A Christmas Miracle

Written by Gary Piper

A season of miracles

Preface:

Christmas is a time of miracles. But the miracles of Christmas are not what they seem to be. The real miracles of Christmas are not the presents under the tree they’re the presence of the love and gratefulness of giving and receiving, the presence of Jesus’ story filling our lives with joy and hope, the undeniable fact that we are worthy of God’s unconditional love and our ultimate worth, and last but not least the undeniable fact that God stepped out of eternity and walked the earth as we do.

The story that follows is a story of God continuing to cross the boundaries of Infinity and finiteness. While it is a product of my imagination in many ways, I suspect you’ll discover an element of true because the miracles of Christmas are still not only the bigger part of giving and receiving of gifts but of your life as well.

You’ll not find God’s gifts at Christmas time (nor any time) wrapped up and placed under a tree; you’ll find them wrapped up and carefully and lovingly placed under the hard life-toughened surface of your heart waiting to be unwrapped and unleashed.

The Story:

“Boy it sure is getting cold the last few mornings,” Geoffrey commented as he and Sarah stepped from a warm house into the fresh December air. “Just think in a couple of days it will be Christmas!”

“Christmas! I don’t care if it ever gets here this year,” Sarah remarked trying to adjust to the colder air.

“You don’t mean that do you, Ms. Scrooge do you?”

“Yes I do! You have no idea how my life has been this past year! You’re not me so you can’t know and don’t say you do,” she snapped back!

“Oops, sorry honey,” Geoffrey apologized getting into the car.

Seconds later the car roared to life. No one said a word as the car back out of the carport. After reaching the end of the driveway, Geoffrey waited for traffic to clear. “Boy sure is a lot of cars this morning.”

Seconds later, “Hey! Isn’t one of you dummy’s going to let me in?”

“They can’t hear you Geoffrey so just be quiet and wait!”

“I know they can’t hear me but I can still get my two cents in,” echoed the gruff reply!

“Geoffrey?”

“What?”

“Just be quiet and drive the car,” Sarah said, sounding gruffer!

Mumbling to himself, “Grumpy!”

“What’d you say?”

“I said hold on to your hat here we go,” suddenly the engine sped up, a little dirt flew and the car was heading south.

“I’m sorry honey I know the year hasn’t gone well for you this year and I things have been hard on you. I just wish there was something I could do to help you through it all,” Geoffrey replied not looking at his wife.

“Do you know that I’m carrying everyone’s burdens? I’ve got so much responsibility for everyone else I don’t have time for myself! I’m just tired that’s all but it’ll pass it always does,” she answered trying to hold back the tears.

After a few moments her voice broken the silence, “You call me Ms. Scrooge but I’m not like Scrooge he was selfish and kept all to himself. I wish I could be like him. I wish someone would give me my life back.”

Geoffrey’s mind drifted back to Christmas 2000 then back to Christmas 1999 then back to Christmas 1998 then back to Christmas 1997, and even back further. “When was the last time we had a peaceful year?” he asked himself. He couldn’t remember.

Breaking the silence again, “Someday I’d like to get something instead of giving all the time,” Sarah began, “I don’t mean to sound selfish but I can’t keep giving and giving without getting something myself. But, oh well maybe someday someone will appreciate me.”

Suddenly anger began to swell up inside Geoffrey and he found himself at war, a war of emotions. He felt so bad for his wife,” She’s such a wonderful person and deserves so much more,” he said to himself.

“How can people and your own loved ones be so selfish and inconsiderate,” he said aloud, not meaning to.

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing.”

“You said something what was it?”

“It doesn’t matter honey I was just thinking out loud.”

“I want to know what you said,” Sarah shot back!

“They’re personal thoughts and I don’t really mean anything anyway.”

“See?”

“See what?”

“I told you we never communicate. You always say we don’t share each others feelings enough.”

“Okay,” Geoffrey interrupted, “I said how can people and your own loved ones can be so selfish and inconsiderate. There are you happy now?”

“Well you don’t need to talk that way!”

“See I told you they were personal thoughts.”

Again, silence filled the car. “And don’t start with that religious crap either,” Sarah said sarcastically!

“Hey wait a minute! I didn’t say a word; ya got a guilty conscience or something?”

Still fighting the tears, “Yes I do! But who cares anyway?”

“I care?”

“Yeah, right!”

“Be sides I didn’t say a word!”

“Yeah right!”

“But now that you brought it up God does love you!”

“He does not,” Sarah quickly replied, with tears in both eyes.

“He does too.”

“Does not!”

“Does too!”

“Geoffrey?”

“Yeah!”

“I know you love me because you are always showing me and treating like you do. I know you’d make it easier for me if you could because I know you love me. God does not love me because he does not show it!”

“How am I going to answer this one?” Geoffrey asked himself

“What’s the matter Reverend Lawson? Can’t answer me can you? I’ve poured my heart out to God and all I get is more heartache. God does not love Sarah Lawson! Maybe he did at one time but he doesn’t now and I don’t know what I did to turn him off to me,” Sarah’s voice was filled with anger.

“Think fast Geoffrey,” he said to himself, “You can’t let this drop. Let me see I could use John 3:16. What parable could I use?”

Sarah interrupted her husbands thoughts, “And don’t quote any scriptures to me all they are, are just words on paper for other people not for me.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” she continued, “There is one for me I don’t know where you can find it but it goes something like this, and “God’s Spirit will not always strive with the children of men. I think that applies to women too or at least this woman!”

After a few moments of silence, “Well preacher I’m waiting for an answer.”

But he didn’t have one. “I know God loves her. But I also know how she feels because at times I don’t think his Spirit is with me either. But how can I illustrate to her that he does love her?” he questioned himself.

“I know when we go off on our own God sometimes just follows us and waits for us to discover we’re not where we’re supposed to be. But my god! I’ve gone the extra mile! I have sacrificed to those we love I know sometimes I do it grudgingly but not in my heart. How much more do I need to give in order to prove I love him? How much?” her voice was filled with pain.

After a brief pause she continued, “I know there are many more people in the world with bigger more important burdens than mine but don’t mine mean anything to God? I’m not asking for anyone else’s share of his love only what’s due me. Why? Why do I feel this way, Geoffrey? Please tell me. Please give me an answer.”

Suddenly Geoffrey slowed the car and turned onto a side street. “Where ya going?” she asked.

“We’re going to park along the river by the Blue Water Bridge and work through this,” he replied

“But you’ll be late for work!” she replied.

After a brief pause Geoffrey said, “Right now there are more important things than making money. You may not believe this but you have brought up a lot of questions I have been asking myself. I’m no Billy Graham or Max Lucado; I don’t have all the answers to your questions. I can’t even answer them for myself!”

“You aren’t going to have a pity party are you? This isn’t about you it’s about me!” she replied.

“It’s about us Sarah! You and I and probably millions of others who feel the same way! And this is too important for a pity party. It isn’t about all the stress we’re under, it isn’t about you assuming responsibility for others and burning out, it’s about God and our individual relationships with him and our marital relationship with him. He loves you! He loves me! He loves us! Somehow we’ve got to believe that even if it appears like he doesn’t,” Geoffrey answered.

“I knew I’d get you on that pulpit! I just knew it! And you’re wrong it is about burnout. It is about stress!”

“Do you remember the song, “I never promised you a rose garden there hast to be a little rain some day,” Geoffrey asked?

“Yeah I remember it,” she replied.

“Who wrote it?” he asked.

“Who wrote it? How am I supposed to know?” she shot back.

“Who wrote it?” Geoffrey asked sternly!

“Lynn Anderson? Yes it was her,” Sarah sounding confident.

“Wrong!” Geoffrey replied

“Okay smarty! Who then?” Sarah quickly responded.

“Jesus wrote it!” was Geoffrey’s quick answer.

“Jesus!” Sarah questioned.

“Yup. In this life you will have trials he said!” he replied.

“So!” Sarah responded

“So! When you walk across a carpet and build up static electricity what happens?” Geoffrey smiled.

“Where you going with this?” Sarah face had a puzzled look on it.

“Don’t worry just give me an answer,” replied confidently

“I’ll get an electrical poke when I touch the door knob!” her voice was getting louder.

“Right, you will but does that stop you from going out the door?” he asked.

“No but I as I reach for the door knob my body gets ready for the poke,” Sarah’s voice was starting to calm down.

Pulling the car into a parking spot Geoffrey put the gear shifter to park and turned off the motor. “Why should life be any different? If you knew life wasn’t going to be easy what would you do?”

“I guess I would prepare myself,” she answered.

Turning and looking her in he eyes, “Okay, as you touch the door knob do you blame the carpet manufacturer, the door knob manufacturer, or the shoe maker?”

“No they’re not a fault,” she replied sternly.

“Exactly! Just like it isn’t God’s fault that life isn’t easy,” he responded.

“But God could make it easier for me,” she replied in a much calmer voice.

“He didn’t make it easier for Jesus. What makes you, me or anyone else for that matter any better than Jesus?” he asked.

“I hate it when you start making sense. It makes me feel so inferior,” she replied.

“It’s not about you or me Sarah it’s about us. You’re you and I’m me that’s what makes our marriage so good where I’m weak you’re strong and where you’re weak I’m strong. It’s about us the Holy Spirit and Jesus!” Geoffrey exclaimed.

“It’s just hard for me I guess. Come on its time for you to get to work we can’t afford a short paycheck,” she replied looking at her watch.

“But we aren’t finished yet,” Geoffrey shot back.

“Yes we are, at least for now. Get the car started and let’s get going,” Sarah said without looking up.

“You’re right about one thing,” Geoffrey said starting the car.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“We’re not dropping this,” he replied.

Looking at the river, she answered back, “I am trying to understand what you’re saying but I still think God doesn’t love me. All life is to me is one big burden! It shouldn’t be!”

Both sat in silence as the car roared down Edison Parkway. “And don’t start on me about going to church and discovering God’s love there,” Sarah said.

“Boy you won’t get a sermon from me on that! I don’t find God there either!” Geoffrey said in return.

“Why is that?” Sarah asked.

“Why is what?” he asked.

“Why can’t we find God in church? I go there looking for some help, any help and can’t find any. Can you see why I think God doesn’t love me? Everyone else seems to find the love they need in church. Why can’t I?” tears again were forming in her eyes.

Geoffrey tried to think of an answer but once again Sarah hit a nerve and an emptiness settled deep inside was all he could feel. “I don’t know Sarah, I really don’t know.”

“We sure make a pair don’t we,” she said trying to sound a little more upbeat.

“Yeah, two peas in a pod,” Geoffrey said back. Sarah reached down and turned up the volume on the radio hoping to take her mind off the events transpiring as the day moved on.

No one spoke the rest of the way into Geoffrey’s work place. Pulling into the driveway Geoffrey stopped the car in front of the entrance. Put the car in park, unlocked the back doors, opened his door, and got out. Just as he reached for his lunch bucket and thermos, Sarah was rounding the back of the car headed for the driver’s door. “Try to have a good day, honey,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek.

“Yeah, right! You have a good day too,” she replied getting into the car.

Watching the car drive away, Geoffrey uttered a silent prayer, “Please God don’t be to hard on her, and help her discover the truth and help me discover the truth of your love for us.” Walking through the gate, he felt as if a big monster was swallowing him.

Pulling back in the driveway Sarah sighed deeply, “Boy I sure would like to be heading for the Smoky Mountains right about now.”

Entering the quiet house taking her coat off she headed for the bedroom to get a pillow. “Might as well lay down for awhile,” she talking aloud. Within minutes, she was fast asleep.

About an hour later a voice rang out, “Sarah.”

“Who? What? Go away,” she responded not wanting to wake up.

“Sarah, wake up,” the voice said.

“Who are you any way,” Sarah answered back not opening her eyes.

“You better open your eyes.”

“Oh alright! But I’m still tired,” she said getting a little irritated.

Opening her eyes and immediately became frightened. Standing in the middle of the living room was a man resembling an angel his long flowing hair hung on his robe. “Do not be frightened,” the figure quickly replied, “I mean you no harm and only wish to talk to you.”

At first, she was frightened but when she saw the soft glowing light that surrounded him, she was immediately felt at peace. Wwwhhhhooo are you?” she asked again.

“I am the Christmas Angel and I have been sent to you to tell you that you will go on a journey with the Holy Spirit today so do not be frightened when it happens just be ready,” the angel replied.

It was almost as if time had stopped for Sarah and it seemed as if the room had disappeared. Before she could respond to the man, he was gone! “Was I dreaming?” she spoke aloud.

At first, she wanted to call someone and tell them what had happened. Instead, she said to herself, “I’m not telling anyone! Who’d believe me anyway? A Christmas Angel visiting Sarah Lawson! Nah! I dreamt the whole thing but boy it sure seemed real.”

Trying to put incident out of her mind she put her pillow away and made the bed. Got herself dressed and went toward the kitchen stopping in the living room long enough to turn on the television. Opening the refrigerator, she reached for the milk, walked over to the cupboard, and got out a glass for the milk.

Suddenly the picture of the angel flashed through her mind, “What if I wasn’t sleeping? What if it were real?” she asked herself.

“What was it he told me?” she asked herself getting a glass of milk.

Instantly the voice echoed through her mind, “You will journey with the Holy Spirit today do not be frightened when it happens just be ready.” As words faded into the sounds coming from the television, she knew she hadn’t been dreaming. Instantly she could feel herself tensing as she anticipated what would happen now. But as just fast, as the tension hit her it left her with a strange sense of peace.

