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

Since most of us are still stuck at home, I thought I would share a fictitious trip to the library just for a bit of fun.

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.”

He climbed back up very slowly, took out his phone and took several shots of the treehouse workshop and the thieves. One of the thieves must have heard the little shutter sound the camera made because one of them turned and started toward him.

Elwood flew down so fast he almost fell, then he ran toward the police station as fast as he could. But, he tripped on his still untied shoelace and did the most splendid face plant ever seen in all of history and nearly knocked himself silly.

“Okay, another dumb move!” His head was spinning around, and he saw all sorts of blinking lights.

“I really need to tie that shoe.”

“There he is!” came a voice from the bike thieves tree.

Elwood looked and saw two huge boys running toward him, and they did not look like they wanted to help him.

Without getting his shoe tied, he jumped up and headed for the police station again. When he got to the street, the light at the crosswalk was red, and a lot of traffic was whizzing by.

“There he is, just waiting for us!”

Elwood turned and saw the two boys running hard after him.

“Uh oh! I better get going somewhere!”

Elwood ran to the left. The police station was down that direction anyway, and he could cross the street when it was clear.

After running two blocks without tripping, he saw the police station across the street. He looked both ways, saw that the traffic was clear enough for him to cross the street.

He crossed without tripping and was almost in front of the police station when the two bigger boys caught up to him. Each grabbed an arm and jerked him to a stop.

The one on his right said, “No, you don’t, twerp! You’re not gonna squeal on us!”

The one on his left pulled him around, so he was facing away from the station, put his face right in front of Elwood’s. “Yeah, because if you do, we’ll pound you to a bloody pulp.”

Just then, a voice came from behind him. “Is there some sort of trouble here, boys?”

It was Uncle Jim’s voice!

The first boy stiffened. “Oh no…officer…sir, we were just…”

Elwood wrenched himself out of the boy’s grasp and turned around, “Oh yes, there is Uncle Jim!”

The two boys took off, running back across the street towards the park.

Uncle Jim put his hand on his shoulder. “What’s going on here, Elwood?”

Elwood then explained the whole story and showed him the pictures from his phone. Uncle Jim took him inside the station, sat him down in the waiting area, talked to the sergeant, and showed him the pictures on Elwood’s phone. The sergeant nodded, picked up the phone, and spoke briefly. Then two officers walked in, talked to the Uncle Jim for a minute, and then headed back down a long hallway.

Uncle Jim sat next to him, “We have been trying to catch this ring of bike thieves for over a month. You’ve given us just the break we needed. Come show me where this tree is.”

They stood up and started to walk toward the door but, Elwood tripped on his shoelace again.

“Can I please tie my shoelace first?”

Uncle Jim chuckled, “You bet!”

“Oh, and one more thing,” Elwood reached into his backpack and pulled out a book. “Can we stop by the library? My mom will kill me if I don’t get this book returned today.”

Eleanor’s Deep Dive

I entered a flash fiction contest and this is what I wrote:

Doctor Eleanor Milford stepped onto the diving board, looked around the pool at the gathering of her friends and colleagues, and then refocused on the water. Taking measured steps forward, she pushed down on the end of the board, and as it pushed her back up into the air, she launched herself into a backflip with a twist that pointed her straight back down toward the water in a perfect vertical line. She entered the water with barely a ripple.

Once in the water, she looked downward at what should have been the bottom of the pool—but wasn’t. Instead, she saw stars in a night sky and found herself flying through the air in an arc toward another type of pool in a completely different setting. She entered the water, hoping to resurface back at the party she had been at but instead was in a river by-water, deep in a dark, green forest, filled with bird songs and buzzing insects. She swam to the edge of the river, found the shore, and began to climb out when she was greeted by a tall, sturdy man who said, “Welcome home, Eleanor. My name is Regan, do you remember me?”

The Winter Water Hazard

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!” 

