this fall, they would each make an offering to the Lord. The offering was to give thanks for the food, the land, the sheep and all that they had.

Adam did not often speak of the time before the boys were born. The time in the Garden. When he did speak of it, there was a heavy sadness and melancholy in his voice. There seemed to be a great burden of regret.

He did, however, take great joy in his two sons and loved them deeply. And so, it hurt him deeply to see them face each other off like that. He wanted to step in. He wanted to take them both in his arms and, and… Well, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to yell at them, hug them or just knock their heads together. He just wasn’t sure what to do. He suddenly missed the cool, evening walks with the Lord. He yearned for them. His regret again seemed to wash over him and threatened to overwhelm him. He, too, turned and headed off. He was going to find Eve. Perhaps she knew how long this had been going on between the two boys.

Creation: The First Day

Creation: The First Day

By God

Adapted by S. C. Mathisen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right!! WOW! How cool!”

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

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

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

“That would be good, right?”

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

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

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

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

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

The Garden Gate – Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Garden Gate – Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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