In the great eternal world beyond time and space the Creator looked at his Son and smiled, “Send the first revelation,” his voice boomed across the throne room.

Moving faster than the speed of light the Holy Spirit passed through the barrier dividing time and eternity. Suddenly a blinding flash of white light blinded Sarah causing her to drop her glass of milk. Feeling a sensation of moving she wanted to call out to someone but she couldn’t. Her lips moved but no sound came out of her mouth. “What’s happening to me,” she said to herself.

“Merry Christmas Sarah,” she heard a familiar woman’s voice say.

“That sounds like mother’s voice,” she tried to say. As the light subsided, she began to see a living room.

“It is mother,” she exclaimed, “But what’s happened she has looked that way in years!” Next, her eyes were drawn to a little girl standing in front of an artificial Christmas tree.

Instantly she reacted, “That’s me! That’s me! That’s me!” Suddenly for what seemed like the first time in her life, she experienced real love. Gazing into the nineteen-month-old little girl, she saw happiness. A hush fell over the room.

Breaking the silence a voice echoed across the room, “This is your first Christmas following your adoption. Do you feel the love of your parents?”

With tears streaming down her cheeks, “Yes,” she answered.

“My love for you is a million times a million more,” and room fell silent again.

The room disappeared in another blinding flash of light. As her vision returned she found herself in a hospital delivery room. It was her lying in the bed. She cringed as she once again felt the pains of giving birth.

The same voice called out, “Behold! The birth of your first son,” with that, she watched as the miracle of birth unfolded. Love began swelling up and brought tears again to her eyes.

“Do you feel a mothers love?” the voice asked?

“Yes,” she answered.

“My love for you is a million times a million more,” and room fell silent.

Never in her life had Sarah felt so much peace. Instantly she found herself standing on a mountain. Looking around she realized she was standing on Clingman’s Dome but she didn’t see Tennessee.

“Behold the sea of your life,” the voice rang out again.

Looking down she noticed pockets of storms dotting the scene. She could see the lightning flashing. She could hear the thunder rolling across the sky. She could hear the cold winds howling. She could see the driving rain and the dark clouds. But strangely and mysteriously the sea was calm, there were no waves, no whirlpools just a mirror like surface.

“The storms of life come and go but my spirit has always calmed the waters you journey on. Do not fear my Spirit will always be with you so when you find storms raging in your life put your trust in me.”

In another blinding flash of light, the scene opening her eyes Sarah found herself standing in the kitchen looking at a broken glass on the floor. But she wasn’t the same Sarah that dropped the glass moments ago. Deep inside she knew she’d never be the same again.

Walking to the phone, she picked it up and called Geoffrey at work. “Sally, let me speak to the boss,” she said.

“You have reached the voice mail of Geoffrey Lawson. I am away from my desk right now but if you leave a message, I’ll call you back as soon as I can. Thank you and have a great day,” the message said.

“Hi honey it’s just me. I wanted to tell you I know God loves me. No need to call me back I’ll see ya later. I love you.”

As she hung up the phone, she heard a voice saying, “Merry Christmas Sarah.”

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In The Hills of Bethlehem

A Short Christmas Story by Gary Piper

nativity

Preface

For me some of the greatest mysteries of Bible are not found in the Prophetic Books like Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Revelation but in the lives of the nameless characters whose stories make it come alive.

The story you are about to read is the result of the journey of my imagination to the time just before the birth of Jesus. It holds no likeness to the real events therefore I offer it not as historically correct but only as a tool to strike up your own imagination.

Leave it to God to do the unexpected. Of all the people he could choose to be the first to greet him upon his entrance in our world he chose shepherds.

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “the duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labors always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary – WWW.BIBKJV.COM)

Because Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd for many years I thought shepherds to be among the “upper crust” of society. However, as you can see from Easton’s Bible Dictionary they are not in fact in some ways they were outcasts. I suspect if Jesus were to be born in our day God would send the Heavenly Chorus into a factory.

Jesus’ introduction to shepherds was a twofold message. First of all God was establishing a backdrop for Jesus’ identity as the Good Shepherd. I can picture Mary and Joseph telling young Jesus as he was growing up of the shepherds visit the night of his birth. And even though he was raised as a carpenter in his heart burned the truth that one day he’d be a shepherd, The Good Shepherd.

The Second is of equal importance God told the world through Jesus He came for everyone not just the rich and powerful, that one day he’d use the simple to confound the wise.

The Story as it really happened in the bible

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:6 – 2:20 KJV)

The Story according to Gary Piper

“What’s wrong, Caleb?” Hannah asked her husband.

“Nothing, Hannah. Go back to sleep it’s the middle of the night.” Caleb reassured his wife. “I just woke up a little earlier than usual that’s all.”

“Well, go back to sleep you don’t relieve Gibeon until tomorrow,” she sleepily replied.

“Don’t worry, Hannah, you go back to sleep I’ll not be far behind you,” Caleb replied. In his mind Caleb knew sleep would not come, not at least until he could clear his mind of the haunting vision of old Zechariah.

An hour or so later Caleb carefully got out of bed dressed and walked out into the cool crisp night air. As a shepherd he was looked down upon so he was not a very religious man but he was familiar with the writings of King David when he, too was a shepherd.

Finding a soft spot under a large tree Caleb looked into the star filled night sky and began praying, “Father of King David do not let Zechariah take my sheep. If you can convince him to give me more time I will repay him all that we owe.” Half an hour later still under the tree his tired mind and body fell fast asleep.

Sleeping on the hard ground Caleb began dreaming that he was falling. Down and down he went the longer he tumbled the colder it became. At the bottom he could see a man with outstretched arms waiting to catch him it was old Zechariah. Suddenly in the distance he could see Hannah standing on the edge of the crevice in which he fell desperately he tried to stop his descent but the more he tried the faster he fell. Suddenly he heard Hannah calling his name and he immediately woke up in a cold sweat.

Giving himself a second or two to wake up he called out, “I’m here Hannah. I’m coming,” he called out as he stood to his feet.

Several minutes later Caleb was sitting at the table. “Are you going to tell me why on earth you were sleeping outside?” Hannah asked. “What’s been wrong with you lately, Caleb?”

Caleb wanted to avoid the issue entirely but he knew he wouldn’t be able to. He knew eventually the truth would come out so reluctantly he told Hannah that in the next day or so Zechariah would be around to take away their sheep. “He won’t give us more time to get what we owe him?” she asked.

“Not a chance.”

“But, what’s he going to do with sheep,” she said, “he don’t know anything about being a shepherd, does he?”

“The only thing he knows, Hannah, is money,” Caleb answered.

“What are we going to do if Zechariah takes our sheep,” Hannah replied, not seeing Josiah enter the room.

“Is Zechariah really going to take our entire flock of sheep father?” Josiah asked his father.

The words of his son cut deep into Caleb’s mind. “What did I do wrong?” he silently questioned himself.

“Are you alright father?” Josiah asked.

“I’m okay Josiah,” Caleb said, getting up from the table and walking toward the doorway, “I just need some time alone.”

“Can I come with you father?” Josiah said watching his father walk out the door.

“Let him be alone for awhile Josiah,” Hannah, Josiah’s mother spoke up, “He feels like a failure because we’re about to lose our livelihood and he blames himself.”

“But it’s not fathers fault,” the 14 year old boy remarked, “It wasn’t his fault I had my accident.”

Hannah remembered that terrible day six months ago when Caleb came rushing into the house carrying the near lifeless body of his son. She recalled the agonizing conversation between Caleb and Zechariah as they put up all the money they had to save Josiah’s life. Hannah prepared herself for what would come next.

“It’s my fault,” the young boy replied hanging his head, “it’s my entire fault why doesn’t that nasty old man take me instead of father’s sheep?”

Both Caleb and Hannah rehearsed repeatedly how they’d handle Josiah’s feeling of guilt ever since Zechariah demanded they pay back the money or turn over the sheep. “It’s not your fault Josiah things happen the way they do sometimes for reasons we don’t understand. Your father needs to understand that too,” Hannah replied.

The room instantly fell silent as mother and son sat looking at each other trying to hold back the tears. “We must not let guilt destroy what we have left because now more than ever we’re going to need each other,” Hannah’s voice while filled with pain resounded with confidence.

Meanwhile Caleb walked around to the back of the house looking toward the hills he helplessly watched as the events leading up to tonight began replaying themselves. “Look to the right Josiah,” he heard himself saying, “Go after that little one wandering away.”

“Don’t worry father,” he painfully recalled hearing his sons voice, “You can count on me.”

Tears welled up in Caleb’s face as he remembered hearing Josiah’s pain filled cries for help. “I’m coming Josiah,” he called out loud, “don’t worry I’m coming son!” One of the sheep bleated bringing Caleb back to reality. Turning he slowly walked back toward the house.

As Caleb walked through the door, “It’s not our fault father,” Josiah spoke first.

“I know son but the Father of Abraham could’ve stopped it,” Caleb replied with a bitter tone in his voice.

“You don’t really mean that Caleb,” Hannah quickly replied.

Without looking up, he snapped back, “He could have stopped it! He could have told me to go after the sheep! He could have…”

“He could’ve let Josiah die too!” Hannah interrupted him, “We’re not playing this game Caleb now do what you have to do.”

It was several minutes before he calmed down enough to speak in a normal tone of voice, “it’s just not fair,” he finally replied.

“I know it’s not fair, Caleb, but it’s also the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Hannah replied, in a reassuring tone.

“Well, I’m not sitting around here waiting for him to take away all we have I’ve got to go into the hills and relieve Gibeon and I’m not leaving the sheep here,”

“You’re taking them with you, father?” Josiah interjected.

“You bet I am. If he wants them he can go into the hills and get them,” Caleb answered sharply.

“But he’s and old man and knows nothing of tending and leading sheep,” Hannah commented.

“That’s his problem not mine besides maybe something might happen to him.”

“Caleb! Stop it! You don’t mean that,” Hannah interrupted.

“Yes I do!”

Silence suddenly filled the room. “Can I go with you, father?” Josiah’s voice broke the silence.

Once again the horrible memory of Josiah’s accident flooded Caleb’s memory and instantly he said, “No. It’s far too dangerous. Josiah besides you’ll need to be here for your mother.”

“Let him go, Caleb. I know it’s dangerous and I’m worried as well but if he’s ever to rid himself of his guilt feelings he needs to go,” Hannah interjected.

“Hannah, I know what you’re saying, but I don’t want him there when I turn over the sheep it’ll be too much for him to bear,” Caleb replied.

“Please, father, I am stronger than you think I am. Please, let me go?” Josiah pleaded.

Glancing quickly at Hannah then at Josiah without saying another word, Caleb motioned Josiah to follow him seconds later both of them were walking out the door leaving Hannah sitting in silence.

“Father of Abraham,” she began praying, “please do not be angry at my husband for blaming you we both know it’s not your fault. He blames you because he doesn’t understand you. I don’t understand you either but I don’t believe all our misfortunes can be blamed on you. I don’t know what we’ll do after tonight but I do know we’ll still have each other and you’ll still be our Father of Abraham. Please Lord, just as you opened up the Red Sea for our ancestors open the sea of our hopelessness so we make walk in the hope of your promises.”

In the Throne Room of Heaven, Abraham’s Father smiled.

Just outside the door Caleb paused for a few seconds to calm himself down because if he approached the sheep with his voice the way it was he’d frighten them. “You okay, father?” Josiah asked.

Turning and looking at his son Caleb was suddenly filled with pride because of Josiah’s concern for him, “I’m okay Josiah I just need to calm down when talking to your sheep you must always, no matter what use a comforting tone in your voice,” he replied.

“Do you think I’ll ever be a shepherd?” Caleb, asked his father.

Without thinking Caleb replied, “Of course you will one day these sheep will be yours.” He stopped abruptly when he realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Another smile broke out on God’s face.

About 20 minutes later father and son were heading for the hills where Gibeon was there with his flock. A few minutes later, “Please father,” Josiah cried out, “I’m doing the best I can but I can’t keep up with you my legs beginning to hurt.”

Caleb had forgotten his son was following, “I’m sorry Josiah please forgive me,” the older man replied slowing his pace.

“Why are you so angry at the Father of Abraham?” Josiah asked his father.

Caleb kept his anger toward God hidden all his adult life many times he came close to telling Hannah but he just couldn’t do it. Now it was different it was almost as if he were waiting for someone to ask him. Yet, because of Josiah’s young age he held back.

Before Caleb could say anything Josiah spoke up, “Mother says things happen to us that we don’t understand and maybe I don’t understand but I do know we are stronger because of the difficulties we’ve gone through. Mother says we’ll get through this too and I believe her but we’ve got to get rid of the guilt we are either accepting or giving to others.”

Caleb knew his son was right and for a few moments, he was awestruck at the wisdom his son had for such a young boy. “It’s long story Josiah. I’ve tried again and again to tell it to your mother but each time I try I hate him more and more.”

“Is it that bad father?” the youngster interrupted.

“For me yes it is,” Caleb sighed deeply and continued, “You see I killed your grandfather. Over and over on that night years ago I begged and begged Abraham’s Father to save my dad and take my life instead.” Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks.

It was minutes before either spoke again, “That’s first time I’ve ever told the truth about what happened.”

Josiah started to offer words of encouragement to his father but something told him to just listen. Seconds later Caleb continued, “I was 17 years old and it was on a day just like the day you had your accident. A sheep had wandered off and my father told me to go after it just like I did you.”

Listening to his father’s story Josiah began reliving the day of his accident as he tumbled down the rocky hillside. He again felt the pain in his legs; he again experienced again the world going dark.