Johnny then turned and looked all the way around him said with a more determined tone, “Let’s head toward gap in the trees over there. If we can get out of these woods, I’m sure we can get back to the farm house.”

Susie, immediately perked up and said, “Ok Johnny, lead on.”

So off they went. Johnny led and Susie followed closely behind him. After a bit they were walking shoulder to shoulder. Each time one stepped on and snapped a fallen twig or branch they both jumped slightly and moved closer together. 

Twenty minutes later at the edge of the forest, the sky had cleared and they found themselves in very bright sunlight standing on an overhang that looked down over the valley that contained Susie’s grandparents farm. They could see the farmhouse and barn in the distance.

“Wow! That sun is bright!” said Johnny, shielding his eyes. “How did we end up all the way over here?”

“I don’t know but I guess we walked farther than we thought. Look! There’s the old pond down there,” said Susie pointing off to her right and her familiar smile returning to her face.

“Wow! Somehow we managed to walk completely around it and end up all the way up here.”

“How do we get down there? I sure don’t want to go back the way we came.”

Johnny then pointed to the right but lower than Susie had, “It looks like there’s a trail over there that might take us down there. All we have to do is to follow this overhang till we get to it.”

Beaming at Johnny, Susie said, “Well? What are we waiting for?”

“I think we need to thank God for getting us out of the forest.” 

“That’s right, Johnnie, we do. Let’s do it now.”

Once again they joined in prayer. “Thank you, Lord for bringing us out of the forest.  Now help us to get back to the farm safely.” They looked at each other and both said, “Amen!”

So off they went walking along the edge of the overhang and sometimes hanging onto tree branches to keep their balance. 

Just as they approached the trail, they realized that they would have to cross a shallow, but wide and mostly frozen over creek to get to it.

After looking at the creek Johnny turned to Susie and said, “Whoa! That looks too wide to jump.”

Susie began craning her neck looking up and downstream to see if there was another spot they could cross. “The underbrush is too thick to try anywhere else. It looks like we have to cross here or go back through the woods.”

Just then Johnny spotted a low branch hanging over the creek. “You know, we might be able to grab that branch and swing across.” 

Before Susie could respond, Johnny had jumped up to grab the branch. He got a hold of it and began to swing but couldn’t hold on all the way across. He dropped onto the icy creek bed and his feet immediately began to slide downstream. 

Susie watched in horror as Johnny began to fall and reached out to catch him but only succeeded in grabbing his coat pocket. That grip on Johnny pulled her off balance toward the creek bed and she fell toward him. 

Soon the two of them were sliding down the iced over creek bed like it was a bobsled course. Johnny was feet first with Susie still gripping his pocket going down headfirst. 

They careened downhill at getting faster by the minute, all the time bouncing off of the creek sides until they eventually shot out of the creek bed and across the old pond. At that point, they began spinning around like cartwheels. 

They eventually came to a stop near the far side of the creek where they sat up and tried to get their bearings. Johnny was just about to speak up when they heard a familiar voice, “If you two are done with your ice dancing, maybe you’d like a ride back to the house.”

They looked up to see Susie’s Grampa Johnny with his horse drawn wagon at the edge of pond chuckling. Susie and Johnny looked at each other and then they began to laugh too. 

 

Two Shepherds 

Two Shepherds  

Original story told by: God 

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of hours later:

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

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

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

“I’m scared,” said Zebedee.

“ I am too,” replied Jacob.

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

“Don’t be afraid!”

