A Heart for Halloween

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Photo by Pat

Herb dumped out the bag of goodies he had just collected during his trick or treating venture.  Halloween Trick or Treating had lost much of its appeal now that he had entered middle school.  He sorted through the candy.  There were some chocolate bits, and small candy bars.  Those looked appealing.  The hard candy looked less appealing.  He would probably eat it, though.  He glanced at his image in the door mirror on the door.  “Already too fat!” he mumbled.  The kids at school called him nick names like “blimp,” “hulk,” or just plain “fattso.”  When they called him names, it made him want to eat more as if he were trying to fill the void left by the lack of affection from his classmates.

Suddenly a tiny, heart-shaped box rolled out from amongst the candies.  Curious, he picked it up.  It looked like a locket.  Opening it he discovered a heart-shaped piece of paper carefully folded to fit in the locket.  He was astonished at the opening line of print on the page.  “Got an empty space in your life that candy can’t fill?” How did they know, he wondered.  The piece then explained that we often try to fill the empty spaces in our lives with food or other things that can never satisfy us because God created those empty spaces for Himself.  He sent His Son, Jesus, as the perfect solution for those empty spaces.

Herb read the little prayer a couple of times to himself.  “Wow”, he mumbled.  “There is Someone who does love me just the way I am, fat and all.”  He read the prayer a third time outloud with a sincere desire that change would come to his life .

A warm glow seemed to fill his chest, and a sense of peace filled his mind.  He did feel forgiven, accepted, loved!  He did a little happy dance right there in his room.

He looked at the candy pieces scattered about on his desk, and picked up each piece returning it to the sack from which it came.  He took it all into the kitchen, stepped on the pedal of the trash can and uncerimonously threw the bag in the trash.  “I won’t be needing you,” he exclaimed loudly.  “I am already full of the Love of Jesus!”

Peace Precedes Pardon!

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Photo by Pat

(Based on the story of Joseph in Genesis 37:12-36, 39, 40, 41:1-14)

Joe stopped wiping down the snack area in Rio Blanca Prison.  A Hershey’s candy bar wrapper triggered a memory–a memory of his teen years, when he used to buy the candy bars on his way home from school.  That was before that fateful day when his step brothers had come running out of the store after having stollen candy, cigarettes, and beer.  A police car had driven up, siren blaring.  The police were on the lookout for suspected robbers that had been attacking a number of stores in the area.  One of his step brothers threw the bag of booty at Joe while the whole gang disappeared up the alley.  Joe had been arrested on the spot, and though the police suspected he was not alone in these heists, Joe never snitched on his brothers.

He had been incarcerated in the local jail and had done a few months time.  He had been a model prisoner and because of that had been given some freedoms by the warden.  He always picked up the exercise yard after the other inmates had gone inside for the day.  The warden’s wife, Greta, came by every evening to drive her husband home.  She had noticed Joe’s natural good looks and had called him over to talk.  At first she talked about what he wanted to do when he got out, but one day she flipped her scarf over his head and drew his face close to hers.

Frightened, Joe pulled loose and ran across the yard, with the woman’s scarf still wound around his neck.  Just at that moment the warden had appeared.  When he saw his wife’s scarf on Joseph, and heard her screaming, he was furious.

Joe had been sent up to the “Big House” here in San Jose where he had limited freedom for the first several years.  Joe remembered how difficult it had been not think about how his brothers had set him up, and how Greta had framed him.  In fact at first that was all he could think about.  These thoughts made him furious.  He didn’t even feel like eating.

One day he went to the church service held for the inmates and, sensing his deep need for God, he prayed and asked Jesus to forgive him for wanting to live life his own way, and then asked Jesus to come into his heart and life.

Still, occassionally, the dark thoughts from the past would overwhelm him.  One day he prayed and asked the Lord what to do with these thoughts.  In response the Lord showed him a picture of himself.  His figure was entirely covered in black until Christ entered his life and washed him so that he was gleaming white.  Then the Lord showed him that the injustices done to him were like dirty smudges, small in comparison to all that the Lord had forgiven him. The Lord then told him to quit looking only Inward and to the past.  The Lord showed him a picture of the other inmates, all of whom had pain and hurts from the past. Those inmates had no one to “wash” them, and no one to comfort them.