“Just like you,” Caleb started again, “I lost my footing and fell down the hillside in nearly the same spot. By the time I stopped the pain was too much for me and I panicked. It didn’t take long for my cries to bring my father running,” his voice suddenly stopped.

Josiah tried to say something but an unknown voice whispered, “You must not interrupt him.”

“I can still hear my voice yelling I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I can still feel the pounding in my head. I can still feel the panic gripping me.” Josiah watched as his father trembled, never in his life had he seen so much fear in anyone’s face.

After a few seconds Caleb continued, “I can still hear my father saying, ‘Don’t panic Caleb you are alright,’ but I couldn’t stop screaming. I just couldn’t stop myself it was as if someone else was inside of me. Over and over my father unsuccessfully tried to calm my fears. I heard him tell me he was extending his shepherds staff to pull me up, ‘just hold on he said don’t pull,’ but when I saw it coming my way I reached out and grabbed it in desperation.” Again, his voice trailed off and went silent.

It was minutes before Caleb regained his composure enough to continue. “When I reached for the staff I didn’t know that my father had not anchored himself well enough for my weight.”

Caleb swallowed hard and started again, “I grabbed the staff and pulled for all I was worth. I didn’t mean kill him. I didn’t mean it father!” He screamed at the top of his lungs.

By now Josiah was speechless crying as hard as his father was.

After several minutes Caleb spoke in a more stable voice, “I’ve never told that story to anyone Josiah. Each time I told it to someone I lied, I told them when I had fallen father jumped after me and saved me from falling all the way down the slope but he couldn’t save himself.”

“I killed my father and told everyone he died saving me. My whole life has been a lie. Now I’ve failed you and your mother by losing the only thing that kept us together. It should have been me that died that day not my father.”

At that very moment the Creator smiled, “Are things ready Gabriel?” he asked.

“Nearly my Lord,” the Angel replied, “Zechariah still isn’t where he needs to be. Shall we begin without him?”

“No,” the Creators voice rang out, “it is very important that he be a witness.”

“Very well, Creator, the Chorus will wait,” the Messenger replied.

After nearly 5 minutes Josiah was the first to speak, “It’s not your fault father. Mother says things happen for a reason. If you had died that night, I would have never been born. Please don’t cry father, grandfather wouldn’t want you to would he?”

“It’s not that easy Josiah I didn’t tell the truth!” Caleb exclaimed, “I should have been a man and told the truth. How can anyone forgive me for that?”

“I do father,” Josiah answered back, “I know mother will and I’m sure grandfather would too. It was an accident father please stop blaming yourself.”

“How did you get so wise Josiah?” Caleb asked.

“I’m not wise father,” he answered, “I’m 15 and reckless just like you were but I love you and this is one of those times when love is greater than wisdom.”

Caleb suddenly felt closer to Josiah than ever before now he was experiencing a relationship that had gone beyond father and son to that of true friends. Deep in his heart a small seed began to sprout one that would soon germinate and mature. “You are wise my son, far more than you realize and I love you far deeper than I realize. We need to meet up with Zechariah and do what we need to do. We also need to relieve Gibeon so he can go home and eat his supper.”

Meanwhilel, Zechariah after stopping at Caleb’s farm was making his way toward his new flock of sheep. He knew nothing about shepherding sheep; in fact, shepherds on his social scale were just slightly above lepers and vagabonds. “Finally I will be getting even with you Mosiah by destroying your son,” the old man said aloud.

Far down the hill in the small village of Bethlehem where a large gathering of weary travelers was settling in for the night a young man and his young wife were looking for a place to stay. “All our rooms are full,” the Inn Keeper told the young traveler.

“Please sir,” the young man answered, “my young wife is in labor, and about to give birth don’t you have anywhere we can go?”

“Who is it?” a woman’s voice called out from the behind him.

“It’s a young man and his wife who is about to give birth,” the Inn Keeper answered.

“What did you tell them?”

“I told them we didn’t have any room for them,” he replied.

“But she is going to give birth! Don’t you have any feelings? Surely you must have somewhere they can stay,” the woman said.

“All we have is the stable. Would you want to give birth in a stable?” he asked, a little sarcastically.

“No,” came the quick reply, “but it’d be better than the busy streets! Give them the stable. And do not charge them either.”

“Okay, okay!”

Returning his attention back to the young couple, “Around in back you’ll find a stable the animals will be sleeping so they won’t bother you but a stable is no place for a baby to be born but that’s the best I can do,” the Inn Keeper replied.

“It will provide us with protection from the wind and will be less disturbing to your guests,” Joseph said smiling, “how much do I owe you?”

“Charge you! My wife has already said there’d be no charge,” the Inn Keeper flashed a smile in return.

“Thank you so much I am a carpenter by trade if I see any repairs to be made I’ll do them for you. May God bless you and keep you,” the young man replied.

Beyond time and space, “everything is nearly ready Creator,” the Messenger’s voice filled the throne room.

“Thank you Gabriel, when the birth and last piece falls into place proceed with the announcement.”

Caleb and Josiah remained silent for the rest of the journey. “I see Gibeon’s fire father,” Josiah’s voice broke the silence.

Caleb could make out the silhouettes of Gibeon and two of his three sons, “Gibeon, my friend,” Caleb called out, “you and your sons may leave now Josiah and I will take over watching the flocks.”

Gibeon had been a friend and neighbor to Caleb for years and knowing what would happen tonight decided not to go. “We’re staying Caleb,” he replied, “Jacob left a few moments ago to retrieve some food for us so we’ll eat when he returns. Our place is here with our friends.”

Caleb was instantly relieved to know he and Josiah wouldn’t be alone, “Thank you my friend I don’t know what I’d do without your friendship.”

“Maybe the old man will have an accident and not make it,” Gibeon replied, “why is he doing this to you? He doesn’t need the money nor does he like sheep.”

“I’m not real sure why Gibeon I know it goes back to the days when my father was alive but no one’s ever said. I’m just sorry I don’t have enough money to pay off my debt so I could be rid of him once and for all,” Caleb answered back.

“I sure wish I had the money to pay him for you but it’s been a hard year for us and we just don’t have it to give,” Gibeon replied.

“Don’t worry my friend he’s only getting my sheep not my property somehow we’ll bounce back at least that’s what Hannah tells me anyway,” Caleb said in a reassuring voice.

Meanwhile in the small town of Bethlehem, the painful cry of a woman giving birth pierced the quietness of the night. Within minutes, the Inn Keepers wife was there help with the delivery. “Make yourself useful young man, go quiet down the animals.” the woman said, “Men! Sometimes I wonder how people can say men are the stronger gender!”

Joseph wanted to say something in the defense of men but Mary’s screams changed his mind so he scurried off to assist the animals.

“Don’t worry young lady,” the woman said, “you are doing just fine. The pain lasts only the little while but the love will last forever. And don’t worry about your husband he’s doing real good too.”

Mary tried to relax but the pain would not let her. She thought it strange because she felt her labor pains in both wrists not where she thought it would be. Repeatedly she tried thanking the woman for helping her but each time she tried to say something she only screamed in pain.

As the Creator and the entire heavenly host watched Zechariah, the last witness crested the hill and walked toward the fire. “Let’s get this over with Caleb,” the older man barked out, “You can go now the sheep are mine.”

“You owe me an explanation Zechariah,” Caleb asked the older man, “what’s this all about?”

“I owe you nothing!” came the reply; “I will only tell you I’ve finally got the upper hand on your father. Now you and that crippled son of yours can leave.”

“Excuse me Zechariah,” Gibeon spoke up, “Do you know how to herd sheep?”

“You know I don’t Gibeon but you do,” Zechariah quickly replied.

“Not for your sheep I don’t! I’ll take them off your hands though after all you don’t want them,” Gibeon quickly replied.

“You or your sons won’t tend to them?” he asked.

“Not on your life Zechariah! Caleb’s my friend and neighbor,” Gibeon answered back.

“If I gave them to you you’d only give them back to Caleb! So I’ll drive them off the cliff before giving them to you,” Zechariah said in an angry voice.

“Please Zechariah,” Caleb interjected, “give me a second chance. Whatever you have against my father is in the past he’s dead thanks to me.”

“Don’t beg him father,” Josiah cried out, “the Father of Abraham will come to our aid! I just know he will!”

“You don’t understand Josiah,” Caleb answered, “We need those sheep!”

“No it’s you who don’t understand father,” Josiah said with tears in his eyes, “we don’t need sheep we need each other. Abraham’s Father will be there for us we’ll be okay. Please trust me father.”

“Things are ready,” an Angelic voice, echoed throughout the heavens, “everyone is where they need to be. The Son is born!”

Suddenly as the baby, Jesus drew his first breath and cried a light exploded from the heavens and instantly illuminating the hillside sending the six people to their knees.

Caleb was the first to look up it was as if the stars had moved to a few feet above the hill. One by one the other five still kneeling marveled at the brilliant points of light moving just above their heads. Then in less than a heartbeat each point of light turned into an angel. “What a glorious thing to be in the Light of God,” the angels began singing, “Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth, goodwill has come to all the earth.”

After several minutes the Angel’s became quiet as Gabriel’s voice filled the air, “Why do you cower in fear? We have come with good news.”

Without looking up Caleb was the first to speak, “We are humans and cannot behold such brilliance. We fear because it is not good for us to be in the presence of such holiness.”

“We are here to tell you that God’s Son is born this night in Bethlehem. It is because of the baby you no longer need fear us for he has come to do away with your sins,” Gabriel replied.

The Angelic Choir continued singing praises replacing Gabriel’s voice. Slowly Josiah, Gibeon, and his sons rose to their feet but Zechariah remained on the ground.

“To your feet Zechariah,” Gabriel said in a commanding voice, “you will go with the others to see the miracle of all miracles in the town below.”

Zechariah jumped to his feet, “these are my sheep, and I’ll see them dead before I leave them.”

Caleb couldn’t believe what the old man said, “You defy a Messenger from heaven Zechariah?”

Fixing his eyes on Caleb Zechariah yelled back, “somehow you’re behind this and I’m not falling for it! I don’t know how you pulled this off but you’ll not get away with it. I’ll see those sheep dead before I leave this hill.”

Turning to Gibeon, “follow me Gibeon so we can do as the Messenger has told us to do.”

“But what of the sheep do we just leave them all for Zechariah,” Gibeon asked.

“We must trust the Messenger there is something far greater in the city for us to see,” Caleb replied in a reassuring tone.

“The one born in the City of David below is the one the Psalmist wrote about many years ago Gibeon,” Gabriel echoed on the hillside, “follow him and none will be lost.” Then the angels were gone leaving the 3 men and 3 boys alone with the angel Gabriel.

“How will we find this baby of which you speak?” Gibeon asked.

“The Great Creator has sent His Son into the humblest of surroundings therefore you will find him in a stable’s manger wrapped in swaddling clothes behind an Inn,” Gabriel replied.

“Well Caleb what are we waiting for?” Gibeon said.

“You aren’t going to leave me alone up here are you?” Zechariah’s voice broke the silence.

Gibeon and Caleb with their sons without saying a word turned in the direction of Bethlehem and started walking. “You can’t leave me here with all these sheep!” Zechariah cried out, “Gibeon I’ll kill yours too if you don’t turn around!”

Ten minutes later Zechariah found himself alone listening to the sound of the crackling of a dying campfire. He hadn’t noticed the sheep never woke up through all the commotion it was as if they were dead.

“Finally got what you wanted didn’t you Zechariah,” a familiar voice broke the silence.

Turning in the direction of the voice, “I thought you were dead Mosiah?” the old man shouted.

“Only to the world you occupy Zechariah.”

“You, the poorest man in the city beat me out of what was mine once before and you’ll not beat me again,” Zechariah’s voice was filled with hatred.

“What has been done has been done Zechariah. I have not come to beat you again but to give you a second chance at life. See the fire over there,” Mosiah’s voice commanded.

As the flames shot high, into the air, they instantly turned blue and a cold empty feeling filled Zechariah chilling him to the bone. “Those flames represent your life,” Mosiah’s voice filled the air, “now behold your life!”

Instantly the flames were gone as were the stars, the sheep, the lights below, and Zechariah felt as if he were floating in space. Never in his life had the darkness been so evil it was as if the evil had replaced the organs in his body.

Was he alive?

Was he dead?

Did he even exist?

Then just as quick as they disappeared the flames returned with their warm orange glow. Zechariah fell to the ground sobbing and weeping.

“There is still time my old friend,” Mosiah’s voice sounded one final time then disappeared.

“Do you think he’ll follow the rest to the stable Creator?” Gabriel asked, “His heart has been hardened by anger and hatred for many years.”

“He’ll follow Gabriel but it will be up to my Son to reach into his heart,” the Creator replied.

“I understand, Creator,” Gabriel answered.

Jumping to his feet, Zechariah turned in the direction of Bethlehem and started walking, “Father of Abraham,” he prayed, “I’m not sure of what just happened but I will go to this stable of which those apparitions spoke of but only to tell Caleb his little trick didn’t work. The dead cannot speak and angels do not appear to lowly shepherds. I will return in the morning and poison the sheep Caleb will not have them!”

About 15 minutes ahead of Zechariah the small band of shepherds hurried down the hillside. “Shouldn’t we go back and tell mother where we are going father?” Josiah asked.

“We haven’t time son,” Caleb replied, “we need to see the baby the Messenger told us about then get back to the hills.”

“You don’t think the sheep will still be there do you father?” one of Gibeon’s sons asked.