“Who said that?” asked Zebedee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Inspector Elliott McGinty

Inspector Elliott McGinty awoke with a sinking feeling. The last time this happened was when his waterbed had broken and flooded his bedroom. This time, however, he was not in bed. In fact, when he opened his eyes and looked up, he could see white, fluffy clouds in the blue sky above him. Then he realized that he felt wet. His arms felt wet and so did his legs.
Lifting up his head to look around, Elliott could see nothing but water all around him. He tried to prop himself up on his elbow to get a better look and discovered that he was on a small, wooden raft in the middle of what looked like the ocean. He licked his lips to discover a salty taste and the air also smelled like the sea.
“How did I get here?” He wondered.
Pulling up his legs, he got himself into a sitting position and realized that the raft, if that was indeed what it was called, was quite small and was barely large enough to hold his body. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a pair of ripped, faded blue jeans. If he had had any shoes on before, they were gone now and only white athletic socks covered his cold, wet feet.
He began wracking his brain for some memory of how he came to be where he was. It was then that he realized that he also had a tremendous headache. He reached up to touch his head and discovered a sizable and painful lump on the backside of his skull. He brought his fingers around so he could see them and a small amount of blood clung to his fingers. That caused him to look at the water surrounding him, just in case his blood had attracted any sharks.
It was then that he decided to check his pockets and found that they were all empty except for a small pocket knife and a waterlogged cell phone. Not particularly helpful. Then the water around him shifted texture and began changing shape. The slight ripples in the water began smoothing out. The raft also began changing shape into some sort of chair and the surrounding sea began reforming into a forest, tall and green.
As Elliott began to take in all the changes, his mind became confused and fuzzy. He began to see things he had never seen, or were these memories that had been long forgotten?

Choosing to continue …

I have decided to continue with this blog and to publish the writing I am currently doing on it in a serialized fashion. I am going to resume writing my story that is currently called The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen. I had gotten to a point with it where I was stuck. The actual story of Esther takes place over a period of years and wasn’t something I could throw the kids into and get them out of quickly with any sort of continuity. I figured a way out of that and will be working on that. In the meantime, I will repost the beginning of the story again. I am more hopeful of moving forward with it because I was able to add another 1100+ words to it today in about an hour.  So, here we go!

The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen

Chapter One

Babylon – 480 BC

“Is there enough food and wine for everyone?” The queen asked of no one in particular.

A tall, muscular young man behind her stepped forward and answered quickly, “Yes, your majesty. All is as you requested. Everyone is being given whatever they ask for. No request is denied.” He then bowed low and assumed his previous position.

The sun-splashed walls of the queen’s pavilion, decorated with the same white cotton curtains and blue wall hangings the queen had chosen for the king’s pavilion, echoed with conversation and laughter. Queen Vashti paused, golden goblet in hand and listened to the laughter and conversation and watched her many guests. Very proud of what she saw, Vashti smiled. Surely this will make King Xerxes proud of me. I am his equal in every way.

The entire kingdom of the Medes and Persians had been celebrating for one hundred and eighty days and were now in the final day of seven days of feasting. All men were welcome at the king’s feast and all women were welcome at the queen’s feast where the food and wine flowed abundantly and freely.

In the hallway, six men jostled each other and joked as they walked down the hall approaching the queen’s pavilion. They stopped at the doorway, formed a line and assumed a more serious demeanor. The two on the outer ends stepped forward and opened the massive double doors and standing erect, held them open while the other four stepped forward.

The room grew quiet as the six tall, lean and muscular men dressed in the style of the eunuchs of the royal household, entered. Several of the women whispered quietly, a few giggled.

Harbona, the tallest, stepped forward and announced loudly, “His Royal Majesty, King Xerxes of the mighty empire of the Medes and Persians, sends his greetings and requests the presence of  Queen Vashti at the king’s feast, wearing her royal crown.” He then bowed and stepped back into line with his companions.

Queen Vashti rose but kept her back to the eunuchs, “Why does the king request the queen’s presence wearing her royal crown?”

Harbona stepped forward again and replied, “The king wishes for the nobles and all of the other men to see your great beauty, your majesty.”

Queen Vashti turned to face Harbona, her cheeks flushed. “Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests. That is all, you may leave.”

Harbona bowed. “As you wish, your majesty.”

The six did an about face and left the room, closing the doors behind them.

