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.”

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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.

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.”

Oliver Rides the Bus

Because it is baseball season …

Oliver Rides the Bus

Oliver tried to focus on the geography of Peru but kept thinking about well-hit doubles, strikeouts and close plays.

Mr. Franzen’s voice filtered into his brain during a 5-4-3 double play, “Oliver…Oliver…Mr. Winslow!”

Oliver slowly realized it was not the play by play announcer calling his name, “Um…huh…yes? I’m sorry.”

“Thank you for joining us. Tell us about the Nazca lines in Peru.”

“They are…glyphs, drawings on the ground you can only see well from the air that no one understands.,”

“Excellent. Who discovered the glyphs….”

Her voice faded into the cheering crowd after Oliver hit a homer, winning the championship.

At dinner, Oliver’s mom said, “My car broke down today. I can’t drive you to your game tomorrow. I’m sorry, you’ll have to miss it.”

Oliver choked on his milk. “But Mom, it’s the first game of the season. The team is counting on me. I’m the starting shortstop.”

“It’s just a game.” She served the peas.

Oliver looked at his mom as she put a slice of meatloaf on his plate. “Maybe I could take the bus. The #82 runs up Meridian to Green Lake. If you give me some change, I can…”

“Now hold it right there, I have not given you permission to take the bus by yourself.”

“But, Mom!”

“No! I’m sorry about the game, Oliver. It can’t be helped.”

Oliver had a hard time sleeping that night. He dreamt about baseball, striking out or dropping a line drive or a missing a deep fly ball. His team kept losing, and it was all his fault.

He woke up early, tired, but excited.

“Ok, I know what I need to do.”

He went straight to his coin bank and found four dollars and seventy-six cents.

“I’ve got just enough money for bus fare both ways.” He smiled.

He checked the bus schedule.

“Let’s see, where is the ball field?” he ran his finger up the route until he found it.

He looked at his clock. “Just enough time to get ready.”

Oliver dressed in his uniform, grabbed his money and his glove. Then he slipped down the stairs, careful not to wake his mom.

“Ok, all set, here we go.” Oliver let himself out the back door.

Once on the bus, his mind filled with fantastic catches and hits.

“Kid … hey, Kid!”

Oliver looked up to see the bus driver standing next to his seat. “We’re at the end of the run, you gotta get off.”

Oliver looked around. “Where are we? I wanted to go to the ball fields at Green Lake.” Oliver felt sick to his stomach.

The bus driver chuckled. “You must have been daydreaming. We passed by there a half-hour ago.”

“How can I get back? It’s too far to walk.”

“Relax kid, there’s another bus stop across the street where you can catch a bus back to Green Lake. I’ll give you a transfer so you can ride it. I played some little league when I was a kid, I know how important the games are.” The driver smiled.

Oliver thanked the driver, crossed the street and waited for the bus. This time he asked the driver to let him know when they got to Green Lake so he could get off at the right place.

Oliver thanked the driver, got off the bus and ran to the field where his team played. The game had already started, so Oliver put his stuff with the rest of the team’s things and went into the dugout.

“Hey, coach! I made it—uh, oh.” He saw his mom and coach Bradley standing with their arms crossed, looking at him. Oliver attempted a sheepish grin.

“Oliver, where have you been, and how did you get here?” his mom asked.

Oliver stared at his shoelaces.

His mom uncrossed her arms, walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “You took the bus, didn’t you?”

Oliver’s face reddened. “Yes, Mom. I just wanted to play so bad.”

“I understand. However, after you went to your room last night, I called your coach. He offered to give us a ride. But, you left this morning before I could tell you.”

Oliver looked up and caught a glimpse of the coach heading out to the field.  He then looked at his mom. “I’m sorry.”

“I know you just wanted to play baseball. I wanted you to play, too. Look, I’ll promise to make sure you get to every game if you promise to stay off the bus. Deal?”

Oliver smiled. “Deal!”

“Mrs. Winslow,” Coach called from the end of the dugout.

“Yes, coach?”

“Could you umpire the game? We’re one umpire short today.”

Oliver’s eyes widened. “You’re gonna umpire? I didn’t know you knew anything about baseball.”

His mom smiled/ “I forgot to tell you—I lettered in softball in college. Come on son, let’s PLAY BALL!”