“I don’t really know son but if we trust the angel’s things will be okay.”

“What do you suppose this is all about Caleb?” Gibeon asked.

“I’m not sure my friend,” Caleb answered, “I think the Psalmist wrote the ‘Lord is my Shepherd’ so if what the Messenger said is true then it means the long awaited Messiah has come.”

“As a baby?” Gibeon asked.

“Come lets pick up the pace everyone,” Caleb’s voice was filled with excitement.

Joseph stood looking at his newborn son feeding from Mary’s breast began praying, “Thank you Father. I will be your Son’s earthly father and teach him well.”

Gabriel moved next to Joseph and putting his arm around the new father then looked into the heavens and said, “He’s got a good heart Creator I am sure the Savior will be in good hands.”

“I picked him myself Gabriel,” the Creator answered back.

“Are you alright Mary,” Joseph called out, “can I get you something?”

“If you have any extra courage, my husband I could use some. It’s enough just becoming parents but raising God’s Son how will we ever do good enough,” doubt filled Mary’s voice.

Joseph walked the few feet to Mary’s side and putting his hand on her head replied, “If God has given us the responsibility he will help us do the impossible, Mary. We need to trust in his judgment.”

Mary looked down at her newborn son kissed him on the head looked up at Joseph, “the Creator knew what he was doing when he gave me you,” she replied.

After a few moments of silence, “This is a great day Mary! I’ve got to go tell somebody the Savior has been born,” replied Joseph filled with joy and excitement.

“Please don’t go Joseph,” Mary’s voice stopped him dead in his tracks, “I don’t want to be alone not right now anyway.”

The two men and three boys made their way through the streets of Bethlehem they did so as if they already knew where they were going. “Do you know where you’re going Caleb?” Gibeon asked his friend.

Knowing he’d never been this far into the city and in unfamiliar surroundings he replied, “Nope but it seems as if someone is leading me and apparently they know the right way.”

“You can see someone leading us.” Josiah commented.

“I see only what you see my son, but I know someone is leading us I can feel him near,” Caleb’s voice was filled with anticipation, “we’re close.”

Over the next several minutes, no one spoke as shepherds hurried through the narrow streets. Suddenly Caleb stopped, “There it is!” he said pointing in the direction of dilapidated stable.

“The Messiah was born in that?” Gibeon asked.

“Are you going to tell Yahweh what he can and cannot do Gibeon?” Caleb asked in return.

“Not me!” he replied and started running toward the stable. Josiah followed at a much slower pace because he couldn’t run.

The nearer they got to the stable the light coming through the doorway and windows grew brighter and brighter. Upon reaching the doorway they stopped. “We have come from the hills to see the baby,” Caleb said looking at Joseph.

“Are you shepherds?” Joseph asked.

“We are and we have left our sheep in the hills because a Messenger from heaven told us to come here,” Gibeon replied.

“But our son has just been born and you have been in the hills with dirty sheep,” Joseph replied.

“Joseph, my dear husband the Creator has sent these shepherds to see our son do not deny them entrance. Come closer shepherds,” Mary spoke up.

There is no way the twenty six letters of our alphabet can be arranged to express what took place in the lives of the shepherds that night. For Caleb it meant light and forgiveness replaced years of hiding his darkest secret.

For Gibeon, the anger he’d harbored for years of abuse by his father turned to love. Since the birth of his sons, Gibeon had kept his distance from them so he wouldn’t follow his father’s example yet when his saw the baby the anger disappeared.

For Josiah the pain in his twisted leg slowly disappeared as the leg became straight.

Suddenly Zechariah’s entrance interrupted the tranquility of the stable, “It’s not going to work Caleb! I don’t know how you pulled off making yourself look like that no good father of yours but those sheep are mine,” his voice was filled with hatred.

Before anyone could respond, an unseen nail scarred hand reached across time and eternity grabbing Zechariah’s stone cold heart and began pulling. Although unaware of what was happening, Zechariah winced in pain and stood as if he were paralyzed and unable to speak. Caleb began recanting what Zechariah had just said but mysteriously no one heard him speaking as the struggle inside Zechariah intensified.

In the unseen spiritual world the evil one was momentarily surprised that a human could have such power but it didn’t take him long to recognize a power he hadn’t felt for some time. “You win this time Son of God but you are in my world now and eventually you’ll lose,” Satan hissed.

In response, there was explosion of pure light that sent the evil retreating in fear and defeat. Zechariah immediately fell to his knees in tears as his anger and hatred gave way to compassion and guilt. “Forgive me Caleb?” he said between sobs.

“There is nothing forgive Zechariah. What ever happened between you and my father is history let us move into the future,” Caleb was smiling.

Zechariah walked over to where Caleb was standing and the two men hugged each other and cried. Seconds later the older man turned to Josiah and said, “May I be the grandfather you never had?”

Josiah instantly turned to and faced his father saying only one word, “Father?”

“It’s okay son,” Josiah’s father replied.

On the other side of the stable Gibeon and his sons were embracing each other. Joseph turned and facing his young wife and said, “Our son is already at work.”

After quickly surveying the stable Mary replied, “Just as he should be. I’m really tired now Joseph.”

“We’ll be going now so your wife can get some rest,” Caleb said to Joseph “besides everyone must know what has happened tonight and we have been chosen to spread the word.”

Zechariah was next to speak, “Caleb you must get back to your sheep before they wake up or something worse happens to them!”

“He’s right Caleb,” Gibeon added.

“But the people must hear the story,” Caleb replied, “and the baby’s father must stay here so who does that leave?”

“That leaves just me so I’ll stay and spread the word. Besides, who’d listen to a bunch of dirty shepherds anyway?” Zechariah was almost laughing.

“We really don’t look like we fit Caleb! Zechariah is right who would listen to us anyway,” Gibeon replied.

Caleb looked himself over then glanced at Gibeon, “I hadn’t realized what we look like! There will be shepherds outside the city we’ll tell them on our way back to the hill,” Caleb joined Zechariah in laughing.

“Father,” Josiah said.

“Yes,” he replied.

“I’m clean can I stay with Zechariah and help him.” Josiah replied.

Looking at his young son Caleb suddenly realized his leg was no longer twisted,” What happened to your leg Josiah?” he asked excitedly.

“When I first looked at the baby I felt something warm in my leg and it all of sudden stopped hurting and looked like the other one,” Josiah said.

“Praise the Father of Abraham,” Caleb exclaimed, “my son has been made whole again!”

Everyone followed Caleb in praising God Caleb turned to his son, “you and Zechariah tell everyone you can about the birth of the Messiah. But get home and soon as you can and tell your mother what has happened she’ll be worried.”

“We’ll both go and see her Caleb,” Zechariah responded.

“Thank you Zechariah. And thank you for giving me back my life,” Caleb said as he walked toward the door.

Turning and facing Joseph, “Joseph we’ll be back to check on baby Jesus in a day or so,” Caleb told the young father, “and thank you for sharing him with us.”

“We’re from Nazareth Caleb and as soon as Mary and Jesus are able to we’ll be heading home. You can come and see us there if you’d like to,” Joseph answered back waving.

“Nazareth is quite a distance from here but we’ll see,” Caleb remarked turned and walked out into early morning darkness.

Although the sun was just breaking the horizon, there were many people moving in the streets so the six new evangelists told everyone they met to go the stable behind the Inn on Main Street and see the miracle.

“Why is it no one is paying attention to us Caleb?” Gibeon asked his friend.

“It’s probably because we’re untouchable,” Gamul, Gibeon’s oldest son remarked.

Caleb turned and looked at the boy, “Gamul, we may be untouchable in the eyes of others but not in the eyes of Abraham’s Father and His infant Son. You must never forget that you were one of only 8 people to witness the beginning of the end.”

“What do you mean Caleb, beginning of the end?” Gibeon questioned.

“I don’t really know my friend. Perhaps the Father of Abraham is the only one to know but the world will never be the same because the Messiah will exalt those of us considered social outcasts and will turn the world upside down. Don’t ask me how I know I just know what I know. Let’s pick up the pace the sun will be high in the sky before too long,” Caleb turned and picked up his pace.

“He doesn’t know how right he really is does he Creator?” Gabriel asked.

God simply smiled. “Will the path those shepherds walk ever cross Jesus’ path again?” the Arch Angel asked.

God instantly stopped smiling, “It will,” he replied, “Those who take part in his birth must also take part in his death there is no other way to salvation.”

Before leaving stable to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth Zechariah and Josiah went to the inn to get the young parents some food for their breakfast, “Is there anything else we can get for you Joseph?” Zechariah asked.

“We’ll be just fine my two new friends you’ve been so kind to us already. God has blessed Mary so we’ll be able to go for the census and then head for home,” Joseph replied.

“Are you sure the baby and mother will be okay? That doesn’t seem possible,” Josiah remarked.

“With God all things are possible Josiah,” Joseph answered, “After all you can run again can’t you? So if God can heal your leg can he not give Mary back her strength?”

All of a sudden it dawned on Josiah that he would be able to run again and a great big smile filled his face, “I’ve so much to learn and so much to be thankful for. Thank you sir,” he said to Joseph.

Joseph walked the short distance to where Josiah was sitting and putting his hand on the boys shoulder replied, “You will learn Josiah, and we thank you for your gift to our baby. You two had better be going don’t forget you told your father you’d be home for supper.”

“Thanks again my friend,” Zechariah spoke up shaking Joseph’s hand, “let’s go young man there’s a story to be told.”

Seconds later Mary and Joseph were alone in the stable, “I love you Mary,” Joseph said bending down and giving her a kiss on the forehead, “I’ll go to the census taker and return as quickly as we can.”

“And I love you too, Joseph,” Mary said in return, “we’ll be ready to leave when you return.”

For the first time Mary was alone with her new son. Watching his small chest rise and fall she bent her head over and kissed him son. He began to stir and then cry in response Mary moved him to her breast, “Father God,” she prayed, “I love you.”

Deep in her heart, she heard God say, “And I love you mother of my Son.”

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The Origin of Santa Claus, the Heavenly Story

Santa and Jesus

As told by Gary Piper

This story is for kids of all ages who find it harder and harder to believe in Santa Claus. With  this story I hope to keep a little spark of Santa in their lives yet at the same time it is my hope that they will always remember that Jesus is the reason not only for the Christmas season but all seasons. While it is written for kids of all ages I want to dedicate it to a baby who while born in a stable over two thousand years ago lives in my heart not only as man but as a small baby the shepherds visited so long ago.

God, thank you for loving me enough to come down and show me how to love others.

Gary

November 26, 2013


One night a couple of days before Christmas while I was home alone watching a movie about Santa Claus. (Even though I am 67 years old I still believe in him and watch nearly all the movies about him.) I heard a knock at the front door. Somewhat annoyed by the interruption I left my easy chair went to the door and opened it. Standing there was a little old man who reminded me of Santa Claus his long beard and hair were as white as snow. He wasn’t fat but he wasn’t thin either and if it weren’t for the way he was dressed he could have passed as Santa. Must be the movie, I thought.

“It’s really cold out here,” the little man said. “I’m very tired and cold. Could I come in a rest and get warm? I would really be grateful. Please?”

Something about him put me at ease and not thinking about all the dangers associated with allowing strangers to enter I said, “Sure come on in.” I was a little embarrassed that is was a kid’s movie I was watching. “Can I get you something warm to drink?”

“Some hot chocolate would be fine, but don’t go to a great deal of trouble,” He said still shivering. Noticing the movie I was watching he asked me, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Beginning to feel more than just a little embarrassed I began trying to figure out how I was going to explain myself to a total stranger that I really did believe in Santa. “Well I don’t believe Santa Claus exists like we do, with a physical body. I believe that Santa is a tradition at Christmas that lives in the minds of those that believe in him. He is a symbol of joy and happiness and part of the Christmas spirit, he is the spirit of giving,” I said feeling pretty confident I’d explained myself out of that one.

“Reach out and touch me,” he said.

Now I started to feel a little uneasy again about letting a total stranger into my house and wondered where he was going but I was curious so I cautiously reached out and touched him on the arm.

Looking me squarely in the eyes he began, “Well, I guess then all I am is a spirit that I don’t really exist. I guess what you see before you is alive only in your mind. Because, you see I’m Santa Claus.”

“Your who!” I exclaimed, trying not to laugh.

“I’m Santa Claus, but I’m not surprised at your reaction I get it all the time from adults. Many years ago you knew I was real and no one could tell you different. Don’t you remember lying in your bed on Christmas Eve when you lived on 20th street and hearing my sleigh bells pass over your house?”

“Yea I remember, but I also remember people making fun of me when I told them. To this day my folks remind me about it and everyone has a good laugh. Now I suppose you are going to tell me that really were you,” I said in a rather sarcastic tone.

“Yes, that was me in the flesh. Because people laughed at you did that stop you from believing in me?” he responded.

“No it didn’t,” I said emphatically.

“And how about all the years when you, your wife, and two boys were a young family and you thought there would be no Christmas presents because of financial hardships. Do you remember those? Were you ever disappointed?”

Quickly trying to access what was happening I blurted out, “No I have never been disappointed, but Santa Claus does not exist!”

“You know,” he continued, “Sometimes growing up has its disadvantages. When people grow up there are times when they stop believing in things that cannot be explained. To adults seeing is believing. To most adults I am a fable, a tradition, a fantasy, a jolly old man who stands on the street corner and begs for money, or a baby sitter when shopping. But I am real and I am standing in front of you in your own house!”