The queen slowly returned to her seat and attempted to resume conversation; the room quickly filled with murmuring.

No one had ever defied the King before.

 

Harbona and the others entered the king’s banquet room discreetly and quietly. With a slight quaver in his voice he said, “Your Majesty?”

King Xerxes, turned slowly. Behind him, Harbona and the other five eunuchs stood stiff at attention, in a straight line.

“Where is the queen?”

“Um, may the king live forever…”

“Come on, out with it, Harbona!”

“Your majesty. The queen sends her regrets that she will be unable to join you this evening.”

Xerxes leaned forward.

“Were those her exact words?”

Harbona flushed and looked at the marble floor.

“No, your majesty. They were not.”

“Then tell me exactly what she said!”

Harbona repeated her words exactly.

Xerxes lept up, his face turning bright red.

“Say that again, louder, for all to hear!”

“Queen Vashti said, ‘Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests.’”

Xerxes eyes began to bulge out. He sputtered and then shouted, “How dare she defy her King?”

The room fell silent.

No one had ever defied the King before.

The King immediately departed the banquet hall and called a meeting of his seven most trusted advisors, men who knew the law better than anyone in the kingdom, the most powerful men in the empire.

“What can I do about this supreme embarrassment? No one has ever defied me — or any king — before. And to have the queen be the first? Something must be done. Tell me, what does the law say?”

Memucan, the leader of the seven solemnly stood and said, “Queen Vashti has committed an act that not only wronged the King, she has set a precedent for all women everywhere in the empire. If she is not dealt with severely, the wives of every noble and citizen will begin to defy and despise their husbands once they hear of the Queen’s defiance.”

“We would like to suggest that the king issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes which cannot be revoked. Order that Queen Vashti forever banished from your presence, King Xerxes. We also think it wise that the king should choose another to be his  queen, one more worthy than she. We will publish this decree throughout the empire.  Husbands everywhere, of every rank, will receive from their wives, their due and proper respect!”

The king sat and thought about this for several minutes. No one dared disturb him. Finally, he stood and said simply, “Do as you say.”

And so the decree was written, sealed with his royal ring by the king’s highest advisor  and sent to all corners of the empire. Queen Vashti was taken on a caravan to a place outside the empire which stretched across one hundred and twenty seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia and she was never heard from again.

After the King’s anger left him, he missed his queen. His personal advisors offered to search the empire far and wide for another queen. “Let us send envoys to each province to bring back only the most fair and beautiful young women to the royal harem. Then the king may choose, from among them, a new queen more worthy than Vashti.”

The king was very pleased by this idea and sent them forth to find a new queen.

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.

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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.

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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.”

Passing the Faith Along – Part 4

Smiling broadly, Susie jumped up and said, “Come with me, I want you to meet my family.” Michelle pulled out a Kleenex from her purse, “Sure, I’d like that.”

When they got down to the sleeping compartment where her family was, she was all excited about introducing her new friend and was eager to tell her mom and dad about Michelle. As soon as she walked into the room Mrs. Johnson said, “Oh Susie, you are back just in time. We need to gather our things and put them back into our bags; the train will be arriving at our station in about 10 minutes. Please hurry and get packed.”

“Mom,” said Susie as she stepped aside to allow Michelle into the crowded compartment. “This is Michelle, I met her a little while ago up in the observation car and we got to talking and Michelle has just asked Jesus to be her Saviour and I want you all to meet her and get to know her in the little time that we have before we arrive.”