After that, Joe repented of his self-centeredness.  He talked with the other inmates when it was possible and spent his free time praying for them.  The weekly church services began to increase in attendance.  Every Sunday some of Joe’s friends gave their hearts to Christ.

Joe own spirits lifted, that is until now when he saw the candy bar wrapper.  He knelt on the concrete floor and asked God’s forgiveness.  As he slowly rose, peace descended over him.

Suddenly, the loud speaker blared his name.  The governor had asked him to come for an interview. A few hours later, Joe stood before the governor.  All charges against him were being dropped!  He was a free man!

Joseph smiled to himself.  He knew that the Lord had freed his spirit before the governor had pardomed him. It was that inner freedom that gave him peace!

From Victim to Victor! Elijah’s Pity Party

Path to Cave Opening in Cheddar Gorge, England stock photoA story from the life of Elijah.  (I Kings 19:11-18)

I sank down on my sleeping bag.  I was exhausted.  The week I had just been through had certainly had its ups and downs.  First, there had been the huge victory when the fund raising organization of which I was the director had succeeded in collecting the funds and the signatures to get a facility for treating dangerously-troubled young men. Then there had been the devastating phone call from Mrs.Jessie Bell, co-director of a corrupt competing organization, promising that her group would leak the news that we had taken signatures from out of the area and that our fund-raising had not been above-board.  She promised to expose and defeat our organization.

I had planned this camping trip to be alone with God after all the stress of the campaign.  I had been determined to retire after our successful venture.  But now I was afraid, and confused.  I needed further direction from God, but where was He?  All I could hear was a replay of Jessie Bell’s harsh voice promising dishonour and defeat.  “I’m so tired, God, so afraid…”  I began.

Suddenly, the wind came up.  It blew with such force that flecks of dust, branches, and even small pebbles were flung into the air.  I looked around for a place to move my camp that would offer shelter.   A small cave a few hundred feet up the slope looked promising, and I began dragging my gear up there.  I had just gotten my gear inside, when rocks loosened by the gusts began rolling down the slope outside.  Then the very ground began to shake, as an earthquake shook the area.  Rocks in the ceiling of the cave began to break loose.  I ran outside to avoid being hit by falling rock.

Arriving at the cave entrance, I was knocked off my feet by a bolt of lightning followed by a deafening clap of thunder that struck one of the dead trees on the slope below me.  The tree erupted in fire.  Where could I go for safety?  With rocks falling inside, and a wind-blown fire outside, I was certainly doomed.

As I sat holding my knees close to my chest,  my personal problems were forgotten in the challenges of the moment.

Then everything stopped!  The wind no longer howled.  Rocks loosened by the earthquake no longer crashed down. The looming fire no longer crackled. The Lord brought a great hush over the land.

Then the voice of the Lord asked me again, “What are you doing out here.”   I had gained no insight from the Lord’s demonstration of ability to calm chaos, so I gave my stock reply:  “I have worked hard for you, Lord.  I am the only one in  Jude County who loves You and serves You. The others have gone after false gods.  Now they are going to falsely accuse me, our non-profit will be destroyed, and I will be finished!”  My voice quivered as I spoke.

In His quiet, unruffled voice, the Lord told me exactly what to do.  He would honor my request to retire.  He gave me the name of the city where I would find three men He had chosen to succeed me in my work.  God also reminded me that He had plenty of people who still served Him in this county.  I was NOT alone.

In His time and in His way, God answered my prayer.  In the end I got the information I needed.  I returned to my city in the Lord’s anointing and successfully defeated the enemy’s bid for power.  As for Mrs. Jessie Bell, the last I heard, she got her comeuppance.  (II Kings 9:30-37)

A New Season

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Peak to Peak Highway, P. Lockridge

Praise be to the Name of God for ever and ever;

Wisdom and power are His.

He changes times and seasons;

He deposes kings and raises up others.

He gives wisdom to the wise

And knowledge to the discerning.