At first I thought that this was some kind of practical joke but the more I looked into his eyes the farther that idea faded. Then all the Christmas’ began filtering through my memory. I remembered laying in my bed at night and hearing those bells. I remembered the excitement I felt, I remembered being unable to sleep in anticipation of Christmas morning. I remembered never being disappointed. As I looked back I could see the difficulties we faced and realized those were the best of times even though they started out the worst of times.

Then I remembered those feelings of joy when our boy’s woke up Christmas morning to a great Christmas even with the financial hardships we faced. I remembered the tears that filled my eyes as I watched in wonder as the boys played with the toys that seemingly came from nowhere. I remembered the smiles on their faces as they thanked Santa for not forgetting them.

Then I thought about the year that my wife scrimped and saved every little bit of money she could so that she could buy me a Lazy Boy chair for Christmas. Things were so tight that year that all I could give her was a stick pin yellow rose. Those sure were some good years.

I don’t know what or when it really happened and I still can’t explain it. Suddenly it struck me this was Santa and he really did exist. But he wasn’t suppose to. He was right; my adult logic told me that Santa Claus was not a real person. I must be dreaming that’s it I’m dreaming!

Interrupting my puzzled thoughts he began, “You still don’t believe me do you?” he said. “But then as I said I’m not surprised most people when confronted with my reality find it hard to believe.”

“No please don’t misunderstand me I’m beginning to believe in you, but you’ve really thrown me a curve,” I found myself saying. “My adult logic tells me that there is no such person as Santa Claus. And it’s not because I don’t believe I just don’t understand, please help me to understand.”

Many times we adults refuse to believe something only because we lack understanding. I began thinking about all the different things people refuse to believe in, when really all they lack understanding. How many people refuse to believe in God because they just don’t understand or refuse to understand? I found myself in the same predicament, I really did believe in Santa Claus but I could not understand how he could be a person. I couldn’t understand how he could do everything the stories said he did.

“Do you live at the north pole? Do you have elves making toys? Can reindeer really fly,” I asked?

“If I said yes to each would you believe in me?” he responded.

“No I wouldn’t because I know that toys and other things come from stores. Even if reindeer could fly they could never fly fast enough to distribute anything in one night to the entire world. It may be possible for you to live at the North Pole, but its nothing but ice. No,” I said quite confidently, “I wouldn’t believe in you.”

“Those are childhood beliefs, whose purpose is to explain and introduce children to the unexplainable. Young minds are not really prepared to believe in what they cannot see. The Santa Claus seen at Christmas and the stories about me give me some sense of reality to young ones. As that image fades and those stories begin to become unbelievable they must learn the real story.”

“What is your real story?” I asked. “Please help me to understand.” I couldn’t really believe what was going on. Here I am sitting watching a fictional movie about a up until now fictional character and the next minute he’s sitting in my living room talking to me and to top it off I’m starting to believe him.

“I’m an Angel,” he began.

“Wait, wait,” I said interrupting him, “If you’re an angel how come you don’t look like one? You sure look like that Santa Claus there on television.”

“Appearing this way makes it easier for people to believe in me. Angels are gaining more exposure these days but the average person on the street would not believe anything I said. Perhaps if I continue you might begin to understand me and the legend of Santa Claus.”

“Of course, do go on,” I said, starting to really get into what was going on.

The little man began his story. “Before humans ever populated the earth Lucifer (now called the Devil) and a third of all the angels in heaven rebelled against God. I was one of them and after losing we were banished to the earth. Lucifer was very convincing; he is a master you know. He convinced us that God had asked him to hand pick each of us and told us that God wanted to test us. God was about to create his greatest creation, life forms in his own image and into each creation he would place a part of himself. These new creations would also be given right to choose for themselves to love him or not and this caused God great concern. Lucifer told us that God wanted to be sure his love was strong enough to withstand the possible rejection.”

“So, what Lucifer was telling you was that God wanted to be sure that this new creation would love him and no on else,” I said.

“That’s right, he also told us that if we angels rebelled and God’s love was strong enough to allow us that freedom then God would know that his love was perfect and his plans could continue,” tears began forming in his eyes. “There is one thing about God that is indisputable, He is a God of order, and He is at the top of that order. He telling us over and over he was number one and there was to be no other Gods. Unknown to us, at the time Lucifer’s plan was with our help he would try to place himself over God.”

Looking at the ceiling he continued, “When we began putting Lucifer’s plan into action it proved to be the beginning of the end for us. When God said He was God and there was no other he was right! He put that rebellion down in no time we never stood a chance. Lucifer lied to us, he had us believing that God was asking him for help and we believed him right up to the end. Boy was we wrong!”

“I guess angels and we humans have a few things in common don’t we,” I said, “Please go on.”

“But we did find out how much God loved us because He could have destroyed us but he didn’t. He told us that if we wanted Lucifer to be our god then he would give Lucifer a kingdom of his own where we could be his subjects. He then changed Lucifer’s name to Satan and banished all of us from heaven. In the back of my mind I had doubts about Lucifer right from the start but he made us feel more important than we really were. He convinced us that we were doing God a personal favor. Everyone likes to feel more important than they really are and Lucifer is very good at doing so,” he said.

Interrupting him I agreed, “And we still do and Satan is still a master at helping us to overpower our humility.”

“I know,” Santa continued. “When it came my turn to stand before God and account for my actions, my doubts gave way to reality. In response to His questions I explained what Lucifer had told me and how he had tricked me. But Lucifer denied saying anything he then accused me of giving him the idea. At that point I told God that I was sorry and repented however I still needed to suffer the consequences of my actions.” Tears filled the old man’s eyes as he said that because of our sins we were separated from heaven and sent to the earth.

Pausing for a moment to compose himself he continued, “My repentance included denouncing Satan and doing very thing in my power to spread the news of his evil nature. I talked to every angel I could but they were so wrapped up in themselves and what he was telling them that no one listened to me. He kept telling them that we would yet raise up an army and would overthrow God in time.

“We all anticipated and waited for that great moment when God would work his greatest work. Satan was also waiting get these new creations to follow him. But I was waiting to tell them not to make the same mistake I did. But Satan was far more powerful and craftier than I was so in the end Adam and Eve sinned. But from then on I made up my mind not to quit, so I set out to touch people’s lives as best I could by lifting their spirits through the gift of giving because God kept giving me his Spirit.”

Santa went on to say he has been giving gifts to kids and adults every day and not just on December 25 for nearly 6,000 years. I asked him what the greatest gift he would like to give was.

“The greatest gift I would like to give is for everyone to understand Christmas and hear my story. I would like everyone to see me as the giver of material things and that material things are only starting points that don’t last and only leave people wanting more and more. For some Christmas never goes beyond the material things, to them it is X-mas. But there are many things beyond the material, and I would like people to see Jesus as the giving and receiving of eternal things; things that are not of this world; things this world can’t supply; things that will even outlast the world. And if they follow Satan they will find themselves in a losing battle.”

“You sure are taking on a big task there. Our world is very materialistic. Some religious leaders say that you are one of the reasons Christmas has lost its real meaning. Tell me more.” I said.

“Well,” he started “This may seem a little like double talk but the greatest gift I have, and ever will give would be materialistic to you. I gave myself.”

Looking puzzled I said, “What do you mean you gave yourself?”

“Perhaps I should go on with my story. That will answer your question. May I go on?”

“Yes, Santa please do,” I felt a little strange calling him Santa but then he was Santa.

“Each time a baby is born I go the birth site and begin making a journal of the baby’s life. I make notes about the baby’s parents and other factors that will have an impact on the infant’s life. And at different stages in the baby’s life I update the journal so that when help is needed I can help to guide the young ones life.

Thinking about the way the world is today I asked him how much of an impact he thought he was having.

“Not very much in terms of numbers,” he said in a positive tone, but then I don’t deal in numbers. One is the most important number to me, and there are a great many ones out there. Anyway one clear night as I was making my rounds I noticed a birth-taking place in a stable. I thought it odd that someone would choose a stable as a birthplace especially with so many places to stay. I stopped to begin recording the birth and as I entered the stable I felt a strange peaceful feeling. I also noticed the animals were reacting differently to the humans who had invaded their home. It sounded almost as if they were making a beautiful lullaby. They reacted as if the new addition were theirs. At first the little one looked like any other new born infant but suddenly something touched my heart as it has never been touched before.”

Santa when on to tell me that the eyes are the windows of the soul by looking into the eyes of people he can tell a lot about them. He can tell if they have been good or bad just by the sparkle or lack of sparkle in their eyes. He can also tell if they are over burdened with difficulties.

With a smile on his lips he went on, “When I looked into the eyes of that newborn baby I knew that this was no ordinary birth. I had seen those eyes somewhere before but I couldn’t remember where. Suddenly I didn’t see the eyes of a baby I saw the eyes of a grown man, it lasted less than a heart beat but in that brief period of time I experienced eternity and I felt the baby seeing me. For the first time ever another person recognized my physical presence. Somebody had actually seen me! Animals had always seen me and were friendly but up until that point no human had. I was prepared for Mary and Joseph not to see me. But I was not prepared for what happened when I looked into the baby’s eyes. It was almost as if we were one and the power of that union shook me to my very soul. I knew that this person would change the world forever because somehow deep inside he changed me. Then I remembered that I had seen those eyes in heaven before the great battle, they were the eyes of God’s Son.”

Santa paused to be sure I was still paying attention. I was! He continued, “I felt I had a real love for children and adults, after all love is why I give them gifts. But then it hit me the real reason I was giving gifts was to be loved. Like everyone else I desperately needed to be loved. Try to picture yourself in a world where you see others but they can’t see you, a world where you can reach out and touch someone but they can’t feel your touch. A world where you can give things and see how it makes people happy, but you can receive nothing from them. Have you ever tried to reach for something you really wanted but it was just out of your reach? You struggle and you struggle, you stretch and you stretch but no matter what it always remain out of reach. There were times when was so lonely that I wanted to give into Lucifer just to have someone to talk to back to me.”

I tried to picture myself in his world but I couldn’t. I had been in places where people were all around and it seemed as if no one noticed me but when I made some gesture toward them they responded. There have been times when I have felt lonely and frightened but all I had to do was place to call for someone. To feel alone is among the worse experiences people can have.

Santa continued, “I always thought that there might be more to love then I had yet experienced. But coming from the baby was a love given to me, a love that I felt coming from someone and not my imagination. I was not giving anything, for the first time I was on the receiving end. Suddenly I realized that all I gave was things, but this little infant was giving love, unconditional pure love. More than anything that this tiny baby was loves in the flesh. And with him was an unseen power, yet the two were one and the same, love was the power and the power was love.”

“I began recording the birth and as I glanced a second time at the infant this time I saw a lamb, the purest one I had ever seen so white that the light coming from it hurt my eyes. Then right before my eyes the Lamb turned into a Shepherd, then into a Prince, then to a King, and then I saw him die on a cross. For an instant I thought I was seeing things. I wondered what was happening and what it all meant. But as I looked at the animals I noticed they were smiling at me as if they were saying it’s okay there was nothing wrong with me. Then I again felt the same sense of peace I felt when I first entered the stable.”

“Then I heard a voice that sounded as if it were coming from the heavens. It wasn’t real loud but it touched deep into my heart where the baby had touched me. But it was so soft I couldn’t understand what it was saying. Then it became so quiet I could hear the babies heart beating, it became so silent I could almost feel it. Never before had I witnessed such silence, such stillness. And again I heard the voice, yet I still could not understand it, and the world remained quiet. The third time the voice sounded and as I looked into the eyes of the child I could understand it. It seemed as if the world was shaking but I was the only one affected by what was going on. If I live a thousand life times I will never forget what that voice told me that night.”

At this point Santa paused for a minute or so before going on I could see tears forming in his eyes again and as he continued his voice was filled with emotion. It became so quiet I too could almost feel the silence. I could see the picture on the television but there was no sound. “You have just witnessed the birth of my Son. Just as a shepherd protects and leads his sheep out of danger and into places of peace where they may eat and drink freely, my Son will lead humanity. And just as a Prince grows to a King he will grow. And my kingdom will grow until the day when all kingdoms will flow into it just as all rivers flow into the oceans. Just as he will grow from a spiritual infant to a spiritual giant so will mankind.”

“As I began to think about what the Voice had told me I thought to myself there was no way I could give what this child gave me. Everything I gave would one day be of no use. How could I keep giving things that people would have no use? How could I keep giving children toys when he knew they needed more? How could I give a greater love then I was feeling? What gift could I give that was better than eternal life?”

“I thought it was time for me to quit after all my purpose in giving was to feel loved and now I felt a love like no other. If my purpose was to make people happy how could I make them happier than could the Son of God? I thought I should feel sad, after all I was giving up something I loved to do, but I felt strangely at peace.”

“As I finished my work and was getting ready to leave again I looked into the infants eyes and three words formed deep in my soul ‘Where’s my gift,’ the voice was saying to me. I didn’t know what to say, trying to gather my thoughts I paused. Again I heard the three words. Again I didn’t know what to say.

“You have been giving gifts to children for many years yet you have not given a gift to me,” it said.

“Lord, what possible gift can I give you? I am one who gives things and things cannot compare with the love that you give. I am ashamed because the only possible thing I have to give you that means anything to me now is my life,” I said.

“Your life is the only thing that means anything to me. I created all that you could ever touch, feel, smell, taste, and see through the power of my Fathers Spirit. I command all things, yet God gives all life the gift of freedom to choose Him or reject Him, so I cannot command you. Out of my love for you I have given you the greatest gift ever I have given you myself. In me you are given a second chance and you will once again sing with the angels.”