Mrs. Johnson got excited and welcomed Michelle as though she were a long-lost relative. (Well, that’s kind of true because now they are related as Christians.) They all talked excitedly and packed at the same time. Mrs. Johnson was delighted to know that Michelle was also from Crescent City and went to the same school as Susie, Johnny & Andrea. Pastor Johnson also became excited when he and Stanley returned to the little compartment. He sat down with Michelle and personally invited Michelle to bring her mother with her to church and Mrs. Johnson added that included an invitation for a Sunday afternoon meal with their family. Susie made sure that Michelle had their address and phone number so that they could see each other when they all got back to Crescent City. The train arrived at their stop and sad but happy goodbyes were said to Michelle. Susie took just a minute to say, “Michelle, I will be praying for you every day. I will ask God to help your mother find a good job and a place to live close to us. I am so glad that you asked Jesus into your heart. Here, I have a present for you. It’s a pocket Bible with all of those verses we looked up underlined in it. Call me when you get back to Crescent City, please!” She gave her a big hug and then got off the train, turned and waved goodbye to her new friend. Her eyes began to leak just a little with happy tears.

Michelle ran back up to her seat in the observation car and tried knocking on the window to get Susie’s attention, but the train depot was too noisy and she could not get their attention. As the train started up again to go on its way Michelle slumped down in her seat and said a little prayer. “Lord Jesus, this is Michelle. I’m not too good at praying yet, but thank you for Susie. Bless her a lot!” She began to cry softly into her folded arms.

On the platform, Susie was excited about leading Michelle to ask Jesus to be her Saviour. She began to pray that someone would pick up with Michelle where she left off. Then she saw her grandparents and began running toward them pulling her suitcase behind her. She got to Gram Susie first, let go of her suitcase and hugged her Gram really tightly. After a very long hug, Gram Susie pulled back and took a long look at her granddaughter and whispered to her, “Something tells me that you have something that you want to talk about. We’ll do that later, I promise.” Then Gram Susie saw Stanley hugging Grampa Johnny and said in her normal, strong voice, “Where is that grandson of mine? I want to hug him.” Grampa Johnny had a special hug for his son, Pastor Johnson. “What a fine family you have, son.” Pastor Johnson looked at his father and said with a smile on his face, “Thanks, Dad, I’m awful happy with them too.”

After both Gram Susie and Grampa Johnny had given Mrs. Johnson and hugs and greetings were given all around, everyone climbed into the van that Grampa Johnny had borrowed from their church and for the next several hours they traveled through the northern Minnesota countryside with big doses of talking, laughing and storytelling until they reached the farm.

Passing the Faith Along – Part 3

Michelle fell back in her seat and looked out the window again with a very sad look on her face, “I’m not so sure where we’re gonna be living. That’s part of the trouble my mom is having. She lost her job and we got kicked out of where we were staying because we couldn’t pay the rent and she’s trying to find a new job and a new place for us to live.” Then, turning to Susie, she smiled, cleared her throat and said, “Tell me about where you live? What is it like?”

Susie smiled and said, “We live in a really cool neighborhood with lots of little stores just south of Green Lake. We live six blocks from the school and right next to Grace Neighborhood Church. My dad is the pastor there.”

Michelle scooted forward on her seat again, “Your dad is a preacher? Wow, he must be really smart about the Bible and stuff. I’ve tried to read the Bible and me and my mom go to church sometimes, but we never stick around in one place long enough to go regularly. I like church. I wish we could go more often.”

Susie lit up like a Christmas tree, “You could come to our church. If you go to our school, you’re close enough to go to our church. You’d really like it.” Susie paused for just a few seconds and began praying under her breath, “Lord, help me to tell Michelle about you.”

“Michelle” she began, “have you ever asked Jesus to be your Saviour?” Michelle looked out of the window again, “No, I like church and the people are usually nice, but…I could never be as good as that.” “As good as what?” said Susie. “You know, sweet and sinless enough to get into heaven. Church is as close as I’ll ever get to heaven. I may not look like it to you, but, I’ve gotten into a good deal of trouble, I’ve…I’ve…well, you don’t really need to know. I don’t like talking about it.” Michelle pulled her legs back up underneath her again, crossed her arms and buried her face into them.