Daniel 2:21 NIV

Behold, the former things have taken place,

And new things I now declare;

Before they spring into being

I announce them to you.

Isaiah 42:9

See, I am doing a new thing!  

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  

I am making a way in the wilderness

And streams in the wasteland.  

Isaiah 43:19 NIV

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Peak to Peak Highway, P. Lockridge

My Most Difficult Assignment (Part II)

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Photo by Gwen Lockridge

Eliezer’s Story Continued

(This story is based on Genesis 15:2, and chapter 24.)

My colleague and I sat in business class on our flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, to LAX.  There we would transfer to a flight that would take us to the State of Georgia.  Finally, I had a little time to reflect on my unusual assignment.  Once my contract had been signed, Abe was in a rush for us to began our search for Isaac’s bride-to-be.  He wanted Isaac to be well-established in his marriage before passing on the leadership of his oil empire to him.  Abe was already well past retirement age.

While I had always respected Abe’s beliefs about God, I had never been open to his explanation of the importance of faith in Christ.  I had my own beliefs, and I was satisfied with them.  They had been good enough for my ancestors, and they were good enough for me.  Now, however, faced with this hugely important and difficult assignment, I bowed my head: “God of Abraham, help me find your choice for a wife for Isaac.  I can not complete this assignment without your help.”

In a few hours, my colleague and I found ourselves in front of a small airport terminal in the Deep South.  Standing in the hot summer sun, we were becoming very uncomfortable in our dark business suits, when a new-model pickup pulled up across the street.  An attractive young woman began handing out water to some migrant workers on their afternoon break.  She smiled warmly at each worker as she handed a bottle to him.  Then she noticed us standing across the street.  “Name’s Becky.  Need a drink?  The water is cold.”

Gratefully, we crossed the street and soon found ourselves in  her pickup on the way to her Dad’s home.  “These are workers from my Dad’s fields.  God has blessed him with the ability to grow produce for a big grocery chain here in America!   Now how about you two?   Where are you guys from?’

“Jakarta, Indonesia,” I replied trying my best to use good English pronunciation.  My boss was born here but he made his millions in the oil industry in my country.  He sent us to make contact with his distant relatives still living in “The States.”

Becky squealed!  “Do you guys speak Bahasa Indonesian?  I am in my second year at the University.  I’m on summer break from my degree in marketing with a minor in Bahasa Indonesian.  I hope to go to your country some day and use my degrees while looking for opportunities to share my faith.  But enough about me.  Come on over to the house.  I want you to meet the family.  They will be eager to hear news of Great Great Uncle Abe.”

The breakthrough came about an hour later.  We were seated around the dinner table.  Laban, Becky’s brother, discussed Becky’s dream of going to Indonesia.  “I don’t see how it would ever be possible.  We can’t afford to send her.  Her family just wants her to settle down and be a good housewife and mother and raise a good Christian family.”

I jumped to my feet.  “Maybe she can do both.”  I smiled broadly, hardly able to contain my excitement.  “Let me explain the real reason I am here.”  I explained Abe’s dream for his only son, Isaac.  I opened the ring box and set it on the table in front of Becky.

The next few days were busy ones:  a Skype call to Uncle Abe and, of course a lengthy call to Isaac, packing, an application to the University of Riyadh, and calls to Becky’s three best friends who would later fly to Jakarta to do some once-in-a-lifetime sightseeing and eventually become Becky’s bride’s maids.

Two weeks later, back in Jakarta, I stood with Abe in an elegant restaurant, glancing from time to time at Ike and Becky who were seated at a table graced with a red rose in a bud vase.  “Wow,” I exclaimed, They can’t seem to get enough of each other.  This is is the second date today.  Isaac was so against this arrangement.  Who says that arranged marriages can’t work?”

Abe managed a huge grin as he remembered his hours of intercession for his son and his son’s future bride.  “Depends on who does the arranging.  In this case all the arrangements were made by God.  He doesn’t fail.”

“It will definitely be a marriage made in Heaven,” I commented.  “Say, I would like to meet the God who set this up.  When can you tell me more about Him.”  I smiled at Abe as I acknowledged God’s help in the completion of my most difficult assignment.