“Lord, I feel love as I have never felt it before so please tell me how can I keep giving things as gifts when the gift your gift of love is far greater than any I can ever give?”

“As you give your gifts take this message to them. Tell them you must give yourself to God and to others as well. You must love God with all of your heart, might, mind, and strength, and others as well. When you sin and separate yourself from God repent, come to Jesus for forgiveness and you will be made whole. Tell them that some of life experiences will try to defeat them and that I will be with them and strengthen them and they will not be defeated. The greatest gift you can give my people is to tell your story on how you overcame the powers of Satan and what I have come to mean to you.”

“As the everything filtered through my mind and settled deep in my heart I began to see that the greatest gift I had to offer was myself and my new found spirit. So with tears of joy in my eyes and joy in my heart I told the Lord I was small compared to him and all I had to offer him was my smallness.”

After another brief pause Santa continued, “I never wanted to leave the stable but I knew that there were other babies being born that night and I had to record their births as well. So as I readied to leave I glanced at the baby one last time this time he was sleeping how beautiful he looked.”

“As I flew over some hills I noticed some shepherds watching their sheep I thought I’d stop and tell them what had happened in the stable. After all that’s what the Christ Child had told me to do. So I told them Peace on earth and goodwill toward men for unto you born this day is Christ. You will find him in Bethlehem in a stable.”

“No sooner did I get the words out when it seemed as if the heavens opened up and all the angels living in heaven were there singing and praising God and his Son. It sure was good to see them again.”

“After the shepherds had left and all the angels had returned to heaven I was left alone in the hills. Suddenly deep in my spirit I began to hear a voice telling me of one more gift I would receive. That last gift the Christ child gave me was that as the celebration of his birth draws near I am allowed to talk one on one with one person and tell my story. You are that person this year. I know that what I have told you is hard to believe but I can assure you that it is the truth.”

“Well Santa, I do believe you. I must admit that a part of me still wants to see you as the Santa Claus I believed in as a kid. But I can assure you I will do my best to tell your story to as many people as I can. I would, however, like to wait until my grandchildren become a little older. It’s important for them to see you as the stories portray you until its time for them to change their beliefs.”

“I can’t ask for anymore than that. Well I guess its time for me to be going. I sure appreciate letting me into your home. Remember I’ll be back Christmas Eve only you’ll not see me. Goodbye my friend.”

“Goodbye Santa,” I said feeling sorry he couldn’t stay longer. As I got up to see him to the door I looked to the chair where he had been sitting but he wasn’t there. He was gone he just disappeared! I then heard the sound of bells as I did so many years ago.

“Thank you Santa.”

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The Anointing of Jesus

Gary Piper

Authors note: To some it is a mystery why Jesus choose to be seen with and use sinners and common folk in the three years he walked the earth. But to those of us who have been touched by him there is no mystery. The following story although fictionalized is true not only because it appears in the Bible but it is true because in many ways it is my story too.

Annointing Jesus

Hannah awakened by the morning sun shining through the window felt the pain of the previous night as she sat thinking about getting up she mumbled to herself, “Why do the men have to be so rough with me?” Instantly her mind filled with years of guilt and regrets she closed her hoping the thoughts and pain would go away. When they wouldn’t she thought it best to get up, “perhaps if I busied myself they would go away,” she said to herself. Fifteen minutes later she walked out her door and into a world that was no more welcoming to her then the world the night before.

Walking toward the market place to buy her food she tried covering her bruised face but it did no good everyone knew her and knew what she did for a living. Nearing the market she happened upon a crowd suddenly above the noise she heard a voice, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn me for my yoke is easy and my burdens are light.” Somehow the voice sounded as if it was meant for her and she began pushing through the crowd to get closer.

“Look! it’s that woman Hannah!” someone shouted.

“Don’t let her through!” another voice called out.

Suddenly from out of nowhere a man pushed her away, “The Master will have nothing to do with the likes of a woman like you! Now get away and go back to that dark evil world you belong in!”

Falling to the ground Hannah somehow rolled over on her knees and pulled her arms up over her head to protect herself from those who had begun kicking her, “Be gone woman,” one last voice sounded. Even though it was only minutes it seemed like hours before Hannah heard the noise of the crowd diminish to the point where she dared pick up her head.

“Is something wrong,” she heard another voice ask? Slowly Hannah picked up her head to see who it was expecting to be kicked again she looked around but there was no one close enough to have spoken to her. “Who said that?” she spoke out loud.

“I did,” the voice called out again.

“But who are you? I can’t see you. Are you ashamed to be seen with me?” she asked.

A third time the voice spoke, “I am the one of whom the prophets said would come to set at liberty those held captive. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. I am the one whom will die for your sins. My Father in Heaven has chosen you to complete a special task. Be diligent, be faithful, and be ready.”

“But who are you and where are you,” Hannah asked slowly and painfully getting to her feet. Standing alone for a few minutes she tried to understand what had just happened to her. A beating, a voice calling to her, a special task from heaven none of it made sense to her. Shrugging her shoulders Hannah headed for the safety of her home still uncertain of where the voice came from and whose it was. Suddenly echoing through memory she again heard the words of the stranger, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn me for my yoke is easy and my burdens are light.” Instantly she recognized the voice as the one who had just spoken to her.

“What would such a noble man have to say to an outcast like me?” she asked herself out loud.

A second time she was recognized, “Harlot! Get off the street there are children out here!” a woman shouted at her.

“Somebody grab some stones! We’ll take care of the trash around here!” another woman screamed.

Suddenly Hannah found herself dodging stones, “What if I told them it was their husbands who visited me,” she thought to herself, “What would they do then?” Minutes later she arrived at her home opening the door she headed straight for the bed and carefully laid down and fell asleep.

Suddenly she awakened by the shouts of people heading her way. “He makes himself equal with God kill the blasphemer,” an angry voice called out.

“He is the Son of God,” another voice sounded.

Moving to a window Hannah couldn’t believe her eyes. She saw a man carrying a heavy wooden beam heading toward her he was nearly naked and on his head he had what appeared to be a crown of thorns. She could tell by the way he stumbled he had been severely beaten. Suddenly he fell to the ground and a Roman guard pointed at a bystander and shouted, “You there! You standing there come over here and help this criminal carry his cross.”

“I’m not part of this sir,” he said back.

“You either help him or you’ll die with him,” came the indigent reply!

Instantly the man bounded out of the crowd and bent over to help the injured man pick up the heavy wooden beam. As Hannah stared intently at the scene there was something strange about the injured man it seemed as if she knew him. The man looked her in eyes and smiled suddenly the sound of a whip hitting its target filled the air and a Roman guard shouted, “Get going!”

“What is there about that stranger,” she said to herself. Suddenly there was a knock on her door. Instantly she was awake and with the dream fresh in her mind she ran to window the street was empty.

Again the knock sounded, “Who is it?” she called out.

“It’s me Ahaz. Don’t you remember we have an appointment,” the voice whispered back.

“What happened to all those people and that man who was lead by here severely beaten?” she asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please let me in before someone sees me.”

“First you tell me about the man who was crucified today by the Romans.”

“Hannah! Please someone will see me.”

“Tell me Ahaz!”

“There was no one crucified today! I’m telling the truth. Now please open the door,” Ahaz’s voice was a little louder.

“Are you sure?” Hannah asked again.

“Yes I’m sure! Are you going to open the door or not?” he was almost shouting now.

“Go away Ahaz. I’m in no mood to entertain you I’ve got to much on my mind. Just go home to your wife,” Hannah hollered back.

“Hannah you open this door now! We have an appointment!”

“I just cancelled it! Now for the last time go home or I’ll open the door and scream,” Hannah was getting angrier by the minute. Suddenly she could hear footsteps thumping away. “Once he gets to his friends I’ll need to find another line of work,” she commented heading back to her bed.

For the first time in a long time Hannah found herself in bed alone at nighttime. “What is going on with me,” she said out loud, “A mysterious stranger, a strange voice coming from nowhere, and now a nightmare. What does it all mean?” Suddenly she was sleepy and unable to keep her eyes open within seconds she was sleeping soundly.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” the sound of a familiar voice woke her up. Looking around she was no longer in her home she was sitting on a hillside surrounded by people. “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

Immediately Hannah recognized the man talking as the one who was in her dream. Turning to a woman sitting next to her she asked, “Who is that man?”

Still looking ahead at the man teaching she replied, “Have you not heard? That is Jesus of Nazareth. His closest friends say he is the long awaited Messiah. I’ve heard stories where he has given sight to the blind, heals the lame so they can walk, and casts out demons! Surely you’ve heard of him haven’t you?”

Meanwhile the man continued, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

“I’ve been away so long and haven’t heard of the man called Jesus,” Hannah replied more puzzled then ever. She tried to get up and leave but she couldn’t it was as if she were held there. “What would the Messiah want with me,” she thought to herself.

A cold wind blew across Hannah’s face and voice called out to her, “Nothing you are a Harlot, the vilest of all sinners! The Messiah would have nothing do to with the likes of a woman like you!”

“Who are you?” Hannah asked looking around for the source of the voice.

“I am the lord of this world. I am the one who controls your destiny. I am the one who holds your soul,” the voice sounded again.

Suddenly the teachers voice sounded again, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

“Are you all right?” the woman sitting next to her asked.

“Oh, oh yes I’m okay. It’s just the teachers words are so peaceful,” Hannah commented.

“I know what you mean. A few days ago I was a Harlot and when I heard him saying he came to forgive the sinner it’s like a great burden was lifted from my shoulders. What do you do,” the woman asked Hannah.

“I’m just a house wife,” Hannah could not bring herself to tell the woman the truth even though the woman had told her what she used to be. At that point Hannah’s mind drifted off as if it went to another world but suddenly a knock came at the door.

“Hannah! Hannah are you all right?” a voice called out.

Slowly waking up and realizing she had only been dreaming again Hannah moved slowly toward the door. “What is it mother,” she said a little sarcastically, “Come to condemn me some more?”

“Just because I don’t agree with what you’re doing doesn’t mean I condemn you Hannah. Please open the door and let me in.”

“If you don’t condemn me then why can’t I come home to visit you and father,” Hannah shot back.

“It’s not me it’s your father and he doesn’t condemn you either it’s just that you embarrass him to much. Now please Hannah won’t you let me in? I have good news for you,” Miriam’s voice was filled with excitement.

“Won’t you be embarrassed being here mother?” Hannah asked.

“Of course I won’t a mother’s love is different than that of a father, Hannah. I don’t agree with the lifestyle you have chosen but I still love you and I’m not embarrassed at all. Please let me in, please.”

Finally Hannah unlocked the door and pulled it open. “Boy! Mother sure is aging fast,” she thought to herself, “I wonder how much of it is my fault?” Gesturing to the older woman to come in Hannah started, “I’m sorry Mother, please come in and thanks for not judging me.”

“Hannah I love you, you’re my only daughter. You are a good person, deep inside there’s a beautiful woman waiting to be born again I just know it,” Miriam said looking Hannah in the eyes.

Instantly Hannah’s mind traveled back through the past years, through all the beatings, through all the harassment, through all the nights with strange men. “You don’t know what I’ve been through these past years mother you’re only saying that because you are my mother.”

“I’m not saying that because you’re my daughter I’m saying that because I met a man the other day who changed the way I feel about others. His name is Jesus and he comes from Nazareth. I’ve seen him perform miracles and he has the power to forgive sins. I’ve seen lives turn around after listening to him. Hannah I know he can make a difference in your life! You are not happy I’ve seen it in your eyes many times and a mother knows things like that. Please Hannah,” her mother was begging her.

At first Hannah wanted to ask her mother to leave after all in her own subtle way Hannah’s mother was judging her. However the strange events of the past day stopped her. Deep inside Hannah knew her mother was right, “Could it be this man named Jesus or who ever he was could help her? Could he be the strange voice and the stranger?” she silently asked.

Hannah began to cry, “You’re so right mother I’m not happy with myself! I’m tired of the beatings! I’m tired of harassment! I’m tired of disappointing you and father! I love both of you so much but I just can’t love myself. I’ve brought shame on our family and I brought shame on myself and I can’t forgive myself.” The tears were flowing freely.

Miriam, crying too walked to where her daughter stood and put her arms around Hannah and without saying a word just held her daughter close. Seconds later Hannah began to feel a power flowing between the two women she couldn’t describe it was just there and it offered her some comfort. “I love you Hannah,” Miriam whispered and Hannah knew what the power was it was power of a mother’s unconditional love.

“I know mother. I really and truly know because I can feel it. I really can! For the first I am feeling real love,” Hannah replied. The room fell silent as the two women hugged each other. Little by little Hannah could feel the guilt, the self-hate leave her.

Minutes later Hannah broke the silence, “Do you really think the man called Jesus can help me?”

“I believe with all my heart Hannah he can help you. I’ve seen him in the company of outcasts. He has a one-time tax collector and fishermen as disciples. He frequents the homes of sinners. I’ve heard him say he came heal those with broken hearts and broken spirits. One time he said he came to tell us the Kingdom of God is within us and who so ever desires can become a citizen if they only believe on him. Oh, Hannah I know with all my heart he is what you need!”

By this time the two had separated and were now sitting down. Hannah started to tell her mother of her strange encounters and strange dreams. “I believe you mother I must find out where he will be and go to him. But first I must prepare myself and I must find some way of showing him the honor and respect he deserves. I must find some way of showing him I am giving my life with all my past sins to him.”