“You know Michelle, you don’t have to be good to get saved and go to heaven. I’m not all that good all the time, but I know that Jesus forgives my sins when I confess them to Him and because I have asked Him to be my Saviour, I will get to go to heaven and you can too. Do you want to know how I know?”

Michelle looked up from her arms and began to look straight into Susie’s eyes. “How?” she said. Susie switched over to the other seat next to Michelle and pulled out her pocket new testament. “Can I show you some verses from the Bible that will tell you?” Michelle looked intently at Susie and sat up, “Yes, I’d like that.”

“It’s actually all right here in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, first we begin with Romans 3:23 which says that ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. You already told me that you know that you’re not perfect and, you know what? Nobody is.” “Boy you got that right” responded Michelle. Susie, continued, “In Romans 6:23a it says that ‘…The wages of sin is death…’ that means that all of us are going to die from our sin, but this kind of death means that we are all going to go to hell when we die.” Michelle shuddered, “I don’t like that. I thought that you were going to show me that I can go to heaven. I already know about hell.” Susie smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get to that. I just want to make sure that you understand about your sin.” “Oh, I understand all right, let’s get on to the other part” insisted Michelle. “You got it” continued Susie.

“In Romans 6:23b it says ‘…But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ You see salvation is a free gift from God to you!  There is nothing that you can do to earn this gift.” “But, I always thought that I needed to be good to go to heaven. Are you sure about that? What about all the things that I have done?” replied Michelle.

Susie turned a few pages to another verse, “Michelle, I know what you mean and 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?”

“Wait just a minute,” Michelle turned toward Susie, “What do you mean when you say that when Jesus died, He died for us. Who is ‘US’?” Susie looked right back at Michelle and said, “All of us. That includes me…and it includes you.”

“Whoa, I never knew that before! How does that work?” Susie’s face lit up again and turned a few more pages, “That’s my next point, listen to this…in Romans 10:13 it says ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!’ it doesn’t say anything about being good. All it says is that you should call on Jesus and you can be saved.”

Michelle looked thoughtfully out the window for a second and then said, “Susie, what does it say there what I have to do?” Susie answered her quickly, “It says here in Romans 10:9,10 that ‘…If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting  in salvation.’”

Michelle leaned back against the window, “Wow, that’s a lot to take in all at once. What do you mean that if I confess my sins to Jesus and accept Him as my Saviour that I can go to heaven? Do you really think that He wants me, Susie?” Susie leaned forward, “Listen to this, John 3:16  ‘For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.’ Michelle, that means He died for me AND He died for you.”

Michelle’s eyes began to swell up & glisten in the sun, “You really think that He died for me? Oh, that would mean so much to me.” Susie laid her hand on her new friend’s shoulder, “Michelle, I know that He died for both of us. Would you like to ask Jesus to be your Saviour right now?” Michelle responded, “Oh Susie, yes I would, how do I do that?”

Susie took both of Michelle’s hands, “Pray with me, I’ll lead you.” Michelle nodded, closed her eyes and bowed her head. Susie did the same, “Lord Jesus, you know that Michelle here wants to be your child, wants to know that you love her and died for her. I have shown her that from your Bible, Jesus. Now she would like to talk to you herself. Repeat after me, Michelle. Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I also know that you are the Son of God and died for my sins so that I can be forgiven. I want to be your child, Lord. Please forgive my sins and come into my heart and be my Saviour. Thank you, Lord for loving me so much. Amen!”

After they finished praying, Michelle’s eyes were flowing with tears and she hugged Susie tightly, “Thank you Susie.”

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It was quitting time for the day for Johnny. He hung up his apron and said his goodbyes to his aunt and uncle and headed home. He walked past Mr. Anderson’s hardware store where his…that bicycle used to be on display in the window. There was a riding lawn mower there now and a big gas barbecue. Johnny took a deep breath and let out a big sigh and then headed for home, kicking all the little rocks that he could find on the sidewalk all the way. It seemed like an especially long walk today.

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.