Miriam smiled at her daughter, “I heard one of the Pharisees named Simon ask him to eat at his house tonight so he’ll be there. Would you like me to stay and help you or go with you?”

“No mother it is something I must do by myself,” Hannah sounded confident.

“But there’ll be many who will condemn you and you might need someone on your side.”

“I appreciate your offer but there is one there who will be on my side.”

“Who?”

“Jesus will be on my side mother and he’s all I need. Now please excuse me I must get ready,” Hannah said turning and heading for her bedroom.

“I’m proud of you Hannah and I love you,” Miriam said opening the door.

“Thanks mother. I love you too.”

Minutes later as Hannah sat on her bed the wall suddenly disappeared and she found herself in a strange house. Hearing a knock on the door Hannah watched as a young woman walked to the door and opened it. “We have come a long way to honor the young Messiah,” said a man dressed like a king.

“Who are you?” the woman asked.

“We are Kings from the east and we have been following the signs in the heavens and have come to bring him gifts so we may honor his arrival. May we come in?” came the reply.

“Yes of course Jesus is sleeping now but please come in,” the young mother said gesturing the men to come in.

“Thank you,” one of the other men said walking into the house, “We bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh as gifts.”

The vision disappeared leaving Hannah again in her room. Getting up from her bed she walked over to a closet opened it and brought out a white stone box. Lifting the cover of it she took out a bottle of precious ointment removed the cap looked inside smelled it and replaced the cover.

Looking at the box she recalled the day her father had given it to her. “Inside is a precious ointment Hannah save it until the day you realize you are far more precious than all the ointments in the world,” she recalled him saying. Because her father gave it to her over the years it’s value had far exceeded any amount of money.

But now it was time! “Today I too will anoint Jesus a king.” Tucking the box under her arm she headed for the door. About 20 minutes later she walked up to the house of Simon the Pharisee. A crowd had gathered outside preventing her from getting closer.

“It’s that Harlot Hannah!” someone shouted.

“Go away Harlot this is no place for you,” another said.

“Please let me through I must get in to see Jesus,” she begged. Out of the corner of her she caught sight of a stone coming her way. She turned and ducked and heard as it sail past her head.

“I must get through to see him. Please don’t stop me let him be my judge,” she pleaded. The crowd suddenly became quiet and just as sea parted for Moses the crowd split in two leaving a pathway for Hannah to the doorway. Looking straight ahead she did not hesitate and moved quickly between the walls of hate. No one said a word, seconds later she stood in the dinning room of Simons house.

Immediately she saw Jesus and walked over to him and dropped to her knees. With tears running down her cheeks she carefully opened the Alabaster box and removed the ointment setting it aside she wiped her hair on her cheeks and eyes and began washing Jesus feet. Who is this who dishonors my house and my guest,” Simons voice boomed out momentarily startling Hannah, “You are a sinner do not touch my guest!”

“Do not stop her,” Jesus quietly replied, “She has come to honor me. Did you wash my feet Simon when I first came in?” Simon had not because he was a Pharisee and Pharisee’s didn’t go around washing the feet of anyone.

No one said a word as Hannah continued washing Jesus’ feet. A few minutes later she picked up the bottle of ointment then began anointing his feet quietly she whispered, “You are my king and my Lord.”

Turning to Simon Jesus said, “Simon, I have a question for you.”

“What is it Jesus, Master?”

Looking Simon in eyes Jesus began, “There was a banker who had two debtors one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. Each of men fell on hard times and was unable to pay their debts. Out of compassion for them the banker freed both of them from their debts. Tell me, Simon which of them will love the banker the most?”

Simon answered, “The one with the greater debt.”

“You are right Simon,” Jesus replied turning and facing Hannah, “Do you see this woman?”

“Yes Lord.”

“When I entered your house,” Jesus looking back at Simon, “You didn’t wash my feet you didn’t even give me the water to wash them myself. But this woman you call a sinner washed my feet with her tears and with the hairs of her head. You did not greet me with a kiss but this woman you call a sinner has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint me with an ointment or even give me any so I could do it myself. But this woman you call a sinner has anointed my feet with that which is most precious to her. Wherefore, Simon I say to you because she has loved much all her sins are forgiven.”

Turning again to Hannah and with tears now running down his cheeks Jesus said, “Woman your sins are forgiven.”

Suddenly the crowd inside and outside began to murmur, “Who is this man that forgives sins as well as performs miracles?”

Jesus continued, “Hannah because of your faith and courage in me you are saved go in peace and tell all you meet the good news.”

And Hannah went and did as Jesus had told her!

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New B. Lever Discovers Jeremiah 29:11-14

Written By Gary Piper

Faith

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord…’ [1]

The Bible is THE most powerful and compelling book ever written. Between its covers lies the “God Plan” for all of history. Between its covers lie the beginning and the end of time as we have come to know it.

More Bibles have been bought than any other book. Over the course of time it has been the focus of much controversy and many have tried to disprove it yet it still stands as an Ensign of all that mankind has been, is, and will be. An Ensign of all that God is, all that God can do, and all that God will do.

As powerful, compelling, and as much as it’s been read the Bible is one of the hardest books to understand. One of the reasons for the difficulty in understanding the Bible is not because it is draped in mystery or because of vast cultural differences but because it goes against the flow. For example the Bible tells us that when we are poor we can be rich and when we are rich we can be poor.

In our quest to live a victorious life we excitedly open our bibles and begin searching just the right story that will ease our fears, which will fill our emptiness, renew our spirits, and help us dream new dreams. Sometimes guided by the Holy Spirit we happen upon a particular scripture that becomes the words of God for us. Yet the circumstances of life do not support what the Holy Spirit is revealing. For example the bible tells of Jesus healing everywhere he went yet our family, friends, and even ourselves struggle with ill health at times.

“I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly,” the bible records Jesus saying. Yet we struggle with a running wild cost of living.

Do we slam it shut and put it somewhere where we won’t have to think about it?

Do we reject the scripture as an emotional escape created in our minds because that is what we wanted to know?

Do we accept it as God’s word and just wait for it to happen?

Do we begin to investigate it trying to discover how God is trying to make a difference in our lives?

For me it’s the last one. When the Holy Spirit speaks God’s word to us it’s an invitation to dig deeper into God and his message. When we our roots go deeper into God we not only to absorb the much needed spiritual nutrients but become empowered to endure when the winds of adversity blow upon us. Spiritual growth reduced to lowest terms is building a deeper awareness of God moving in and through our lives and a deeper relationship with him.

All of us are searching for a better life, for more peace, more hope we all need to dive deeper into the bible. Some have begun their journey down “Bible Lane” some have not. Meet a man who hasn’t but needs to. His name is New B. Lever. New B. Lever is 39 years old the father to two children is employed in what he refers to a dead end job journeying down a dead end street. The Levers own their own home, or at least are making an attempt. Like the majority of blue collar workers they live from paycheck to paycheck with zero dollars put aside for a rainy day.

One Sunday morning while channel surfing New B. Lever happened on a channel where a minister was saying, “If you believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible you’ll have all you need and never want for anything.”

It had been a week since he’d been fervently parachute praying (Lord bail me out prayers) the thought suddenly occurred to him that God was now ready to give him everything he’d been praying for.

“Margaret,” he called in a loud voice, “where’d you put that bible those bible thumpers gave us last year?”

“I have no idea, you’re the one who said we’d never use it!”

“Well I was wrong! It’s the only thing standing between us and being homeless. Got any ideas where I may have put it?”

“I can’t imagine you needing the bible,” Margaret replied from the laundry room, “check in the basement in that old locker you throw junk into.”

Several minutes later returning with the bible in his hand, “I found it! Margaret you’re a genius.”

“No I’m not I just know you!”

Seconds later New B. Lever dropped into his chair flipped some pages in the book and settled on page 919 and started reading at Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11. “For I know the what I have planned for you, says the Lord. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.” Suddenly it was as if the words were screaming at him and drawing him into what they were saying. After reading them quickly he began re-reading them a second time and found himself deep in conversation.

“For I know what I have planned for you, says the Lord,” the words spoke to his troubled mind.

“With all due respect Lord, what plans have you made for me? They must be plans of beating up on me because life sure has. Take my family for instance we’re struggling to make ends meet just like millions of other families. We’re facing an uncertain future because we are told the economy will not improve any time soon! Is that what you’ve planned for me? For my family? For our future? Does your plans include putting a roof over our head when we lose our home? Does your plans include watching Margaret’s dad suffer because he can’t afford his medication? Does your plans include finding Margaret a job so she can help out?”

New B. Lever paused as if waiting for God to answer him.

Several minutes later, “I didn’t think you’d have an answer for me. Now I know why I threw this bible in the basement. You know I tried reading it a long time ago but it’s not changed any it still tells me how much my life is really messed up. John and Sue are always telling me how after reading the bible they’ve been lifted out of their burdens. Not the ole New B. Lever family though. Sometimes I think because I’m not as good as they are your angels are saying, ‘hey look the New B. Lever family is in a hole let’s throw a little more dirt on him!’”

Pausing again, “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.”

Then deep inside something began stirring in New B. a feeling he’d never felt before it was as if his focus began changing from what had happened to what could happen. It was a strange feeling because up until that point his road into future was based on the road behind him. The words, “it don’t get any better than this,” spoken over and over by a co-worker had become so powerful unknowingly they had become a roadmap leading him into the future.

“God, I sure wish that was true! But what am I suppose to believe?”

Echoing again in his thoughts, “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.”

“You don’t know, Lord how much I want to believe you but the evidence just doesn’t add up. I remember from the days when my parents made me go to church of hearing that you can’t lie but what’s happening in my life does not match what I’m reading. So giving you the benefit of the doubt I think you must be referring to some later date but I need help now not later. Is there anyway you can hurry those plans up?”

A third time like a neon sign the words flashed off the page of his bible, “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you.”

“Some day you’ll need God, New B.” his mothers words echoed from the past.

Instantly memories of the past began flooding, “if you ain’t got faith you ain’t got God,” he recalled hearing his father say each time they faced difficult situations.

“Dad,” he recalled saying, “all we’ve got is nothing. We’ve got a run down house, I wear second hand clothes.”

“But we got God.”

“You got God, dad I don’t! If living a second rate life is what comes with believing in God you can have him I want the best of everything and the day will come when I will have it all.”

Two weeks later his father past away, “Trenton Lever had faith and Trenton Lever had God and now that’s all that matters,” he recalled the minister saying at the funeral.

Pausing to wipe the tears from his eyes New B. Lever began pouring his heart out, “I am so sorry, father for letting you down so many times. I am so sorry, God for letting you down so many times. I need you God.”

His eyes fell back on the open bible and he continued reading, “to give you hope and a future”

All of a sudden as ghosts of the past forced there way into his mind New B. Lever found himself at war with himself. The news of his Tennessee friend just diagnosed with MS. The need for a new car. The cost of living increasing faster then his income. The difficulties facing his sons and daughters in law. The added stresses at work and church. All poured into his troubled mind at the same time. “I don’t need hope, God!” he shouted. “I need help, help for my family, help for my friends, help for myself, why can’t you understand that? Later may be too late.”

The living room fell silent.

For what seemed like hours the struggle continued. New B. Lever discovered that experience is not only a great ally but a very powerful enemy as well. However, a couple of minutes later, “I’m sorry God if hope is all you can give me that will do.”

Thinking he’d heard a voice talking to him he fixed his tear filled eyes back to Jeremiah, “When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you.”

“Apparently I don’t know how to pray, Lord because when I do all I find is emptiness and hopelessness. It must that I pray for the wrong things. Or is my life is so messed up you all you can is just listen?”

Looking again at his bible, “If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you.”

New B. Lever felt as if he were being lifted up, it was almost as if his past experiences had never happened. He found himself walking down a new unfamiliar road.

His voice broke the silence, “Where are you God?”

“Are you locked away deep in my intellect?”

“Are you locked away in my childhood years?”

“Are you locked away deep in my heart?”

“How can I worship you when you I can’t find you?”

“Are there people with greater needs then mine?”

“Are you waiting just over the horizon? Around the next corner? In my desert places?”

“Where are you God?” New B’s voice was getting frantic.

“New B are you all right?” Margaret’s voice startled him.

“I’m okay, why do you ask?”

“I thought I heard you talking to someone…” Stopping in mid sentence she realized he’d been crying.

“What’s wrong? Is it my dad? What’s wrong, New B I never seen you cry before!”

“Nothing is wrong, Margaret in fact everything is right,” he replied wiping his eyes. “Sit down for a minute or two.” Over the next hour New B. Lever rehearsed what had taken place since hearing the television minister.

Finally, New B. Lever paused looked his wife in the eyes “My dad always told me that when a person has faith they have God and if they have God they have all they need.”

Sounding both relieved and excited Margaret asked, “What do we do next?”

Picking up the bible, “we’re gonna use this book to discover God so we can begin rebuilding our lives on faith.”

“But we don’t know that much about the bible,” she replied, “and I’ve heard you can’t read it like a novel or something you read for entertainment you need to really study it.”

“John Freely is always pestering me about coming to his place Sunday evenings for bible study let’s go over there and try it out this evening. You know John don’t you?”

“I’ve only met him a couple of times but Rachel his wife and I were classmates in high school.”

“Really? You never told me that.”

“Oh yeah, we’ve run into each other several times at Kroger’s. Now that I think about it she, too has mentioned they do bible study at their house.”

“Okay, it’s a date then. We’ll have to leave a little early so we can buy you a bible too. This ones very special to me and I’ll not give it up.”


What you have just read happened only in my imagination. However, now that you’ve read it, it’s also a part of your imagination. And even though the story is not real God is. The bible is real with real life transforming stories. If you are a potential believer, a new believer, or a seasoned veteran the bible and the God that comes with it waits patiently for a deepening fellowship with you. Throughout it’s 66 individual books and hundreds of stories God has intricately weaved his autobiography for you to discover.

“When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,” says the Lord…

[1] Jeremiah 29:11–14 NET Bible

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A Conversation with Jesus

Jesus deep in thoughtAuthors note: the only thing you can learn from a dummy is not to be one. But with an open mind and imagination we can learn a lot from fictional stories.

As I look at the picture to the left I wonder what Jesus is thinking? It looks like he is looking into the far reaches of time, perhaps he is looking deep into my life today August 16, 2013. I hope the artist will forgive me for using my imagination and see Jesus waiting for me to come and spend some time with him.

“Crusty, where are you?”

It puzzled me to think that Jesus could not see me standing in front of him. “I am here Lord, can’t you see me?”

“I can here your voice but I am unable to see you.”

“But Jesus I am standing right in front of you. Can’t you see me?”

“Do you believe in me, Crusty?”

I couldn’t believe what Jesus was asking me! He knew everything about me. He knew I believed in him. “Jesus, you know I believe in you, don’t you?”

“I hear your words, Crusty but belief is more than just words belief gives substance to our words.”

Deep inside I began to understand what he was suggesting. Was it possible I didn’t really believe in Jesus? But said to myself, “I must believe in him because could see him and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to see him. “But Jesus if I didn’t really believe in you wouldn’t you be just a voice. And I see you so I must believe in you.”

“Crusty, I will tell you of a great mystery but when you hear it do not try to understand it just let it simply take you into a deeper relationship not only with yourself but with me was well and even into a deeper relationship with others.”

He paused for a moment as if he were trying to formulate the words he would use to tell me something I would not be able to understand. As I waited for him to begin I silently asked the Holy Spirit to help me not just listen to Jesus’ voice but to hear his words as well.

“The reason you can see me is because I believe in my relationship with you. The reason I cannot see you is because you do not believe in your relationship with me.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! How could he say I didn’t believe in my relationship with him? I began to rehearse all the difficulties and adversities he’d blessed me through. There was the USS Newman K. Perry and Viet Nam war. There was open chest surgery for removal of my Thymus Gland, I almost died from complications but he pulled me through. Then there was 12 hip operations. Nearly 42 years of working in a factory. And 45 years of marriage!

“You can also see me because you believe in my relationship with you. You believe and see me because of the innumerable times I have blessed you throughout your life. But do you really believe I want a relationship with you? In that question lies the great mystery?”

“But if you have blessed my life and I recognize those times doesn’t that mean I believe in your relationship with me?”

“Does it?”

“I think it does,” I tried to sound confident.

“Do you remember why I can’t see you, Crusty?”

“Because it is belief that gives substance to our words.”

“That is true, but the reverse is also true.”

“Lord, I don’t understand what you mean by that.”

“Crusty, is it possible you see me because of the blessings I have given you?”

I was ready to say yes but suddenly the impact of what saying yes meant. If I said yes that would mean my relationship with him was based not on him but based on what I needed him to do. Interrupting my thoughts, “It’s okay if you say yes Crusty because all your relationships are based on needs. But needs come and go. Some of the relationships you depend on from others to help you fulfill your needs will one day be unable to help you. Do you know that will mean?”

“It means when that happens the two-way giving relationship will become only one way then I’ll need to decide whether or not I want to continue in the relationship. But I don’t understand there will never come a time when you’ll become unable to help me fulfill my needs.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that I may have needs too?”

Deep inside I knew he wanted me to acknowledge that even though he was Jesus, the Son of God he had needs but I couldn’t think of what his needs might be. Perhaps he needed me to continue to email and post the Glory Seed Devotionals. Perhaps he needed me to continue to author articles for my website and Natural Spirit Ministries. Perhaps he needed to proclaim the scriptures. Perhaps he needed me to continue to write books and self publish them in the event someone might stumble on them and purchase one. Again interrupting my thoughts, “Remember the person who can no longer fulfill your needs?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Remember you mentioned the choice of whether or not to continue the relationship?”

“Yes.”

“Could it be I need you to continue in relationships where you are the only giver?”

“I never really thought about being only a giver could be something you needed but now that I stop to think about it I can really see your need for me to do so.” A couple of people came to my mind but when I thought further about them it wasn’t they couldn’t help me they chose not to help. I was ready to mention those when, “Now how about someone who chooses not to help fulfill your needs?”

“That’s where the mystery comes in doesn’t it?”

“It’s always easy to give to someone who can’t really give anything back but to give to someone who refuses to give is harder but who will give them what they need if no one does?”

“I understand what you’re telling me what you’re asking me to do but I’d almost to need to be you and I’m not you and I’ll never be anywhere close to being you!”

“Would it be possible for you to do if you would do it to me first and then through me?”

I remembered what the Apostle Paul wrote about be able to do all things through Jesus, “Yes I could do it?” Suddenly I recalled him asking me earlier about my belief in my relationship with him. And I began to see that relationships need to be based not on what we can get but what we can give.

“Jesus?”

“Yes.”

“I can see that my relationship with you must include the things I can do for you not what you can do for. And that extends to all my relationships as well even if I never get anything back from a relationship. I can see that is how you love me and with your help I can love others like you love me.”

Suddenly he disappeared. “Jesus, I can’t see you!”

“I know.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that your relationship with me is not based on what you see but on your deeper belief in me. Do you understand?”

I knew what he was saying but he didn’t ask me whether or not I heard him he asked me if I understood and suddenly I knew I didn’t need to understand I only needed to believe. “Jesus.”

“What is it?

“I don’t need to understand I only need to believe and back up my belief with action.”

“Crusty.”

“Yes, Jesus.”

“I see your sprouting a new hair cut. And by the way you’re not far from the Kingdom.”


Grace and Peace,

Gary

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Crusty the Christian Part Twenty-three…

Crusty Goes to the Movie…

Fiction By Gary Piper

The Passion of the Christ“Hey! Gary ya seen the Passion yet?” I heard Crusty call out from the other side of the food court.

“Yo, Crusty my wife and I seen it the first night!” I yelled back trying my best to embarrass him in return.

It didn’t work though, “Good,” he yelled back, “I’ll pick your pea brain after I get my soda. You want one?”

Instantly I felt every eye in the food court staring at my head trying to see what a pea brain looked like. After a few seconds of re-building my dignity, “Yeah a large cola,” I managed to squeak out.

Five minutes later Crusty walked up to the table with our sodas and sat down, “I hope I didn’t embarrass you with that pea brain comment,” he said apologetically

I thought for a second or two of blasting him but I thought better of it, “Me and my dignity will survive. Thanks for the soda. What’s up?” I asked.

“My wife and I went to the show last night to see the Passion movie and I wanted to get your opinion on it. Do you mind?” he asked.

Normally I shy away from giving opinions because they can lead to disagreements and disagreements lead to broken relationships! “I don’t mind giving my opinion so long as it is taken as my opinion and not the beginning of a debate,” I answered back.

“What do you mean a debate?” he asked.

Pausing to think about how I wanted to answer him my mind drifted back through various time when expressing my opinions became starting points for arguments which then lead to bad feelings and broken relationships. “Crusty,” I started, “I do not want to do anything to harm our friendship. I’ve lost friends and have seen churches split because persons have felt as if they needed to defend their opinions. I’ve even been the cause of broken friendships for that very reason. If we can express our opinions in a non defensive way then lets go for it.”

As I watched his facial expressions changing I knew he was deep in thought. Suddenly, “Gary, it goes like this each morning I wake up I ask God to help me keep an open mind because there’s so much I don’t know and at the same time I ask him to help me sift out what’s not right. You’re my best friend Gary and I value what you say but I also know you don’t have the whole picture either. But I’m thinking if we put your picture and my picture together maybe we can come closer to having the whole picture does that make any sense to you?” he asked.

“Sometimes its kinda scary when you and I think like it,” I replied jokingly, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” he answered with a smile.

“Okay Crusty, what about the movie,” I asked.

“Well, first of all I’d like to know what I saw?” he asked with a serious expression.

“I’m not sure I know what you mean by that question it was a movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus’ earthly life. Did I miss something?” I asked.

“Oh, no nothing like that but is that what we saw or did we see a Hollywood blockbuster? What I mean did the movie illustrate reality or did it exaggerate it?”

I knew what he meant after all the movie grossed over 100 million dollars in 3 days and that can cloud the real motivating factor. “Crusty, I know what you mean but remember we see what we want to see in all things even movies,” I said.

“Did they really beat Jesus like it showed them doing. Or did they exaggerate the beating to sell more tickets?” he interrupted.

Again I knew what he meant because society is so “show me lots of violence” orientated it easy to wonder if violence and money was the real motivating force in making the movie. “I’ve seen interviews with Mel Gibson,” I replied, “and I believe he’s not in it to make money. But there’s still a lot of Hollywood hype surrounding it so don’t let it detract from what Mr. Gibson sat out to do, which is tell as best he could the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life.”

“But what about the beatings?” Crusty interrupted.

“First of all let me say again this is only my opinion. It was a very emotionally powerful movie and I think it was designed that way. Anyone who gets emotional easy will react differently than someone who isn’t emotional. I’m not an emotional person, my wife is,” I replied, “I reacted differently than she did. How did you react?”

“I’m not real sure,” Crusty answered, “how should I react and did they really beat him like the movie shows?”

“I don’t know Crusty if the movie was true to the actual events or not. I know Mr. Gibson researched historical records but we have to remember there are no eyewitnesses alive and the only one who is alive after all this time is Jesus himself and he isn’t talking about it as far as I know. I’m no medical doctor or pathologist but after I saw all the open wounds on Jesus I would think he’d bled to death. I think they may have over emphasized the severity of Jesus’ beatings but they were trying to make a statement.”

“They sure made a statement alright,” Crusty interrupted me again.

“Did they ever!” I replied, “As far as I’m concerned one lash would have been worth more than my life. But remember Crusty that’s only my opinion about what I saw and remember neither I nor anyone can else tell you how to react.”

Suddenly Crusty expression changed, “Every time those whips hit Jesus’ skin it was like an electric shock started at my feet and went to the top of my head and exploded in my brain but I didn’t cry,” Crusty said, “so maybe I’m not an emotional person either but I felt something and it was real!”

“Crusty, my friend what you felt was real even if you’re the only in the whole world to feel it hold on to those feelings and don’t let anyone tell you any different.”

“But I don’t understand it,” he replied.

“Don’t try to understand it Crusty,” I pleaded with him, “you never will and if you try all the movie will be is Hollywood blockbuster.”

I could tell he was still deep in thought. “Sometimes I think I was an eyewitness. That’s kinda crazy isn’t it?” he said.

“Maybe your spirit was,” I commented.

“What was your favorite part of the movie?” Crusty asked.

“There are two points that are standouts for me,” I answered, “the first one was when Jesus, still in the Garden stomped on the snake. The second was at the end when Satan screamed because Jesus finished what he came to do.”

“I remember those scenes too,” he replied, “why do those stand out for you?”

“We are surrounded by evil and in fact we live our lives in Satan’s world,” I answered. “I believe the closer we get to Jesus’ second coming it will appear as if Satan is getting stronger and stronger yet as the movie so aptly illustrated Jesus put Satan in his place. I don’t know if the movie depicts the beatings accurately or not but I know it depicted how Satan moves among us. In that last scene when Satan screamed I knew with Jesus alive in my heart I don’t have to worry.”

“You remember that scene with the Jewish leaders where Satan was moving through them?” he asked.

“That’s what I mean they didn’t even know he was there,” I answered back.

“Why do you think the movie was shown in sub-titles,” Crusty asked.

“I’m not sure but I think when the characters were speaking and we couldn’t understand them what they were saying was really unimportant. For example when the Romans were beating Jesus no one would have known for sure what the soldiers actually said. And if we could understand what they were saying perhaps it would distract us from what was really happening. But then again that’s just my opinion.”

“While we’re expressing opinions,” Crusty said, “the movie left me feeling guilty and I know I should feel guilty but where does the resurrection come in?”

“I’ve read where some church leaders plan on using the movie as an evangelistic tool but the movie doesn’t go far enough Jesus came to give us life not leave us guilt ridden. You can’t tear people down and not pick them up again. Maybe in the sequel Mel Gibson will depict the life of Jesus from to the crucifixion to the ascension 40 days later. That’s my opinion and I’m stick’en to it,” I replied jokingly.

“I don’t know all about that evangelistic stuff,” Crusty replied, “but I do know the movie has unquestionably brought me to a closer understanding of what Jesus did for me. I just don’t want to feel so guilty I think and feel he wants nothing to do with me. Do you know what I mean Gary?”

“I do know what you mean Crusty,” I answered, “one of the big arguments I read about the movie was who really put Jesus on the cross some say it was the Jewish leaders others say because he died for our sins so we put him there. I think Jesus endured the beatings and the cross because he wanted to; he put himself up there. He said he gave his life for us, he also told that Roman dude he had no power over him. He definitely died for our sins but he did so because he wanted to.”

“Oh my gosh,” Crusty exclaimed looking at the huge clock leading out into the mall, “I’ve got to get going I’m late for a doctor’s appointment. I’d love to continue Gary but I can’t.”

I watched as Crusty headed through the doorway and toward his car, “that’s only my opinion,” I said out loud as if he could hear me.

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